Mark’s 21st Journal – 03-27-11
The fight was going well. We hacked, slashed, and blasted our way through the guards like they were nothing. While initially shocked at first by their appearance, it was clear that they weren’t much of a threat. This isn’t saying much as we did outnumber them 4 to 2. In the midst of fighting, we heard a loud voice yelling, “Vox Monthrex” (as Avaron told me much later). As these words were heard, we were frozen in place. We were awake, but we could not move. Our limbs were frozen, I could hear Avaron’s magic still crackling in her hands, and my sword and shield were still held high. With a slow shuffle, an old man made his way over to us. He began speaking to us and, if I hadn’t already suspected, it was the King. I hear him chuckling to himself as the drake guard I had just been fighting moved away from me to kneel before the King. He apologized for his lack of precaution; that he knew he has broken the rule by allowing his helmet to come off, and that he was ready to end his life. The King stopped him, telling him that it wasn’t his fault, it was ours.
Shuffling closer to me, I found that I could smell him quite easily. His flesh reminded me of expired meat, heated over. I was angry, a little scared, worried for my friends, and repulsed at this so-called King of the world. What was he doing? What did he want? I tried to move, I struggled, but nothing had ever compared to this iron grip. I have been tied up, held down, pinned under an entire building, or two, and never have I been as unable to move in my entire life as this moment. My pulse beat faster and I could feel my body wanting to get out. I took a few deep breaths, and relaxed myself, just in time to realize the King was patting my armour.
Complimenting us on our abilities, he said we had been well-armed and well-trained to be formidable protectors. He said, contrary to how he looked, he also was just as prepared. He then pried open my fingers, and lowered my sword to the ground. Telling me that I didn’t need it, and that it wasn’t mine to begin with, he took Atlas’ ring from my fingers! Chuckling to himself, the last thing I heard from him was that some woman would whisper all our innermost desires.
Finally, we could move. Calling out to the others, they said it was no use; as the King was gone, surrounded by guards and that if he could freeze us in place like that, what use would we be? Tired, and frustrated, we decided to try to get back to the Roost, there to get away from this King to try to figure out what was going on. I really didn’t want to leave, I wanted my ring back, but realizing the folly of staying, we left.
Sleeping, restlessly, may I add, we awoke the next day clearly tired, and rattled by the previous day’s events. I for one, was incredibly disappointed. I had been taught my whole life that order was the proper way of things. That without a strict discipline and order, civilization would live like goblins, in caves, fighting over nothing. I had also been taught that the King and his Imperial City were the paragon of law and order. Yet, the King failed to make a positive impression on us. His age made him seem feeble, his city was so tightly controlled that the people did not seem free, and there were clearly bigger things going on, what with the camps, drake guards, and his theft of my ring. There was another thing: what significance does this ring hold? Atlas said it was important, and until now I thought it merely a symbol of those most trusted by the King. Perhaps, that is all it is? Maybe he just took it back because I had not been given it by him in the first place? Barely awake, my breakfast sat cold before me as I thought these things.
Just then, Gabriel drew his knife, and demanded to know who was here. Having no idea what was going on, I tried to move closer to my things. Avaron whispered, “The Man in Black” and with that, we heard a chuckle. A soft, feminine chuckle. Drawing back her hood, the “Man in Black” was not a man at all! We had been following her for ages, always one step behind and we had never seen her face before. I do not know why we thought the darkly cloaked figure was a man, but we were surely mistaken. She told us that she wanted to talk, and suddenly, I knew who she was!
Being blind has its disadvantages, but it has made me pay closer attention to my other senses. I never forget a voice, and I can size others up in ways that I have found to be comparable, if not better, than sight. This voice, confident, and with a certain melody to it, belonged to the beautiful girl I met in Aristaal, back before the Goblin Invasion, named Nala. Whispering her name, my hair stood up, and my throat growled.
“You’re the one we’ve been following? You’ve been stealing all those artifacts? Why?” I demanded.
“I’m not here to talk about that. I’m here to talk about the Queen”, Nala said.
After apologizing for the shadow games, Nala said that she served the Queen, someone who had been watching us for a long time, someone who was very powerful, someone who wanted the ring.
“What else is new? Everyone wants the ring, and everyone seems way too powerful to simply ask for it. We don’t have it, the King took it, we don’t know why and there was nothing we could do about it.” This was bad. I was losing my temper, getting more agitated by the minute. Who were these people? A King, a Queen, her Bishop, and are we all just pawns?
“Well, that is unfortunate. The Queen desires the ring and, unlike the King, wants freedom for all.” And with that, Nala disappeared.
I picked up my sword and made my way to where the animals were being kept. I stacked some hay in the corner and began to go crazy. Tearing into the bales, smashing them, screaming, I let an anger out that I had not known was building within me for some time.
We were caught in some horrid chess game, and if these “powerful” forces think they are going to run my life, they have another thing coming to them. I am a master at chess, and I plan to figure out their plan, and what they have in store for the people of this world.
After coming out, covered in hay, I heard the others discussing the current state of things. Leviss was saying that he was angered because everyone seems to always know where we are. The King knew where we were, the Queen and Nala seemed to know we were in the Roost. How do they know? And, if they think we are that predictable, shouldn’t we do something different? This was Leviss’ advice, and I happened to agree.
We decide to check out the state of Ori, because we had been gone for too long. We requested a meeting with the Council of Aristaal once we entered the city. We expressed concerns over city safety and asked how city reparation had been going. A Disciple of the Shield was sitting in at the meeting and he said that his order had established inter-city communications since we had been gone. Disciples traveled between Aristaal, Fur-Lonn, Portsmouth, and Hampton, and every two weeks, news of the state of each city was reported to the public. I was impressed. The people of Ori were coming together, once again, and I thanked the Disciple and his order for helping to make Ori a safer place. Remembering our job board, our magical, ethereal messaging system that housed our licenses and hadn’t been used since our early days, Avaron suggested that any news concerning city safety be displayed on the job board so that we could respond promptly.
I felt a lot better about Ori after this meeting. Sure, we still had no idea concerning the plans of the King, or the identity or plans of the Queen, but the people of Ori were working together and it felt better knowing that Ori’s citizens were learning to take care of themselves.
Following the dark magic that Avaron could quite easily feel, we made our way toward Hampton. It was a long, uneventful ride, and when we finally got there, Avaron said that the magic was coming from beyond the town. Gabriel said that all that was beyond the town was a swamp. Not willing to stop now, we made our way in. It was a dark, gloomy place. Even I could feel the weight about the place; the air was stifling, and everything felt hopeless. It reminded Leviss, Avaron, and me of the darkness that settled over Aristaal during the Goblin Invasion. This was made all the worse when the horses refused to go in. Making a door, Leviss and Avaron made a door to the Roost, and we put our horses back there.
Gabriel, once again more comfortable with nature than the rest of us, was a great help of leading us through the swamp, testing each step before taking it. Still, the going was slow, and I was not much help, having to be led very carefully through the knee-high, murky swamp. Much later on, when everyone became very tired, we decided to rope together some fallen trees to make a raft upon which we can stop and get some rest.
Gabriel and Leviss take the first watch, during which Leviss got a nosebleed that was very tough to stop. Shrugging it off to the weirdness of the place, the rest of the night was uneventful. At one point, we made it to a split in the path, and Leviss, using his ability to see the future, suggested taking the left path. Not far down this route, we all heard Nala’s voice teasing us that we were going the wrong way. She appeared before us on the path, eating an apple. Shooting the apple out of her hand, Gabriel demanded that she show us the right way instead of watching us go in circles. With a few quick words, a rift in the swamp opened and we fell, falling quite a long way, landing unharmed, except that I was sick, from the journey.
I know I’ve complained before, but magic is damned annoying. No one asks before using it, no one stops to warn anyone. They just take it for granted, and I have to tell you, when you take something that dangerous for granted, you run the risk of hurting a lot of people. I trained for years to use my sword, and when I use it, I use it with the utmost caution and discipline. Anyway, what next? Oh yes, after falling, we landed near a cave. Before we entered, Nala warned us to do nothing to make the Queen lose her temper.
The cave smelled terrible, like rotting meat. After a long straight path, with several paths shooting off of the main one, we stepped into a large, dark cavern. Gabriel cracked a sun rod, and just then, we heard a woman’s voice. Described to me later, the Queen, for that is who it obviously was, appeared to be a middle-aged, attractive (according to Gabriel) woman, dressed all in black, with long black nails. Her voice was refined, and intelligent, but with a note of condescension. She asked us what we sought in life? We asked her the relevance of that question, she seemed quite insistent on knowing. I answered without hesitation: justice, for all. Avaron said knowledge and truth have always driven her. Leviss absolutely refused to answer. Strangely, the Queen seemed disinterested in Gabriel as she did not ask him, although she did mention that he was a wild card, an unpredictable element in all of this.
The Queen laughed and said that we run from what we seek. She told us that she will give us what we want, in exchange for our services. All the while, we had all tried to be diplomatic, not knowing what her game was, or how powerful she truly was. Suddenly, Leviss shot her with his bow. The arrow did nothing, and after taking his bow, she gave it back with sounds of disappointment.
I told her that I do not serve anyone, not her, not the King, I serve a higher purpose. Leviss then tried something completely unexpected. Drawing his bow, he turned it on me! Asking him what he was doing, Leviss told me to trust him. Nala seemed quite upset and upon uttering a noise, the Queen silenced her, demanding Nala to remember who she was speaking to. With a wave of her hand, I felt that falling feeling again and upon landing, Gabriel announced that we are back in the Imperial City!
I was sick once again, I don’t think I’ll ever get used to teleportation, and after cleaning myself off, I could hear lots of different voices. We seemed to be in the market area, and people were hustling to and fro, going about their business. Avaron mentioned to me that just as we were leaving the Queen’s cave, Nala pulled back her hood showing her face, which hosted one blue eye, one violet eye, and that her face seemed to be two halves wrongly attached together.
Life is just getting more and more confusing. What doesn’t feel like that long ago, goblins were our biggest threat and the most grotesque of creatures. Now, we have a King, a Queen, camps full of half-breeds, teleportation, and sinister plans at work to deal with. I have to admit, I ran the risk of being overwhelmed, not so quick to adapt to this changing world as I usually am. Many a late night, I sat awake, writing these journals, trying to sort out the events that transpired, and ready myself for the next day.
As Leviss, Avaron, and I argued, quite loudly, over what to do, Gabriel pointed out a procession of people that were just beginning to walk down our street. A young boy, surrounded by guards, sauntered by. Leviss observed that this boy seemed very proud, like he was very honoured. Asking a commoner, who seemed concerned at our lack of understanding until he realized we were from Ori, said it’s “The Strengthening”, and that this boy was honourably chosen by the King to fulfill a great task. We followed this group to the palace, where an assemblage of guards stood outside the royal door. Leviss and I walked past, while Gabriel and Avaron stayed outside.
I could immediately hear the King talking to the boy, asking him about his family, and telling him that he was helping the kingdom with his efforts. Leviss described, voice full of shock, what happened next. The King placed his hand on the boy’s head, and suddenly the boy aged. The boy started to drop and the King caught the boy just before he hit the ground. The King, Leviss said, looked much better than before. His hair was no longer long and grey. His muscles appeared strong, and while he stooped before, the King now stood up tall and straight. I shake my head, the King has somehow absorbed the youth and vitality of the boy. He was sacrificing his people, children, in order to maintain his youth! I remember the palms of my hands felt clammy, and I held onto Leviss tightly telling him not to do or say anything. At that moment, Avaron and Gabriel walked in. The King made his way over to us and said that the boy had made a noble sacrifice, that his life helped protect the kingdom and save the lives of many other people. He also warned us that the Queen had reached the minds of some people, and that all he was trying to do was help the world reach its greatest potential. Every few centuries, the Queen rose against him, and each time, 6 now, he has put her back in her place. But, each time, the Queen’s power has spilled over and has brought the destruction of many cities and countless lives.
We all yelled at him at once.
“You think this is right?”
“You cannot justify murdering people!”
“The Queen doesn’t seem as bad as you, at least she doesn’t eat children for strength!”
Through it all, the King has an answer for everything, saying that without him, the people of this world would not be able to take care of themselves, especially with the Queen threatening them. He said that everything he has done was in order to protect this world and sometimes the few must be sacrificed for the good of the many. The King told us that the Queen wanted the ring, that it belonged to someone very special and that she was not going to get it back, she was not going to stop him this time. In two weeks, he was setting sail for Ori, where he will destroy the Queen once and for all.
At this point, Gabriel stole a coin from the King. The King told him to put it back, that it doesn’t belong to him, but Gabriel asked what the King was going to do about it. Later, Gabriel told me that it was a test to see if the King was as indifferent to him as the Queen seemed to be. The King laughed, a deep, lengthy laugh, and said he’ll call it payment, that we should all avoid the Queen, and not do anything she asked as it will bring the ruin of everything.
Wearily making our way out of the palace, we tried to go back to the Angry Owl Bear Inn. We were told that the inn was not suitable yet for anyone and we were directed to The Comfy Chair Inn. Getting two rooms, I fell asleep, quite quickly, the weight of the world, seemingly, on my shoulders.
The world is a lot more dangerous than I could have imagined, far more than what we expected as children, playing with Avaron, Leviss, James, and Tori in Fur-Lonn. Our foes are not just simple monsters that can be destroyed with a quick slash. Avaron, Leviss, and Gabriel are as disgusted, confused, and worried as I am concerning all these latest events. Things were moving way too fast, and I was barely able to keep this journal going. Only through the routine of discipline did I keep my mind focused, and kept this record. I wasn’t sure what we were going to do, what part we had, if any, to play in this, but I wanted there to be some record, untouched by either King or Queen, for the people. I finish this entry, here and now, with no further insight, no further action, other than sleep. Tomorrow will, undoubtedly, bring more questions than answers, and it is only with patience and determination that I think we can have any hope of figuring out what is happening and stop these self-styled nobles from having their way with our world.