Seppuku For The Win

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    Lucheiah
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    Seppuku For The Win

    Post by Lucheiah on Tue Dec 23, 2008 1:49 pm

    SEPPUKU FOR THE WIN

    Elena Silverblade stopped suddenly, certain she’d seen something, a sparkle of light penetrating the gloom. The young elf was part of an expedition to discover the truth behind the rumours of the last Daelkyr invasion. Her interest was not only that of a scholar, an historian trying to piece together the truth behind a piece of Eberron’s history; her interest was personal – her mother’s aunt had apparently been one of those who had thwarted the invasion of the Lords of Madness nearly one thousand years ago.
    Moving slowly, loath to disturb anything, Elena moved to where she’d seen the faint glimmer and moved some rubble aside.
    She gasped as she spied a shimmering golden crystal – a Siberys dragonshard. Elena’s heart raced, pounding a tattoo against her ribcage, as she picked up the long, thin spindle of crystal, and looked into its shimmering depths. There was something, images, ghostly and ephemeral, floating under the surface. “Breith, look at this. How do you think it works?” the young elf asked, holding out the crystal. The gnome wandered over and adjusted his spectacles, then stroked the neat, white-blonde goatee that adorned his chin. A slow smile spread across the tanned, leathery face, and he fished in the overlarge pockets of his coat, pulling out a small carved piece of crystal, and fitted the golden shard into it.
    A face appeared in the gloom, one intimately familiar to Elena. The face that she beheld was almost identical to her own, but with slight differences. Elena’s lips were thinner than the other woman’s, her eyes were jade green, rather than glittering emerald, and her hair was more black-brown than rich, lively chestnut, but there could be no mistaking the family resemblance. “Fianna…” Elena whispered, awestruck. The woman brushed her hair out of the way, the many scarves and ribbons braided into the dark locks shimmering in the dim light – torchlight, Elena assumed. A rich, alto voice issued from the speaker now, and Elena’s eyes filled with astonished tears…
    “I’ve decided to chronicle our journey so our story won’t die with us. I’m not sure how we survived to reach this point, and I’m not sure we’ll survive to see another day. Our end seems almost inevitable. We can’t cheat death another time; we’ve tempted fate so often now, it’s going to want to exact revenge on us. We’re so close to the Daelkyr, it’s almost tangible – as tangible as total chaos can be. “ The voice paused, and Fianna shook her head sadly before continuing.
    “We all came from disparate backgrounds. I am a wealthy scion of a powerful family in Sharn, the City of Towers; Surrik is a barbarian from the Eldeen Reaches, the wild, untamed lands of the North. Hamish is a son of the proud Dwarven House, Kundarak, the house of warding and banking, in the mountains far to the northeast, and Id… Id is still an enigma, even after so many months. We all signed up for the expedition for various reasons – I wanted to see a different side of the world to that which the average tourist sees; Surrik wanted to gain honour and renown throughout the tribes of the north; Hamish came on the behest of his house; and nobody knows why Id came along, and we strongly suspect even he does not know the reason…” she exhaled heavily, a wry smile twisting across her face, and she cleared her throat before continuing to talk.
    “I think we all knew, when we signed on for the expedition, that there would be risks. One can hardly go on an expedition funded by Morgrave University without expecting there to be some risks. However, I don’t expect anyone thought the risks would be so great, the stakes so high, and the losses so devastating. We weren’t expecting a war.” Fianna exhaled gustily, pursed her lips and closed her eyes, as though doing so would take away the reality of the situation she was describing.
    “We thought it was a standard temple crawl – the sort where you make your way through the cyclopean ruins of some long-forgotten civilisation in search of one relic or another. That’s usually what happens when you accept a job from Morgrave University. We left from Sharn, our spirits high, our expectations running wild. However, on arriving in Xen’drik we ran into several more… pressing matters than retrieving the coveted artefact for our employer, matters that dampened our optimistic spirits and lowered our expectations of the mission. Our guide was killed on the way to the temple, and we wound up lost in the jungles of Xen’drik – an experience I would gladly repeat now, for at least I would be able to see the sun and feel the soft, humid air on my skin. We finally made our way back to Newfront, the only bastion of civilisation in Xen’drik. It’s a frontier town in the middle of the jungles of Xen’drik, so civilisation is a relative term,” she said, a bitter laugh in her voice.
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    Lucheiah
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    Re: Seppuku For The Win

    Post by Lucheiah on Tue Dec 23, 2008 1:51 pm

    “We were told of some… unusual goings on in town, and inevitably, the mayor summoned us to his office for a meeting, and promptly tried to kill us. Do you notice a pattern here? We really aren’t that bad, so I can’t imagine why everyone we meet wants us dead.” Again, the bitter laugh.
    “Anyway… so, this mayor. He wasn’t exactly what he appeared to be. He was an illythid, a mind-flayer of the Underworld, in disguise. The illythids are among the most nefarious creatures to exist on this planet, only surpassed in vileness by the Daelkyr, Lords of the Plane of Madness, Xoriat. The illythids hail from a plane and a time far removed from our own, and their very existence is perverted. They’re cruel, cold-blooded killers, with frighteningly acute intellects and a mindset that is so alien, to describe it would drive one to madness. Hopefully, the last of them on this plane were destroyed when we razed their city. Anyway, this ‘mayor’… He told us of the planned Daelkyr invasion as we battled – I think he thought he would win.” She smirked. “We destroyed him – we didn’t have a choice. There wasn’t much left of the man to kill; he was more illythid than man by then, a poor creature twisted by the ravages of evil. We then decided to investigate his claims. We left town searching for a route into the Underworld – probably not the most brilliant course of action we could have taken.” She smiled a sardonic, cynical smirk that revealed her grim determination to go on with her story, no matter how painful it was to relive.
    “We got as far as the temple we’d been assigned to investigate before we were stopped. Not by any sentient force, or even any living force. We stopped because we could not go forwards any more. A portal of sorts had opened before us, and an elf, with nut-brown skin and raven hair, stepped out. He ushered us through the portal – well, it was more like, he dragged us through it, I guess. We had made it to the Underworld, it seemed, but our arrival was something of an anticlimax. We spoke with the elders of these people – they call themselves ‘Rock-seers’ – and were told that the Daelkyr’s plan wasn’t so much to invade, as to drag this world to their realm. It seems that madness occasionally needs to feed on large quantities of sanity to sustain itself…” She chuckled softly, then sighed.
    “Armed with this knowledge, and the equipment the Rock-seers had given to us, we ventured deeper into The Underworld. We kept going, braving the horrors of the underworld. The miles and miles of tunnels and pitch-darkness, of hearing nothing but the footsteps of myself and my companions for hours and hours on end, not knowing how long we’d been walking for or how far we had to go, only knowing that we had to keep going.
    “Fighting down here is awful, too. You can’t see what you’re doing, unless you have a torch or a light spell – we had both but only in limited numbers. The creatures who inhabit these tunnels are unlike anything anywhere else. There are animated piles of ooze, who swamp hapless beings and suffocate or dissolve them; creatures with too many arms, or heads, or other appendages who will lurk in the shadows and ambush you, dragging you away and killing you before you have the opportunity to consider what hit you… There are the illythids themselves, of course, but they’re not so hard to kill if you take them out before they manage to bring their magic to bear.” She grimaced at the memory, her eyes glittering with unshed tears.
    Elena wondered who had been lost to them by the denizens of the deep.
    “It was a constant struggle to survive; we were low on food, water, and had almost depleted our supply of torches by this point. It was almost a freakish coincidence when we stumbled across the archon - an angelic creature, and fierce champion of good - who had been trapped down in The Underworld after a scouting mission had gone terribly wrong. He had somehow managed to hold on to shreds of his sanity despite being trapped underground for so many, many years, and when we gave him the help he needed to return to his celestial home, he gave us the gifts we would need to survive to defeat the menace. To Surrik, the mighty werebear barbarian, he gave the ability to assume a form more imposing and powerful than ever before – the form of a dragon. To Hamish, the proud son of the Dwarven House Kundarak, he gave the ability to channel healing magic as would a healer of House Jorasco, alongside his own arcane skills. To Id, the mad changeling who harnessed chaos in his magic, he gave the secret of the sevenfold veil, the power to harness prismatic magic and use it for defence.
    “Finally, to me, he gave the blessed blades and bracers of the warrior Ash. When used together, they are the bane of all the denizens of madness and darkness. The magic in these blades is ancient, bound to the blood of the elves, and the wielder of the blades is protected from all manner of bladed weapons.” She grinned with pride and a touch of irony. “Maybe, if I live to have a child, I’ll give them to her, as a family heirloom… and I’ll train her to fight so that if the Daelkyr ever come back, she’ll be ready for them…” she trailed off, a look of naked despair and hunger on her face, telling of a desperate desire for this simple wish – marriage and children – to come true. She cleared her throat and kept talking, after a moment. Her words seemed to come with more effort now, as thought it pained her to speak.
    “We made our way down to the very heart of the Underworld, to the city of Glasspool. We had been told by the Rock-seer elders, that Glasspool held the Daelkyr’s most trusted generals and a large number of minions. To weaken the Daelkyr’s power base, we would have to raze the city, destroy its denizens and demolish its technology. This was, of course, easier said than done. The city is – well, was -- in the middle of a simply massive cavern, nearly a thousand metres high, and so wide and deep you could stand against one wall and not see the other. It was on an island surrounded on all sides by icy, black water, smooth as glass, and completely opaque – probably where the name “Glasspool” comes from. The island still exists, but the city is gone now, thank the gods.
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    Lucheiah
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    Re: Seppuku For The Win

    Post by Lucheiah on Tue Dec 23, 2008 1:51 pm

    “Fortunately for us, Hamish had just finished making his latest arcane invention, a disk that had been imbued with the flight ability, and he had a stock of flight spells, so we managed to make our way across the lake to the city, without touching the water. We decided very quickly that staying away from the water was a good idea. We couldn’t see into it, and had no idea what was in it, and that whatever was likely to be in it would quite likely crush us, or eat us, or drown us, before we got even half-way across the lake.
    “It was probably the most foolish move we made, flying into a city full of illythids. However, we came out victorious. We obliterated the city entirely.” She smiled with pride now, her face lighting up as she relived the memories. She was speaking faster now, the words almost tumbling out of her mouth.
    “It was probably our finest hour. The city was laid out with a central citadel surrounded by four defensive towers, each contributing to the magical protection of the citadel. We’d actually been given one final gift by the archon before he left – a scroll containing a spell to turn a rather large area of stone into a volcano. Hamish had the brilliant idea of summoning an upside-down volcano over the first tower. It worked brilliantly. There was lava everywhere; the tower, and a large part of the surrounding city, was reduced to slag… it was great!
    “The second was almost as easy. Hamish, again, was the brains of the outfit. He made a massive inverted icicle, with the thin point adhered to the roof of the cavern, almost a thousand metres above the tower. Surrik metamorphosed into his dragon form, and melted the ice, causing it to crash down on the tower. This was nearly as effective as dropping a volcano on the tower, but with more rubble and less slag. The other two were somewhat… more difficult to overcome. We had run out of smart ideas and powerful spells, and had to storm the remaining two and destroy them from the inside out. Which we did, with relative ease. Our victory was fairly short-lived, however. Once the last tower had fallen, and the city had been razed, we found ourselves in an untenable position. We had depleted most of our resources in destroying the towers, and there was quite literally nowhere for us to hide and rest and replenish our resources. We took refuge in one of the destroyed buildings, and have been here ever since…” Fianna’s voice grew weary.
    “Now, we are preparing to launch our final campaign against the Daelkyr. I will be recording the battle, for several purposes. First, if we survive, I want to bring this back to show everyone what we have accomplished. Secondly, should we fall, this will remain behind to show those yet to come the true horrors of the Daelkyr.” Then just as she finished, a rough baritone voice in the background shouted, “Fi, they’re coming!!”
    Fianna’s voice was brusque, almost business-like. “I make my final recording now. If I fall, I want the ones who find this to heed these words: don’t fight for a world, or even a country. Fight for something smaller and more meaningful to you. Fight for the people that matter to you the most in the world. That way, you’ll know you’re doing the right thing…” Fianna said. Tears glittered in her emerald eyes, but she smiled. “Watch us well!!” she ordered, before the images blurred and faded.
    When they settled, there was a broad panorama of the very room in which Elena and Breith now stood, watching the recording. The doors flew open, shattering off their hinges, and several humanoid creatures stormed through the smoking portal. They were beautiful beings, with radiant countenances, skin so fair it was almost translucent and inky blue-black hair; but theirs was a twisted beauty. They were clad in a dark red chitin armour, and carried a series of odd weapons that seemed to pulse and twitch of their own accord. They spoke alien words in sinister, icy, cultured voices, and the room seemed to warp. Reality was out of kilter here, with the walls now pulsating and changing shape randomly and turning odd hues, some of which were completely indescribable. The brave four stood against the psychological onslaught, resisting the urge to collapse in horror or succumb to the madness around them.
    “Are… those Daelkyr?” Elena asked softly. Beside her, Breith nodded silently.
    The tall, burly werebear barbarian snarled suddenly and his form shifted, his skin becoming a vivid crimson, flesh turning into diamond-hard scales, massive wings sprouting from his broad back and his body engorging until he towered over the rest of the room’s occupants. One of the Daelkyr smirked coldly, and performed a similar change, his alabaster skin becoming the inky blue-black of his hair, with tough scales, batlike wings and evil yellow eyes. The two dragons took wing and without further ado started to do battle, high above.
    The stout, proud dwarf gritted his teeth and took a pair of wands from holsters on his wrists, firing their orbs at one of the remaining three foes. They impacted, exploding with an odd screaming sound, causing part of the wall to crumble where it melted, as though it were made of ice and not stone. The wall seemed to re-form, pulsing and shifting, completely fluid in its changes.
    The tall, handsome man’s form also shifted, his skin seeming to melt and re-form, until a small, lithe grey figure stood where the tall man had been. The changeling hastily threw up a pair of coloured magical walls, as a pair of spells arced towards him. They hit the outer wall and dissipated, and the changeling laughed contemptuously, revelling in the chaos around him.
    Fianna, the slender, agile elf, was performing acrobatic feats beyond anything Elena had ever imagined. She and her chosen adversary were duelling on a high-up, narrow tightrope that Elena would swear had not been there before, and thought had been summoned out of the chaos surrounding the combatants. The elf woman held her breath as she watched the recording. Fianna was a blur of motion, the slender swords she wielded flashing almost faster than the eye could see. She narrowly dodged the whiplike appendage the Daelkyr flailed at her, backflipping away and landing neatly on the tightrope several metres away.
    The battle continued in this vein for quite some time, Fianna dodging nimbly out of the Daelkyr’s reach, then darting in to slice at her foe; the dragons snarling and hissing, grappling each other, shredding through tough scales to the soft flesh beneath and breathing flame and acid in each other’s faces; the dwarf sending spell after spell at his chosen adversaries, while sheltering behind the protection the changeling provided. No matter what, the Daelkyr appeared unharmed, in complete contrast to the warriors. Suddenly, Fianna froze. Her stillness was more profound than any movement would have been at that moment. “I know what we have to do. Follow my lead!” she shouted over the din of battle, her voice rough with emotion and apprehension – and resigned acceptance. She glared at the Daelkyr and ripped off the glistening breastplate she had been wearing, casting it aside. “Try and stop me!” she screamed at the Daelkyr, as she slowly, lovingly slid both her blades into her heart; hot, red blood spurting everywhere. The brave, beautiful elf fell to the floor with such elegance and grace, hitting the floor almost silently, her body landing right beside the recording crystal. High above on the tightrope, the Daelkyr she had been fighting was frozen in horror. “No! No, no, no!!” he screamed in denial, as his body simply disintegrated.
    “Th-they were linked to our life-forces… Every time we attacked them, we took the damage ourselves, but had we died like that, they would have won… In order for them to die, we had to give up our own lives willingly and freely…” Fianna’s voice whispered into the recorder, almost drowned out by the horrified screams of the other Daelkyr as her brave companions sacrificed themselves… for the greater good.
    Elena wiped her eyes, unaware she’d been crying. She picked up the crystal, knowing that their sponsors would be pleased that they had retrieved something of value, and then stopped. “Hang on a second…” she muttered. “She fell here… right here… it was on the recording,” she muttered, her voice trembling with hope. She knelt down and brushed debris and junk out of the way. She gasped suddenly, in astonishment that her hunch had been right and in awe at the sight she beheld. A pair of gold bracers, adorned with rubies and emeralds to the shape of a rose, lay revealed. Between them lay a pair of elegant, graceful blades, a ruby rose affixed to the pommel of each sword. The skeleton of the owner had apparently disintegrated over the intervening years, but that didn’t lessen the wonder of the find. “Look at these, Breith!” Elena exclaimed. “Can you believe it? Look at them, they’re still perfect!” she announced, exuberant over the find. “I… can’t believe they’re still here… this is amazing…” she breathed, her hands trembling as she picked the bracers and swords up. As she turned to leave the shell of the building, she heard the distinct sound of a breeze whistle through some rubble. “But there’s no wind…” she muttered, a chill up her spine as a thought struck her. “I’ll take these home with me and pass them down to my daughter, and she to her daughter…” she announced, hearing a faint laugh in response. “Breith… let’s get going. These ruins are the resting place of an elf… and you know how elves feel about staying dead…” she whispered as they left the ruins at full speed.
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    Lucheiah
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    Re: Seppuku For The Win

    Post by Lucheiah on Tue Dec 23, 2008 1:52 pm

    This is a story I wrote for one of my classes a couple of years ago. Hope you enjoy it! Feel free to post feedback and constructive critiques!

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    Re: Seppuku For The Win

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