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Mumblezz Make-A-Wish Foundation (Read 46979 times)
Athcaldonor
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Re: Mumblezz Make-A-Wish Foundation
Reply #165 - Apr 6th, 2007 at 11:22am
 
“So, how are we going to do this?” Ril asked.

“Only one way we can do it,” Morian replied with a shrug.  “We distract him with lesser attacks while we try to get in position, then all hit him with our best at the same time.”

Ril shook her head doubtfully.  “If he has any kind of sense at all, he will have already exposed himself to the hottest flames he can find.  My best should still be able to hurt him a bit, but there’s no way it will be enough to stop him.”

“My blood fangs should be able to do a lot of damage before he becomes immune,” Fostram added.  “But Pride heals very fast.  I’m not sure it will be enough to kill him.”

Morian nodded.  “That’s where I come in.  If I can get my hands on him, I can start to destroy the magic that sustains him.  He’ll become immune before it kills him, but it should weaken him enough that he can’t heal the damage you two inflict.”

“I have a better idea,” said a new voice.  The three friends turned to see Frackus walking toward them, a terrible scowl on his face.  “How about you start thinking of ways to save him rather than kill him?”

Ril tensed, her eyes brightening to red, but Morian held up one hand calmingly as he regarded the wizard.  “How?”

“What do you mean?” Frackus asked curiously.

“How do you propose we save him?”  Morian asked earnestly.  “Contrary to what you may believe, we don’t want to kill him any more than you do, but we genuinely have no other choice.  If you can come up with any possible means to save him, no matter how slim the chances, we’re perfectly willing to try.”

“I take it you don’t think talking will help.”

“No,” Morian said firmly.  “But you’re welcome to try.  It would be good for you to see exactly what we’re up against.”

“And if talking fails, you’re going to kill him?”  Frackus demanded. 

“Can you think of another way?  One way or another, Pride must be stopped as soon as possible or he will become literally invincible.”

“So why don’t we restrain him until we can come up with a way to save him?”

“How?”  Morian asked again, folding his arms over his chest.  “Any kind of magical restraint will work for a fraction of its normal duration, then will never work again.”

“Then we should use more mundane methods,” Frackus reasoned.  “Why can’t we just throw him in a jail cell?”

Morian sighed.  “He’ll punch the bars and break his hand, then punch them again and smash right through.  His immunities don’t just apply to spells.”

“Okay, so maybe I don’t have a plan now, but I will come up with something.”

“By which time he’ll be so powerful the plan will be useless,” Ril declared flatly.  “We can’t wait any longer, so either help us or get out of our way.”

“And what if I try to stop you?”

“You’ll fail,” Morian assured the wizard.  “You know I can stop anything you throw at us, but we really don’t want to fight you, so please don’t do this.”

“Alright,” Frackus relented.  “But I’m coming with you, and I will talk to him before you attack.”

Morian nodded.  “I wish you the best of luck,” he said earnestly.

--------------------------------

“Pitiful,” Pride sneered, glaring contemptuously at the rogue.  “You cannot even scratch me.  What a complete waste of my time.”

“Spare me please,” begged the frightened gnome, slowly backing away.

Pride curled his lip scornfully.  “I said you weren’t worth the effort, but if you waste any more of my time with your meaningless prattle, I’ll just have to silence you for good.”

Squeaking with fear, the gnome dashed from the Arena as Pride laughed cruelly. 

“That wasn’t very nice of you, Morhion,” a new voice said coolly.  Pride whirled around to face the stern figure of Frackus Everburning. 

“Well, well, if it isn’t my former master,” he replied with a twisted smile.  “Would you like to be my apprentice now?”

“Hardly,” Frackus countered.  “I came here to help you.”

“Help me?”  Pride laughed.  “You must be joking.  I no longer need anyone’s help.”

“You are under the influence of a powerful spell that is corrupting your very essence.  If that doesn’t count as needing help, I don’t know what does.”

Pride threw back his head and roared with laughter.  “You’re jealous!”  He crowed, obviously delighted.  “You’re jealous of the power I now command!”

“The power you command?”  Frackus repeated skeptically.  “Or the power that commands you?”

Pride’s laughter cut off abruptly.  “I am the master,” he snarled.  “Nothing commands me!”

“Not even Sin?”

“Sin?”  Pride sneered.  “Sin is a parasite who leeches off my power.  That fool can no more control me than he can stand on his own!”

Frackus inclined his head.  “Perhaps, but you are still a slave to your own sin.”

“A slave to my sin?”  Pride repeated mockingly.  “I don’t serve pride, you fool!  I AM Pride!”

“Then I want Morhion back.”

“Then you have your wish, for Morhion is standing right in front of you,” Pride replied with a smirk.  “Haven’t you figured it out yet?  This is what I have always wanted!  Now, at long last, I am the most powerful being in this world or any other!”

Pride laughed at the shocked expression on Frackus’ face, and continued laughing as two daggers spun through the air and glanced off the back of his neck.  “Well, Frackus, it seems you brought friends,” Pride said conversationally, slowly turning to face his attacker.  “Are you really so pathetic that you dare not even face me alone?”

“Actually, he’s trying to save you,” Morian said calmly, another dagger cocked and ready to throw.  “We’re just here to kill you.”

“We?” Pride repeated, glancing around.  He caught sight of Fostram almost immediately, but dismissed the boy out of hand as his gaze found and lingered on Ril, intrigued by her ghostly appearance.  “What have we here?”  He mused, not even noticing as Fostram flicked his left wrist, transforming his fingertips into crimson claws.  Without a moment’s hesitation, the boy plunged two claws into his right wrist, opening two neat holes which bled profusely.

“Shards of Blood!”  Fostram cried, baring his injured wrist.  Two long, thin needles of frozen blood shot from the wounds, streaking toward Pride with incredible speed.  Pride hissed in pain as they struck him in the back, not penetrating very far, but enough that they remained where they stuck.  Pride turned to face this unexpected threat just as Ril made a sweeping gesture with her hand, causing the ground to lurch violently beneath his feet.  Caught off balance, he stumbled and fell to one knee as Ril made a sharp gesture.  In response, a huge stone spear burst forth from the earth and slammed into Pride from behind, sending him sprawling to the ground but apparently doing little real harm.  Ril’s pink eyes narrowed in concentration as she thrust both hands skyward and an enormous slab of rock erupted from the ground.  Snarling with fury, Pride was just pulling himself back to his feet when the huge stone toppled over, seeking to crush him beneath its immeasurable weight.

Fostram ignored it all.  Even as the blood needles streaked toward their target, he set one claw to his magically healed wrist and opened a new wound.  Grimacing in agony, the boy slowly dragged the claw through his own flesh, opening a long, deep gash all the way up his forearm.  Blood gushed from the awful wound, staining his skin and splashing on the ground.  With a gasp of pain, he let his arm fall to his side, cupping his hand to catch the flowing blood.  Gritting his teeth, the boy twisted his body into a curious position, almost as if he were winding himself up.

With a resounding crack, the huge rock shattered into dozens of smaller stones.  Standing tall and apparently unharmed, Pride sneered disdainfully as he pulled the frozen shards from his back and cast them aside.  “You’ll really have to do better than that if you want to hurt me.”
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Re: Mumblezz Make-A-Wish Foundation
Reply #166 - Apr 6th, 2007 at 11:22am
 
“Crimson Lightning!”  Fostram shrieked, rotating his body and shoulder so his injured arm cracked like a whip.  The collected blood hurtled from his cupped hand as the awful wound on his arm magically vanished.  Pride turned at the unexpected shout, a puzzled expression crossing his face as the flying blood crackled through the air, shining with an intense, ruby light. 

“What…” he started to say as the blood splattered against his chest, discharging incalculable amounts of electrical energy.  Pride’s body convulsed so violently that his spine snapped with a loud crack.  His teeth clamped together, severing the end of his tongue as he toppled to the ground and lay there, twitching spasmodically.  An unpleasant sizzling sound and the odor of charred flesh filled the air as white smoke rose lazily from his body.

“You killed him,” Frackus gasped, but Morian shook his head grimly. 

“We hurt him more than I expected, but he’ll be fine in no time,” he explained, turning to his friends as he sheathed his daggers.  “Come on, we’ve got to hurry.”

As if in response to his words, Pride’s still body shifted at he twisted one arm around to touch his back.  With a sickening crackle of bone, Pride forced his fractured spine back into place and slowly climbed to his feet.  “That hurt!”  He declared with mingled surprise and pain, lisping slightly where his tongue had not yet healed. 

Ignoring the words, Morian cautiously circled his foe, trying to get behind him without being noticed.  Ril planted her feet firmly, eyes blazing red as her hands burst into flame, but it was Fostram who commanded the full attention of both Frackus and Pride.

Growling low in his throat, the boy dropped to all fours, his body swelling and changing rapidly.  His limbs and torso thickened as sleek, black fur sprouted all over his body, while his nose and mouth lengthened and melted together in a long muzzle filled with almost grotesquely oversized fangs.  In moments the boy had vanished, replaced by a huge beast that appeared much like a cross between a wolf and a panther, but far larger than either. 

“What is he?”  Frackus breathed, gazing at the creature in wide-eyed amazement.

“A druid,” Ril replied unexpectedly, her blazing hands growing brighter and brighter as she intensified the flame.  “Can’t druids in this world turn into animals?”

Frackus recovered quickly from his shock.  “Well, yes, but what kind of creature is that?”

“A fangwulf,” Ril answered with a fierce grin.  “One of the most fearsome predators in our world.”

The beast that Fostram had become let loose a terrible cry somewhere between a roar and a howl before clamping his jaws down hard on his own tongue, piercing it in several places.  The wounds bled profusely, staining his teeth a bright crimson and mixing with his saliva to make reddish foam.  Frackus stared in horrified fascination as the oversized fangs began to shine with their own scarlet light.

“The fangwulf’s bite is a force to be reckoned with on its own,” Ril explained, frowning in concentration as her hands became too bright to look at directly.  “When Fostram enhances it with his blood magic, he can tear through tempered steel like paper and crush diamonds with ease.”

Fostram snarled savagely, bloody froth flying from his gaping jaws as he barreled toward Pride like a force of nature.  Pride quickly recovered his wits and braced himself to meet the charging beast.  Meanwhile, Morian lunged closer and Ril thrust her hands forward, releasing a small orb of dazzling flame.  Fostram did not waver as the radiant sphere streaked by, but Pride’s gaze flickered to it and he found himself momentarily blinded.  And instant before it struck him, Ril clenched her fist and the light dimmed dramatically as the brilliant orb became somehow ghostly, as if the flames were no longer real.  Still dazzled, Pride blinked in confusion as the sphere struck him and passed right through meeting no resistance, but it did not emerge from his back.  An instant later, Pride’s eyes popped unnaturally wide as black smoke poured from his mouth and ears.  Pride threw back his head to scream and a huge jet of flame burst from his mouth as Ril’s magic burned him from the inside. 

Taking advantage of the distraction, Fostram leaped high and clamped his bloody jaws on Pride’s exposed neck, whipping his head from side to side in an effort to tear out the throat of his prey.  At the same time, Morian darted forward and seized Pride’s head in his hands, concentrating hard as he began to destroy the magic that sustained his enemy.

Frackus stared in amazement, certain that nothing could possibly survive such an assault, but then Pride’s body pulsed weirdly and Ril staggered back as the flames shooting from Pride’s mouth vanished with a loud hiss, replaced by a thick cloud of black smoke.  “Get…off!”  Pride somehow managed to growl, tearing away Fostram’s huge bulk and a sizeable chunk of his own throat.  An awful gurgling sound emerged from the gaping wound as Pride turned to confront Morian, but the young man had already darted out of reach.

“He survived it,” Ril gasped, obviously drained by the effort of her spell.  Morian and Fostram hurried over to join her as Pride fell to his knees, badly injured, but already healing rapidly.

“I don’t believe it,” Morian said fearfully.  Beside him, Fostram’s body began to twist and flow as he cast off his transformation.  “We hit him with everything we had and it didn’t work.”

“Now do you see why we said he must be destroyed?”  Ril demanded, turning to Frackus.  “This Pride has obviously been training himself well.  It’s already too late for us to stop him and you would have had us wait longer!”

Frackus tried not to flinch as he met her furious gaze, truly unnerved by the extent of Pride’s power.  Fortunately, he was saved from answering as Fostram finished his transformation and stood up.  “There is one more option,” the boy said grimly, the light of determination in his eyes.  Ril and Morian stared at him in alarm, but he continued before they could speak.  “You both know perfectly well that there’s no other way.  We all knew it might come to this, even if we didn’t want to admit it.”

Morian and Ril started to protest, but the steely look in Fostram’s eye convinced them it would be useless.  Both of them looked away guiltily.  “I’m sorry Fostram,” Ril muttered.  “We tried our best.”

“We all did,” Fostram agreed as he turned and walked slowly toward the recovering Pride.

“Well, I must say I’m mildly impressed,” Pride sneered, massaging his healed throat.  “You three have graduated from maggots to worms in my estimation.”

“Shut up,” Fostram said evenly, flicking both wrists to produce his crimson claws.

“Don’t be such a sore loser,” Pride chastised mockingly.  “Just because you are less than nothing to me doesn’t mean you should be bitter about it.”

“I said shut up,” Fostram repeated calmly.  Slowly, he clenched both fists, forcing the razor sharp claws into the flesh of his palms.  Blood welled up quickly from the deep wounds, staining his hands.

“What’s this?  Do you actually have something left to throw at me?”  Pride asked, smirking ironically.  “How kind of you to make me even stronger.”

“No more games,” Fostram said quietly as he ground his claws back and forth, tearing his palms to shreds and scoring the bones beneath.  Awash with blood, his fists began to glow with a soft ruby light as he pulled them back in preparation to strike.

“What, do you think you’re a monk now?”  Pride laughed.  “You can’t honestly think that will work.”

Fostram smiled.  “Goodbye,” he said simply, rotating his shoulders to bring his arms swinging around from the side.  A look of puzzlement crossed Pride’s face as the boy unclenched his fists to bring his ruined palms crashing together in a tremendous clap scant inches from Pride’s face.

With a blinding flash of crimson and a boom so loud it registered as pain rather than sound, Fostram unleashed his mightiest spell.  Unable to contain the power they had invoked, Fostram’s hands literally exploded, sending gobbets of flesh and shards of bone flying in all directions.  Pride’s eyes did not even have time to widen before they burst like overripe fruit.  His skin turned an angry purple as all the veins and arteries in his body ruptured and all the organs tore themselves apart.  Pride fell to the ground screaming weakly, blood pouring from every orifice as Fostram slumped to his knees, horribly maimed and utterly spent.

“That was unbelievable,” Frackus whispered, completely awed.

“No,” Morian breathed in horror, all the color draining from his face.  “It’s not possible.”

“Didn’t you know he was going to do that?”  Frackus asked, puzzled by the reaction.

Ril shook her head in denial.  “It must have worked.  No one could survive that!”

“He’s alive?” Frackus asked in disbelief, staring at the still figure of Pride.  As if in response to the question, Pride’s left arm twitched, rising from the ground to point at the oblivious Fostram.  Fire streaked from his fingertips, striking the helpless boy in the stomach and burning its way right through his body.

“Fostram!”  Ril shrieked, running to help her friend.  Morian followed close behind, glaring murderously at their badly wounded foe.

Despite his ruined body and obvious pain, Pride smiled broadly.  “You will pay,” he promised, then vanished in a flash of light.
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Re: Mumblezz Make-A-Wish Foundation
Reply #167 - Apr 19th, 2007 at 8:57am
 
/ooc Did someone link this thread on another board?  There have been over 400 views since the last post....


“Fostram, hang on, we’ll get you some help,” Ril said urgently, dropping to her knees beside the fallen druid.  Morian remained standing, his eyes darting suspiciously in all directions, only occasionally lingering on Fostram’s still form.  Frackus approached at a more measured pace, but came to an abrupt halt as he beheld Fostram’s injuries.

Both hands were simply gone, his forearms abruptly terminating in ragged, bloody stumps.  Splintered, jagged bones protruded grotesquely from the mangled flesh, highlighting the awful extent of the injury.  Worse still, Pride’s final spell had left most of the boy’s torso a charred and blackened mess, punctuated by a gaping, fist-sized hole in the middle of his stomach.  No stranger to battle wounds, Frackus did not believe anyone could survive such ghastly trauma, especially when he realized he could actually see right through the hole in Fostram’s body to the ground beneath.    Grim-faced, the wizard looked up to offer his condolences, then froze in shock and disbelief at what he saw.

Far from being dead and vacant, Fostram’s eyes darted wildly back and forth, his features twisted in an expression of intense pain.  Somehow, the boy was not only alive, but at least semi-conscious of his surroundings.  Frackus’ disbelieving gaze flickered back to the awful wounds, noting for the first time how little blood there was.  Pride’s attack was fiery in nature, so it was conceivable those injuries were cauterized, but his arms were another matter entirely; blood continued to seep from the tattered stumps, but it did so very sluggishly.  Startled, Frackus realized the boy was bleeding like a corpse.

“He won’t last long in this state,” Morian said grimly as he knelt beside Ril, apparently satisfied that Pride would not be returning.  “Not after he used so much energy in that last attack.”

“We have to get him out of here,” Ril agreed, turning her head to look at Frackus.  “Can you teleport us?”

“Yes, but it won’t do any good,” Frackus replied sadly.  “His heart isn’t beating.”

“He did that himself,” Ril said dismissively.  “Please, take us to the Scarlet Desert quickly.”

Frackus blinked several times in confusion, thrown off balance by the unexpected words.  A dozen questions sprang to mind, but he set them aside to concentrate on the more immediate concern.  “I can’t teleport there, I’m afraid,” he said, shaking his head.

“Then can you take us somewhere similar?” Ril demanded urgently.

“I can take us to the Desert of Ro.”

“That’ll do, but please hurry,” Ril implored.  Without another word, Frackus began the incantation and the Arena faded away, replaced by the endless sands and blistering heat of the desert.  Fostram’s body went limp as the sun beat down upon him and for a moment Frackus thought the boy had succumbed to his wounds, but one look at his face showed this was clearly not the case.  Pain still etched his features, but he seemed somehow more relaxed and the light in his eyes was clearly stronger than it had been moments ago.

“It won’t be enough,” Morian muttered gravely.  “He used all his energy when he sacrificed his hands.”

“Then we need to give him more,” Ril said simply, tugging on her robe to expose her ivory neck.  The elf deftly tossed her white hair out of the way, but Morian caught her wrist.

“I’ll do it,” the young man said with quiet determination.  Releasing Ril, Morian crouched over the dying boy and gently touched his face.  “Fostram, can you hear me?”

The young druid groaned slightly, his eyes working hard to focus on his friend’s face.  “Mo…ri…an…” he managed to gasp, his voice barely audible. 

“Fostram,” Morian repeated, relieved that his friend was still conscious.  “You’ve been badly wounded and you’re far too weak to heal yourself.  If you’re going to live, you’ll need some of my strength.”

Fostram’s eyes widened slightly as he struggled to shake his head, but Morian refused to back down.  “Fostram, listen.  I won’t pretend I like the idea, but that doesn’t mean I’m unwilling to go through with it.  You’re my friend, and if I can help you then I’ll do so gladly.”

Again, Fostram struggled to shake his head.  “Spring…”  he rasped weakly, and Morian scowled in annoyance.

“Fostram, we need you now, not next spring,” Morian declared angrily.  “Besides, I’m not about to let you die when I can stop it, even if it isn’t permanent!”

“What does he mean by that?” Frackus whispered to Ril, but the snowy elf silenced him with an angry glare. 

Morian and Fostram continued to stare at each other for a long moment.  Eventually, Fostram closed his eyes as the tension drained from his body.  “Thank…you…” he breathed softly. 

“I’m glad that’s settled,” Morian said dryly, baring his throat.  “Now hurry up before you’re too weak to move.”

The boy hesitated once more, then slowly opened his mouth, his lips peeling back to reveal two long, sharp fangs which he plunged into Morian’s exposed neck.
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Re: Mumblezz Make-A-Wish Foundation
Reply #168 - May 7th, 2007 at 5:24pm
 
“He’s a vampire?”  Frackus exclaimed, instinctively taking a step back.  Morian hissed in pain as Fostram’s throat worked feebly, the wounded boy struggling to feed.  The wizard’s gaze flickered from Fostram’s tanned skin to the blazing sun and back again.  “But, how…” he started to ask, thoroughly bewildered.

“I guess we can’t hide it anymore,” Ril said with a sigh.  “Not that he’s been hiding it very well anyway.  Fostram is far too naďve to be much of an actor.”

“I knew he was hiding something, but this is quite a shock,” said Frackus, shaking his head in disbelief.  “Why ever would you bring a vampire to a desert?”

“Because he’s an Earthbond vampire,” Ril explained.  “He gets his strength from the sun and the earth.”

“A vampire that feeds on sunlight?”  Frackus repeated skeptically, raising one eyebrow.

“I know they don’t exist here, but the Summerkin are nothing like the vampires you know,” Ril snapped, her temper flaring.  “The Earthbond Circle is an order of druids who live in complete harmony with nature, and they consider it the greatest of blessings to be accepted into the flow of the seasons.  The chosen ones grow weak as summer fades and perish with the coming of winter, only to rise again in the spring, reborn as Summerkin.”

“Wait, does that mean they are awake all year, then spend the entire winter dead?” Frackus asked in surprise.

“That’s right,” Ril confirmed.  “The sun empowers them, but it is the earth that sustains their lives.  While the earth sleeps under the mantle of winter, the Summerkin cannot live.”

“So where does blood come into it?”  Frackus asked, glancing uncomfortably at Fostram and Morian. 

“To the Earthbond Circle, blood is life,” Ril revealed.  “Most of their rituals involve sharing blood as a way to bind them closer together, but they never take more than they give.  As you may have deduced from seeing Fostram’s blood magic, the Earthbond don’t believe in personal gain without personal sacrifice.”

“I was wondering about that,’ Frackus admitted.  “I’ve never seen magic like that before.”

“They call it blood magic, but it’s not really that different from normal magic,” Ril explained.  “All they do is adapt their spells to use their own blood as a material component.  The idea is that anyone who wishes to wield the power of magic must be prepared to pay the price in blood and pain.  Of course, the blood also serves to augment the spell, so Earthbond druids tend to be unusually powerful spellcasters.”

“This is all very interesting, but what about that?”  Frackus demanded, gesturing at Morian and Fostram.  The young man was beginning to look decidedly pale as the vampire continued to feed, but Fostram’s awful wounds already showed signs of improvement.

“That would be an exception,” Ril replied.  “Remember, blood is life to the Earthbond, so taking the life of another for your own benefit creates a debt that is almost impossible to repay.  No Summerkin would even consider taking blood except in extreme circumstances, and many wouldn’t even do it then.”

“They would die before taking blood?”  Frackus asked skeptically.  “Animals kill when it’s a matter of survival; I would expect the same from druids.”

“That’s exactly the point,” Ril explained.  “Animals take life only out of necessity, and to do otherwise is a violation of the natural law the Earthbond venerate above all else.”

“You said Fostram would die without blood,” Frackus accused.  “Doesn’t that mean he should be allowed to kill to survive?”

“To give himself an extra couple of months?”  Ril demanded scornfully.  “The Summerkin die every winter and rise in the spring.  If they’re killed before they die on their own, they just stay dead a little longer.”

“You’re saying Fostram would have recovered from those wounds?”  Frackus asked, his eyes going wide.  “Are the Summerkin immortal?”

“No, they die every year,” Ril repeated.  “The earth can heal most wounds, especially if they are actually buried when they die, but there is a limit.  Of course, any Summerkin who is so badly injured he will never rise again is far beyond being able to take blood.  That’s why taking blood is never truly a necessity for the Summerkin.”

“Then why is Fostram taking Morian’s blood?”

“Because we need him now, not in the spring,” said Ril.  “The only time it’s acceptable to take blood is if the person giving blood has a powerful need to see the Summerkin recover immediately.”

“Sort of like the blood magic,” Frackus mused.  “If the donor needs help, they pay a price in blood so the vampire can help them.”

“Exactly,” Ril said with a nod. 

“And there are no exceptions to this rule?”

“No Summerkin has ever taken blood except under extreme circumstances, and then only from someone willing,” Ril declared with only the slightest hesitation.

Frackus’ eyes narrowed.  “But?”

Ril sighed.  “A long time ago, there was a group of Summerkin who started to use their gifts to further their own ends, in defiance of the natural order.  For their heresy, they were cursed by nature itself, rejected by the earth and burned by the sun that once empowered them.  Disgraced, they fled from their former brethren, and with no other recourse, they began to feed solely on blood, sustaining their own wretched lives at the expense of others.  With the sun as their enemy, they found solace in darkness and became creatures of the night.”

“Normal vampires,” Frackus concluded.

“Nightbond vampires,” Ril corrected.  “The Summerkin were the first. The heretics took to calling themselves the Nightbond Coven in mockery of their former order.”

“I see,” said Frackus, just as a gasp of pain drew his attention.  The wizard turned in time to see Fostram clumsily remove his fangs from Morian’s throat, the sharp teeth tearing the skin.  Looking decidedly pale, Morian weakly clamped one hand to his bleeding neck as he leaned back on the hot sand, not even attempting to stand.

“Let’s try to avoid that in the future,” the young man said quietly, closing his eyes. 

“Morian, I’m really sorry,” Fostram apologized, his voice wracked with guilt.  Amazingly, the terrible damage to his torso seemed to be completely healed.  “Let me see what I can do about your neck.  You shouldn’t sleep now anyway.”  Morian did not reply, but he moved his hand away, revealing the two ragged, bleeding holes.  Fostram started to reach for them, then stopped and pulled back his arm with a frown of annoyance, staring at the empty space where his hands had once been.  Sighing, the vampire raised an arm to his mouth and pierced the healed stump with one of his fangs, starting a trickle of blood.  Without any further hesitation, he touched the bleeding remains of his wrist to the angry wounds on Morian’s throat. 

Morian gasped, his eyes flying wide as a warm red light washed over him.  The fang marks vanished abruptly as a hint of color returned to his pallid face.  Morian sat up straight, chuckling softly as he regarded the druid.  “You certainly know how to give people a boost.”

“Nothing like the one you gave me,” Fostram replied gratefully, extending an arm to help the young man to his feet.  Morian looked from Fostram’s face to the proffered stump and back again, then burst out laughing.  The vampire looked puzzled for a moment, then glanced down at his missing hand and also began to laugh.  Ril grinned in amusement, but Frackus looked more concerned. 

“Is this really something to be laughing about?”  The wizard demanded, slightly unnerved.  “Fostram just lost his hands.”

“It’s not the first time,” the vampire said unexpectedly.  “I used the same technique when I destroyed the original Pride.  It’s an inconvenience for now, but they’ll grow back over the winter.”

At the mention of Pride, all humor quickly faded.  “How could he possibly have survived that attack?”  Ril muttered grimly.

“What was that attack?”  Frackus asked.

“Focused resonant energy,” Fostram explained.  “Anything caught in the field begins to tear itself apart, and it doesn’t matter if the target is paper or steel.  With the amount of power I poured into it, Pride should have ended up like my hands.”

“You know what this means, don’t you?”  Morian said quietly, a dark look on his face.  “The only way Pride could have survived that is if he’s already been exposed to the same kind of attack.”

“Who uses resonant energy?”  Ril demanded, looking at Morian in puzzlement.  “It’s rare enough to find someone who even knows what it is, and without the kind of power Fostram can channel into it, it’s basically harmless.”

“Which means someone else must have deliberately exposed him to it,” Fostram reasoned, his tone serious.  “Someone who suspected it would be a danger to Pride.  Aside from the three of us, there’s only one person on this world who could have known that.”

“Keeper,” Ril hissed, her eyes flashing red.  “He set us up to fail, and now Pride is totally beyond our power.”

“Yes,” Morian agreed.  “The damage is already done.  We need to avoid Pride at all costs now, and hope that our friend gets back soon.”

“You’re giving up on Pride?”  Frackus asked, surprised by the easy dismissal.

Ril shook her head.  “You still don’t understand, do you?  We hit him with the best we have and it wasn’t enough.  He’s now literally immune to anything we can throw at him, and that means it’s unlikely anything short of a powerful god can stop him.” 
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Re: Mumblezz Make-A-Wish Foundation
Reply #169 - May 24th, 2007 at 3:48pm
 
“This is not a safe place to be,” the black-robed wizard warned, pulling back his hood to reveal his Tier’Dal heritage.  “Are you sure we can’t skip this one?”

Three of his companions murmured their agreement, but the fourth glared at him scornfully.  “The Keeper has charged us with an important task and we will do exactly as he says,” she declared, removing her own hood.  With limp, black hair and sunken eyes, she was not a pretty woman, while her chalky, pallid skin and slightly hollow cheeks spoke of much time huddled over ancient texts.  Physically, only her height was even remotely imposing, but her every action bespoke of such strength and surety of purpose that no one could fail to take note.   

“If you say so,” grumbled a black-robed erudite, wiping the sweat from her forehead.  “Let us finish quickly and remove ourselves from this infernal heat.”

“Oh, this is nothing,” an unusually short member of the group said dismissively.  “In fact, it quite reminds me of the foundries in Ak’Anon.”

“Or the junglesss of my home,” hissed the final figure, his features still hidden but his voice marking him as an Iksar. 

“Innoruuk take the heat,” the dark elf said impatiently, peering cautiously into the twist tunnels nearby.  “It’s the lizards I’m worried about.”

As if on cue, a lizardman rounded the corner and caught sight of the intruders.  For an instant, the creature stood motionless, then it quickly turned and ran deeper into the Temple of Cazic-Thule, crying out for help as it ran. 

“Now we’re in for it,” muttered the gnome, hastily casting a spell.  A few moments later, a construct of earth rose from the ground to stand protectively in front of its master.  Following their companion’s lead, the Iksar called forth a skeleton while the erudite surrounded the party in shimmering runes. 

“We have no idea how many friends he’ll bring back,” the dark elf wizard warned, glancing around nervously.  “We should retreat for now and come back when it’s safer.”

“No,” the tall woman said firmly.  “We are not leaving until our task is complete.  Do you four know the runes well enough yet?”  The four black-robed figures nodded hesitantly.  “Good, then you get to work and I’ll deal with the locals.”

“But, my lady,” the dark elf started to protest, his worried expression mirroring that of his companions.  “You can’t fight them all by yourself!”

“How do you know what I can and cannot do?”  The woman retorted sharply as she cast a spell of her own.  The air before her swirled and concentrated into a vaguely humanoid form, but she paid it no heed as she began another spell.  The necromancer cocked his head at the sound of the words.

“What are you doing?” The Iksar hissed suspiciously, but the answer became obvious as a second skeleton rose from the ground to stand before the robed woman.  The four casters stared at her in amazement as she began casting a third spell and moments later a large spider emerged from a nearby tunnel and stood protectively before her.

“You can’t have three pets!”  The erudite cried in denial, shaking her head in disbelief.

“Why ever not?” The woman replied tartly.  “Obviously I couldn’t summon three elementals or three skeletons, as the mental commands would get horribly mixed up, but magician, necromancer and beastlord pets are all controlled through different mental processes.”

“But you have to concentrate fully to sustain a pet!”  The magician protested, but the robed woman only nodded.

“Of course you do.  I’m simply concentrating on three things at once, and speaking of concentration, shouldn’t you all be working on the pyramid?”

Chagrined, the four immediately reached inside their robes and produced large, obsidian flasks and fine brushes that shined with a silvery-white light.  Tools in hand, they quickly got to work, painting elaborate glyphs on the small teleportation pyramid. 

Meanwhile, a chorus of angry hissing heralded the arrival of a quartet of lizardmen.  Without hesitation, the creatures charged forward, but the robed woman simply muttered a few words and all four were immediately rooted to the ground.  Not hesitating for a moment, she immediately cast another spell and one of the trapped lizardmen staggered, its scales taking on an unhealthy grayish tinge.  The creatures hissed in alarm and tried to break free, but the magic held them firmly as the woman began a third spell.  As the second lizardman staggered and fell, a large spider emerged from another tunnel and skittered toward the sorceress, its mandibles clacking loudly.  With hardly a thought, she sent her own spider to intercept it as she struck down the third trapped lizard.  As she began the spell to finish off the last one, two more spiders emerged from yet another tunnel, but she sent her remaining pets to keep them busy without even interrupting her spell.  Moments later, a cloud of stinging insects surrounded the remaining lizardman who began swatting frantically, redoubling his efforts to get free.

Satisfied the lizardmen were no longer a threat, the robed woman turned her attention to the spiders engaging her pets.  Grinning fiercely, she held out her hands at different angles and snapped her fingers with each hand simultaneously.  Instantly, the spider attacking her skeleton squealed in agony as bitter frost coated its body, while the spider fighting her air elemental jerked spasmodically, its limbs flailing wildly as lightning arced through it.  Injured and distracted by the unexpected assault, the spiders were no match for the relentless pets and were quickly dispatched.  Never pausing, the skeleton and elemental charged the remaining foe as the sorceress cast another spell, closing the wounds on her own spider.  Outnumbered, the last enemy was quickly pummeled into the ground.

Nodding grimly to her self, the black-robed sorceress turned to check on her companion’s progress and found them all staring at her in shocked disbelief.  “Is there a reason you aren’t doing your jobs?”  She demanded icily. 

“You…you just cast spells from half a dozen different classes!”  Gasped the wizard. 

“Yes, and I did it to buy you four enough time to complete your task,” the woman snapped back.  Her companions instinctively recoiled, glancing guiltily at the small number of completed glyphs on the pyramid.  “Now hurry up and get back to work!”

Thoroughly chastened, the four casters turned their attention back to the pyramid, silvery brushes shaping arcane runes in a midnight-black ink that seemed to emanate raw darkness.  No sooner had they resumed their efforts than a chorus of angry hisses heralded the arrival of a dozen more lizardmen, led by a particularly large brute with a huge sword and a smaller creature wearing a headdress of bright feathers. 

Seeing the corpses of their slain kin, the ordinary lizardmen hesitated, hanging back and glancing nervously at one another, but the big leader whirled around, hissing angrily and battering them with the pommel of his sword while the shaman verily danced with fury, gesticulating wildly at the black-clad sorceress.  Grinning wickedly, the woman began casting another spell even as her three pets charged toward the shaman.  The lizardman spellcaster hissed in alarm, scuttling back to the safety of his comrades.  Drawn by the cry, the champion turned to face the shaman, then staggered slightly, his eyes glazing over.  Moving almost mechanically, the leader raised his sword and brought it crashing down on one of his smaller companions, sowing panic and confusion in their ranks even as the pets crashed into them.  Gathering his wits, the shaman attempted to dispel the charm, but a blast of wind from the air elemental interrupted the spell, leaving him stunned.  Meanwhile, the sorceress closed her left eye and stared hard at the churning melee, moving her head one way then another as if she were trying to get a better view.  With no apparent warning, she widened her right eye and a dazzling beam of intensely focused sunlight shot forth.  The blinding ray burned a neat hole through the leg of one lizardman and the flailing arms of two others.  Three shrieked in agony as the devastating spell pierced their torsos, while a fourth collapsed without a sound, a charred and blackened hole scorched right through its heart.  Finally, the beam struck the shaman directly between the eyes, blazing a path right through his head gouging a deep hole in the temple wall behind him.  The survivors hissed in alarm as the pets and their own champion continued to tear into them.  Meanwhile, the sorceress staggered back, her eyes blinded by tears from the brilliant afterimage and her face red and blistered from the intense heat of her own spell.  “I have got to do something about those feedback effects,” she muttered, waving a hand across her face to heal the burns.

Overwhelmed and frightened, the surviving lizardmen tried to flee, but the sorceress tossed one final spell, conjuring magical shackles to bind their feet and slow their flight.  Completely panicked, the lizardmen still struggled to escape, but the pets methodically cut them down.  Their task completed, all four pets returned to stand guard before the black-clad sorceress.
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Re: Mumblezz Make-A-Wish Foundation
Reply #170 - May 24th, 2007 at 3:48pm
 
“I’ve never seen anything like that before,” breathed the gnome magician, staring at the woman with respect and awe.  As he spoke, the dark elf wizard put the finishing touches on the final rune.  The midnight glyphs writhed and churned, flowing over the pyramid like a living shadow before they slowly faded from sight.

“Yesss, mossst impresssive,” hissed an inhuman voice.  All five robed casters turned to see the supposedly charmed lizardman regarding them with a curiously twisted expression.  “Your ssstudiesss proccceed apaccce, Bellaba Rielle.”

“Yes, master,” the sorceress replied without missing a beat as she dropped into a gracious bow.  “The magics in this world are quite formidable, although I must confess I am still unable to cast them through neuromancy.  In fact, all the spells I’ve learned so far simply fail if you make even the slightest change. “

“It will come in time,” offered the lizardman.  “How faresss the plan?”

“Everything is proceeding on schedule,” Bellaba reported.  “We inspired much curiosity preparing the portal stones in the Plane of Knowledge, but as we made no effort to conceal our activities, no one thought to challenge us.”

“Excccelent.”

“The faithful have grown in number, and I have instructed many of them on the creation of channeling glyphs.  The ones who learned best are preparing various spires, pyramids and stone circles, while the rest are busying themselves with the many portals to the Plane of Knowledge.  I’ve been taking care of the more dangerous locations personally.”

“I sssee,” hissed the lizardman.  “I have come to tell you to make hassste.  Already I sssense the ssshadow’sss approach.  It will not be long before the guardian makesss her move.  You mussst have every ssspire, every pyramid, every ssstone cccircle, every ssstable planar portal and the great focusss prepared before ssshe returnsss.”

“Of course, master,” the sorceress assured, bowing once again.  “All of the faithful will be meeting at the focus very soon.”

“Excccelent,” the Keeper repeated.  “Tell me, my dear; have you any new titlesss for yourssself?”

“Seeker of Silence and Twisted Scale,” Bellaba replied, smirking.  “As if you didn’t already know.”

“Very clever, Legion,” the lizardman hissed in approval.  “Now, return to your dutiesss.  When you are finissshed, I will meet you at the conflux.  Do not keep me waiting too long.”

Without another word, the lizardman’s body turned to ash and scattered on the wind.
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Re: Mumblezz Make-A-Wish Foundation
Reply #171 - Jul 20th, 2007 at 5:17pm
 
“This is how you found him?”  Mumblezz asked, gazing sadly at the still form of Talwyn.

“Yes, that’s right,” replied a wizard in long white robes.  “There was a fire in his office.  We put it out, but both Talwyn and the head tinker were unconscious.  We moved them here, but they’ve been completely unresponsive.”

“And them?”  Mumblezz inquired, gesturing to another pair of beds in which two young wizards lay similarly motionless. 

“They were found lying senseless in the street, just outside the school.  Just like Talwyn, there isn’t a mark on them, but nothing seems to be able to wake them up.”

Mumblezz sighed.  “I think the school has been infiltrated.”

“But that’s impossible!” The other wizard cried.  “The wards only allow wizards within these grounds!”

“Or someone who has stolen the powers of a wizard,” Mumblezz muttered.

“What?  How is that possible?” The wizard demanded, his eyes going wide.

Mumblezz sighed again.  “It’s complicated, but I don’t think the wizard school is in any more danger.  I believe Talwyn was the target.”

“Who would want to hurt master Talwyn?”

“The intruder just wanted his power,” Mumblezz explained.  “It was nothing personal.”

“But who could do that?”

“Someone who needs to be stopped,’ Mumblezz replied with grim determination.


**************************

“Jobue, is it really you?” Anyaah exclaimed, hurrying forward.

“But of course,” Greed replied, a slightly unpleasant smile on his face.  “You didn’t really think I could stay away for long, did you?”

Anyaah hesitated, unnerved by his expression.  Her eyes darted to his bare hands and back again.  “Jobue, are you okay?  What happened to your gloves?”

“I’ve never been better,” said Greed, his poisonous smile widening as he moved toward the cleric.  “And sometimes it’s just nice to be able to touch things directly.”

“Jobue, are you sure you’re alright?” Anyaah asked, unconsciously taking a step back. 

“Of course I ‘m alright,” Greed said softly, raising one hand to caress her cheek.  An unreasoning sense of panic nearly overwhelmed the cleric as he reached for her, but it was already too late.  Anyaah let out a soft gasp and collapsed, motionless, to the ground.

“Nicely done,” congratulated a new voice.  Greed whirled to face to speaker.

“Who are you?” He demanded, eyes narrowed dangerously.

“You don’t recognize me this time?” A young man replied, leaning casually against the wall.  “I’m hurt.”

“You!” Greed snarled, glaring furiously at the intruder.  “I should kill you for deceiving me!” 

“Yes, yes, I’m sure you should,” the young man replied irritably, checking his fingernails in a curiously feminine gesture.  “Never mind that I gave you everything you ever wanted.”

Greed’s glare was unrelenting, but he did not respond, so the young man continued.  “I thought you might like to know that you are being targeted by three very dangerous individuals.  They know exactly what you are capable of and are more than strong enough to destroy you.”

“And you’re not going to tell me where or who they are,” Greed stated, his lips twisting in a bitter smile.  “You know, I can’t help but wonder what would happen if I were to touch you.”

“This body would fall over dead and you would receive the tiny bit of power I am expending to animate it, but nothing else,” the young man replied immediately.  “And if you want to know where they are, I suggest you check the desert of Ro.  Your old master Frackus took them there after a run in with Pride.”

Greed hesitated, seeming unsure for the first time.  “Why are you telling me all this?”

The young man favored him with an ugly smile.  “Because they are my enemies and you are a weapon forged by my own hand.”

“You’re saying I’m your tool?” Greed demanded, his face flushed with fury.

“Yes,” the young man replied with a shrug.  “Now I’m afraid I must attend to some important business,” he declared, his body fading away.  “Have fun with the hunters.”


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Re: Mumblezz Make-A-Wish Foundation
Reply #172 - Aug 10th, 2007 at 3:24pm
 
“Are you finished yet?” Bellaba Rielle demanded, glaring at her companions. 

“Almost,” replied a black-clad figure, frowning in concentration as he carefully put the finishing touches on a midnight glyph.  With a final stroke from his silvery-white brush, the dark runes writhed sickeningly across the polished surface of the spire, gradually fading from view. 

“Excellent,” Bellaba said with a nod of approval.  “Our task is now complete.  We must rejoin our lord at the great focus.”

“Yes, we should hurry,” one of her companions agreed eagerly.  “We don’t want to miss the ritual.”

“If the ritual had already started, we would know about it,” Bellaba replied scathingly as a shimmering portal opened beside her.  The others glanced around in confusion, trying to figure out who had cast the spell. 

“Did you do that?”  A robed figure asked haltingly.

“Of course,” answered the sorceress, stepping through the portal without hesitation.  After a nervous pause, the others followed, emerging in the dim light of the Twilight Sea.

Ignoring the surprised gasps of her companions, Bellaba Rielle critically scanned the area.  Black robed casters were everywhere, each engaged in a specific task.  Lone necromancers muttered dark spells, turning the grass all around them to dust, while groups of necromancers worked together to bring down whole trees.  Enchanters dotted the island, each surrounded by several mesmerized elementals, while magicians and wizards blasted large boulders into gravel.  Despite all the activity, Bellaba’s gaze found and lingered on a single small figure standing motionless in the center of the island, a large crystal hanging unsuspended in the air before it. 

“A new portal to the Plane of Tranquility, I presume?”  The sorceress stated as much as asked, striding toward the lone figure.  At the sound of her voice, the figure slowly turned around, revealing itself to be a young high elf girl.  With an impish grin, she turned her attention back to the crystal, waiting for the sorceress to approach. 

“Silent Storm,” the child mused aloud.  “A fitting title for you, as always.  From your presence, I take it the last of the spires has been prepared?”

“How fares the rest of the world?”  Bellaba asked, ignoring the pointless question.  A ghost of a smile touched the elf child’s lips.

“Rothar Khan’s rule over Freeport is absolute.  Lust and the Prince have departed for Neriak, taking the remnants of the militia and the Dismal Rage along with them.  The Spurned have already been won over and the dark elf king is wavering.  Queen Christiannos Thex is bitterly resisting the subversion, but it is only a matter of time until she falls.”

“That was unusually forthcoming for you,” the sorceress remarked.

“There is nothing secret about this information,” the girl replied with a smirk.  “Milo Vallich’s plan was successful.  Skyshrine has fallen to the giants of Kael Drakkel in a surprise attack and Lord Yelinak has been forced to flee to the Temple of Veeshan.  With the dragons routed from Skyshrine, the full wrath of the Claws of Veeshan descended on the Master of Death’s army and crushed them; he is now off licking his wounds and stewing in resentment.”

“What of Sekarah and the Darklord?”

“Sekarah has found a surprisingly large number of new adherents in the city of Sanctus Seru; even the Lord Inquisitor has taken an interest.  The Darklord has established a powerful stronghold in the Steamfont Mountains and is currently consolidating his power among the Kyv and improving on the works of the ancients.”

“You are referring to the technique of joining metal and darkness?”

“Indeed.  However, the ancients’ methods were incomplete, and the result was closer to metal gilded with darkness than anything else.  With the aid of the Darklord, the Kyv are perfecting the technique and achieving a true fusion.  Given time to equip their forces, they will become virtually unstoppable.”

Bellaba glanced at the child curiously, but quickly moved on.  “How fares Sin and the aspects?”

“Sin has learned some humility and is honing his powers in secret.  Wrath has devastated the Wall of Slaughter and is now heading to the Plane of Water.  Envy remains in the Plane of Knowledge, working to expand the range of his influence.  Gluttony has already spawned rumors of a sea monster in the Ocean of Tears.  Lust is allied with the Prince and helping to conquer Neriak.  Sloth remains unchanged.  Pride survived his encounter with the allies of the shadow and is now ready to face divine powers, while Greed is preparing to deal with those allies once and for all.”

The sorceress remained silent for a moment.  “It sounds as though this world will fall, but that is far too simple a motive for all that you have done.  What are you really trying to achieve?”

The little girl flashed a radiant smile at her companion.  “Now that is a real secret.”

“Which means you’re not going to tell me,” concluded the sorceress, an ironic smile twisting her own lips.  “Then tell me why you have chosen to appear before the first gathering of your new followers in such a weak form?”

The girl smiled knowingly.  “Anyone who cannot see beneath the surface is not worthy to walk the path of secrets.”

“Of course,” said Bellaba, a hint of amusement in her voice.  “How silly of me.”

“Blind Seeker?” The girl asked, raising one eyebrow.  “Not the most flattering title you’ve ever come up with for yourself.”

“I make a point of never practicing self-deception,” replied the sorceress, unfazed by the intrusion into her mind.  “Besides, like most things, a title can have more than one meaning.”

The girl grinned approvingly.  “You never disappoint, do you?  I assure you that much will be made clear in the near future.  In the meantime, I must commend you for finding so many diligent followers,” said the child, gesturing all around.  Most of the large rocks had already been reduced to rubble, so the black-clad magicians left the remainder to their wizard colleagues and began calling forth earth elementals.  Taking advantage of their affinity with their native element, the summoned servants began to reshape the landscape, flattening out hills and filling in hollows to leave the bare earth almost perfectly flat.  “They work swiftly,” the child noted with approval as the elementals began to move all the shattered rock fragments to the center of the island.  “We will want to evacuate the natives for this next part.  Are you up for it?”

Bellaba Rielle cocked her head, considering.  “It would be interesting to find out,” she mused. 

The girl offered her another impish grin.  “By all means, find out what you can do,” she offered.  Without another word, the sorceress began to turn a slow circle, green eyes lingering on each mesmerized elemental in turn before moving on to the next.  Completing her revolution, Bellaba closed her eyes, frowning in deep concentration.  Moments later, dozens of voices were raised in alarm as magical shackles appeared all across the island, simultaneously ensnaring each wild elemental.  “You can let the mezzes drop now,” the girl instructed the enchanters, not raising her voice, but somehow carrying the words to everyone on the island.  Most of the enchanters stared at the child in disbelief, but a few followed instructions immediately, releasing their charges.  As the mezzes began to fall, not a single elemental moved an inch and one by one, the remaining enchanters allowed their spells to drop.  Without warning, one elemental exploded into motion, straining against its shackles as it struggled to reach the black-clad sorceress, but a moment later it came to an abrupt halt, falling as still as its fellows. 

The elf child grinned broadly at the sorceress.  “You have them all, don’t you?  Very impressive, my dear.”

“I haven’t reached my limit yet,” Bellaba replied tartly, not a hint of strain in her voice.  With a wave of her hand, every single elemental turned in unison and began to move away from the island as fast as their magical shackles allowed.  All across the island, black-robed figures stared from Bellaba Rielle to the migrating elemental horde in open-mouthed amazement.  Occasionally, an elemental would break free from her control and turn to confront the sorceress, but these were always recharmed in moments.

“It isn’t possible,” declared one enchanter, shaking his head in disbelief.  “It must be some kind of trick.”  Others muttered in agreement.

As the last elemental reached a safe distance from the island, the entire horde came to an abrupt halt.  “I think it would be best if the enchanters took over from here,” the sorceress said calmly.  The elf girl grinned again.

“Not strong enough to hold them all and do the rest of the job?” The child taunted, but Bellaba merely shrugged.

“In truth, I may be able to do both, but the other task is far too important to risk failure for the sake of meaningless pride.”

“You are a jewel among mortals, Bellaba Rielle,” said the girl, chuckling in approval as she turned to address the crowd.  “Enchanters, keep those elementals away from the island for now.  It is time to prepare the stage.”
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Re: Mumblezz Make-A-Wish Foundation
Reply #173 - Aug 10th, 2007 at 3:25pm
 
Without another word, the girl and the sorceress drifted into the air.  Following their lead, the assembled casters began whispering their own levitation spells, backing nervously toward the edges of the island.  Seemingly oblivious to those around her, Bellaba Rielle turned her full attention on the large mound of rubble littering the center of the island.  A loud crack split the air as one stone abruptly shattered, quickly followed by another and another after that.  The black-robed casters looked on in puzzlement as the air around the crumbling stones began to shimmer, but their unspoken questions were answered a moment later when a wave of intense heat washed over them.  Frowning in mingled concentration and annoyance, Bellaba Rielle began to move her hands through complicated mystical passes, her nimble fingers dancing through the intricate gestures almost faster than the eye could follow.  The broken rubble began to glow red as a fresh wave of heat washed over the island.  Unable to withstand the intensity of the heat, the blazing stones slowly began to melt, the hard rock becoming molten lava which flowed quickly across the nearly flat island as black-robed casters stared in astonishment.

Far from satisfied, Bellaba Rielle frowned harder, channeling ever-greater amounts of energy into the lava.  Bolstered by the sorceress’ magic, the lava refused to cool and harden as it flowed rapidly across the island, filling in the few depressions and covering everything with a thick layer of melted stone.  In no time at all, the last traces of the island’s original form had vanished, replaced by a huge, blazing and perfectly flat platform protruding unnaturally from the surrounding sea.  Great gouts of steam hissed angrily from the ocean as the superheated lava began to drip from the edge of the island, refusing to harden even when surrounded by water. 

“Excellent work!” Declared the elf girl, clapping her hands in admiration.  Relieved, Bellaba Rielle allowed herself to relax, all the tension draining from her body.  No longer sustained by her magic, the lava began to cool rapidly, solidifying into dark, unbroken stone.  Oblivious to the intense heat still radiating from the newly-formed stone, the child dropped back to the ground and hurried over to the large crystal still hovering over the exact center of the transformed island.  The elf regarded the crystal appraisingly, gently stroking the many facets with one tiny before dropping her gaze to stare hard at the shiny black stone directly beneath it.  Nodding to herself, the girl crouched down and ran her hands over the smooth obsidian surface that now covered the entire island. 

“Satisfied?” Bellaba asked, one eyebrow raised questioningly. 

The elf girl favored the sorceress with a brilliant smile, nodding enthusiastically.  “Thanks to your efforts, the stage is set.  Now, it is time for this little performance to begin in earnest!”


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Re: Mumblezz Make-A-Wish Foundation
Reply #174 - Sep 5th, 2007 at 12:56pm
 
Reply #173 - Aug 10th, 2007, 3:25pm

Any updates to the story? =\
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Re: Mumblezz Make-A-Wish Foundation
Reply #175 - Sep 12th, 2007 at 5:37am
 
Greed cursed to nobody in particular as he paced the silent room mulling over his latest conversation with The Keeper.  After a time he slowed his pacing and took a seat on the corner of the Butcher Shop's front desk and peered down at the vegetable that used to be Anyaah. His eyes glanced from her face, still wearing a look of disbelief and fear, to her bright green gloves that she had worn so loyally. A small pang of remorse washed over him and he quickly stood and reached in his back pocket.

Greed pulled out the fabled green gloves and eyed them for a moment. His bare hands suddenly seemed strangely out of place. He knew what he had to do. A small smirk slowly developed into the infectious smile that Jobue was known for, and with great delicacy Greed applied each glove to its respective hand.

With a wiggle of his newly gloved finger, Greed conjured some flowers and laid them beside Anyaah's still body in an attempt to pay his respects and apologize for his what he had done. His newly acquired powers sure were nice he thought to himself. He then quickly jotted down a note:

'The Butcher's Shop will stay open. The Mafia must live on. Lucterius will be in charge until I return; I have some business to attend to in the deserts of Ro. Apparently there exists some silly folks who would have me dead and rid the world of this handsome face! I deem their plan unacceptable.

-Yours Always'



As he tightened his cloak he took one last glance around the Butcher's Shop. His home. His sanctuary. "I'll be back." He said aloud. "I hope."
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Re: Mumblezz Make-A-Wish Foundation
Reply #176 - Sep 19th, 2007 at 1:41pm
 
“Are you sure he’s alright?” Frackus asked, glancing uncomfortably at Fostram’s motionless form.  The vampire stood utterly still, basking in the punishing heat of the Desert of Ro.  Not a drop of sweat marred his visage, while his eyes stared, wide and unblinking, directly into the blazing sun. 

“Yes, he’s fine,” Morian assured the wizard.  “He’s just trying to replenish his energy quickly.”

“Does he do this often?”

“No, he gets enough energy to sustain himself from the sun and the earth without even trying.  He’s only doing this because he used up every scrap of his reserves in the battle with Pride and while healing himself.”

“So what exactly is he doing?”

“Feeding,” Morian answered simply.  “The Summerkin instinctively absorb energy from the earth and sun, but by consciously directing that instinct, they can speed up the process considerably.  Actually, I think he’s restoring his body too, since he’s stopped his heart again.”

“Excuse me?”

Morian grinned.  “The Summerkin are quite different from the rest of us.  Most of their organs no longer serve any purpose, but the heart and brain remain quite important.”

“So the Summerkin have the same vulnerabilities as Nightbond vampires,” Frackus reasoned, but Morian shook his head, grinning broadly.

“Anyone who stabs a Summerkin through the heart is in for a nasty surprise.  You see, all of their energy is stored in their blood, and while their hearts beat to keep the blood in motion, most of that energy is contained.  When their blood stops flowing, the energy escapes and floods throughout their bodies, giving them a significant boost in strength.”

“So attacking the heart makes them stronger?”

“In the short term, at least,” Morian confirmed.  “If the heart is damaged, they lose the ability to store energy, so any reserves they have built up are immediately released.  Of course, those reserves are limited, so the power boost only lasts until they are depleted.”

“Makes sense,” noted Frackus.  “What about the brain?”

“Well, they don’t need their brains to keep their bodies functioning, but they do need them to think,” Morian explained.  “Brain damage basically turns them into vegetables, at least until it heals.”

“They can heal even something like that?”

“That’s right,” Morian said with a nod.  “The Summerkin can heal most things and are pretty hard to kill permanently.”

“So I gather,” Frackus noted with a measuring glance at Fostram.  “Anyway, what are you three planning to do next?”

Ril and Morian exchanged troubled looks.  “We can’t do anything else about Pride until our friend gets back, so we should focus on Greed,” the white elf replied.

Frackus’ expression hardened.  “You’re going to try to kill someone else now?”

Ril’s pink eyes narrowed.  “You just saw what Pride is capable of and you still disapprove?”

“I cannot approve of any course of action that results in the death of my friends,” Frackus returned, not backing down an inch.

“Frackus, your loyalty is admirable, but you have to understand what is at stake,” Morian broke in with a nervous glance at the glowering elf. 

“Would you be so quick to say that if the lives of your own friends were on the line?”  The wizard responded quietly.

Silence greeted this question as the two friends looked at each other uncomfortably.  “No,” Morian admitted with a sigh.  “We’d react exactly the same as you.”

Frackus’ expression softened, but before he could speak, a bizarre sound somewhere between tearing cloth and breaking glass reverberated across the desert.  Ril, Frackus and Morian all jumped in surprise, staring wildly around for the source of the strange noise as Fostram blinked slowly, a puzzled look on his face as he woke from his trance.  “What was that?”  Asked the druid, but the answer became obvious a moment later when the air itself seemed to split and shatter, the very fabric of reality tearing at the seams.  The watchers stared beyond existence in stunned disbelief, nausea twisting through them as their minds struggled to comprehend a sight far beyond mortal understanding.  Far more attuned to the natural world than the others, Fostram stumbled and fell to the ground, shielding his eyes and retching weakly.  The others staggered but retained their footing, struggling to stay conscious as the world spun around them.

Without warning, the tear vanished, restoring the structure of reality so abruptly that the watchers’ minds continued to reel for some time.  Frackus leaned heavily on his staff, eyes locked on the ground as he struggled to remember how to raise his head.  Ril stood motionless, staring blankly ahead but obviously seeing nothing.  Fostram did not even try to rise, his body twitching spasmodically.  Ghostly pale, Morian’s whole body trembled violently as he pulled himself together with an immense effort of will.  The first to recover, he was also the first to let out a startled oath as he realized the four of them were no longer alone.

In the precise location where the rift had vanished, a familiar cloaked figure tottered unsteadily on his feet before collapsing to the ground.  Morian started forward, then hung back warily, his hand slipping to a sheathed dagger.  “Is it really you?”  He asked, his voice hard with suspicion.

Yes Morian, it’s really me,  an exhausted voice whispered in his mind.  I’m sorry about the dramatic entrance.  I should have waited longer to return.

“It IS you!” Ril exclaimed, recovering her wits.  “What took you so long?  Did you find Maya?  How could you just leave us here?”

I’m really sorry Ril, the mental voice replied.  I just reacted; I didn’t stop to think.  I should never have left the three of you all alone in a strange world.

Frackus stared hard at the prone figure, his mind racing.  The cloaked figure lay so unnaturally still that it was obvious he had no breath or heartbeat.  From the clarity of his words, Frackus knew the stranger was communicating telepathically, but why would he expend the extra energy to do so when he was so obviously weakened?  His curiosity roused, the wizard cast his mind back to everything he knew of the cloaked figure, striving to fit the pieces together.

“Never mind that now,” Morian said impatiently.  “What happened to you?  I’ve never seen you like this before!”

I am sorely wounded, the cloaked figure admitted.  The Keeper anticipated Maya’s flight and imprisoned her between worlds.  Setting her free again nearly cost both of us our lives.

“But you’re going to be okay?”

Eventually.  It will take some time for me to recover fully and Maya is even worse.  She told me to go on ahead, but it seems I should have rested more first.  I barely managed the trip.

“Yes, what was that…hole?”  Morian asked with a shudder.

It was exactly that; a hole in reality.  Crossing worlds is very difficult and I lacked the strength to complete the journey cleanly, so all I could do was force my way through.  It must have been very unpleasant for you.  I’m sorry.

“Didn’t it affect you the same way it did us?”

No, the cloaked figure replied, a hint of bitter irony flavoring his thoughts.  I am quite at home in the presence of the unnatural.

“I didn’t mean it like that and you know it,” Morian protested, looking slightly uncomfortable nonetheless.

I know, I’m sorry.  Anyway, can you fill me in on what has been happening while I’ve been away?

“Alright, but you’re not going to like it,” Morian answered grimly.  “The Keeper has created a new Sin.”
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Re: Mumblezz Make-A-Wish Foundation
Reply #177 - Sep 19th, 2007 at 1:42pm
 
NO! The cloaked figure cried in horror.  Frackus winced slightly as strange images flashed unbidden through his mind.  He saw a giant, a hundred feet tall, toss a screaming man into its mouth.  He saw a man standing unscathed as spells of devastating power exploded around him, a sneer of perfect arrogance on his face.  He saw an entire village shrouded in unnatural stillness, the perfectly preserved bodies of people and animals lying everywhere, looks of shock and horror forever frozen on their features.  He saw a young woman, her eyes glinting with avarice as she advanced on an elderly sorcerer, the old man cowering fearfully as she reached toward him before collapsing to the floor to join his defeated colleagues.  He saw a handsome young man standing naked before a huge crowd that stared at him, dull-eyed, with slavish, worshipful awe.  He saw Morian laughing triumphantly as he stood alone against a huge force, his movements uncannily mirroring his opponents as he matched them blow for blow and spell for spell with a strength and power far beyond what his slender frame should possess.  He saw Ril, her delicate ivory features twisted in an expression of demonic fury as a devastating inferno exploded from her body, reducing trees and stones and screaming men to ash in a matter of seconds.  He saw a tall, brutal-looking man grinning evilly as he beckoned to those around him, calling forth pure darkness from their bodies as they staggered and cried out in alarm.

And interlaced through all these visions stood a mysterious, dark figure, its head thrown back with maniacal laughter.  Midnight black from head to foot with not a hint of variation, it looked almost like a slender, obsidian statue.  The unrelenting darkness of its form made it difficult to discern its features, but Frackus’ keen eye recognized the build of an elf, an impression only enhanced by its pointed ears.

With an abruptness that left Frackus reeling, the foreign images vanished.  Quickly regaining his wits, the wizard saw the cloaked figure had finally moved, raising its head to stare directly at Frackus.  Although he still could not make out the other’s face through the shadows of the deep cowl, the cloaked figure’s penetrating gaze struck him like a physical blow.  What did you see?  He demanded, fear and anger warring for dominance in his thoughts.

Frackus opened his mouth to speak, then paused, weighing his options.  “Who was the midnight elf?”  He countered, watching closely for a reaction.  

The effect was immediate.  Ril, Fostram and Morian all gasped, their eyes flying wide as they regarded the wizard.  The cloaked figure’s body lurched violently as if he had be struck by an unseen assailant.  Frackus’ eyes widened slightly, surprised to have elicited such a powerful reaction.

“You know nothing,” said the cloaked figure, his voice a flat, utterly expressionless monotone as he stared hard at the wizard.  “You are simply fishing.”

Unnerved by the cloaked figure’s unnatural tone, Frackus did not immediately respond, so Morian broke in.  “As important as your secrets are to you,” he began, a hint of disapproval in his voice, “we have much bigger concerns.  Did you even notice Fostram’s hands?”

The cloaked figure’s body made another strange lurch as he regarded the wounded druid.  Fostram, what happened?  He asked frantically, his mental voice filled with concern.

“Pride happened,” the vampire replied grimly.  “We tried to take him out, but he survived everything else we threw at him.”

I’m so sorry Fostram, but at least there is one less aspect to worry about, said the cloaked figure, a hint of regret touching his thoughts.

“No, he survived it,” Ril explained harshly.  “The Keeper anticipated Fostram’s technique and exposed Pride to the same kind of attack beforehand.  We managed to drive him off, but not before he almost killed Fostram.”

A mental sigh drifted through everyone’s mind as the cloaked figure settled back into his unnatural stillness.  I’ve missed too much.  Please, start at the beginning and tell me everything.

**********************

In the Twilight Sea, a frenzy of activity took place on the obsidian platform that had once been elemental island.  Black robed figures scurried everywhere, carving precise and intricate patterns into the smooth, volcanic stone.  Mesmerized elementals dotted the island, their seemingly random locations somehow blending harmoniously with the emerging design.  Beside the sparkling crystal hovering above the center of the isle, Bellaba Rielle and the little girl stood together, calmly surveying the work in progress.  

“They are doing quite well,” said the girl.  “I am pleased.”

“Indeed,” the sorceress agreed.  “But I am curious as to why you are trusting such an important task to those newly sworn to your service.”

The girl grinned impishly.  “There is a reason I have been calling this place the great focus.  Every facet of the power to be invoked will pass through this sigil.  To prevent contamination of these energies, the symbol itself must be prepared by hands native to this world.”

Bellaba Rielle looked sharply at her master.  “What could you be planning?”  She mused.  “You taunted, deceived and nearly destroyed the guardian, and you appear to have tipped the balance of power far beyond the breaking point.  You have demonstrated that both she and this world are powerless before your machination.”

“Go on,” the little girl invited, a slight smile touching her lips.

“You’re expecting her to do something,” Bellaba reasoned.  “You’ve pushed her into a corner, made her feel helpless, all so that she will do something drastic to redress the balance.”

“Excellent,” said the girl, her smile radiant.  

“There’s more, isn’t there?”  The sorceress continued, sounding more sure of herself.  “You know exactly what she is going to do, and all of this,” she gestured at the hive of activity, “is designed to counter her next move.”

“A near miss, I’m afraid,” the girl replied in a conciliatory tone.  “You’re very close, but you need to think a little bigger.”

Bellaba Rielle stared at her master intently, her mind working furiously.  Just as she was about to speak, the girl suddenly cocked her head to the side as if listening to something.  “The shadow has returned, albeit severely weakened,” the girl declared, frowning slightly.  “He will not recover the strength to be a threat until it is too late, but the guardian could begin at any time.  We must complete the preparations with all haste, for the time is almost upon us.”
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Re: Mumblezz Make-A-Wish Foundation
Reply #178 - Sep 28th, 2007 at 5:21pm
 
Maya leaned against the green stone cliff, gazing up at the orange sky.  All alone, she stood in silent contemplation as her needs did battle with her ideals.  Never before had she come so close to utter destruction, and the experience had reawakened an ancient terror.  For the first time in millennia, memories of life before her ascension flitted through her mind.  Like a wonderful dream, she recalled the simple joys of mortal life, unfettered by the greater questions and ignorant of the delicate balance of existence.  Fondly, she relived her own delight and pleasure as she worked hard to expand her powers of foresight, learning to see more and more that others could not.  She remembered poring over ancient texts of prophecy, long nights spent gazing at the stars and the heartfelt thanks of so many people saved by her abilities.  How quickly that joy had turned to fear and desperation at the betrayal of her greatest treasure.  To one who lived to map the myriad possibilities of the future, nothing could be more abhorrent than grinding inevitability.  For the first time in her life, Maya encountered a destiny she could not change.

Frantically she searched the threads of the future, following more and more unlikely paths and eventualities.  Entire days slipped by unheeded as she probed the future, stretching her prodigious skill to its limits and beyond.  Thousands upon thousands of possible futures played out before her in an endless tapestry of time.  She saw the fates of entire nations perched upon the edge of a knife, where a single act of seeming inconsequence would one day determine the fates of millions.  She saw great prosperity sweeping across the land, but only if a single child lived to fulfill his potential.  Everywhere she looked, she saw the course of the future moved in an entirely new direction by the incredible power of a single choice, yet through it all a single thread of fate was always, always cut short.

Her own life.

The great seer was powerless to save her own life. 

Consumed by terror and desperation, Maya probed the darker threads before her, seeking salvation on the twisted paths she had long despised and finding a glimmer of hope.  By cleaving to the road of evil, the remains of her life could be measured in years instead of months, and like a drowning woman she seized upon her only chance.  Already hated and feared by those she now desired as her allies, she created a new, darker, persona for herself, one so steeped in cruelty and malice that none could possibly imagine she had been the wise and noble seer called Maya Sorene. 

Thus was Dark Star born.

Though her heart cried out in protest, she could not deny her sense of liberation.  New possibilities she had never before considered opened up before her as Dark Star quickly became as reviled as Maya had once been loved.  She learned to use any means to achieve her ends, and as the sands of borrowed time began to run out, she realized that if all possible futures lead to her death, she would have to create a new one. 

Blinded by her own arrogance and desperation, Dark Star never appreciated the full magnitude of her intentions.  To choose one possible future over another was no small matter, but to create a possibility where none existed went far beyond the province of even the gods.  Her foolish tinkering with forces far beyond her comprehension or control led her to create an artifact that should never have existed, destabilizing the very fabric of reality.  Only when the world itself began to come apart around her did she understand the truth.

For her entire life, Maya had traced the path of single threads, mapping the life and potential futures of one person in meticulous detail while ignoring the larger tapestry wherever it did not affect the individual.  Now, faced with the end of everything, the great and magnificent design of all existence was finally made plain to her.  For the first time, she saw how the end of a single thread could be a part of something much greater. 

Heedless of the risk to her own life, she managed to destroy the artifact before its presence could unmake the world, but could do nothing to repair the damage it had already done.  With her eyes opened at last, she understood the depth of her crime against existence and dedicated her life to protecting that which she had so nearly destroyed.  Ironically, the ragged tear in reality distorted the pattern just enough to allow the possibility she had long desired, giving her many more years to devote to her new path.  Using the personas of both Maya and Dark Star, she worked long and hard to bring the world into balance and preserve the integrity of the future. 

Inevitably, it came to pass that her own death was required to maintain the balance.  Carefully, she followed many different possibilities, but no matter where she looked she could not find a way to preserve her own life without sacrificing the greater design.  It would have been easy to defy the pattern and live on, but this time Maya never hesitated in walking the path to her own destruction.  Even as she lay dying, her heart was filled not with regret but with satisfaction that the balance had been maintained.

Eons later, the pattern was not so clear.  As a guardian, she possessed knowledge far beyond any god or mortal, for she could effortlessly read every possible permutation of the future.  However, painting the perfect picture was no longer her role, for the true purpose of a guardian was to protect the canvas upon which everything would be painted. 

And yet she had failed.  The Nine did not belong in Norrath.  They were holes, not threads, in the tapestry of the future, and their every action warped the threads that did belong into new and unpredictable designs.  The future must be set back on course before the world was torn apart, but for the first time in millennia, Maya wondered if she had the strength to do what must be done. 

Already she had compromised.  She had accepted the aid of the cloaked figure, shared some of her secret knowledge with a being who, in many ways, was more dangerous than even the Nine, yet without him she could not even begin to challenge them.  Her foreknowledge, a guardian’s greatest asset, was useless against foes that were invisible to her sight, and her personal power did not measure up to a god.  It had seemed fitting to use the cloaked figure against them, for there was a pleasing symmetry in one abomination excising another, but his carelessness and lack of forethought had only made the situation worse.  Angrily, she reminded herself that however good his intentions may seem, the two of them could never be anything but enemies, for his very nature was antithetical to her own.  No, the time for subtlety and manipulation was over.  Allies and patience had failed.  If Maya was going to save Norrath, she would need to take matters into her own hands.  Conviction swelled within her as her course began to take shape.  The guardian within her cried out in protest, but she refused to be swayed.  She would restore the canvas in the end, even if she had to tear it to ribbons herself before the repairs could be made.


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Re: Mumblezz Make-A-Wish Foundation
Reply #179 - Nov 9th, 2007 at 2:00am
 
Milo Vallich leaned casually against the wall, admiring the craftsmanship of a nearby crystal statue.  Raucus laughter and off-key singing echoed through the vast halls of Skyshrine as the giants celebrated their victory over the hated dragons, but Milo simply tuned them out.  The statue was a fine work of art, he decided, skillfully carved from several different types of crystal which had fused together over time long before any sculptor lay eyes upon them.  Milo's keen eye absorbed the mastery displayed by the unknown artist in using the variations of hue and texture to enhance the piece instead of attempting to conceal the imperfections.  Yes, here was a true masterpiece, the likes of which few men were ever fortunate enough to gaze upon.

Quick as lightning, his arm snapped forward, hurling a crystal needle.  The missle flashed through the air before sinking a few inches into the statue.  For an instant, nothing happened.

The statue shattered into a thousand pieces.

Milo Vallich smiled.

"Was that really neccessary?  I could have used another bauble."

Showing no signs of alarm, Milo calmly turned to face the newcomer.  "Rothar, this is a surprise.  I thought you had a city to rule."

"Freeport is mine, and there is little left for me to do," replied the Platinum Master.  "All traces of organized opposition have been crushed or driven out, and the people were so used to living under the heel of the militia that no new enemies will step forward."

"I noticed the Prince was one of those who was driven out instead of crushed," Milo observed snidely, but Rothar Khan just laughed.

"I would quickly grow bored without a worthy foe, and I need an excuse to turn the eyes of Freeport outward to conquest now there is no more internal strife."

"It would appear you have a mind after all, but your foresight could use some work."

"Oh?" The Platinum Master growled, his eyes narrowing dangerously.

"You have risen from complete obscurity to unquestioned rulership of a city that has not been united in centuries, and you have done so in a matter of months," Milo explained.  "You have already consolidated your power and laid the groundwork for expansion through conquest in the near future.  Furthermore, you are already taking steps to ease the path to your ultimate goal."

"And just what is this ultimate goal supposed to be?" Rothar asked sarcastically.

"Total dominion, of course, and you have come here to address a potential threat," Milo replied simply.  The Platinum Master went very still, his eyes, wide and unblinking, boring into the other man.

"It's really quite obvious," Milo continued, apparently oblivious to the growing tension.  "Your pride will not let you admit it even to yourself, but you know I am the better tactician.  You fear I will one day be your undoing, and so you have come to kill me now, before I have the chance to oppose you."

"You know too much, butcher," Rothar snarled, clenching his heavy, spiked guantlet.  "And yet, you still don't know everything.  It is the Tyrant I will need to defeat, but your loyalty is to the Maiden alone.  It is only their foolish alliance that has made the two of us enemies."

Milo laughed.  "No Rothar, I'm afraid it is you who are blind.  Surely you don't expect me to believe this is all business for you?  You are a fighter without peer, a man who has never been beaten, and yet there are those who whisper there is one even more skilled than you.  Your pride cannot bear this insult, and yet propriety has always prevented you from settling the matter once and for all."

"I have challenged you dozens of times, coward, and yet you have always refused me," growled the Platinum Master, barely contained rage smouldering in his eyes.  "In our world, I could not be seen to attack a supposed ally, but here you have no such protection.  Now we will settle this once and for all!"

Bellowing a warcry, Rothar Khan charged.  With a bored expression on his face, Milo casually flicked his wrist, sending a crystal needle hurtling toward a shoulder seam in Rothar's magnificent armor.  Quicker than thought, the Platinum Master's black sword flashed through the air, easily deflecting the deadly projectile.  "You'll have to do better than that," he sneered, rapidly closing the distance between them.

"You don't really think I expected that to hit, do you?"  Milo asked, drawing his sword.  "The reason I have always refused your challenges is that there is no point to a fight when neither party can win."

"You think yourself my equal?" Rothar spat, his sword slicing a glittering arc through the air.  Milo leaned back slightly, avoiding the cut with less than an inch to spare as his own sword struck the black blade on the outside, increasing the momentum of the swing in an attempt to force his opponent off balance.  Reacting instantly with impossible skill, Rothar reversed the direction of his strike to launch a deadly backhand blow, at the same time stepping into the attack to increase his range, but Milo had already stepped to the side.  Undaunted, Rothar surged forward, leading with his spiked gauntlet as he brought the sword back down in a diagonal slash to prevent any escape. 

Instead of backing away, Milo stepped inside the sword strike, inclining his head so the blade whistled over his head, grazing his hair.  The Platinum Master recovered his balance and turned to face his foe squarely as Milo backed off a few steps, shaking his head.  "We are not equals, Rothar.  In speed, strength and skill, you are most certainly the better, and that glorious armor of yours is more than sufficient to protect you from any glancing blow I might manage to inflict.  I have no hope of defeating you."

"Then die," Rothar snarled, launching a flurry of attacks with sword and gauntlet.  In stark contrast to the Platinum Master's frenzied assault, Milo barely seemed to move as he evaded blow after blow without so much as an inch to spare, occasionally using his sword not to block, but to subtly deflect his opponent's weapons. 

"No, Rothar, I'm afraid you still don't understand," Milo said sadly as he evaded ever more cunning thrusts and slashes.  "Your skill is unmatched, but my precision is perfect.  There is nothing you can do that I cannot predict and evade, but you leave me no opportunity to counter.  I'm afraid this battle has no end."

"You believe yourself to be perfect?"  The Platinum Master laughed scornfully.  "You make no sense, fool.  If you are perfect, how can I be more skilled?"

Milo casually dodged another thrust, his sword slicing low but leaping high an instant before it struck, only to be batted asside by the heavy gauntlet.  "I could not execute a fraction of the maneuvers you so easily perform, but I do not need such skill to keep myself safe.  You are one man, which means there are only so many possible courses of action you can take, and I can follow each and every possibility.  Against a single opponent, I cannot be defeated."

"We shall see," Rothar replied grimly, redoubling his assault.  The two men battled without pause as the minutes became an hour.  True to his word, Milo evaded every single attack, his own sword working almost entirely in defense with only the occasional thrust or slash.  Most men would have long since collapsed in exhaustion, but Rother's incredible stamina kept him fighting, while Milo's much more subtle style allowed him to conserve his energy.  Still, both were showing signs of strain as one hour became two, and after evading a particularly aggressive charge, Milo backed off a few paces as Rothar, breathing heavily, slowly turned back around.

"Are you satisfied?"  Milo asked wearily.  The Platinum Master paused to stare at him.

"Never in my life have I fought a more frustrating battle," Rothar admitted.  "If you were to play offense, I would cut you down with ease, but your defense is too formidable.  You are undoubtedly the best fighter I have ever fought, but it is clear that I am better."

"I told you that at the start," Milo noted dryly.  "Does this mean we are finished?"

"I'm afraid not," Rothar declared.  "There is still the matter of you becoming a threat to me in the future."

"Think for a moment," Milo demanded, shaking his head in annoyance.  "The Maiden has no interest in what happens to Velious; she is only here because of the Tyrant.  How long do you think it will be before she grows bored and moves on?  If you want Velious, you need only wait until then and you will have nothing to fear from me."

The Platinum Master hesitated, considering.  Long moments slipped by before he abruptly flipped his sword and returned it to the sheath.  Without a word, he turned and strode purposefully toward the door.  As he passed the threshhold, he paused for a moment and glanced back, fury blazing in his eyes.  "I may be leaving for now, but the two of us are not yet finished.  We will meet again, and I promise you will not survive our next encounter."
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