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PostPosted: Fri, Dec 20 2013, 19:38 PM 


Joined: 12 Jul 2010

((Anyone's welcome to interact as they would IC))

Luca all but stumbled through the portal linking the two realms, nearly falling headfirst into the mage that greeted and recorded every visitor to the Living City. Words of concern were silenced by an inhuman growl as he pushed past. He swore softly under his breath as he stepped into the City. It seemed so much busier than he remembered, tempting motes of life and heat bustling about. When did this happen? They were so bright and distracting that he had trouble seeing anything but. It certainly seemed a nice change, to simply have prey so close, and so plentiful. He began reaching out through the shadows, towards one of those succulent balls of light and heat, but an icy chill brought clarity as he realized what he was about to do. He swore again, his vision clearing. He remembered where all these commoners had come from, some of them giving him timid looks. Since the moment Drennus' deception had become apparent, the shadovar knew it things would unwind rapidly. It was only a matter of days before he would have to kill the monstrous infection twisting in his soul, or lose himself to it. But this, his vision dimming less than an hour after parting Emilie and Iim's company, this was faster and more dangerous than he expected. Drawing one of his many hidden stilettos, Luca gripped the blade with his maimed hand until it bit into scarred and corrupted flesh, the flash of pain bringing clarity to his mind, fixing him to his physical form. He pulled his cloak and cowl tight around him to hide his distress, and pushed through the crowd of worried Cordor refugees, heading deeper into the City.

He regained his senses, his vision filled with...gnarled wood? He startled, looking around to center himself, finding himself in the Court of the Dead, his nose nearly against one of the eerie petrified trees. He didn't remember getting free of the crowd. Another icy chill of fear, that was soon replaced by the pain of the knife digging into the withered hand. He was still huddled under his cloak, his hands hadn't moved. No screams of fear, no Sentinels creaking into action. He hadn't devoured anyone yet, despite the lapse. He knew he was out of time, though. He would have to win this fight here and now, lest he find himself exiled or destroyed when he inevitably lost control. He tossed aside the knife and gripped the tree for support, his tainted blood, black as night, running down its stony bark. He turned his attention inward, blocking out the world around him and seeking out the source of his distress, the shadow that had so stubbornly lodged itself in his soul. So complete was his attention that his physical body simply gave up, falling into a heap at the base of the tree, its edges and form losing cohesion, simply dissolving into a roughly human-shaped mass of writhing shadows and inky darkness. And there he lay, ignorant and unresponsive to the world as the battle for the Self began.

PostPosted: Fri, Dec 20 2013, 20:04 PM 


Joined: 12 Jul 2010

“Gods, boy, you're hopeless.”

The Shade's voice was soft, sibilant, more felt than heard, but the Shadovar child flinched as if he had been struck. He frowned at a simple target circle painted on the wall of the library, then scowled at the spell book on the table in front of him as though it had betrayed him. He'd been trying to master a simple shadow bolt spell for hours with no success, and his teacher was growing impatient. He turned to face the unearthly woman floating behind him. She must has been pretty before her transformation, but now all that could be seen of her was the inky outline of a woman, contained in a black gown, elegant in it's simplicity. Her features were visible however, and they were not pleased. Her pearl colored eyes flickered, and her hair fluttered in the agitated breeze that kept her aloft, the dark tresses dissolving at the ends into writhing shadow. He winced again, things never went well when she started flying.

“Mother, I'm hand...”

He was cut off before he could finish by a crackle of purple lightning that made him jump. He clamped his jaws to keep from shouting in surprise, but his pride was the only thing hurt. He sulked quietly and rubbed the burnt hairs off his arm as the Shade spoke.

“Yes, Luca, I know all about your hand. You'll just have to learn to cast with the other one. I've told you this more times than I care to count.”

She knew about the hand all too well. A few months prior the boy had left the borders of the city to capture fresh veserab for the sky cavalry with his father. His father had been one of the city's better handlers, and he had assured her that nothing would go wrong with the boy's first trek into the gray, bleak wastes of the Shadow Plane. He had been wrong this time, and she cursed his name every time the memory came to her. The expedition had been ambushed, though such events were not unusual in the demiplane, and they traveled under heavy escort because of it. The problem was that the Phaerimm had used a new trick that time, disguising themselves as a choice veserab flock.

They had allowed the Shadovar to come close and begin restraining the beasts before assuming their natural form and attacking. The group, including the boy's father had been slain, but the elusive child had managed to slip away, but not after having received a horrific injury that removed most of the skin from his left hand. With the group's mage dead and no way to teleport back to the enclave, Luca had wandered in the shadows of the plane for nearly two ten-days before he was found and brought home. No one was quite sure how he survived and his own recollection of the time was dim, though the clerics insisted it was a mystery of the Hidden One. There was little they could do for the hand however, infection and venom had made the healing imperfect. The boy was slowly adapting to become right-hand dominant, but his spellcasting with it was atrocious...

The shade shook her head and frowned deeply, pushing away the thoughts to focus on the task at hand. Luca was already giving her a puzzled look, and she could tell from the way that his eyes roamed he was looking for a shadow to escape in, and it usually took days to pry the child out of hiding when he took to it. She tried another tack, gentling her voice, and trying to infuse her tone with a motherly energy she simply didn't feel;

“Luca, your tests are in two months. If you don't show above average aptitude with your spells, you might end up like your father, taming beasts outside the city. Surely you'd rather be safe in the Enclave libraries?”

To Luca, that sounded terribly boring, but he didn't wish to risk his mother's temper by arguing. The next lightning bolt would do more than singe, he was sure.

“Yes, Lady Severin.”

He hoped the formality would appease his mother's ego, but he knew by the scowl and the gesture to his spellbook that it hadn't gotten him far. He turned back to the page, his lips moving as he memorized the spell for perhaps the twentieth time that day. After rereading the page several times to be sure his recollection was sound, he raised his uninjured hand and intoned the spell, weaving the spell clumsily. He felt the reassuring chill that came with touching the shadow weave, and a bolt of darkness lanced outwards to the target drawn on the wall. The spell was feeble however, and the beam had lost most of it's cohesion before reaching the wall. It wavered and struck the wall, leaving only a slight discoloration. Outside the circle. Still, it was a successful spell, and the boy turned to smile at his mentor. She was not there when he turned however, leaving behind only the oppressive feel of anger and the unmistakable smell of ozone. Luca looked around nervously, and quietly stepped into one of the many swirling shadows of the old estate's musty library and vanished, just in case there was someone who could see his tears.


“She likes me better, Luca”


“You heard me.”

The voice, unfamiliar, sounded from across the library. The upset child peered about frantically, with furrowed brow. Something was horribly wrong. His gaze settled on another child, sitting on top of one of the many bookshelves. The old wood looked like it shouldn't support his weight, yet it did. The shelf seemed static, as did all the library, the boy realized. The motes of dust that so often swirled about hung suspended, motionless in the air.

“You're useless. I've already mastered third-circle spells.”

The boy taunted him from his perch. He seemed nearly identical to Luca in appearance, though perhaps larger, a healthier weight. Darker skin, brighter eyes.

“I'll be an archmage someday. Maybe they'll make you a servant, and then you can tend the house and care for Mother.”

“W-who are you?”

“You don't recognize yourself, Luca?”

Something shifted in the young boy's mild, adult sensibilities rebelling against the wrongness of the memory, the obvious intrusion.

“You were never here. You're not real! GET OUT!”

The shadowbolt spell was cast again. This time is hit its mark, the apparition dissolving into inky darkness. As did the rest of the dream.

PostPosted: Fri, Dec 20 2013, 21:22 PM 

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Joined: 08 Sep 2011
Location: Texas Y'all

Yesterday she had sought out Emilie. If the estimations were accurate, then Iim would not let her be alone when the time came. Her instincts had once again proven correct, as Luca was not with the bard. Iim spent the rest of the day hanging out in Emilie's projected shadow, and annoying her with dry humor.

Today she was back in Tarkuul. Still avoiding the gaze of the refugees. His distress was apparent to her as he moved through the court, and she slipped from her resting place to follow him. The dragonkin tensed when she watched him crumble to the ground. She didn't know exactly what had been done to them, or how to counter it, but she knew they both needed help. An anchor in this world to keep them from losing themselves to the other.

Iim'mur'ss sat on the ground beside the writhing mass of shadows, and drew off her gloves. If his form had still been physical then the coldness of her hands would have been obvious. She draped the tails of her long coat over the dark form, blocking his struggle from sight, and plunged her hands into the edges of the shadow.

When she finally spoke there was no sympathy in her tone, no emotion or even friendship; just a cold command issued to her struggling mentor. "You will expel this filth. You are better than this. Feel me, /this/ is what is real." With the brief words she slipped into her own meditative state to see if she could share his inner struggle in a similiar way to how he had shared hers.

Iim'mur'ss - Grandmaster Shadowdancer / Aaralyn - Diplomat / Oleander - Toxic Desert Flower

PostPosted: Sat, Dec 21 2013, 5:37 AM 


Joined: 12 Jul 2010

Iim finds herself in a strange otherworld, a mindscape forged by two opposed wills, though she can only perceive it in glimpses and fragments through the tenuous bond of shadow. One of the entities seems to have the other on the back foot, cruelly stripping back layers of important memories and trying to change them, in order to undermine the fabric of the other's psyche.


The two months passed much faster than Luca or his mother would have liked. He had taken his mother's words to heart and had applied himself to his studies diligently under her watchful eye, and had made some progress into first circle magic, but was hardly a prodigy. This was not enough for her, however, and as his tests drew nearer the woman became increasingly volatile. She began driving him mercilessly, using her spells to force him past his endurance and punish him harshly for every failure before disappearing in a flash of lightning to master her temper. The boy held up well however, partly from his own natural resilience and partly because he knew his mother was trying to insure he did well. Even at that age, he know his mother well enough to understand that it wasn't completely altruism, but it benefited him nevertheless.

When the mage from the Determinist's guild arrived at the estate, the tension and nervousness from both mother and child was palpable, though the older gentleman seemed blithely ignorant to the atmosphere. He was a stately wizard, forgoing the traditional robes and adopting an old-fashioned suit and coat, and held a leather case under one arm. He twirled a small goatee as he surveyed the Severin home with a critical eye. The wrinkles at the corners of those eyes were the only indication that this Shadovar was advanced in age. He took in the dilapidated but meticulous entryway, nodding approvingly at the effort spent keeping the ancient property in order. The silence hung heavy, and was broken abruptly by the arcanist's rough baritone as he fixed the agitated female Shade with a mild glare;

“Well? Where is the child? I have seven other tests to do today and I'd prefer not to waste any more time than necessary.”

“He's already wasting his time with you.”

Luca startled slightly, unaware that he had blended with the dark shadows near a staircase without intending to. He stepped into the meager light offered by the guttering, cobwebbed chandeliers of the entry hall. Even despite the magical protections of the Enclave, dark, tenebrous mist from the surrounding demiplane leaked into everything, and Luca often found that it took more effort to be seen than it did to go unnoticed. He spoke up quietly, just in case he was still missed, trying to ignore the flickering glare from his mother's unearthly eyes.

“I am here, Sir. I hadn't intended any disrespect.”

“Of course not. You've no backbone.”

He bowed his head respectfully and half bowed at the waist, and felt the building pressure of his mother's will ease off him slightly, both her and the mage from the Guild nodding their approval at the young teenager's demeanor and eloquence. He gestured the boy and his mother closer, peering through the shadows of the estate.

“Well spoken, that's promising.” He looked at the woman, who despite her outward calm was causing a noticeable feeling of static in the air; “I trust you have a chamber prepared?”

“Well-spoken. How far has that gotten you?”

“Of course I do. This is not my first time.”

Her voice was a slightly menacing hiss, and she began to lead them down a dark corridor that obviously hadn't been used in some time. Luca and the Determinist exchanged curious glances simultaneously, but the woman didn't seem inclined to elaborate, so they followed.

“Another Severin? Where are they? Is your whole line simply doomed to failure?”

It didn't escape Luca's notice that his mother's feet weren't touching the ground as she moved. She led them to a rather sparse chamber that had been cleared of all distractions, save a small desk with a chair on either side. The mage immediately entered and took one of the seats, setting his leather case on the surface, opening it and laying out several parchments, writing supplies and some odds and ends that Luca recognized as focuses for powerful divination and enchantment spells. He winced, knowing what followed wouldn't be pleasant. He stifled the rising apprehension in his chest and followed the wizard into the chamber, acutely aware of the Shade staring holes into the back of his head. He took the other seat, wringing his hands and heard his mother speak before closing the door;

“I trust he won't disappoint.”

“Oh, but haven't you already?”

“Stop it! Go away!"

This dream faded to laughter.

PostPosted: Sat, Dec 21 2013, 5:59 AM 

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Joined: 08 Sep 2011
Location: Texas Y'all

Near inaudible words slip from her dark lips to be carried off by the wind from the ocean. Gods, Luca, which one is you.

The hunter returned to lay in wait, watching for its opportunity while trying to strengthen and focus the connection.

Iim'mur'ss - Grandmaster Shadowdancer / Aaralyn - Diplomat / Oleander - Toxic Desert Flower

PostPosted: Sat, Dec 21 2013, 17:01 PM 


Joined: 12 Jul 2010

Focus brings clarity.

“One of your favorites, Luca. You know all the words of your judgment by heart. I don't need to do anything.”

“Only because you won't face me in the open, Shadow.”

“Soon, after I have seen all you have seen.”

Luca sat up in his bed, trying to rub away a throbbing headache. He took a moment to gain his bearings, noting he was at home, in his own bedchambers. Then the memories returned, albeit fuzzy. The tests had started with deeply personal questions about his background, family and health, followed by a physical examination. He remembered demonstrating his magical abilities, a battery of aptitude and personality tests, and then finally a score of mind searching enchantments and divinations. He struggled to remember specifics, but did vaguely recall the guild wizard mentioning that his memories of the test's intricacies would be erased from his mind, so that he wouldn't be able to teach others to cheat it. He sighed to himself and slid off the bed, involuntarily shivering as he went to the door of his room. It was locked, though this came as no surprise. His mother often locked him in when she was displeased, though that had never stopped him. It simply meant that he couldn't be caught by her until she had 'officially' unlocked the door. He went back to his bed and slipped a few thin metal tools from his pillowcase, and had the lock on the door picked faster than it took most people to use a key. He opened the door only enough to slip out, and relocked it behind him before sliding the tools up the sleeve of his simple silk tunic. A moment later, he was gone, only a swirl of the shadowstuff that permeated the estate marking his passage.

It wasn't hard to find his mother, for though she never raised her voice, she was furious, and her sibilant hissing filtered eerily through the halls. He felt the hair on his arms stand on end, and found her talking heatedly to the Determinist in one of the nicer sitting rooms. The greyish black shadowstuff that seemed to cling to everything was swirling around her feet as she hovered a full foot off the ground, though the other mage seemed untroubled. He dealt with more imposing figures than this relatively minor Shade on a daily basis. Luca eavesdropped just around the door frame.

“What do you mean, no better than 'average' aptitude? If he is 'average' even despite the injury, then imagine...”

The other mage cut her off, his tone firm but infinitely patient;

“The injury shows no sign of improving, and the Enclave's resources are better spent with other endeavors than coddling a mage that can't cast with his dominant hand. By the time he is fully right-handed, he could progress far faster in another discipline than he could amid the ranks of the Arcanists.”

The shadowy woman hissed, her tone growing desperate;

“Surely you can see that his talents are better spent as an apprentice, than training veserabs like his father, or worse yet, the drudge work of the commoners.”

Still patient, but his tone growing annoyed, the Guild wizard explained further;

“Yes, I seem to realize that batter than you do, Lady Severin. While you seem to think there are only slaves and arcanists, There are a great deal of useful professions in between. Now, if you would let me finish...”

She didn't let him finish, lashing out at the older wizard with an arc of purple lightning, hissing as she did;

“You mean higher ranks of fodder! I won't have my last born sent to his death.”

The determinist seemed less surprised that he should have been, deflecting the lightning harmlessly into the stone floor with a fluid gesture. He looked at the scorching left on the hand he had used to parry the spell, frowning as a minute trace of shadowstuff leaked from the burn. He used his other hand to weave his own spell, tossing the woman back to land heavily in a chair, bands of shadowsilk materializing from the inky swirls that permeate the plane to bind her wrists firmly to the arms of the chair. She simply glowered at him.

“Feisty creature, isn't she? Perhaps I'll devour her next, in your guise.”

“You wouldn't stand a chance.”

“You would do well to not underestimate me, Lady Severin. Some of us do not display our prowess blatantly as you like to. I'll forgive the slight this once, as your temper is a bit of a running joke these days, and a mother's distress is -vaguely- understandable. However, I'll brook no further interruptions.”

He waited a breath to see if she would protest, and seeing that she was content to simply glare daggers, he continued;

“While time could see Luca becoming a mage, the boy obviously has more potential in other areas. You would have to be utterly unobservant to not notice his affinity for the shadows. You would have done better by him had you encouraged that, and not forced him down a path he is obviously only marginally suited for.”

The mage waved a hand and Luca suddenly found himself disoriented, tumbling into a soft armchair as he gathered his bearings. As his head stopped swimming, he found he had been translocated into the sitting room he had been eavesdropping on, the guild wizard giving him an amused smirk and his mother's eyes again burning holes into his soul. The Determinist continued.

“Seems he's also adept at getting in and out of places he shouldn't. You may as well be comfortable if you're intent on listening, Master Luca.” He turned to look at the female shade. “I think I'm going to assign him to Prince Yder's group.”

Luca's mother blinked in some surprise, the agitated mist around her finally stilling.

“The temple knights?”

The guild mage nodded; “Indeed. It's rare for a woman to give birth to a healthy child after undergoing the transformation, and it seems to have blessed him with a closeness to shadow few could likely match. The clerics are also convinced his survival on the plane after the accident was the hidden hand of the Goddess.” The mage's tone turns dry; “He is also considerably more well-mannered and obedient than you are, Lady Severin. I suspect he would make an ideal inquisitor and agent in Yder's organization, don't you agree?”

"Your mild manner once again. Have you always been so -boring-?"

Her response was grudging, but the wisdom in the wizard's words could not be denied.

“I suppose it is...fitting. There is potential for advancement there I assume, Determinist?”

The wizard nodded, with a slightly dark smile. “Indeed, Lady Severin. Even if it doesn't come from his superiors, service to the Lady often has it's own benefits. I imagine he will do well for himself.” He scowled; “Not that, mind you, I need to justify my decisions. See that he finds his way to Yder's temple at the start of the next week, and that he has anything he needs. I suspect he won't be spending much time at home for a while. I'll see myself out.”

And so the mage did, opening a doorway in the lingering black mist, and stepping through. The portal closed a second later. Mother and son sat in silence for many minutes, each absorbed in their own thoughts. Finally, as Luca began to grow restless in equal measures excitement and apprehension, his mother dispelled the bands holding her to the chair and rose, walking over to her child. She took him by the chin and peered into his eyes thoughtfully, her expression unreadable. Luca endured the scrutiny, though her grip was just a little too strong, and her nails too sharp and decidedly icy. Finally, she released him and gave him the slightest hug around the shoulders.

“You will not disappoint Prince Yder. Go to bed.”

Then she vanished the same way the other mage did, leaving Luca to his thoughts.

“Well Luca? How does the story end? Still serving the Prince admirably?”

“Shut up.”

PostPosted: Sat, Dec 21 2013, 17:48 PM 


Joined: 12 Jul 2010

The memories of three years of hard training were compressed into a few hours of shivering pain while the Castellan lay under the tree with the drowess. The strict routine that was once a comfort of his youth became a nightmare of monotony as the same scenes were repeated countless times and compressed as the Shadow forced him to relive it all, hungrily consuming the knowledge and skill for itself as a silent witness. The mage had not been mistaken. In the three years of his education, he had only been home to visit his mother perhaps a dozen times all total. He found that as he grew older and more self-assured, he came to find he rather preferred not to. Although then only sixteen, he had grown into an able inquisitor and spy for the church. He had filled out, physically and mentally. Never quite ambitious enough to soar through the ranks, his obedience and courtesy had ensured he was at least well-liked by his superiors.

He had settled into a comfortable routine. What passed for morning on the demiplane was occupied with physical training, which he endured without complaint but did not particularly enjoy. He had a dancer's body, lithe, well muscled, but not a physical powerhouse like some of the other shadow knights that had found their way into Prince Yder's service. He was beginning to learn to rely on his speed and grace to avoid getting too bruised during the sparring.

“Afternoon” was occupied by practical work. Though he had not yet reached his Age of Majority, they found his talents valuable enough to put to use. This mainly involved spying on the Lady's faithful to insure loyalty to the Church, as well as to collect secrets on the various minor nobility of the city that the church (and by extension, the two Princes that controlled it) used as blackmail currency to ensure their high place. A side effect of this work was that Luca was often in a good position to point out the Phaerimm that incessantly tried to infiltrate the Enclave in disguise. He had not yet been brave enough to confront one on his own, but he had earned the gratitude of his superiors by directing more able forces to the problem.

The later hours that made up the Enclave's evening period were by far the most interesting to Luca. These were the quiet, subdued classes on history and his new religion, followed by workshops on more practical skills: Stealth, infiltration, locksmithing and trap operation. He excelled in the stealth and shadow manipulation classes, but his most treasured classes were by a large margin the private fencing lessons offered by one of his favorite instructors. She was the youngest teacher in the Halls of Shadow, an attractive swordswoman that went by the name of Natalya.

She did not have a particularly versatile skill set, but her expertise with a saber earned her a place as a blade instructor at a relatively young age. Luca and the girl shared similar temperaments and physical appearances, both tall, thin and very pale, with shoulder length raven hair and inquisitive eyes. They quickly became close. Too close, if you asked the other instructors, but they held their tongues because they both benefited from the camaraderie, and Luca's swordsmanship certainly did as well. The pair soon developed a private routine where she took him aside for blade lessons at the end of the evening, but more often than not the lessons quickly devolved into furtive lovemaking in a private chamber. The slightly older woman made it clear to Luca that the relationship was only physical, but the young shadowdancer couldn't help but feel a secret thrill when he caught her looking at him, or a pang of jealousy when she had to work with another student. Their superiors turned a blind eye on the affair however, because it was both relatively harmless and a intrinsic part of the students coming of age.

Midnight was occupied by prayer and meditation in the temple. While he was never granted spells by his Goddess, he could feel her as a constant presence when he was surrounded in the pure darkness of the temple. Reassuring in her oppressiveness, Luca took well to the teaching that fighting to control your Fate was a losing battle, and resolved to make the best of his place and his role. Even the soft, almost unheard and completely unintelligible whispers that pervaded the otherwise silent darkness when he bent his head in prayer lost their maddening quality, and became soothing as he learned to stop trying to understand them, and resigned himself to Her plan. He was confident her secrets would be gifted to him when he was ready. He had asked one of the clerics about these whispers once, and her slightly condescending, puzzled look quickly discouraged him from inquiring further. Luca found that more often than not, he woke up facing the altar rather than in the bed of his small, private chamber.

"It's no wonder you are so dull, Luca. I nearly died of boredom. Even your romances are tepid."

There was no reply forthcoming.

PostPosted: Sat, Dec 21 2013, 20:52 PM 

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Joined: 08 Sep 2011
Location: Texas Y'all

Some things had more than an average propensity to go wrong. She knew that. But whether in the underdark or the Plane of Shadow, hesitation often meant the end of your existence. Then again, maybe she really was just insane as more than a few believed.

The fact that there was no response to the taunting this time lead her to dark thoughts she wasn’t yet ready to accept. So she reached out for the only weapon she thought available to her. She reached through the petrified tree’s shadow and into the actual Plane itself. She drew forth thick snaking ropes of shadowstuff that slithered toward the warring pair.

She growled under her breath, Failure is /not/ an option. You will not let some iblith determine your path. Get up and consume this imposter!

The snaking shadowstuff paused for the briefest moment, as though the one controlling it was reconsidering its application.

Iim'mur'ss - Grandmaster Shadowdancer / Aaralyn - Diplomat / Oleander - Toxic Desert Flower

PostPosted: Sun, Dec 22 2013, 4:02 AM 


Joined: 12 Jul 2010

Luca's Age of Majority ceremony took place less than a tenday before the Enclave would see it's biggest change since the Fall. It had been a small ceremony at the temple, with his mother and a select few friends in attendance. The Determinist that had first tested him as well as one of the ranking priests oversaw a formal demonstration of his abilities. After navigating through the gathering unseen and defeating a trio of junior students with sparring weapons, a prisoner was brought out, blindfolded and chained, flanked by two Shadovar knights in ebony mail, the armor almost liquid in texture. Only the slightest gleam of their eyes could be seen beneath imposing helmets. Luca studied the man curiously; he was a brutish creature, with rough features an even rougher complexion, with a broad, flat nose and sparse, wiry hair covering his mottled gray pate. His numerous scars and callouses spoke of a difficult life of drudgery. As the prisoner was forced to his knees by his escorts, he looked askance at the presiding priest, the question unspoken. He priest peered from the inky shadows swirling under the cowl of his ordainment robes as he spoke.

“One of the labor slaves. A little smarter than the rest, perhaps, but troublesome because of it. He's been trying to incite rebellion with the empty promises of one of his foul, false deities. A fitting sacrifice to mark the formal beginning of your service to the Enclave and the Goddess."

Luca frowned, solemnly climbing the steps of the dais to the altar where the half-orc was held. He felt nervous; spying and hunting down shape-shifting monsters was one thing, but he'd never been asked to kill something remotely human. Even so, he knew it was only a matter of time before he'd have to, and he was determined not to let his uneasiness show as he spoke, his voice already canny despite his youth.

“A test, you mean. There's nothing fitting about animal sacrifices. A fitting gift to the Lady would have been a true threat or an enemy, favored one. If it takes blood to prove my dedication, however, I won't disappoint.”

Luca finished ascending the steps to stand before the altar and study the slave with a distasteful expression, brushing back the sable cloak that accompanied his understated uniform to reveal the saber at his hip, which he drew with one fluid motion, the matte metal making no sound and reflecting no light. The creature had long since gone limp in the grip of the two other knights, it's fate a foregone conclusion.

“Let him up.”

The two knights glanced at the presiding cleric in confusion at Luca's words, whom only shrugged slightly.

“If he has placed his hope in another deity, let him have his chance to see if his prayers come to fruition. Let his comrades see if his words hold any promise after all. Let him up.”

The two ebony-clad knights gave Luca an understandably wary expression, glancing again to the priest for direction. The cleric shrugged a second time and made a dismissive hand gesture, allowing the knights to release the prisoner, the three of them taking hasty but untroubled steps back. The slave obviously wasn't the most intelligent creature in the Enclave, nearly fumbling the broadsword Luca tossed its way. Ignoring the glare of the knight who's sword he had thrown, Luca raised the point of his saber in an almost taunting salute to the half-orc.

“One chance to prove the strength of the God you claim to be your salvation. One chance to be that glimmer of hope for your compatriots that you so desperately wished to be.”

While the orc wasn't terribly bright, it certainly knew what one does with a sword. Its attacks were swift, violent, and completely untrained. Each strike was deftly parried, through the strength of the creature left Luca's blade ringing and his arm numb. He wasn't troubled, however, sweeping the slave off its feet and slashing its hamstrings with deft cuts. He sheathed his blade, rubbing feeling back into his hand as he kicked the broadsword back to the knight it belonged to. What followed was rather crude and graceless. Luca dragged the writhing slave to the altar and slit it's throat with a dagger hidden in his bracer, holding him there as he bled over the ornate stone, only releasing his grasp when the twitching and gurgling stilled.

“You have your sacrifice, as demanded. I only hope I'll be offering the Lady better fare in the future than insects. By giving him a blade I made him more than fodder in his last minutes, made him more worthy to bleed on the altar. It still seems...unfitting, however.”

With that he slid the dagger back to its place, assuming parade rest in front of the gathering, his gaze resting on the cleric. A lengthy, silent moment passed as the knights hauled away the pallid body, with the cleric giving a none-too-pleased scrutiny of the young inquisitor. Eventually the shade spoke in a detached, clinical tone.

“Your conviction is admirable, but the pride is not. Though you are largely correct in your zeal, it is still not your place to tell -us- what is, and what is not acceptable for the altar. It is your place to follow directions. You know this. We will overlook the mild insubordination this time on account of the...entertainment, but do not make it a habit. Congratulations on your coming of Majority. You have one week of leave before you report to the temple for further work. Your uniform and blade will be in your chest in your quarters by the time you get there.”

With that the shade turned to the altar dismissively, and people began to file out. Natalya emerged from congregation to brush his hand lightly for only a moment, before disappearing back into the shadows of the building. His mother also made a brief appearance, catching his eye and then simply glaring ice at him for a long moment, followed by a stiff turn and gliding through the door. Luca could only sigh, then laugh helplessly to himself. An unseen salute, fist over heart, was offered to the priest's back before he turned on his heel and strode out into the perpetual night of the Enclave.

Or would have, if the door had opened. It remained fixed in place, locked in a strange form of stasis. The temple felt oddly still around him and he turned slowly, a growing feeling of unease running down his spine. When he looked back, he found the temple to be entirely empty, even the dim light providing no flicker of shadow, the image absolutely still. There was no way the attendance had filtered out so quickly. Carefully, he approached the altar again, his hand straying to the blade he wore. His vision blurred, only for the briefest of moments, but he brought the back of one hand to his face to rub his eyes. When his hand came away, the half-orc's body had returned, laying where he left it, in a pool of its own blood on the altar. It was all he could do to keep himself from startling, though a cold sweat prickled on his brow. The orc's mouth twitched, though the rest of it lie still. Luca's blade was out for the second time that evening not a heartbeat later.

"Apologies, I had nearly fallen asleep and missed this little morsel of a memory. So you do have some spirit. Is blood the only thing that makes your own stir? Truly a man after my heart."

The voice had come from the orc. Luca took a step back, trying desperately to clear the fog and find himself amid the lucid dream. The twitching spread from the orc's mouth through the rest of its damaged body, until the blood-covered heap of flesh was gently quivering. It rose from the ground as though picked up by the neck and set heavily on its feet, head lolling obscenely to one side, revealing the lethal wound Luca had dealt it earlier. Wet, oily smoke seeped from its wounds, ears and nose, and then it opened its eyes. Gone were the malevolent yellow eyes of the orc, and instead the abomination peered at Luca with piercing eyes of obsidian, eyes Luca recognized as his own. Luca shivered and raised his blade defensively, swallowing hard.

"No words? That suits me fine."

The unliving orc produced the broadsword it was given earlier from the shadows, and saluted Luca with the same mocking gesture Luca had used earlier. The attack that followed was unbelievably savage, with all of the raw power of the half-orc body but Luca's speed and precision, only slightly hampered by the grotesquely lolling head and crippled ankles. If anything, the inhuman, unsteady movements made the flurry of strikes all the more unpredictable. Luca was immediately pressed back, every ounce of strength and skill spent to keep his head on his shoulders. He took several deep wounds across the arms and chest, more black, moist smoke spilling from his own injuries. Retaliation was impossible, and the shadow forced Luca down from the steps, and across the temple, each swing of the broadsword buying more ground. The creature laughed, the sound bubbling through the clotting blood in its ruined throat.

"This is the famed and proud right hand of the Prince? The inquisitor of the Hall of Shadow and the former Speaker of the Living City? Here you are naught but a boy, and a weak one."

They were against the sealed temple doors by then, and with a final lunge, the creature thrust his broadsword clear through the young Luca's abdomen, the weapon biting deep into the wooden doors behind him and pinning him there. A cruel smile twisted itself onto the shambling orc's dead face. Luca found his voice, his maimed hand clutching the blade in his stomach. His voice was breathy, pained.

"But 'here' is my home, Shadow. Even weaked or wounded, it is my domain."

Luca simply dissolved around the blade pinning him to the great darkwood doors, the tenebrous mist regathering into human form behind the twisted slave. Before the creature could turn, Luca had removed its head from its shoulders with one sure stroke, his saber biting into the same wound he had created earlier. He noticed a shadow emerging from the stump of its neck and skittering across the floor to disappear into the dark corners of the temple, but Luca was too weak and wounded to give chase. Clutching his stomach, he pushed through the now unsealed doors and stepped into the City streets, trailing thin black smoke from his many wounds.

PostPosted: Sun, Dec 22 2013, 4:50 AM 

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Joined: 08 Sep 2011
Location: Texas Y'all

Within the mindscape the snaking shadowstuff once again began to move. Iim'mur'ss drew it forth and simultaneously pushed it in Luca's direction. Making sure to keep it from the opponent. The thick ropes began to gently wind around him. Other parts split into fine threads and began to sew his wounds closed. All seemingly in an effort to strengthen and heal him. Occasionally her lips moved, but if she spoke it was too softly to hear in the material world.

Iim'mur'ss - Grandmaster Shadowdancer / Aaralyn - Diplomat / Oleander - Toxic Desert Flower

PostPosted: Sun, Dec 22 2013, 4:52 AM 

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Joined: 26 Jul 2010

After hours of meditation in the Plane of Shadow, trying to calm and center herself, Emilie extracted her portal wand from her bags. There was only one choice this night, though she was certain that Drennus was gone from the Living City. The sooner she could slay this thing writhing within her blood, the better for everybody involved. If she could not secure Drennus' help by night's end, she would have to make her way from the Living City to write notes to those she cares for in case this does not go as planned. After sunrise, she plans to distract herself the best that she is able. Tonight, there is only Tarkuul. Only this quest.

She pulls the shadows close to her form, sinking into the unseen. She casts a portal and steps through.

She spends some time searching the Living City for her mentor. As she suspected, he was not going to make this task any easier than the past tasks he has forced upon her. He was no where to be found. What she did find however was Immy and Luca. A wry smile played on her lips as she looked at the pair from her sanctuary of shadows. That was, until she realized what she was looking at.

Immy was readily visible, kneeling over a shaded form on the ground beneath the tree. Luca however... was not as distinct. Emilie only identified the coiled shadowstuff as Luca due to their forged connection, tracing his shadows back to him. His battle for composure was not going as successfully as he had so foolishly assumed. Emilie quietly took in a deep breath, she did not wish to disturb Immurss concentration as she spoke to the form.

Emilie kneels on the other side of Luca, after a long moment of observation, she could see that he was trapped within his own mind. Locked within a nightmare, no doubt.

She closes her eyes and lays a hand upon his forehead. She ventured to do as she had done with Darby on only one occasion before. She tried to ease her own mind, attempted fall into their familiar trance as they had done a hundred times before. She searched for his shadow, and more importantly she searched for his Dream... She had to go to his battle rather than wait for the battle to come to the surface - by then it would be too late.

With effort, she followed their connection and their shared blood to the next scene of his nightmare. Even in the context of the realm of his mind, she kept her shadows figuratively close, staying just out of sight.


PostPosted: Sun, Dec 22 2013, 5:04 AM 


Joined: 12 Jul 2010

It was barely two days after the ceremony before Luca received a summons back to the temple by a very haggard and drawn messenger. Its contents were brief; he was to report outside the temple in full dress uniform. Luca tucked the note into a breast pocket with a curious frown, then went over to the chest at the foot of his bed, one of the few features in his spartan personal chambers. He knelt and quickly unlatched the locks, peering at the uniform and sword that were lying there, the clothes crisply folded and the leather of the scabbard midnight black and supple with oil. Though he wasn't surprised to see them there, he still indulged in a momentarily thrill at the tools and garb of the job and position he was given. He lifted the blade almost reverently, drawing it out of the scabbard half an inch to inspect the glossy sable hue of the weapon's unearthly metal before reseating it in the sheath, rubbing his thumb over the symbol of Shar on the hilt. He placed the weapon on the bed and changed into the uniform, wincing at the poorly healed wounds of the earlier ceremony, the bandages soiled with inky, viscous blood. He frowned, pausing in his movements.

"Wait, when was I wounded?"

Puzzled, but lacking the time to think on the matter, the pulled his tunic on, promising himself he'd change the bandages later. The tunic was pressed crisp, and though it bore no emblems or symbols, the style was immediately recognizable to other Shadovar as belonging to the Hall of Shadow. The Inquisitors needed no signs of rank, and indeed, it was not in their nature to attract attention to themselves until it was far too late. His darksword was then belted to his hip, and a quick look in a mirror was taken to ensure everything was up to standard. Satisfied, the young shadowdancer left the building that served as his dwelling, and was surprised to find the streets of the Enclave filled with people in a great furry, and all of them in the finest wear of their station. Soldiers were keeping everyone orderly, and the Veserab cavalry was already wheeling in the dark sky, the strange, muted sounds of their leathery wings barely heard over the flapping of the banners they towed behind them, each proudly bearing Prince Telamont's crest. Despite his growing excitement, Luca bore only the most professional of expressions, heading down the shadowy streets at a crisp, but deliberate pace until he reached the temple.

The courtyard was filled with the Shadovar that worked in the Church, standing in orderly lines by rank, all of them dressed to the nines as was appropriate for their station. Knights wore gleaming ebony mail, the clerics wore the stately dress robes of the darkest black and royal purple. One woman seemed out of place in the line of priestesses, an indistinct form, wearing only rags draped just so over her very thin frame. Luca scowled, furrowing his brow and trying to get a better look at this stranger, but she seemed to vanish just as quickly into the crowd. Luca shook his head and gave it no further thought, and quickly found his own line, joining the smallest section of the group, a row of somber men and women in uniforms matching his own. He took his place at the end of the line, being the youngest and lowest ranking of the order. Nothing was said, but the formality of the affair hung thickly in the air. The other soldiers of the city patrolled the streets in their own dress uniforms while in perfect formation. The air cavalry continued their careful patterns above the city, barely seen against a sky of utter blackness. The Shadovar had never turned out in such force in Luca's living memory, and he could only wait, and wonder as to the occasion.

The wait felt long as the building tension became almost palpable, and gradually a low chanting was detectable, so deep and primal that it was felt more than heard. A few knights shifted anxiously as the magic in the air became almost oppressive, though the clerics seemed unbothered, lost into whatever great ritual was sweeping across the City, adding their own voices to the chorus in rigid, powerful Netherese. Finally, as the pressure of the building spell became almost unbearable, a great tremor shook the City, and the world became filled with blinding light and color.

A collective gasp was heard throughout the City, and Shadovar everywhere immediately covered their eyes, disoriented and pained as the City was plunged back into the Prime Material in a formidable display of arcane might. Sunlight from a clear, blue afternoon burned away the shadowstuff that lay in murky layers about the city. Under the harsh glare of real light, the City seemed, different somehow. Much of the dark glamor of the flying Enclave was dispelled, revealing rows of shabby and dilapidated villas and estates. The temple itself showed signs of wear, crumbling mortal and cracks in the facade that were completely invisible in the perpetual night of the Plane of Shadow. The residents of the City hardly seemed to notice, however, all but blinded by the new world of light and color, and distracted by the focus it took to stay in their formations.

Through squinted eyes peering through their fingers, the assembled Shadovar bore witness to the next miracle in store that day. A giant stone, shaped like that of a human heart, was coming to hover over the temple, a rift down it's side pouring out liquid silver like so much blood. Slowly, the stone lowered to come to rest inside the atrium of the temple, flooding its interior with glittering Heavy Magic. Centuries after the Fall, the Karse Stone, the bloated and preserved heart of the infamous Krasus, had finally come home to the last Enclave. As the mythical stone settled into it's resting place, a great dome of darkness encased the floating city, blocking out the scorching rays of the sun and bathing the triumphant Shadovar in its soothing shade. The illusions of grandeur the mythallar provided its people were reformed, and the parading descendants of Netheril spend the next few days in their own, subdued state of revelry, peering over the edges of the City into a strange new world as the Enclave made its slow way to its ancestral home over the Anauroch.

Luca wasted no time in returning to his dwellings to enjoy the leisure time, immediately undressing so as to tend the mysterious wounds. As he changed the bandages before a mirror, he gasped when he reached the gaping rend in his abdomen. His head swam briefly, and the dream suddenly became lucid when confronted with the inconsistently of a plainly mortal wound. The illusion broken, he didn't bother rewrapping the phantom injuries, glaring into the mirror. The image seemed to glare back, now showing very different injuries, though still on the same person. Two other images resolved in the mirror behind the Shadow; one the thin girl in rags from before, the other less distinct, a tangle of shadow coils and leathery wings. The image seemed to try and leave the mirror, but the two figures held it in check. Luca spoke.

"I hope you watched well, Shadow. I am part of something greater than myself, and always will be."

He gestured to the companions in the mirror.

"I have my friends, I have my people. We will always stand united, the collective is stronger than the individual. You, torn from the void, will always be alone, a parasite on something far beyond your comprehension."

The Luca in the mirror sneered.

"I didn't hear you chanting with the rest."

Luca put his fist through the mirror, shattering it into uncountable glimmering fragments. He turned to his bunk and laid down, sleeping deeply.

PostPosted: Sun, Dec 22 2013, 10:27 AM 


Joined: 12 Jul 2010

The heat was nearly unbearable, and Luca desperately wiped the sweat from his eyes with the corner of his cloak, his darksword gripped tightly in his other hand. His breathing was ragged, and he looked around desperately for a way out. The ground he stood on was parched, once fertile vineyard, now drained of all life and home to only ash and dessicated plants. His cover was a simple cobblestone wall, more decorative than functional...and it was melting. The stone was red-hot, and more fireballs were detonating on the far side every minute.

“Damn things, do they ever run out of spells?”

As if to answer, the Phaerimm pinning him down unleashed a ray of green light, Disintegrating a huge swath of the wall. Luca swore and darted down the wall to stay concealed, though the heat only abated briefly. Somehow, the worm could still sense his location, and began pummeling the section of wall anew, until it too was glowing red hot from repeat fireballs. Luca risked a peek over the wall, looking down the once verdant valley to the city of Evereska, singing his hands on the glowing stone. The Elven defenders seemed to be faring much better than he, hiding behind the protection of their Mythal, the Phaerimm army's spells dissipating harmlessly against it. Their Illithid lieutenants were sending wave after wave of Bugbear mindslaves into the no-mans-land, probing for weaknesses. The arcane archers of the legendary city were simply scything them down, but the Illithid seemed to have no end end to their reserves. He had to duck down again to avoid a cone of prismatic light, each color cracking with a different type of elemental destruction, leaving the smell of hot metal and ozone in the air. A breath later and another green beam lanced out, and Luca moved again. He was running out of wall. One more Disintegration and all he'd have for cover would be dried weeds.

Officially, he wasn't supposed to be here. The Elves were steadfastly refusing Thultanthar's aide, and so he was there gauging their capability to survive on their own against the aberration army. Their Mythal was formidable defense, truly, but the Elves were making the same fatal mistake the Netherese did so many centuries ago. They bunkered down behind their magical defenses, and hoped to wait out the enemy. Unfortunately, the enemy was feeding off those very defenses, only growing stronger. They had employed the very same Lifedrain spells that caused the Empire's fall, resulting in the desiccation of the vineyard the young Shadovar found himself in. If he could find some evidence their defenses wouldn't hold, the Shades could make another he risked another look.

What he saw made even his blood run cold. The Illithid were leading Beholders onto the field of battle, and the hulking orbs began shining glimmering cones from their central eyes, huge swaths of anti-magic radiance that tore open perfect circles in the mythal field. Bugbears swarmed though the opening, though they too were shot down. The Beholders seemed to sprout feathers from the number of elven arrows that peppered them, and the mythal sealed itself. The Phaerimm unleashed another barrage of evocations, and the mythal held...but wavered. Luca could see more Phaerimm in the back ranks already summoning more eye-tyrants. It was the evidence Luca needed, he just needed to get it back to Shade. He ducked again, a lightning bolt cracking in the space where his head was.

“Well, used to dodging lightning, at least.”

Unfortunately, it seemed the lone Phaerimm that had spotted him was beginning to take the Shadovar irritation a bit more seriously, and a tentacled head peeked through the newest hole in the wall. A blinding pain filled Luca's head and he struck out instinctually. Fortunately, the illithid reinforcement had misjudged the distance and Luca's darksword sliced cleanly through the abberation's skull, bisecting it neatly, and stopping the mental anguish. The young scout reeled against the wall and a new pain flashed through him as he brushed against the nearly molten stone, sending him prone.

“Simple scouting my Goddess cursed ass. Time to go.”

He spied a sparse copse of trees, little more than an orchard left to grow wild, a short sprint away. It would have to do. Rolling as he left the cover of the wall to avoid another Prismatic Spray, he ran as hard as he could for the next stretch of cover. As he neared the shelter, however, he realized it was already occupied. A band of wood elves cut off from the City had apparently had the same idea as he, and camouflaged themselves into the sparse underbrush. Luca swore; his officer had made it very clear that death was preferable to detection. He was fortunate that their attention was on the Phaerimm and not their flanks, and so he dropped onto his belly and crawled the rest of the way with them none the wiser. The elves were not so lucky however, as the Phaerimm, its attention now firmly on the previously overlooked orchard, decided the Shadovar would have to wait while it dealt with the Or'tel'quessir. The elves fought valiantly, as they are wont to do, but their arrows never found homes, simply scattered by the harsh winds that accompany the Pherimm's bizarre form of levitation. They died screaming, each consumed by a different evocation, some of which Luca had never seen. He beat a very hasty retreat for the far side of the orchard.

The Phaerimm didn't seem inclined to let him go quite so easily, simply tearing open a rift in the fabric of the Prime and floating through it to appear on the other side of the grove with a sizzle of raw magic, not three feet in front of Luca's face. He dropped into the dust again so fast the air was knocked from his lungs, four sets of class passing through the air above his head, the creature's circular maw of razor teeth gnashing in frustration. He rolled, by instinct alone, and the thing's bizarre stinger lodged into the ground, just barely grazing his ribs. The Templar tried to get his blade up and his feet under him, but keeping track of four arms, a tail and a maw of teeth proved too much, and he was caught by the ankle by one of the thing's many hands. It dragged him off balance and then dangled him aloft by the foot, aiming for another strike with the alien barb on the end of its tail.

The barb lashed out, but the young soldier was faster still, darksword lashing out in an arc to cleave the stinger clean off the tail, and then again, severing the abberation's clawed hand at the wrist. He twisted in the air and landed catlike on his feet while the monster reeled, howling in more anger than pain, clearly not expecting the black blade's ability to penetrate its abjurations. Luca's victory was short lived however, as the monster used its remaining hands to weave another spell, this time a powerful mental domination. The knight was powerless against the direct magical assault, freezing in place as the floating worm's voice invaded his mind.

“Not amused, mammal. You are not an Elf. You stink of the Netherese. You will tell me all you know.”

And, direct as its words, it began scouring the shadovar's mind. He swore mentally and felt the chill of very real fear course through this blood. He began trying hopelessly to mount a mental resistance.

“I'll tell you no...”

“Do shut up.”

A mental slap sent Luca reeling and the phaerimm continued to nonchalantly sift through his memories, but at least had the courtesy to seem uneasy at what it found. The cold fear in Luca's heart was soon replaced by dark anger at the violation, let alone the danger this damn phaerimm might pose to his people with the knowledge gained. He began filling himself with the only thing he knew he could rely on, gathering shadows to himself through a connection he was only dimly aware he possessed. The monster seemed to sense something was wrong as Luca's rage built, though didn't know what. With a surge of mental fortitude, Luca let go of conscious thought and relied on instinct alone, pushing the intruder free of his mind. One of them, anyway.

“Lethal move, Luca, but I won't complain. It was very kind of you to simply let me in.”

All the anger drained away and he felt numb. The phaerimm was already undulating as it recovered from the mental backlash of the shattered domination, though the world around him seemed to have frozen. Luca tried to bring his blade up but found he couldn't move. This was wrong. He had rammed his darksword down the creature's gullet after shaking off the domination, and then ran like hells back home. The clawed hand around his throat and the two around his middle spoke a different story. His vision began to dim.

“Luca! Fight it!" A voice called from nearby, a sweet and welcome sound in the chaos. Emilie appeared from the surroundings, the now-familiar skin-over-bones specter clad in rags a welcome sight. Orbs of shadow circled her form as pitch black eyes focused on the Phaerimm. She shouted in Draconic, the orbs forming into five pointed stars as she splayed her hands out in front of her. The shadow-laced stars flew toward the phaerimm, embedding deep into the flesh along it's thorny length. The phaerimm recoiled in surprise and pain, and was faced immediately with another threat. A long, black serpent emerged from the soil, sinuous and hypnotic. As the phaerimm recoiled from the bard's assault, the serpent struck, sinking fangs deep into the worm's thorny hide while simultaneously binding and constricting it.

The shadow seemed momentarily stunned;

“How did you get them here?”

“All things are connected in the void. You are not the only one that can play havok with time and memory, Shadow. Where are -your- friends?

To this the shadow had no response, and with an effort of will, Luca exerted control over the shadow plaguing him, compressing him, expelling him from his mind and body. Without any finesse or delicacy, the wad of shadow was stuffed into the bound phaerimm's maw of razor teeth, and Luca casually began the long walk home. He whispered quietly to himself;

“Thank you, girls...”

PostPosted: Mon, Dec 23 2013, 4:02 AM 

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Joined: 13 Jul 2010
Location: British Columbia

High atop the Tower of the Forsaken, a painfully bent figure leaned on an even more crooked staff, peering down at the internal struggle which took place in the Court of the Dead and the one, two, then three figures there. The magus remained unmoving, to bear silent witness to the event, neither descending from the tower to render his aid or moving away to attend his own, many duties.

PostPosted: Mon, Dec 23 2013, 5:46 AM 


Joined: 12 Jul 2010

The memories came faster now, the Shadow growing desperate. It had grown powerful from the knowledge it had absorbed , and canny from nearly a year of sparring with its host, but that margin of advantage was rapidly diminishing as the battle wore on late into the night. Both host an parasite were exhausted, and Luca still lay unmoving under the gnarled tree in the Court of the Dead. The shadows had stilled under Emilie and Iim's influence, leaving the man exposed. Without his illusions and tenebrous material he seemed very thin, and very fragile. His breathing was shallow, and his stormcloud hued eyes, usually so full of intensity and flickering violet light, stared blankly at the women.

The briefing was short and pointed, as many affairs in the Enclave tended to be, but the young Templar found he was fidgeting from anxiety and nervousness. He wasn't alone, many of the assembled knights seemed to have the jitters, and only the most ancient Shade warriors seemed untroubled. Luca shifted on the uncomfortable stone bench, and tried to make sure he heard every word the attending Commander had to say.

"As you all know, the fools of the Heartlands have mustered an army nearly a hundred company strong in protest of our work in the High Ice. They are gathering in the Cormyr outpost of Tilverton. The main host of our army is hours away, but we've been informed that a Bedine clan has assisted Cormyr's scouts in establishing a small, heavily fortified outpost just beneath our City. They are currently preparing a teleportation circle with the intent to move their entire army -here-. We suspect our main host will arrive in time to engage the forces at Tilverton, but the Most High has ordered additional troops shadow-walked to the battle to ensure a swift victory given this new threat."

The shade commander paused in his pacing, surveying the assembled Templar knights.

"We will crush the army while it remains in Tilverton, before they even have the chance to leave Cormyr's borders. You can expect the Purple Dragons to be there in force, in addition to companies from Shadowdale, Mistdale, and Sembia. Prince Rivalen will be personally arriving with the reinforcements to lead this battle. Prince Yder says you are the finest temple guard he has to offer. Your solemn duty is to ensure that his brother comes back home. We've reason to suspect Cormyr's chief figures will be attending the battle personally as well. Lady Alusair and the Court Wizard Vangerdahast are high priority targets if you get the opportunity, but your priority at all costs is Lord Rivalen's safety."

The commander paused, tilting his head to listen to an unheard voice. When he spoke again, his voice was tense, hurried.

"The skirmishing has already begun. Gather immediately in the courtyard and arm yourselves. The Shades among you have been shown a scrying of the location already. Mortal Templar are to pair with an Ascended, your elders will shadow-walk to to the battle. Go."

A low murmur passed through the assembled Shadovar. It was unusual to be hurried in anything. They began filing out of the temple barracks and assembled in the courtyard, as ordered. The scene that followed was perhaps odd to any observers, several dozen Shadovar warriors arranged in a circle, the ancient shades of the unit paired with younger soldiers, each of them holding one or two nervous men and women by the hand, and all of them trying very hard to look dignified and brave. Luca was no exception, the older warrior he had chosen holding him grimly by the wrist of his maimed hand, his darksword already drawn and poised with his good. The Commander appeared in the center of the circle and raised his fist, a signal. The circle vanished as one, and Luca found himself tumbling through darkness and swirling shadow, tugged along through the planes by a painful grip at his wrist.

The chaos he emerged in was nothing like the regimented, orderly battles they had all trained for. He was dizzy from the trans-location, struggling to gain his bearing. The Shade he traveled with gave him a quick shake and released him. They were in a dirty alley, already choked with several bodies. Sembian mercenaries it appeared, and one Shadovar, still alive, but barely. He was an infantryman, and not someone Luca was familiar with. His chest was peppered with Sembian crossbow bolts, and he was gasping for air. None of the Templar acknowledged him as they took defensive positions in the alley. They were down about half their numbers.

"Where are the rest?"

The Shade spoke, his voice simultaneously sibilant and gruff. Luca finally recognized him, an older creature that went by Lieutenant Tivadar.

"The alley was too small. The others must have been separated in the fringe and landed elsewhere."

"Where's the Prince?"

"Good question. The old man likes to wander and do his own thing. The rank and file just have to wing it and keep up. Look alive!"

A group of Purple Dragons had all but stumbled into the alley. They were not in ranks and seemed to be fleeing. They hadn't expected the alley to be occupied either, and the Shadovar dispatched them quickly, the more powerful among them simply blasting them with shadowbolts, with the rest peppered the remainder with obsidian throwing knives.

"Let's move, ladies. The Prince needs his retinue."

Tivadar wasted no time in herding the group through the alley and out into one of Tilverton's many thoroughfares. A pitched running battle was taking place, with Cormyrean Purple Dragons and gaudy Sembian sellswords fighting back to back against elusive Shadovar warriors. The Netherese were bouncing from shadow to shadow and ducking in and out of the Fringe between the planes in order to harry the defenders. Magic Missiles, crossbow bolts and rays of shadow were lancing from chaotic directions, forcing both sides to fight frantically to avoid the worst of the fire. The Tiverton defenders were trying to retreat down the thoroughfare, away from the center of the town, but couldn't simply break ranks and run, for fear of a shadow warrior appearing behind them and planting a knife in their back.

"Something has them spooked. I'm guessing if we follow where they came from, we'll find our missing royalty. The other boys seem to have these dogs well collared."

Luca could only nod, and the lieutenant signaled an advance. The Templar unit flowed down the road like dark water, clinging to walls and shadows, and crashed solidly into the cluster of defenders. The fighting was brief and bloody, but the Shadovar didn't stay to battle it out, simply flowing around the obstacle like a stone in a river, and continued towards the heart of the town. Luca immediately recognized that their number had diminished slightly, but by the ringing steel and screams behind him, he knew the other Shadovar unit was methodically extracting their vengeance. The Templar turned a corner in the road and froze in place as they were bathed in golden radiance, all of them covering their eyes reflexively. A hundred meters up, an artificial sun floated above the town, magical runes dancing and flowing over its surface. Squinting through his fingers, Luca notices several black skeletons lying in the road, gently smoking. The runes dancing over the orb cast their own hypnotic shadows in the golden light. Several of these shadows passed over the Shadovar, and then paused. The shadows seemed to focus, drawing a Rune of Power on the unfortunate mens' chest. Each one of them wailed in agony and tried to disappear into darkness, but the light wasn't the threat. Drawn in shadow itself, there was no way to escape the rune, and the victims burst into golden flame, leaving only smouldering skeletons behind.

The lieutenant grabbed a soldier by the collar in each hand, and dragged them around the corner. Luca saw there were only a handful of them left remaining. Tivadar, another Shade, and perhaps half a dozen junior Templar.

"The Cormyreans made that atrocity?"

One of the young templar spoke up.

Tivadar replied;

"Vangerdahast, I'm assuming. It explains why the battle's turned into a mess. They can control a lot of ground with that thing. Doesn't explain why they were running, though. I promise you though, that orb has the Prince's full attention. We'll have to go around, but it narrows where to look."

The lieutenant led them around another back alley, keeping them in the shadowed side of the buildings to avoid the glare of the sun artifact. They encountered little resistance along the way, a few lone defenders more intent on getting out of town than staying to fight. They were cut down without remorse. Luca earned an approving nod from Tivadar when his quick reflexes dispatched two Purple Dragons that had attempted to leap from a storefront to surprise the passing Shadovar, but the group ran in grim silence. They rounded another corner and found their Prince. The High Priest had taken shelter in a patioed outdoor restaurant, black plate armor gleaming like wet ink, defiant against the golden glare. The Prince's yellow eyes glared malevolently from the slits in a great horned helm, and his rich Netherese chanting reverberated off the plaza's stone walls. The other half of the missing Templar detachment milled anxiously behind him, in the shadows of the restaurant, their blades and bows at the ready.

"There's the rest of the men. Looks like -we- were the ones to get separated."

Rivalen continued his spell-casting, grand gestures of his arms conjuring great swathes of shadowstuff from the very earth. The tenebrous smoke was advancing against the golden light, pushing it back inch by inch, though was being burned off into piles of strange dusty ash. Alarmingly, space simply seemed to cease to be wherever the ash settled. Defenders and Shadovar alike were trying to escape the advancing tide, killing each other and themselves in a mad rush to escape. Those too slow or crippled to escape found their feet dissolved by the ash, followed by the rest of them when they tumbled down. The buildings of the plaza seemed to be suffering the same fate. Slowly, silently, they tipped into the disintegrating ash and ceased to be. Only Rivalen's patio seemed an island spared from the distruction. Luca knew the whole town would be gone within the hour.

"And now we know where everyone is trying to go in a hurry. Gather close. I'll teleport everyone over to the Prince..."

Tivadar was interrupted by a commotion at the restaurant. An elf in mithril mail had materialized over the patio, tearing a large hole through the canvas awning as he fell. Golden light spilled into the restaurant, searing half the Shadovar to the bone and interrupting Rivalen's casting. The Prince turned to deal with the brazen intruder and the other Templar moved to attack, but the elf seemed intent on cutting as much canvass as possible, until no cover remained. Several more Templar burst into flames, and the rest dived under tables and out windows in a mad dash for cover. Luca later learned that only a few of them ever made it back home. It seemed that Rivalen had subdued the unknown elf by then, but another figure materialized in the fray behind the Prince. An older, portly man, with a bushy beard and the obvious robes of the Magi.

"Vangerdahast. We'll have a prize after all. Kill him!"

Tivadar moved to advance into the plaza, but it was Luca's turn to catch the Shade by the arm, gesturing to the spreading ash.

"We're cut off. Look, the Prince's spell is still going."

It was true, there was no safe path to the restaurant remaining, and already the buildings along the road they stood on were toppling with eerie silence into the misty void. Cormyr's Court Wizard had unleashed several evocations into the Prince's back, reducing him to a smouldering black ribcage, with a mote of purple light shining where his heart should be. Unlike the other dead shadovar however, this skeleton didn't lay still. The disembodied ribcage seemed to pull itself aloft, hovering where it should have, had the rest of the Prince been present. The old wizard poured lightning and fire into the purple glow, but it only seemed to make the creature pause. Invisible claws tore Vangerdahast apart and the old wizard crumpled, the crimson arcs of blood visible even to the Templar watching helplessly from across the growing chasm. The ribcage swiveled to deal with the elf.

"You're right, Luca. Nothing more to be done. Lord Rivalen will have to fend for himself."

The Shade took a measured step away from encroaching death-ash.

"We'll have to fight our way out a safe distance away from this stuff so I can prepare a teleport out."

The few remaining Templar turned as one and began a controlled retreat, searching for an empty space where the Lieutenant could perform his spell. Along the way they were joined by a few more Shadovar stragglers from other units, those without the magical aptitude to get out on their or had been separated in the battle, and had taken to the shadow to wait for an opportunity. They found another small merchant plaza, and Lieutenant Tivadar wasted no time in preparing the teleportation circle. They weren't the only ones that had chosen the small plaza to catch their breath, however, and Purple Dragon archers appeared from the rooftops and storefronts, neatly encircling the cluster of haggard Shadovar. Not quarter was asked and none given, with several unlucky Shadovar falling to the first volley, arrows finding gaps in armor or penetrating tired abjurations.

They returned fire doggedly, shadowbolts lancing out to vaporize a few slow Cormryeans, and throwing knives clattered against cobbles and walls as the veteran archers returned to cover. The casualties were about even, but the Chondathans knew their town and had the better positions, and the better longbows. Luca strung the shortbow he carried over one shoulder and positioned himself in front of the lieutenant to physically shield him, several others taking the cue and moving to shield his flanks. The archers emerged from cover as one to pepper the huddled Netherese again as the Shade desperately wove through the teleportation spell. Arrows claimed more Shadovar lives, and several shafts intended for the spell caster lodged into Luca instead, the elven-crafted arrows painfully grazing his ribs. The wounds were serious but non-lethal, and the ragged group was able to claim a few more Cormyreans with the return volley as the spell crackled and went off. The Shadovar around him disappeared and Luca waited for the falling sensation that accompanied teleportation.

It never came, and the young knight's blood ran cold. He had been left behind. One of the buildings of the plaza collapsed from the advancing fog, and the archers appeared one last time to pepper the lone unfortunate Shadovar before retreating from the devastation. Luca had dropped prone to avoid the worse of the volley, but a few more arrows found homes in his shoulders and the back of his legs, his thin leathers doing little to slow the mithril arrowheads. He looked around in a pained daze, overcome with a feeling of wrongness about it all. He should be back in Thultanthar now, complaining loudly at a priestess trying to remove the arrows. He picked himself up and half ran, half staggered blindly down another alley, trying to clear his head and regain control of the dream. He skid to a stop as a building at the end of the alley collapsed into an advancing void chasm. He turned to run back the way he came, but he found the alley choked with bodies.

Standing bodies. Each one of them familiar. Each one of them walking slowly towards him, oblivious to whatever wounds caused their demise. Every defender of Tilverton he had slain in the battle had returned to block the alley. The Evereskan wood elves he had inadvertently caused the deaths of by luring a phaerimm to their hiding place. The other Shadovar he couldn't defend in the heat of a fight. Each face was crystal clear, forever burned in his memory. Their eyes were all wrong, though, each of them stormy obsidian. All of them had his own eyes. A headless half-orc pushed to the front of the shambling crowd, a disembodied voice filtering through the now still air.

“Sensitive, for a Sharran. Every face and every wound, neatly cataloged in your mind, ripe for me to bring back to life. You're your own worst enemy, Luca. I don't think you need my help to find oblivion and insanity. I'll gladly oblige, regardless.”

The crowd of unliving memories pressed in, ripping and tearing at Luca's flesh. The alley was too cramped, the press of bodies too thick to use his blade. He bit and clawed like a feral animal, but they seemed ignorant of the wounds. A scream of rage and agony echoed through the alley as the horde tore off limbs, pieces of flesh, pressing him back. With nowhere else to go, he let himself fall backward, dropping into the spreading void that was consuming the town. Darkness and the sensation of falling washed over him.

PostPosted: Mon, Dec 23 2013, 23:16 PM 


Joined: 12 Jul 2010

The falling continued without end, though his vision eventually cleared, and he was all but blinded by amazingly clear blue sky and a hot desert sun. As his eyes adjusted he found he was home in the Enclave, but something was very wrong. The shadowshell that protected their eyes from the desert sun was gone, and he was still falling. The cobbles of the street below seemed permanently out of reach, the wind rushing in his ears. Some of those cobbles began to tear free of the street and float away. An older villa in poor repair along the street simply disintegrated, and Luca could see the Shadovar family inside floating bizarrely amid the debris, struggling to hold onto something. Realization and recognition sunk in, heavy and terrifying. The whole city was falling.

The mythallar's magic had failed, and the last bastion of the Netherese people was falling to their death. A dire echo of the stories they had all been told as children. Something caught his eye and from his vantage point above street level he could see flashes and flickers near the center of the City. He squinted, focused. A fierce spell battle was raging at the royal palace, a swarm of mages and clerics battling for their very life, their magic allowing them to maneuver in the lack of gravity where the rest of the people could only flail and scream in helpless terror. The battle, even at a distance, was awesome in the most literal sense. Silver fire and shadow woven spells mightier than anything the Realms had seen before were crisscrossing the sky, and the crack and boom of electricity and fire could be heard even above the rushing wind.

Alustriel, Laeral, and Storm Silverhand, along with Dove Falconhand and Khelben Blackstaff were arrayed against the entire royal family of Shade, each of them a mighty shadow adept perched atop a floating black disk. Lord Telamont appeared in the fray, levitating by sheer force of will, and rallied his sons against the intruders. The Chosen of Mystra were forced back by a flurry of wicked shadow magic, and Telamont led the ten Princes deep into the shadows of the royal palace. The Chosen pursued them. Moments later the Enclave shuddered and slowed its descent. Luca crashed heavily into the cobbles as they rushed up to meet him, rolling hard. He leapt to his feet, adrenaline coursing through his veins, oblivious to the dislocated shoulder. He drew his blade defiantly and made to rush to the palace to help, but then the screams began. He stopped in his tracks and swore. Shadovar everywhere lie wounded and dying, some crushed under collapsed buildings, or simply broken from the sudden stop. What difference could he really make against the Chosen of Mystra? He was a gnat compared to the might of the Princes. If they couldn't save their people, one Templar wouldn't tip the balance.

He shook his head and rushed to the nearest collapsed building, following the sound of shrill screams, heaving aside rubble with his good arm. His heart caught in his throat as he pulled a little shadovar girl from the debris, her leg broken at an obscene angle. The City lurched under them again, tilting at a nauseating angle, and it was all Luca could do to scoop up the broken girl into his arm before they were falling again. He twisted in the air to shelter the child from the worst of the flying debris, covering her eyes with a hand, he couldn't remember why he did. He remembered his thoughts at the time with crystal clarity.

"Monsters. They are killing children. We're just trying to survive..."

The falling felt like an eternity, but it was a short fall compared to the first. The City leveled itself underneath them, and then the cobbles rushed up a second time. Luca twisted again, putting himself between the girl and the stones. They landed hard, a sharp pain shooting through Luca's back. He hadn't been able to roll to absorb the fall, not with the girl clinging to him. His vision swam, and he heard the little creature's quiet sobs. His thoughts were dim.

"At least she's still breathing..."

He turned his head, and saw a figure approaching down the street. Wreathed in shadow, and wearing the Templar uniform. He bore a darksword in his hand, and his face was cowled. Luca recognized his own eyes, though. His shadow's intent was obvious this time. No words, no tricks, just a naked blade. He tried to force himself to his feet, but bone ground against bone somewhere in his back and the blinding pain left his breathless. The little girl seemed oblivious to the danger, a dead weight fastened to his sword arm. The shadow drew closer.

"Luca. Luca. Wake up."

The dream froze and his head swam. The shadow was fixed in place.

"Luca. Focus."

The color and features drained out of the dream, and he slowly made out a stony landscape, dotted with petrified trees. There were no colors. He recognized three friendly faces, looking concerned.

"Another memory? Is he able to make them from scratch now? I don't know this place."

"It is no memory, Luca. Focus."

The dragonkin, Iim'mur'ss.

"I was falling"

"You were Dreaming."

The bard, Emilie.

"We have caught you."

The teacher, Brandrick.

"He's going to have to fight this thing, Drennus."

"He is in no condition to fight."

"We're bringing you back out."

"It's so strong. It's seen everything. Learned everything I know."

"He's going to have to be in the condition to fight. If he grows any weaker, it will overtake him."

"Yes, that is why we have come. Come with us."

A shadowy arm reached down to help him up. Luca took the hand.

PostPosted: Tue, Dec 24 2013, 8:48 AM 

User avatar


Joined: 17 Jun 2011
Location: Sweden

The court of the dead is no home to the living and as such their numbers are easily counted on one hand. The number of skeletal workers in the court are however vast in numbers, reaching over one hundred. Tirelessly doing construction work their impassive skulls express no concern for the Castellan or those around him.

However out of the many skulls but still as emotionless as the stones they pick at one wearing a hood turns and gazes over. Not a disciple of the shadows and no master of hiding the sheer number of skeletons around the Keeper creates a busy area just as a marketplace during morning. It offers some camoflage to his person and while the mask he wears is a blank slate of emotion, what goes on beneath is what matters.

With narrow eyes studying them he remembers Luca's words and whispers them to himself
-But I do ask for patience in the coming days...


Life should be prolonged only when it serves the greater cause of the death of the world.

PostPosted: Mon, Oct 06 2014, 21:18 PM 


Joined: 12 Jul 2010

Many months later...

He frowned as he approached the gathered mass. Western Militia and rag-tag adventurers and criminals complimented the Living Guard. They milled anxiously, trading crude jests. The lines were ragged. They seemed over-confident, assured of their victory. He found Gerald in the crowd and met his gaze, though he held his peace. Last minute preparations were carried out, checking numbers with the other regiment. The mercenaries grew more restless, and the High Arcanist of Tarkuul began repeating Lord Avadon's speech to the Amnish for the benefit of the others, watching through the eyes of his unliving familiar. Luca turned his attention inward. He was not accustomed to war carried out in this fashion. It set him on edge, and made him uncomfortable. He longed for the statuesque ranks of utterly silent Shadovar. Eyes closed, mind stilled, he sought a measure of inner peace, trusting in his preparations and the High Captain's ability. He was only distantly aware of the anxious shuffle of the militia at his side as the shadows deepened around him.

A quiet voice, long forgotten, interrupted his peace.

“This is not a worthy battle. They are not true warriors. Let them perish.”

There was little time to contemplate the interruption. Wyverns, shrouded in illusion, tore through the air above and disappeared quickly over the horizon. A breath later, and fire and smoke illuminated the clouds of the overcast sky. The High Captain's voice rang out.

"That is the signal. Advance! Charge!”

The ragged yell of a thousand discordant voices followed, and the lines surged forward. Spells of Force and Lightning lit up the gloomy sky as the Cowled Wizards returned the attack against the circling wyverns. The Living Guard and Dirk's cut-throats were like blood-thirsty fiends, falling on the disoriented enemy in a disorganized melee like savage dogs. The Amnish were routed easily, pushed back into the lines of fire where men died, burning and screaming. The Westerners reveled in the blood and gore. Luca was disturbed by the display, and remained in the shadows, threading his way through the enemy hordes. Emerging from the chaos long enough to put down a mage or cleric, each grim task accomplished with clinical precision and devoid of emotion, fading back into darkness after each slain spellcaster. A low, distant moan filled the air as a legion of shambling corpses emerged form the sea to tear into the Camp's flank, too distant to be seen by the fighters, though the carnage was heard.

“Both sides are animals. There is no honor here.”

Another Amnish spellcaster had a saber thrust through his mouth, his head torn open like a melon as the darksword was ripped out when the templar turned to engage another foe, rage and emotion finally seeping into his movements. He hissed a mental reply to the persistent voice.

“They will learn otherwise, or be consumed by history like the rest”

An arrow snicked past the Shade's ear, and another lodged deeply in the seam between pauldron and shoulder. Black blood sluggishly oozed from the wound, and Luca distantly noted the injury. In an instant, he found the archer from across the field, stepping into a shadow, and emerging from his opponent's own. A kick to the back of a knee sent the archer to the ground, and the darksword was thrust between his shoulderblades. The man fell forward, and a heavy boot trod him into the mud as the saber was wrenched free once more. He turned to find another opponent and was surprised to find the battlefield still. He noted Dame Alanna and Lord Avadon on the other side of the field, shouting that something was amiss.

The Western forces had penetrated too aggressively and inadvertently crossed paths with the Delta regiment. The resistance that they met had been far too light, and now the West Gate was unguarded. Luca cursed to himself quietly. He had warned them against this folly in the briefings, but it was too late to say anything. The High Captain called the retreat, and the allies of West turned and began a full run back to the gates of the City. Luca distantly noted that none of the spells they decided on to assist retreat were utilized. He ran faster. Small packs of Maztican savages emerged from the woods, harrying the men as they sought to return to their posts. They were defeated with ease, but each skirmish cost time. The force became spread. The Castellan made it back to the City gates, and noticed Centurion Asya directing stragglers into position.

A low howl began to build over the din of battle. The cries of thousands of berserker warriors, less that a league off, rallying from the enemy encampment. The screams became clearer with alarming speed, and a sea of mostly-naked bodies crested the hill, their numbers uncountable. Someone called his name and tossed him a magic bag. Corrin Aldain, he noted. The bag contained equipment for ground traps. Working quickly, sections of underbrush were tripwired with magical detonations, but the gesture was a futile one as the wave of flesh crashed into the narrow canyon before the city bridge, the explosions dampened by the sheer mass of attackers.

Officers and adventurers fell to the press of blades and the blanket of falling arrows, enveloped and caught away from the fortifications. Luca and the remaining defenders locked shields on the bridge against impossible odds, holding the pass with a whirl of blades and death. The Shadovar noted the Magisterium behind him, Lucius and Ahriman raining necrotic death on the savages as the Living Guard and militia pressed past them to the safety of the Iron Gates. The last heroes at Luca's sides fell and were trampled.

“How noble your sacrifice will be, Shade.”

The sarcasm was dripping.

“That will not happen. YOU will not allow that to happen.”

Rather than rejecting the voice, he drew the presence into himself, dominating it, merging with it. The bridge and surrounds darkened at the fell powers being brought into play. Eldritch flames of sickly violet began creeping from the stones and mortar of the bridge. The press of savages faltered, confused. They began to crumble and die, their very life energy leeched out by the unnatural shadows swirling around them. For every Maztican slain by whirling blade or shadow, three more took their place, trampling and shoving their own dying brethren over the bridge to reach the stubborn defender. Axes and arrows found homes in the Templar's armor and flesh, forcing the man back even as he rebuilt his faltering body from the shadows themselves. A voice from behind snapped him from his battle-revelry.

“Fall -back-, Castellan!”

It was not his Shadow this time, but rather the hollow, unnerving voice of the Living City's High Arcanist. The gates had been nearly shut, and no defenders remained alive outside, save for two grim Law Knights and Lucius himself holding the gates open. Wrenching his saber free from the entrails of a dying barbarian, Luca turned and ran, the Law Knights covering his retreat. The gates closed with a metallic bang, and the noise of a thousand warriors trying to tear it from its hinges filled the Square. Luca noted only one of the brave Law Knights made it inside with him.

Wrenching an arrow from his armor, the rending shadows dissipated as he grimly surveyed what was left of the defenders. The Living guard and Militia milled anxiously. The Magisterium and a handful of adventurers was all that was left of the elite. A runner brought dire news from East. The Delta regiment had been pushed back, and the majority of the Amnish horde was besieging the Northern Gates. There were reports of many dead, and legions of summoned demon in the City streets.

“You are in command now, Castellan.”

Luca nodded slowly.

“Can you create a teleportation circle to the Living City?”

“I can, yes.”

“Do so. Cordor may be lost, but we can take as much as West possible home with. This was not entirely unanticipated, gauging from Kohlingen's deployments.”

“What of the fallen?”

“I will retrieve their bodies myself.”

With that, Luca began ushering the defenders to gather to the palemaster, who had begun his spell preparations. He was interrupted by a new voice from within his head.

"The Living City and Sentinels are yours, Castellan.”

Luca frowned, considering. He has uncertain what difference could be made at this point, without revealing the true strength of the Living City, or jeopardizing the bulk of its forces. Another voice came. The Shadow was quiet this time, some of its strength spent.

“It is a test, to see if you will use the power selfishly. Take them home, where defeat will not be your fault.”

“The City knows better than to play those games.”

The templar shook his head and a strange clarity came over him. A distant awareness in his mind of the positions of the troops behind him, the press of crazed bodies outside the gates. He knew by heart the position of every Sentinel and Annihilator in the City, and -knew- they were there. He sensed the cooling bodies of friend and foe alike, trampled by the press of savages. He made his Will known. Emerging from empty air, Annihilators, hulking brutes of adamantine and dead flesh, materialized behind the shuddering, failing Iron Gates. Golems of smooth Onyx accompanied them, as did strange planar knights and a host of Void Elementals.

The fallen heroes were plucked through space itself from beneath the feet of the savages and placed in a pile in the square. Sentinels were Called from the City, emerging from alleys and doorways to form perfect ranks behind the Militia. The surviving elite muttered amongst themselves.

“Annihilators? Excellent.”

”That sounds ominious...

The Shadovar raised his voice to the crowd.

“Belay that retreat. Raise the fallen, prepare your wards and form ranks. The golems and elementals will advance first, and the Sentinels will secure the Gates. Hold steady and WAIT for my signal!”

Adventurers and officers were already being raised and healed. The orders were repeated several times, the experienced warriors shaking off the pain and readying their weapons and spells. Grim determination had fallen over the group, and the previous anarchy was greatly muted. Every uneasy shift or quip was reprimanded by the Shadovar, and the din from the gates grew ever louder. The defenders did not have much time to muster before the gates wailed with the horrible sound of fatigued metal, and were torn asunder by raw press of angry flesh. Their reaction time impossibly fast, the golems simply advanced through the sundered gates and press of savages, their mass and fists turning the warriors into little more than broken paste. The anxious defenders made to join the attack, before the Castellan shouted them down.

”HOLD, dammit. Wait for my -signal-”

“Do you remember the last stand of the Annihilator, Luca?”

”I am counting on it, Lucius.”

The ability of the golems to clear space was impressive, but the savages pressed back just as hard, seeing their brothers crushed underfoot. One Annihilator finally toppled, and something deep within its core stopped spinning and clicked. A heartbeat later, and an explosion of incredible force ripped over the bridge. The other Constructs staggered from the shockwave, but many fleshy Mazticans were turned into a fine mist, others scattered far and wide, in parts or in whole. Gasps and cheers peppered through the defending lines still safely inside the city. Luca did not join them, however, concentrating on the next step.

Another willed command, and the vast, necromantic power of the Living City spread through the battlefield in a wave. Hundreds of corpses, some whole, some in parts, stirred ominously. Another pulse of dark power swept out from the heart of Onyxtarashmus, and the stirring, writhing corpses were Bound. They stood, ungainly, and began clawing at their former comrades, whom turned to face the new horrors. Luca's expression broke into a grim, determined smile.

“You are enjoying this too much, I think.”

”It must be done.”

The Templar raised his voice.

”That is our signal. Fall in on me. Advance! -Orderly!-”

The 'heroes' of West advanced from the sundered gates as one, jogging to meet the confounded enemy. The Sentinels covered their rear and held the gap, moving in rigid, eerie lockstep. The elite of the West and Living City trailed behind the golems spearheading the assault, slaughtering mazticans with grim ruthlessness. Every slain savage was Reborn as a shambling horror, and soon the tide turned. The overcast sky finally opened up, raining pouring down to turn the battlefield into a swamp of blood, entrails and mud. He was aware of Dame Alanna behind him then, begging for help to reinforce the Northern gates. Luca's reply was chilly, and distracted by battle.

”We have the advantage here. If Cordor falls, we will have at least broken the spine of the enemy for good.”

Alanna turned and ran back to her side of the battle as quickly as her legs could take her, visibly upset. A quiet voice whispered...

“Drive the knife home.”

”So be it.”

The two voices became one once more, and the shadows surrounding the Templar became a ravaging aura of desolation. The undead gathered in Luca's wake, empowered and healed by the planar energy flowing from the twisting shadows, lingering to finish off any wounded the Shadovar's darksword did not kill outright. The Amnish and mercenary forces turned tail in the face of the legion, many fleeing to accept Lord Avadon's earlier offer. The savages were driven ruthlessly to the edge of the sea itself before being flung off the cliffs. The morale of the 'heroes' returned, and dismembering the remaining, struggling savages turned from war to sport. His shadows quelled themselves, finally exhausted.

“They have potential. -We- have potential.”

”I am needed here. Nothing more.”

Gerald was taken aside, and quiet orders given. One of the adventurers, a particularly out-spoken tag-along, was strung up by the mob and made example of for her disruption during a time of war. Luca turned away as she was dealt with, and watched as the Living Guard began ransacking what was left of the Amnish camp. When it was apparent the situation was well in hand by his officers, his portal wand was activated, and the undead, Sentinels and golems were returned to the Living City for 'maintenance'. The Castellan grimly supervised this work, until a particularly grimy and tattered bardess bounced through the city gates. He smiled then, and thought of work vanished.

The kraken feasted well on desperately swimming savages that night.

PostPosted: Wed, Jul 15 2015, 21:12 PM 


Joined: 12 Jul 2010

The alcohol made sleep come easy, but it was not restful. Dreams of feminine forms, each of them unique, but always pale and raven-haired, and each beautiful in their own imposing way. Each a different aspect of his past. His mother, the grim and heavily robed evoker. His priestess, with her gossamer silks and a sultry answer to every question. The first lover he had taken at the military academy, with her blades and leathers, and sly smiles. Their voices were not kind.

“You left us.”

“You couldn't save us.”

“You didn't even -try- to find us.”

“You chose -them-.”


Blades and eldritch lightning cut through the dream, and the fallen Templar roused with a start, clutching at his bare chest, damp with sweat. His breathing was rough, and his eyes betrayed him, lingering in the fading dream. Stone walls and undead Sentinels closed around him, sparking a second wave of panic before his mind caught up with reality. He was on someone's ship, and safe in a bed.

“I did try...”

Beside him was yet another pale, raven-haired beauty, reclining delicately on her pillows like a porcelain doll. Make-up still flawless, her hands folded neatly on her stomach, long eyelashes resting against painted cheeks. Her sleep was eerie, death-like, more meditative than biological, and she hadn't stirred when he did. The Templar felt another surge of panic.

“She's dead! Did you kill her, like all the others?”

He shook his head to clear away the absurd thought, scowling in annoyance at his own mind. They both slept in death-like trances, since the day they had become more shadow than flesh. This was nothing new. Though his heart pounded in his chest, he found a fond smile for the woman stealing onto his features. She made no concessions for comfort in her rest, still in her burgundy dress, her corset not even loosened. Her breathing was faint, shallow, more autonomic than functional. She was arranged and dressed prim and proper, even alone in intimate quarters.

“Or she simply doesn't trust you to be a gentleman...”

Another pain in his chest caused him to flinch, pressing his palm harder against his heart, the black organ trying to hammer its way out of his ribcage. The feelings of hurt, and doubt, and the fears of unrequited love struck like a very real physical pain. The daggers of emotion were an adversary he had never had to face the full might of until recently, and he rose from the bed in pique and frustration.

“Hold -still-. You aren't even real!”

His fingernails dug deep into the flesh of his chest, the pounding heart heedless to the admonishment. Nails elongated into inky claws, and a strip of flesh was torn away. There was no blood, the skin evaporating into charcoal smoke. From the wound, the illusion of normalcy unraveled, the rest of his body dissolving into smoke and shadows. A tenebrous form moved to a window, a vaguely humanoid shade searching the night sky for the solace of moonlight, and finding only stars and darkness. Still, there was no breath, no pounding heart to remind him of his frailty. Claws trailing darkness reached up to grasp a pendant, a single tear-shaped piece of moonstone hanging from a leather thong, resting against the flat plane of the Shade's chest. The glowing gem sent ripples of muted light refracting through the transparent creature's form, but its comfort was dull and distant. He turned away from the window, and moved to seek comfort from the young woman reclining in repose.

“Don't. Don't disturb her. She hates seeing ourselves like this. She will hate you for your weakness. And you will deserve it.”

His approach faltered, and the nebulous form vanished up the stairs instead, silent as the grave. He prowled the living quarters, the remains of their earlier drinking still scattered about.

“You are a fool. People feared you once. You stood among Princes and Archmages. You led armies. Slew hundreds, where lesser men faltered and died. You could have blanketed the realms in shadow and had all you desired.”

His pacing stilled, and clawed hands pressed themselves against a formless face.

“Now they call you 'Prince of Darkness' as a joke. You are only good for frightening students. You gave it up for what? A woman that only loves you when all the other choices are exhausted? An aging mutant? You are nothing more than a simpering dog that wants a home. You will never regain what you've lost, and they will never have been worth it.”

The Shade found a wall, and slid against it to the ground, rubbing at the violet flames where eyes used to be, as though it would help.

“Selune showed me the other side of the coin. I can build something new.”

“Like the Sanctuary? A grand joke that was. What a stupid faith to have chosen. Even Emilie thinks it's stupid. Tending the sick? Lycanthropes? Redemption? The faith has no teeth. You are wasted on it. You will wither and rot, and grow weak. That pretty new sword will be decoration on a wall. Once a proud Inquisitor, now learning trite cliches about moonlight and hope from a simpleminded werewolf. To think, this woman was bold enough to tell -you- when you can and cannot 'lift your blade'.”

Shadows groped for one of the stale, quarter-full bottles of whiskey that had been left behind.

“Liquor for a shade. You can't poison a shadow. It's a placebo, the intoxication is all in your head. How rich the layers of delusion are! The hallucination of drunkenness to try and drown the voice of your psychosis. Too prideful to go forward and become one of the moon-sheep, and you can't go back. SHE is gone. The only real hallucination is hope. Love is a lie. Only hate endures.”

“Perhaps the old werewolf, writhing on an altar, would be enough to make Her forget about all this, after all. I don't think you could. You are more tame than the animal.”

The whiskey never made it to tenebrous lips, the bottle shattered against a far wall. It was not thrown in rage, but the music of sundered glass drowned out the monologue, and bought a moment of respite. Another voice followed, ascending steps on expensive slippers with supernatural swiftness.

“Luca? Are you alright...?”

He did not know how to answer, but he gathered substance to himself quickly, coalescing the illusion of mortality around him. Black blood ran hot with shame. He could only shake his head, avert his eyes, and reach for her porcelain hand.

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