Riding along the shore started furiously, pushing Attila hard to clear the oncoming cat people. He led a few of the others out through the forest line, and only moved slowly enough for them to keep some level of pace for several hundred yards. He was downwind as best he could tell, and clearly out of sight of wherever those silver furred monstrosities had come from. Along the shoreline to the north, clear tracks of a cart and hooves singularly stood apart, the lone fresh and obvious track to guide him on the singular gravel road hugging the coast. Whitevale was well defended; this was the path the other fur-covered things had traveled, no doubt it would be the path of the pirate soldiers that he had just retreated from. First, he had to find the mottled ones.
Looks like we’ve got some hunting to do. Hangover’s cooked, but so am I.
Muddied and tired, he was covered with a natural camouflage of silt and blood, none of which belonged to him. Sweat flowing from his forehead caked an unnatural line of grime about his brow. Looking back at the olive-cloaked rangers, he saw their fatigue and fear worn clearly on long faces.
Poor sons of bitches. Fought like hell, lost their brothers, and had to leave without so much as claiming pelts to use for stoles, pretty souvenirs for their wives. We’re going to get you brave little bastards some cloth before this is said and done.
The ride became smoother, easier, and more steady after a few hard minutes. Morning turned into midday quickly, the bright sun yielding to a wall of clouds to the east, which cooled the group rapidly in their sweat soaked tunics. The road took them through Concordia Forest, where a second batch of rangers listened carefully to their brethren about the approaching force. The day burned quickly, but the men pressed forward, pausing only for short stretches and moments to feed the horse.
A few claps of distant thunder rang out to the travelers from the water as they moved northward, enjoying that familiar odor of ozone and cleanliness that he usually associated with combat. Wiping his face clean, he gazed ahead, now just hours outside of Radasanth. Based on his recent brutalities, entering town was not an option. Hunger biting at him, Storm nibbled at a loaf of bread he had packed, taking a few fresh pulls of brandy from a flask he kept close hold. In a less than wholly magnanimous gesture, the wizard shared the bread with the archers. The rangers probably had water, or something wet, he estimated.
Ahead of him, a single large silhouette silently cut from the north. Within moments, Storm recognized the half-elf, a man that last became famous for betraying the mage and escaping with a fortune wrapped in a singular envelope. His hands in clear view, the thickly muscled scoundrel didn’t appear to come with violent intentions, but Veritas motioned for the men about him to stay at the ready, as their bows quickly found spots in their off-hands.
You mother*cker. I thought you were dead.
“Ebivoulya!? Holy shit, I thought you were dead. Hell, for a while there I hoped you were dead. Did the devils give you back to us?”
"I didn't give them a choice," the man said with a smirk.
There could have been kinder greetings, he supposed, and he saw on the face of the half-elf a sense of knowing resignation. Was this coyness, or outright deception from Ebivoulya? Either way, the electromancer clung to a healthy dose of skepticism, alongside hope for what could be a powerful ally. There was also some acknowledged hypocrisy to the words the rider spoke; no one could accuse Storm of a lifetime of heroism.
“Walk with us, and let’s move quickly. Not sure where you think you’re going, but cancel plans. The south coast just got swarmed by a pack of trained, overgrown housecats. Scary and strange as shit, but these stupid asses were brave enough to stand up to ‘em – at least for a while. Lots of wounded, angry pussies likely coming our way.”
Incapable of resisting the pun, the aging wizard smiled proudly at his juvenile reference. The powerhouse elf vibrated gently, stifling a laugh. Together, Storm led the tired rangers further north, satisfied to see the hybrid human/elf pivot to join them.
“For the record, I still owe you an ass-kicking, but the time for that will come. Those blue coated bastards probably won’t be far behind us, and I’ll need as many bad men as I can get to deal with them.”
Careful what you wish for...
"Sounds like there's no negotiating, then. And it's Nyadir, now that I'm out of Alerar. I've actually been travelling with a group of cat-people, but they didn't wear blue coats."
The lack of lightning seemed a bit surreal, but the swordsman averted his eyes from that gift horse as he kept pace with the group. He strove to keep his voice and face smooth as he wrestled his frustration. This complicated things immensely; a few rangers and a bar tough were nothing compared to this one man. With a glance back to the one-armed dark elf, he decided to fill the group in; they'd learn soon enough anyways.
"We picked up a linguist, and he figured out a bit of what those things were saying. Seems the ones on the ships need something in the mountains to the north to save themselves."
It was difficult not to turn around to gauge the reaction of the group, but there was no point in making himself suspicious until they got nearer the mountains. None of their ambitions were likely to be a threat, whatever they thought of it. The reaction of the lightning mage was predictable however, and he said it plainly.
"Then we need to get it before those furry bastards catch up to us."
The group agreed, of course, and they trudged alongside the mounted mage for the rest of the day. Throughout those hot hours Nyadir often found himself a pace behind, and staring at the back of the man named Storm. These pleasantries and jokes sickened the swordsman, for he saw the same concessions in himself. Here strode two beasts in the guise of sheep, fangs blunted in favor of social weapons. Where one seemed to have grown easily in his superiority, the other stalked with hunger fresh. With power so close to his grasp, to have the very bastard who sparked his thirst for it suddenly pop up out of f'king nowhere... it was difficult not to pounce on that turned back. Much like the cat-people, however, a sense of self-preservation stayed his blade. It was better to wait until circumstances were more favorable. The rangers were understandably weary by the time night fell, a flickering light show lingering in the skies to the south. Luckily, Leoric's group had made camp early, so they caught up after a few hours of the Lord of Lightning walking beside his horse like everyone else.
The rangers who were with the waiting group all rushed to meet their surviving brothers, lamenting the ones left behind. The display went unnoticed to the half-elf, and as the others were making introductions he walked straight to the linguist and sharply asked the small man what else he had figured out. It took the mouse's reaction to the impatience of the cat to make large swordsman realize his lack of composure. It took effort, but he softened his voice and face, and asked again with a quick apology. The man stammered at first, but his eyes sharpened once he gained verbal footing. He went on to first assure the imposing half-elf that the cat-people they were with were peaceful, or at least said 'peace' while pointing to themselves. The swordsman tried to look relieved despite his impatience. He also simply nodded when the linguist revealed that he had heard a word similar to the aboriginal version of 'power' when pointing at the mountains.
The rest drifted off into the night unheard, though the half-elf still nodded at the end of particularly animated sentences. That was all the confirmation he needed, and he was somewhat certain he could get there ahead of them. The urge was becoming too difficult to control, though, he would need to find some entertainment tonight. For the time, he waited and pretended to listen as the linguist rambled, taking his time in deciding which one was the pick of the litter.
Morning broke damp and dewy for Phyr Sa'resh. The one armed dark elf sat next to the remains of the fire and huddled within his heavy cloak, letting the first shy rays of sunlight warm his tired bones. He had slept through the night like a babe whose mother used brandy for medicine. He'd been a walking corpse for the latter half of the previous day's journey, barely able to stick to a straight line. The night's sleep had not entirely refreshed him, but it did rub a little grease on the gears of his mind, enough to get them clicking again.
As he sipped sparingly from his waterskin Phyr cast his gaze over his sleeping comrades. Had the number of cat people dwindled? He hadn't had the presence of mind to count them, and couldn't be certain, but there seemed to be one ball of fur missing from the bunch. He looked over the rest of his companions, and something on the bottom of Nyadir's steel-plated boot caught his eye, but as he moved to inspect it he roused one of the rangers. The wakened man shook several of his compatriots, and before long the entire camp was awake.
The cat folk surrounded the linguist in a hurry, clicking incessantly at the mousy man and gesturing among themselves. He clicked back but mostly seemed to be uttering apologies, saying he couldn't quite understand them. Instead he repeated a couple of words in their language over and over, gesturing at the Jagged Mountains until the cats seemed to agree.
The strange group followed a winding path up the foothills that led to the base of the mountains. Every so often the cat folk would click at the linguist, and the small man would call a halt in order to consult the map. The rangers kept a watch on all points, while Phyr focused on putting one foot in front of the other. His legs still ached from the previous day's hike. As they reached the base of the mountains Phyr was walking alongside Nyadir, and he saw an opportunity. Kicking a loose stone that stood in his path, the dark elf pretended to trip and fell heavily in the dirt, stealing a glance at the bottom of Nyadir's boot.
“You really should watch yourself,” the half elf said, offering a hand to help Phyr stand.
“Aye,” Phyr said through a forced smile, “that I should.”
He had spotted blood on the bottom of Nyadir's boot.
Terrence Edim awakened to a fiery pain in his lower leg. The guardsman had passed out in a large copse of bushes, expecting to die in his sleep or wake up a prisoner of the cat folk, but found himself very much alive and still within the bush's brambly clutches. He stifled a groan and rolled over until he could stick his head partway out of the bush to look around. The bodies of the cat folk and rangers who'd died in the battle still lingered, and insects gathered swiftly.
Did those bloody cat people march after Phyr so fast that they left behind their dead?
Distant sounds reached his ears from the plateau. Edim got up to his hands and knees. The white haired man crawled to a nearby oak and, leaning heavily on its broad trunk, managed to stand. He took his looking-glass out of his pocket and expanded the long tube before raising the narrow end to one eye. It took some twisting about, but he managed to find an angle where he could see the refugee camp.
It had grown, and thrived with silver furred activity. Using the very supplies that Edim and Phyr had brought for the refugees, the bluecoats had pitched themselves a cozy little camp. Terrence recognized the tents. He panned the telescope around until he caught sight of the cat-in-charge. Through the glass he could have counted the chap's well waxed whiskers. The feline had split its followers into groups, and sent one of the groups toward the forest with a wave of its paw.
“Take me to Haide,” Edim cursed beneath his breath. He collapsed the telescope and put it away before stumbling deeper into the woods, angling toward the road. He found a deadwood stave to aid his progress as he walked, and made it across the road before the cats got too close to the forest. He found a hillock shaded by ferns and collapsed with a gasp on top of it, his wounded leg aching. He hid beneath the broad leaves and shrugged off his bow, drawing an arrow from the quiver on his hip and stringing it stealthily. Even if the feline bastards smelled him they'd have to cross the open road, and he'd be sure to kill at least one before they got to him.
Morning began to drive off the dew from the tall grasses about them, and Storm flipped his cloak off his chest, the effective blanket staving off the oceanfront breeze that chilled his toes and fingertips. Attila grazed behind him, on the other side of a maple tree that served as an effective lean-to for the night. The horse had guarded him through the night from an opponent that never came, although as the wizard gazed upon the small troop that he had gathered amongst, he suspected the real enemy was very much present.
Didn’t bother to wipe the blood off your boots, eh Ebi? Oh, sorry, “Nyadir”, or whatever the hell you go by now. You’ve changed the name, but not the game. You think I forgot about you cutting yourself to feign an attack when we met, that crazy assed look in your eyes? You think I’d mistake your forked tongue or scaled body?
His eyes were on the translator, the dopey little rube that served as the lone linkage to the cat people. There were less of them now; this was not lost on them. Their mewling nonsense was pitchy and frenetic, chattering about as Storm rose from his stoop and arched his back, listening for the satisfying crick-crack that poured off his spine in mid stretch. Reaching into his satchel, he pulled another few strips of dried and salted beef, walking over to share fragments with the hungry travelers.
Gazing at them all, their shared desperation looked back to him with gratitude. He had found himself thrust amongst this thing, literally caught in the midst of the war. There was a particular surrogacy he felt towards these abandoned, mottled travelers. They were refugees, they were desperate, and they would help him stand against the larger danger.
They also mentioned “power”…
Whatever it was that sat in the mountains, as that chubby little linguist alluded to, Storm was never more sure than it was the reason Ebivoulya had slithered his way back into the fold. There were others here; a few rangers, a few of the cats, and a one-armed elf he’d yet to greet. Skepticism was likely a sage path for managing that one.
“Soldier, here, I’m almost out. Walk with me.” He pulled up the wounded archer with an outstretched hand, offering a healthy strip of meat he wasn’t sure of when purchased in the Radasanth market. He hoped it was beef, but in honesty it tasted damned good, even if it once barked.
Grimacing, the ranger strode, a slight limp disclosing a second, mild injury – a sprained ankle, a twist of the knee. The young fighter looked to the old mage with his own brand of managed fear; Storm Veritas had remained mysterious, powerful, and of questionable motive. Curiosity grabbed the grateful man as he tore a stringy strap of beef between his teeth. “M’Lord?”
Distancing the two from the group by a few feet, Storm gestured southward falsely, as if explaining a path to keep ahead of those grey-furred monstrosities. His words told an altogether different tale.
“Your eyes need to be on the big, muscled elf. He’s going to go for whatever these creatures are looking for. The second we grab it, you and your men will feel his steel between your shoulderblades. Don’t let them get caught off guard; I need all of you when they other goddamned silvers catch up.”
Storm’s eyes were fixed on the coast to the south, looking for movement that was yet to arrive. He wasn’t sure how he’d created so much space between camps, and his mind darted quickly to Whitevale. He’d want to go back, protect the town with Shinsou, cement their stronghold.
A strong breeze slapped at him, the salty air turning his attention. His focus narrowed again on Nyadir as the camp was gathering, packing, and preparing to march back north. Whatever surprise the mountains held, he needed to be there, first and foremost. He didn’t want the silvers to have it, but simply couldn’t allow for the monster now parading as “Nyadir” to abscond with it.
I’ll take us all down before you betray me again.
A bright, toothy smile burst across the face of the diplomat as he marched back to the group, whistling gently to bring Attila back up to the crush.
“All you lazy sons of bitches up, I hope? Sounds like it’s time to drive this caravan up to the mountains!”
A hand clapping the ranger on the shoulders, he whispered once more, retaining his smile.
“Keep your head on a f*cking swivel, my friend.”
Far too many eyes lingered long on the half-breed, not least of which the lanky lightning mage. That man's ambitions weren't a surprise, but rangers too seemed on edge as the morning wore on. The swordsman tried to ignore it as the scenery shifted to gray slopes and loose gravel, but the disquiet remained. The most concerning was the one-armed dark elf's stumble; the nimble Nyadir had never known an elf to stumble so easily. It all added up to the unpleasant suspicion that the half-breed had slipped up. That feeling was verified when he finally sat cross-legged for a bit while the cat-things chittered at the map. A small crimson splotch sat proudly on the heel of his boot, leftovers from his midnight snack. All morning he'd been walking around with food stains on him; how embarrassing.
This pushes things forward a few hours, and a few bodies.
The swordsman kept an eye on the cat-people clucking away, and noted which ones led the conversation. There were three who always pointed with confidence, and led the rest to click and nod. It was usually easy to spot leaders from the ripples they left in their subordinates. When they rolled up Leoric's map, the half-elf stood without bothering to clean his boot. There was no need to make it obvious he had noticed, and force someone's hand; let them plot while he kept an eye to the horizon. After all, none of them had seen his speed yet. Their surprise should buy him the second or two he would need to take advantage of whatever opportunity arose. He kept enough energy at the ready for his strongest enhancement as he walked, mind blank with concentration and blue eyes lazily scanning the mountainside.
With his plans changed, the swordsman had resumed walking a little behind the cart of cats. As the group traveled, most of the rangers ended up near the cart as well, quite conveniently. The mounted mage must've put tales in their heads, the clever bastard. He was the only one who had any dirt on the smuggler. Their earlier candor had devolved mostly into not-so-subtle looks between the former enemies, a change the half-elf relished. Beasts bore fangs much better than tongues, a freedom they should enjoy. It was nearer noon when the swordsman spotted a pass that sloped off steeply on one side down to another path below.
The lower pass wound out of sight behind a smaller peak, but further study suggested the two trails converged a little further up the mountain. It was the perfect place to part ways with the group. For many long minutes he waited and walked until they reached the narrow pass, that forced the rangers to spread into a column again. There were only two of them near the guide cat closest to the edge, now. His enhancement would temporarily quadruple his normal speed and strength. With the distance quite small, he really only had to worry about the ride down. When one of the rangers walked over to the other side of the cart, sweat popped out on the smuggler's brow.
The half-elf was next to the cart with his dagger in the ranger's throat before the man reached his blade, and over the edge dragging the cat by the scruff of the neck before anyone made a sound.
Gravel and loose stones skidded under steel-plated boots as the swordsman slid down, and the cat-thing scratched at his bare arm. Its claws dug deep, so the smuggler slammed it into the path as they landed. One of its arms broke to protect its head, but the thing was out cold. Thick leg muscles flexed to absorb the impact, and the half-elf immediately sprinted up the path and out of sight around the bend. He halted the enhancement process once he was far enough away from potential lightning, and salvaged some energy to fuel his stamina as he jogged. The cat-thing hung limp behind him like a doll, and its hind legs grew bloody as he dragged it up the mountain. Things would've been so much simpler if the lightning mage had just stayed a memory.
It was hours later, and further up the range, that the swordsman stopped to persuade his prisoner. With its paws tied it wasn't a threat, and the steel wire from the half-breed's belt had proven a useful leash. It didn't take too many pictures drawn with the cat's blood before it understood, and it quickly learned to keep its mewling silent. The thing left bloody tracks on the gravel as he led it up the mountain, but that shouldn't matter. With that rickety cart, there was little chance the group would catch the smuggler before he was long-gone with the prize.
Leoric sneered as he watched Nyadir take off running with one of the cats in tow. The agitated bar brawler quickly shrugged off his cloak and jumped off his cart to get to the fallen ranger. His sneer widened when he realized what exactly had been done.
“Motherfucker, this man did nothing wrong and yet he was forced to pay the blood price.” He spat off to his side as the wind began to shift in direction. The cat-people who were chittering after their friend momentarily shut up as they turned their heads towards the musclebound help. The wind circled around him before quickly dispersing as if nothing had happened.
“I told you that fucker would do something like this. Be careful, he will probably try to steal whatever it is we are after once we have it.” Storm snarled as he eyed up the group. “He is a creature of opportunity, once he sees an opening he will take it.”
“Then we don’t give him that opening.” Leoric balled his hand into a fist before letting it relax to rest on his sword hilt. His eyes now judging the man who had rode in with the Rangers. He wasn’t a part of the rangers himself as he was clearly not wearing their uniform. What was driving him to continue with the group Leoric wondered as he stretched.
Leoric scratched the back of his neck as he went to the front of the cart. He gently patted the horse as a way of apologizing. “Alright girl, we are going to need to push you a little harder.”
“If he is an opportunistic ‘hunter’ then if he gets up there before we do he will take that opportunity to snag whatever it is that these cat people are after. At that moment we can count our chances of finding ‘mittens’ alive down to nothing. We either get there first or we don’t get there at all.” Leoric turned to look at the other man who clearly didn’t look like he belonged. “I am keeping my eye on you, I know why I am here, I know why the rangers are here, I do not know why you are here.”
With the tension of the group raised so intensely, it was no wonder the rest of the ride was mostly silent up the side of the mountain. The determined bar brawler kept to his word, and pushed his horse much harder than he had been. It took them all morning and into the afternoon before they reached a place where the cat people signalled the linguist to stop Leoric.
Leoric looked to his left and saw a small cave opening that led to some stairs that went up. He looked up to see if he could see anything that would show where they led to but only saw a rocky exterior.
“Looks like we are here. Rangers, keep your eyes open. Nyadir is bound to be around here soon, if he isn’t here already.”
Last edited by Leoric; 02-16-17 at 11:46 AM.
Phyr delegated two of the rangers to stand watch outside the cave, and then followed the rest of the group inside. Leoric took the lead, his broad shoulders barely fitting into the narrow confines of the cavern. The cat folk followed in a group bunched around the translator, chattering excitedly between themselves. Behind them strode Storm Veritas and Phyr Sa'resh, and the rest of the rangers brought up the rear.
The rangers paused inside the cavern's mouth to fashion torches out of sticks and strips torn from cloaks. The light cast flickering shadows up the length of the tunnel, and the sound of guttering flames could be heard over the group's soft footfalls. A strong musty smell grew thick and heavy on the air as they progressed upwards at an angle, into the heart of the mountain.
Before long the stairs gave way to a sloping tunnel, which flattened and broadened into a chamber dominated by a square dais. The rangers swept the edges of the chamber and found deep, shadowy crevasses and long dark tunnels. The short, stocky ranger Phyr had first spoken with at the refugee camp's security checkpoint emerged from one such nook with a distasteful expression on his face.
“Found a ball of fur and guts back there,” he said to Phyr, his lip curling in disgust, “most likely means your friend Nyadir is close.” The man eased his longsword in its scabbard and resumed his search of the room.
The cat folk grouped around the dais, pointing and crouching and clicking at one another. Phyr approached, his dark elven eyes seeing more in the dim light than most could. The dais was made of a great stone slab set atop what appeared to be a large box entombed in the ground. Strange symbols and ornamentation were carved around the outside of the box's lid, but the center was bare save for four cat person paw prints. Some magic must have been used in making the slab, for the prints appeared as natural as if set in snow.
Cautiously, as if expecting to trip some hidden wire, one of the cat folk placed its paw into the mold. Another followed suit, and then two more, filling the paw prints set in stone. Nothing happened.
Phyr pushed their mottle-furred paws aside and knelt down, examining the stone indentations more closely. They had rivulets carved in the middle of them, rivulets that all ran to the same pin-sized hole set in the middle of the dais. Phyr called the linguist over.
“What is their word for blood?” The dark elf asked, drawing an iron dagger from his belt.
The mousy man pondered the question and then clicked a few times at the cat people. They repeated the phrase first sounding concerned, and then excited. They took Phyr's dagger and each of the four nicked the palm of their paw. As they replaced their paws in the indentations four thin rivers of blood flowed to the center of the dais.
Click. The sound echoed throughout the chamber, followed by a coarse grating as the stone tablet slid partway open.
Terrence Edim was trying to ignore the rumble in his belly when a different sort of rumble interrupted his thoughts of fresh scones and piping hot pie. The guardsman shifted about on his hillock, making sure he was well concealed beneath the fern leaves. He had heard the sound of marching troops often enough to recognize it from a distance. So those cat bastards are finally marching north after Phyr and the others, he thought, and then suddenly realized the sound was coming from the opposite direction. A force was marching down from the north... from Gisela!
With a groan Edim sat up and shouldered his bow. He levered his aching body upright with his stave, and stumbled and limped out towards the road just as the head of a small army rounded the bend. First strode several ranks of infantry bearing shields and spears, followed by a contingent of archers carrying longbows. Behind them trundled a train of carts laden heavy with supplies, as well as a group of camp followers. Edim leaned on his stave in the middle of the road as the platoon snaked into sight, shaking his wizened head.
“You are certainly a sight for sore eyes,” Edim said to the lieutenant in command as the officer called a halt.
“What's a man of the Serenti Watch doing so far west?” The commander wanted to know, peering at the insignia on Edim's cloak. “Are you wounded?” He asked, noticing the blood soaked rags wrapped around the older man's ankle.
“I was just here holding the line until you fellows showed up,” Edim said gratefully, “by Trisgen's hammer, I thought those silver furs would be the end of me.”
“Well, you can rest easy now.” The commander said, “we're here to monitor the situation, and make sure these cat folk don't come any closer to Gisela. You really should see to that wound. Report to our surgeon; second cart from the back.”
As Edim made for the surgeon's cart he heard the commander calling orders to his troops to set up camp. Perhaps I will live to tell this tale after all, the guardsman thought.
Leoric growled and balled his hands into fists. If this Nyadir guy was nearby he had to be ready for anything. The paranoid muscular man looked around the room trying to find traces of their hunter, but all he found was stone carvings on walls circling them. Each one seemed to depict different forms of nature. There was one with the sun on it, and another one that seemed to be a cloudy sky. The other two at Leoric’s best guess were the earth cracking and lightning parting the sky, so an earthquake and thunderstorm. There were a few other images, but they seemed to have been worn down with age.
As he was about to inform the group of the images on the wall, Leoric noticed that a few of the rangers were looking about at the marks as well, some of them running their hands along the worn out depictions almost as if trying to figure out what the image was. They all seemed curious to what this artifact could be. The one armed elf approached the four cats who were sitting around a stone slab on the ground. The brawler watched as the old elf helped out the cat people by offering his own two cents. It was a relief when he saw that the instruction to the cats seemed to have worked. The large stone tablet rumbled open and a small puzzle box emerged. The brawler’s eyes became immediately transfixed on the metallic looking box, there was something ‘natural’ about it, as the linguist picked it up.
“This is what the entire kerfuffle is about? It doesn’t look like much,” the mousey man fiddled with the box as a wave of nature energy shot out from it and filled the room. The amount of nature energy erupting from the box was astounding, and Leoric immediately sprung into action.
“No! Stop! Don’t do that!” Leoric cried out, as the rangers drew their weapons and most of them turned to look around the room. The panicked brawler ran over and grabbed the puzzle box as it began to change shape. The box began to glow a brilliant sky blue light for a second as vast amounts of nature energy poured throughout the room. Leoric shielded his eyes from the light as he had it sitting on the palm of his right hand, allowing it to do it’s thing.
As the puzzle box stopped shifting and the light died down, the air was still and there wasn’t a single sound coming from the room. The only thing keeping Leoric grounded to the situation was the permeating smell of mildew. The image on top of the box had changed to a raised picture of a lightning bolt parting the sky. It resembled the image on the wall. Leoric glanced around the room to the mixture of worry and astonishment on the rangers’ faces; they were all looking at the box in his hand. A clap of rolling thunder broke the silence as it echoed through the tunnel from where they had come. It was at this moment that the nature energy attuned brawler noticed that the puzzle box was actually made out of a metallic like structure. It didn’t just look metallic; it was metallic. He was no blacksmith and couldn’t tell what kind of metal by just holding it, but it was metal.
“This thing just emitted an astonishing amount of nature energy. I am not quite sure what it has done, or what it did. But something doesn’t feel right.” The paid muscle rested his left hand on his sword hilt as he closed his other hand around the box. The cat people had started circling around him trying to paw at the metallic artifact in his hand as another crack of thunder shook the mountain.
“Not to mention, the image on the top of this thing now matches that lightning bolt on the wall over there.” He motioned towards the lightning bolt that was on the opposite side of the room from them. “Anyone got any idea what is going on”
Well ho-leeeee shit!
Attila reared, braying with disquiet as the box echoed sounds of thunder and the cracks of earth yielding. The power of this terrible thing was far beyond any of them, and the mighty beast was spooked.
The feline magic which unlocked the cube seemed to cement their larger purpose, and the pieces of the puzzle all fell into pace within the framework of the adventurer’s mind. This piece, this bizarre box, this artifact would change the landscape of power upon Althanas. Storm had the power to command bits of lightning, but to command weather altogether? His head spun as he thought of it all.
This certainly explains what brought those goddamned cats onto my shores. It explains how Ebivoulya happened back into the fray. It also explains how I found myself mixed up in this shit – it’s destiny. Who else to command the heavens?
Looking around, rangers and cat-people alike approached the dais to look more closely, marveling at the mighty element. They pawed at it as the strong swordsman handled it, a heroic rube largely unaware of the power he wielded. Storm would seize power from him without bloodshed. They would open it, understand it, and get out before the powerful elf could attack again.
“That little beauty right there is the source of all this madness. That box, it is linked to nature – to the weather. I can feel the electromagnetic energy flowing through it. Rest it back upon the dais; I will open it so we may understand.”
The box was rested back upon the low altar, its energy now buzzing as the black-steel began to vibrate and glow. Shapes upon the face of the rectangular prism began to gleam with purple and blue tones, a faint humming sound ushering forth from it.
“Stand back. If you’re holding a sword or anything metal, I’d suggest sheathing it now.” The wizard strode before the dais, his hands outstretched as he attempted to understand the magnitude of the power within this thing. The electrical fields were impossibly strong; it wasn’t since he battled Moonwing upon Jormungstadt that he felt such raw strength. As his own fields of energy flowed in a soft blue light towards the box, he felt the winds begin to circle him, whipping at the men as the thunder crashed away from them, joined by the telltale whiff of ozone.
Was this made for me? Are there others like me? It’s impossible…
There was a challenge beneath the surface of the metal; a series of discs, smaller cubes and screws which had to be turned and unlocked. Only through his discrete control of electromagnetic energy was Storm able to manipulate these fields, marveling in spite of himself as cubes of pulsing orange metal emerged upon the perimeter of the box. How deep did this puzzle go, and what laid at the core?
He didn’t hear the trespasser until it was far too late. With the winds whipping about and cold air blasting Storm in the face, the elf had crept in, just as the experienced wizard had expected him to. It was only the small slide of pebbles that turned heads towards the encroaching abomination.
He released his magnetic grasp on the inner tumblers of the great lock. For the first time, he felt physical pain pulling his own electrical energy for use. It felt as though his blast had channeled some of the power of the strange device as he fired a bolt of white-hot, sizzling lightning at the fast-approaching man he knew had to be Ebivoulya.