Before I start this chappie, mini-blogging time
Basically just some pictures. (Took me like 5 tries to get them to upload… grr…
1 – That’s my character in Rakion. Yeah, I’m a girl, stuff it. Rakion’s sexist, so all archers are girls.
2 – I seem to have gotten a new nickname in addition to the other 4,783.
3 – Went to haunt him for calling me Wiggles >D
4 – Yeah, made a second Sirius. For keeps this time. Shinyyy.
5 – Got plenty of this from level 25-31. Glad to be out of there, but now I’m stuck at level 32 with not enough acc or damage for MCPQ >_>
Anyways. Since I used up all my poetic creativity for the month on Kill Count (which was written in 10 minutes at 3 AM >_> ), I couldn’t come up with something good to start off this chapter with. So I just kinda BS’d some randomness that seemed to fit. Apologies.
The moon rises
To all sizes
And light fades
Leaving the world
In darker shades
Ah, so thats what you came for. The Leaftain got up as if to retrieve something, then turned back. Just to use, or for another reason? A replica wouldnt do?
It was well known that the lesser Maple artifacts, such as the Soul Singer, had been replicated many times, both before and after the deaths of the eight Maple Heroes. In order to tell the difference, the Leafreites created a distinction between the originals, authentics for the next two or three other sets created, and replicas for all later copies.
Kennan hesitated to speak. He sought a specific one. But could anyone possibly know where it had gone, over the centuries? It would sound preposterous to ask. After all, his family had been Henesyan farmers for too many generations.
Im looking for do you happen to know if theres a Lughaid Ardonn in the records? From the Heroes War?
Lughaid Ardonn. Doesnt ring a bell. Who is he?
A relative. Hes supposed to have fought and trained under the Blade Soullohen, and had a blade made for him. The second Singer ever made, they said.
A relative. How do you know?
Spirituna prophecy, then some research.
This was news. Spirituna was the only living prophet in Ossyria and the Islands that anyone ever paid attention to. And what did she say?
That I would wield the weapon of my ancestors and its song would be heard far and wide.
Song. Definitely typical, Id say so. Well, if this Lughaid of yours is for real, well soon see. Meanwhile, you may want to visit the new place. Middle of three trees, Battlefield of Fire and Water.
It seemed impossible, walking through the flourishing jungle with its every shade of green, that the place could be permeated by any force of evil. Everything seemed timeless here. Even if the rest of the world went up in flames, Minar Forest would continue to exist. It just couldnt be taken.
But it was.
As they walked, Ryn thought she heard something moving around in the foliage. Kennan paused; he heard it too. They waited.
Continuing on cautiously, she heard it again. Coming from the greenery right to her left
She screamed, but no sound ever came out. Kennan pulled her behind a tree, rather roughly. She felt splinters.
Sorry about that Okay, heres the plan. Ill distract it, you run past, Ill join you after. Dont worry about me, just be ready. And he was gone.
Shortly she heard a shout to her right. Oi! You with the emo feathers! Go cry in a corner! Facepalm.
The smashing of foliage told her something just charged at Kennan. She peeked from behind a tree. What looked like a Harp crossed with a Lucida riding a Dual Birk was now chasing its prey through the undergrowth. When it seemed they were far enough, she broke cover and ran. She dashed forward, guessing the direction, trying to discern a path that didnt exist, not finding it but continuing anyway. She wanted to get far away.
Presently she was lost. How Kennan and everyone else figured out directions in this place was beyond her. She longed to see the sky again. A blue sky over your head was something you took for granted until it wasnt there anymore. And it wasnt there.
Then something dropped down from the trees. Love. Ryn jumped back and drew her Cutlus, ready to strike or run. Whichever suited her.
Chill out, its me. Kennan. Actually, I take that back. Good reaction, heh. I think Ive taught you well. You never know these days.
The sword went back into its sheath. So where exactly are we?
Actually, were not too far from where we need to go. This is the domain of Red Kentauri: the Field of Fire.
She looked around. It was the same lush jungle as where they started. How do you know?
Well, not precisely here. This whole place were in is the basement, if you will, of Minar. Everything looks exactly like the generic Leafre jungle, and the only way you can tell the difference is by the markers on the trees. Each tree acts like a sort of road mark; its a pretty complex system. But it helps get you places when the regular roads are unsafe. The actual Field of Fire is right above here.
So how do you get from here to there? She looked above her. There didnt seem to be a floor, or anything resembling one.
We climb. This is a magical forest, remember. We get into a tree trunk and climb. He went up to a specific tree and traced the Aoha sign on it. Nothing visibly happened, but then Kennan stepped right into the tree and vanished from view. Then his hand appeared, and his voice: Come.
Ryn followed, using her hand to test the tree trunk first before walking into it. She emerged into a narrow space within the trunk. There was a crude rope ladder going up the inside of the trunk, which Kennan was already on. Grabbing a rung, she ascended the tree behind Kennan.
Were here. He jumped off the ladder onto a ledge. Drawing the Aoha sign again on the inside of the tree, he made as if to step out, but then said to Ryn, Wait here until I give the okay. Nod.
A few moments later he stuck a hand in the tree and beckoned to her. Taking the cue, she stepped out the tree.
The first thing she immediately noted about the place was the sunlight. Having not seen direct sunlight for most of her time in Minar, the fact that any existed now was amazing. The second thing she noticed was the injured Red Kentaurus lying on the ground some distance away. The third thing she noticed was that the grass-covered earth gave no sign of an entire other part of the forest beneath her feet.
Kennan strode to the Kentaurus. A gash ran across its side, oozing orange. It wasnt dead; it twitched now and again but made no sound. He seemed puzzled. Normally if a Kent is injured, its mates surround it to prevent an easy kill. One alone like this is pretty unusual. He motioned Ryn for the bag, which she handed to him. Taking out a small bottle of powdery red healing herb, he applied it to the wound.
I guess the Dark Kentauri naturally have the advantage nowadays. We better not stay here.
They made their way to the Leaf portal in the center of the three trees, and within seconds were whisked off to Helios Tower.
Ankas crew gave their report. El Nath is safe. The tower and all the snowfields up to the cliffs are confirmed cleared. We explored a little ways into the mountain. We think they have a stronghold somewhere within.
Leaftain Alcaster pondered. Dark crystals couldnt act up by themselves. Someone out there was manipulating them for some cause, whether simply to terrorize or to accomplish something greater. But the Aoha Raiders hadnt encountered any actual humans linked with the dark aura. Yet.
Send half the force to Minar through the portal as reinforcements. Bring plenty of priests. The other half, especially rangers and hermits, continue scouting in the mountain ranges.
Leaves did not exist in the Forest of Dead Trees. Sparse skeletons of plants dotted the summit of Mount Dead Mine, where by an unexplained phenomenon no sunlight shone to feed them.
Four rangers, three hermits, two ice mages, and Anka the priest emerged from a conjured door. Immediately the summit sprang into a horrid imitation of life; rotten corpses picked themselves up from the ground. The zombies began closing in on the group but were met with a hail of arrows, stars, and spells. Soon they were subdued and collapsed as one, and the summit became still again.
Lachie the Ranger pointed with an arrow toward the cliffs. Well retrace our path that way. Once we reach the ledge, well door back to El Nath. Tomorrow we start here again and work toward the mines.
The others assented, and followed behind him.
After a while, the barren landscape, the withered vegetation, and the general lack of light started getting to Anka. It seemed to him that they were watched, that they were trapped, that at any moment, the ground could open up and swallow them. To dispel such thoughts, he tried concentrating on the mission, but that didnt help much.
Lachie stopped. Hush. Anyone just hear something? It was like a faint
They heard it again, but much less faint this time.
With a crash, a sharp pillar of ice imbedded itself in the ground next to Lachie, centimeters from killing him. Run! Scatter!
But there was nowhere to run. Anka looked around. About fifty of what vaguely looked like men shrouded in dark aura had appeared on the plain seemingly from nowhere.
To Ryns surprise, she saw no toy blocks at all when she stepped into the new base. Instead, it had been redecorated into a very convincing imitation of Minar forest. The only way she knew she wasnt still in Leafre was that this place had walls, though they too were decorated in native Leafre jungle vegetation.
The Leafreites of the Aoha had made themselves a miniature village in a tower. The dining area, training and practice area, and childrens area were all on separate levels, and everything converted to sleeping quarters when came nighttime. After a tour of the tower, Ryn found her way to where several boys, a few years younger than her, waited patiently under a tree with knifeblade in hand. One kicked the tree, detaching a few leaves. The others dashed at the leaves, slashing the air with their knives. The leaves fell to the ground untouched.
A Leafscout explained, Its an old Leafre training drill to improve speed and precision in combat. The objective is to split or impale a leaf before it touches the ground. It takes patience, timing, and fluidity in your movements.
Screams erupted from the boys. I got it, I got it! One of them held up two halves of a leaf for the Leafscout to see. I saw it. Nice one, he said, handing the kid a Maple Pop.
Ryn asked to try, and the Leafscout assented. Sure, I dont see why not.
Taking the knifeblade he handed her, she stood in position among the others. The tree was kicked, and three leaves detached themselves from the branches. Homing in on one, she timed her strike, watching the pattern of its motion. She lunged.
Picking up the leaf, she saw that she had made a tiny cut in its edge. The Leafscout held out a hand to see the leaf. Thats pretty good for a first-timer. Most dont touch the leaf until a few more tries. But you see getting good at this requires practice.
The forty-third floor was a good peaceful location, and would be safe for the time being. But both Ryn and Kennan knew their stay was to be short lived. Soon, any and all able-bodied fighters in Ossyria and the Isles would have to join together and face the dark aura. And even before then
Next time, I wont miss. The evident leader of the possessed men said. He made a motion with his hands, and a second ice spike jabbed out from the ground, impaling Lachie in the back and knocking him to the ground, bleeding. Instantly the others opened fire on the small group from El Nath. Pelted with fire, poisoned projectiles, and sheer dark energy, they were caught off guard and could not offer resistance. Anka tried desperately to heal Lachie but was hit with a fire arrow and forcefully knocked off his feet and into the air, landing some distance away.
He weighed his options. Help, or run.
It might be hopeless to stay and fight, and if they all died no one would be able to report to El Nath what happened. But if he ran he would have the lives of nine of his peers on his conscience.
There was only one thing for it.
Storing extra emergency mana in a Wisdom Crystal, Anka prepared for the worst and teleported back beside Lachie. Accumulating energy, he expended all he had in him to perform a new spell for the first time.
He collapsed to the ground as the landscape illuminated itself in an imitation of daylight. Grasping the Wisdom Crystal, he tried extracting what he had left in it. Picking Lachies body up and carrying it over his shoulder, he teleported away across the plateau of dead trees.
Behind him he heard an otherworldly voice shout, Thats right, run. The Shadowlights will find you. All of you!
Anka made it to the mystic door and hefted Lachie through it. When they were safe in El Nath, he put a hand to his back in an attempt to heal the wound.
Can you hear me, Lachie?
Amazingly, he spoke. Hey.
He lost consciousness, and an array of light, the lament and rage of a priest, lit the snow in white flames.