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  1. #1
    Ride The Lightning

    EXP: 154,129, Level: 17
    Level completed: 12%, EXP required for next Level: 15,871
    Level completed: 12%,
    EXP required for next Level: 15,871


    Storm Veritas's Avatar

    GP
    22,385

    Name
    Storm Veritas
    Age
    39
    Race
    Human
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Corone

    Precious Prey (closed)

    (A closed, solo follow-up to “The Redemption of Tylermande”)


    1. THE AWAKENING

    The how, why, when, and whom were nearly impossible, but the where – the where was easy.

    Raiera.

    The Red Forest was unmistakable; the sun’s rays sprayed crimson down upon the forest floor, once golden streams casting a scarlet hue as light filtered through the thin, broad leaves of the forest’s canopy. Deep below, the earth was rich, ripe, and fertile; the verdant green growth only appeared sickly and stained in the harsh hue that painted this section of the world. The vibrant scent of healthy, plentiful flora was omnipresent, a sweetness of wide-sprung flowers and well-watered, nutrient-rich soil. The wizard Storm Veritas listened to the forest speak in chirps and coos as he considered how he had arrived.

    He had been chasing Arius Mephisto, lured into a portal that sent him across continents. Arius was a sorcerer of near-limitless power; he had shown the ability to both manipulate his physical form and time itself. They were close to this monster; the trio of truly incredible leaders of the Brotherhood. They were likely Corone’s last collective chance. Now, the livelihood of Tylermande, Whitevale, and all Corone remained a mystery. Sadly, the whereabouts and welfare of Felicia Rhyolite and his dear friend Shinsou were mysteries as well.

    That son of a bitch got me. A simple mousetrap tailor-made for an impulsive idiot, and I fucking fell for it. Could Shin -possibly- have survived?

    Shinsou Vaan Osiris was brethren to him; by being tricked into this portal, the magician had terribly failed the only man who consistently stood by his side. Now Shinsou was alone with the promising but green Felicity, hundreds of miles away, isolated in the world against the invincible evil known as Arius.

    Storm’s mind swirled as he scanned about him; there were so many questions. The chirps of birds and dull hum of boundless bugs fell into a singular white noise as he tried to sort and catalogue his confusion. There was no swirling portal here now, no doorway to the other side. His memory from the opening of the door to what he felt held Arius to here was but a blink, with no explanation offered. There was no “between” to explain the gap from Whitevale to Raiera; there was only “A” and “B”.

    There was nothing he could do to help the Brotherhood from here. A bitter pill rose in his throat; Arius Mephisto had won. Without the strength of their union at full force, it seemed impossible to even consider taking on a monster who could manipulate both his form, and the passage of time. Even in their home town of Whitevale, a space that Storm and Shinsou knew intimately, the enemy was able to divide and conquer largely unscathed. He seemed more powerful, more prepared, more centered, and far wiser.

    You’re so fucking stupid. You may have killed Shinsou by being the vindictive fool you pretended not to be.

    The traveler felt the fire within him flare again, an anger stoked by the insecurity borne of one more powerful than he. It was rare to be completely outclassed; for his faults Storm Veritas had grown into a sorcerer whose name alone cast silence upon those who understood it. To strangers, he was the arrival of terror.

    Alone in the woods, there was no one to impress or intimidate. No wills to bend based on fear and the primal instinct of self-preservation. There was only red, and the crimson-stained overgrowth. He knew these woods; night wood fall soon and it was a punishing sort of darkness; a seemingly endless black and silence interrupted only by the approach of a terrible cast of characters that sought easy meals in the darkness. Fire was the antivenom; it served as a panacea here against the surprise cold that night carried, and tended to terrify the creatures that preferred to hunt in absolute darkness.

    Fire was easy; a frequent guest of the lightning. Sizing up a juvenile dogwood, the wizard danced his fingertips together, creating the static flow that would conjur a small, measured burst of white, ozone-rich energy. Sadly, his child failed to answer the call. The lightning magics which had become his horrifying fingerprint were nowhere to be seen. Reflexively he pulsed electromagnetic energy beneath his feet, hoping to fly but finding no relief from the damp forest floor.

    No. Shit, no. No!

    His powers stripped, Storm Veritas presumed he had conflated Raiera with hell.

  2. #2
    Ride The Lightning

    EXP: 154,129, Level: 17
    Level completed: 12%, EXP required for next Level: 15,871
    Level completed: 12%,
    EXP required for next Level: 15,871


    Storm Veritas's Avatar

    GP
    22,385

    Name
    Storm Veritas
    Age
    39
    Race
    Human
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Corone
    2. FINDING FEET

    A paralyzing panic gripped the traveler, who had resigned himself to being terrifyingly ordinary now. Without his abilities, he was naked and vulnerable; an aging animal wounded in the ferns. The notion of the afterlife gripped him; he pressed his fingernails into his palm until the pain forced him to acknowledge consciousness. Pain was pleasure, and there couldn’t be one without the other. If he could feel, he could heal, and he would be anew the force he had grown to be.

    How did I lose the ability? Travel? Location? Magic

    It centered upon Storm Veritas that only three explanations remained for his current impotence. The portal had stripped him of power; this would be temporary based on his conversations of the monks of the Citadel. Of course, in the grand ether of Althanas, “temporary” was a moving target, spanning from seconds to centuries. Second, the Red Forest could be suppressing his power. This was inconsistent with his last pilgrimage here, but it HAD been a long time. If Arius planned to create this trap, he could have cursed the woods before setting the snare. Breaking curses without the use of magic was well outside of Storm’s jurisdiction as well. Finally, Arius could have created a curse on the portal or upon Storm himself before jettisoning him to this remote abyss. All these options felt both reasonable and devastating, sobering conclusion. There was no easy path back.

    The coming dark didn’t care about Storm’s predicament; the sun would fall at some point regardless of his woe. He still needed fire, and to set up shelter, as well as to protect from the night rains. The night rains of Raiera were clockwork; they would bring ample water to drink but douse any fire not protected.

    Thank you, Karuka.

    The once-wizard went to work in a flash, moving like a younger man as he collected well-covered assortments of branches, dead fir needles, and large, flat leaves. The rocks were unmissable; granite, quartz and flint lining the forest bed with enough frequency to guarantee a broken toe for any lazy, tired traveler. The work was silent release from the misery of his situation. It served as a fantastic respite from the pain. Using vines and needles he elevated a make-shift hammock by a tree, suspended six feed from the earth. A triangular array of small fires burned about him, with large, waxy leaves tethered to the tree to keep the little pyres dry.

    The hours passed as minutes, and there was still too much time before the sun would set for Storm’s liking. Not enough time to find game to hunt, save a few rabbit pull-loops he had strewn about the area. Too much time to think and consider that which he had lost and the steep hill left to climb.

    Can’t change shit from here. Need to get back. Getting out of this godforsaken forest is probably my best bet to get my powers back.

    Red Forest. Raiera. That puts me north or northwest from Corone, and a decidedly long gods-damned way from Whitevale. Need to work south or southeast, find the coast, and find a port.

    Might be five miles from the shore of fifty. Shit.


    Packing his pipe, Storm used a small twig to transfer flame to the cherry-steeped tobacco. The effort was a mere annoyance, yet another reminder of his unceremonial fall from grace.

    It had been twelve years since Storm Veritas last set foot upon Raiera. A mystical place full of wonder and magic, where he had fallen in love with Karuka, been taught to survive, and grown far stronger than the arrogant fool that had left Corone. Time had changed everything for him. Karuka was gone; a wonderful memory of a time long passed. So, too, had gone his boyish looks. The young man in his early thirties had been replaced by a forty-something who still had the lean, sinewy build of an athlete of his thirties, but had hair of white and gray, with eyes that had remained squinted nearly shut, with clouded grey replacing the once-sharp blue. Framing his eyes were deep crow’s feet; they were eyes that had seen tremendous loss.

    Despite a drop in speed, and an aging that was decidedly unfair, he had also grown splendidly. At least he had grown in power before coming here; the wizard had ascended to obscene mastery over electromagnetic fields.

    HAD ascended.

    It was hard to view the world as a mere mortal again. Fire taking effort was a brutal nuisance. The presence of metal ore in these rocks would have made fine projectiles to hunt with. Travel would be easier without having to walk; the metal-soled shoes he still wore were absurd without being able to float freely over the floor.

    He needed to cease the self-pity, but allowed himself to wallow for a single night. He waited for the rains to come before allowing himself to drift off; confirming the rain run-off were draining into a leaf-lined hole in the ground, which would make for an undoubtedly stomach-souring cessation from his thirst in the morning. The pressed wax kept the water to collect, but some debris would blow in as the winds carried dirt, bugs, and ash from the fires across the campsite.

    In the darkness, beyond where the fire could kiss light upon the ground, a great beast sat and waited. Silently crouched and patient, the unseen monster stretched its long body for an extended stay, for a large meal had arrived at his doorstep.

  3. #3
    Ride The Lightning

    EXP: 154,129, Level: 17
    Level completed: 12%, EXP required for next Level: 15,871
    Level completed: 12%,
    EXP required for next Level: 15,871


    Storm Veritas's Avatar

    GP
    22,385

    Name
    Storm Veritas
    Age
    39
    Race
    Human
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Corone
    3. THE HUNTED


    The night had been warm, and the exhausted, oblivious wizard slept soundly. The rain in Raiera never survived the night, and had ceased some two hours before the sun began to warm the canopy filtering in a purple hue which would invariably transition to red. Storm woke suddenly; a jolt of confusion and fear that grabbed at him. Was the fire still blazing? Was he in danger? A rapid scan about his perimeter confirmed that he had impeccably prepared. The fires were still well-heeled with a large, slow-collapsing tent frame of wood descending patiently. The trick was the wet wood, Karuka had once taught him; stacking wet wood in the frame would ensure a slow, steady burn that survived the night.

    Sitting up, his back cried out a few twangs of pain, as the crickets, frogs, and locusts dominated the morning. Gingerly stepping to the earth-bowl, the now-former magician was delighted to see a relatively clean and still tall pile of water collected in the waxy leaves. Sipping at the meniscus, the warm water tasted clean, with only a few doomed blackflies adding protein to the brew. After a long drink, he filled his round-bottomed canteen; wishing the top was more broad for direct collection. Regardless, the sealed leather skein screwed taut and guaranteed him some relief later.

    Okay, how about food? Wouldn’t break my heart to wake up to a few rabbits waiting for me.

    The first touch of horror greeted the traveler as he left the protective ring of fires. Only one of his snares had found food, and from it lay a disastrous yield. A few flies had already begun gathering above the heap of hair, bone, and blood that dangled precariously from the thin vine he had suspended. Something… something large, had stolen breakfast, leaving only the head and neck of a little shredded bunny, whose eyes now stared upon infinity, wholly unaware of its own retched odor.

    Large, round cuts suggest big, sharp teeth. Saliva looks green-hued, so this meat is no damned good. Looks like this little fella got bit in half by a goddamned shark.

    In the mud by the carnage, a smattering of massive paw prints were scattered about the scene. They were large, with four enormous toe-prints, suggesting heavily padded feet that would afford both speed and silence. Whatever this abomination was, it had come, waited, and hopefully left.

    The wizard’s heart picked up its pace as he considered what had happened. This wasn’t a lynx or devil’s rat that had come by to steal his take; had he not snared a rabbit to unwittingly offer the unseen menace, it was likely the beast would have braved the fires for larger game. Storm found that daggers were in his hands reflexively, his left hand holding the blade up, whereas his right hand held an overhand, killing grip on his twisted kris blade. The notion that he could still fight off a large cat, or bear, or whatever this unwelcome stranger was without his magic was hubris, but it was necessary hubris.

    Not going to outrun him. Whatever he is, he’s careful enough to not risk exposure. Patient.

    Fear gripped the sorcerer, as he swallowed the reality that his past adventures here never readied him for whatever this thing was. Mindlessly picking the sickleberries from a nearby bush (unsure of their ripeness under the pall of pervasive red), Storm nervously ate a few, hoping some sugar would quench the nerves festering in his belly. These little fruits were sweet, firm, and succulent, but offered him no shelter from the hanging sword above his head.

    Untying his well-made makeshift hammock, unsuccessful snare vines and a few dry pieces of wood, the wizard stowed away what could save him time and marched to the right of the rising light. He lied to himself effectively, hoping against reason that he would cover enough ground from the morning to leave the range of his predator.

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