And The Walls Come Tumbling...Up?

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And The Walls Come Tumbling...Up?

Postby Lyssia » Mon Nov 24, 2003 10:15 am

Enough...is...enough.

Again, Enough is enough.

Screamed, Enough is enough.

All the wars, what were they for? All the politics, what were they for? All the scheming, what was it for? For a few extra acres, for a handful of peasants, for the clink of gold and the whispered urging of 'advisors'. Was that worth it? Was it worth it to those that believed themselves above all others? Probably, those that believed such things also seemed to believe themselves above all other matters. Matters of honour and its like. Amusing really, when they were often the ones who boasted so loudly of their honour, holding up the tarnished thing that they called 'honour' and yet turning their eyes from it at the same time. No, for such souls there was no honour, merely its pretense, a false shield for them to hide behind, a ragged charter of laws and rules that they paid no more than lip-service to. Some said "But it is the way of the isle", but it was not, it had not always been that way, she remembered the times when those who made no more than the pretense of honour would have been hounded into the sea by their fellows rather than congratulated and even willingly aided by them.

The sorceress stood tall as she looked at the empty sands about her, knowing that for all she had done she would never lower herself to the levels of her enemies. She had done many things, she had apparently worked for the side of light or darkness, she had killed and she had helped life. But always she had held to her own code, always she had stuck fast to the unwritten rules in her own mind, not stooping as low as others might. Again and again she had helped Silus, and his mother before him, take the people of the red desert into battle. Again and again she had convinced herself that it would get better, that only by surgically striking at the cancer within the isle would health be returned to the lands. Again and again she had given everything that she could, using every means at her disposal to destroy those that set themselves against her.

But there was a limit, there was a barrier beyond which she could not go. She had known the bitterness of war, she had willingly launched herself into its midst in the hope that something better would come of it. But it never had, no, with war only came the fears and dangers that had always attended it. It hadn't mattered how much they had tried, it hadn't much how high they had reached, how forcibly they had shaken the thrones of those that thought themselves better. No, in the end none of it had mattered. In the end the figures of others had always moved in the darkness, not carrying the banners of their enemues, but still carrying mischief and murder in their hearts. The banner of war had never stopped those ones, no if anything it had drawn them near, whispering wicked thoughts and deeds into their hearts.

It was amusing really, that those of the Officium would try so hard to hold to their code and strike only those stronger than them. After all they were demons and madmen...or so the rumours of them went. Wicked, wicked creatures that cared for nothing and nobody, seeking only to complete their own devious plans and plots. Yes, that was what the rumours said of them, they were terrible people, dark and terrible, the ruination of those that crossed them. They were the beasts in the shadows, the ones that mother always warned her children about. And yet they had held to their honour, they had risked everything in order to bring their enemies tumbling down to their reach. With dagger, with sword, with claw, with spear, with bare hands if needs be, they had reached out above them, they had dared to turn their gazes towards those far vaster than them. And what had they gained for that? The attention of those figures in the darkness, the figures of other banners. It didn't matter what they did to those figures, didn't matter at all.

We have given everything and now I have nothing left to give, she said softly, the winds and the blood-red sand alone hearing her words. No...no that is wrong, I have one last thing to give, one last hand to play. She cut a sad and lonely figure in the desert, the figure of a woman who had seen more than most would ever wish to see, the figure of a woman who could only do so much. Her pale grey eyes looked towards the heavens but there was no more strength or hope for her to find there. The last strength would come from within, from inside herself, from her blood and her soul, from the Art that had sustained her when nothing else would. She knelt down and picked up a handful of sand, letting it run through her fingers as she whispered, One last hand to play...for now.

There was always a time, a time when rest was needed, when matters beyond wars and strife needed to be tended to. A time for peace, of a sort, just as there was a time for war. Now was the time for the Sanctum's borders to close, a time when there would be no more shadowy figured from other banners creeping into lands that did not belong to them. No more murders in the Dardenite lands done by those who so hated them. No more heathen sorcery taking advantage of other's deeds. No more armies seeking to take what was not theirs. Now was a time for other matters, a time for strength to be gathered, a time for rest and restoration. A time to gather themselves together once more before the enemy next found the blades of the Holy Office at their throats.

She had done this once before, but never on such a scale. This last hand to be played was perhaps an over-ambitious one on her part but if nothing else she had to try. And after all wasn't that what they had always done? Try? Try to just reach up and shake the very foundations of those who believed themselves somehow better? Try to reach with blades and magic to crack the ivory thrones of those who could not judge their own actions? Try...that was exactly what they had done, tried to shake the status quo, try to crumble what all others had believed was invulnerable. And they had done more than try, they had done more than just 'just', they had broken and burnt that which was believed to be too great. Time and again they had been numbered among those who had done just that. They had not flinched from it, not shifted their sights or looked to easier prey as others might. No only the strongest would do, only in the heat of the most frenzied of battles when success and failure sat upon the thinnest of edges could life truly be found.

Where is the glory in fighting a battered enemy? Where is the fight in beating those who are already bloodied? Where is the honour to a deity in destroying that which has already been destroyed? She turned slowly with each word, letting go of the final grains of sand in her hand as she did so, scattering them all about her. Each grain fell back to earth to be with its fellows once more, no different to the sands about it. Where is the satisfaction in hiding in the shadows to strike at an enemy? Hiding your part in a war that was never declared upon your banner? There is none. She laughed, the sound of it strange and alien in the silence of the desert about her.

The magic within her barely needed to be called, it danced to the music of her laughter, rising like the swell of a wave, blooming like the first flower of spring. It was like an explosion of colours and sensations within her flesh, a feeling that could not be described in mere words. No one other than the Sidhe could truly appreciate what it was like to call the Sidhe Art, to call it and feel it respond like a raging torrent within their veins. Others used magic certainly, but just as Lyssia could not feel the sensation of controlling their magic, neither could they tell what it was like to weild the Art. It was a joy without equal, a sensation that could not be bettered, an ally within her flesh that would never let her down or turn upon her.

One last hand to play, she repeated the words as the magic build up within her, flowing within each mote of blood and fibre of flesh. She could feel it, could sense it like another being within her, almost like the hand of God reaching down and touching her. But this was no divine power, it was the Art, ancient and other-worldly, beyond the ken and comprehension of some. And it was hers, a part of her, tethered to her soul, connecting her to her bloodline more surely than any tie of family. For now.

The Art wreathed her hands in sparking magic, forcing itself from her, pounding through every inch of her body. It danced from her fingers and about the crown upon her brow, it crackled around her body, the caress of some invisible lover. It touched her like no other, the softest of caresses upon her skin, reaching every part of her, inside and out. Her heart ached from its touch, her mind span, her thoughts racing from one memory to another, barely able to focus on the moment before her. It was no longer a matter of Lyssia controlling the Art but rather the Art controlling her. It knew her desires and her wishes, it was a part of her, knowing her better than any other, even herself. It knew what she wanted to be done and would do it.

Magic leapt across her features, tiny blue flames that almost seemed to be kissing her flesh where they landed. There were no words within the sorceress, no commands or demands, she simply existed, no longer caring for past or present, simply existing. And the Art continued its maddened dance, reaching through her, practically lifting her from the ground by the sheer force of the magic that was being worked. All across the red desert, priests and priestess, users of magic and workers of wonders, collapsed to their knees, feeling the desperate beat of magic beyond their grasp being worked. They felt it so keenly, it called out to them, whispered to them of what it could do to them, of how it could bring their worst nightmares and deepest dreams come to life.

And they screamed.

Away in the ruins of Gyppeswyk a metallic tasting wind whipped itself up, throwing the remains this way and that. The restless ghosts of its people cried out as one, afraid of some nameless foe, afraid though nothing threatened them. Their bleached bones rattled upon the ground, disturbing their final slumber. The ashes of the once great library fluttered in the wind, unable to leave the room that had once housed them yet at the same time stirred up by the power of their former mistress. Half-glimpsed souls flickered across the fallen stones of the city, unable to change what was occuring. The magic of the Sidhe that had once sustained them reached out to them, reminding them of the lives that they had lost and of the cause of that loss.

And they screamed.

To the west, in a wasteland that few cared to remember and even fewer ever thought to visit, a strange heat haze wavered. If any had been there they might have glimpsed the tall walls of a previously unseen fortress, a sanctuary of sorts, but they were gone as soon as they had appeared. But there were other souls in the desert, and they too heard the call of the sorceress's magic. A tiny elf looked up, baffled by the tormnt of feelings within her. A banshee thought for a moment that she had been called to war once more. A black beast of a creature pushed himself up on his hind-legs, desperate to strike out at something. A tall archeress reached for her bow adn thought of a father long lost.

And a ghost wept tears that would never touch the lands.

In the red sands Lyssia no longer thought, no longer acted, she merely existed, living but nothing more. The Art controlled her, touching her, caressing her, whispering to her words that she would never remember. It whispered to her of what had been and of what would be. It cried for her loses and laughed with her for her successes, it held her when no other would and protected her when all wished her dead. Protector, lover, confessor. Guardian, teacher, mother. It was so many things to the Sidhe woman and it would always be with her. Till the End Times, till death claimed her for its own.

And a great blue light burst forth from her flesh, bathing all about it in its light, blinding those within the red desert for a time.

And whenthe light faded, when sight was restored, what was left? Shields of magic stood tall about the desert once more, but not just about the desert, about all those who flew the banner of the Officium. Everything had been given and now all would be restored. No more secrets enemies in the darkness for the moment, no more heathens bringing their flames to tear down what was not theirs. No more sorcery working its wickedness after others had played their part. No more. For now.

And in the middle of the sands lay the body of the sorceress.

Enough...is...enough.
SO - Into darkness...
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Postby Sorentio » Mon Nov 24, 2003 2:32 pm

The Sidhe felt the magical forces rolling towards his realm. He knew what was coming, he'd received the notice, the Officium needed to step back, to recharge in order to fight the heathen hordes better.

Well, not this Sidhe.

He closed his eyes, trying to find his inner focus, trying to concentrate to the fullest. The magic coming for him was a powerful one, though he sought to simply force it to bypass him, not stop it entirely. Once the Witch felt the slightest resistance from him, he doubted that she would force her barriers upon him. He had contemplated the issue, considered submitting to this withdrawal, but in the end had decided he could still contribute to the fight against the tyrants, if only as a mosquito buzzing around a giant.

"Let magic wards that come this way,
Pass harmlessly by this day.
We do not their protection seek,
For more heathens must die this week."


He dropped to his knees once the spell was complete, and felt the magical forces receding. It was done. Now he simply had to prepare what forces he had remaining, and fight.
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Postby Colgan » Mon Nov 24, 2003 3:12 pm

Exhausted, and covered in ash, he placed himself down by the side of the moat and began to comtemplate the events of last few days. The calmness of the area often made it easier for him to think, and there certainly was plenty for him to consider. His face was still consumed with hate, a fixated glare took control of his eyes and the rage would continue to burn away for some considerable time he feared. Seeing the Haze dissapear with his own eyes had did little to ease his anguish, he was the last to leave the fortress before the initial fires were started. The scrolls and parchments he removed provided nothing more than a shameless reminder of the events that lead to the leaving of the Giant.

He had worked so very in hard in the last few days, he hands sore from the constant writing of messages and scrolls. The preparation was intense, the Map room had been full of the most repected individuals associated with Giant and the Officium. Messages had to be drawn up and relayed, accuracy was vital as one mistake could result in failure, everyone knew the intolerable Giant would not take lightly to that. Being run off his feet was all part of the course, but this event had tested him more than before. Attention to detail and planning for every eventuality took time. He had seen every scribe relayed between the Giant and the Torturer, he knew what was at stake and what could be achieved.

And now what? He had carried out his duties to the letter, and yet all he had now was a small bed in a discarded back room, no leader to write sacred scribes for, no will to carry on. What had happened for his world to fall apart in such a short period was baffling. Life upon the Isle was never short of its tribulations but this had shook the hardened scribe right down to the bone. As soon as the message was received from the Torturer bearing news of razed temples he knew the ramifications would be severe. He had the envious task of delivery the news to the Giant, who had stood stoney faced and motionless whist the news was read out before him. No sooner had he delivered the final word when things changed , the Giant had not even prepared a scribe such was his loathing comtempt for such actions. He left, and with him took the keys to the Haze, giving orders for its destruction

The troubled scribe wanted answers for himself. He had been so close to the facts throughout that he would now have to draw his own conclusions whilst others roamed. Why had those under the banners of others considered it their business to interfere? To disrupt a hard fought battle with actions that no one was obviously accountable for?


Cowardice! that’s the only reason. They had seen the destruction of the Seismic Reavers with their own eyes, they couldn’t bear to see their own vast acreage laid too waste in such manor! They fear us merceneries so much they’ll cross any border to ensure their prosperous homes stay that way!

And with that, he sprung to his feet, giving way to a smirk. They were so fearful of the Officium they would sneak around in the dead of night eliminating the threat before it had a chance to grow any bigger. Cowardice, was so obvious in its simplicity he was surprised he hadn’t realized it earlier and at least now he had an answer for his situation. He was too stubborn to give in the fight just yet, and would rather amuse himself upon the failings of others and watch their actions from a distance. He turned, and walked back to his makeshift home content with his justifications and keen to start resistance, safe in the knowledge his home was safe for the some time as yet.
The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.
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Postby Kiyomori » Mon Nov 24, 2003 7:46 pm

The sept move calmly, quietly, through the quiet darkness of the caves. Of course, to the Anub-Re, the caves are not "dark" so much as they are merely dimly-lit. While the Anub-Re cannot actually see in the dark, they do have a much more ... accommodating ... definition of what constitutes "darkness". And the tunnels and caves of the Dark Below are rarely entirely lightless. The phosphorescent algae that the residents of the Isle know as "Darden's shroud" grows in abundance, seemingly on the bare rock itself. The faint luminescence that the Shroud provides may not be much, but it is adequate for eyes that have adapted themselves to twilight world of the Dark Below.

Just as the brilliant green eyes that scan the tunnel ahead have. Kiyomori regards the tunnel before him. There is no sign of recent passage. The air is still, containing no unexpected scents or currents, and yet ... something is subtly wrong.

The tunnels that Kiyomori's sept are patrolling are among the furthest from the Isle that are still considered part of the Anub-Re domain, yet despite their distance from the Isle, they are as heavily-patrolled by the scouts as any part of the Dark Below, for these tunnels lead to the Sunlit Lands - an exit far removed from the former mine workings that lead to the red sands of Culaearin. No ... this exit lies far to the west of the blessed sands, emerging in the foothills above the wasteland beyond the sands. Although the path from that entrance to the settlements of the Anub-Re is twisted and confusing to an outsider, the existence of an entrance into the Dark Below forces the Anub-Re to patrol the surrounding tunnels diligently.

Well, most of the surrounding tunnels, anyway. The entrance from the Sunlit Lands leads down deep into the bowels of the earth, deeper than most of the caverns claimed by the Anub-Re. The children of the Isle of Mists tend to avoid the deepest caverns, for there are other things in the Dark Below that tend not to. The depths of the earth are home to many strange creatures. The Anub-Re, as a rule, tend to avoid the lairs and territories of the more ferocious examples.

Kiyomori's eyes narrow slightly. There is no sign of recent passage, there are no strange scents or unexpected air currents, yet the sept-leader is troubled, for something is subtly wrong.

Sudden insight, leaping to the surface.

The tunnel is brighter than it should be, given the Shroud growth here

Calmly, the sept-leader discusses the situation with his scouts. Then, slowly, the sept advances down the tunnel. The light brightens as they advance, becoming subtly tinted with blue as the intensity rises.

What in the name of the Demon?

The tunnel ahead of the scouts is filled with flickering blue fire, tongues of azure flame leaping and dancing. Oddly, the flames give off no heat. The tunnel is no hotter - or colder - than would be expected for a tunnel at this depth.

The scouts regard the scene with curiosity. The sea of blue fire does not appear to be moving. None the less, they stand well clear. Just in case.

This is going to be one for the priests, I think.
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Postby Elador » Tue Nov 25, 2003 8:22 pm

The summons from Toshiro is somewhat unexpected in its urgency. For a temple acolyte to be dispatched to my quarters requesting my presence is hardly surprising. For the acolyte to have arrived so badly out of breath she could barely utter that summons, though, most definately is. The Isle of Mists is normally a place of calmness, bordering on serenity. The Anub-Re rarely hurry, they are a calm, dignified people. Even when preparing for war, there is that calmness, a deliberate, focussed preparation for the forthcoming battles that can be seen in even the most agressive of the warriors. Well, all save the sverdmund, but they are a ... special case, after all, and there are exceptions to every rule.

However. Even during times of war, the summons from the Elder have been, polite, courteous.

Not this time. My presence is required in the inner sanctum as soon as possible. Most definately not a request, this, and as such, clearly something quite out of the ordinary. Which is why I am striding through the corridors of the vast cathedral, the young acolyte scampering behind me as she tries to match my stride. The sanctum guards step aside as I approach the inner sanctum.

From the urgency of your summons, Elder Toshiro, I presume that something serious has happened

Not an unreasonable guess, given the company awaiting me in the sanctum itself. Toshiro, several other senior priests, Masashi, fólkhagi of the Anub-Re and two of his deputies, and Kiyomori. Ah, Kiyomori. That would suggest that the problem is something he found ... as he once found me, once brought me here. What strangeness have you uncovered in the dark of the tunnels this time, sept-leader?

Indeed, oh Herald of Dawn. It would seem that something is sealing the exits from the Dark Below to the Sunlit Lands. The tunnels leading to the surface are blocked, it would seem, with a sea of blue fire. With one notable exception ... that of the salt-mine, leading to the lands of our neighbours of the red desert. Kiyomori's sept were the first to discover this, and their investigations have shown that there is no way to the surface that does not seem blocked, save the path to the red sands. I would ... appreciate ... it if you were to accompany the priests I am sending to examine this phenomena more closely. You may be able to offer some insight into the cause of this strangeness. Failing that, I must request you travel to the Temple Above and consult with our allies.

So, and so. Not a request, that, however polite the terms in which it is couched. My relationship with the Anub-Re is - complicated. Technically, of course, the Elder has no authority over me. I am no member of his flock for him to order around. I am a guest, of sorts. An ally, of sorts. Yet follow this order I shall, for my fate is tied to theirs in ways none of us understand.

Very well, Elder Toshiro. I shall accompany such an expedition as you see fit to send, I shall offer whatever insights I am able to and I shall carry word of this event to the Sorceress. I shall be returning to my quarters now, and donning my armour. I shall rejoin you when I am more suitably attired for a trip such as this.

-=*=- -=*=- -=*=- -=*=- -=*=- -=*=- -=*=-

The armour is a work of art, overlapping plates of hardened leather, buckling into place in such a fashion as to scarely impede my movement at all. The armour feels good on me, looks good on me. It has saved me from injury on more than one occasion in the almost ceaseless battles that scar the Sunlit Lands and water its soils with blood.

The weapons that hang from the belt at my waist are equally as much works of art as functional items. The Anub-Re boast skilled craftsmen, who delight in producing weapons that are as much a joy to behold as to use, without compromising the essential utility of the weapon as something with which to wound, to kill. The long duelist's blade and the heavy parrying dagger flow gracefully, yet they are wickedly sharp blades and superbly balanced, too.

These are the acoutrements of the Herald of Dawn. These are the trappings of the Shadowborn. So equipped, I am ready to face whatever stirs in the furthest tunnels

-=*=- -=*=- -=*=- -=*=- -=*=- -=*=- -=*=-


The tunnel is filled with flickering blue flames, a sea of azure fire, burning with the harsh chill blue of a glacier's heart. And yet there is neither heat, nor the absence of heat. Curious. The priests are clearly baffled by this. It is like nothing they have ever seen.

I, on the other hand, recognise the flames. I have seen them before, although on a much smaller scale. I have seen those flames, curling around delicate alabaster hands.

We will find no answers in this place. We must now travel to seek the advice of our neighbour, our ally ... the sorceress Lyssia, whom I suspect is in some fashion responsible for this occurance.

The journey through the tunnels takes time. We are travelling almost the entire length of the territory controlled by the Isle of Mists. Eventually, the small group - Kiyomori's sept, three Temple priests, myself - reach the mineworkings that lead out to the Red Desert itself.

Fascinating. It is night. The Anub-Re remove their veils with some relief. My attention, however, is drawn to the sky above.

I cannot see the stars. The sky shimmers with a crackling spiderweb pattern of blue fire, tracing the bowl of the heavens like frozen lightening.

I really do hope this is your work, Lyssia. And I trust you will be able to offer me a good explanation for your actions if that is the case.
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Postby Zina » Wed Nov 26, 2003 8:13 am

The wave of brilliant blue was sighted by sentries stationed far beyond the borders of the Free Republic long before it reached their lands. Word had been sent immediately to the central city, and a small contingent of priests travelled by mage portal to the borders to watch the strange event. Only one in their number smiled knowingly. The reputedly insane elf idly ran clawlike fingernails through her dishevled cropped brown locks, her unnaturally green eyes sparkling with mirth. Zina relished the fear and confusion of the priests for it merely gave her the opportunity to enlighten them further in the true way to follow Darden's path.

Her hand fell to her stomach, lightly resting over the searing sensation that was still spreading through her limbs. Today she had feasted on the black acidic liquid that forever filled the bowl with which her Lord had gifted her. Her gaze flitted to the holy men gathered around her. Several of them looked queasy, while a few seemed to be enjoying the pain much as she did. The soul branding was not something that many embraced with ease, but it was necessary for all of them if they were to accomplish their purpose this day.

Zina's close communion with the shadows of vision and darkness had given her the knowledge of both the Sidhe Witch's actions (the shadows had felt quite keenly the release of such power) and the Torturer's response to it. Her own reaction was one of disappointment, though she was sure that Anjolie would be well pleased that they were no longer subject to the wars that constantly tore through their lands. However, if the leadership of Sanctum Officium designated this time as a time of peace, then she would submit and keep her growls and snarls of displeasure mostly to herself.

The wave of magick drew near enough that the elf priestess began to feel its song within her. Somewhere in her lineage there had been those that had called upon magickal arts with ease. Perhaps only the merest droplets of the blood passing through her veins remained true to her heritage, but it was enough. She sighed and shivered with pleasure at the teasing glimpses of nightmarish visions that flooded her mind. The priests, on the other hand, began whimpering softly and clutching their heads. They were new to magick and had been selected for this journey because of all their brethren these few had shown the most promise. Her eyes grew cold as her stare whipped about to land on them.

"Show some balls, or our torture chambers will finally come to know the blood of the faithful." They all fell silent, taking deep shaky breaths to calm their nerves. "The Witch has given us a shield. Let us test your fledgeling abilities. Send out the shadows to greet and welcome her gift." The men all held back, fearful both of the coming wave and failing the test. Only one man stepped forward, an eager gleam in his dark eyes. Zina nodded solemnly to him, and he lifted his hands high above his head, slowly bringing them to his chest and balling them into fists. His eyes fell closed, and his thin lips parted. His formerly rich, honeyed tenor voice broke the silence with a screech before dropping to a deep grating growl.

"Hachlain goolor d'ramaed!" Another priest, blinked several times as if roused from a deep sleep then stepped forward to join his fellow. Their voices combined in a riot of noise that was at once beautiful and strange, yet painful enough to feel as though one's ears would burst and drip with blood from the listening. "Hachlain goolon stra'een!" One by one the priests joined in the chant until they seemed to be a united being crying out in an anguished otherworldly voice. A few nearby sentries fell to their knees, their hands clenched tightly to the sides of their heads as they wailed in pain. Zina's eyes flashed brown as the faintest hints of fear touched her heart, then returned to their glowing green. Her cracked lips parted in a wide rictus grin as earthbound shadows peeled themselves free from the matter to which they seemed to belong and rose into the skies.

"Hachlain douru blaeal!" A massive cloud of darkness tore itself from the ground at the sound of her piercing scream and flew to meet the magick that was beginning to surround the republic's lands. As the light and darkness met, the darkness pulled back, as if uncertain.

"Hachlain douru blaeal!" The shadows surged forward and collided with the cold blue, intermingling with it and contorting it to better blend with themselves. Everywhere the shadows touched, the magick changed to a deep orange hue. The voices of the priests faded out, and all those whose eyes remained open stared in wonder at the dome that surrounded them. Burnt orange skies occasionally marred by the passing of a shadowy dark cloud tinted the lands within, giving them a hellish glow. The elf turned with a satisfied smirk to congratulate the priests for passing their test, but all that remained of them were shriveled corpses, and one wheezing and gasping man, the young brother who had stepped forward first at her command. She swore under her breath and called for the sentries.

"Take this man to the nearest House of Healing. Tell the healers within that his life is to be saved at all costs." They nodded and picked up the weakened priest. Zina moved to his side, resting her hand over his brow. "Our Lord has blessed you this day. Embrace His gift of either life or death, Brother." He smiled weakly and was carried away.

"Zina! What in the Bowl is going on??" The priestess pivoted on her heel to see Anjolie jogging toward her, her icy blue eyes flashing in anger. The elf knew that look meant danger. Anjolie didn't allow magick anywhere near her person if she could avoid it, but obviously she had traveled by mage portal to get to the border.

"My apologies for not telling you of this sooner. It was a rather sudden development. The Witch, Lyssia, has shielded every realm of the Officium against heathen incursions." The human woman's jaw clenched visibly.

"So we are to be prisoners in our lands until she sees fit to release us?"

"I do not believe so. If I'm not mistaken, we should be able to pass without harm through this shield. The shadows seem to think that only hostile forces cannot penetrate it." To prove the point, she walked over to the shield and passed her hand through it, waving it about. "See? She watched with interest as the pieces of ideas came together in Anjolie's mind. This woman, her idealistic protege, had to be the most intriguing human the elf had ever known, though she would never voice such an opinion.

"So we can still send out emmissaries and missionaries to educate the heathens? And we don't have to trouble ourselves about being attacked for this?" Anjolie's lips curled into a smile. "I think I should go pen a note of thanks to this Witch of whom you speak." The human turned and walked off, leaving the elf to sit and stare at the bodies that had gone unnnoticed.

"Okay, so humans can't perform large manipulations. That's good to know. I should test their bodily limits soon." She stroked her chin with a sharpened fingernail, not even noticing the thin trail of blood it left in its wake. "At least she didn't say anything." Giving the shield one last glance, Zina turned and walked towards the nearest settlement.
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Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.

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Postby Maledict » Wed Nov 26, 2003 9:08 am

He raced across the courtyard as the black flames greedily licked their way from the ground to the skies until they formed a dome over the city. Stygian eyes narrowed and cruel lips twisted with disdain at the show of magicks. Who dares? He whispered beneath his breath. Who dares? This time the words were yelled out for all to hear.

The Torturer stopped at the huge double doors of the Onyx temple and cast a final gaze across his darkened city before pushing the doors open and striding confidently inside. Two farmers were knelt before the main altar in deep prayer. Begone! Maledict spat out the word as though it were a curse and the two farmers jumped up nervously and made every effort not to catch his gaze with their own as they ran past him and out of the temple. The demon pulled the double doors closed and bolted them. Shadows peeled away from the walls and floor, rushing up to him in their eagenerness to twist and swirl around his body. They were the Shadows of Pariah, dark beings that were neither godlike nor mortal, but they were powerful and they had helped create this temple from the tear of Darden. Now they were it's guardians.

Words had never been spoken between them and Maledict, for both knew their place in the scheme of things and neither had needed to converse... Until now.

Guardians of the temple! Maledict raised his voice so that the words echoed from the walls and up into the dark and hollow spire. I demand you tell me who dares to do this, who dares to cover my city in black flames.

demands. it demands.

The legion of whispering voices came from everywhere and nowhere.

careful what you say, torturer. carefuly what you demand.

The shadows the swirled across him seemed to ebb and flow with each word and as the demon looked up he saw many more of them dancing within the temple's hollow spire.

not yours to order. not yours.

Maledict wrinkled his nose and wore a grimace upon his face while he listened to the many voices of the shadows. Just tell me... He said, his voice more contrite this time.

tell him shall we? yes, tell him we shall. Everythings or somethings, somethings or everythings? Nothing! One thing.

As the voices argued amongst themselves The Torturer strode down the central aisle of the temple and sat in the throne that was carved from the same Onyx as the temple.

sidhe magicks. to protect us.

Protect? Confusion washed across Maledict's face. From what?

invasions! wars! heathens! Foretses bastard childrens

He shook his head and thin cruel lips twisted into a malicious smirk. I see. The demon visibly relaxed and sat further back into the throne. Sidhe Witch. I should have known. He said mirthfully.

should know many things yet knows no things. tell him! no. can't. shouldn't.

Maledict cocked his head to one side inquisitively. Tell me? Tell me what? He wanted to know.

tell him what he is! who he is! no. shouldn't. Have to! Must! yes. yes.

What is this treachery? Do you seek to confuse me, guardians of the temple? The Torturer stood up quickly and stared angrily into the darkness of the shadows. I know what I am. He added. I am demon. I am Darden's blessed Torturer

not demon. something. else.

The words ripped into him with the force of a tidal wave. Something else. Were they verifying what Sacris had told him before Demetria had plunged her blade into his cold heart? Or did they mean an altogether different thing?

not darden's neither. not yet. work to be done yes. yes work to be done before he is dardens.

You toy with me, guardians. Do not mistake me for a weak willed human. If not for me then nobody would worship in this place.

not human. not demon. not dardens. something else. we tell too much. can't accept true darkness. not yet.

Long fingers of rage gripped The Torturer's belly and squeezed. You dare to mock me? Can't accept darkness? I am darkness! The only reply he got from this statement was laughter that swelled until it filled the temple with it's deafening pitch. The noise became so painful that it drove Maledict to his knees, hands pushed firmly against his ears in an effort to block it out. Stop! He yelled, unable to hear his own voice above the laughter of the guardians.

Slowly, the mockery died down into nothing and the pain in The Torturer's head subsided. He tentatively removed his hands from his ears but remained on his knees, his head hung low.

you are nothing until we make you. nothing until we say so. we are true darkness. you are incomplete. unfinished. neither this nor that. that nor this. your city is a poor reflection of you. of us. of darden. of darkness. of sorrow.

Very well. Maledict replied in his usual hushed tone and stared defiantly into the void of shadow that now swirled and danced before him. Complete me.

brave he is. foolish. knows not what he asks. we shall see. see if he is the one for our task. yes. a test of faith.

Just do it! He was losing patience with the guardians, was becoming tired of their cryptic arguments. All I ask is that no harm befalls the girl.

girl? his girl. his lover. she is a part of him. weakness and strength. let her live. kill her! kill them all! no. wanted. needed. very well torturer. she shall live through the completion of this disgraceful city.

Winds whipped up outside and battered against the temple followed by an almost inaudible buzzing sound that grew louder and louder with each passing moment until it seemed to be everywhere. Then the screams came and Maledict ran down the aisle, unbolted the temple doors and pulled them open. The winds rushed inside and almost pushed him off his feet but he managed to hold onto his balance and struggle outside.

What he saw was a sight that many would not have been able to view without their mind splitting apart. Massive swarms of flies as big as men hovered menacingly above the city, seemingly unaffected by the ferocious winds. Men, women and children poked their heads out of the safety of their doorways and screamed with horror when they saw the creatures above them. The flies remained still, almost as though waiting until every last scream of horror, every tear of despair had been spent before making their move.

It stayed like this for one full turn of the hourglass, and although many of the citizens had tried to flee, they had been pushed back by the winds. There would be no escape for them. As the last grain of sand wound it's way through the hourglass, the flies flooded down into the streets of the city and although there were many of them, they moved as though they were controlled by one consciousness. Then the real horror began. Anyone that came into contact with a fly would instantly wither up, their skin drying out until it became nothing but dust upon their bones, everything that made them alive suddenly falling victim to the pure pestilance of these flies, these instruments of darkness.

The stench of death was allowed to breach the direction of the fierce winds and surround Maledict with it's dreadful aroma. He should have been disgusted, should have been crying out for this to stop, for the guardians of the temple to show mercy to his people. Instead he just smiled.

When every last man, woman and child was nothing but a pile of bones on the ground, the flies swarmed up and disappeared through the magical barrier of black flame that Lyssia had summoned around the city. Everything was dead. Not just the people but the grass and trees looked as though their life had been sucked away by the very earth that they relied upon for existence. Lightning then forked through the barrier of flames, one after another, each flash hitting a building and reducing it to rubble which was in turn carried away by the winds until there was nothing left. No bones, no rubble, no grass, no trees, nothing except for the Onyx temple.

The Torturer scanned the wasteland for Demetria but couldn't see her. He could only hope that she had found safety within the tunnels beneath where his keep once stood.

This is your answer, guardians? His voice was slightly mocking. To destroy everything? I could have done that myself.

unfinished. incomplete. clean canvas.

The ground began to tremble beneath Maledict's feet, then it shook violently and quickly roared as huge parts of the earth ripped apart and buildings pushed their way through. A circle of huge spires that were thirty feet across and carved from blackened rock towered up into the skies, the tips of them poking through the Sidhe Witch's barrier. A castle burst forth in the centre of the spires, it too made of the same blackened rock as the spires. Jagged rocks erupted from the walls that surrounded the castle making it seemingly impregnable.

It truly was a work of art.

Impressive. He whispered to himself, the word hanging in the now still air as the spires opened up. Deadly creatures spewed out of the now open spires, pygmy archers and undine infantry, firebreathing salamanders and undead things, and finally the demonic beasts that were so familiar to Maledict, the creatures that had followed him into war many times, huge things with tiny red eyes and massive gaping maws full of teeth that dripped with poison, their thick black oily hides reflected a spectrum of what little light the barrier let through. Together, all these creatures were his infernal fiends, the new citizens of his city. Very impressive. A huge grin graced cruel thin lips as he looked over his new domain.

now complete. torturer's city now a reflection of what he is. what he can be. what he will be.

something else. yes. something else.
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Postby Demetria » Wed Nov 26, 2003 11:18 am

Her eyes narrowed as she saw the black flames crawling from the ground up to the sky in a canopy over the city. The shopkeeper that she was arguing with, looked up frightened and began praying to Darden, his words barely recognizable as they poured from his lips in a jumble of confused terror. Wordlessly, she threw the silver that she'd been haggling with him over and took the knife, tucking it into the waistband of the fawn colored breeches she wore and strode out into the street. What was going on? She hadn't a clue, but she knew of one who likely would. Resolutely, she began walking toward the temple ignoring the grasping hands of the people who begged her to explain what was occurring.

She hadn't been expecting the sudden rise in wind and it had lifted her up and thrown her to the ground before she had a chance to root herself in place. Those who had been fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to be inside when the winds hit, found it impossible to leave their dwellings. Those still on the street quickly tried to find shelter, until soon she was the only one left out in the elements. That wasn't what caught her attention. It was the buzzing that caught her attention. Glancing up into the skies and seeing the enormous flies hovering overhead made her blood chill.

It couldn't be true- she was awake so it couldn't be true and yet...her nightmares had taken wing into reality. Frantically, she began crawling her way toward the temple. She knew what was coming. She had to find safety.

The wind made it difficult to move and for every inch she moved forward, it felt as if she were blown back 3, but even so she was making progress. It was taking time, however, and in that time she had much to think about. In her dreams, it had never been clear exactly why what was occurring was occurring. In her dreams the result went one of two ways. She made it to the temple and she was the only one left alive- or she didn't make it and she died gruesomely and unheroicly. Shuddering, she forced her way forward.

She knew when the flies moved for she could hear the screams. She could smell the death. She could see the results to her right and to her left and the feeling of helplessness, of knowing that there was nothing she could do to fight back, terrified her. But she kept moving.

She couldn't even see the temple. She wasn't even sure she was going in the right direction. Stopping to catch her breath, she leaned against a cart that had been overturned. Two farmers were also taking shelter at the other end. Just as she was about to force her way out into the wind again, the fly made its move. All she could do was watch in horrified fascination as the two men who were not more than 4 feet away from her turned to dust. The last she saw of them was the look of agonized terror in their eyes before their sickly gray ashes were caught in the wind and blew back on her. Mutely, she pressed back against the bed of the cart and closed her eyes, trying to prepare for her own death. There was no where left she could go. The beast had seen her.

She didn't know how long she'd waited for the touch of the foul insect before the silence broke through and she opened her eyes to notice that the flies had withdrawn. There was little time for relief though as that was when the lightnings began. There was no where to run. The lightning was destroying anything that the flies had left. Standing she ran toward the temple, coming up against the back of it. Sinking to the ground she waited. She felt the earth shaking. She watched the black rock rising, forming it's castle. She saw the landscape changing. She witnessed the creatures of hell pour out of the ground to populate the land. The only thing she did not see was the one thing that would make this bearable.

Shakily, she rose to her feet and felt her way along the walls of the temple, afraid that if she lost touch with it, she would be noticed and her reprieve would be revoked. She knew that all other humans were dead. She was it. Just why she had been granted life, she did not know- unless it was so Darden could find fitting punishment for the one who lived a lie in his lands, pretending a faith that wasn't truly there. Was this destruction her fault? She had to find Maledict. If he was punished for her weakness....

Finally, she reached the corner of the building that led to the temple entrance. There she could see him. Standing tall, proud...belonging. Swallowing she finally let go of the wall, and took tentative steps in his direction before calling out to his back.

Maledict....
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Postby Lyssia » Mon Dec 01, 2003 8:26 am

Well that was very clever of you wasn't it?

It had to be done.

Did it?

Yes it did, there was no other way, the dice had been cast, this was how they fell.

Do you really believe that? Come on be honest with me, just as you were the last time we spoke.

Events have transpired, even you can see that. Wouldn't you have done the same in my position?

Answering a question with another question...and you wonder why you can never find enough answers.

You would have done the same in my place.

No.

I wouldn't.


[center]--------------------------[/center]

The sun beat down upon the battered form of the sorceress, her robes torn and tattered, baring portions of her pale flesh. In places her skin was as smooth and untouched as it had always been, in others it was scored and broken, blood rushing to the surface, no longer held prisoner in its vessels. Her hair fell all about her, occansionally being moved one way or another by the gentle movement of the warm desert wind. But that was the only movement, the rest of the sorceress was still, her eyes closed as if sleeping, or worse. Perhaps if someone had seen her from a distance they might have thought her dead, finally released from a world that had never given her the peace that she had sought after for so long. Maybe some would have been glad to see her dead, Lyssia knew that she had formed more than an enemy or two over the ages. Perhaps others would been sad to think her dead, but true friends and allies were few and far between for the Sidhe woman.

But sadness or hate for her end would have been misplaced, for life still clung on desperately within her battered body. Her breathing was so shallow that it would have been easily missed, her heart beat faint and slow. The spell that she had cast, the Art that she had handled, was far more than she should have done. And as with all things there was a price to be paid for its use, the piper always had to be paid. So many forgot that, that for every action there was a reaction, for every power used there was a price to be paid, a burden to be suffered. To act without thinking of the cost was dangerous, but no so dangerous as to act and never believe that the day would come when the cost would have to be paid.

Lyssia knew that the price that the Art would demand of her for protecting those realms of the Sanctum that wished it would be high. She had known it even as she had walked away from the central settlement, deep into the red dunes. In the back of her mind a little voice had even whispered that the price might be her own life, that it might demand everything. had she been afraid at that thought? Perhaps just a little, who wouldn't have been afraid knowing that for something so fleeting as protecting those lands under the banner of the Officium for a time they might very well die? Though Lyssia had often considered death, often wondered if she could not find some way to achieve peace through it, when it had come to facing a possible end she had been afraid. But she had still faced it, she had still gone out there, she had still walked into the sands in order to carry out the calling of the Art.

Oh and how the Art had answered that call, how it had ripped through her, tearing at her body from within, threatening to destroy her and litter the individual motes of her body to all four corners of the isle. A part of her had wondered when that feeling flooded through her if she should not be terrified of it. But strangely enough when the magic had been at its height she had not been afraid, she had simply existed and that had been enough. There had been no fear, just acceptance, that what she had started would come to a conclusion even if it cost the sorceress her life. But the realisation in those moments that it might very well take that had not frightened her, there had been no fear, all emotion had been stripped from her, taken away. What reason had there been to fear then? None, none at all, the dice had indeed been cast, all the sorceress had been able to do was watch where they fell.

How much time passed with the sorceress not moving, laying as one dead to the world? Moments? Minutes? Hours? Days? She didn't know, she wasn't even aware of the world, locked instead inside her own thoughts as time continued to pass. Perhaps it had only been seconds, the Sidhe would never know exactly, in that time her attention was elsewhere, held by words and thoughts that did not seem to all be her own. Not that that was an unusual state for the sorceress to be caught in, some who had seen her had commented on how it almost seemed as though they did not see a single soul when they looked at Lyssia, but rather that more than one spirit stood where she did. Those clear-sighted few would never realise how close to the truth they were, the Sidhe would never tell them of the truth that lay behind her eyes.

But time passed as it would, not caring for the sorceress whose life flickered and threatened to fade away entirely. Perhaps she would have stayed there forever, eventually passing into death properly had not fortune favoured her. Though there were many who would have said that it was not fortune or luck that favoured her at all, that something or someone else wished the sorceress to live, still had plans for her life and the path that she walked. Opinions would always differ.

There was a movement upon the dunes, gone as quickly as it had been there, enough to confuse most into thinking that it had indeed never been there, that it had just been imagined. A traveller might have thought that they were seeing things, that perhaps the movement had been nothing more than a few grains of sand scattering down the side of one of the dunes. Enough to catch the eye but nothing more than that, just a few grains moving as the wind breathed one way and caught them off-balance. Nothing to worry about...was it? Nothing to denote something larger than a grain or two of sand, certainly not the movement of those who lived within the desert. Was it? More than one soul had underestimated the tribes of the red desert, thinking them to simply be raving fanatics, frothing at the mouth and screaming at the heathens. But that had never been the way of the tribes of the desert. That they were beyond devout to their God would never be denied, but they knew that screaming at their foes would not achieve anything. Instead they moved in silence sometimes seeming no more than ghosts or mirages, tricks of the sun upon a fevered brow.

Three figures appeared out of the sands where the brief movement had been only seconds before. Each was dressed similarly, in loose dark clothes that did not impede movement or appear overly showy. They were practical, as were the long curved swords that hung, shealthed, at their waists and the small crude knives that every member of the tribes carried. The tribes did not believe in decoration only in the practicality of things, what use was a sword that looked beautiful if it was as good as a plain weapon. And a plain weapon was far better, it did not catch the eye of those with light fingers as an ornate one might. The three figures did not speak as they approached the unconscious sorceress, they didn't need to.

[center]--------------------------[/center]

You know that there will be consequences for this?

There are always consequences.

Not just the physical ones.

I know.

This was foolish of you.

It had to be done.

Only because it was allowed to come to this. There were other ways.

Other paths that could be taken? Perhaps, but they were ones that I could not take.

Sometimes I think that all your years have taught you nothing...

...And sometimes I think that you're learning.


[center]--------------------------[/center]

Not many saw the body of the sorceress returned to the central settlement, most were still tending to the troubled priests and magic-workers who had been felled by the unleashing of the Art upon the land. A few children watched as the three Nibinbrethian came back, one carrying the prone body of the Sidhe woman in his arms. They had covered her with a cloak, hiding the majority of her wounds from sight and from the sand-laiden winds. It was better that her condition remain as secret as possible until the priests of the main temple were well enough to look at her. The tribes did not need the outside world to learn of what had happened to the Sidhe witch, in their minds it was bad enough that the outsiders had learnt of the Vision-Seeker's affliction.

They walked quickly through the low settlement, not stopping to speak with any of their fellows. It was not the time for that kind of thing, later when they sat about the fire with their families they would hear of exactly what had happened within the settlement while they had been gone, sent out by Father Eskil's last words before he had collapsed. He had known, somehow he had known that the witch was out in the sands, that the strange appearance of the sky was down to her. He had even told them briefly where to look, almost as if he had already known...but that was impossible wasn't it? But it was not their place to question such matters, the Lord would ensure that they knew exactly what they needed to know and nothing more.

Up the handful of steps before the temple they walked, one a little in front of the one carrying Lyssia, the other a little behind him. A worred novice met them within the darkness, a boy of no more than ten summers, his gaze frightened by what he had born witness to. He had no doubt seen the priests fall to their knees suddenly, had heard their screams as the Sidhe's Art had rolled across the lands. To see such a thing would have an effect on him, to have had to be one of the ones that looked after the priests while they recovered had not helped matters. This way, he said quietly, gesturing to an empty corner of the darkened temple, Lay her here.
SO - Into darkness...
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Postby Ethan » Fri Dec 12, 2003 7:42 am

Everyone had left the temple except for the young novice and Ethan. The boy looked across the temple at the Drow priest who was kneeling in silent contemplation before the sleeping figure of Ebony, his lips were moving but the boy couldn't hear the words spoken.

What shall I do now, father? How can we help the Sidhe? The boy asked nervously. This was the first time that he had ever been in the presence of the Holy Father let alone had the opportunity to speak with him directly. Little did he know that this day woiuld be the most momentous day in his life as a priest, a day that he would constantly recount to future novices and brothers alike.

Our chance is here. yes. let us heal her, make her endebted to us. to you.. forgotten one.

Ethan had learnt to keep his voice low when speaking with the voices that raged in his head, his voice was so low that anyone nearby would assume that he was quietly praying to Darden and there were times, many times, when he wished it were that simple.

How? He asked, his head moving slightly so that he could look over his shoulder at the limp form of the collapsed Sidhe. I am no healer. The best I can do is mop her brow with a dampened sponge. The young novice stepped a little closer to the drow priest in an attempt to listen to the prayers of his Holy Father. He may have been a novice but he was also a child and at times his childish curiosity got the better of him.

we can give you the gifts needed, forgotten one.

Ethan smirked at this statement, the flickering light of the candles suddenly breaching the darkness of his cowl to cause his dark eyes to glint almost malevolently.

Your constant promises of power have become tiresome. He muttered beneath his breath, even so, the boy novice heard what he had said and his eyes grew wide with astonishment. Who was the drow priest speaking to? Who had promised the Holy Father of the Red Desert any kind of powers? You offer the world and give nothing. The Drow priest continued. Nothing but the madness that is borne of speaking to oneself.

The boy blinked incredulously at this last comment and although a part of him wanted to say something, to remind Ethan that he was behind him and listening, a bigger part of him wanted to continue listening, to find out what was wrong with the Drow priest.

Many stories about Ethan had circulated around the Red Desert, some claimed that there was something suspicious in the fact that more murders had been committed since his return while others claimed that he had gone mad and was no longer fit to be called the Holy Father of the Desert, then there were others still that argued on the side of Ethan, saying that he was holier now than he had ever been. Even though there were many different arguments and speculations they all agreed upon one thing.

He wasn't the same Ethan that they had once known. Something about him had changed and even though they couldn't quite put their finger on it, they all knew it was there.


forgotten one forgets his place. thinks he is calling our bluff. thinks we cannot give what we promise. never wonders if he is readys for our gifts.

A mirthless chuckle rumbled deep down in Ethan's chest and he pulled his cowl from his head, allowing the dancing candlelight to illuminate his face.

Try me.

The boy novice suddenly found himself feeling very alone and very scared. His stomach knotted up and it was all he could do to fight away the urge to be sick all over the temple floor.
F..Father.. He stammered out the word in a cracked and terrified voice, and even though he had tried to gain the attention of the Holy Father he was relieved that Ethan didn't look around but instead stood up and looked straight ahead.

very well, forgotten one. we shall show you a small part of the great whole. shall give you what you need for success.

No sooner had the voices spoken within him than a blinding white light surrounded his body. The boy novice covered his eyes with both hands as the light spread out from Ethan until it bathed the whole temple with it's glorious power. The Drow Priest tossed back his head and forced a terrible scream to spill from his lips as the power threatened to consume his very soul. In the back of his consciousness he could hear the boy novice calling out his name and he wanted to reply, to tell the boy that everything was going to be alright but he coudln't because if truth be known, he wasn't sure that everything was going to be alright.

The light seemed to last forever but it actually only lasted for moments before it disappeared into the Holy Father.


now, forgotten one. heal the sidhe. claim your glory.

Ethan stumbled over to Lyssia and knelt down beside her, his face was still glowing but not from the light, now it was glowing from the huge smile upon his lips and the sudden look of pure contentment in his eyes.

He placed the flat of his right hand across Lyssia's forehead and held her chin with his other hand.


Let your body be healed.

The words were whispered yet they echoed around the whole temple with an almost deafening volume. The boy novice was on his knees and desperately tried to rub the light out of his eyes but it would not leave him, it had burnt itself into his mind permanently and made him blind.

I cannot see. He called out in a panic stricken tone. Father Ethan, the light of Darden that you took into yourself has blinded me. Ethan turned and cast his gaze over the boy novice.

Praise be, my child. Praise be.
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Postby Lyssia » Tue Dec 16, 2003 7:45 am

Time to return to the waking world. The passage of time paused for you but now you must return.

The world hurts.

And because of that hurt you would abandon it?

No...I can't.

You once spoke of a cancer in the isle and of a knife to cut it out.

The cancer remains, it burrows deeply into the flesh of the lands.

The time is coming for it to be cut out...

...cut deeply witch, cut deeply.


[center]--------------------------[/center]

It hurt, it hurt so badly, that forcing of life back into her battered body, like liquid fire rushing along every vein and nerve-ending. She wanted it to stop, wanted the agony to fade away into oblivion and take her with it, take her back to that muddle of thoughts and half-imagined conversations that had occupied her mind until recently. It would be so much nicer to just remain in that place where the conscious and the sub-conscious met, where conversations with your own thoughts actually made sense. In that time when her mind had wandered she had felt as though she was balancing on an edge, just like that thin sliver of time between waking and sleeping. Perhaps it was the same place, a grey-lit area of the mind where everything ran together and somethings were clearer than they could ever be in the dreaming or the waking world.

Had that really been her own voice that she had thought she had been talking with while she had slept? Or someone else's? Had she just imagined it all, her mind wandering where ever it wished to while her body had been battered? Already the words of the conversation faded from her memory, slipping from the grasp of her memory like water. There had been another voice beside her own, it has spoken of...other ways...consequences...and a blade...of the need to cut. But...no it danced from her, leaving her feeling somehow less than she had been, as if she had discovered some other part of herself, a part that had been sealed from her mind as soon as she had found it.

A power, a strength washed thorugh her, clearing away all the muddle and clutter, washing away all the pain and agony. She could almost feel her flesh knitting itself back together, blood ceasing to flow from open vessels. What the Art had torn apart some other power was mending, a magic that was not her own returning life to her bruised and abused form. Something, someone was bringing her back from the brink, giving back what the Art had taken from her, urging her to continue living. Had someone found her? A healer perhaps? Her mind struggled to make sense of what her body was telling her, fighting against wave upon wave of sensation. She had never known anything like what she was currently experiencing, no power, no magic, no strength. nothing like it at all. It was as though life itself, pure and untainted, was being given to her, a gift so perfect that it almost made her weep.

Her eyes snapped open, the real world pressing in on her again, reality reclaiming her for itself. Ethan?, she whispered weakly. She knew the face of the drow but had barely spoken to him since his return to the lands of red sand. He had been the one that the Torturer had taken over when she had slain the demon's body, the one forced to suffer the burden of Maledict's soul. The first time she had laid eyes upon the drow priest he had not been the mind in control of his flesh and his body had been marked outwardly with the corruption of the demon within him. His features no longer carried the marks of that struggle between himself and Maledict, indeed Lyssia could see no sign of the twisted and wretched creature that he had once been. But still there had to be scars didn't there? Not physical ones but mental ones? He had been forced to fight the blackened soul of the Torturer, didn't that kind of thing leave its mark? Perhaps not, perhaps he had been glad to be the host for the demon's soul. Perhaps just like the tribes of the desert Ethan believed that Maledict worked on behalf of the God of Sorrows Himself.

Back then Maledict had used her own guilt against her, knowing that she was unable to see an innocent soul suffer. He had used Ethan's soul as a bargaining chip against her, telling her that the priest's souls would be lost forever if she did not help the demon return to his own flesh. How she had hated him for that, forcing her to choose between bringing her mortal enemy back to life and letting an innocent suffer. She had not been able to let Ethan remain caught up in his spiritual battle with Maledict, she had ressurected the demon flesh, freeing the priest of his burden.

But what had happened to him after that? After he had regained control of his flesh, where had he gone to? He hadn't been with the others when they had struck the bastion of the Thirteen and he most certainly hadn't returned to the red desert. Infact until recently it had almost seemed as though he had disappeared off the face of the isle, no one had heard word from him. Then he had reappeared just as Maledict had reformed the Sanctum, raising the alliance's banner once more to fight for the cause of the Demon God. Had the drow's reappearance just been a co-incidence? Or was there some other hand at work? Scars, there have to be scars, she murmured, barely aware that she spoke outloud.

She shook her head slowly to herself, closing her eyes momentarily. Too many questions, too many silly questions plaguing her. What did it matter where the drow had been in his absence? It was after all easy enough to lose someone in the isle, there was always some place where the clever could hide their presence from all. A darkness that could consume the blackest shadow, a light that could blind all who looked for a soul.
SO - Into darkness...
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Postby Elador » Tue Dec 23, 2003 4:32 pm

The sky overhead burns with endless blue fire as we trudge across the red sands. I cannot see the stars, I can barely see the moons. Overhead, there is only blue flame. If the heavens were a bowl, then the bowl would seem cracked, yet these cracks move, writhing as though possessed of some twisted semblance of life.

The Anub-Re are nervous, although they attempt to hide it. To a casual observer, Kiyomori's sept would seem the very image of calm efficiency, watchfully alert, weapons at the ready, prepared for danger. I, though ... I am no casual observer. I have come to know the Anub-Re, in my time spent in the cool quiet of the Dark Below.

The scouts are too ready. I have never seen Kiyomori's scouts - the one sept amongst all others that I have come to know well - quite so alert within the red desert's borders. I do not mean to imply that they are never unready for an attack, but I have never seen them so alert. They are not simply ready to react to an attack, they seem to be assuming that an attack is imminent.

Nariaki and his two attendant under-priests are projecting an air of serenity. Again, though, it is just a little too serene, the barest hint of "forced". Try as they might to hide it, the warpriests are subtly un-nerved. So, Shadowborn, consider the evidence and the circumstances, and draw a conclusion. Conside that this is an act of magic. Consider that the priesthood of the Anub-Re appear to be the only members of that society who use magic.

Ah.

Your priests couldn't do this, could they, Nariaki? You've encountered a magic beyond yours, and it scares you.

The speculation has served it purposes, I have an answer, and the thoughts have occupied me on our journey, for we have arrived at the settlement of the Nininbrethian, the central tribe. Nariaki is looking around with barely-concealed curiosity, this being his first visit to our nearest allies. The tribespeople are familiar enough with the Anub-Re that they pay us no heed as we walk through the streets, towards the Temple.

There has to be a better way to do this...
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Postby Corduin » Sat Dec 27, 2003 1:29 pm

Corduin had been walking for days, first across the plains and now across wastelands. He didn't know for sure what his final destination would be, only that it lay beneath the brilliant blue dome that now covered the desert.

*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*

He was a thief, and a good one. To survive for so long in a busy city as a thief was testament to his skills. One of the Elven race, his natural agility and speed had stood him in good stead right from the very beginning. These had only improved with many years of practice, the many years he had spent picking the pockets of fat merchants or stealthily entering their homes at night. He had always made a point of only stealing from the very rich; it was not, however, anything to do with high moral standards - it had much more to do with the fact that the very rich had so much more to steal than normal folk.

He was no longer the young boy he had started out in the trade as. Nor was he, for that matter, a young man anymore either. More than two decades had passed since he first slit the bottom of a heavy purse, by his reckoning. Most of it had been enjoyable and exhilarating; some of it had been hair-raising and frightening...but never dull. Hardly a waking moment went by without some excitement in his life.

But all the same, the last year had been...different. His action-filled days had become boring...old...stale. They didn't quite capture his interest like they used to. In truth, his heart hadn't really been in his thievery for a while now. He had begun to take unnecessary risks to try to renew his enthusiasm but he knew deep down that it was a futile exercise. Ever since he had met her over a year ago he knew his life had been changed, probably forever. That year had been a period of just waiting for something to happen...he didn't know quite what it was that he was waiting for, nor was he able to put that feeling into words...nevertheless, in the back of his mind, he was constantly watching for a sign.

Of course, he had always vaguely believed in and made offerings to the deities of Maxim. More than just "vaguely," really. Every thief, no matter how skilled, relies on a fair portion of luck to last for long. It never hurt to try to appease the Gods and Goddess in any way possible in an attempt to influence that luck. Darden was his preferred God of the three; it was Darden that he worshipped most often, Darden that he prayed to silently in times of danger. He saw Darden as the natural deity for him to hold above the others; He was the God of misery and suffering...thieves inflicted misery and suffering on others, if only in a small way.

So what was he waiting for? What signal would show itself? Unlikely as it seemed to him, he had thought that it most probably would be a sign from one of the Gods...he knew not what kind of sign it would be. He hoped that he would not miss it, for he felt that he would be waiting for the rest of his life if he didn't grab the opportunity when he had the chance.

Then, finally...one day he had been working the busy streets of the town and heard some interesting rumours. Rumours of a mysterious dome popping into existance over the desert to the east. The same desert about which rumours abounded regarding a witch and the Sanctum Officium. It could be none other than the sign he had been waiting on for so long, he was sure of it; the waiting was over and he could begin to follow his destiny, whatever that may be and wherever that may lead him.

He had set out almost immediately; he bid no farewells and only brought with him what he could carry. He knew he had a long way to go.

*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*

Finally he was drawing near to the shimmering blue thing in the air. It was big. It stretched away to his left and right as far as he could see, curving inwards slightly; it rose up above his head, rolling away from him up into the sky; presumably it covered the whole desert, somehow.

Rumours were rife about this desert. Rumblings that it was in some way associated with the Sanctum Officium. He had heard about the Sanctum Officium...worshippers of Darden, he knew. He wasn't sure what to think when it came to the mutterings that they were half composed of demon-kind. He supposed that it didn't really matter...they were all of the same faith as he.

There had been even vaguer whisperings about a powerful witch that resided somewhere within the desert. It certainly now appeared that this was true, judging by the creation that stood in front of him. There was no doubt that it was some sort of magical construct, almost like a shield over the lands.

He was taking no chances with something so unknown. He had no idea what effect it might have on him if he walked through it unheedingly. But he knew that wherever it was that he needed to get to was behind that wall of blue. He knew that he had to move through that barrier somehow; he had the feeling that his whole life would have been for naught if he didn't continue onwards.

Taking his small sack of possessions, he tossed it towards the barrier and, closing his eyes, waited for the fizzle...that never came. Opening his eyes again he was very surprised to see his sack lying on the sands on the other side of the dome. He couldn't make it out very well, but it seemed to be unscathed.

Interesting...but will the same apply to me when I try to cross? My mind at least appears to be made up though...I'm already using "when" rather than "if". I suppose there's nothing for it then.

He stepped through the shield...

...And was amazed to find himself standing on the other side of the barrier, suffering no apparent ill effects. He hadn't even felt anything in the crossing, except for the slightest hint of a tingle running through his whole body. Shivering a little even under the heat, he retrieved his belongings from where they lay on the ground and set out across the desert in the direction towards which he was drawn.

*-*-*-*-*-*-*

He paused and drank a little from his flask of water.

He was being watched. He could feel eyes on him, had been feeling them almost since the moment he had started walking across the sands. From all his years as a thief he had developed a heightened sense of awareness of his surroundings, an extra sense that had been invaluable to him countless times in his life so far. It was this sixth sense that was warning him now, telling him that he was being watched, followed, observed on his trek into the desert. He had seen no signs of life no matter how much he had looked for it...still though, he trusted his instincts and knew that there were people out there.

But even after hours there still had been no sound, no appearance, and most importantly no attack, from the unknown watchers. The only conclusion that he could draw from this was that they were no immediate threat...in any case, he knew that he had to continue across the desert. Dangerous or not, the hidden observers would just have to be ignored for now.

In the distance he could see a vague hint of a structure in the desert. He knew that it could easily be a mirage; he knew also that he had no other choice but to headtowards it. In any case, it was in that direction that he was being pulled towards, somehow. He started off walking again, swiftly now, with a definite destination in mind.

*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*

As he got closer and closer to the place, he could see that it could be nothing man-made. In the middle of a medium-sized settlement sat the massive outcropping of stone; the place where he was headed, he knew.

The settlement was set in concentric rings with the towering rock as the centerpoint. The outermost ring was composed entirely of tents, while inside this there were low stone buildings. In the "streets" of the settlement walked people who made nary a sound as they walked and seemed never to speak aloud. Corduin had heard of these people, too, but had never seen them first hand. The fact that they never spoke and just stared at him or ignored him made them seem more threatening than they otherwise could have been; he moved swiftly past them and their dwellings until he stood before the rock.

He could see now that it was a building of some kind, the door set into it's base confirming it for him. Judging by what looked like priestly writings on the walls of the structure, it was most likely a temple. There were robed figures, perhaps priests, going about their business in front of and around the temple.

He decided that his best bet was to wait outside but close to the entrance. As soon as someone noticed and approached him, he would say the words that were now running though his mind unbidden. He knew he should have been disturbed by the fact that words not thought by himself were appearing in his mind, but for some reason he wasn't. He wasn't sure why, but it felt right somehow.

He stopped in his tracks, just short of the main temple entrance. Taking careful note of everything going on around him, as was his wont as a thief, he waited patiently.
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Postby Ethan » Mon Jan 05, 2004 8:39 am

Scars?
If only she knew of the scars that would never heal, the horrors that his body and soul had been subjected to by the Torturer's invasion. Nobody knew, nobody could know until they experienced it for themselves, there were no apt words of description, no arms that could comfort and console him, no softly spoken words of understanding that could offer relief.

He was alone.


not alone, forgotten one. not alone with us.

He did not reply to the voices this time for he had nothing to say. The drow priest had quietly thought that they were a figment of his now twisted mind, a hallucination that he could not rid himself of but now he knew that they were real. The bluff had been called and they had delivered. Power flowed through him and though it had tugged him into a state of serenity he could not help feeling that there were dark forces at work and that those forces would drag him further and further down into despair until there was nothing left of his humanity, nothing left of him. Even though he knew these things, he still welcomed the power, how could he resist? He was, after all, only a man.

Yes. He whispered softly, placing the palm of his hand upon Lyssia's forehead. There are scars, Sidhe. I feel yours as well as my own. I feel everyone's, the whole Isle has scars that they cannot heal, cannot forget. A smile graced his lips as the words tumbled forth unbidden. Was he the one speaking them or did they originate from someone else? Why did he feel such love, such serenity when he knew that the power came from a dark place? Was he fighting it, making it do what he wanted, or was he just it's puppet, dangling awkwardly on invisible strings? I will heal those scars.

good, forgotten one, good. When she awakes she will realise that your debt to her is repaid. You have made a valuable ally.

Why had they chosen him? What did they really have planned? These were questions that he couldn't answer, questions that he couldn't ask anyone else for fear of being locked away with his madness. He didn't even know who or what they were, all he really knew for certain was that the powers they had given him would have disastrous consequences. Everything had its price and the general feeling of unease that permeated his whole, that rode the undercurrent of every thought in his mind told him that this price would be a high one, one that perhaps he would be unable to pay. Even so, he could not fight it, could not resist it.

It felt so nice.

He turned to the boy novice that had been blinded during the transformation. The child wore a grin from ear to ear, considering himself truly blessed, after all, blindness was far from a curse in the Red Desert.


Let it be known that this healing is the first of seven miracles. Let it be known that your saviour has arrived...
The words spoken by the drow priest danced across the walls and up to the top of the temple before disappearing into dark shadows.

...and his name is Ethan.
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Postby Colgan » Mon Jan 05, 2004 10:26 pm

He had learnt quickly but in reality there was no other way. Thrust into a position of importance with no prior warning, the youth had worked day and night the past weeks to ensure the smooth running of the Mist. This was not the time to question the whys and wherefores of his situation, but to seize the opportunity presented to him by those in the know.

He had been greatly assisted by the Architects and Craftsmen who had overseen the re-construction of the township with little help from him, this had freed up more time to concentrate his energies upon training an elite squad of salamanders, and alongside the ever-dedicated Gunthor a band of skilled Satyrs were trained to levels to keep the prying eyes of heathen thieves at bay.

The market square was functional but limited; a handful of traders had done their level best to encourage trading of much needed resources. Colgan was content that a functional township had been resurrected from the ashes of a razed one. He felt as if he had passed his first test in the running of the Mist.

<-><-><-><-><-><-><->-<->-<->-<->-<->-<->-<->-<-><-><-><->-<-><-><-><-><-><-><->-<->-<->-<->-<->-<->-<->

His time spent by moat gave him a much-needed break away from the mundane chores that he had to face everyday. Thinking became easier and he had concluded that he must have targets and a plan for the running of the township. Stagnation and hesitancy would no longer be tolerated, he had learnt that much from those who had ruled before him.

Grinning as he stumbled up the stone steps to his private quarters, he paused for a second to gaze from a nearby window upon what he and his devoted workers had created. Before he realized exactly what he was doing, he lent forward and let cry.

Citizens of the Mist, Listen now! We shall not bother ourselves with the heretics of heathens, whatever schemes or dirty tricks they may try and unleash upon us! We are stronger than them; whatever they may have in-store we shall exact revenge triple fold and then some! Concern yourself with your ……….own well being, but be ready to drop tools and fight at any beckoned call!

He shot back from the ledge onto the steps and chuckled, he had never been one for rousing speeches, let alone speeches conducted in the dead of night cried out passionately from the steps of his own very quarters. He pondered upon what Theo had slipped into his mulled wine, and grinned some further before finally retiring for the night.
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Postby Lyssia » Wed Jan 07, 2004 12:13 pm

He would heal the scars? What did Ethan mean? Her mind grasped at his words as if she were drowning, holding onto what the drow had said, trying to use it to hold herself above the confusion of thoughts that threatened to drag her down again. The drow priest had heard her barely whispered words, had he realised exactly what she had spoken of though? Scars, it came back to scars, to the imperfectly healed wounds that itched the skin and marred the sight of what had been. She carried her scars, physical ones as well as mental, thin silvery lines that were drawn across her throat, an eternal reminder of when she had not been strong enough. When the darkness had been too much of a temptation, when she had been weak, when she had given in, yes she still carried the scars from that time, the criss-cross pattern across her neck almost looking like some delicate necklace.

Did Ethan truly feel her scars within? Did he sense the damage that had never quite healed within her mind, the chasm that awaited her within her own mind, the one that threatened to pull her down into madness again? Could he heal that? Or was it just a foolish hope, one that she would always cling to? The dream of being whole again, of not knowing the aching wounds within her thoughts and soul, it was one that seemed to remain forever out of her grasp. Her heart had quickened, skipping a beat at Ethan's words, at his declaration of healing the scars, not just hers but the isles. What would she give to be whole again? Or perhaps the question should have been what wouldn't she have given to be complete once more?

Lyssia shuddered, no longer in pain but feeling weakened, her ordeal to raise the shields over the realms that were under the banner of the Officium had taken much from her. The Art was no easy mistress, it demanded its due, especially when called upon as she had recently. It would be some time before she was strong again, before her power was at its former level and she was once more the Sidhe sorceress that most thought of her as. She was weak for now...and worse than that vulnerable, easy prey for the enemies that she had made over the ages. The thought caused her eyes to open once more, staring up into the darkness of the temple.

Her enemies, if they learned of her weakness...it did not bear to think about. Still she had to take some comfort in the shields that she had raised, they would protect her from those that meant the red desert harm, vast armies wouldn't be marching their way into the tribal lands any time soon. No doubt there were sorcerers and mages out there who would be able to bring down her spell, she was by no means the most powerful magic-user in the isle and would never have been so bold as to make that claim. But even those who were more powerful would need time to undo what she had done, yes they would need time to study her shields before working against them. She had time then, time before any would seek to tear down what she had built, time in which she could recover even if only a little. Yes there was time, time in which she could, if not recover, at least throw up a charade, one to hide her vulnerability from those wh would seek to end her long life.

But there would be time to think of that later, for now there was a stranger problem to consider. Or perhaps problem was not the right word to use, maybe puzzle was more suitable to describe it. Ethan. They had never really known one another. She had aided him when the demon soul of Maledict had possessed him, freeing him from that burden, but other than that? Of course she had seen him since his return to the desert but she could hardly claim to have spend any time in conversation with the drow. He was after all one of the temple priests and the sorceress tended to spend as little time near them as she could, always half-afraid that they would start ranting at her once more about faith and Darden.

And now?

Now his behaviour, his words, his sudden ability to heal her of the ravages of the Art, now that intrigued her. How had been able to force life back into her tired flesh? A miracle? She heard him declare it as such to the novice, one of seven. Seven miracles? Was the drow truly claiming such magic, such power, to have been given to him by Darden? His words flowed across her mind, almost slipping from her mental grasp as the words spoken in sleep now had. There was more to the drow, much more. Why heal her at all? Why use such a gift as he apparently had to give life back to her? Why not use it to heal Ebony of her death-like sleep? Or was that power beyond him still? A puzzle indeed. Though perhaps it was not so surprising that he would try to help her in her hour of need, after all hadn't she done something similar for him in freeing him of Maledict's soul? A healing for a healing...yes it seemed that all matters were even between herself and the drow priest.

Even perhaps but the manner of his power, the effect that it had had upon her battered and bruised flesh, that had piqued her curiousity. Her worst trait, her curiousity had led her into trouble more times than she could count, but the drow had certainly caught its attention. Ethan had never exhibited such healing power before as far as she was aware, the power that she had felt coursing thorugh her when he had worked his 'miracle' upon her was far beyond any that she had ever experienced or witnessed. Could it have really been a miracle? A true, honest miracle. And if that were so what were his other six miracles? What other wonders would the drow priest work? This would certainly require her attention, she could not let such a series of events occur without knowing of them herself.

A soft sound at the entranceway disturbed her thoughts and Lyssia forced herself to sit up, the very action seeming to almost exhaust her, in order to get a look at who came to the temple. She could just make out the familiar form of Elador and some of the Anub-Re in the entrance, seeming more than a little travel-worn from their journey. No doubt they had walked from the underground home of the Anub-Re to the temple, a long and arduous trek even for the dog-headed Anub-Re to accomplish. 'There has to be a better way to do this', the sorceress thought to herself as she nodded in silent greeting to the group. A way to get from the Isle of Mists to the temple of the tribes, a way that did not involve trekking through the Dark Below or the open hot sands of the desert. From one to the other and back again...a portal perhaps? It was something that she would need to speak to Elador about at some point.

She looked back towards Ethan, seeing that he spoke to one of the novices of the temple, though she could barely see the boy who stood onthe other side of the drow priest. Ethan's miracle...what else would he accomplish? And exactly who was he the saviour of?
SO - Into darkness...
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Postby Demetria » Wed Jan 07, 2004 5:45 pm

Maledict didn't respond to her call. He didn't, but something else did. Her eyes darted to the newly formed castle, only moments after her ears heard the scratchings.The blackened rock that formed the spires were ominous, the shadows darkening the area to a coolness that seeped into her skin. In the shadows stood the beasts. Their tiny little eyes glared red at her, following her every move as if to tell her she did not belong here. The poison dripping from their jowls, left wet pools on the obsidian rock on which they stood, their claws, spraping and clicking on the hard surface. It carried well in the silence.

Swallowing hard, she had to question if she truly did belong. She was still alive and all others of her kind were dead. But surely if she were being punished for her lack of faith, she would have been killed above all others? The archers and undines, the salamanders and all creatures that served Maledict circled around, their quiet stares driving home the realization that if this was punishment- death would not be the end result. That would be much too simple.

She glanced at Maledict one last time- still not seen by him or acknowledged. she did not know what had caused him to become blind to her, perhaps he blamed her for what happened? At first she didn't notice the shadows. She'd grown accustomed to them since she'd come to live with the Torturer, their constant presence becoming as familiar as the temple itself. Their agitation soon demanded her attention though, as they swirled around the temple and newly formed castle. Their muddied movements as they twisted and writhed within themselves and around each other and the land boded not well- they seemed excited, perturbed, perhaps even angry. Then, as if all in agreement, the shadow separated from the temple and flowed over her, covering the world in black and blinding her to all else.

Senses reeling, she tried to get away, but there was nowhere to flee. Her feet failed her, and tripping she fell to the earth, the shadows roiling over and against her at first buffeting her with the barest of touches but soon pushing against her with bruising blows. The shadows pushed against her eyes, till she had to close them tightly lest she lose them. They filled her nostrils till she had to open her mouth to drag in gasping breath. They flowed into her mouth and down into her throat, catching her screams before she could utter them and leaving bloody rawness in their wake. She could feel them roaming her body, not with the sensual caresses of a lover. Not even with the commanding touches of a master. She could feel their disdain and loathing as they probed deeply, bruising and drawing blood. When they had finally finished dispelling their anger, they tossed her aside and flooded back to the temple.

Disoriented, she raised her head and looked up through swollen eyes. Maledict was still in front of her, still seemingly oblivious to what had just occurred, though perhaps it was only in her head that it had taken as long and was as loud as she had felt it to be. Standing weakly, she pulled the tattered remains of her clothing around her, ignoring the blood that dripped down her thighs, trying not to whimper. Perhaps it had only been mere seconds- but that had been long enough for her to hear. The shadows had been most insistent.

She must repent of her weakness in faith. She must confess all to Maledict- her weakness was a weakness to him. She must accept the results for her weakness. She must be made strong. If she did not grow in strength- then she must die. She had no doubt that the shadows would kill her if she did not heed them.

Swaying slightly she tried to call out to him again...Maledict...but the baying of the beasts drowned her out.
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Postby Elador » Mon Jan 12, 2004 4:10 am

The inside of the Temple is cool and dimly-lit, as ever as we pass through the door, moving from the desert's heat to the cooler air of the cavernous place of worship. The centre of the desert peoples' faith gives an impression of permanace, as though it will never change. The players may change, but the stage itself seems changeless. The motionless body of Ebony, the true ruler of the desert, lies, still, on the altar.

A figure passes me, leaving the Temple as we enter. Priests robes, a smile of welcome. Yet the features under the cowl are not the pale human skin I would normally expect to see, the face has not the human features I would expect to see under the cowl of a temple priest.

Instead, the features are ... Elven, and the skin is darker than my own.

Curious, indeed. Why would a drow be wearing the robes of a priest of the red desert? The tribes of Culaearien count no Elves, of any type, amongst them, to the best of my knowledge. That I know, the only non-humans amongst the sands of the red desert are the Sidhe sorceress Lyssia, and Ebony's bestial son, Silus.

The cowled drow leaves the temple and leaves unanswered questions behind him. I seem to be acquiring more questions. Such as the reason the Sidhe sorceress, whom I have come to question, is sitting on the floor in a corner of the Temple.

Greetings, Lyssia of Culaearien, from the Anub-Re. If we are not intruding at this time, there are ... certain matters I would speak with you upon. The Anub-Re have recently discovered a strange magical phenomenom in the tunnels of the Dark Below. Those tunnels leading towards the surface world are blocked with magical fire. It is as though someone has attempted to seal off the endless night from the outside world - save only one exit, the salt mines through which we made our way here. A strange phenomenom, and not one the Anub-Re have encountered before.

But one which I have, Lyssia of Culaearien, for I have seen the fires of the Art which you call forth. The same fires which now burn in the sky above the red sands of Culaearien. Tell me, Lyssia, what part have you in this?

And since I have come all this way with questions, might I ask why it is that you appear to have a drow amongst the priesthood of Culaearien?
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Postby Lyssia » Mon Jan 12, 2004 11:43 am

The Sidhe sorceress's head hurt from trying to unravel the puzzle of the drow priest and his new-found abilities. Had the drow been hiding some magical power within himself all his years, locking it within himself till the time was right? Or had someone else locked it inside him, preventing him from using it until that very moment? No that didn't make much sense. Why would Ethan hide such power from everyone until Lyssia was in need of healing? Surely he would have used it before if he had been able to, there would have been at least a rumour that the drow was a mage of some standing. And if it had been locked away...well why would it suddenly become 'unlocked' just because she had been in need of healing, needing to have her battered flesh mended and the ravages of the Art undone?

So how else could the priest have come into such power? Could he have found some artifact that had opened the avenues of healing magic to him? Again no, it seemed unlikely, besides it was rare for any priest to leave the temple unless it was on the business of their faith. That really only seemed to leave one other option, that it had been bestowed upon Ethan, that something or someone had given him the power. Darden? Could it really be that the drow priest had found such favour with the God of Sorrow that Darden had reached down from the heavens and touched Ethan's soul? Lyssia had heard of people being granted that kind of power, but that had always been in the holy books of the faiths, stories of men and women with great power, men and women who might never have truly lived. She had trouble believing that any of the Gods would give away a portion of Their power in that way.

But still the whole scenario presented...possibilities.

At the sound of Elador's voice the Sidhe woman looked up, drawn away for a time from her musings on the drow and his powers. Slowly she forced her body to listen to the commands of her body, standing up as if every one of her years was pressing down upon her. She felt old, there was no doubt there, old and tired, the Art had certainly demanded a high price for what she had done. Never before had magic exhausted her so, not once had she ever felt so very worn by the casting of a spell. Certainly it had been a vast spell, one that she would not have even contemplated when she was younger, but still she had not expected to feel so very drained. That situation would be dangerous until she managed to recover her former strength in the Art, she would need to be careful, very careful.

She managed to get to her feet leaning against the uneven stone wall of the temple, afraid at very moment that her legs might give way beneath her. It felt strange to be able to see her flesh, healthy and apparently uninjured and yet at the same time to be consumed within by the exhaustion that seemed to live within her soul. Her body looked as it always did, only the scars upon her neck marring her pale skin, there was no sign at all of what she had gone through. No sign at all that anything was wrong with her, well none save the fact that she could barely stand alone. Such a turn of events was going to take some creative thinking in order to hide from her many enemies.

Lyssia bowed her head in greeting to the Shadowborn and the accompanying Anub-Re, trying to ignore the tiredness that flooded through her, almost seeming to fill her limbs with lead. The action felt wooden and no doubt appeared just a little stiff and awkward, not at all how the sorceress usually behaved, but there was no alternative. And greetings to you also Elador and Anub-Re of the Isle, you and yours are always welcome hereshe said in reply. You come to me with questions and so I shall attempt to give you the answers that you seek.

Yes the sky and the fire that you have found within your tunnels is my doing, a great working of the Art that was necessary. You might question why it was necessary and with good reason. The world beyond our borders is not as we would wish it, honourless curs wander the lands and proclaim themselves kings. Those with strength seek to take all, not caring what they do or who they harm, never looking beyond their own needs or desires. Crude emotions take control of the isle that I care for so deeply and I will not let such a diseases fall upon this land.
Without thought her hands balled themselves into fists, her anger at the state of the lands pushing back the exhaustion for a brief moment. But then the rage died and she was left, tired and weary to her very bones once more. You have discovered that the flames will not bring you or yours harm and so it shall remain that way. Only those that mean harm to the Officium will find their way barred by the flames that I have conjured to protect the realms that fly that banner. Those that are not of our number and try to cross the barrier of flame with the intent to cause trouble shall never live to see what lies upon the other side.

She took a shallow breath, trying to clear her head, And now to your second question, that of the drow. That was Father Ethan, knwn to many as the Father of the Red Desert, chief among all priests in this dry land. Though he may be the only one of his kind in the sands, he is respected by all the tribal leaders and their followers. He and Ebony have some shared history between them, I feel that he may know more of her as she currently is than any other in these lands. As she currently was...yes that at least seemed true to the Sidhe. Of course when it came to Ebony as she had been, well that was another tale, one that Lyssia had shared with the blind woman alone.

But come, you have travelled a long way, at least rest and enjoy the hospitality of Culaearien. I think that perhaps we shall have to put our heads together and consider an easier means of travel between the Isle of Mists and this temple.
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Postby Nariaki » Wed Jan 21, 2004 5:47 am

Your words trouble me, Lyssia of Culaearien. The world beyond the borders of the Officium are not as we might wish it, but that is hardly news. That are overrun by honourless curs has always been the case. There is only one way to protect this Isle for all time, sorceress, and that has not changed. To remove the taint of the heathen from the land that it might be tended by those of the true faith. By those who truly value this land. As the Sanctum have always strived to cleanse these lands.

Why have you done this, Sorceress? Would you seek to prevent us from purifying the lands you claim to hold so dear? By your own admission, the lands are in a sorry state these days, over-run by heathens who seem to care for nothing more than laying claim to lands so vast the eye cannot see from one border to the other were one to stand on the peak of the highest mountain.

Now is the time to fight, now more than ever. Would you have us quit, sorceress? Would you have us walk away? You say that you will not allow such a disease to fall upon this land, yet you would prevent us from excising this cancer that eats away at its vitals?


Quit the fight Shadowborn? No perhaps not, not forever at least, but instead to rest for a time and renew ourselves, finding within ourselves the energy that we need to continue. [

The expression on the sorceress' face changes, the fatigue being replaced by sadness. Nariaki frowns. The sorceress of Culaearien looks confused, almost ... lost? Lyssia pauses briefly before continuing

These people, these tribes are not mine, they have no pledged their lives to my defence and so I will not throw their lives away. The red desert is as tired as I am, it needs time as I need time, time to reach into itself and find the will to fight on once more. If I allowed the tribes and myself to try and force ourselves to go on, to continue to fight against the 'disease' that afflicts the isle it would do no good. We would fall to it as so many others have fallen, our exhaustion bringing us down to levels I have no wish to see.

Nariaki's frown deepens. The unexpected fervour of the Shadowborn - usually so calm, so dispassionate - has cut deep. Something must be done, and done now, to prevent the Herald's rash words from causing any more trouble.

The Sorceress speaks truly, Shadowborn. You hold a grudge against the heathen, as does she. Your devotion to such matters is as commendable as hers. Yet it seems to me that you are, perhaps, a little too caught up in your concerns, where your sváss is not.

What good does it serve to battle on, now? The spirit may be willing, amongst the Dark Below, if not the Red Desert ... but the flesh is weak, Shadowborn. To continue to battle on, now, would not bring us down to levels the sorceress hints at, it would bring us to nothing. Would you lead us to oblivion in some blind fury? I had not thought you to stand so close to the Sverdmund.

The Isle, it's people ... are tired, Oh Herald, though you may not be. We all need time to recover, to recuperate, before taking the fight to the heathen again with renewed strength. The Isle needs time to rebuild. These constant wars hurt the economy of the Isle in ways you may not see. Oh, there may not be problems now, but mark my words, there will be soon. We need time to replenish our stores, to repair the damages. For our people to heal, for, while our priests are greatly skilled in the healing arts, they are no miracle workers. It is true that the warhost of the Anub-Re has a rate of attrition that would be the envy of many a commander, but remember this - the Anub-Re - YOUR people, now - are pitifully few in number. We cannot afford to keep taking casualties, and I tell you this, if we continue to throw ourselves into battle after battle, we shall, in greater and greater numbers. If that is Darden's will, it shall be done until the Anub-Re are nothing more than memories, and bodies strewn on the fields of battle surrounded by the heathen dead, but I say this: This is not Darden's Will.

Learn to see beyond your vengeance, Shadowborn. Learn to conserve your strength. Once we are rested, we will take up the battle-call again, and continue where we left off.


Elador flinches slightly. Bowing deeply before the sorceress, he speaks once more, his tone calmer, apologetic.

My apologies, Lyssia. It would seem I let my passion get the better of me. Something that rarely happens since ... but that is because I rarely seem to feel such passion these days. Nariaki speaks wisely and you are correct. It is time to rest and renew ourselves and I apologise for doubting you.

Let us speak of other matters, though. No, we had not discovered that the flames would not harm us. Why would we? Quicker, easier, safer, to speak with you on such matters, once we had identified them as being your work.

As for Father Ethan, of course I have heard speak of him. He is the Father of the Desert, after all. I was not, however, aware that his skin was as grey as mine own or that his heritage was Elven. Never having had the opportunity to make his acquaintance, I had simply assumed him to hail from one or another of your desert tribes.

For now, though, I think we shall take you up on your gracious offer of hospitality, for it is indeed something of an arduous journey. You speak of an easier method of travel, my Guide. Have you some plan you wish to discuss, for anything that would ease the burdensome journey would not be viewed unfavourably by those who call me Herald.
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Postby Lyssia » Wed Jan 21, 2004 7:05 am

Lyssia was glad that the Anub-Re's words had calmed and cleared the air between herself and the grey-skinned man known as the Shadowborn. She did not have the strength for an argument on the matter of the shields, not after all she had been through. The sorceress had raised up the magic to protect her allies and the land that they claimed as their homelands, an act which had taken more from her than any could guess. Certainly it had drained the Art from within her blood, each sparkling mote of magic had danced to her whim, rushing out of her flesh, formed by her will into a shield that could not be broken. But it had taken more than that, it had followed the path of her blood back through the Sidhe woman's history. The working of the Art had gone through the sorceress, had reached back to the red desert itself, to the wastelands to the west, and even to ruined Gyppeswyk far to the south-east. Where her blood had been spilled the Art had reached to, summoning all her strength, past and present, to finish the casting of the spell.

Through her the magic of the three lands had poured, reaching deep into her soul for every last scrap of her will to hold it together. If she had lost her hold upon that magic, if somehow it had escaped her grasp...well there would have been little left of her for Ethan to heal that was safe to say. Magic was a harsh mistress and one who punished the unprepared and the unworthy for daring to look in her direction. Those who wlked the path of magic and did not hold it in the highest respect rarely lived long enough to regret that decision; magic could easily turn upon its weilder if care was not taken. Many rushed to study the arcane but how many survived that study? How many of those original eager students fell by the wayside? The lucky ones dead by the powers that they had tried to harness, the unlucky merely scarred, mentally or physically, by what had been beyond their control.

Only once before had Lyssia tried to force so much of the Art to do her bidding, only once before had Sidhe magic flowed so savagely through her body. Just before the final fall of Gyppewyk she had unleashed the Art, focusing it, crafting it, the magic almost seeming to have a mind of its own. And just as the raising of the shields had extracted a high price so had that spell so many ages before. Of course back then the price had been a mental scar, a fracture within her own thoughts, where she had been unable to tell which voice in her head was hers. A price that had had terrible consequences, one that could not be done by all the magic in the world.

There was always a price for weilding the Art in such a way, a price that could not be avoided.

She took a deep breath, trying to wash away thr prices that she had paid over the years for her Art, trying to forget all that she had given up for its study. Better to turn her thoughts away from such things, better to concentrate instead on her guests. Answering their questions would shoo away the thoughts that flitted around her mind, the ones that dwelt on her past and raked over the still-glowing coals of past hurts. There is no need for apology Shadowborn, each of us views the world in our own way, each of us is entitled to doubt when we come across new things in our world. Doubt...her thoughts turned briefly towards Ethan and his 'miracles' for a brief second.

You had not discovered that the flames could not harm you? I forget that your race is not mine, the weakness of the Sidhe had always been their curiousity. Had she been in the place of the Anub-Re, finding unnatural flickering blues fires within her homeland she would have reacted differently. She would have studied them, sought to undo the tangle of their riddle, determined that their secrets would be hers by her own work alone. It was a way of thought that had led more than one of her race to an untimely end, their curiousity besting them and leading them towards things that were better left alone. Lyssia had fallen prey to it herself during her lifetime, curiousity taking over from common sense and sane thought. Sometimes her curiousity had led her to good things, the first time she had laid eyes upon Kara and known that some portion of her own soul lay within the bird, certainly fit that description well. But in the main her curiousity had only led to darkness and despair, the incident with the Crown of the Heavens welled up within her mind. Perhaps, now that her thoughts turned that way, it was better that the Anub-Re did not think like the Sidhe. I can assure you that the flames will not harm you and yours, Shadowborn, you have my word upon that count. Only those that seek to bring harm to those within the care of the flames will realise that the shields are more than pretty lights. Those who try to cross the flames with wicked intent to Darden's children in their heart will find that they never step onto our lands. The flames can be much more than they appear, they can burn bone itself to ash and need have no fear of water as their mundane cousin does. None shall trouble those loyal to the Sanctum while we renew ourselves, those that try shall not live to lay eyes upon their own homelands again.

She looked once more towards the only door to the temple where Ethan had so recently left by. He was no man of the tribes, though they would follow him into death gladly if he claimed that it was Darden's will. How though would they react to his claims of being a saviour and being able to work miracles? Would they rally to his word? Or would they react with suspiscion and even fear? Lyssia could feel the first tendril of worry curl about her heart, Ethan's claims might very well tear the desert itself in two. And what of the others? What of the Anub-Re? Of the other lands that flew the banner of the Officium? Would they believe Ethan? The sorceress would need to keep a close eye on matters, she could not allow the Officium be torn apart by such things, not until it had served her own purposes.

Lyssia shook her head a little, those were matters for later, The hospilatility of the desert is always offered to our allies the Anub-Re. And we certainly cannot allow you to keep making such a vast trek between the Isle of Mists and the settlement verytime we wish to discuss even the simplest of matters. I have had a thought on how we might improve the situation...what do your priests know of portal magic?
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Postby Nariaki » Mon Feb 02, 2004 6:05 pm

No, we did not investigate the flames too closely. Why would we do such a thing? All the evidence pointed to their appearance being your work, sorceress, and so we came to you. After all, investigating the flames directly would have yielded insights, wheras seeking your counsel yields answers.

Nariaki smiles.

Portal magic? That is a good question. Of portals we know almost nothing, and yet you could say that we have a great body of knowledge on the subject. I know, that sounds contradictory, but then many teachings of Darden seem to be such, at first.

Sinking to a more comfortable seated position, he continues.

We of the Anub-Re have no "mages" as you know them. As do the people whom you watch over, our magic is the power of faith. Our magic is a gift from the Drinker of the Bowl. As such, we have learnt not to rely over-much upon it. "Never for anything small", sorceress, "never for anything small". Darden helps those who help themselves.

As such, you will not find the Anub-Re creating magical items, not often. On top of that, we live in a cave system. We have never really had a big enough empire that getting around on foot has been a significant problem. I probably could create a temporary portal to somewhere, but I generally find that it is less hassle to walk there, and I wouldn't have the first clue how to create something permanant along those lines.

However... what we are good at is summoning.


The fortress stands proudly against the night. Stone walls tower over the landscape. From it's hilltop vantage point, the fortress has a commanding view of the landscape. High above, torch-bearing sentries patrol the battlements.

Nariaki breaths deeply, slowly, concentrating on the task ahead, freeing his mind of any distractions, seeking the focussed calm that he requires. He reaches down to remove something from his belt-pouch. A handful of golden sand, gripped tightly in a clenched fist. The encircling priests each reach down, too, never interrupting their soft, quiet chant. Each removes a small vial of water. Nariaki raises his fist, swings his arm down and out, casting the sand before him in a glittering arc. As he does so, each of the chanting priests empties their vial of water onto the ground before them.

And Nariaki feels it, his awareness seperating from his body, reaching out to contact another awareness. Calling to it, cajoling into wakefullness that other awareness that would remain slumbering in the darkness. Awakens and calls that other awareness. Calls it towards the chanting. Calls it towards the light of the stronghold, with a power that cannot be denied.

There is a sudden biting wind, seeming to spring from nowhere...

Sudden shouts of surprise from the stronghold as torches and watchfires are extinguished by the wind ...

A trembling underfoot as the ground shakes ...

A sudden darkening of the night as though a cloud passes between the earth and the stars...

A sudden, ominous silence...

And the silence is broken by a the sound of masonry being torn asunder, of falling rubble, as though the walls of the stronghold are being breached. Of screams and shouts as the garrison begin to react.


Oh yes, if there is one aspect of magic at which we excel, it is the art of summoning. I am sure that between us, we can come up with something that would work.
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Postby Lyssia » Thu Feb 05, 2004 8:15 pm

The sorcerss smiled slowly to herself, no the Anub-Re were not the Sidhe, they were not born with the same terrible curiousity that plagued her race. Truthfully it was a miracle really that any of her forebearers had survived, investigating the unknown could be a dangerous business, even for a race as magical as hers. Or perhaps that was the very reason why the Sidhe had survived for so long, because all those who had been too weak or too slow-witted had been culled from their ranks. She'd heard of a smiliar process in animal herds, of how their sickly, weak and infirm were destroyed from their number by predators. Maybe it was the same in the Sidhe, those that were unfit to continue were destroyed by their own innate curiousity. It was a thought to be certain, a strange and odd musing that flitted across her mind.

The Anub-Re were a different race entirely, forged by the hardships that they had endured beneath the ground. She had never come across their like in all her wanderings and ages, not their like in physical appearance ceratainly, nor their outlook upon life. Who knew how many years they had lives beneath the surface of the lands, not seeing the light of Intop, not knowing the glories of the isle above them? They had been denied the surface world and yet they did not rage against their God for cutting them off from it, they did not fault Him or question His judgment. The Sidhe was not entirely sure what to make of the Anub-Re, they were fierce warriors in battle, woe betide the heathens who faced them in a battle. Though their Anub-Re might number fewer, though they might be a pianfully small race when compared to the humans of the tribes who lived in the desert, still they were a dangerous foe to fight. She had heard reports from the tribes of the Anub-Re in battle, reports of how efficient and skillful they were at removing their enemies from the isle.

But they were more than simple warriors, more than ruthless killers of those who followed the banners of purple or grey. Their priests were skillful in their own way too, after all hadn't they been the ones who had finally collapsed the rock and stone that had stood between them and the surface world? And now the one before her spoke of skills with summoning, a skill that she had heard of in others but never witnesssed herself. Lyssia had heard stories of men and women who had claimed to be able to move animals from one place to another, from their natural home to where suited the needs of the summoner. But such things had always been stories, there had always been very little fact to back them up, often the evidence simply pointed to a con-artist who had been trying to 'summon' the money from the pockets of their audience. However that didn't meant that she didn't believe in such magic, on the contrary she did believe in it, she trusted the word of the Anub-Re priest when he spoke of them excelling at the Art of summoning.

There had after all been rumours.

She remembered when the combined forces of the red desert and the Dark Below had marched together upon the lands of the Reavers, merging together in a way to form a vast army against the Foretians. Well it had been vast by their own standards, the people of Culaearien had sent forth every able-bodied man and woman that knew how to weild a spear or sword. Compared to the armies that they had marched against their numbers had been small...small but effective. However she remembered that in their march they had come across a huge fortress, too large and well-defended to easily be taken and yet too dangerous to be left at their backs. If they had left the fortress untouched it would have left a significant force of Foretians behind them, a force that could have cut off their route back to their homelands. But the Anub-Re had 'dealt' with the problem.

The Sidhe had never been entirely sure exactly how the Anub-Re had dealt with the Foretians within the foretress. But what was certain was that when they returned home from the long battle the fortress had been deserted, there had been no sign of those who had so recently defended it. Rumours had been whispered amongst the skirmishers of the tribes, half-heard tales brought to them by the strange Voralphian tribe. Tales of 'something' having been summoned, something that had been capable of eating through the living rock itself. Perhaps they had not just been tales, perhaps they had been the truth, Lyssia was certainly inclined to believe that.

I have been told that your magic is similar to that weilded by the priesthood of the red desert, a gift, as you say, from the Drinker of the Bowl. It was almost strange to think how two cultures had lived above and below one another, each trusting only the magic that had been given to them by their God. A coincidenace perhaps that two sets of devout Dardenites worshippers had developed in similar ways effectively in the same region of the isle? She had heard of a story that the tribes held to be true, that the lands of the red desert had been touched by Darden in the earliest times of His existance. The tribes believed that their homelands were blessed by their Lord, chosen by Him just as they believed that they had been chosen to protect and care for thoes same lands. maybe, just maybe that was more than just the fancy of zealots, maybe Darden really did have some strong influence upon Culaearien and the Isle of Mists below the sands.

Or maybe she was just looking for a connection where there really was none. You are not mages just as the priesthood of these lands are not mages, yet you use magic just the same. But there are many types of magic in the isle, that I am more than well aware of, what seperates your magic from others is that it is powered by faith and nothing more. The power of faith, of belief, could be a difficult one to overcome just as it could be a powerful weapon if used in the right way. The faith of the tribes had been harnesed by their priesthood, used as a fuel for their magic as she used the Art that lived within her. Some used strength of will to power their magic, others used sacrifices or blood, still others used mana and the Sidhe used their Art, but in and below the red desert faith was more than just a matter of praying at an altar. In and below the red desert, faith was power.

Magic encompasses so many different things, it means very different things to very different people. What one calls magic is the impossible to another. Though some would call me an accomplsihed sorceress still I have my limits, as we all do, there are things that I can do and things that I cannot do. Take for example how you and I use magic, she gestured to the Anub-Re priest, We are very different. You use faith to weild the gifts that Darden had given you, I use the Art, the magic that lies wwithin every portion of my body and sleeps deep within my soul. Though I might observe your magic I could never do what you do, and I would think the same is true if our positions were reversed. I might attempt to imitate your magic but I could never tap into the faith that fuels Darden's blessings upon you. It is almost as though I am a bird, flying over a body of water below. I may see the fish , I might watch them breathing the water and surviving that way, but I can never dive down into the water and breath it as they do. That way is forbidden to me, a bird cannot breath water as a fish can, it is confined to the air and must survive that way. So it is with magic, what fuels one magic cannot fuel another. It was better that way to her mind, each magic-user coninfed to their own particular type of magic, each one trying to discover their own limits in their own medium. Magic was a vast skill, perhaps it was wrong to even consider it a single skill, maybe it would be better to think of it as a collection of abilities, all very different but each capable of doing something that would seem fantasitical or even impossible to another.

She had spoken of portal magic as a wa of getting around the difficulties involved in travelling between the lands of Culaearien and the Isle of Mists. However it was not going to be as simple a matter as calling upon their two different spheres of magic to create a permanent portal between the home of the Anub-Re and the tribal lands. Lyssia had little experience of portals and the Anub-Re it seemed were more proficient at their own art of summoning. I have no doubt that between us we might be able of creating a long-lasting portal between these lands and yours. But it will not be an easy thing or somethng that can be done with the wave of our hands as I am sure you realise. There may be others that we can speak to, at least one other who I know who would be far better suited to at least advising us on this matter.


(OOC: This thread continues on here.)
SO - Into darkness...
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