Mark’s 23rd Journal – 18-04-11
Lying there in my bed, drifting off to sleep, I heard Leviss tossing and turning. Instantly awake, I felt the hairs rise of my arms as I heard Leviss whispering. It was almost a hiss as he mentioned the King and Queen. I tried talking to him, to calm him down. He murmured about how the Queen will arm us, and that a great battle is coming. Grabbing him by the arm, I repeated that everything was going to be alright until he rolled over and was silent once more.
Suddenly, my body tensed, and I felt the world swirling around me. Waking up in a soft bed, I rolled over and threw up. I had been teleported! Half kneeling next to my bed, I could smell damp, cold air. The floor was stone, but not hewn. Calling out to everyone, Avaron and Gabriel said that we had been taken to a cave somewhere, and that they were drugged during their watch. Leviss groaned and said it would be nice if people asked before taking us somewhere.
Gabriel, moving noiselessly around the room, although I could follow him by scent alone, said we were in a room that did not seem fitting as a bedroom; its walls were wet, the room was cold, but yet there were four beds, one for each of us. Avaron wondered aloud how we could have been teleported as the King shut that down.
It also seemed that all of our gear was with us. Putting most of it on as fast as possible, Avaron moved to open a door at the far end of the room. Giggling outside the door was a voice I all too easily recognized: Nala.
She said, “The King doesn’t hold all the cards, and I’m not the easiest to trap or keep away. Come, the Queen wants to talk with you.”
Moving down one long hallway, which had many paths on either side, we finally made it to one large room. Among the many things I could smell and hear, the Queen stood out. It’s hard to describe, really, it was like her presence overpowered everything else, but in a subtle way. Take your sense of smell, most of you don’t really think about it that often. Say you’re in a room, and suddenly, you take notice of the smells. That’s when you realize that there’s one scent, be it sweet or not, but that one scent, unnoticed by you before, is the strongest smell in the room, and now you can’t ignore it, you can’t help but smell it. That’s what the Queen smelled like. That’s what her presence felt like to me.
Taking all of this in, I asked her why she summoned us here. Moving slowly, purposefully, she told us that she was disappointed. She made one simple request, for us to get the ring, and it seemed that we have failed. Trying to be diplomatic, I explained how difficult it had been. Suddenly, she stiffened, stopped talking, and growled a little bit. Growing upset, she demanded to know who had made a deal with him. Confused, we asked her what she was talking about. She asked us if the King gave us anything, or if we took anything from him. Gabriel pulled out the coin, and told the Queen how he stole it from the King. She made sounds of disapproval, and I could almost see her pursing her lips when she said that in doing so, Gabriel had bound himself to a promise, that this is old magic, and it seems he has chosen a side. Remembering my lectures, as a child, on law and order, I questioned her claim, pointing out that since the terms of the promise were not made, as the King said no such thing, how could one be expected to hold true or even agree to such a thing? She laughed and told me I knew nothing. She shrugged it off and said it did not matter, as her army was ready anyway. Telling us to leave, to join her later for dinner, she promised gifts for us. Remembering Leviss’ dream, I felt apprehensive. Leviss demanded that we be released. He told her that he had had enough of being toyed with. The Queen told him we can leave when we want, but we may not want to just yet.
Nala offered to escort us around or back to our room. Deciding to take the opportunity, Avaron suggested the tour, and began asking Nala questions. Nala explained how the Queen found her in the King’s breeding camp, and saved her from a life of pain and torment. Nala showed us many rooms, a grand dining hall where she said we’ll be eating later, among other decorative rooms. Gabriel seemed intrigued by one of the rooms, but I did not ask why just at the time, better to talk later. Nala told us that she has been watching Leviss, Avaron, and me, for years. Avaron, being the daughter of a very powerful mage, and we, her friends, bear watching, to see what we might do with our lives. I asked her if she was watching us in Aristaal. Nala said yes and no, that her mission there was a little more important than watching me. I can’t but help feel that her voice is more melodic when she speaks to me, not sure how I feel about that. Avaron said the Goblin Invasion was her mission, wasn’t it? Nala said, sure, it created a bit of chaos, and we all can use a bit of that, can’t we? Apparently, Ori has been a bit of a testing ground, trying out things before striking the mainland.
“Testing things out!? That’s what you call needlessly murdering, relocating, and destroying cities? That’s what you call giving goblins power, and possessing innocent clerics? Your tests have killed so many people and have been a blight upon this world!” Trying to be calm, but not being able to stand for this, I asked what could make her do such a thing, if she has given any thought to the consequences?
She stopped, sighed, and said yes. For instance, P3TR’s death, she told us, was “a side effect, a misunderstanding” and that she was sorry for our loss, but the lives she has helped destroy will be nothing compared to those saved by the Queen’s plans. Utterly disgusted, I told her to take us back to our room.
Once there, I couldn’t sit still. Pacing, angry, but having nothing to distract me, and no desire to be at peace just yet, I told everyone that we have to be very, very careful. We have to plan for the unexpected, as it seems that twists and turns are an everyday thing for us now. Everyone agreed, but no one seemed to know what else we could do. I decided to try something unexpected myself. I moved to Avaron, sitting on her bed, and I picked her up. Holding her by the shoulder, I demand to know what she would do, if grabbed in a fight, and unable to teleport? She says she’d be fine, and her hands crackle a little with energy. I said, okay, but what if your magic is worthless, unusable here? I said to Gabriel and Leviss, I have Avaron, she can’t escape, what are you going to do about it? Gabriel asked me where my bag was. Feeling with my other arm, I realize he had stolen it. Okay, but I still have her, losing my bag won’t help that. Leviss whispered behind me that he has an arrow fixed on me and can fire 3 before I fell to the ground. Leviss chuckled and said that Gabriel has his crossbow aimed at me, knife ready in his other hand and that I have no idea where Gabriel is, that he could strike at any time.
Impressed, as always, with my comrades, I let Avaron go. I apologized for my behaviour, but I just didn’t feel right not trying to be prepared, and I needed the reassurance that I wasn’t alone. Assuring me they were ready, we awaited dinner. Gabriel went on to tell us that some of the tapestries in the various rooms we had seen, bore images that seemed to suggest a history. Remembering the visual history on the tapestry in Aristaal in what feels like ages ago, I asked him to go on. He said he didn’t know what it all meant, but it seemed like wars fought with many and varying creatures.
Sitting in the dining hall, the Queen’s dinner was large and smelled great. Reasoning that if she’d wanted us dead, she would have done so already, I dug in. Leviss refused to eat, even with the Queen’s prompting. The Queen doesn’t eat, but goes on to say that some of Ori’s citizens have recently stood up to the King. Landing in Portsmouth, the people there told the King that he and his men were not welcome. This act of defiance forced him to travel by a longer road, around the city. She chuckled and said that it was nice to see him having such a hard time. I made a mention of chess, how I used to play, and that it would be nice to know her big plan instead of watching it step by step. She said we would know enough, in time. As we finished our meal, she told us that our gifts are not ready yet, and to go back to our rooms until they were.
Getting back to our room, Avaron laughed and said there was a chess set there, obviously given by the Queen. I asked Leviss to play. Upon sitting, he touched one piece, said it was a good game, and walked away. I asked him what he saw. Who won? He laughed and says he did, of course. Telling him he didn’t know that for sure, and shaking my head, Avaron says she would play a game with me. It was a good game, Avaron was a good opponent, and sometimes her unpredictability really throws me for a loop. I just barely beat her, and I thanked her for the game.
During the night, we awoke to Leviss’ screams, and I soon realized they are not coming from this same room. Rolling out of bed, I grabbed my sword and shield and asked what was going on? Gabriel said Leviss was gone, but his stuff was still here. Grabbing that, he ushered me out of the room, on the trail of Avaron who had just gone through the door.
There, in the big hall, we found him. Avaron, talking aloud but to no one, shockingly said how the Queen had him on a table and seemed to be ripping his arm off. Appalled, I charged in the Queen’s direction. Smashing right into a wall of dirt, I realized the dirt was moving. It swirled around me, rising, taller than I am, forming some sort of maw, and a bladed arm, sharp as glass, smashed into my sword arm.
Telling the others to get to Leviss, I made to handle this dirt monster, this gollum. Taking a wide stance, and wiping the sweat from my brow, I clenched my teeth a little.
Gabriel rushed past, I blocked an attack from the gollum, and Avaron said we’ve got another problem. More dirt creatures spawned, all over the room, and made their way to Avaron. Leviss screamed again, as I heard a blast of arcane energy from Avaron. “Hmph”, she said, “they double when you kill them.”
Gabriel leapt around two such creatures and fired two quick crossbow bolts at the Queen. They bounced off of nothing, falling at her feet as she ripped the skin off Leviss from hand to shoulder. Groaning, screaming, and just talking incoherently, Leviss sounded like he was barely holding on. Calling to Gabriel, asking him what happened, he growled back that he didn’t miss, she blocked the shots. Avaron, on the other hand, was laughing. Calling out to her, she said the dirt creatures couldn’t touch her. Hearing her voice bounce all over the room, one second to the left, the next, to the right, I realize she was keeping out of harm’s way by teleporting. Digging my feet into the stone, I braced myself against the gollum’s attack. An avalanche swept by me, dirt, rocks, all cutting my face, as I turned my sword flat and smashed through what would be its body.
I take a big hit, cut across the shoulder by the glass-edged arm. Avaron’s saunter through the room was halted, as I heard her call out in pain as she hit the floor. Gabriel said the Queen was gone and he was almost at Leviss.
Calling out to Erathis, asking her for help, I smashed my shield and sword together. For an instant, the world, dark as it normally is for me, shone blue with a flash of light from my armour that spread, lighting up the room, and washed over Avaron. Her eyes snapped open and I “saw” dirt creatures moving toward her as my vision went dark once again. Spinning on the ball of my foot, I swung my arm around, catching most of them with the tip of my sword, finishing in a crouched position behind my shield.
Gabriel let loose a trick arrow, packed with glue, at the dirt gollum which immobilized it, then he avoided two quick slashes from dirt creatures, and vaulted over the table. Calling out in confusion, he said that Leviss’ muscles and skin have been ripped off of one arm, but that he had stabilized the young Kobold, for now.
Slash, withdraw, thrust, spin, shield block, spin, shield smash, I continued my dance, drawing as much attention to myself as possible. I heard Leviss’ voice across the room, filled with the same wonder and curiosity he had for the Keepers, saying, “This is a lot easier now that I can see my bones!” And light arrows rained down on the foes beside me.
But it wasn’t enough, as the dirt creatures attacks sifted through my armour, I dropped. Gabriel moved quickly, helping Leviss with cover fire, and revived me. I heard Avaron’s voice say, “Enough of this!” as she twirled her staff around, slamming it into the ground, hurling a blazing fireball of sand, acid, and fire, right at the dirt gollum. Hearing her step, I knew she was taking great care to inflict as much damage as possible. Moving as her teacher from Aristaal taught her, even I could almost feel the energy rippling out of the air, channelled by her heart, through her arms, and directed at minion and gollum alike.
Smashing my sword and shield together once more, the blue radiance swept out, killing every minion within 25 feet around me, but I could hear them doubling, could hear them getting back up. Gabriel ran, pulled his rifled wand out, slid under the swinging sword arm of the gollum, and just as the gaping maw came down, surrounding Gabriel in a storm of sand, glass, and acid, he pulled the trigger, completely annihilating the gollum!
With that, the battle was over. Moving to Leviss, I could feel the heat coming off of him. Gabriel wasn’t exaggerating before; Leviss’ arm was only bones now, but it seemed to work normally. Surrounding these bones was the source of the heat, a green fire which burned like my blue ethereal armour. Asking him how he felt, Leviss told us that he felt fine, extremely sore all over, but in that way from which one knows they’ll come back. Telling us that the Queen thought she was giving him a gift, he wanted us to remove his arm; and we stood there, quite shocked, alone, in an otherwise quiet cave.