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 Post Posted: Sun Jun 02, 2013 11:12 pm 
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Location: What matter wounds? For each time he falls, he shall rise again and woe to the wicked!
As Valerie enters the Cave, she has a brief sensation of... transference, as if somehow that first step into the Cave was far, far longer that it should have been. She finds that she doesn't need a light - what look like small lanterns on the wall have dancing orbs of energy inside of them. Looking back to where the cave opening was, she sees... nothing. A tunnel, as if she's been traveling down the same area for some time. Fluttering about the cave in the breeze are playing cards - not the tarot that is used by the seers and prophets, but instead the clubs and hearts of the inns that Val frequents. Up ahead, she hears a familiar sound.. that of what suspiciously sounds like a party. That way down the tunnel lies a blue glow, and the tunnel seems to open up...

Valerie reaches into the breeze to grab a card, drawing the first one she can grasp. Her face is no longer jovial as she hears the sound of a party. "What kind of trial is this...? Parties and cards... nowhere to go but forward... tsk."

She takes a look at the card she's grabbed as she walks forward in to the opening, and looks to see if she has any card chips in her pockets. "If this is the kind of party there is, I should be ready to play..."

Valerie, after several tries, manages to snag one of the fluttering cards - what looks like a Jack of Spades. As she feels around in her pocket, she feels an odd clink... and pulls out a single silver chip, inscribed with a man's face... only he has a goatee and horns.

As she advances forward, she comes to an opening, and before her she sees an impossibility. A sky, cerulean blue with not a cloud in the sky, nor a sun to be seen. A hill, bare of grass, with only rock and dirt. And on that hill... and parading on down it, seems to be the world's largest party. Thousands of people drink at tables, voices lift in song, and people dance here and there. Buxom young women and handsome young men bus the tables. At the top of the hill you see a large man sitting on a throne, alone at his own table. And in a bellowing voice, he sings:

Drink, be merry,
Drink, be free!
Drink all that
the eye can see!

Sound the thunder,
call the drums,
eat the bread
til it's all crumbs!

The last of nights,
the last delights,
for tonight we dine,
tonight we wine!

Tonight we dine in hell!


And with a laugh, the area dances in flames, a wash of heat blasting into Valerie's face. The men and women she saw before are transformed, changed - demons dance with devils, the beverages steam and bubble. The finger foods change to real severed fingers - one with a lavishly painted nail is picked up and fed slowly, seductively to a fat old devil by a succubus, who plays with it with a forked tongue before viciously chomping down on it.

Eat the bone
and crack the marrow,
Forget about the
straight and narrow!

Flesh so fine,
flesh to tear.
Sing the screams,
we don't care!

The last of nights,
the last delights,
For tonight is mine
Tonight's divine,

Tonight we dine in hell!


At the top of it all, at the top of the hill, just behind the man who sung, now the greatest devil of them all... she sees a white pedestal.

Valerie puffs her cheeks like she's been insulted. "Cheh. This some kind of joke? Literal minded destiny..."

Focusing on the silver chip's shine reflecting in the sun, she notes that it's got two identical sides. Valerie scratches one side to rectify this situation, flicks it with her thumb, catches it, and places it on the back of her hand.

"Heads, I play along. Tails, I ignore this farce."

Valerie lifts her hand to reveal the glinting demon face she ascribed heads to. A wild grin escapes her face.

"WELL THEN, IT'S TIME TO PARTY!!!"

She steps forward through the flames, running the chip between her fingers she flicks it in the air a few more times before coming to the center of the crowd, where she stops. "Hah, this party's so lame," she says, just loud enough to draw the attention of the devils. "Literal finger food? That the best you can do?"

Spinning around on her heel, casting her grin upon the demons around her, she says, "C'mon guys! You're Devils! Buck the trends, break the mold!" She reaches out and grabs a tall pint of whatever vile liquid is within reach, stops her spin, and proceeds to chug it, not letting the glass escape her lips until the pint is completely empty. Her face contorting, she says, "And what's with this crap? Surely a party like this can afford something a little better?" She throws the pint upon the ground, walks over to the nearest demon who looks halfway decent and puts her elbow on his shoulder as she gets in close. "What? Aren't you gonna ask me to dance, big guy?" she says, a coquettish stare smoldering in her eyes. The moment the demon starts making a move, she cackles loudly. "KYAHAHAHAHAHHAHA! AS IF!"

Spinning back away from him, she stops once more, pointing at the large man on top of the hill. "You the guy in charge here, right? Surely you can throw a better party than this!!! Kyahahahahahahahaha!"

As Valerie laughs, the devils all laugh along with her... but there's something different about their laughter - a joke that they seem to be sharing among themselves. At the top of the hill, the man snaps his fingers, and all grows silent and still as the devils cease their play. For a moment, nothing happens... which gives Valerie a chance to look at her surroundings. She's struck by a strange sense of familiarity... but at first she can't understand why. Then, slowly, it comes to her. Warped, changed as they are... she recognizes these faces. This place. This hill.

It's her village. The devils - at least, the ones closest to her, out of the endless ranks of partyers... changed as they are, have the faces of her friends, her family. The hill is her hill - the one in the middle of the village. The same one that she grew up on.

From behind the big man/demon at the top stalks a figure... a figure she finds very familiar. A succubus, cloven-hoofed and winged... but the face is her face. She pats the big demon condescendingly on the back before stalking down the hill toward Valerie.

"Why should we throw a better party? This is your party, after all. Right, everyone?"

And with that, the party screams back into motion, as her friends and acquaintances debauch themselves in a frenetic frenzy of glee. They're doing all that Valerie has egged them on to do, and then some. The chaste turned to harlots, the humble turned to pride, the kind turned wrathful.

"Why should we throw a better party, when this is the one you've always wanted? Hmmm?"

Valerie raises an eyebrow at Succubus-Valerie as she makes the argument that this is what she wants.

"So... what? Getting rid of your inhibitions is bad? Sheesh when did I become such a square."

She walks up to Succubus-Valerie and stares her right in the eyes.

"So I've gotten people to drink more than they should have. So I've talked people in to a harmless fun activity that's out of their comfort zone every now and then." She spits to the side. "Sure as I'm going to hell it don't mean I make good people bad. I just think what my damned father thinks as 'proper' is a sack of crap. Only the good die young as they say, right... me?"

"Ah, to be as naive as you are now... It doesn't matter. That's the big secret, don't you know? The good die young. Yes indeed. That's how they stay good. If anything, you help them die, good. If they stay alive... well. Sooner or later. Sooner or later you fall. Take your little friend, for example."

She gestures, and Valerie can see an image form in the air. In the image, she sees Karina, surrounded by undead. She seems to be fighting her way through them toward the top of a similar hill. The succubus continues, her voice smooth as silk.

"Look at her. Always struggling to be better. To be good. You know what I see in her future?"

She gestures again, and the image changes. In this image, she sees Karina again, once again surrounded by the dead... her bandages completely unbound. On her mouth is a grim smile.

"Even she can fall. Will fall. I guaren-damn-tee it. Her curse is just a wee bit too strong, don't you know. When you are carrying a burden like that, eventually you're gonna have to break.

"Tell me. Is the reason why you stick with her simply because the fact that... try as she might... she just. Won't. Die? No matter what trouble you get her into, no matter what crazy, f***ed up crap you manage to immerse yourself in, she'll live through it? And she'll do it gratefully. After all."

She gives a wicked smile.

"You're nice to her. You're her friend! Poor, poor thing. With a friend like you... well. She won't need enemies, will she?"

As soon as succubus-Valerie finishes talking, she finds Valerie's fist very suddenly connected to her face.

She speaks with a level rage. "I don't care what you say about me. I've heard everything. Devil, Witch, Temptress, I've heard it all. But leave Karina out of this. I owe her the world. The girl is trying her best to not just survive but thrive in a world that does not want her. Yet even that girl who has endured so much saw fit to help this wretched excuse for a noblewoman that stands before you. I'll never be able to change the world, but a girl like Karina can do that and more. The least I can do to repay her kindness to me is return whatever kindness I can muster tenfold. Sure as I'm going to hell it won't be perfect but that girl needs more than anything else friends in the world if she is going to change it for the better.

"Because the people in the village who only see 'that Tower girl' don't know the Karina I know."

She pulls her fist away and shakes it. "Do you have anything else to show me or can I go on now?"

The devil Val only laughs as she is hit - a cackling laughter that Val herself has heard all too many times - the same devil-may-care laugh she hears from herself.

"Ah, there it is. Finally got through, did I? Yes, you would want to protect her... but what happens when you're not there any more? What happens to her then?" Devil Val wipes the blood off her face before leaning on the large devil sitting at the end of the table. Strangely, though Val is now close enough to where she should easily make out the large devil's face, his features constantly seem to swim, never giving her a straight view.

"Enough." The large devil speaks very softly, but the authority in his voice is absolute - to the point where all of the devils become immediately silent. "You speak too much... as always." He gives both Val's a pointed look and gestures toward the carnage of the party. "Take away the rules, take away the inhibitions. Let the people be free... and this is what happens. Chaos. Anarchy. Destruction. I do not agree with Him, but He does have one point - a society without rules, without order, cannot... will not, survive."

He folds his hands before him, and suddenly his eyes - startlingly blue - come into focus as he watches Valerie. "What will you do when society breaks down, I wonder? When the laws - the strictures - the rules you hate so much don't exist any more? What happens then? What will you do?"

Strangely, he seems honestly curious.

Valerie sticks her tongue out and pumps her fist at Devil-Val as the large devil scolds her, but relaxes as he speaks. When he finishes, she sighs.

"Man, you're so stuck on this black and white thinking." She then laughs, and reaches for the casino chip from earlier and holds it up. "I view life as a game of chance, and in order to win it, you have to bend all the rules to your advantage. Exploit weaknesses, break through the self-imposed rules of others that make their play weaker, find their silly little superstitions... do whatever it takes to win." She then turns it around to show the scratched side. "But that's my side of the coin. Other people play the game of life for different reasons, get different thrills out of it, play by their own codes."

With a little spin, arms outstretched, she says, "Because if life is a game, surely the enjoyment I derive from it doesn't have to be the enjoyment others derive from it. So who is to say my way of enjoying it is the right way?"

With a slightly wicked grin, she finishes, "Besides, one of the rules to win is you don't want to scare the fish away from the table, no?"

She then bursts out laughing. "So no! I hope those rules stay around! So much more fun to twist and bend them than it would be if they weren't there at all! Isn't that the fun of being a Devil? Kyahahahahahahhaha!"

The devil at the table nods as if confirming something to himself, before continuing. "very well. Now, let's step things upward a little. Who is the best suited toward breaking those laws? Not someone like you, for you do not break them, so much as bend them. Staying just on this side of the law, yes? And if you step over the line, well... you step right back." He shakes his head. "Not those petty thieves, pocket thieves, not even those murderers for hire they call assassins. Such are best handled by Justice and her... ilk. Her 'Scales', as she likes to call them." He makes a moue of distaste. "No, the ones best suited to break the law are those who make the laws in the first place. After all, how better to evade the law than by making certain you can't be touched by them in the first place?"

He looks at you contemplatively for a moment. "Allow me to posit a situation before you. There is a noble. A high, well-placed noble, trusted by all of his peers, very respectable. Above reproach, even. Yet, once a week, he goes into city, hires a whore, and kills her. He pays the pimp handsomely to keep silent. The whore's death is unremarked. After all, she's a whore, and no one cares about them - after all, any time there is any sort of legislation that might give them protection against this sort of thing, he spearheads a movement to prevent the law from being enacted. The only one who knows that he is doing this, is you. And, aside from this odd proclivity, he is actually a very good statesman - excellent at his function in government. His status - particularly compared to yours - is such that if you tried to accuse him of his crimes before his peers, you would likely be laughed out of the room."

"What would you do in such a situation?"

The devil's eyes narrow intently as he waits for your answer.

Valerie closes her eyes, and a purses her lips with an annoyed bite.

"I don't get it. You haven't given me enough information here. For one, if this nobleman is so careful, how does someone like me become the only person who knows this?"

Her eyes slowly open. "No... I think I get it after all. There's two possibilities. One is a friend of mine is the 'whore.' The other is that I am the 'whore.' Those are the only ways I could know this. And that changes things."

Flipping the chip in to the air, she says, "To rephrase this... say I'm a rookie at a card game, playing in competition. At some point I go against a well respected and highly admired player, who has had considerable success at the game. He knows the judges and is liked by all. However, in a game with him, I notice him cheating.

"When you catch a cheater, what do you do? Do you report him? Your word against his?

"No. In that situation, you cheat harder and better than he does. Make him pay for thinking he can do that to you or anyone you know, and do it without anyone noticing."

Nodding, feeling like she's turned this riddle in her favor, she says, "Right, so let's take both situations. The easier answer, presuming I am the one being cheated... is to break the rules right back. We're talking about a gamble with my life here. Someone tries to kill me... I fight back. It doesn't matter who they are or whatever their 'status' is. When it comes to staying alive, the scales are equal."

She then considers the other option. "However, if it was a friend of mine that was cheated, or is at risk of being cheated... it's not quite as simple an equation. When fighting that, you have to find a way to make their status irrelevant. Challenge them to a game where the deck is not stacked in their favor and humiliate them." She puts her hand to her forehead and sighs. "But for the life of me, on the spot I can't figure out a more exact answer than that. It feels like something that takes time to work out... and I'm not exactly the brightest. Kyahahahahaha!"

She smiles at the Devil. "I hope that answers your question. Oh, an in the situation where I just know this with no actual connection to the situation... well then I laugh at him for being so bad at hiding it."

The large devil gives a wry smile. "Indeed. There's no one right answer to such a question. There are many ways to discredit such a man - you maneuver to expose his proclivities to someone of a higher rank who would be horrified at. You could arrange him to be killed. Kill him yourself, if you're hands on. Or..." He drums his fingers on the table. "I mentioned that he was an able man, in his way. Another option is the tried and true method of simple blackmail, as unreliable as I often find it. Work behind the scenes, get irrefutable evidence of what he has been doing, and then threaten to expose or kill him if he ever does it again. Of course, those blackmailed always think they're smarter than the blackmailer... and they always think that eliminating the blackmailer eliminates the problem."

He sighs. "I've lost good men that way... The last way, of course, you already mentioned. After all, if he's an able man in an able position, and he's not killing anyone who someone cares for... well. Sometimes, intervention is unnecessary." The devil Valerie leans over to whisper in his ear. "Ahh... time is up, apparently." The devil stands from his table, before gesturing behind his chair. Just off in the distance, the white pedestal gleams.

"I hope you will remember our discussion here in the future. You may find it... useful. Have you any questions, before you leave?"

Val raises her eyes at the suggestion that the conversation may be useful, but shakes her head. "I really don't. Sorry."

She stands up and says, "See you around... I guess." And approaches the pedestal, reaching out her hand.

Val finds herself enveloped in a white light... and finds herself back outside of the Cave. And in her pocket... she feels the clink of the silver chip.


Last edited by Ruan on Sun Jun 02, 2013 11:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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 Post Posted: Sun Jun 02, 2013 11:16 pm 
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Location: What matter wounds? For each time he falls, he shall rise again and woe to the wicked!
As Richter enters the Cave, he has a brief sensation of... transference, as if somehow that first step into the Cave was far, far longer that it should have been. He finds that he doesn't need a light - what look like small lanterns on the wall have dancing orbs of energy inside of them. Looking back to where the cave opening was, he sees... nothing. A tunnel, as if he's been traveling down the same area for some time. Before him (and behind him), strewn throughout the tunnel, are pieces of paper dancing in the breeze coming from ahead of him. He can see that the papers all have some sort of text on them...

Ahead of him, where the wind is coming from, he can hear a howling sound. The light, also, seems brighter that way, as if the tunnel perhaps opens into a large, well lit, area.

Richter turns to examine the tunnel from whence he came. The sensation he just experienced was unbelievably odd, so he takes a moment to examine the tunnel to see if there's anything peculiar. Once that is done, he turns back towards the cave.

Moving forward into the cave, Richter makes his way slowly toward the opening where the wind is coming from. As he moves, he attempts to snatch the odd bit of paper out of the air. If he manages to catch one or more on his slow walk, he stops to examine the text written.

After several tries, he manages to snag a piece of paper - it seems to be a part of a poem of some sort.

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.


As Richter steps forward, the howling sound grows louder, and more and more wind blasts at him. Finally, he reaches the opening up ahead, and looking out... seems to be an impossibility. It is what seems to be a desert, with a howling wind blasting sand. Every so often, a piece of paper flies by. In the distance, he sees what seems to be twisters of air and sand writhing. Just before him, however, is a hill, made of bare rock and dirt. Above, a red sky that flickers with lightning, though none strikes downward. The sand shifts constantly - the footing will be treacherous.

Still though... at the top of the hill, he sees his goal. A pedestal, white in the distance, standing tall.

"Well, this is all sorts of new and interesting. No wonder people don't like talking about their Trial..." Richter mutters as he surveys the landscape while absentmindedly pocketing the poem he just finished reading. "Red rock... Red sky?" He ponders aloud, as there seems to be little reason not to. "I wonder if there's some significance. Maybe a different paper will shed some light?"

Standing at the foot of the hill, Richter spends a minute or so snatching at the air in an attempt to grab another paper. Regardless of success, he starts to climb the hill to try and reach the pedestal. Slowly, with careful deliberation and without rushing, he makes his way to the top.

As Richter walks closer to the hill, he is struck by a sense of disturbing familiarity. There is something about the hill... Suddenly, the ground shudders beneath his feet. At first he thinks it is an earthquake, until a massive, awe-inspiring bulk rises out of the sands in the distance. A worm... a great sandworm of the desert, rises in the distance, just over the hill. Its massive maw gaping up at the sky, a loud, keening call howls up into the clouds. Slowly, the maw tilts downward, until though it has no eyes, it seems as if the great creature is staring right at him.

You.

You of Arcana. You of Empire.

Why did you force us to this?

We wished peace. You brought war. You and your thunders. You and your machines.

Look upon what you have wrought.


And then, Richter realizes what it is that seemed so familiar. The hill. The village hill. Its green slopes blasted to sand and rock. Here and there, he can see the remnants of buildings in the sand - supports, laid bare wood. There, a skeleton, its hands clutching toward the sky.

You bring war to the desert, and the desert shall bring war to you. And sand, will cover this place.

The sandworm roars, a blast of fetid air blasting down toward Richter.

Sand will cover you.

"Is this what's going to happen?" Richter yells up at the worm, moving towards the hill and attempting to climb, making like he's interested in getting closer to the worm so he may more easily speak to it. Which is true, in a way. Richter really does wish to know more of what the worm speaks. The fact that it gets him closer to the pedestal is just gravy.

"Is this a vision of the future? I've heard the rumors of war. I've seen the ships and the mobilization of troops. Is there any way to prevent this, any way to stop the outbreak of hostilities before it starts?" Richter gestures back down towards the shattered remains of the village. "This is my home. I have friends here. And I'm sure your people are the same. I'm sure you have places where friends meet and families gather. And I'm sure they look just the same. How do I stop this?! Please, share with me your wisdom!"

In the distance, Richter can see more sandworms rising from the sands. Raising their maws to the sky, they release eerie, echoing calls... the siren wail of wormsong.

War comes.

Evil comes.

Death comes.


Before Richter, a vision forms... a vision of himself, alone, sitting in a desert bunker. He is wounded - broken. Outside the bunker is devastation - corpses, the wreckage of warmachines, the sign of battle. The vision switches as if it is looking through his eyes. With a shaking hand, the Richter in the vision scrawls with shaking hand on a scroll.

Sitting in a bunker here behind my wall
Waiting for the worms to come.
In perfect isolation here behind my wall
Waiting for the worms to come.


Slowly the image darkens... as if the light is fading from his eyes.

Goodbye cruel world,
I'm leaving you today.
Goodbye, blue sky
Goodbye, blue sky.
Goodbye. Goodbye.


The image fades to away the hand falls away from the scroll.

Fate.


The worm's maw flexes slightly, sending a shiver down it's huge body.

Can you change yours? Can you change ours?

Or is that how your life will end? Alone, but for our siren song in the distance... waiting for the worms to come?


"I... I don't know..." Richter replies, looking down for a moment, as if unsure of himself. He's like that for a second before jerking his head back up, glaring into the maw of the worm. His eyes burn with passionate fire and he shouts his reply to the heavens.

"But I have to try! All my life I've simply coasted by on what was given to me. As a noble born to a rich family I had no purpose. But then I came here, to this village, and I met Valerie and Karina. My two closest friends, I'd do anything for them! I've seen how they live their lives, and they spend every waking moment of it fighting against the hand they've been dealt!"

Richter climbs up the hill, faster and faster as he moves forward. No longer caring about the pedestal, he passes it by if given the opportunity that he may fling his arms to the sky and cry to the heavens. "I cannot allow this travesty to take place! This village is my home! My friends are here, and I'll do whatever it takes to make sure we all have a home to come back to, even if I have to end it all before it even begins!"

The wormsong continues in the distance, even as the giant worm in front of him slowly leans its great bulk down. Richter now has a very, very up close view of it's mouth, full if rings of teeth. It's hot, fetid breath roars in and out.

You have no choice.

Your... god, your Destiny, does not allow it.

That is the cost of your safety.

That is the price of your prophecy.

Locked and shackled, bound by words.

Beware the voice of prophecy.

Beware the voice of Destiny.


And suddenly from Richter's own mouth, a voice speaks. A voice not his own. A cold, dry, emotionless voice. "IT IS TOO LATE FOR YOU. IT IS TOO LATE FOR YOUR PEOPLE, OLD GOD. YOUR PEOPLE, AND THEIR FATE, IS INEVITABLE. THE EMPIRE COMES FOR YOU. YOUR PEOPLE SHALL FALL."

There's a shudder throughout the worm before him - at first, Richter thinks it is rage, but then he hears it. Laughter. The Worm is laughing.

The desert is always changing, even as you never change. You have no power here. You shall never have power here. And you know it. And yet, still you try. It would be admirable if it wasn't so pathetic.


The worm slowly backs its great bulk away, even as Richter finds himself in control of his speech once more.

Choice. It is always about choice, little one. Remember that. You cannot save your village - that choice has been taken from you. It was its... Destiny to be lost. The first of many. War...

War never changes.

In time, you may find yourself among my people. Perhaps with others, perhaps not. It depends on what He chooses. Should you stand in our desert, and wish for safety... for freedom... all you have to do is follow the Worm. Remember that, young one. Remember...


With a single, eerie call of wormsong, the creature buries itself back into the sea of sand, leaving Richter standing on top of the broken hill next to the white pedestal.

"Follow... Follow the Worm?" Richter asks. "If I follow the Worm, it will lead my friends and I to safety?"

Richter mulls the thought over as the worm departs, listening to the songs in the distance. Turning around, he heads back down the hill towards the pedestal he passed on his way to the summit that he may complete his trial.

He reaches the pedestal, presses his hand upon it, and white light swallows him... and he finds himself outside of the Cave. In his pocket, he feels a crinkling, crackling of paper - the same poem he saw before.

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 Post Posted: Sun Jun 02, 2013 11:19 pm 
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Location: What matter wounds? For each time he falls, he shall rise again and woe to the wicked!
As Karina enters the Cave, she has a brief sensation of... transference, as if somehow that first step into the Cave was far, far longer that it should have been. She finds that she doesn't need a light - what look like small lanterns on the wall have dancing orbs of energy inside of them. Looking back to where the cave opening was, she sees... nothing. A tunnel, as if she's been traveling down the same area for some time. A faint smell of rot and decay emanates throughout the tunnel, with small toadstools and other such fungi growing from the walls. Even the walls themselves seem... slimy. A small trickle of rancid smelling water runs through the left side of the tunnel.

Ahead of her, further down the tunnel, she can see an eerie green glow where the tunnel seems to open up.

Karina looks around the cave, taking time to inspect without touching all of the lanterns, fungi and the rancid water looking for anything that may be a trap or of use. When she's done she works her way cautiously towards the green glowing light, keeping her footsteps soft and approaching slowly.

Eventually, the tunnel opens out to what Karina initially thinks is outside... and then her mind immediately rebels at the thought as she looks at the view before her. Ahead of her is what looks to be an outside area, with a huge hill off in the distance. The hill seems to be made of rock and dirt - nothing grows. The green glow that she saw before comes from above - a pale, dark green, unnatural sky, filled with sickly clouds chased by a red sun. But it is not that that causes her pause. Before her, on the ground, and all throughout the area - to the point that she only barely see the rock and dirt - are bones. Thousands... millions... of bones. Some are full skeletons, with bits of clothes still wrapped around the corpses. Here, a lone skeletal hand raises from the midst, a small ring about it's finger. There, a skull lies, a dagger thrust through its eye socket. The stench of decay is overpowering - on closer examination, it would seem that not all of the skeletons are entirely skeletons at all - some are still... fresh. She turns at the faint sign of movement in the corner of her eye, to see one of the fresher looking corpses shift slightly... as untold numbers of worms shift, crawl, and tunnel their way through its flesh.

At the top of the hill, Karina can see something - what looks like a marble pedestal.

Karina removes the bandages over her face and vomits on the spot, trying to get clear of the bones as fast as she can and clinging to the entrance of the open area for support. When her spasms subside she looks up to the strange sky for comfort.

"I... I can't.. I can't... no... not this..."

She remember her village, nothing but rotten bone and dust and worms... her fault...

"Run... run away..."

She turns to run full steam towards the cave entrance, takes a single step and feels a strong warm hand on her shoulder. "Rina... stop." She turns around to see Valerie... a translucent memory of Valerie. On the first night they met.

"Rina... if you run from me I can't be your friend. You can't keep running from your Fate. It makes you alone, and being alone makes you sad. I've seen where you live sweetie... that's no life for such a wonderful girl like you."

Karina looks past her towards the field of bones, "If... if I lose control... I can cause that... I can kill everyone in this village... I'm too scared..."

Valerie's imaginary arms wrap around her from behind, "That's your Fate if you run. If you don't learn about your Caste and your powers. It's not a curse Rina... it's a gift wrapped in a trap. If you can disarm it... you can find the treasure within. Do you run and eventually let your Fate make this field of bones come to pass?"

"...or do you fight, learn, and master it so it never does?" The last part is spoken in Karina's voice.

"...oh this is gonna be horrible..."

Screaming with a mix of fear and inspiration Karina pelts off through the bones and towards the pedestal, trying to ignore the squishing and crunching under her feet.

Yet, just before she moves... Suddenly, from behind her, a broken, rotting voice says "Oh, you have no idea..." A broken, rotting arm lies itself across Karina's shoulders...

"Hello love." Valerie - or what's left of her - smiles grotesquely at her. "Tell me. Do you notice anything... familiar? Take a closer look."

At first, Karina can't tell what she's talking about, but then she sees it. The hill. Not just a hill in the middle of nowhere. It's the village hill. The one that her village is based around. Now that she's a little closer, she can see the rotten hulks of the buildings - familiar buildings in familiar places, but rotted out to the core. The dead around her... they're familiar as well. The faces of friends. People she knows from the village.

"Good news and bad news. The good news is, you didn't do this."

Slowly, the other corpses rise. Rank after rank of the shambling dead, standing, watching her.

"The bad news is... well. If you do nothing, everybody dies. Even if you DO do something... everyone will probably still die."

"A war is coming. A war to end all wars. A war that ends Empires. And that war... well. It is about to begin. And it is always the small ones... you, me, the others of the village... we're always the ones to take the brunt of it."

She sighs.

"I'll tell you a secret, though I'm not supposed to say this. Who knows what the higher-ups will have to say about this... but eh, f***'m." For a moment, the familiar devil-may-care gleam enters Valerie's eyes.

"Your village is already lost. There's nothing you can do to stop it."

Karina freezes solid as the zombie-Val drapes her arm around Karina's shoulders in the normal spot. She turns around and shrieks, pulling away. "....w....w.w..... what... what are you!?"

She shakes hard as she looks around, even her brown skin paling as she realizes she's standing in the rotten remains of her new home. Faces she knows, faces she loves, faces of everyone whose ever shot her a dirty glance or has given her the slightest kindness. She watches in terror as the corpses rise and set their sunken eyes on her. Zombie Val's words are lost as her world closes around her and the sound of rushing water signifies her impending loss of consciousness...

And then...

"Your village is already lost. There's nothing you can do to stop it."

"There's nothing you can do to stop it."

"Nothing you can do to stop it."

With an almighty shove, Karina pushes Zombie Val away from her hard. "You're not Val." Her face is hidden by her long black hair and she's trembling, "Val would never say those things to me... she knows me too well. You are NOT VAL." Her head whips around and she glares at the zombie, her brown eyes lit from beneath with a golden light, "Don't you dare tell me there's nothing I can do to stop it! I'll stop it with all my might!"

She stalks towards the Zombie Val, pulling down her face-mask and revealing more of her white and black tattoos, which almost seem to be shining. "I spent my entire life before Valerie without hope. I had given up! She taught me that there's no such thing as no such thing! You say I can't stop it you bitch?!" Her face is now inches from Zombie Val's, her i-teeth gleaming, "Just watch me."

She turns her back and grabs her left shoulder with her right hand, spinning her left arm in it's socket and stretching out as she walks towards the hill. "If any of ya zombie bastards wanna try and stop me, get ready to get your damned rotten skulls caved in!" She slams her fist into her open palm and cracks her neck, "Other wise..." she flips her hair back out of her face and quickly ties it into a tail with strands of itself. "GET THE HELL OUT OF MY WAY!!!"

She kneels like a track runner and tears off towards the hill, ready to to smash any Zombie that dare try and stop her.

As Karina tears away toward the top of the hill, the zombie of Val sighs. "Never did listen to me either. Well, then again, I didn't listen to you as closely as I should have either. Eh, Karina? You were our last hope, in the end..." Strangely, Val isn't looking at Karina as she runs away, but rather at a stone near her. Slowly she sits down, leaning herself against the stone. Her rotten hands trace the faint words - worn away by time, only barely legible.

Re*t in P*ace
K*ri*a *****

"Sh* di*d doi*g *he *igh* th**g."

From beside her, a cold, emotionless voice speaks through a skull, it's eyes temporarily burning with eerie light. "SHE CANNOT CHANGE HER DESTINY. YOU KNOW THAT, MORE THAN ANYONE. WARNING HER WILL NOT CHANGE ANYTHING. IF ANYTHING, YOU MAY HAVE MADE HER LIFE WORSE."

"Still... had to try." Val casually flips off the skull. Her voice grows softer as the cold, eerie light in her eyes dims and gutters. "I learned to... stop listening to you... a long time ago." She looks wistfully up at the figure of her friend, running up the hill. "Still... it was... good... to see you... one... last... time..." Slowly, the light in Val's eyes dies away. "Good... luck. Kiddo."

Meanwhile, Karina finds herself swarmed by zombies - people she knows. People she wanted the respect of. People who derided her and feared her. They try to grab her, to hold her, in a mockery of an embrace. All the love she missed from them in living, she gains from them in death. Again and again, she hears from the dead, rotting mouths, Whyyyy, whyyyy... why ussss... Again and again, she strikes at them - breaking bone, snapping necks. However, if she breaks an arm, the zombie comes at her with the other arm. If she tears off a head, the zombie continues headless. Again, and again she strikes against the endless waves of the undead, and again and again, they come at her, until finally...

Before her, she sees it, the white pedestal. For some reason, no zombie comes near it. She breaks free of them all and turns around toward the horde - she sees them standing, staring, their eyes glowing eerily, watching with the stillness that only comes from the dead. All she has to do is place her hand on the pedestal...

Karina ignores the voices behind her, climbing higher and higher up the hill. With each impact that shatters bone she heaves but keeps on running; ignoring the pounding in her heart and the burning in her lungs. She cannot ignore the sting of the tears in her eyes but she presses on.

Over and over she breaks her way through, like some sick bush of endless bones until at last she's clear and at the altar. She stops, looking around at the zombie horde suddenly refusing to come near. She breathes deeply, catching her air and trembling. "Monsters... the cave is run by monsters..."

She glares at the zombies around her, "You think it's gonna stop me?! HUH?!" She stands straight, hair falling down her face and sweat dripping. "You think I'm just gonna lay back and accept my so called destiny?! DO YOU?! Well screw that!!" She swings hard and jams her fist into the ground.

"I"

A second swing, harder this time.

"WILL"

A third, her fist begins to bleed and heal...

"NOT"

A final blow, cracking her small finger bones and denting the ground.

"YIELD!!!"

She stands, screaming at the crowds, "DAMN MY FATE, DAMN MY DESTINY, DAMN MY FLAW!! MY NAME IS KARINA!! I WAS ONCE BOUND BY MY CHAINS, BUT NO MORE! I'VE TASTED LOVE, I'VE TASTED LIFE AND FRIENDSHIP! I WANT MORE AND NOBODY IS GOING TO TAKE THEM FROM ME. I WILL PROTECT THE PEOPLE I LOVE AND BREAK THOSE OF YOU WHO DARE TO TRY AND HARM THEM!!"

She pumps her arm around in circles and approaches the pedestal, "My Flaw... The Towers... a prison. If my Destiny, the Lovers, is the cage I am contained in... if my Destiny and Flaw combine to form my imprisoned fate?" She opens her palm as her finger bones snap back into place, "THEN I'LL SMASH THAT PRISON AND REACH THE WORLD BEYOND!! WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK I AM?!" She slams her palm down onto the pedestal with all the power she can muster, and white light envelopes her... and she finds herself outside of the cave. On her left hand, she finds a simple golden ring... the same ring she saw on the hand of one of the corpses...

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 Post Posted: Sun Jun 02, 2013 11:22 pm 
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Location: What matter wounds? For each time he falls, he shall rise again and woe to the wicked!
As Tyr enters the Cave, he has a brief sensation of... transference, as if somehow that first step into the Cave was far, far longer that it should have been. He finds that he doesn't need a light - what look like small lanterns on the wall have dancing orbs of energy inside of them. Looking back to where the cave opening was, he sees... nothing. A tunnel, as if he's been traveling down the same area for some time. Before him (and behind him), strewn throughout the tunnel, are bits and pieces of weaponry. A small dagger here, a sword over there, a piece of armor lying against the wall... all very, very well made, yet at the same time, very, very worn - as if they've seen centuries of use.

Ahead of him, he can hear the slow, steady beat of weapons... the swift, slicing sound of blade meeting blade, as if someone is fighting up ahead. The light, also, seems brighter that way, as if the tunnel perhaps opens into a large, well lit, area...

Tyr looks around at his new surroundings, a bit surprised. However, after a brief look behind him, he re-readies his weapon and strides forward.

As Tyr steps forward, the sounds of fighting grow louder. No longer is it a clash of blade and blade, but thousands, millions of blades. The sound of battle. The sound of war. As he moves closer toward the sound of battle, the tunnel lightens... then suddenly, opens out, seemingly to outside. But something inside of Tyr's mind says that cannot be right...

Before him is a hill, made of bare rock and dirt. Above, a black sky that flickers with lightning, though none strikes downward. Covering the hill is... what seems to be every weapon imaginable. Strewn on the ground about are blades beyond number - daggers, swords, spears, axes, clubs, hammers, shields, pieces of armor. And on top of those, a battle rages. Men wearing archaic armor battle side by side with men wearing the most modern chainmail. A knight in shining armor thunders down the hillside, his steed somehow avoiding the sharp blades as it thunders down into the enemy - a dark and terrible army of what Tyr's mind can only call demons and devils. Neither side seems to notice him, or the cavern exit that he is standing in.

As he stands there, he catches a glimpse at the top of the hill - a flicker of white. A pedestal, standing tall.

Tyr's eyes open wide as he sees the gigantic battlefield in front of him. He's never seen anything like this before, not in his wildest dreams. Some tiny rational part of his mind keeps urging him that there's no way this can be real, but the fact is that it's right there in front of him, right? Regardless, as man and devil enter the battle against each other, the pillar makes him snap to attention. Something about it is calling him - and so he dashes to avoid the fray and reach the shining place atop the hill of swords.

As Tyr runs into the battle, he's struck by a disturbing familiarity about the hill, but he cannot place it. He sways, dodges, and weaves between blades and maces, between the white and black warriors, until finally the battle is too thick in his area. Over the din, he can hear the chanting war cry of the warriors of white...

Ran! Tan! Terre et ciel,
Terre et ciel, et sang vermeil!
Tan! Tan ! Glaive clair,
Flots de sang vermeil!


He's stuck watching a white warrior getting beaten down by one of the black, its heavy mace crashing into the other's helmet, sending it flying. Under the helmet... is someone he knows. An acquaintance of his at the village, the village blacksmith. As he looks closer under the visors and the mail caps, he sees other familiar faces. There, his mentor, battling several of the 'demon' warriors at once. There, Elder Brion in battle robes, sending waves of fire at the enemy. And then he recognizes the reason why the hill seemed familiar. It's his hill. The village hill. The one that the village is centered around.

An imploring hand reaches up... not from one of the warriors in white, but from one of the 'demons'. Now that he has a chance to look closer, it isn't a demon at all - it's elaborate armor, made of many interlocking plates. Underneath the helmet of the demon... he sees his own face.

"Why? Why did you not stop this? Why... do we have to kill our own? Why?"

Tyr looks horrified as those he sees battle around him, and the version of him in dark armor reaches a hand up to him. He starts to lower his hand to the other him, then draws back when 'he' speaks. "Who are you? I'm me, so you can't be me too. What do you mean, 'why didn't I stop this?'"

"You did not stop this! The war began, and what did you do? You did nothing. You - I - I couldn't protect them. I couldn't defend them. I couldn't save them!"

His other self looks up at him with haunted eyes. "How can you save someone who doesn't want to be saved? You can't save everyone - not even the Arcana themselves could save everyone. When the Empire broke in two, brother fought against brother. Arcana against Arcana. You can't save both sides. Hell..."

He gives a grimacing smile as the light fades from his eyes and the blood runs down his face.

"In the end, you couldn't even save yourself..."

The hand falls.

Around Tyr the battle rises, and throughout the din, he hears the chant...

Ran! Tan! Terre et ciel!
Terre et ciel, et sang vermeil!
Ran! Tan! Fer et Feu!
Fer et Feu, et sang impure!
Vive le vin Gaulois!

Tyr looks down at his own bleeding corpse in shock. In his mind, he remembers talking to his mentor about the brewing war - his musings about whether it was truly necessary answered by his mentor's grumblings about war being old men talking and young men dying, his fears about having to kill innocents instead of protecting them... The apprehension he felt about the coming battles and what they would mean all come rushing back as he watches the war erupt around him.

"Why... Why am I seeing this? Is this the future? It can't be... How can it all end like this?" As friends kill friends all around him he clutches his head in his hands, and asks himself "how am I supposed to save them?"

As he looks downward. his gaze is drawn to his slain self. His hand gently goes to the other him's brow, and closes his eyes. "You must have shown me this for a reason," he says. "You said You... I did nothing." Tyr then rises, and looks back at the battle around him in determination instead of horror. "But that means there's something that I can do. I can save them. I can make sure this never comes to pass." As he takes a firm grip on his halberd, he says "how do you save an empire that doesn't want to be saved? I don't know. But I'll figure it out. I won't let it end like this!"

Tyr's eyes fix on the pillar once more, and he begins his dash once again, purpose driving his steps.

As Tyr charges up the hill, he notices something strange - it feels strangely like he has been in this battle before. He somehow knows that body he was about to step over would shift, causing him to fall, so he changes his course. He has seen the swing of a sword coming at his head a thousand times before, and like the so many times before, he ducks underneath it. He can feel it in his veins - the surge of destiny, carrying him toward his destination, until finally at the top of the hill, he reaches the white pedestal unscathed... but he is not alone. A large figure, clad all in black, stands before him. Though he cannot make out the features of the man behind the wrought helmet, the eyes are sad and old.

"It's about time, boy." The man leads on his blade - a greatsword as long as he is tall. "Thought you'd take all day, dithering around like that. Well? Understand? You can't save everybody. Though I suppose I can tell you that 'til I'm blue in the face and you'd never believe me. But there's a truth to it. You can't save everybody - you can only save a person if they want to be saved. Eventually..."

The man gazes sadly at the remains of the battle around him. "You can't even save the ones that want to be saved. That you... wanted, to save." His eyes fog over for a moment as if in memory, then he shakes himself.

"A war is coming... and I cannot... could not... stop it. It cannot be stopped... but the storm of it can be lessened. Blunted. That, perhaps you may be able to do. Maybe..." He looks at you weighingly for a moment, then sighs. "Or maybe not. We'll have to see."

He steps out of the way of Tyr's route to the pedestal, hefting the greatsword as if it is as light as a feather up to rest on his shoulder.

As the old, weary man speaks to Tyr, he pauses for a second to listen to his words, then shakes his head angrily. "Just because I can't save everyone doesn't mean I should accept that! I know that maybe I won't be strong enough, but I've got to try anyway. The moment I accept that I can't save everyone is the moment I've failed everyone who needed my help. I won't give up - not without trying with all of my might!"

Tyr then nods to the man as he steps out of the way, and says "thank you" as he continues his journey to the pedestal.

For a moment, it seems as if the man will let him go... but then, he finds his way blocked by the greatsword.

"A question, before you leave." He pauses, as if ruminating as to how best to put it.

"Imagine you are a teacher. Doesn't matter which subject... but eh, let's make it simple - we're both warriors. You're teaching someone to fight. He... or she, if I'm going to be politically correct," he says dryly, "is an excellent student. Truly, your very best. One day, you find that you no longer have anything to teach the student. If anything, they have surpassed you - you are no longer young, but old. If it came to a fair fight, that student would almost certainly win."

"You are proud of the student, and you let the student out into the world. Yet the student... betrays your expectations." The old man's eyes once again seem lost in memory before he shakes himself. "The student uses their training in ways you never taught. To gain power. To threaten others. To conquer. To kill."

"How would you stop that student?"

Tyr stops as the sword is extended in front of him, and looks at the old man in confusion before he asks his question. Once he asks it, though, Tyr looks deep in thought.

"I don't know," he says, after a bit of thinking. "My gut says to fight anyway, but I know that there's a difference between fighting even when the odds are against you and simply committing suicide. There are battles we can't win, and I don't think he'd be moved by your trying to fight a hopeless battle anyway. If he won't listen to reason... I don't know."

Tyr then shakes his head, and says "but I'd have to do something. Anything, in the end. I couldn't just stay back and let him use what I taught him for evil."

The old man chuckles softly at the answer. "A man after my own heart, then. But..." He looks at the battle around him. The men in black armor are slowly being worn away, swords and axes biting into their flesh. "Well. You can see the result of that here. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you will fail. To keep trying, in the face of something impossible... to refuse to quit, despite the inevitable... that is true strength."

He looks across the battlefield. In the distance, a large figure in white raises an axe, then lowers it in a vicious blow. "That is something he never understood." He shakes his head sadly.

"One final question. You have succeeded in bringing your former student down. He lies helpless before you. You know he is unrepentant. You know he has too much power to be tried by the laws of the land - corruption..." he spits to the side, "prevents such trial. What would you do, to prevent his further evil?"

Tyr looks uncomfortable at the question, and pauses for a moment. He then slowly answers "I... I know what my answer is supposed to be. You can't kill a helpless man, even if you know he's going to get back up and kill you the second he can. But that's what you learn from the guard. I learned how to hunt monsters. And..."

Tyr shudders, and continues. sometimes you can't give them a clean kill. Sometimes you're going to wound them, and they're going to be crawling away helplessly.

"If you've scared them away, that's one thing. They'll go and never come back. If you've hurt them bad enough, though, you've got a duty. You've got to finish them off. Not just because they're hurt, and because it's the only kind thing you can do... but because if you don't, and they do somehow heal up, they're going to remember the pain, and hate it. They'll go from predators to killers, and someone else is going to pay for it."

"I don't think it's right to kill a helpless person. I think the very idea is horrible. But if the choice is let someone keep on doing evil, or finish them off... well, it's my duty."

The old man nods slowly. "Yes, it seems that you have been taught well. Give my complements to your..." he stops himself for a moment, then sighs. "Never mind, boy. You are correct. Sometimes... it is right to do what is necessary, rather than necessary to do what is right." He hefts his greatsword back to his shoulder. "Go, boy." He turns away from you, looking back down the hill. Around him, all the warriors in black are defeated... all, except for the lone old man on the hill. Slowly, the warriors in white close in on him... and on you.

Tyr hesitates for a moment, then nods to him once more, and continues his run to the top of the hill.

Before Tyr stands the white pedestal. All he needs to do now is place his hand upon it.

Further down the hill, the large man in white walks through the rest of his warriors, facing the old man. Slowly, almost ceremoniously, they bring their blades to bear upon one another. Tyr turns his head back, then grits his teeth and places his hand on the pedestal. The light flares white around him, and in the distance, he hears the clash of blades... brief, precise... and a loud cry. Then. Silence.

Exiting the Cave, he feels a weight in his hand... the weight of a simple steel dagger.

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 Post Posted: Sun Jun 02, 2013 11:27 pm 
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Location: What matter wounds? For each time he falls, he shall rise again and woe to the wicked!
As Leo enters the Cave, he has a brief sensation of... transference, as if somehow that first step into the Cave was far, far longer that it should have been. He finds that he doesn't need a light - what look like small lanterns on the wall have dancing orbs of energy inside of them. Looking back to where the cave opening was, he sees... nothing. A tunnel, as if he's been traveling down the same area for some time. Before him (and behind him), strewn throughout the tunnel, are bits and pieces of machinery. A small mechanism here, a cog over there, a wheel lying against the wall... all very, very well made, yet at the same time, very, very worn - as if they've seen centuries of use.

Ahead of him, he can hear the slow 'clank, clank, clank' of machinery at work. The light, also, seems brighter that way, as if the tunnel perhaps opens into a large, well lit, area...

As Leo walks down the hallway, he stops every so often to look at a new type of mechanical fragment, considering their make, quality, and condition. As he examines the mechanisms, he is struck by an oddity. The technology of the Empire has only recently - perhaps in the past 50 years or so - reached the point of advanced machinery, to the precision of the obvious quality of these parts. Yet, these parts seem centuries old. As to what they are for... he can't quite tell. There are parts that he finds familiar - simple bits and pieces that he recognizes. There are others that, try as he might, he cannot think of what they could possibly be for.

As he walks the tunnel, he approaches what seems to be a large cavern ahead... and then realizes that it's not a cavern at all. At first, he thinks he's somehow gone outside... but a second look tells him that that is impossible, for it is nothing like any area he has ever seen.

Ahead of him is what looks like a hill, covered in mere dirt and rock. Ahead is a sky grey and tan with smoke and smog. Inside of those clouds, and far, far off into the distance, he sees what seem to be gears, grinding against one another. Throughout the area, he hears the sound of industry - the hammer of steel on steel, again and again and again. It's deafening to the ears. Occasionally, from the sky falls a piece of metal - more of the parts and mechanisms that he's seen in the cave tunnel. The hillside is covered with them, making footing treacherous and difficult. At the top of the hill, he sees something... what looks like it could be a pedestal.

Using the haft of his hammer as a walking stick, Leo slowly walks up the hill towards the pedestal.

As Leo grows closer, he is struck by a disturbing sense of familiarity. Something about the hill. Something...

His train of thought is interrupted by a mechanical hand reaching up to grab his leg. When he looks down, he sees that the hand is attached to some sort of... cyborg. An unholy melding of flesh and metal... and it is wearing his face.

"Yo-u-u-u." The being's voice seems to stutter mechanical on its words. "Wh-y-y-y-y. Wh-y-y-y-y di-d-d. Yo-u-u-u-u. Do. THIS."

Its mouth curls into a grotesque grimace. "WH-Y-Y-Y. DI-D-D-D. YO-U-U-U. DO. THIS. TO. US?"

Slowly, from the mangled metal, rise other figures... all people that he knows. People from the village. Traders, peddlers who visited. Even his friends. His family. All in the same, horrifying conjunction of metal and human.

And then, he can see it - the reason why the hill looks so familiar. It's home. It's the hill his village rests on. Only the hill he knows is green and lively with the sound of people. The buildings of the village grow right up the hill - if he looks close enough here, he can barely make out beams of metal, sticking up where the buildings should have been. And at the top of the hill - the center of the village - there is a white pedestal.

The being's hand grow's tighter. Its one eye - the other a mechanical orb - looks anguished up at him. "WH-Y-Y-Y?"

Leo reacts instictively by slamming the hammer down on the wrist holding onto him. "Wait! I think- I think I could fix this! What did I do?"

To Leo's great surprise and chagrin, the hammer snaps - a hidden flaw in the metal, a poor casting, a loose screw... he's not sure which. He's left holding what's effectively a metal rod in his hand. In a rictus of a smile, the being - the cyborg him - throws it's head back with a creak and laughs. It's a terrible, burbling, stuttering sound. The figure slowly pulls itself upright - it's left arm is completely metal and robotic. The legs are old and rusty, and are strangely bent hinged backward, causing the cyborg to loom forward alarmingly. With a sharp crack it stretches its neck, then turns a bolt slightly, causing a hissing sound to come from its mouth.

"How... appropriate. Just like all your creations. Flawed. Broken. Twisted. Wrecked before it ever even got used. How... unfortunate." The being's eyes, he sees, are mechanical - they gleam a fierce, cobalt blue.

"What did you do, you ask. What did you do? Thissssss." It's breath puffs out in a sharp hiss of steam. "Such potential. Such power. And for what. NOTHING!" The voice yell echos throughout the hillside.

"Nothing. You were not strong enough. Good enough. Smart enough. Never enough. So you kept trying to make yourself faster. Stronger. Better. Harder. All. For. NOTHING!" It lurches a step toward Leo, though its rusted legs nearly give out. "All that you make, you BREAK. Because you keep wanting to fix things, to improve things, to make them BETTER. What you don't realize is some things are not meant to be FIXED. Some things need to BREAK. Some things are meant to be BROKEN."

"Lose a leg - I can FIX it. Lose an arm - I can FIX it. Lose an eye - I can FIX it. Lose your mind..." The cyborg twists a knob on the side of his head. "Well, I guess you're well and truly screwed. But then again, we were all screwed, in the end." The being laughs, the same terrible, broken laugh as before. From around Leo, similar laughs erupt, as more beings - people he knows, people he respects - claw their way out of the mess of metal. All of his friends - all the people he knows - everyone is there... except for one. Karina.

Leo pries at the grip with the rod that remains, using it instead as a lever to force between his leg and the metal hand. "That's not what fixing is! You're describing the wrong kind! Fixing without htinking how right to do it! If something isn't meant to be fixed by me, that just means it wasn't my job to fix it! It still would be fixed by another! And if a tool breaks, find a new way to use it!"

He glances around. "Someone's missing. Why?"

"Ah. Yesssssssss." The gleam in the robotic eye increases. "She was broken. Broken down to the bone. Broken at birth. Could not FIX her. She rejected it, she did. She broke everything else, could only fix herself. Never could. Never would. Body endures much. Mind... not so much. The mind is a great tool. Broken mind... find a new way to use it! She certainly did. Did she? Yes, she did." It leers in your direction before gesturing around it - to the other cyborg beings.

"As for another one fixing things... who else? Who else has the SKILL? Who else has the ABILITY? Who else has the POWER?" The cyborg's mechanical hand clenches into a fist. "NO ONE. Tried to find someone. Someone as capable. Someone in the right place. Someone in the right time. But there. Was. NO ONE! Came a time. Came a place. Had a chance. Fix EVERYTHING. Everything good. Solid. Like clockwork. Perfect. FLAWLESS. Everything perfect. No more problems. No more war. No more pain. No more hate. No more suffering. Nothing. I could do NOTHING. War continued. People died. People FRIED. Was not strong enough... though I tried."

It cocks it's head to the side.

"Hey, that rhymed."

"You don't fix what you aren't sure you can." Leo said. His voice is shaken, but a note of anger has crept into it. "I always try to be better, always try to learn more, but if you're telling me that leads to this? Then I never learned anything. I dont accept this. I'm flawed. I've set too many places on fire to not know that. "

He wrenches at the arm pulling at him again, using the pole to twist and jab at the grip. "Yeah, I bet that'd be easier, if i could fix all of that. But i can't! No one can. WE don't fix the world, we fix each piece around us that we can, so that they can help fix whats next!"

The grip of the being never seems to change, no matter how Leo pokes and pries at it. "Ah yes. You are not good enough. And you never will be. That is the first key to wisdom."

It cocks its head to the other side.

"Well, at least, that's what he said. That was what he said?" It turns to the other constructs, who nod solemnly.

"Yes, that is what he said. Never could believe it. Always felt could be better. Always strove. Always tried. Not enough. Not ever enough... Deathhhhhhhhh." Hot air hisses out of its mouth into Leo's face.

"What about that, hmmm? Can't fix that, oh no. Can't fix it at all. People die, men die. Women die, babies die. All die. The one thing you can't fix. Death comes to all. Death comes to you..." the being's arm tightens - enough so to send pain through Leo's arm.

"And to meeeeeeeee..." the eyes of the being flicker and dim slightly."

"You don't fix what isn't broken, either. Just because that cannot be changed, it doesn't mean what i fix doesn't matter! Even if I die, maybe what I make will let more be born in the first place, or prevent death from breaking them early! But I won't know that if I give up. Have you given up? Are you 'fixed' because you gave up? I don't accept that!"

"Give up... GIVE UP?" The eyes of the cyborg that were dimming blaze with new light. The hand tightens even more - enough so that Leo feels his flesh grinding into his bone. "I never gave up. I never surrendered! Not like them. Not like... her..." The construct spits to the side - it looks suspiciously like oil. "Kept trying. Keep trying. But people kept dying. Even now. Even today."

"And what a good job you did, too!" Leo snaps back, trying t hide the pain. "Maybe you kept trying, in some way. But look at you! Can you say you didn't give SOMETHING up!?"

The grip lessens slightly. "Gave... up... Yes." It looks down at its hand. "Flesh was weak. Metal was stronger. Body was weak. Could fix that. Mind was weak... could work around that. Soul was weak... could not... fix..."

"If you ask me, your soul was weak because you changed yourself so much that you didn't even know what you wanted anymore. If nothing else, I can tell you I'll never be YOU."

"Ha-aaaaaah. Good. I wouldn't want to be me either." For a brief moment, Leo sees it - a flash of himself, in his own tortured wreck of a face. "Maybe you can do better. Maybe not. Is up to you." The cyborg slowly releases its grip. Leo's arm tingles as blood rushes back down it. Slowly, it backs away, creaking with every step.

"Just remember, remember. You may know the rest, you may not, but I see no reason why the treason should ever be forgot." Slowly, it sinks down onto the ground, the light flickering in its eyes, before finally dying out.

Slowly, the others in the area deactivate as well.

Leo watches the robots deactivate, without speaking. Then a small shudder goes through him. He steps towards the pedestal, ready to activate it, then stops.

Going back, he moves towards a pile of parts that is NOT one of the robots and sits down with the two pieces of his weapon. He examines the pile of parts and the damage with his small hand tools, seeing if he can find the fault, and jury rigging a solution if possible. The fault, of all things, turns out to be a sheared screw - it takes some work to get out, but it's easily replacable. As he works, he notices something on the ground - a small container that seems to be crackling with energy. Though he's not absolutely certain, it seems like some sort of power source... there are potential connectors at each end of the thing.

As Leo slots the power cartridge into his weapon, the hammer briefly hums with energy, then flares into a bright, shining white light that nearly blinds him. When the light clears and he blinks the spots out of his eyes, the hammer lies before him, looking perfectly normal. After testing it out briefly, the weapon seems to be in fine working order, with all of the parts functioning in harmony.

Off in the distance, the white pedestal beckons. Leo slowly walks over to the pedestal and places his hand upon it... and white light swallows him.

In his hands is his hammer... now fixed, a crackling blue power source inside of it.


Last edited by Ruan on Mon Jun 03, 2013 12:03 am, edited 1 time in total.
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 Post Posted: Sun Jun 02, 2013 11:34 pm 
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Location: What matter wounds? For each time he falls, he shall rise again and woe to the wicked!
As Mat enters the Cave, he has a brief sensation of... transference, as if somehow that first step into the Cave was far, far longer that it should have been. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem as if he can see a damn thing - there's no light. As his eyes start to adjust to the light levels, he notices that the tunnel ahead seems brighter - enough that he can just make out the walls that way. Even as he watches, the light gets brighter and brighter... until he sees that the light comes from two small, waddling figures. One carries a lamp... and one carries a knife.

Caste: Queen of Cups (your Caste for this fight is Cups)

Initiative:

Mat: 9 of Wands (3rd)
Lamp: 10 of Wands (2nd)
Knife: Knight of Wands (1st) Wand is their Caste, and generally speaking is the Caste of most monsters encountered.

Mat's Hand: 9 of Cups, Knight of Blades, 8 of Wands, The Moon, 3 of Blades

The small figure with the knife advances slowly... but Mat finds he cannot move away. Something about the slow, steady movement of the creature is entrancing as its shadow dances in the light...

<Attack Action: Wild, Mat>

Knife vs. Mat: Queen of Coins vs. 1 of Cups Saved by that Caste card.

At the last second, he manages to just twist away from the knife before it stabs him.

The lamp held in the other figure's hand gleams momentarily...

<Special Action: Grudge>

The figure's eyes open a slit, its dark eyes gleaming in the light of the lamp.

Your action. You have basic Attack and Defense Actions. You can Wild or Twist either as you wish. When/if you hit 2 or less cards, you will start auto-drawing with the Cups Caste draw mechanic.

Mat's whistling continues even as the situation gets much darker. The sudden setback, and the strange air of the Cave doesn't seem to bother Mat in the slightest. He simply continues walking at his slightly off-beat pace, providing a backbeat to his own whistling with the tapping of his feet against the stone. Even as the creatures show up and attempt to stab him, Mat continues whistling. It's only after the other figure glares at Mat that he stops his little tune. "What? Is this about the statues?" He says, eyebrow cocked. "Because I'll be honest with you, I don't care what you think. Or what anyone in that forsaken town thinks. I'm a free man. And I happen to quite dislike the way things are run in this country." Mat lays a hand on his ax, and withdraws it from the strap. "So do you know what that means?" He asks, as he starts approaching the two figures. "That means that I get to decide how I do things. And it means I don't have to kill you." He spins the ax around, so that the blunt part of the head is facing towards the creatures. "But I won't let you get in my way."

<Attack Action: 8 of Wands, Knife>

Mat vs. Knife: 8 of Wands vs. 4 of Blades

Damage Flip: 3 of Cups Knife loses 1 card.

'Doink'. Mat's axe whaps the little creature upside the head. It doesn't even rock to the side. It simply continues to advance and stab again...

<Attack Action: Wild, Mat>

Knife vs. Mat: 5 of Wands vs 4 of Coins

Damage Flip: 7 of Blades You lose 2 cards: 9 of Cups, 3 of Blades. You have Knight of Blades and The Moon left in your hand.

Meanwhile, the lamp in the hands of the other one flickers...

<Special Action: Somebody's Grudge>

The figure's eyes open further. And in its eyes you see the howling hell of a thousand souls screaming in rage.

Cups Draw: 2 of Spades. You currently have Knight of Blades, The Moon, and the 2 of Spades in your hand.

"Well, you're sturdier than I thought." Mat says with a smirk on his face. Even as the blade sinks into his leg, Mat's smirk doesn't disappear. If anything it grows wider. "You really are ticked about those statues aren't you?" He says with a chuckle, before turning to get a glimpse of the Lamp wielder. "And you've got a little something in your eyes. You should probably get that checked out. Can't be healthy for you." Mat retrains his grip on the ax in his hand, and steps back, letting the blade slide out of his leg, a crimson trail forming on the cave floor. "In fact, some people call me a professional for this sort of thing, so why don't I try a little experimental surgery?" He makes sure the ax blade is still facing away from the creatures, then takes a half jump-step forward before planting his feet, and bringing the ax screaming towards the eyes of the Lamp wielding monster.

<Attack Action: Knight of Blades, Lamp>

Mat vs. Lamp: Knight of Blades vs. 7 of Blades

Damage Flip: 1 of Wands (Weak)

The small lamp-wielding being sways to the side, the axe barely clipping it.

The knife holder... pauses, looking to its companion. As if waiting for something.

<Special Action: Everybody's Grudge>

The lamp-wielder's eyes open completely, and in its eyes, you can see your friends - Leo, standing in front of a hill of broken machines. Valerie, partying with demons. Tyr, locked in the midst of a battle. Karina, surrounded by the dead. Richter, walking through a desert as sand shifts behind him. Its eyes narrow, and it raises its' lantern up... and suddenly it's faint glow blazes into light, blinding Mat.

<Special Action: Chef's Knife, King of Wands-Queen of Wands-Knight of Wands>

The moment the lantern flares into life, Mat feels a stabbing sensation in his side... and then pain. Endless, endless pain. Pain that somehow, he can tell, is not his.

Can you feel this, Fool? Mat cannot see them, but somehow he can tell the voice is coming from the beings in front of him.

You wish to change Fate. You wish to change Arcana. You wish to change The World.

Can you feel this, Fool?


Across the mountain, the forces of the Arcana Empire are retreating... as warmachines are engulfed by huge creatures, giant worms in the sand. The dunes twist and writhe onto the screaming troops as a figure in white rags raises his arms. The desert people pour over the mountains like a flood, descending on unsuspecting villages. His village - his people - enslaved. His friends, battling for their lives, changing... growing harder. Colder. The Empire, weakened from its defeat, reels in agony. The military is caught on its back foot, and cannot muster its forces in time to stop the desert people. People starve, and die. War - years, and years of war.

The knife twists in his side, and suddenly the agony - already endless - somehow increases ten-fold. He can feel them - a sword running through his side, his head getting cut off, a stab to the kidney, the slow death of poison, the roasting of his flesh, the freezing of his soul. The slow, slow death of starvation, of freezing in the cold of winter. And he knows. These deaths are all because of the war. The war that is coming. The war that is about to begin. And he can feel each and every death, all the pain, all the agony... and he can feel the people's grudge. Because Mat understands now...

This war that he can stop. As a Fool, people will listen to him. He can warn them in time. If he and his friends go across the mountains after the Trial, he can stop the war. But he also sees something else... what will happen if the war is allowed to occur.

A world without Arcana. Without Caste. Without Fate. There, the vision is murky, for where there is no Fate, there is no Destiny, and there is no Prophecy. The world he always wanted... at the greatest of costs.

You have a choice. The choice of the Fool. The choice of Change. The headlong plunge off of the cliff. This is what will be. This is what will happen, if you do not intervene.

The choice, Fool... is yours.


"Heheheheh." Mat's hand lays on the knife, and subsequently the hand holding it. Mat's grip starts off weak, but grows to vice-like strength in short order. "Hahahahahahaaaa." Mat's eyes raise from the ground, as he smiles brightly at the two creatures. "So, this is the real trial, eh? Hahahahahahahaha!" The laughter echoes in the small cave, continuing into the darkness, repeating and repeating, almost endlessly. A chorus of laughter that Mat stops only after a few minutes. When it finally stops, Mat wipes the tears from his eyes with his free hand, taking care not to smack himself with his ax, before finally putting it back into the strap. "Oh, you're really confusing, you know that? You're no doubt mad at the loss of your little statues, and you show me visions of the future. You act like you know everything about me." His face hardens.

"But if you really knew me, you'd know exactly how long it took for me to care about anything at all. You'd know that even now, the smile and the laughter everyone associates with me is all a facade I put up with to keep them from understanding exactly how much hatred I have for this system, and how little those who fall into it mean to me. I care about many things, but my goal is above them all. But you don't care about that, do you? No, you just want my choice." Mat stares into the eyes of the lamp holding monster, and continues.

"This plan of mine has left me thinking long term. So what if I tell them of what's to come? It's the word of one boy, no matter what my Arcana is. The generals won't care. I'll bet Chariot and Strength will even silence me for their own glories. And even if they don't, and the people do listen, then what? Another hundred years, and I'm just an afterthought, and the new Chariot and Strength will go out and conquer, unfettered by a warning from the past, without someone to guide them out of it." There's a slight pause, and Mat smiles briefly.

"And your fortune telling only applies so long as the Arcana exist. I don't just want the people of this country to be free from this system. I want them to be stronger, by making their own choices. By failing and learning from their mistakes. So let the war come. Let the Empire crumble. I may be a Fool," Mat brings the knife further into his side, taking the pain with no reaction, "But I will be the last."

As the knife strikes deeper into his insides, the world seems to go black from sharp, searing pain. The two beings before him fade away into nothingness, and he seems to be floating in a deep, dark void.

-----

"I remember, at the beginning of all of this... You were standing on the edge of a cliff. And you jumped!"

For a moment, Mat thinks that the voice is talking to him, but then he realizes that a scene is forming before him. Two men are standing at the edge of a precipice. Below, the ocean blasts waves into the rocks, sending spray up toward the sky. The man on the left shrugs and smiles wryly at the other.

"How the hell else was I supposed to leave the village? The bridge was out. Besides, that's what it's like for me, every day. That's the life of being a Fool. The rest of you get to live safe and secure, following whatever Fate decides for you. You live according to your Fate, and you die according to your Fate. If it's your Fate to die young, well sucks to be you - better luck on the next turn of the Wheel. If you're destined to die old in bed... well. If it is your Destiny to die in battle, then..." He makes a sharp gesture. On his right hand, you notice something - there's what seems to be some sort of brand or tattoo of a black circle on it. "Well. We all know how that ends."

"There was nothing that could be done. You were too far away. He understood that. He accepted it."

"What is the point in being able to change someone's Destiny? I can save a man from his Destiny of drowning, and elsewhere a baby dies in its' crib from plague... all according to Destiny." The Fool spits.

"Me, though... I could jump off this cliff right now, and there'd be nothing to stop me. I could go back and break the Empire we just built. I could raise it to the greatest heights the world has ever seen. That is what it means to be Fateless. To ride on the whims of time and luck... ahh, it's a great life. Freedom. Such a splendid thing. Such a splendid thought. Yes... that's what our Empire needs. Freedom. Freedom to think. Freedom to be. Freedom from Fate itself. That's the only solution. To free ourselves from the Wheel, from Arcana, from everything."

The other man, black-haired and grim, shakes his head sadly. "It'd never work. The people need to be controlled. Unconstrained freedom would only lead to anarchy and pain. The people could not handle it. They need structure in their lives. They need..." the man seems to search for words. "Guidance. They need to believe in something greater than themselves. The Arcana... Fate... Destiny... it gives them the safety to live out their lives. It gives your life meaning. Knowing that you work toward a greater Destiny for all, even in death. All contribute to the greater good."

The Fool gives the other a sad look. "Death... what of those whose lives are cut short? What of the children's fathers who died on our battlefields? What of the young wife, killed by the murderer? What of my best friend, currently holding a knife behind his back, prepared to kill me so his Empire can grow in safety, free from change?"

The black haired man takes in a sharp breath. "You... knew?"

"Of course I knew, you idiot. I can see them, you know. Like black threads. The strings pulled by the puppeteers. I couldn't at first... then I thought I was going mad. But they're always there, and more and more I could see them. Manipulate them. Change them. There's been one connecting you and I since the day we first met. I knew even then that you would try to kill me."

"Then why..."

"Why didn't I kill you? Because..." The Fool gazes out over the dark ocean below. "At first... well. What's the saying. Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer. Then... you became my friend. My companion. Between us, we created something great... something that could be more than great. An Empire without equal in this world. I didn't kill you because I thought you deserved a chance. A chance that our people never get. A choice. A choice to be something more. A choice to throw off the chains that bind you. A choice to be free, at long last."

"A choice... to not kill me, and let me be free to do as I will. You may steer the course of our Empire... but I will be the winds of Change that keeps it free."

"I cannot--"

"You can. Anyone can. You are not a mindless sheep. You do not have to follow the course of your Fate. Not even one so strong as yours. All you have to do is Choose."

The black-haired man's face is wracked with indecision, and it seems he is on the verge of dropping the knife... when suddenly, his face grows still, and through his mouth, a voice - cold, dry, logical, emotionless - speaks.

"ENOUGH. IT IS TIME, FOOL."

"Ahhh, and there you are. The voice of Destiny itself. The puppetmaster, behind the strings."

"WE HAD A DEAL."

"And you expected me to obey it!? Me, the roguest of rogues? Me?"

"WE. HAD. A. DEAL."

"No, we had a... gentleman's agreement. I'd build your Empire. Check. I wouldn't mess with the Fate of anyone important. Check... well. Except for that one barmaid. But that turned out well, didn't it? And I would work for the betterment of all."

The Fool shakes his head. "No, I might have agreed to do that... but I never agreed to allowing myself to get killed by my best friend. If it truly wanted to do it, it'd be one thing. But I'd say it's pretty obvious that he doesn't want to do it."

Despite the calmness of the other man's face, his body is rigid - it seems he is fighting with all that he can to free himself.

"IT IS INEVITABLE. HE CANNOT RESIST HIS FATE. ANY OTHER MAN, BUT NOT HIM. THE ONLY WAY YOU COULD SAVE YOURSELF IS TO KILL HIM." There's ever so slightly a faint trace of smugness in the voice. "AND THAT, YOU WILL NOT DO. YOU ARE TOO WEAK. SHACKLED BY..." for a moment, the faintest traces of disgust color the voice. "EMOTIONS."

The slackness in the man's face recedes, followed by a despairing look on the other man. "I... cannot... stop it. Run. Run, you Fool! Get away from me! RUN!" The knife in his hand glows red with power, the light from it illuminating the numerals IV on the back of his hand. "I cannot stop it. Get away, while you still have a chance."

"I am sorry, my friend, but I cannot do that. Not while there is still a chance." The Fool reaches for his friend, grasping the wrist holding the knife. "You have a choice, no matter what Destiny says. There is always a choice. Remember that. You always, always, have a choice."

"I am... sorry. I am not... strong... enough." There are tears in the man's eyes. "I've never been strong enough." The Fool can feel the hand holding the knife, straining toward him.

"Well, then it's a good thing I am." The Fool releases his friend's arm and walks to the edge of the precipice. "Remember what I said before? For me, every day is like standing on the edge of the abyss... and every day, you choose to jump blindly, never knowing what you'll find at the bottom." He looks down at the bottom at the surf below, seemingly oblivious to the other man coming behind him with the knife. "What's one more cliff, eh?"

The other man knows that fey look. He immediately starts shaking his head. "No. Don't do it. Don't..."

"Better me than you. I know you. You wouldn't be able to live with yourself. You look hard, but you always were the kindest of us all. I think that, more than anything, is why I followed you. No. I won't let you kill me. I am sorry, my friend, to put you though this. But don't blame me. Blame Destiny. You might not be able to choose... but I can choose for you. But understand this: I will be back. The Wheel has not been broken. And while the Wheel of Fortune turns, so then shall I return. That's the great irony of it all - the only threat to Destiny's system is the Fool... and it is its very system that will bring me back, again and again."

The Fool looks up into the air, and for a moment, he seems to see you. His grin only seems to widen further. With a final salute, he turns to the cliff. "And so I stare at the edge of an abyss. And I jump. Every damn day."

And he's gone.

"NO!" Suddenly free of the compulsion, the other man scrambles to the edge of the cliff, looking down into the dark waters below.

From the air beside him, the voice of Destiny speaks, a faint note of satisfaction in its voice.

"GAME... OVER."

"NOOOOOOO!" The other man screams to the sky.

"SO ENDS THE AGE OF MAN. SO BEGINS THE AGE OF ARCANA. COME, EMPEROR."

The other man, the Emperor, sags to his knees, staring out over the ocean.

"THERE IS WORK TO BE DONE."

-------------

Mat finds himself at the edge of a cliff, overlooking an abyss. Above, are all the stars in the sky. Below... is nothing. Utter, complete darkness. Somehow he knows that here, there is nothing but a choice. Somehow he knows - he can turn from the cliff and walk away. If he takes that road, he will go back to his village, and live out a normal, free life, dying happily of old age, with a wife that loves him, and many children. More than anything, he knows this: he will be happy.

But below, the abyss - dark, empty, and black... beckons. And the Fools last words come to him.

Every damn day...

Mat watches a small grin on his face as the Fool from the Empire's foundation speaks, and goes against a literal embodiment of destiny. When the moment comes that the Fool looks up to Mat's position, Mat grins wildly and salutes him, chuckling all the while. Then the step is taken, and Mat finds himself on the precipice of his future. "What a wild and wondrous tale I've been told." He says, to himself as he walks parallel to the cliff's edge.

He lowers his hand to the wound on his side, blood soaking his palm. He pauses for a moment, then folds his bloody hand into a fist, before extending his index finger and tracing a line on the back of his other hand. A simple oval. A zero. Mat admires his handiwork for a brief moment, then with gusto, slashes across the zero with his still bloody finger, leaving the mark crossed with a single line. "To every beginning, an end, and to every end, a beginning."

Mat turns his body towards the cliff face, and takes a tentative step forward. He turns around, and gazes at the road. "The choice here is tempting, but you see, that's the marvelous part. It's still a choice. I'm sure that earlier, there were Fools who chose the path to happiness. By the Wheel, I'll bet there's a me out there somewhere who's choosing that path right now. And I don't blame him for it, or any of them. It's still a choice. But for this me, the choice seems perfectly clear. Either I return to the road, and raise a loving, happy family, sewing the seeds of doubt into the way your system works, and spread it over the passage of time until even the most devout believer in Fate questions their role and what potential they truly have. Or I take matters into my own hands, in a much more immediate way. I'm patient, but I will not rely on others to do what I feel must be done. And for that, I must take this path."

Mat approaches the edge of the cliff, all of his toes peering over the edge. "One thing you might not understand. This emptiness does not frighten me. It cannot frighten me. The unknown is the most exciting thing in the entire universe. It is a place of infinite possibility. The fear of what I can't see, can't hear, can't even comprehend doesn't repel me, it drives me forward. It makes me feel alive."

Mat pauses for a moment, then smiles warmly. "And to the me that chose his own happiness...buy those kids a dog, will you? We always wanted one, but it just never seemed 'in the cards.' Make it so, all right?" Mat chuckles to himself, then takes a step forward, and tumbles off the cliff... and white light envelopes him.

He stumbles outside of the Cave... still bleeding from a stab wound to his side, and a symbol... a black 0 burned into his hand. And in the back of his mind, a voice... "GAME... START."


Last edited by Ruan on Mon Jun 03, 2013 12:34 am, edited 2 times in total.
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 Post Posted: Sun Jun 02, 2013 11:37 pm 
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Before them lies the same forest, the same Cave as when they left. Yet, in the wind, everyone smells the faint smell of smoke, of burning. In the direction of their village, far off, a pillar of smoke rises.

As the group takes this in, there's a sudden rustling in the bushes... and a small, spidery looking 'jack - a simple mechanical robot - appears to 'blink' at the group with its sensors as it waves it's front two mechanical legs in the air.

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 Post Posted: Mon Jun 03, 2013 1:12 am 
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Karina exits the cave, hardly noticing the ring on her finger before she targets Valerie, runs full pelt towards her and brings her friend to the ground in an enormous tackle-glomp.

"Never! Never never never never!!!" She hugs Val tightly and stamps her feet into the ground, "NEVER NEVER NEVER!!!" She gets up before too much damage is done and tugs Rich over into her embrace as well, "None of you! Ever! NEVER NEVER NEVER!!! YOU CAN'T LEAVE ME!!" Letting Rich go she stomps her feet, kicking up dust as hot tears splash from her eyes.

Sinking down to the ground she lands on her behind and mutters, "Never... never never never..." She takes a big sniffle to clear her running nose and then catches the scent of smoke, "...never?"

Looking up she spots the pillar of smoke coming from the direction of her village, "...no. Oh by the fates NO!!!" She's on her feet and spots the Jack. "...what is it? What does it want? We need to get to the village right now!!"

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 Post Posted: Mon Jun 03, 2013 4:58 am 
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Richter is already moving to grab them both in a hug when Karina grabs him and pulls him in. Wrapping his arms around both Karina and Valerie, he lifts them both up into the air in a huge bear hug. "I'm glad you're both alright! Our village... It was destroyed, everyone was dead and I didn't know where you two were!"

Richter trails off as he gets a good look at the smoke in the distance, but quickly kicks into overdrive after the shock wears off. "NOOO! I said I wouldn't let that happen! Come on people, our home is in danger!" Richter then proceeds to head towards the forest. If the jack bot gets in his way or tries to attack him, he's going to destroy it.

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 Post Posted: Tue Jun 04, 2013 11:39 pm 
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Tyr exits the cave after Richter, slipping the dagger he received into an empty knife sheath at his side. He smiles as he sees the others, but his smile quickly fades when his nostrils flare with the smell of smoke. He looks to the direction of the village, and seeing the plume of smoke rising, immediately breaks into a run, halberd held close against his body in a ready state. The second he sees the spider-Jack, he tries to move past it, but prepares it to deliver a crushing blow if the creature attacks or moves to block him.

"Get out of my WAY!"

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 Post Posted: Tue Jun 04, 2013 11:56 pm 
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Leo exits the cave, thoughtful. Although normally quietly cheerful, he seems a bit more subdued. He also seems to take a moment to look at each person closely, lingering on Karina for just a moment longer.

He also hurries at the sight of fire. "This one better not be that oven i was working on," he says with some concern. When the creature appears, he stands ready, hammer held to the ready horizontally, but doesn't move, waiting to see what happens.

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 Post Posted: Wed Jun 05, 2013 1:15 am 
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Mat walks slowly over to his supplies, left over from before he went into the cave, and gently sets his coat aside. He opens the pack wide, and begins shuffling through the various items. "No. No. No. No. No. Don't tell me..." He gives a short laugh. "Of course, I forget to pack gauze or bandages. Ah well." Mat tugs his suspenders off of his shoulders, and takes off the simple white shirt underneath, soaked with blood. He tears off the closest clean part he can, and presses it against the heavy wound in his side, halting the blood flow as best he can, before tying the whole thing up with one of his suspenders, to keep the clot steady. "That should do for now." Mat says as he slips on his coat to cover his upper body. He notices the 0 and slash burned into his hand, and smiles, before turning his attention on the group at large. "Huh. Wonder where Alicia, Lacek, Selei, and Jaen are." He says, mildly concerned. He approaches the cave once more. "JAEN! SELEI! ALICIA! LACEK! ARE YOU IN THERE? CAN YOU HEAR ME?" Mat sits quietly, waiting for a response. He turns back for a moment, towards the rest of the group. "Don't destroy that Jack. It doesn't look threatening, and it may have seen where our friends got off too, or maybe even what started the fire." Then Mat turns back to the cave, returning his focus to the missing peers.

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 Post Posted: Wed Jun 05, 2013 5:48 pm 
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((OOC - Taking a liberty here, Ruan if this is no good I'll edit))

"Mat you're hurt!!!" Karina is at Mat's side instantly. "Hold still... this won't hurt you at all." She slides the bandages off her palms and presses them into Mat's wound... she's right. Instead of searing pain, it feels as if a balm of medicine has been applied to the wound and it goes numb, then feels quite nice like a warm bath. Before his eyes the wound begins to seal... and a splotch of red begins to run down Karina's side.

The longer she holds her palms down, the more she bleeds until the wound disappears from Mat and appears fully on Karina. Mat finds himself unable to break Karina's hold until she is done. She takes a knee, the exact wound Mat had is now on Karina's side, bleeding freely. Aside from instinctively putting a hand on the wound, she takes no mind of it despite being pale and shaky. She looks at Mat's hand and back to her own, "...huh. The burn didn't transfer? That's never happened before..." She re-wraps her hands; already her color is returning.

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 Post Posted: Wed Jun 05, 2013 10:37 pm 
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That's pretty much how 'white' magic healing works in this world - you take the wound upon yourself, and then you heal it through your naturally enhanced healing. For all intents and purposes, Karina can take in wounds and heal them. Though... suffice to say there are other ways to heal...

The wound in what is now Karina's side is healing, though she does note that it is doing so somewhat slower than normal. It soon heals up, however. What is on Mat's hand now looks much less like a burn or wound, and much more like some sort of a tattoo - a circle with a line crossed through it.

When Mat calls into the Cave... there is no answer. Though, then again, that only goes to reason. There's no Cave. No statues. Nothing. Just another rock wall on the mountainside like any other. There's no sign of the others who came in with them.

Razorwing Gryphon - Stealth: Wild - 4 of Coins Normal, out of Caste card - most monsters have Wands as Caste as their default

Mat's Caste for this combat: Coins Mat's Caste varies from combat to combat - determined by random draw, this time it is Coins

Group's Perception:

Karina: 3 of Coins - Fail Low, out of Caste card is beaten by higher out of Caste card
Leo: Jack of Wands - Pass In Caste trumps non-Caste
Mat: 9 of Coins - Pass In Caste trumps non-Caste
Richter: The Fool - Fail In this particular case, an Arcana draw is no good unless it had either been his Destiny or Flaw
Tyr: Queen of Blades - Pass In Caste trumps out of Caste
Valerie: 7 of Coins - Pass Higher out of Caste card beats lower non-Caste card

Leo, Valerie, Mat, and Tyr have just enough time to see a swift shadow flickering through the hilltops - Tyr in particular reacts quickly shouting an alarm, recognizing it as one of the monstrous predators of the region, a gryphon, and the four scatter. Unfortunately, Karina and Richter had no such luck. The gryphon stoops down and barrel-rolls right between the two, buffeting them with its wings as it lands.

Damage Flip: Karina - 5 of Cups - Weak
Damage Flip: Richter - 4 of Wands - Weak

Lucky flips for both of you. You only take one card loss. Now, that said, after deliberation I've changed the combat mechanics... barring healing, your hand size decreases with wounds taken. The flip side is that you draw back up to your maximum hand size at the end of every round. If you ever gain a negative hand size through taking damage, you are out of combat. Currently, everyone but Karina and Richter have a hand size of 5. Those two, due to damage taken, have a hand size of 4.

Initiative:

Razorwing Gryphon: 8 of Cups
Karina: 2 of Coins
Leo: 2 of Cups
Mat: Queen of Wands
Richter: The Hermit Huh. That would be your Destiny card, so you'll definitely be going first.
Tyr: 4 of Coins
Valerie: 8 of Coins

Combat order: Richter, Mat, Gryphon, Valerie, Tyr, Karina (wins flip between her tie with Leo), Leo

Tyr's cry of warning was just in time for Karina and Richter to avoid the worst of the blow... but they are surprised to come away bleeding, as if from slashing wounds. The reason why is apparently as they take in the wings of the bristling gryphon - unlike most gryphons, this one has apparently been equipped with some sort of war armor... its wings are tipped with razor sharp blades.

With a hissing cry, the Razorwing prepares itself for battle, mantling its wings...

Suits: Blades (B), Coins (C), Cups (Cu), Wands (W)
Cards: 1-10, (J)ack, (K)night, (Q)ueen, (K)ing

Karina: 4Cu, KC, 5W, QC
Leo: 9Cu, 10W, Priestess, 3B, QW
Mat: Justice, KB, World, 7Cu, QCu
Richter: 1W, 6C, Devil, Strength
Tyr: Moon, 3W, 5C, 5B, KW
Valerie: Lovers, KB, Hanged Man, 8B, Magician

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 Post Posted: Wed Jun 05, 2013 10:48 pm 
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Tyr quickly recovers from his tumble out of the gryphon's path, instinctively coming to a crouch with his halberd in front of him. He sees the blood dribbling from Karina and Richter, and grits his teeth angrily at the creature, then charges at it with a battle cry, putting the full force of his weight behind the spear-tip at the end of his halberd's blade. Rather than aiming for a weak spot in the armor, which would take time, he just relies on the pure power of his muscle and the sharpness of his blade to punch right through it and into a vital organ. He then leaps backwards, and holds the polearm in front of him, watching the creature and waiting for it to try and attack him.

Attack: T - Razorwing Gryphon (King of Wands)
Defend: T - Self (5 of Blades)

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