Monday, January 31, 2011

Short Story; Cyssie and Igor

Cystronella Von Gravaga could remember the very first thing she'd ever built on her own.  It was a harmonic resonator that could be tuned to the exact frequency of a given piece of fabric.  She'd been seventeen, and bothered by how long it took to find the match to a pair of socks.  So she had taken the blueprints to a standard harmonic resonator, normally used to give particular types of people headaches or to demolish buildings, and modified it to effect fabric.  She'd spent hours fine tuning it, but eventually she managed to get it to a point where she could target any given sock and it's match would begin resonating.  Sure it made both socks explode with a force of 7BPI (Beck's Per Thread, the standard measure for explosive strength, equal to a standard hand grenade, per square inch of matierial), but the important thing was that she always new where the sock's match was. 
And now, holding her harmonic resonator, and nursing the bump on her head it had caused when she'd accidentally knocked it off the dresser, she remembered how proud her mother had been that she'd invented something so clever. 

"Cyssie!  Why is there a hole in the wall?"
"I swear mom, I didn't do it."

Thalia looked at her daughter.  Her eyes were full of fire but her gaze was as chilling as an east wind.  The Dark Lady of Gravaga was not one to be trifled with, not by any count, and Cyssie was petrified at the thought of the million terrible things her mother would do to her if she found out what had happened.
"Don't lie to me Cyssie.  It's your room, only you've been in it, and the blast radius and fragmentation patterns indicate without a doubt a detonation with a magnitude of at least thirty-five becks originiating within your room.  It's magic sealed and you don't have any antagonists, so only you could have possibly done it.  Now, are you going to keep lying to me, or are you going to explain what happened?"
Cyssie couldn't stand against forensic evidence, her mother had her against the wall.  She started crying and confessed what she'd done.  "I couldn't find my socks so I made a harmonic resonator and I aimed it at the sock I did have so I could find the sock I didn't have and then the sock I didn't have resonated and I think I must have let it resonate to long because it blew up!"  She cried breathlessly before completely breaking down in tears. 
Thalia softened instantly as she bent down to hug her youngest daughter. 
'Why didn't you just say so?"  She brushed Cyssie's pale golden hair out of her face and kissed her on the forehead.  "Sweetheart, I'm not angry about the wall; I can fix that with a thought.  I was just mad because you were lying to me.  I think its great that you wanted to come up with a better way of finding your socks, and for anyone your age to construct a harmonic resonator is very impressive.  But next time, just tell me; ok?"

And now, crying once again, she wished her mother were there to tell her it was going to be ok.  But she wasn't.  What was left of her staff was sitting in the dining room.  Her bones were in a mausoleum fifty miles away in the heart of Halston.  And all that was left of Thalia were her beloved children, her loyal Gravagan creations, and the system she'd worked tirelessly to set in place to keep order between the immortals.  And Cyssie felt alone. 
Cyssie couldn't bring herself to reply.  She just sat against the dresser, clutching her harmonic resonator, and crying quietly.  Igor came over and sat next to her.  The two sat silently for several minutes before she finally calmed down enough to talk.
"You know, Mum always believed in me.  Even when I was young, and I was just starting off, she always made sure I had whatever parts I needed.  She gave me my first lab, taught me how to read, explained how things worked when I asked.  She never liked machines, but she would usually make the effort because it was me."
"She was a good mother, and a good person."  Igor agreed. 
"And when they brought back her body all I could think of was how I could fix her, how I could have built something that could have saved her, how I could build something to bring her back."
"I remember."
"And now, SHE brings back her staff and expects it to be alright?" 
"SHE killed her Igor!  SHE killed Mum."
"SHE killed Mum and she thinks she can just apologize?  Like she'd broken a wrech or a car?"
"Cyssie, listen to me."
Cyssie stopped.  She was breathing heavily and she could feel the fire rising in her eyes; the cold spreading through her gaze. 
"Cyssie, your mother died trying to save her.  Whether she killed Thalia or not, if you can't forgive her than you're throwing away everything your mother died for."
"But she killed her."
"And nothing is going to bring her back.  Not magic, not science, certainly not art, and unquestionably not hating your sister."
"Yes, you have a very nice one, but that's not going to bring her back either.  Now get up, remember what your mother always used to say when things were looking down?"
Cyssie cheered up.  Yes, she did remember her Mother's philosophy on how to deal with life's problems. 
"Pray for forgiveness, dust off your shoes, and love."
"Really?"  Igor smirked.  "That's not how she said it." 
"Oh?"  A smile spreading as Igor stood up.  "Then how did she say it?"
He reached down and helped her up.  Cyssie knew what her Mother had always said.  And she'd been right.  She muttered a prayer, kicked off her shoes, and kissed him. 

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Witch and the Lich; An End

Credits; Krell, Rea,

Krell's mind went blank.  When he woke he could not move, nor could he speak.  He couldn't feel any body parts; in as much as he was aware of it he was little more than a rush of magic and flesh.  It wasn't painful, like being destroyed.  It was more like the reforming that had followed it; like being knit back together.  And best of all, he felt the warmth of whatever gentle spell mended him, and the cool of the chamber in which he found himself.  He could smell the iron of blood, burnt hair, and spell-scorched ozone.  And had he lips he would have smiled.  Had he a voice he would have laughed.  Had he feet he would have danced.  There could be no denying it; Arcania's plan ahd worked, he was alive!

"He's awake, and just in time too."  It sounded like Rea, only much harsher.  It was a Rea bent on murder.  As opposed, Krell pondered, to her usual, standing desire to just kill people.  It was the sort of distinction that seperated proper villains from regular criminals.  And right now, Rea had managed to cross the line from assasain to murderous civilian.  She wasn't just going to kill this person because it was a job, this time she was going to kill because she wanted to see them dead. 
"Just in time for what?"
"Your execution."
"My..You can't...Do you know who I am?"
"Yes that's what I said.  I can, and you are hardly the first.  And yes, Empress Holine III Laerdsfeld of the Daniellandish Empire, I do in fact know who you are; I've had the pleasure of meeting several members of your family over they ears.  As it so happens, I didn't even kill all of them."
"You can't kill me, I'm the Empress!" 
The veil of darkness began to lift and Krell could make out two figures through the blur.  The dim light caused Holine's bare skeleton to gleam enough that he could make her out.  The shorter figure had to be Rea then.  Her hair had changed color for some reason; maybe she'd gotten bored waiting and dyed it red instead.  A natural red, which if stories were correct was quite rare amongst immortals of her age.  Strong magic had that effect on anyone, using a particular variety too much would leave distinguishing marks.  The shadow made one lean and bony, the light a natural radiance, fire caused red hair and a sort of literal fire within the eyes, and frost made its practitioners, like Arcania, pale of skin and hair.  Every field had a mark, and that Rea bore none seemed to him quite a feat.  And unlike so many of her claims, there could be no doubting the truth of this one. 
"Yes, oh mighty Lichling, I could kill you without a breathe or a thought.  And believe me, I would."
Krell tried to look around, but he still couldn't move.  He could see that they were in the treasure chamber Rea and him had found the phylactery in.  He couldn't see the captain, but then their would have been no more than bones to start with. 
"Except, I know this guy.  He's not the nicest guy in the world; he says stupid stuff sometimes, and he doesn't always respect my independance, but he always tries to take care of me, and he never means it badly." 
He heard her flip the blades from her gauntlet.  Holine gasped audibly as it began to dawn upon her what was happening. 
"You know him.  Your parents would have said the same thing I'm sure, though I think they felt a little differently about it than I do.  But you, you never respected his way of thinking.  I'll admit it; it can be quite difficult to work around, always sparing lives and prefering to talk his way through things that really just need a blade through the chin.  There are certainly times when I would like nothing more than to put a foot up his rear, but even if he can be a pain he's still right.  No one knows how easy it is to kill better than me, but having him around reminded me of a lesson passed down through my family." 
He heard a bone snap.  It wasn't easy to break Kraj, it was hardly a brittle metal, yet Rea had unmistakeably just broken off one of Holine's arms and was now prodding her with the hand. 
"My father taught it to me.  'The job of the assassain isn't to kill for profit, that's the job of the Ukown.  You are the assassain; you kill the people who take the empire down the wrong paths, the corrupt nobles, the crooked businessmen, the rebel warlords, and if need be the emperor himself.  And when you kill them, you make sure the right people are standing by in the wings to get things back on track.'.  I;m not supposed to just run around killing people.  I'm supposed to be killing the right people.  I spent so much time training myself how to kill that I forgot why I was killing.  But Krell reminded me why I kill."
Rea threw the arm aside and pulled out the phylactery.  The diamond shone in the artificial light that filled the room, Holine began backing away. 
"Because the people need me too."
Holine's skull fratcured as the diamond impacted against it, thrown with all of Rea's might.  The phylactery exploded as it made contact.  Holine was dead.  It was over.  And he couldn't even thank her for it.  Rea nudged at the bones with her foot and then sat down on a nearby rock. 
"Y'know we owe Arcania one now.  I hope she doesn't want anything too hard."  She paused and then sighed.  "And you can take all the time you want now, welcome to eternity." 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Witch and the Lich; A Dish Served Cold

Credits; Krell, Arcania,

Krell waited for something to happen.  The cold seemed to be the only thing that had appeared, but for the Fire Elemental to have fled so suddenly there must have been something summoned.  Maybe it was just some sort of pre-arrival chilling effect.  And to some extent it was, if the sound of the palace's wards being shattered and space itself being visibly ripped open was any indication.  It was, and the wards being destroyed was a fairly god indicator, just a very elaborate teleport effect.  Still, there was something about seeing reality torn like a piece of thin paper that just made the entrance even more intimidating then the sight of a Fire Elemental destroying a Lich in a burst of flame.  Chasia pulled a knife from her belt and Holine struggled to extract herself from her mother's ensnaring spear.  Toln and the guards were rushing about, fervently trying to restore the wards; the whole palace must have been frantic trying to fix those vital magical walls against entry. 
Then Krell saw a bridge of ice form, joining the tear in space to some unknown point.  He could hear the sound of heels against the ice.  The steady clacking only served to make the situation feel all the more dire.  He saw Chasia carefully edge towards the stave, discarded not far from where Holine's Guard Captain had met his end.  She crouched low as she picked it up, keeping perfectly focused on the tear, which now fluttered in a cold breeze that seemed to come from the other side.  Then, still coming, the intruder spoke. 
"Who dares summon the Frost King?"  It was not a man's voice, and something about it seemed familiar to him.  Then he saw her.  In a white dress that came to her shins, and heels that were likely icicles, Arcania stepped into the palace. 
"I was in the middle of a conversation, and suddenly my companion gets yanked across the void.  I am quite put off by all this and demand an explanation." 
Because of the cut of the dress, and the state of her hair, the thought that it may not have been merely a conversation that was intterupted leapt unbidden to Krell's mind.  But while he swiftly crushed that image, he couldn't help but wonder what she'd been doing with the legendary king of the Elemental plane of water.  And her presence still explained neither the cold nor where the actual Frost King was.
"So which one of you did this?"  She looked around the room as she walked right past Chasia, who for all her readiness was too frightened to act.  "Did you do this?"  She spun back and caught Holine's hand as she tried to punch, still pinned to the column.  "I know the things you've said about me, Holine Laerdsfeld.  I have done some pretty bad stuff, but your talk is more suited to gossiping old women in parlours then an empress on her throne.  Did you summon away my dear companion?"
Holine spat on her.  Arcania wiped it off and put a finger to the Empress' lips.  "Now now, we mustn't insult our betters.  It would be so..very..easy for them to simply, whisk you away to a land of strange and terrible things.  And do believe me when I say, I know many such lands, and that which I find strange is beyond your reckoning.  When you summoned away ZeeGee, you messed with powers beyond your ability to comprehend.  So I think it's in your best interests to suck it up and then maybe just suck up a little."  She paused and turned her back on the now more visibly frightened Holine.  "And if you really believe the things you said, you would take that literaly."
Krell watched them.  Arcania was staying perfectly calm.  If anything, it seemed almost like she was flirting, the way she walked around the spear-bound Empress, nails lightly dragging across her skin any time she touched her.  And there was a playfulness in her voice that could not be mistaken.  And then he saw her wink at him from across the room, and it hit him. 
Of course, Rea had said this was all Arcania's plan.  She was in on the whole thing.  The whole thing was an act, she was here to help him.
"Or if you really just want me to leave, how about you do something for me; a simple task."
"What do you want?"  Holine's voice was full of fear and confusion.  whatever spells she had used to make herself appear alive, though she too was a lich, had made it possible for her voice to convey more than mere words.  It sounded moist and rough.  He'd never realy taken her for that sort of girl, but apparently Arcania's efforts were not lost on her. 
"You see that Lich, not more than a week past he spurned me.  I am not in the habit of being spurned.  Kill him, and perhaps I can make it worth your while."
KILL HIM?  Krell's mind went blank at the idea.  He was him.  And she was supposed to be on his side, was this all just because he said he wasn't interested in her?  Did Rea know about this?  Thoughts of betrayal filled his mind as all chance of success seemed to fade.  Then he saw Holine reach into her pocket and pull out a lone, cut diamond.  His mind was still whirring, and the desire to not die shot to the forefront.  He began to speed towards Holine but heard a voice coming from about him. 
"Be cool man, be cool."
He stopped and looked around as Arcania drew a knife with a blade like glass.  Where had that voice come from? 
"My dear one guides your enemy's hand like a scoundrel helps the blind man to a cliff.  Soon you and your elder youth will be together again.  But you must remain cool."
"Who are you?"  Krell whispered.
"The Ice queen is not without love, and the king of the Frost is not without affection.  The elder youth brought you home for the holidays, and it was not a new year you greeted together but a new age.  She is dear to us, and so we give her this gift.  The gift of life."
"That's not what I asked."  He muttered back. 
"Z'Gnu your foe calls me, others name me Frost King.  But the name to which I come when called is that which my dear one gives me.  Now is the time, strike the blow and live.  We shall speak again when next we meet, and meet again we shall."
Krell glanced back at Holine just in time to see the knife come down.  The diamond shattered, and he felt as though the marrow was trying to burst from his bones.  It was not like any pain he had ever felt or heard described, and there was something about it that was not quite pain, something that transcended the physical and the mental.  He forced his body to move, crying out in agony as he charged. 
"That's it, don't be afraid to call us if you ever run into trouble."
Holine looked at Arcania as she stepped back.  She seemed to realize what had happened just as Krell's fading hand reached her face. 
"AsProtector of the..ERgh!"  He clung to her as he felt the pain welling up.  "Empire, I order your immediate execution."  He grabbed her shoulder with his other hand.  She was furiously trying to push him off, but he was stronger even as mere bones.  "Touch of Ash."

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Witch and the Lich; The Dance of Sword, Spell, and Stave

Credits; Krell, Rea,

The diamond was sitting in a clearly labeled glass case.  It couldn't be this easy, could it?
Rea must have thought it was.  She punched the case and pulled it out. 
"Now that wasn't so hard, was it?"
"What if it had been booby trapped?"
"Then I'd have reformed here and you'd have reformed there.  It would have worked out regardless."
"So what now?"
"What's that one spell you always use on your enemies?  The one where they turn to ash."
"Touch of Ash?"
"Yeah," she poked his forehead, "Touch of Ash"

How in the world he felt so much pain without a single nerve he couldn't tell.  It was like his entire body was instantly devoured in flames from the inside, charring every fragment of his physical being.  Technically speaking, that was exactly what happened to him.  Not once had he ever realized how painful it actually was though.  Or maybe that was just because his vital essences were being yanked across twenty lightyears of space and through the strongest magical wards the empire was able to provide.  As the pain of being incinerated diminished he felt as though he were being sewn back into the fabric of reality, which he suspected was also technicaly correct.  It was much less painful, and since it didn't prevent him from using magic he was able to reconstitute fully garbed and holding his sword.  And there before him was his target, daughter of his dearest friend, ruler of his children's children; Empress Holine III Laerdsfeld.  She hadn't heard a thing, how something so painful could be silent was beyond him.  But it gave him the upper hand.  He recognized the guardsman beside her as the captain of the guard, whose name had always slipped his mind.  Both were in full armor, Holine never appeared without it.  Most likely to conceal her own Lichhood, although to the public it was reffered to as being symbolic of her constant vigilance against the Secloran menance.  Not that he wouldn't have worn his armor all the time anyways, but the diamond that had been beside Holine's in the case was almost certainly the captain's phylactery.  It made sense, no member of the Imperial family was foolish enough to commit such evil without their bodyguard's complete consent and trust.  So he would be facing two Lich today, and he would do so without Rea's aid.  She seemed to believe he could do it, and for her sake, and for Lewiza's, he was going to give it his best shot. 
"Holine, Daughter of Kvald, I am Krell Casat.  Today, you shall die."
"Casat!"  She spat as she turned.  The other guards in the room lowered their staves and prepared to charge.  "You should be dead."
"Aren't we all?"
"Philon, destroy him.  Guards, dismissed."
"What, are you afraid they'll find out what you've done?  That you have created and made active phylactery's not only for yourself and your captain, but for others against their will?"
"I knew it!"
"Shut up Toln, mummy's got business to take care of."
"Stop treating me like I'm five Mother.  I will not be bossed around like that anymore." 
"I said to.."
Krell couldn't hear the rest.  The clang of his sword against the bloodstone stave of the Guard captain.  He twisted his blade and managed to slip past the guard and charged Holine directly.  It was hard to move fast though, and while he managed to deflect the blast of magic, he was still caught across the side of the head with the tip of the stave.  He recovered quickly and blocked another blow.  Holine continued arguing with her son, clearly satisified with her captain's ability to handle the situation.  The dance of sword, spell, and stave continued for what felt like an hour before he heard another voice join the fray. 
"I knew what the two of you had done, but this?  He was your Father's best friend Holine.  He's a hero of the people, and a good man.  And what's more he's a registered clergyman.  This isn't just illegal, this is an abomination against everything your Father and I fought for."
"Shut up Mother!  I am Empress and I decide what's legal and what isn't."
"Do you really believe yourself above the laws of the empire?  And choose your words carefully, because the best you can hope for is that I bring your crimes before the council."
"Why should I fear those overfed knaves?  Put it before them and see if I care.  Father may have been too weak to rule without them but I can do this fine on my own."
"Then for the good of the Empire, and against the deepest desires of my heart, let it be known that what I have done I have done for my people." 
Chasia, the Empress's mother and Krell's only surviving friend from before the plague, held out her staff.  The gnarled head and grapevine extended upward, the enchantment that concealed her chosen weapon lifting as rapidly as Krell's hopes of victory.  In mere seconds Krell found himself once more fighting by the side of the his best friend's wife. 
"Glad to see you could join us Milady." 
"I thought I told you not to talk when I fight family?  This is bad enough without your impoverished capacity for levity."
"We could trade."
"I'd never forgive you for it if you killed her."
"Lovely, add it to the tab right after surviving the plague, beating you in all those duels, and not promoting your daughter because she wasn't qualified."
"Considering the circumstances, consider that last one forgiven." Chasia plunged her spear through Holine's armor, and slid her hand up the shaft.  As she did he saw a crackle of magic and watched the steel of the spear spread out in order to keep Holine in place.  Krell ducked another stave blow and remembered the pendant Rea had given him.  He threw his sword into the ground and checked his pouch.  She must have found a way to bind it to him even through the destruction of his body because it was there waiting for him.  He pulled it out and threw it into the air as he dodged the Guard captain's stave. 
"Urun, the Argent Flame!"
The pendant shattered and a torrent of silvery fire fell about him.  An armored knight, ten feet tall and bearing a sword of embers, stepped from the flowing flames and began lashing out furiously at the Guard.  Lich as he was, the hapless captain was no match for the power of what Krell quickly realized was an Elemental lord.  He battered the stave aside and spoke in a voice full of zeal 'By the order of the Smoldering Courts, Be purged from the realm.And with a single burst of flame he destroyed the guard.  And he heard Holine, still trapped against the collumn by her mother's spear, call out frantically. 
"Z'Gnu, The Frost King!"
And the lord of flame vanished as the world grew cold. 

The Witch and the Lich: The Plan

Credits; Krell, Rea,

Rea climbed through the trap door, and Krell followed her closely.  He noticed almost instantly that they were surrounded by very frightened yet determined people wearing ratty clothing and brandishing underpolished weapons.  Apparently the sane ones had gone first, but even the crazy ones were ready to fight to protect their treasure.  Considering the sort of oaths they were bound to by their blood, it wasn't surprising.  They were as dead if they let the treasure leave as they would be if they fought Rea.  And as he scanned the room he realized that all but the loopiest, most completely bonkers of them had realized that they were going to die today no matter what.  And from the looks of it, they'd chosen to die by the blade.  As a warrior, he considered it admirable; as a priest, he felt a twinge of guilt at the knowledge that he was sentencing so many to death for his own gain.  And the guilt was by far the stronger. 
"Rea, we shouldn't kill them."
"No kidding, but given the choice I'd rather kill them than let them try and figure out what to do with a skeleton and a fourteen year-old girl.  Most of these folks have only enough sanity to mindlessly fight anything that comes in here.  It's a conditioned response, I can't even say how many of them actually know what they're doing."
"But do we have to kill them?  There has to be some way of doing this without killing them all."
"Who said anything about killing them all?  A quick show of force and they'll all run, watch."
He grabbed her arm before she could get moving. 
"No, even if they run it'll still kill all of them when we take the diamond."
"Krell, we don't have time to take the diamond.  Just scare them off real quick and we'll get going."
"Wait, what do you mean we don't have time?"
She pulled out the little leather book she carried and flipped it open.  A picture of Holine met him, and the page next to it bore her name and vital facts, as well as a short run down on her habits.  It took him a second to notice that it was a complete entry, containing not only statistics on weight, height, and background but a date of death. 
"You have to kill her?  Why didn't you just say so?"
"Because I don't have to kill her, I just have to make sure she dies on that day.  Trust me, I've tried it.  I can subcontract all the hits, it's just more reliable to do it myself." 
"And it just has to be today?"
"Yes, but it has to be today.  I've never missed a hit yet, and I won't miss this one."
"How long do we have?"
"A few hours, it's probably six-ish, I think."
"That's not nearly enough time to make it into the throne room from the gate, even at my fastest."
"That's why I'm sending you straight to the throne room as soon as we have the diamond."
"Sending me?"  He noticed the Medeans edging closer and snapped a ring of flame into existance around Rea and himself.  It was enough to keep even the half-mad guardians at bay. 
"This isn't exactly my plan, I'm afraid I've been working on Arcania's strategems.  See, if I destroy you, then as a Lich you'll reform instantly at your phylactery.  Since Holine has your Phylactery, you'll reform at her.  Then I can wait here with her phylactery in order to destroy it as soon as you destroy her."
"That still leaves the problem of how she destroys my phylactery."
"Don't worry, Arcania has that covered.  All you need to do is throw this,"  She handed him a small pendant, the chain or string or whatever would have been used to suspend it from one's neck had been discarded.  It was the shape of an ornate cross set in two rings, all Gold, inscribed with runes where it wasn't encrusted with gems.  "On the ground and call out Urun, the Argent Flame.  He's a very noble fire Elemental Arcania's mother made friends with long ago.  The pendant will summon him.  Someone close to Holine has managed to plant a falsified tale of Urun into her mind.  As soon as she recognizes him, she will summon her own guardian, and while I won't spoil the surprise, I doubt you'll like what happens next."
"Arcania came up with all this?"
"She had some help, but yes.  I assure you, she's completely on our side.  Holine has made some bold statements about Arcania's sensitivities in the past, and the ol' Ice Queen was actually rather enthusiastic about the idea of helping to off her." 
He enchanted a few tongues of flame to grow, anthropomorphize, and begin dancing about the most squeamish mad folk.  He didn't like the idea of being destroyed , he had the feeling it would be rather painful. But if the alternative was having Rea rip through the palace wards and beat Holine to death with her own phylactery, then being destroyed as a part of Arcania's plan to get back at the villainess was probably better off, not only for him but for the whole palace.  The Medean resistance collapsed as one particualrly large flame began leaping from tattered cloak to tattered cloak, causing utter chaos to break out as the mentally unstable Medeans began alternating between curious attempts to taste the fire and subsequent frenzied attempts to extinguish their hair.  Few would die, it wasn't that sort of fire; but it got even those who weren't on fire panicked enough to leave them alone.  It was certainly better than killing them all, especially now that he knew the only one who would get destroyed when they found the phylactery was him. 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Witch and the Lich; Trust

He looked down at the blocks in silence as Rea began to push the last one into place. Suddenly, blood spurted from a corpse that slammed into the ground a few feat away from her. Krell lowered himself back to the ground and rushed over to her. The splatter on her face and the front of her shirt could only mean one thing, she had managed to spot the warrior and dealt with him faster than Krell could tell.

"Are we being attacked?"
More blood appeared quite suddenly on her face and he noticed that the blades on her gauntlet had been extended, although there wasn't a drop of blood visible on them.
"Yes." More blood appeared, "What was the first clue?"
"The body hitting the ground, but the sudden blood splatter says a lot too."
She smiled again. "Mr. Casat, there is about to be a spear in your chest." And no sooner had she finished speaking than he saw the iron head of heavy spear sprout from his torso. He grabbed a hold of it and sent a lance of arcane energy down it, killing his assailant instantly.
"Thank you, but couldn't you have just killed him?"
"And miss the look on your face?"
"But I don't have a face."
She pulled a rag out of the air and wiped the blood off her face. She tossed it aside, not even bothering to banish it as she did. "You just don't know you do." A sword embedded itself in the ground next to him, it's owner mysteriously appearing directly under it just as it struck. Rea looked back over at him as the block finally settled into place. "We really need to work on your ESP Father. Just because you lack skin, eyes, muscles, and hair doesn't mean you don't have a face. It just means you have to stop looking and start seeing."
"I'll take your word for it."
"You will? Stick your hand out for a second one of them's getting away."
He put out one hand and for a brief second felt a great deal of weight put on it. Next thing he knew Rea was in front of him with a man pressed against the wall. He was scared out of his mind, but looking at them it was hard not to laugh. She had him by the neck a foot over her head, and he was practically crouching.
"The imperial vault is not open to the public." He replied feebly.
"We don't want the treasury, we just want a diamond you have."
"The treasures of the Imperial family are not available to the public."
"We aren't the public, we're just two people who need a diamond."
"All purchases must be made through the Imperial Treasury..."
"Shut Up And Tell Us Where The Diamond Is Or I Will Gut You Like A Stuck Pig!"
He shut up instantly, and pointed at the trap door in the ceiling. Rea slammed him into the ground and waved for Krell to follow her up.  She produced a rope with a metal dart at the end and managed to plant it into the ceiling above the closed trap door.  Or at least he had the feeling it was the ceiling, it had gone through the trap door before she pulled it taut.  He simply channeled magic into enhancing the natural hover that seemed to accompany being a Lich.  He made it to the door only slightly faster than Rea, and looking down realized that she was actually enjoying this.  Ten minutes of slaughter seemed to have done more to cheer her up than the hours he'd spent trying to comfort her.  It was a bit offensive, knowing that his efforts were fundamentally wasted, and worse still it was a sign that his already unstable companion was probably a sociopath on top of everything else.  Of course, she was an assassain and he really should have expected it, but it was distrubing nonetheless to see enjoy taking lives. 
"Rea, would you mind terribly if I tried to talk to them first?"
She traced a pattern onto the trap door and didn't look over.  Even after she finished tracing it she didn't look over, just hanging her head as she held onto the rope. 
"I guess, if you want too."
"You clearly have a plan here.  Is there any chance you could let me in on it?"
"No!  Maybe.  I don't know.  I don't know how well it would work if you knew how it worked." 
"So you just want me to trust you?"
"Yes.  And I promise I'll explain everything when you get back from the palace.  But until then, just trust me, please?"
Only three people had ever gotten that sort of trust from him before, his wife, his best friend, and his best friend's wife, who had always been the fourth wheel in their adventures.  Since he didn't have a best friend anymore there could be no question that wasn't what Rea wanted, so which was she interested in; best friend or more?  She did seem to like him, but that was in and of itself rather creepy.  And if her interactions with Arcania had been any indication, she wasn't going to accept being second fiddle to anyone.  But could a fourteen year old really expect a Lich to even want a girlfriend?
"Are you going to sit there hovering all day?  I know I'm asking a lot of you, but this really is a time sensitive matter.  You need to get to Holine and get her to destroy your phylactery by ten minutes till twelve today, or I will have to destroy her phylactery, and teleport into the palace to kill her by 11:59:59 PM." 
"What choice do I have?  Trust you and kill Holine or have you explain things and then have you kill her.  If everything I hear is true then my only chance of being normal again is to have her destroy my phylactery, which won't happen if you fight her."
"We'll do it your way.  But I want a full briefing when I'm done."
"Ok, everything you need to know."
"No, everything.  I think after all this, I deserve to know everything relevant."
She paled, but nodded anyways.  He'd get his truth, he'd just have to sort out a few problems first. 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Witch and the Lich; Playing with Blocks

Credits; Krell, Rea,

Rea took hours to regain her composure.  Krell didn't leave her side for a second.  Not that he had much else to do anyways, but she'd been a complete wreck and he wasn't about to leave her alone in a room designed to mess with people's minds.  Besides being extremely dangerous, and very rude, it just seemed wrong.  So when she finnally stopped crying, and about six hours after that when she reawakened, he was still waiting for her.  He offered her a hand in order to help her back to her feet.  She didn't say anything, but pulled herself up on his arm and walked quietly to the door.  He followed her over and they went into the next room in silence. 
It was full of large stone blocks, indents on the floor shaped like various shapes, and very large buttons in the indents.  It was a classic, indeed, an overused, puzzle.  Every block had a mark indicating which shape was on its bottom.  It was just a matter of pushing the right block over the coresponding indent.  He moved over to the first block and was about to begin pushing it when Rea stopped him. 
"Krell, you can't push that block."
He glanced over at her.  "Why?  Is it bolted to the floor or something?"
"No, you hover.  You litterally can't push the block."
He gave it a test push and felt himself moving back as he pushed on it.  It was true.  He hadn't actually tried to push anything since he'd become a Lich.  Besides the random coincidence that was needed for him to have never tried in nearly four hundred years, It was kind of wierd realizing that he could no longer do something as basic and integral to adventuring as pushing a block with strange markings on it.  He felt so helpless. 
"Can I?"
Was she asking him permission for something?  She was offering to push the blocks obviously, but it was wierd to actually hear her ask him for permission. 
"Yes, Rea, you can push the blocks around.  Do you want me to spot for you or something?"
She nodded.  It was probably residual emotional strain that was making her so quiet.  Her eyes were a bit puffy and red still from all the crying.  He levitated higher and pointed out which block would be easiest so she could start clearing them out of the way.  She pushed it easily, positioning the block directly over the corresponding indent.  She repeated it twice more before Krell finnally broke the silence. 
"Why are you helping me?  As far as I can tell you don''t get anything out of this." 
"I want the same thing you want.  And if you get what you want then maybe I'll get what I want too." 
"And what do you think I want?"
She stopped and faced him.  "To not be trapped in this form.  To be able to walk down the street and have people treat you like a normal person."
"Is that why you think I'm doing this?"
She nodded hesitantly.  She'd lost a lot of confidence back in that black hall.  And in part at least she was right, a large part too.  But it went a little deeper than that for him. 
"I made two promises.  One to my best friend before he died, that I would keep his daughter in line.  I failed in that, and I need to make amends.  The second was to my wife.  She made me promise I'd come back to her.  I never broke that promise, and in the end I watched her die.  And all I wanted was to go back to her.  And I can't, because after all those years of coming home safely, now I can't get back to her."
"I'm sorry."
"It's not your fault."
"No, it's not.  But that doesn't make me any less sorry.  Not just because you lost everyone you cared about, but because you can't get them back."
"I will though.  I'll kill Holine and the guard will destroy me.  Then I can be with her again."
"It doesn't work that way Krell.  She has your phylactery, and she'll destroy it first.  But it won't kill you, it'll just make you an immortal, a real immortal.  And you won't kill her, you'll just be an immortal, twenty-two for eternity."
"The guards will still kill me, they have ways."
"You won't be there though." 
"How am I supposed to get out of the palace after killing the Emperor's mother?  The whole place will be on red alert and stealth isn't exactly my strong point." 
"You'll get out the same way you get in; you get killed."
"When you get destroyed here, you'll reform at the phylactery, which Holine has.  When she destroys your phylactery, you'll reform...elsewhere."  She looked down as she said the last part.  He had the feeling she knew more about it than she was telling, but considering her reaction to the last time she'd had her plans pryed at he decided that it would be imprudent to ask further.  He had the feeling she had planned this well in advance.  It certainly explained much of her distress at having someone take them apart. 

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Witch and the Lich; The Hall of Phantoms, Part Two

Credits; Krell,  Rea,

Krell wasn't leting anything stand in his way.  He couldn't move all that fast, but he was blasting walls down as he moved.  Rea was somewhere in there, and he needed to get to her before something happened to her.  He'd been attacked, but if they knew anything about her, and his assailant's comments led him to believe they did, then they wouldn't dare.  But if not an attack, then how would they attempt to best her?
He heard a man's voice ahead.  He considered his options and chose to round the corner and come in behind him.  As he approached he began to hear more clearly. 
"..Nothing but a child.  Look at yourself, you're supposed to be the most powerful assassain in the universe and you can't even drive.  How you thought you'd ever have a..." 
Krell had heard enough.  He tapped the man on the shoulder.  No sooner did he see an illusion of himself than he struck him across the chin.  The man recoiled and Krell cast him across the room.  He snapped as the man struck the far wall and the black stones shot forth and caught him, holding the imposter in place.  Krell looked down at Rea while the man panted heavily, having lost his wind when he struck the wal.  She was sobbing quietly, slumped against the wall.  He could feel his soul burning with anger.  How dare this man take his guise and call his companion a mere child.  It may have been true, but she was his companion and it was no man's right to belittle her. 
"You're supposed to be dead.  How did you get in here?"  His voice still came from the imposter's lips.  It only made the fury grow all the stronger to see himself so abused.  But abusing him was only foolhardy, abusing Rea was abominable. 
"I let your companion go because she was just doing her job.  But you, even a simple-minded grunt knows better than to abuse a girl like that.  You did this because you were afraid of her.  You know that she could beat you with her eyes closed so like a coward you sought to slay her with only your words."  The cautious priest was buried deep, and only his justified rage remained.  "You sniveling coward, you rot-gorged flyspawn, you are the just the sort of scum real men wouldn't stoop to scrape from their shoes.  But you had to pick her apart, find her fears and her worries and like the schoolyard bully you are you had to make her cry."  Krell set his Grey skeletal hand to the man's chest and leaned in.  "When your shade issues forth, find me so I can enjoy this a second time.  Touch of Ash."  The man was dead, but he punched the sooty remains before turning back to his weaping companion.  She shook lightly, and for all her usual boisterousness and loud speech she cried in relative silence.  He leaned down next to her and brushed her hair out of her eyes.  He saw something on the ground by her leg and picked it up.  She wore contacts, and while he was no expert they seemed fairly strong.  All this time she'd been adventuring and she could probably barely distinguish between the tiles she sat on.  He conjured a cleaning solution and set the transparent lenses in it before pulling out a handkerchief.  He handed it to her and paused before speaking. 
"Are you all right?"
She wiped her eyes with one corner before blowing her nose.  "I just couldn't.  It wasn't you..but..He knew my name.  He sounded like you, and..and he knew everything.  It was Hor-Horr-rible!"  She sobbed out the last part.  He hated to see anyone like this.  It was a little disconcerting to see someone so powerful reduced to tears by someone he'd killed so easily, but at the same time he couldn't imagine how much pent up stress and despair she had.  He tilted her chin up and she looked into the smoldering flames that were his eyes. 
"It doesn't matter what your name is, or what he knew.  He's gone now; it's just me.  And don't let anyone look down on you because you are young.  There are women not even twenty years older than you look who wish they could look like you.  And there are grown men who wish that they could have done in their lifetime even one of the amazing things you do in a year.  You have the speed of the shadow, the grace of the wind, and the strength of a demon."
She continued to sob, but choked out, "But the w-ind is cl-clumsy."
"Yes, but it sounds nice when you say it that way." 
She shifted and set her head in his lap, still crying softly into his habit.  He chose to ignore it and waited patiently for her to calm down. 

The Witch and the Lich; The Hall of Phantoms, Part One

Credits; Krell, Rea,

Krell stepped into the next room and found it to be nothing but endless blackness.  No walls in sight, but it wasn't actually dark, just black.  The walls were black, which made it somewhat hard to navigate.  He moved forward and collided with the wall.  A labryinth apparently, no wonder the walls looked so uniform and dark.  Well, he'd just need to feel his way through.  He reached across and tried to touch the other wall.  They were too far apart for him to reach both at once, and on moving to determine the distance he realized that it was about eleven feet across.  He decided to not even try marking it, and just began weaving through It wasn't an especially complicated labryinth, it felt almost like a queue that you couldn't see through. 
Then suddenly he found himself in the middle of an open room, walls all exactly like the ones in the labryinth.  On the other end of the open space he saw Rea, sitting quietly facing the wall. 
"Rea?  Any sign of an exit?"
"I don't see why I should have to tell you."
"Because we're in this together, even if I am kind of a jerk about it sometimes."  She really wasn't handling it well.  He knew he'd annoyed her but he hadn't realized it was this bad. 
"Well maybe I should just leave you here.  I can do this just fine on my own.  I went twelve thousand years doing this on my own and I don't need you running around telling me not to put myself in harm's way."
"Rea, I'm sorry.  I just don't want you to get hurt, I know you can't, but I can't help but worry.  It's my fault and I'll work on it."
"So you want me to just forgive you so you can go and do it again in a few hours?  How stupid do you think I am?"
How stupid did she think he thought she was?  Something wasn't right about this, he just couldn't quite put his thumb on it. 
"Well I'm not taking any chances.  I'm getting through here and you're not coming with me."
She flipped the blades from her gauntlet and rushed him.  He sidestepped and pulled his sword from the air.  She recovered quickly and leapt at him again.  He defelcted her and slid to the side.  The blades pierced the ground and the tiles broke on the impact.  She pulled them from the ground and swung at him again.  He parried and backed up a little more.  Then he teleported and unsummoned his blade.  He knew what was going on and he wasn't going to let them get away with it any longer.  She pounced at him and ran the blades into his empty ribcage.  He grabbed her arm and pulled her in. 
"You had me going there for a bit."
"It's a very good illusion, but it would take far more than an illusion to replicate her.  The real Rea has the speed of the shadow, the grace of the wind, and the strength of a demon.  You are not Rea."
"Of course I am, now let me go!"
"Sever Magic"
The illusion fell, and he could feel a ripple of magic being torn away from the now very frightened young woman in front of him.  He hadn't just destroyed the illusion that had hidden her, he'd severed the oath that bound her to the treasure.  For a Medean, it meant freedom.  But in that freedom was exile, and a loss of purpose; he had killed everything she'd ever known.  And he knew that no exile should be suffered alone. 
"I do not hold this against you.  It was simply your responsibility.  I am sending you to someone else who needs protection, and a friend.  She will show you wonders you could never imagine and from her you will learn things no mortal has known for time immeasurable.  Her name is Arcania, and she is very lonely, and hurt, and sad.  Be like a sister to her, and remind her that she need not be alone."  He held out his hand and opened a door in the void, and the woman curtseyed low out of fear and admiration.  She stepped through and vanished, but Krell knew that if this was what they had tried to do to him, then they would have done the same to Rea.  He blasted an exit in the labryinth and charged off to find his missing companion. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Witch and the Lich; Timing

Credits; Krell, Rea,

Rea stopped before they actually went through the door and turned to Krell. 
"Alright, what do you think we'll run into in here?"
"Well, we've hit three traps so far, plus we found the constant trap.  That means three more most likely."
"Right, something horrifying, something classic, and something sudden."
"Which leaves something with timing, something to divide a group, and something that will need a group."
Rea smiled and pushed open the door.  A short hallway with four guillotines, each alternating hitting the floor with one other.  Krell hovered into the room carefully, it had a small space to let them stand while they sized it up.  As he watched he realized that the timing on the alternating drops of the heavy blades changed slightly with ever drop, it would be almost impossible to time it perfectly. 
Then he noticed the holes on the walls and ceiling.  The tiles on the floor had been rigged to launch darts at anyone who stepped on them, even if they could get past the deadly blades.  It was a very good trap. 
"Alright, I'm going to run through it, check for a way to turn it off, and then you can follow me through."
"The tiles are pressure activated.  Even if you can time the blades you'll still set them off."
"Oh?  THen how do you think we should deal with it?"
"I'll go through and turn it off, I won't set off the tiles."
"You aren't fast enough to get past the blades Krell.  And those blades would destroy you, and then you'll just end up right back at the Palace with Holine."
"Then I'll have the chance to fight her and send her here to wait for you to kill her."
"But what we need is for her to destroy your phlactery so you can be young and hot again."
Krell paused and tried not to look back at Rea.  It was bothersome enough to hear a fourteen year old talk about making him look hot again, but it really raised the question of how she knew he'd been hot in the first place.  He hadn't had anything but bones for hundreds of years, and he'd only known her the last couple of months. 
"Ignoring that last comment, I understand what we're trying to do.  But I'm willing to take the risk and just improvise when I get there."  He finnally turned towards her and saw blank space.  He quickly turned towards the hall of blades just as she ran past him and began to vault the array.  She went right through the whole hallway without touching the ground, or getting caught under a single blade. 
"You need to have more confidence in my abilities Mr. Casat.  After all, I have been doing this for a very, very long time."
"How did you.."
"There's no off switch."
She pulled a small bit of string out of her pocket and tied a small rock to the end.  She began spinning it, and as she released it the string turned into a chain and the rock a steel dart.  It shot through the blades, often going at sharp angles to hit the next one, and struck the wall behind him. 
"Ready to go?"
She pulled the chain taught and held the chain up to the walls above the next door.  The rock flowed out and secured the chain so that she could let go of it.  The blades still alternated pushing against the chain that now held them securely aloft.  Krell floated across the hallway and stopped in front of the next door.  He looked at Rea, who was herself looking smugly satisfied with her acomplishment. 
"Why didn't you just do that in the first place?"
"And pass up a perfectly good oppurtunity to practice my gymnastics?"
"You put yourself in harms way just to show off, admit it."
"No.  I just like to be sure that when I actually have to do things I still know how to."
"You wanted me to know that you didn't actually need my help."
"Well I don't.  And if you don't want mine then you can go take care of Holine on your own.  I'm under no obligation to help you." 
He saw a bit of fire spark up in her eyes and moved back.  Then he thought of the last time he'd been on an adventure like this. 

The columns of stone were like the beating of a Galley's drum, each stroke clear and loud.  He looked over at Kvald and Chasia, and they looked back at him.  He looked to the right and saw that Lewiza had already started running.  She rolled under the first one and as it rose he saw her dart past the next one and dive past the third.  the sound of the fourth never came, and as the columns rose again he saw that she'd placed her stave under it to prop it up as she went for the switch.  The pounding stopped and Kvald and Chasia patted her on the back as they headed for the final door.  He stopped and snatched his wife's staff from under the last column. 
"I thought you said you'd stop doing crazy stuff like that once we had kids?"
She laughed and brushed her auburn curls back off her face as she took her staff.  "And you said you'd never work later than four."
"I'm serious, what if those had been real?"
"If they had been real we wouldn't have come in the first place.  That's the whole point of Realm, no consequences, you can't die."
"Promise me that next time you'll let Kvald handle it?"
"Not on your life Mr Casat.  There'd be no fun in it."  She laughed again and raced off to join the others. 

Rea had already gone on through into the next room.  Krell paused at the door and reminded himself to stop being a stick in the mud.  But still, what was it about him that seemed to attract all the crazy girls?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Witch and the Lich; Impalement

Krell felt a twinge in his hand as they opened the next door.  Something dangerous he was sure, and sure enough it was.  A heavy javelin hurtled from a contraption to the left of the door as soon as it was open enough for it to pass.  He felt it deflect off of his ribs and heard Rea yelp as it passed through him.  He spun around quickly and saw the javelin lodged firmly in the wall between them. 
"Are you alright?"  They both chimed in unison.  He looked her closely in the eyes and decided that she was just a bit startled. 
"You just had a Javelin go through you!"
"I lack internal organs, remember, Lich."
"So?  It went right through you."
Maybe startled wasn't a strong enough word.  After a few months of travelling together he had expected her to be a little tougher than this, but she seemed to freak out every time something jumped out at them or a few arrows arced overhead. How had she made it this far as an adventurer?  He may have spent half of his life mucking about in Realm and the other half mediating disputes over sheep, but it seemed like common sense that when a javelin was thrown at a magical skeleton it was just going to come out the other side.  It was why TacSim gave skeleton's immunity to range and why the Frostbourne had utterly smashed through every human army that had ever faced them. 
"Yes, it went right through me.  Lots of things go right through me Rea.  Wind goes right through me."
She slumped against the wall and crossed her arms.  "Well you don't have to be a jerk about it.  I was just worried about you."
He didn't have a chance to say anything.  The second she'd touched the wall he'd heard a whirring sound and he practically leapt across the room to push her away from it.  He got there a second too late though, and the stone of the wall had sent a javelin of its own through her. 
She paused for a second before reacting.  He just looked on with horror, blood having quickly stopped gushing, only a trickle reamined. 
"I feel a bit lightheaded."
Krell whimpered sympathetically.  She probably didn't have enough connected nerves to feel anything but her head. 
"Would you mind turning around, the clothes don't come back on their own and I know how much the idea of my being naked doesn't appeal to you."
He turned around without question.  Come back on their own?  She'd just lost most of her torso, it was a wonder she could stand up at all.  In fact, how was she standing up?  He heard a sound like a vaccum pulling in a curtain, the sound of something splashing in the pooled blood, and then the familiar sound of cloth being conjured. 
"Alright, you can look."  Rea sounded perfectly fine.  He turned around in time to see her finish pulling on a new shirt, what remained of the steelsil discarded haphazzardly on the ground .  He could see where the edges of the wound was, mostly since they'd stained the shirt, which read 'I got impaled by a rock THIS big!' with arrows pointing to the ring of dried blood. 
"I'm immortal silly.  The bloodloss is always unpleasant but you couldn't kill me even by completely destroying me."
"You just got a rock through your whole body!"  Having something go through you was one thing, watching someone else lose most of their body was something else altogether.  And this was something else altogether. 
"Are you ok?"
"Am I ok?  Are you ok?"
"Is there still some in me or something?"  She flipped a pair of hand mirrors out of nowhere and started checking herself.  There was kind of a dance to it, but if she was as immortal as she seemed then most likely she had done this before. 
Then he remembered what Arcania had said, she didn't keep complanions.  She hadn't been worried about herself because she'd been through it.  But she'd worried about him because she'd never actually watched it happen to someone else.  She may have known he couldn't be destroyed like that, but she was so unaaccustomed to seeing others hurt, at least by things other than herself, that she didn't actually realize it in the heat of the moment.  It wasn't that she was unaccustomed to seeing people hurt so much as that she was unaccustomed to having people to care about.  She was an experienced adventurer, just not an experienced companion.  Krell paused to regain his composure and grabbed hold of one of her mirrors to get her attention back. 
"You're fine.  I've just never seen anyone get hurt like that and walk away.  And I'm sorry for being rude about the javelin, you were just trying to be nice.  I appreciate that, I'm just not used to it."

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Witch and the Lich; Rolling Stone

Credits; Rea, Krell,

Krell stooped and gathered some of the bloodstone powder into a vial.  It would come in handy later; of that he was certain.  If nothing else, it would make a decent lamp. 
Rea was waiting at the door.  She was trying to secret her admiration of his handiwork.  She had her pride, and apparently she wasn't comfortable with the idea of his knowing things she didn't.  He didn't blame her, it was probably embarassing to have someone so much younger manage a spell of which she had no prior knowledge. 
"So, on to the next room then?"
Krell nodded.  He shielded the door once more and after Rea had made sure the room was safe they both enter.  It was dark, so he clasped his hands and prepared to produce a small light to follow them.  Before he could cast the spell though, Rea stopped him. 
"It's dark, let's just keep it that way."
"You think light might activate a trap then?"
"No, I just like the dark."  He could tell she was smiling, even through the darkness.  She was also making fun of him, possibly to reassue herself of her own greater prowess in adventuring. 
Krell felt at the walls, and noticed that the hall was both narrow and circular.  He remembered the door being round as well and had a sudden realization. 
"This room is a tube."
He heard Rea shuffle about.  She was shorter, as were her arms, and it took her more effort to feel out the room.  after several minutes of shuffling he heard a clicking noise.  A rumbling began and Rea cryed out, "Y'know what, go ahead and turn the light on.  I don't think it matters now."
He quickly conjured a small orb of light to follow him and the darkness, magical as it likely was, retreated before it.  It took only a second to find the source of the rumbling.  A large, perfectly spherical boulder was rolling right at them down the tube. 
Krell turn and began to escape as fast as he could.  He felt a hand on his robe before he could get further than a foot and stopped. 
"Stand still, I need that light and it keeps darting around when you move."  Rea jumped up and took hold of the little orb of light he'd conjured.  She stepped forward and pitched into the stone's core.  Krell saw her intent and added strength to the light.  Rea flipped the blades from her gauntlet and aimed directly at the stone.  A light grew between them, and shot into the stone.  It shattered into dust while still moving, causing a wave of stone fragments to fly past them. 
"did you increase the strength?"
"Did you doubt I could handle it?"
"No, I just thought it would help."
"Well it did.  Thank you." She continued towards the next door, tapping the light that lingered at what had once been the stone's core and it followed them further into the vault. 

The Witch and The Lich; Blood Haze

This chapter may harm your delicate sensibilities.  Nothing actually happens, but there is a decidedly naughty sort of trap involved in todays chapter and I want to warn you all before hand that it's there and I'm choosing not to not write it. 

Credits; Rea, Krell,

Rea and Krell walked down a corridor leading off the lobby.  Krell glanced around and saw that the walls had been lined with portraits of increasingly disheveled and crazy looking people.  Several had been damaged, from the looks of it the damage had been malicious.  And from the looks of it there had been some malicious damage caused to things other than the portraits, unless that was something other than blood on the walls.  The blood seemed to get heavier as they went through the corridor, ultimately coating the walls entirely as they reached the door at the end. 
"Shield the door real quick and then we'll open it.  That's more than two people worth of blood loss on those walls." 
Krell traced over the door frame and pressed his fingers against the pattern he'd set.  The air rippled slightly as the magical boundary set in place, and as soon as it settled he stepped back and rea pushed the door open. 
"Gahck!"  She exclaimed and quickly pulled her arm back through the  shield.  He saw a red smear appear around her the point where her arm met the shield, and her sleeve had dissapeared as far as her arm had gone through.  She shook her arm as though it had been pricked or shocked. 
"Blood Haze.  It's a nasty trick, uses enchanted blood to destroy biomatter."
"How's your arm?"
"Fine, I'm just surprised.  Normally a Blood Haze would obliterate skin and muscle too.  Or try anyways.  Why would it only destroy clothes?"

Krell looked into the pale red mist and tried to find some sign as to why they would want to only disrobe an intruder.  Humiliation, practical means of reducing a person's enchantments, but one stood out among them, and it was by far the worst. 
"I have an idea.  But I'm surprised you didn't think of it first."
"Why, is it childish, perverse, or in some way tied into the fashion industry?"
"Because you spend a lot of time reading wierd stuff and you pretty much control the internet."
"All three then?"
He didn't want to have to say it.  He was a priest after all, and his family had always been rather religious even before then.  He knew of it, it was hard to avoid hearing about all the universe's infinite perversions when you spent months at a time drifting through space listening to the crew's quiet chatter.  But still, he had no desire to say what the room had been designed to do.  He glanced back in and saw little pools of blood, the alchemic circles etched about them confirming his suspiscions. 
"You've been adventuring before, you've probably run into some wierd stuff right?"
She nodded, but clearly still hadn't figured it out.  If she was about ten years older he wouldn't have felt quite as awkward.  Even then it wasn't the sort of topic for casual discussion. 
"And have you ever run into anything with a lot of tentacles?"
She nodded again.  She wasn't blushing, which he felt implied innocence in this matter.  Although considering her general behavior she may have just not felt any shame.  He'd run into a few immortals before while he and Kvald had been adventuring; they'd always taken a rather frank outlook on such things. 
"And no one ever made any jokes about it?"
She shook her head.  "But I think I know what you're getting at."  She paused and smiled.  He found it a very bothersome smile, the sort that indicated she was thinking of things.  He had the feeling they were things that would have made him blush when he had cheeks, blood, and the general ability to blush.  Lewiza had gotten that look on occasion, but he'd never minded it so much then. 
"As a member of the clergy, an officer of the imperial navy, and a decent Nielda I absolutely forbid you to go in there."
She laughed and looked at him.  "You're funny; you know that?  Alright then Mister Casat, how do you propose we deal with such a decidedly naughty trap?"  She looked up her brow at him.  He was being mocked.  He hadn't had someone look at him like that since he and Kvald and Lewiza and Chasia had stumbled on that dragon back in the day.  He'd forgotten how powerful it was.  Now he had to do something truly brilliant or it would be wasted. 
He looked at the room again.  Blood, blood, blood, rocks, blood; nothing useful really.  He could probably break the alchemy if he could get to it, but he couldn't do it and fight off tentacles at the same time.  Rea might be able to, but there was no way he was sending a fourteen year old girl into a room that would destroy her clothes; especially one with tentacles.  He was at no real risk, he could do it given the time, but it would be tough.  Blood stone was really resistant to magic, there was no way he could blast it apart and without muscles he was really limited in his ability to hit things.  He looked back at Rea, who hadn't budged an inch.  Must have been hard staying still for so long, what with her whole warped perception of time and all.  He looked back and saw the smear of blood running down the shield, probably to heavy to float now that it had gorged itself on her sleeve. 
And there it was, the solution.  He stepped back, struck out his arm towards the room and snapped with his skeletal hand as he incanted loudly.  One simple incantation, a staple of enchanters across the Empire and beyond.  He snapped as he completed it, more for effect than for anything else, and the haze turned to a fine red dust.  The pools stopped mid-ripple and he stepped into the room. 
Rea's jaw had dropped when he turned around.  It took him a moment to figure out that she had never actually seen an enchanter at work.  For as old as she was, she seemed to have missed a great deal. 
"How'd you do that?"
"It's enchanted blood, not bloodstone.  Bloodstone only carries enchantments given to it by the enchanter who converted it or the one who donated it.  The enchantment that made the haze and the tentacles is gone, leaving only a lot of very useful enchanting matierials." 
"Wow."  She paused for a moment before regaining her composure.  "I knew that.  I was just testing you."
If he had thought he would have blushed earlier, he wished he could have smiled now. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Witch and the Lich; Doors and Interviews

Credits; Rea, Krell,

The first protection any vault had was a very well concealed entrance.  Rea was pushing against every inch of the cavern, which they had already managed to pin down as the entrance based on thorough scans of the area, while Krell hovered in middair, plying every detection spell in his arsenal towards locating the hidden entrance.  To the unobservant, or at least to those who lacked adventuring experience, it would have looked as though Krell was simply meditating, sitting crosslegged and tranquil a good two feet off the ground.  The same folks would have assumed Rea was frantic, searching desperately as she ran her hands across the rocks.  Both assumptions were wrong; Krell was more determined and swift in his checks than Rea was bothering to be.  Both knew, though not by experience, that their energy would be more of use once within than it would be here. 
Finally Krell spun towards a spot on the rock and as he looked at it he saw Rea push her hand through the very spot his search had revealed. 
"Found it!  Anything I should know about?"
"Yes, the rock will become solid if anything is pushed into it."
Rea tugged lightly and found her hand now lodged in solid stone.  She didn't panic, but she didn't make a real effort to pull it out either. 
"I knew that.  Anything else I should know?"
"Yeah, there's a half dozen canisters of presurized liquid nitrogen rigged to fill the room if the stones break."
She turned towards him as best she could with her hand planted in the wall and held up the pendant he'd given her for Junsrew.  He'd made it thinking she'd have to fight Arcania, so it was enchanted to counteract even the strongest freezing affects.  He drew a ward around the door and set his hand to it.  When the canisters broke, instead of freezing him they would freeze the stone of the door.  They'd be able to break it open and continue from there as soon as Rea broke herself free.  She set her free hand against the stone and pulled her other out, causing long cracks to spread across the rock.  The canisters broke and he saw the whole wall gain the sheen of something that has been truely frozen.  Rea shook off the cold and punched the ice, sending shards of it across the small lobby.  A pair of turrets dropped out of the ceiling, but Krell snapped twice before they were able to fire, rending them from within with a flame of devestation. 
Rea flipped over the receptionist's desk and sat in a long vacant chair in the middle of the small chamber. 
"Let's see; boring, boring, boring, map, boring, boring, ooh!  I'd forgotten about that."  She held up a dusty copy of Business Feature.  On its cover he saw her, holding up a copy of the magazine with the same cover. 
"How did you get into Business Feature?"
"When would have been a better question, but ok.  I own majority share of Carrionelle Cosmetics.  Have since..."  She stopped and checked the date on the magazine, then turned the pages a few times before looking back up.  "About since 1278 AD, I'd been at a convention when Carrie was just getting started and I liked her product so much I bought stock.  Every year I'd go to the meetings and I'd come away feeling like it would be a good idea to buy a little more, so I did.  Then one year they were having a vote and the guy they were voting on had been belittling me so i voted against him.  Much to my surprise I found that I had a 70% share of the company.  I've been keeping track of it since and I still go to the meetings.  I did this interview right around then when a very clever reporter managed to actually track me down.  I gave him the interview and had my picture taken.  It was a lot of fun, but I'm sure you've been interviewed before."
He had, but fun was hardly the way he'd have described them.  The press had tried to throw him under the grindwheel when he'd been made an admiral.  A lot of folks had considered it to be favoritism by Kvald and he'd had to work very hard to convince them otherwise.  And then there was his actions in dealing with the cult; more than a few people had wanted to know why he'd taken the course of action he did, and he'd taken a lot of fire over it.  Still, the idea that Rea fundamentally owned the largest and oldest cosmetics producer in the empire was quite a doozy to try and wrap the mind around.  But the magazine had granted one useful piece of information. 
"This place has been around since before the Shade Invasion."
"Yes, nicely done.  We should keep that in mind while we move through here; it might come in handy knowing when the last time the vault's defenses were upgraded."

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Witch and the Lich; Medea

Credits; Rea, Krell,

Medea.  They said it had once been a paradise, but the world had turned upon itself and all but the most hardy plants and animals had died.  At the height of the Great Ga-Vok war the Emperor had ordered the entire treasury be moved to the planet that the Ga-Vok, with their fur and their plate armor, would be at the greatest disadvantage attacking.  The deserts of Medea were the most inhospitable place in the early empire, there was no where better to hide it.  And the nobles of Medea had taken the task to heart, setting enchantments over the vaults to keep out the raiders.  Only the Palace was safer, but only by the strength of its guards. 
Over the years the vaults grew, more were built as the treasury was expanded.  And as technology progressed it joined magic as a means of defense.  The Medeans were never many in number but their vigilance was unending, unblinking, and undistracted.  Many called them cowards because they so seldom left their barren world.  But any who faced them would never utter such falsehoods, what few of them survived.  It is said that madness overtook their line long ago, and few heed the words of Medea's lords.  But in the shadow of Death Herself, in the face of the Shades of the lost, and against the bitter Frostbourne horde the Medeans had never waivered, never fled, and never lost.  Even the greatest thieves had returned empty handed, and only the strongest adventurers returned alive.  Even the immortals didn't dare trespass upon the silver-laden halls beneath the burning deserts of Medea.  And yet here they were; plotting theft of Imperial property from a Medean vault. 

"Well, I'm just thinking we wing it."
"No way of knowing the traps or guardians; not like they keep records.  So we just need to go prepared and try to not go mad.  Worst case scenario you get poofed back to Holine and get to smack her around a bit before I catch up.  She has your phylactery, right?"
"Yes, she does.  But going into somewhere that secure with no idea of what's waiting?"
"I have an idea, I just don't know specifics.  You'll want every sort of ward, a bag full of books on things you don't have memorized, a lot of rope, and a self repairing ten foot pole.  Nothing out of the ordinary, it's mostly traps with a couple of crazy people at the end." 
"Yeah, the best traps in the universe and crazy people who've never lost a fight."
"Want to know the last time I lost a fight?"
"A week ago when Arcania froze you solid."
"That was a tie, her second got involved."  Rea quickly regained her smile as she looked down at the brown hued orb.  "I wonder what it was like when it was still alive?"
"You've been around longer than the navy; if anyone knew it would be you." 
"Ceanne's even older; she told me that when Medea was first discovered it was a paradise.  She said there were flowers with stalks the size of street lamps, vines that could pull a grown man up onto branches, and little snuffly creatures that would walk right up to you and sit in your hair and purr.  She's even painted some of the things, but it all died because some idiot noble decided to go on a magical creature hunt and killed all the sprites thinking they were animals."
Krell pulled himself away from the image of Rea with a small furry animal running from shoulder to shoulder.  "So we have one man to thank for this whole planet?"
She shrugged and nosed the ship down for a landing.  "Dad said my Granma killed the pimple, so I suppose he got his comeuppance."

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Witch and the Lich; Departure

Credits; Rea, Krell,

Rea had managed to have everything packed by the time he was finished.  For someone with an eternity ahead of her, she certainly didn't act very patient.  Admittedly the holidays hadn't gone especially well for anyone, but he still felt like it was rather ungrateful to just leave so quickly.  Although, Cyssie's continued abscense from the table and Arcania's coldness towards him in general certainly didn't provide much motivation to stay. 
"You got a destination?"
Rea was back in her travelling steelsil wrap.  It was wierd seeing her now and knowing what she looked like.  She'd looked so much older now.  But beneath the warrior he knew there was only a child.  Or was it maybe that the child he knew was dressed like a warrior was really a warrior trapped as a child.  Maybe it was both; but he knew what she thought. 
"Yeah"  He didn't like it though.  As the Empress Holine had possesed the privelige to hide anything she wanted anywhere she wanted.  But of all the places she could pick, she had certainly picked the best.  "She's hidden it on Medea."  Of all the places, it had to be...
"Medea.  The one with the blood pits and the automated turrets and all the treasure or the one with all the green flamingo people?"
"Green flamingo people?"
"Turrets and blood I take it.  When we get there you can zoom in and tell us which vault its in.  I don't want to have to go searching through every single one."
He couldn't imagine ever taking the treasury defenses so lightly.  But he did have it on good confidence that she was both an accomplished assassin and among the most potent warriors in the universe.  Maybe for her it really was a walk in the park. 

The ship was waiting for them right where they'd left it.  There was also a team of Gravagan bounty hunters there.  He had to assume they were waiting for Arcania. 
"Look!  There she is, and she's got one of her Lych with her too, kill them!"
Rea laughed and grabbed the outside of her right arm.  She pulled down on it and a set of baldes sprang forth from the gauntlet.  Two curved blades, gleaming in the light of the Gravagan sun and etched with black and red, each parallel to the other and long enough to reach the other side of a man's chest. 
"This is my favorite thing about Junsrew with the Von Gravagas.  Arcania always lets me pay."
Ten men began charging; another thirty began shooting.  Rea looked at him and mutered to him under their battle cries.  "Have some fun; then I kill the rest.  Don't hold back, these guys are all crooks and on death row anyways.  No one other than that would dare fight in Cyssie's parking lot; to much risk of spontaneous combustion.  Place is ridden with dangerous magic and more dangerous technology, even gravity is questionably reliable."
Krell breathed a prayer; he never liked to fight.  He stretched out his hand and his eye sockets filled with flame.  "Leave now and live."  They continued to charge.  A blaster bolt tore through his chest and he counted three, then he snapped.  The largest of them burst open as a flame grew within him; bits of crystaline flesh shot across the lot and he felt a bit splatter against his habit.  He thrust at the rest and they were thrown backwards. 
"I gave you a chance and you threw it away."  He raised his left hand and conjured an orb of flame.  He swung it back and thrust his palm into it.  A hundred flaming darts coursed from the orb and pierced the whole group, sending them reeling.  Another shot tore through his habit.  Rea set her hand on his shoulder and over the burning of the first thug and the firing guns of the rest he heard her whisper, "Don't blink."
He couldn't have if he tried, but he didn't even feel her hand leave his shoulder.  All of the thugs still standing collapsed into piles of warm crystal and those who hadn't simply exploded. 
He heard her return the blades to their place in her gauntlet and she skipped back over to her ship. 
"Never would have taken you for a pyromancer Father, you really are a special sort of Lich."