Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Dealing with the Curse of Power...

Just to let you know, this was one of the most amazing sessions we've had so far. Others have been exciting, and suspenseful, and revealed much, but as awesome and fun as the others have been, none compare to the events of this session. I will not over-hype it anymore, but suffice it to say, the events of this session will radically change the world of Cyfandir and the lives of the characters we play within it.
Dallas Kasaboski

When last we left off, Alvyn had received word from his swordmage library Doomguard friend, Vex, who had said there was a group of people known as The Circle, who might be able to help with Alvyn's condition.

Known as a spellscar, Alvyn has been cursed with tremendous amounts of arcane power. In his youth, Alvyn's inability to control the power caused his entire home village to go up in flames, and leave him horribly scarred. This power was then channeled, developed, poked, and prodded by Aesian researchers hoping to create the world's first superweapon. While they succeeded, they also destroyed a considerable part of the Aesian coastline as a result, adding to The Dragon's Waste desert.

Leading them over hill, through bramble, Alvyn moved without hesitation or deviation toward the source of the strange arcane energy. Not knowing what he was feeling, he just knew it was The Circle and that there was a chance they could help.

Verius, looking cross, asked where Alvyn was taking him.

"Look, this is important. I need to deal with something, and if you want my help, you're coming with me."

Not seeing a lot of room for argument, Verius and his tieflings followed.

As they exited the heavily forested area, they came upon a gorge. Large, full of caverns, the ground sloped gently downward. Kalgar had been taking turns with his friends riding Alan the horse, but this time, he ushered Orianna up to ride with him. Chatting amiably enough, they pressed forward.

Oddly, while the sun had been at its highest point moments before, the sky grew dark and even showed stars.

Alvyn stopped to look up, and tasted the air. Not detecting anything other than the Circle's signal, he jabbed Kalgar in the thigh. "Hey, Kalgar, those look like our stars to you?"

A man of the water, Kalgar knew the stars better than most. Looking up, he could recognize a few stars and constellations, but they were not as they should be.

Tong and Kalgar could sense no oddity in psionic or divine energy, respectively. Tong, however, could not contact the Reverie, the spiritual place of the Canitian monks. Thinking it an odd factor of the region, he said nothing.

As the party drew farther into the gorge, they saw other elves and eladrin along the route. Alvyn waved one group over and asked about the stars, why they were out in the middle of the day and why they were wrong.

The group had no idea. They said it was always like this here. Both groups shrugged and moved on.

Just then, the party could hear someone yelling at them to stop. Turning around, they noticed an elf, from Viridi. As he got closer, the party recognized Alufar, Alufyr's brother, who they had also met at Canitia.

"They're dead!"

"What?" the party asked.

"The Cali and my brother are dead! They died just after you left."

Exhausted, but clearly ready for a fight, the elf had his sword drawn.

"How did they die?" Kalgar asked.

"Their necks were snapped." The party looked at each other.

"That makes sense," Alvyn said. "Look, I'm sorry, but we didn't do it. We don't know who did, but we may know why."

"What are you talking about? You were there, they died just after you visited them?"

Kalgar got off his horse. "Look, we didn't kill them. That is not how we do things. I mean, oh yeah, we will people, but it is never that subtle. And snapping necks, that's not my thing, when I fight you, you'll be armed, and I'll cut you to pieces with this."

"And I'll blow them up, in fact, the only one who might have done it would be Tong here, as he fights with his hands, but he was with us."

The tieflings looked startled. The party was defending themselves but in the weirdest of ways.

Tong looked quite embarrassed. "You...you shouldn't say that, I didn't do it."

"Alufar, we didn't do it. The three of us could barely keep up with your brother and all we managed to do to the Cali was give him a bloody nose." Kalgar chipped in.

"Here's the thing. We told your brother and the Cali some important news, some dangerous news, and that's why they died. We want to avenge them, we're trying to figure out who did it, but first we have to deal with something else first. You're free to come along and join us. The balor-lord is the one you want to blame for this and if you'd like to come with us, you can bring up your problems with him."

Satisfied by their answer, the elf said he might just carry out his problems on his own. Wishing him well, the party turned onward. Verius was getting quite upset by this. Alvyn and the party seemed to not know how to keep a secret and were working against him the entire time. Knowing there wasn't much to be done about it, he just glared at them and followed Alvyn.

At one point, the energy intensified and Alvyn led them faster and faster, through another dense patch of forest. Tong, with his incredible perception, noticed that their path seemed to be leading them in a circle, as they passed the same trees and rocks over and over.

As he was about to comment on this, they came to a clearing. Made by fire, there were fallen trees everywhere. In the clearing, sat many people of many kinds.

Alvyn could feel ribbons of arcane energy flowing throughout, and Tong caught strands of psionic energy in the air. Even Kalgar could feel divine presence between the people in the clearing. There were men, elves, a dwarf, an ogre, animals like moose, a bear, and a wolf, and in the centre, was a giant.

As they were taking this all in, the giant looked up and ushered them closer. Alvyn told Verius to stay here, that there was no reason to get involved. Very upset by Alvyn's deviations, Verius kept his arms crossed but stayed at the edge of the clearing. Kalgar unmounted the horse, patted him on the head and told him to stay.

The three moved closer to the giant and could catch similarities amongst the members of the group. They all bore tattoos and symbols upon them. Those who seemed to emanate divine magic had focus points upon them toward which many lines of force came together. The psionics, Tong noticed, had a crystalline symbol. Primal powered creatures had a repeating fractal pattern, and arcane hosted spirals.

The giant said, "You are Alvyn, I am Ficktusk, let's talk." Leading Alvyn away from the clearing, Tong and Kalgar took a look around. Tong was immediately drawn to a monk he recognized as being from Canitian, who was sitting in the lotus position, completely naked.

Kalgar, not too comfortable with this place, kept a close eye on the giant as he moved away, and then looked toward the divine people. Sitting in a circle, with eyes closed, there were a few people there and one bear. Kalgar could feel divine energy coming from the bear, and stranger still, that energy was from Erathis, goddess of law, order, and civilization.

Trying to make small talk, he had to wait until the people had finished with their meditation. When they had, they asked Kalgar to join them. He showed his reluctance and asked about the bear. The people just shrugged and said they too thought it was weird, but had no idea where he came from. Kalgar looked at the bear. It tilted its head and said, "mwrrr".

Meanwhile, Tong had been trying to psionically reach out to communicate with the monk. Disrobing, wearing only his belt of vigor, he tried to tune his mind to reach the monk. Instead of being able to contact the Reverie, he saw, for a moment, a world of power and energy, arcane, divine, primal, and psionic, flowing, changing, and interchanging amongst the people in the clearing. It was a truly mind-changing experience and left him a little awed.

The other monk opened his eyes and greeted him. "Ah, disrobing was not necessary, but it's nice to know you're...comfortable with yourself."

Feeling slightly embarrassed, Tong began putting his robes on and asked the monk how he had come to be there, and if he could contact the Reverie.

The monk was a little evasive about how he had come here, or rather, didn't seem to think it important. As for the Reverie, he said there were no masters here and so he hadn't thought about it sometime. Still trying to absorb that, he turned to where he saw Alvyn coming out of the clearing.

Alvyn had gone with the giant who seemed to know all about him and his spellscar condition. The giant claimed that there might be a way to rid Alvyn of the condition altogether. Excited to find out how, but extremely skeptical, Alvyn followed the giant until they came upon an old woman. Leaning heavily on a cane, Alvyn noted that while she looked old, she didn't seem to be that feeble. This was affirmed when she introduced herself. She talked quite emphatically and sometimes would forget to even hold onto her cane. She explained that magic, all forms, needed to flow in and out, always a balance. It is not created or destroyed, just changed. But, and the giant poked at Alvyn with a finger as wide as Alvyn's chest, all the energy goes in, and only a trickle comes out.

There were three ways to get rid of the energy: transfer, transform, and release. For obvious reasons, they did not want the third.

Leading him back to the clearing, both Tong, and Kalgar looked up to see them coming back.

Walking over, Kalgar took a good look at the woman and oddly enough, she smelled of saltwater.

"Who are you?" he demanded.

"Ah, a good Aesian boy, you recognize me? You should, you might recall stories of the Sea Witch?"

Indeed he had. The Sea Witch was a popular story amongst sailors. Said to ride a kraken, cause fog to appear in the southern isles, and was generally blamed for everything from bad luck to bad weather, Kalgar had heard the tales many times.

"Only the fog stuff was true. I used to live there, but after the northeast incident (here she looked at Alvyn), I decided that it was time to leave. We here are dedicated to preserving the balance between all forms of magic and that incident, you Alvyn in fact, are not in balance. We have been waiting for you for some time. How did you come to hear of this place? of the Circle?"

"Vexodox told me."

"Ah yes, but I wonder why he waited so long?'

"He said he didn't think I was ready."

"Perhaps. Well, let's see what we can do. We're going to try transfer. You are going to transfer your energy into this giant."

"One moment." Kalgar stepped in, grabbed Alvyn, and waved Tong over. "Doesn't this seem a little odd to you? These people can just make your problems go away?"

"Oh, I don't think they can, but I want to try."

"Fair enough, but we should check to make sure they are who, and what they say they are. We have a habit of running into dragons and I would hate to imagine a dragon with your power as a bonus."

"Good call."

Alvyn, Tong, and Kalgar looked long and hard and the woman and the giant. Alvyn's eyes flashed many colours as he considered the many spectra of arcane energy. Tong search the psionic links amongst them and found nothing unusual. Kalgar's mistrust, while ebbing in his gut, was not affirmed by anything unusual. Shrugging, they went back.

Sitting upon the ground, the giant asked them to join and encouraged Tong and Kalgar to join in, even it will not benefit them directly. He began to lead them in breathing exercises. Tong was intensely interested in this and joined in whole-heartedly. Gruff, as usual, and not one to enjoy peaceful calmness, Kalgar merely sat and watched.

After what seemed to Kalgar to be way too long of a time, the giant said that Alvyn was ready. Positioning herself between Alvyn and the giant, the old woman placed one hand toward each of them.

She asked if Alvyn had ways of ebbing off his power. He said he did and she asked him to do so now. The energy moved its way from his chest, through his arm, through her, and into the giant. For a short time, things were going well, but then the giant's head started tilting, and he started sputtering.

Alvyn had been throttling the flow, still not sure if this would work and asked if the giant was okay. The woman assured him things would be fine, but the giant became more and more tense. With great effort, Alvyn stopped the practice. The giant woke up and said, "It does not work. That was nothing compared to what he has inside him."

Deciding to try transform, the giant said he would help Alvyn change his energy from arcane to psionic, which was easier to work with, at least in this case.

Telling him to sit and prepare for more breathing exercises, Kalgar barely had time to sigh before the giant said they were ready. With a combination of breathing practices and gestures, they giant explained that this technique was very hard. The timing had to be just right as you had to catch the energy before it escaped and change it. Too soon, it bubbled up inside, too late, and it escaped unchanged. After some time, Alvyn found that he could perform the technique, but with difficulty.

Alvyn was still upset. He had hoped to end this, but instead found that it had barely begun. Tong and Kalgar tried to reassure him.

"Practice takes discipline, but it is worth the journey."

"Sometimes, you just have to work your muscles. Failure is only the first step in eventually success."

Shrugging, Alvyn was thinking it was time to move on. Kalgar stopped them.

He looked toward the giant and the woman. "So, you left Aes because there was an imbalance in power and magic? Would you be interested in helping us restore some of that balance?"

"You mean helping you with the Edge of Sanity?"

"We're pretty sure we can take on and rid the planes of the devil known as Votharxis. If we do so, the sword's magic should disappear. But we could use the help, it would provide a nice tactical advantage."

"We want to help, but there are many here who do not want to be exposed. We have worked hard to keep this place hidden and we would not want to invite that devil into our circle. But, Alvyn, if you think about the transformation of arcane to psionic, you should realize it works both ways. There is a psychic link between Tong and Votharxis, and if you work at it, you should be able to use that link to pull the devil here."

Thinking it over, the three left the clearing. Kalgar whistled and Alan raced over, happy to see him. Kalgar noticed he was happy to see the horse as well.

Verius, arms still crossed, and still upset, was happy to be on their way. Once they had made it out of the clearing, Kalgar said to Alvyn and Tong that enough was enough, he wanted to Edge dealt with, it was time to be moving forward with their own goals.

Agreeing, Kalgar spoke with the tieflings in small groups asking if they would like to help destroy a devil. Knowing of the tieflings hatred for devils, he knew they would want to help, even if they thought they shouldn't. Kalgar explained that a devil had cursed Tong and they wanted to end the curse once and for all. Suddenly, the party stopped, and Alvyn began drawing a summoning circle on the ground.

Tong began meditating but still found that he could not contact his master. He was worried. They were outside the grove, outside the circle, but still, nothing. He could enter the Reverie, but found no one there. Concerned, he raced over to tell Alvyn, who was a little too busy to help him.

Verius, sensing something was going on, demanded to know what Kalgar was up to. Scowling at him, Kalgar scowled right back and said they were taking care of a devil and that Verius could join if he wanted to. Surprised, but unsure what to do, Verius barely had time to react when a great blast of red light shone from the circle.

There, in the middle of it all, was Votharxis. He had changed since last they saw him. He wore heavy chains around his neck and body attached to which were two heavy blades. Still missing a horn, he loomed over them, smiling. His body was covered with blood.

"Ah, Victor Whitehelm, did you really think I would not be ready for you this time?"

"The only thing I thought was that you would perish!" And with that, Tong brought his knee up to smash the devil in the face. The devil laughed, flicked the chain, and Tong's attack was blocked.

"Have you been having trouble contacting your master lately? Where do I think I just was?" And he unraveled the chains, leaving about 15 feet of chain connected to those heavy blades. Whirling them around and around, he hit Kalgar and Tong, cutting through armour, and wounding them both quite heavily.

Just then, a whistling sound was heard, and Alvyn, trying to hold the circle together, saw a silver wyvern coming out of the sky. Landing hard, skidding along the ground, Mercury leapt off, walked up to Verius and snapped his neck. She then turned toward a second tiefling.

Suddenly, it all made sense. Kalgar, Alvyn, and in the back of Tong's mind, they knew what was happening. Mercury had been the one killing those the party had told about the game and the balor-lord of Ruber being a dragon. She had killed the guards outside of Baelfire's estate, she had killed Alufyr, Alufar, the Cali, and now Verius. And while thinking those thoughts, she snapped the neck of another tiefling.

Kalgar leapt to action and tried to tackle Mercury. He shouted to the other tielfings to get away, she was dangerous. She sidestepped him, and made her way up the hill, toward Orianna.

Mercury said they shouldn't have tried to fight this devil, he's out of their league.

Alvyn, seeing that everything was going crazy at once, also realized that the devil was much, much more powerful than when last they met.

He looked at the battlefield, looked at Mercury and said, "Is he in your league? Could you defeat him?"

She said, "That is not my function, it's not why I'm here."

"Could you please?"

As she shook her head, Alvyn realized they could not to this. Recalling the circle, and seeing Tong's nearly beaten body still standing beside Votharxis, he had an idea.

Concentrating on his breathing, and remembering what the giant had told him, he tried to channel all of his energy into the ground and change it to psionic energy.

A lightning bolt of energy raced out of the ground, and moving with bright 90° angles, made its way around the camp, around the devil, and leapt up at Tong through the ground.

In a blast of blue light, Tong was engulfed in an ethereal flame. He grew to almost twice his height, his muscles rippled, busting out of his robes, and gravity itself seemed to reverse as blood, drops of sweat, and his very robes rose up and down on a wind no one could see.

For the time first since they had seen him, Votharxis stopped smiling.

Tong started smiling.

"You know, perhaps I should have been more calm." And with that Tong brought his knee up again, his wounds healing in the process and he smashed Votharxis's head, bringing his knee into the devil's face, and knocking teeth everywhere. Tong could feel his muscles burning with power.

Kalgar, rising to his feet, was about to whistle for his horse when Mercury snapped Orianna's neck. Her eyes rolled up, and she collapsed to the ground. Thunder, lightning, and heavy storm clouds burst overhead and Kalgar shouted, "Damn you, you powerful bitch! These people were under my protection, they are innocent, I will make you pay!"

Alvyn laid quite shaken on the ground. His clothes had burst off him, and his bag had flown off of him. He looked drained, for indeed he was, and he looked barely able to stand. He began to crawl toward Tong. Kalgar noticed this and whistled to Alan, looking at Alvyn. The horse understood and raced across the field, skidding to a halt beside Alvyn.

Alvyn either didn't notice the horse, or didn't care.

Mercury leapt down from the kill, brushed past Alvyn and Alan, and just avoided an attack from Kalgar, she snapped the necks of the remaining tieflings and made her way over to her wyvern.

Tong was moving faster, and harder than ever before, and Votharxis was barely able to keep up. "Maybe you should pay for what you have done! Maybe you should see what you have become!" Tong placed two fingers above his brow, and whirled the other around. Suddenly, a mirrored dome engulfed Tong and Votharxis saw everything he knew to be wrong about himself. As he was taking that in, the dome bulged, and out flew Tong's fist. Catching him in the jaw, Tong breathed in, which caused the shattering dome of ego-energy to flow counterclockwise around him, whipping into Votharxis, and as he breathed out, the shards hit him in a clockwise fashion. Tong's eyes felt like they were on fire but he didn't care.

Mercury, upon reaching her wyvern, pulled out a sack, and dumped its contents on the ground. There lay the unconscious bodies of Vex (the Doomguard's archiver and Alvyn's friend) , Lilianna (head of the Doomguard), and Tribulus (Alvyn's mentor and surrogate father figure).

She said, "6 know Baelfire's true identity and only 5 are allowed. You must choose."

"Can...can I choose me?" Alvyn said.

"No, you are in service to Baelfire."

In what was only seconds, Alvyn took a lifetime of thought. He considered the choice he had to make. Lilianna was there from the Doomguard's inception. Tribulus was an important agent and Alvyn's mentor. Vex was his friend and an important agent as well.

Hanging his head, he said, "Vex."

At that moment, a javelin flew over his head, turned to a bolt of lightning and flew toward Mercury. She caught it and said, "Nice stick", before tossing it back. She then snapped Vex's neck.

Tong's battle with Votharxis was going well. He stamped his feet into the ground, the ethereal psionic energy still swirling around him, and he threw the devil this way and that. The devil was fighting for balance and had now dug his feet into the knee deep hole he was being dredged into. Tong seemed to be moving incredibly fast and standing still at the same time, calm and yet a tempest of action, as Votharxis took attack after attack.

Kalgar didn't know what to do. Mercury had mounted her wyvern and flew away, Kalgar added her to his ever-growing list of people to confront and turned his attention to Votharxis. His javelin attacks merely bounced off the devil, and Kalgar felt a rage he had not felt for sometime.

He was less than useful. He had been unable to stop the wanton destruction of the tieflings, was barely a presence in this battle, his one friend seemed alive but also dead, and his other was now almost a god in power.

Alvyn crawled over to Tribulus and tried to shake him awake. That did not work. Not looking too happy with the prospect, he slapped Tribulus conscious. As he awoke, Alvyn checked on Vex. No pulse, he was dead.

Kalgar made his way over and checked on Lilianna and Vex. Lilianna awoke and was fine, and he reached the same conclusion as Alvyn concerning Vex.

They looked back at Tong, and saw the devil on his knees.

"Why don't you take that sword off your back and finish me, once and for all?" Votharxis said.

Tong hesitated.

"Tong, finish this!" Alvyn and Kalgar cheered in unison.

Tong raised his finger toward the sky, and the storm clouds which had clung to Kalgar directed a bolt of energy toward Tong. "See, even Kord wishes to see you perish!"

And with that, he jabbed his hand at Votharxis and in a crash, the devil exploded.

Tong still stood, tall, wrapped in ethereal power. His organs felt like they were exploding and he knew the arcane/psionic power within him was trying to burst its way out.

"Tong! The sword! Cleanse it by fire?" Alvyn called out.

Tong grabbed the sword, the Edge of Sanity, pulled it out of its bundle. Instantly, he smashed it into the ground and directed all of the burgeoning power into it. The flow of power grew faster and faster and faster, and the party was momentarily blinded by the sight.

When they looked back, Tong was himself again, and the sword, once pulled from the ground, was white.

Kalgar walked over to him. The Canitian monk stood there, shocked. The curse which had following around for years, was it over? He listened to his mind. No longer could he hear the cacophony of screams of his victims.

His mind feel free and at peace in a way he had never felt before. With tears rolling down his face, he could not believe...

"Is it over?" Kalgar asked, standing beside him.

"What?" Tong was shaken back to the present, his feelings still swirling but calming down.

"Can I have that?" Kalgar said, looking at the sword.

"Yes, yes you can have it, ha, ha, hahahahahaha!" He handed the sword around, and leapt into the air. Growing psionic wings, he flew around the camp crying with joy.

Alvyn felt a hole inside himself. He tried to go invisible.

He could not.

He tried to cast prestidigitation. He could not.

"It's...it's all gone!? All of it? I...I don't have to die anymore!"

Running up to Kalgar, he grabbed him by the jacket and said, "I don't have to be put down like a dog anymore, I'm free!"

And with tears rolling down his face, he ran around the camp as well. Tong picked them up and they raced among the ferns and trees as elated as they could possibly be.

Tribulus wandered up to Kalgar, who was stuffing the sword into his already already impressive weapon collection, and said, "Good job, I suppose."

Kalgar grunted. He was happy for his friends, but now wasn't his time to show it. Like many a river, the surface of Kalgar appeared calm enough, but underneath, many thoughts and emotions were taking place.

Tong was free of the curse! That was great news for his friends, and for the world at large, but might lead to Tong wanting to retire into asceticism.

Alvyn didn't seem to have power anymore. This too was miraculous and great for Alvyn, and the world, and Kalgar felt a little better now that the playing field was even. He was never convinced that anything could stop Alvyn or Tong should the worst happened.

Orianna and the other tieflings were dead. Killed needlessly. Mercury claimed it was for some "greater good" but they didn't know about the game, and didn't trust that the balor was really a dragon. Kalgar had never been too concerned for the lives of the innocent, but in the face of such wanton destruction, he was becoming quite upset.

Kalgar saw the world through the perspective of strength and combat. Might did not make right, but it certainly made things happen. For years, the nations, and the powers that be, were roughly equal in strength, and so their battles were just part of the regular tug of war. However, countries were developing superweapons, and every country was scrambling to be the most powerful. Those too slow in the scramble, were being destroyed, like Albus.

Kalgar was learning to cast his pride aside. He left Aes with a sure understanding of his own strength and power. He was coming to realize that power is always in flux, and most importantly, he had little of it. He also saw that those with power seldom seemed to wield it without causing destruction.

For once in his life, Kalgar was glad to be weaker. He realized that power should only come to those who had earned it, he realized that a weak man could know the value of strength, of power. He saw many things wrong in the world, a lot of imbalance, and while he was hoping to one day be personally responsible for setting some of them right, he was understanding why Kord and life was taking him on these adventures. He had to learn what was at stake and he had to understand failure in order to achieve and understand success.

Alvyn and Tong had settled down, and started to help Kalgar who, among his musing, was piling the tiefling bodies in a dignified manner. Kalgar knew enough of Ruber's traditions to know that the tieflings would want their bodies burned in a pyre.

Alvyn, a little shocked and happy that he couldn't simply make a fire at will, turned to look at the others. Tong said to them that they must make their way to Canitia as he thinks something horribly has happened there.

Tribulus said this was a good idea, that they should rest before the next mission. Alvyn looked a little confused by that. "Mission? I have no power, I'm done, I can get a cottage, settle down somewhere..."

Tribulus slapped him in the face. "Nope. You have a mission. You don't have power? That's your problem, not mine. When you settle with Canitia report it, there's a new threat in Hycintho."

Kalgar's attention turned immediately. "Hycintho? What are they up to now?" Knowing of their close proximity to Aes in turns of location and naval power, as well as the uprising of their people's belief in some magical spirit named Rayden, Kalgar could barely believe what he heard next.

"They seem to have tamed a kraken, and are almost ready to use it for war."

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