Floating Castle Past ~ Main Quest Thread

The world is young.

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Floating Castle Past ~ Main Quest Thread

Postby Qara-Xuan Zenith on Fri May 22, 2015 12:49 am

Round 1

The world is young and you have all just arrived in the Floating Castle!

Quest 1: Water You Waiting For
Quest Description: You have found yourselves at last / mysteriously in the barren wasteland that is the first floor of the Floating Castle! No seriously it is a wasteland and water is a necessity to all humans.
Quest Goal: Find or make a water source.
Quest Takers: Ruby Othamor (Guyshane) and Halina Alsworth (agoraoptera)
GM Notes: There are no man-made structures anywhere on this floor of the Castle.

Quest 2: Player Needs Food Badly
Quest Description: You have found yourselves at last / mysteriously in the barren wasteland that is the first floor of the Floating Castle! No seriously it is a wasteland and food is a necessity to all humans.
Quest Goal: Find food and/or a food source.
Quest Takers: Rao Valiant (Lordxana0) and Oswald Redmond (Blurred_9L)
GM Notes: There are no man-made structures or objects on this floor beyond what the current Players have brought with them.

Quest 3: Beach Episode
Quest Description: You have found yourselves at last / mysteriously in the barren wasteland that is the first floor of the Floating Castle! Specifically, you are washed up on a desolate beach.
Quest Goal: Map the coast. Try to make sense of it.
Quest Takers: Jeffrey Pelton (narrativedilettante) and Andrew Caim (Endless Sea)
GM Notes: It’s probably a totally different coast than the last (next) version of the Castle! Also there is nothing man-made/non-natural beyond what the current Players brought with them.

Quest 4: A Roof Over Your Head
Quest Description: You have found yourselves at last / mysteriously in the barren wasteland that is the first floor of the Floating Castle! Seriously it is a wasteland, and you might not want to be stuck out here when night falls...
Quest Goal: Find or make some sort of shelter for yourselves (and/or your people).
Quest Takers: Mikhail Tanaon (JackAlsworth) and Saskia Hartrell (Tohrinha)
GM Notes: There are no preexisting non-natural structures or artefacts in this floor of the Castle beyond what the current players brought with them.

Quest Description: You have found yourselves at last in the barren wasteland that is the first floor of the Floating Castle! There are some small jabbering figures surrounding you and poking you with sticks.
Quest Goal: Make contact with the locals. Try not to die.
Quest Takers: Arthur Badrick (eli_gone_crazy) and Millena Tanaon Badrick (Qara-Xuan Zenith)
Not-GM Notes: The small figures are goblinish. They have a rudimentary command of English.

Quest Deadline on all quests is Friday May 29th at 11:59 p.m. EST.
Lead by example. Get lost in a swamp.

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Re: Floating Castle Past ~ Main Quest Thread

Postby Guyshane on Sat May 23, 2015 7:04 pm

And so it begins. -A king who would proceed to tempt fate ~20 minutes later

“Oh yes, you must prove yourself to join my guild, go find us some water.” Ruby muttered to herself in a rather mocking imitation of the man she had just met. “Oh yes, shall I? Perhaps I’ll simply walk North until I happen upon some random well spring in the middle of the desert!” The red mage sighed and continued walking, pulling a scroll out of her bag. Her eyes flickered back and forth over it quickly.

“Let’s see, plants indicate that there is least some water present although desert plants can often go for months without consistent watering.” She lowered the scroll to glare at a nearby cactus. “I hate you and everything about you, you overgrown shrubbery.”

"Jeepers creepers," came a quiet voice. "I hear you can get water suckling on its roots."

Ruby immediately dropped the scroll, her hand grabbing the hilt of her sword as she stared at the stranger who had snuck up on her. “Who are you?”

"Please do not run me through with your pig sticker," replied the overly tall stranger evenly, arms wrapped around each other like too many folds of ragged cloth. "I am Halina."

“Ruby,” replied the mage. “Do you make a habit of sneaking up on unfortunate travelers?”

Halina smiled gently. "There hasn't been anyone around here for a while. And you're the first bird in a long time who hasn't stoned me on sight. Sneaking is a livelihood."

Ruby shrugged. “I’ve seen stranger than you, not much stranger, granted but still stranger. However one hardly learns some magic without a few odd sights here and there.”

"Ducky." Halina blinked her lidless eyes. "If you're looking for water, I'd say this isn't the best place for it."

The mage relaxed. “Well, no, but this-” She threw out her arms to indicate the wasteland. “-is all that I’ve seen since I got here. So, I’ve been scouting for water so I don’t die of thirst. I’m eccentric in that way.”

Halina tilted her head. "Have we humans grown so far as to not thirst? I wouldn't know, I haven't been around for a while. Perhaps you should consider underground. There may be rivers under."

Ruby held up a finger. “Ahh, but you see.” She drew her sword and stuck it into the ground with a loud Thunk. “Desert is only partially sand, the majority of the ground here is hard packed and baked dirt.

"How inconvenient," Halina murmured, the wind stealing the words from her pale lips. "Have you resolved to die then?"

“Not at all, but I do need to keep moving to actually find some water, so if you’ll excuse me, i have some not dying to do today.” She bowed to the other girl and continued in the direction that she had been going. “Ought to be a mountain or some such around here somewhere.”

"What a shame," Halina sighed. "I'd have loved to sing a dirge for you when you died." But Halina followed anyway, her shade-like figure looming behind Ruby. "When you die, I'll sing one for you. Think of me as a vulture who wishes to mourn your carcass."

“Are you going to insist on being depressing the entire time that we travel together?” Ruby asked, in an irritated tone. “Why don’t you try singing a happy tune or something, scarecrow?”

"Oh, I'm practicing. Though I can't imagine you'll be around for very much longer, so you shan't have to put up with much. Would you like to hear a fairytale?"

“I suppose.”

"There once was an ogre who feasted on manflesh and whittled their bones to make fine ornaments which he sold. Business was good. He decided he needed hands to help, and stole the blacksmith's sons away in the dead of night."

"He beat the two sons and forced them to work at his workshop, carving bones, and he fed them only scraps from his table. One night, the elder brother waited for the ogre to sleep, and he picked up the bone he had been whittling, and crept into the ogre's bedroom. But the bone screamed, and the ogre woke, and he beat the boy until he died."

"He beat the younger brother as well, and left him a miserable lump of pulped flesh. But as the days went on, the younger boy worked diligently, and the ogre could find fewer and fewer excuses to beat the boy. One day, when the boy was carving away in the workshop, he asked the ogre to examine his work."

"The ogre came close, grunting in approval of the intricate lines. The boy pointed out some smaller detail, and the ogre leaned in to get a closer look. Quick as death, the boy stabbed the ogre in the eye with the bone and killed him."

"The boy found himself all alone in the workshop, surrounded by bones and manflesh. But the boy didn't leave. He stayed there in the ogre's workshop, and continued carving bones. He slept in the ogre's bed and ate the ogre's food. He continued selling the ornaments for a profit. Business is good, and soon he will need more hands to help."

Halina concluded her story with a flourish of her oversized hands, waiting expectantly for Ruby's reaction.

“So… it ends with cannibalism. He’s a serial killer now. Why?”

"Why?" Halina repeated exasperatedly, showing the most emotion thus far. "Of course it ends with cannibalism, everything ends with cannibalism. There's no why. It's the point. I admit, my story needs work, but that's the point."

“Your story needs a damn rewrite is what it needs.” Ruby shot back, “No moral is being taught, no warning is being given. All it is, is ‘Cannibalism, The End.’”

"Jeepers creepers, the moral is 'Don't be caught by ogres, lest you become one yourself'! When you die, I'll build a cairn for you and carve, 'Here lies Ruby, a gem most unpolished and a stone most uncut'." Halina replied sullenly. "The fairytale is educational."

“I learned more listening to a dead drunk bard in a gutter outside my family’s home! Anyone with one quarter of a brain doesn’t want to be captured by ogres!”

"Children wouldn't know that," Halina said with exaggerated patience. "They need to learn to fear the right things. Look, that's not the point. Look," she pointed with a bony claw-like finger. "Palms."

Ruby looked up at the trees they were walking past. “Hmm...I am most certainly not paying enough attention today. The gods must truly be smiling upon us to give us this oasis out of nowhere.”

"I believe there is a word for that," Halina said drily. "Mirage."

Ruby pulled off one of the fronds and smacked Halina with it. “Convincing mirage.” She noted dryly.

"I know. That's how mirages work." Halina grinned, her whiteless eyes glittering. "I'll be waiting to bury you when you go looney with thirst."

Ruby balled her hands in front of her and rocked back and forth on her heels. “Oh my but what will the scary monster do to me once she has me in her clutches?” She asked in a high pitched tone. “I’m just a tiny defenseless girl.”

Halina snorted. "I'm no monster. Who else will you be sharing this Mirage with?" she asked, voice now all serious. "I cannot imagine they'll take too kindly to me."

“So this mirage...is not the normal visual effect based on your tone.” Ruby said, drawing her sword. “What exactly are we in for?”

"What? No, I meant- I thought- No," Halina sighed, "this is an oasis. I was naming it 'Mirage'. You were looking for one for more than yourself, were you not? What I mean is that I doubt your companions would appreciate my company, and so I shall make myself scarce." Halina dipped a foot into the water, observing the little black silhouettes under the water squirm away from her. "Still, you might want to tell your companions to be wary of leeches."

Ruby sheathed her sword. “That’s why one should never go around giving names to things. Start giving names to things and they start getting ideas. You have heard of Genus Loci, yes?”

"Excuse me?" Halina stared blankly at the red-garbed girl.

Ruby sighed. “Names, have power. They say something about the thing, give it an identity. Several places in the world have an overflow of magic energy within them that can sometimes manifest as a semi-sentient spirit. Give that spirit a name and it can become full sentient in time. These are known as lesser and greater Genus Loci, respectively.”

"Mirage. Mirage Mirage Mirage." Halina shrugged with mock helplessness and a toothy grin. "Can't help it, that's its name now. Best bring your friends to Mirage before they die of thirst. I doubt I can find enough rocks to make more than a couple of cairns."

Ruby sighed again. “Dear lady, you would be run out of towns regardless of whether or not you resembled a scarecrow or not.”

"They must be ever so envious of me," Halina smirked. "Mind you, I have far more dignity in this kisser of mine than a scarecrow has in its entire straw body."

“You are not the sort of person who even remotely grasps the concept of dignity.”

Halina ignored her, and stepped fully into the water, chuckling lightly at the way the ugly black leeches fled her. "I don't think they like me very much," she commented, snatching up one of the slug-like creatures adroitly. It writhed madly in between her fingers, and seemed almost to shrivel. "Maybe it prefers you, Ruby."

Ruby looked on, unimpressed. “You are an extremely bizarre human being.” She stated.

"I am less now," Halina replied simply. "What are you waiting for, Rubybird? For thirst to overwhelm you?"

“I’m simply waiting to make sure nothing attempts to attack us first.”

"..." Halina folded her too-long arms awkwardly and gazed about. "... Really?"

Ruby shrugged. “You seem to be under the impression that there couldn’t be a water creature living here. This is a mistake.”

"... Well, if you suspect this pool of harbouring a terrible monster, then have fun walking more." Halina kicked the water lightly, only stirring up more leeches. "You probably should clean the water of leeches first, though."

Ruby immediately shocked the water with lightning. “The others can clear out the bodies. I’ve done enough, now to grab their attention.” She pulled the same lightning trick, only this time shooting the electricity up into the sky. “That ought to do the trick.”

Halina stepped out of the water, with something akin to a frown on her face. "You know," she remarked, "I'm not particularly fond of being electrocuted."

The red mage shrugged. “I didn’t notice you were still stand there. Let me see your legs, I can heal them.”

"You should heal your eyes first," Halina grumbled, but waded out of the water. Surprisingly, she was more or less unharmed, legs only mildly red. "How unsightly," she sighed, folding her skirt and sitting against a palm tree.

“Oh hush.” Ruby replied, a golden glow surrounding her hands as she applied the spell. “My magic is not that strong, the spell takes a moment to kill even when directly targeting a human target, dispersed as it was, you’re quite alright.”

"Well, do hurry. I don't believe I wish to be here when your companions arrive."

“Well I’m finished. I’ll distract the guards if you ever need to sneak in for water.”

"How very kind of y- Guards? What do you mean, 'guards'?"

“What? You think a group of fighters wouldn’t guard their water source from people trying to poison them or some such?”

"Oh, I thought you meant a king was coming. My thanks, but I don't think it'll be necessary. I do believe i see them in the distance. Goodbye, Ruby. May your fears keep you safe."

Halina fell back-first into the water, and vanished under the shallow surface with nary a trace. Roughly a stone's throw away, Ruby heard a cough, gag and splutter.

Halina grinned weakly, clothes thoroughly drenched. "That exit could have gone better."

Ruby grinned back. “Well, yes. But you get top marks for the effort.”
I say we nuke it from orbit...its the only way to be sure.
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Re: Floating Castle Past ~ Main Quest Thread

Postby Tohrinha on Sun May 24, 2015 8:54 pm

Quest 4: A Roof Over Your Head

Mikhail squinted, shielding his eyes from the glare of the sun as he looked across the horizon. His experience with the world was admittedly limited, but he still hadn’t expected the Castle his sister had spoken of to be so… empty.

“We should find shelter,” he said to no one in particular. “This land will likely not be kind to us for long.”

Someone clapped their hands together behind him. He turned to see a woman grinning broadly, a satchel slung over one shoulder. “An excellent plan. I’m glad to see someone’s thinking ahead.”

He narrowed his eyes. “You are…?”

“Aha! Saskia Hartrell, at your service.” She performed a serviceable curtsey. “Gentlewoman adventurer.”

Mikhail nodded, resisting the urge to roll his eyes. He supposed the Castle tended to attract excitable eccentrics, if Arthur and Milena were anything to go by. “Pleased to meet you. I am Mikhail. Do you have any plans for accommodation, temporary or otherwise? I am afraid that my imagination has thus far failed me for how to use the… ah… resources, here.”

As if to emphasize his point, he prodded a nearby tumbleweed with his staff.

“A good thing we met up, then. Always call for help if you’re stuck.” Saskia nodded sharply with an air of utmost authority. “Hmm… Well, wax will be no good this close to the sun, even if we’d found something to glue together with it. Is this really all that’s around?”

“As far as I’ve been able to find.” Mikhail glanced into the distance. “Maybe there’s some sort of natural formation somewhere that we can use.”

“They had to have built this Castle out of something sturdy. But I like your thinking; maybe there’s something closer.” Checking his position out of the corner of her eye, she set off in what seemed to be the direction he’d been looking in. Mikhail blinked, but quickly followed. She and Milena will not get along, he thought wryly.

Saskia kept up a steady pace, slowing only when they trudged up the occasional drift of sand. Even in the dips between, there were only a few stunted shrubs and the footprints of what might have been small lizards.

“Incredible,” murmured Mikhail as they wandered further and further. “I wouldn’t expect life to be able to sustain itself in this condition, but… somehow, they continue on. Maybe it’s part of the magic here? I must study it when I have the time…”

“I wouldn’t mind some magicked rivers about now,” Saskia replied, licking parched lips. “You’re a reader, I take it?”

“Knowledge is precious,” said Mikhail, reaching into his pack and pulling out a water pouch. “Here. It should still be cool.”

She took a swallow and handed it back, a bit more subdued. “Many thanks.” She shaded her eyes and stared around them. “Do you see anywhere likely?”

“Not as of… wait.” He sifted around in his pack again until his hand clasped his monoglass. He put it up to his eye and stared at a small protrusion on the barren waste. “Over this way. There’s something over there.”

“Aha. I’ll let you and your spy-glass lead the way.”

The sun was low in the sky as they reached Mikail’s protrusion - a small outcropping of rock, keeping solitary watch over the flat plain. “Curious,” he remarked, walking around it. “How could a formation like this come to be here?”

“Same as any other rock.” Saskia shrugged. “Land, time, maybe a god or two. Nature’s a tricky thing.” She held back, appraising it.

Mikhail snorted. “I dearly hope gods aren’t involved. Religion is… unpredictable. Well, at the very least this will give us some shade until the sun sets. Maybe there are others around here.”

“It’s so flat, you’d think they’d stick out like an ogre in the parlor. But it did take your glass to find this.” She waved an open hand at the rock.

Saskia paused, then stepped up to a slight hollow in the protrusion. “Give me a hand,” she said, kneeling and scooping handfuls of sand away. “Nothing saying we can’t make this a little more presentable before nightfall.”

“Good plan.” Mikhail knelt, attempting to excavate as much as he could.

The sun was entirely hidden by the outcropping when there was a scrape and Saskia sat back. “Rock under us, too,” she said, glancing at the short mound they had made around them. “Hang up a bit more cover, and we should be fine, do you think?”

“I don’t like to make conjecture with so little information about our surroundings,” said Mikhail, slightly arrogantly. “However, I do think we are as prepared as we are capable of being at present. Thank you for your assistance, Saskia.”

She gave a short laugh. “And you for yours.” She pursed her lips, thinking. “If there are others… What say you we put one of those sorry bushes to use and see if anyone comes by?”

Mikhail smiled. “I like the way you think, adventurer.”

Saskia’s eyes lit up. “Let’s go make a fire,” she replied, echoing his smile.

Mikhail’s hand blazed to life. “Now that, I can do.”

Saskia jerked back, catching herself roughly on the rock face. Recovering, she exclaimed, “You’re a mage. Amazing! Is it just your hands, or…”

“My hands or my weapon,” said Mikhail, a tinge of pride in his voice. “I’m researching alternative delivery methods at present… or I was, before I was interrupted and brought here.”

“Amazing,” she repeated, shaking her head. “There’s no end to flashy shows on the street, but half--more than half--are cheap tricks. Earn a couple coppers per explosion.” An expression of dismay crossed her face. “Not meaning to offend, of course,” she said quickly. “All your books are clearly doing some good. Er.”

Mikhail chuckled. “No offense taken. Magic is misunderstood even by many of its users. Even me. But I intend to rectify that.” He set to work on building the brush fire in front of their new shelter. “But I go on. What about you? Where are you from?”

“Ah, my life is of the sea. There are so many islands scattered around, practically a jump from one to the other but all so different from each other.” She pulled out a woolen dress as she spoke, fixing it up as a makeshift roof. “And many dangers, of course,” she continued, clearly relishing the word. “Storms, pirates. Krakens.”

Mikhail couldn’t help his eyes widening. “Krakens? Really?”

“The largest you’d ever set eyes on. Likes to take whole battleships as supper. One nearly took us down, too, but we fought it off.” She turned to face him, eyes widened. “You mean you’ve never seen a Kraken?”

“I’ve never been on the ocean,” Mikhail admitted.

“Then you’ve missed a wonderful place.” Fondness tinged her voice. “Do you spend most of your time in libraries, then?”

“As much as I can,” Mikhail said with his own fondness.

“Hey, maybe you’ll find one up here.” She grinned as she turned back to her work. “I hear it’s a big place.”

“That would be… interesting.” Mikhail thought about the implications. If there was a library in a place such as this… someone would have to have been working hard at it for quite a while… he knew the Castle was ancient, but to be stuck in here for that long…

Of course, all this was purely theoretical. Not important yet. Such a library might not even exist. He shouldn’t worry about it right now. Better to focus on the task at hand.
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Re: Floating Castle Past ~ Main Quest Thread

Postby Qara-Xuan Zenith on Tue May 26, 2015 6:47 pm

Quest 5: First Contact

“I thought you said this was a castle,” Arthur grumbled, setting his quiver onto the cracked ground.

“I said it was a legend,” Millena snapped. “You led us to this godforsaken outpost on your own.”

“You do outposts a disservice.” Arthur smirked. “An outhouse, more like.”

“Don’t get too attached to the idea,” she said with a roll of her eyes, unsheathing a knife from her wrist. “I’d prefer you keep your pants on for the time being.”

“You’re bold today,” Arthur’s smirk didn’t waver. “Come, let’s go.”

Up onto his back went the quiver, and the man began to stride towards the North. Millena half-turned, so she could follow him while keeping a lookout to the southeast, where he was blind to.

“Do you have any idea what we’ve stepped into?” she asked in an undertone.

“Keep walking.” Arthur ordered. “We’ll need to figure out how to get off this rock.”

“Before the others find out you don’t know, you mean. Keep it to yourself,” Millena said, a hint of threat in her voice.

Arthur whirled about, walking backwards, one eyebrow raised in consternation. “Shut up, Mil.”

“Watch yourself, Arthur,” his wife snapped, eyes flashing dangerously.

Arthur laughed. “By the god. You’re funny when you’re angry, you know?”

She smiled pleasantly. “And how funny will you find my brother, with all the power that he commands, if you and I are no longer allied? Don’t. Push. Me.”

Arthur sobered, winking at her before sauntering up a dusty hill. Millena followed with a curl of her lip, coming to a stop at the top of the hill.

“Oh look, it’s your family.” Arthur commented dryly, his chin resting on his bow, planted in front of him.

“Would you like your sponsor to know how you speak of him? I’m sure as a mage he could shift the balance of resemblance.”

Arthur sighed longsufferingly. “Mil, just quiet your threats. Not for long. A half hour is all I ask. Just a half. hour.”

She cut her eyes at him and glanced pointedly down the hill, unsheathing a second knife. “I think we have more pressing concerns.”

The goblins had noticed them and, being goblins, chattered angrily and begun to arm themselves, climbing up the hill.

“Got any ideas, sunshine?” Arthur asked sarcastically.

“You’re the one who would be King,” she retorted. “Shouldn’t you practice your diplomacy?”

Arthur leaned over, kissing her and pulling her closer.

“What are you doing?” Millena hissed furiously, after drawing out the kiss.

“Kissing my wife,” Arthur grinned wickedly, pulling her closer.

“Boor.” She planted a hand on his chest, shoving him away.

He stumbled back a step. “What? We’re about to be killed by these fearsome monsters and you don’t want to wish me goodbye?” He rubbed his chest. “I’m hurt.”

“Fearsome for a coward like you.”

A crowd of goblins had surrounded them, and began interposing themselves between the couple, jabbering at high speed and waving weapons at Arthur. Millena stood back serenely, allowing him to be separated from her.

Arthur stepped back, his hands raised. “All right, all right. You got me.” A spear tip swung a little too close, and he jumped back

Millena assumed a bored expression, shifting her weight back. “Perhaps we can speak somewhere more comfortable,” she suggested to the nearest goblins, hoping that at least some of them could understand her language. “Without the riffraff around.” She gave a nod in Arthur’s direction, smirking.

Arthur glowered at her, walking behind the woman. “You look nice from back here. Should have had you walking ahead before.”

“Maybe you’ll learn,” she replied, following her goblin guides. They led the group to a hollowed-out cactus, and down a shaft in its trunk to a wide underground space.

Arthur was settled, under guard, under a giant needle.

Millena was led to an old niche, carved into the ancient cactus. An old goblin sat there, eyes rheumy with age. Millena sat opposite the goblin without an invitation, nodding her head as respect.

“Why you here?”

“We have come as adventurers, to explore the perils and riches of this land. Why do you interest yourselves with us?”

“Hungry.” The goblin grinned, teeth filed into points.

Millena yawned, tossing a knife in the air and catching it. “My husband leads a war party. You’ll find easier meals with our prey than with us. Unless...” She left the word hanging in the air.

The goblin grunted.

The woman gave a calculated smile, laying her knife flat on the table. “Treat with us,” she suggested. “Share your resources--and, of course, your goodwill--and in return, have the protection of all our swords, and any… spoils of war to eat that we can spare.”

The goblin narrowed her eyes, and nodded. “Deal, Human. 75 percent.”

“We need to eat as well,” Millena pointed out coolly. “One hundred percent, of all that we don’t.”

The goblin nodded. “Agreed. And the male?”

“I’ll deal with him,” she said, disgust in her voice. “Turn human criminals over to us, and we’ll give goblin miscreants to you, as part of our arrangement.”

The goblin nodded, and shooed the woman with one clawed hand, which Millena grasped, if a little gingerly, and shook.

“We will share. Goodbye for now.”

Arthur looked up at her when she emerged, his hands busy playing a complicated looking dice game. “How’d it go, Mil?”

“Come with me,” she snapped, shooting a quick glare at him.

Arthur tossed a good coin at his opponent, and followed her out of the shade of the cactus. “I see you arranged my release.”

“The least I could do, after you arranged your capture,” Millena said dryly, though good-naturedly. “You’re an idiot.”

“Of course. All the better for you to boss me around with.”

“I’ve traded away the bodies of our enemies.”

“Oh.” Arthur made a face. “That’s… economical of you.”

She tossed her head. “It means we pay nothing, and have the services of the goblins in return. Including handing any human wrongdoers to us… me.” Millena smirked.

“Do not make me regret my little game, Tannaeon.” Arthur’s eyes narrowed.

“I’ve made you king, Arthur, for the price of your game. Or did you expect those who didn’t follow you here would submit themselves to your judgement on their own?”

Arthur glowered at her for a moment longer, and kissed her possessively. “Let’s get back. Regroup with the others. I want to have a scouting party out tonight, looking for a way through to this ‘castle’.”

Millena stroked the back of his neck. “I hope your mage found a decent source of water. Somewhere less exposed to spend the night wouldn’t hurt, either.”

Arthur smiled. “Get walking, Mil.”

She tossed her head with a smirk, hips swaying. “In the lead?”
Lead by example. Get lost in a swamp.

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Re: Floating Castle Past ~ Main Quest Thread

Postby Endless Sea on Fri May 29, 2015 11:36 pm

Quest 3: Beach Episode

Footprints formed a trail across the beach. In places, they made clear impressions, imprints mapping out the soles of the boots that had left them. In others, where the sand was drier and did not hold its shape so easily, the footprints could hardly be seen, mere shallow inclines in the midst of millions of other inclines and hills.

The trail leads on, past the eye’s ability to follow. A haze in the air obscures it, after a while, though an observer would see a clear path for a remarkably great distance. Follow the trail far enough, and find its beginning, a larger impression forming no clear picture of what had lain in the sand, aside from it being something large enough to displace quite a lot of sand at once.

Follow the trail in the other direction, and find its end, constantly moving further from the origin, as the man who made the trail took another step. And another. And still more.

Over an hour, the man had been walking. As he walked, he looked inland, taking in the flat, dry landscape, lacking any trees or animals. He would keep his head turned in that direction for several minutes, and then look out across the ocean, seeing no sign of an opposite shore, or of any boats or swimmers, or indeed of any life whatsoever. After several minutes, he would again shift his gaze, expression always constant.

That expression, though not forming a clear smile or scowl or any other identifiable emotional signifier, could hardly be called neutral. The left eye did not open as wide as the right, nor did the left eyebrow extend as far toward the side of his face as the right one did. A jagged diagonal line extended over his mouth, forcing each lip into an uneasy seam in different locations. The asymmetry formed a disquieting default expression, one that communicated confusion and disquiet to the viewer. At present, the man made no effort to adjust that expression, no attempt to put any potential viewers at ease. No viewers existed, at any rate, to be pacified.

Ah! But up ahead, beyond the trail of footsteps, beyond the man who kept extending that trail, the beach contained another figure. As the man who walked shifted his gaze once more from the ocean to the shore, he took in a shape, a definitely human shape, swaddled in black metal and brown cloth, stretched on the sand ahead of him. He raised a hand in greeting, not the hand with which he held a large, heavy club, but his other, empty hand.

“Hello!” He called, still far enough that the sound may not have carried. “Are you all right? It’s me, Jeffrey! You’re the first person I’ve seen since I got here.”

The lump of cloth and person jerked. A decidedly wet-sounding cough echoed through the beach as it drew itself to its knees. It raised its head, and a pair of dull gray eyes peeked out from beneath messy blond hair.

“...wait. The hell is this?”

“There doesn’t seem to be anybody else here,” the man called Jeffrey explained, drawing closer. “I guess this place must be even bigger than we thought!” As he approached, and the figure became clearer, Jeffrey’s face showed genuine confusion. “Oh. I’m sorry, I thought you were someone I know. But it doesn’t look like you are.”

“Apparently-” the blond man’s body shuddered as he coughed again, and something weird and viscous dripped out of his mouth. “Apparently not.”

Jeffrey kneeled beside this stranger, and asked. “Are you all right? Is there anything I can do to help?”

The man grunted and pulled himself to his feet, and it struck Jeffrey that this man was taller than he’d looked at first glance- almost as tall as Jeffrey himself, in fact. “Well, I’ve got a few questions, at least. Let’s see, um… who are you, what are you doing here, what am I doing here, where even is here, how am I not dead from falling into an ocean with half a ton of metal on me-” The man paused. “Wait. Sorry. No. Hold on.” He groaned and rubbed absently at his forehead with his unarmored hand.

“Name’s Jeffrey.” This was said with a disquieting grin. “Is there something I should call you?”

The man frowned. “...Brother Andrew.”

“Well, Brother, I don’t know about you, but I’m supposed to be in the Floating Castle right about now. I’ll admit, this isn’t quite what I expected, but if someone built a giant, magical castle high above the Earth, well, who’s to say they couldn’t put a fake ocean inside it? Unless you think something’s gone wrong and we’re both dead and this is the afterlife. I guess that’s also a possibility.”

“Floating Castle, eh?” A small smile crept onto Andrew’s face, and suddenly Jeffrey was nervous for reasons he couldn’t quite figure out. “The clergy I work with just calls it the castle. Simple, less goofy-sounding.”

Jeffrey shrugged. “Also a little easier to get confused with other, land-based castles.” He looked around for a moment. “I don’t suppose you have any more of an idea what’s going on here than I do, then?” He asked hopefully.

Andrew shrugged as well. “The church told us to pack up and head to the castle. Events transpire, and suddenly I’m… thrown?” He frowned again. “Yes. Thrown into the ocean. And then I wash up here. How in the world they fit an entire body of water in here is anyone’s guess.”

“All right,” said Jeffrey. “Well, it only took an hour to find you, so as long as there aren’t too many others here, it should only take a few solid days of walking to find everyone else. Assuming I don’t starve first.” After looking Andrew over for a moment, he added, “And I think we should agree right now not to use one another as food sources.”

“I will make no such promises,” Andrew deadpanned.

Raising his one good eyebrow, Jeffrey tightened his grip on his club. “Then I guess I’ll have to keep an eye on you.”

“That would be wise.” Andrew gave his surroundings a quick glanceover. “Any idea where to go next?”

Jeffrey looked back over the footprints he’d left along the beach, then ahead to where the beach showed no sign of having been touched by human feet. “That way,” he said. “If I hadn’t run into you… well, my plan was to keep going until I ran into something, and I think maybe… maybe it’s still as good a plan as I have, for now. Standing still doesn’t make much sense, I’d like to keep moving, and at least, if I keep close to the shore, it should be pretty hard to get lost.”

“No destination in particular, then,” Andrew said. “I suppose that’s the best we can do until we find civilization, yes. Would you prefer to take the lead?”

“Might as well. Not like there’s much room for me to lead you astray, I guess.”

From that point on, two sets of footsteps lead a path along the beach, each stretching back to its own larger disturbance in the sand. A great length stretched between the first disturbance and the second, where the one set of footprints became two. And beyond that, an even greater length, of two trails, beside each other or intermingling at turns, as the men who carved those paths made no effort to maintain formation while they walked.

At length, another shape appeared in the distance, this time not human, but landscape. In terms of color, it matched the sand around it, but it loomed above the horizon, a sheer cliff that prevented the footprints from continuing along their chosen direction.

Jeffrey looked to Andrew as they stood before the cliff face, which displayed no clear means by which one could travel through it or over it. “At least now we know there’s something here to break up all this flat, straight beachhead.” He sighed, turning away from the ocean, where the land rose in a gentle slope. Still, he kept Andrew in his line of vision. “I’d rather not go back over ground we’ve already covered. So I suppose we might as well go inland.”

Andrew nodded, but said nothing. Stretched between his hands was a weathered sheet of paper, one side of it covered in crude markings and scribbles just barely cohesive enough to form the beginning of a map. He made another few lines near the top, and let the sheet fall to his side.

And with that, the two men quietly left behind the impossible shore beneath the impossible sun, forging their way through a barren wilderness within the castle in the sky.
So, apparently I'm the sanest madman this side of the international date line. Seems legit.
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Re: Floating Castle Past ~ Main Quest Thread

Postby Lordxana0 on Sat May 30, 2015 10:47 pm

Quest 2: Player Needs Food Badly

“You see the problem with most magic theory is that people have no idea what they are talking about,” Rao looked on at the vast wasteland before them, a large backpack strapped with a number of belts to his body as he walked forward. “People trying to bring logic to something that has none, after all what is magic other than the manipulation of forces that can’t be understood, if you think like that then magic is no different then a peasant looking upon a finely made sword without the ability to understand how a blacksmith works his trade.”

Oswald put a hand to his forehead to block the scorching sun, squinting at the land that was before them. No soul in sight. At least, as far as he could see. “I don’t care about magic as long as it gets the job done. Same goes for swords and weapons and all that stuff. If I can hit my target with it I’m already satisfied. It’s not like I have an aptitude for magic, anyway.” He grunted, frustrated at his current job. He walked a few steps ahead, muttering to himself. “That Arthur’s got some guts though, sending us on a wild-goose chase on this damn wasteland…” He kept walking ahead, at a faster pace than his companion, though he didn’t notice it. After a while, he turned back to check on him. “Hey, Valiant, you coming or what?”

“Hm, oh you were searching for something?” Rao dropped his pack and craned his neck from side to side, sighing as it popped. “I was just planning on making a farm, but if you would rather us search for a hidden oasis in the middle of a wasteland before the sun kills us then you are free to continue.” he closed his eyes for a moment and focused, summoning an invisible arm from his back to start going through the pack. “It seems the majority will be following orders, I would prefer my independence remained as it is.”

“What, you’re going to make a farm pop out in the middle of the wasteland?” Oswald turned back, crossing his arms in defiance. “I might not know much about magic, but I’m sure there’s a limit to the things you can do with it.” He stared for a moment at the mage before continuing. “Anyway, if you’ll try to grow a farm out here, then be my guest”

“Not quite as such,” Rao used one of his invisible arms to reach into his pack and revealed a number of seeds and blue tinged water. “I figured that this castle would have little in the way of edible foods, and I didn’t trust anyone else to hand us a golden prize, and anyway, how far do you think you will make it on what water you have left?” he reached into his own pack and pulled out a number of water skins with a second mage arm. “I am willing to share if you help me set things up.”

“I’m sure I have enough left for a few days…” he bluffed, trying his best not to lower his gaze towards the nearly empty canteen tied to his belt. “Whatever… just tell me what you need and let’s get this over with.”

“You sound like you almost don’t like the idea of starting a farm,” he tossed one of the water skins toward the other man. “We are going to need to lay down the groundwork for a ritual spell, which means I am going to lay down the groundwork for a ritual spell and you are going to start spreading around the seeds.” he placed down a couple bags of seeds in front of Oswald. “Try not to bunch them together, give them space.”

“Urgh…” Oswald looked down at the bags of seeds now lying at his feet. He sighed, before scouting the surrounding area for a safe place to leave his shield and other equipment. "I didn't become a mercenary to end up doing more farm work, you know?!" He shouted back at Rao, as he made his way back to where the bags had been left. He grabbed the first bag, untying the string that kept it closed, looking at its contents. “Man, this is going to take forever…”

He started his job, if only because staring at the bag of seeds would not empty its contents into the ground. He tried to follow Rao’s instructions the best he could, looking at the mage from afar, trying to spy on what the other man was doing. By the time he had finished with the first bag of seeds, his clothes were completely soaked in sweat. He went back to get the second bag and asked: “Any chance we’re getting this done today?” The sun was still out, but he knew it wouldn’t be long until it set, and he didn’t look forward to continuing their work in the dark, in the middle of nowhere.

Rao looked toward the man, having finished with his circle and the other spell preparations. “Oh almost, just need you to grab your sword and kill this spirit I am about to summon,” Rao used his mage arms to grab the remaining seeds and sprinkle them over the ground before lowering his head as if in prayer. “To thee that are one with the Blackmist I call upon for aid, thee who art armed with wings of the live granter. I call upon you in favor to ask for aid.”

As he spoke a slight black mist formed in the air, blocking the sun for a moment as the circle glowed a gentle green. Down from the mist a small cloud descended, forming into the shape of a shadow warrior, holding a sword and aiming it toward Oswald. “If you kill this thing we have ourselves a farm, and if you die then well...try not too!” Rao took a few steps back as the shadow creature attacked, its dark sword as sharp as any metal.

“H...Hey!” Oswald yelled as he dived to dodge the warrior’s attack. “At least you could have waited until I was closer to my shield!” he stood up quickly, spitting the sand that had gotten in his mouth. He looked at the shadow warrior, who was already lunging at him again. He rolled to the side, cursing his bad luck. He glanced over at his discarded equipment, gritting his teeth. “...Guess I’ve got to run for it…” he whispered to himself just as the shadow warrior lifted his sword again. He jumped back, barely dodging the enemy’s slash. He turned around and ran towards his equipment, the warrior chasing behind him.

He rolled forward once again and grabbed the familiar shield, blocking his opponent’s attack just in time. He held the shield in place, the warrior still slashing at it with all its might. “Heh” Oswald smirked, “Not too bright, aren’t you? That’s too bad…” He stepped back, accidentally stepping on the vambraces on the floor, making him lose his balance.

“Damn it, of all the times…” he started saying, before realizing the enemy was about to attack him. He quickly parried with his shield, desperately trying to find his sword around the place he fell. “Stop… banging on my shield, you’re giving me a headache!” he shouted, grabbing the nearby vambrace and throwing it at him, however, the piece of armor went right through the shadow warrior. “Goddamnit. Figures it wouldn’t be that easy.”

“You have to put the pointy part of your weapon into it!” Rao called out while laying back on the ground and looking toward the false sky. “It's a test of your abilities, I would help but I am pretty much spent from pouring power into the ritual seal.”

“Yeah, right!” he shouted back as he parried another of the shadow’s attacks, finally managing to repel it enough to stand up. He quickly glanced at his feet and located his discarded sword. “This it too much trouble for just setting up some farm…” He readied himself for the next blow, gripping his sword tightly with his free hand. The shadow slashed at him, Oswald shifted his arm enough to take advantage of the weight of the attack received. The shadow’s sword flew off to the right. “You’re done for” he said as he thrusted his own sword forward, piercing it. A surge of mist started emanating from the place the wound would be, the shadow warrior dissipating slowly as Oswald removed his sword from the monster.

“Phew, are we done yet?” he asked Rao, exhausted.

The large cloud of black mist slowly descended atop the seeds, dragging them under the sand waste and converting it into more fertile earth, a number of small sprouts taking hold inside of the large circle. “Yes, it seems we earned Blackmists favor my friend.” he stepped back and a large apple tree shot up from the ground, instantly bearing fruit. “I suppose the entire reason it came was because it already knew that, who knows?” he looked up at the apples and frowned. “Aw, there is a problem.”

“What problem?” Oswald replied annoyed, while he picked up his equipment scattered around the sand.

“How am I supposed to eat an apple if I don’t have my mage arms for a few hours?” he fell to his knees in front of the tree, a few tears sliding down his face. “It’s not fair I tell you, its just not fair.”

“...Oh for the love of…” Oswald started, rolling his eyes. He approached the apple tree and grabbed an apple from it. “I’ll hold it for you if you stop siccing shadows on me next time we meet… or something.”

Rao smiled and nodded, moving to his feet. “And once everything starts growing feel free to get some to eat, right now it might seem small, but given time we could probably have enough to feed the entire party that came in with us, maybe a few days to a week.”

“Great” Oswald replied plainly. “I hope by the time the food runs out, it will no longer be my problem.” He looked around, realizing that the sun was already setting. “Besides, I would rather not have to fight anything else for the day, I think we can use those bags where the seeds were to take some of these with us” He gestured towards the apples on the tree. “Let’s get out of here, alright?”

Rao shook his head and sat under the newly made apple tree. “You go on ahead, I am actually pretty tired at the moment, and I can’t really help you carry bags now can I?” he moved his eyes down toward his armless torso.

“Yeah, I guess I didn’t think that through” He said as he recovered the two bags of seeds and started filling them up with apples. “You should watch out next time… you can’t really seem to do much without your magic, huh?”

“Who needs magic when you have people to help you out?” Rao gave a small grin toward Oswald. “If I didn’t trust you to win I wouldn’t have bothered with Blackmist and just focused on a different plan, a little faith in others goes a long way.”

Oswald stared at Rao for a long while before answering. “You’re really annoying, Valiant.” He finished tying up the bags, carrying them over his shoulder and started walking in the direction the had arrived hours ago. “Come on, don’t make me change my opinion about that apple.”

“Eh don’t worry about it, my mage arms will come back soon, I just need some sleep for now.” he slowly closed his eyes and smiled a bit. “Tell everyone they can get food here, might be a good idea to set up a base camp.”

“Are you staying here for the night? I mean, I don’t think I can make the way back carrying both, you and the apples”

“Yeah someone needs to guard our food from the Grue’s after all,” Rao waved his foot toward Oswald. “Now get yourself gone before I turn you into a toad or something.”

“You really are annoying.” He said, turning his back to Rao, walking away. “I don’t even want to know what a Grue is anyway. Whatever. Don’t die or something. Something tells me it won’t be good if the others found a corpse when they got back here.”

“Till next time warrior man.” Rao gently fell asleep to the sound of leaves being blown in the night wind.
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Re: Floating Castle Past ~ Main Quest Thread

Postby eli_gone_crazy on Wed Aug 12, 2015 1:26 pm

Round 2

Quest 6: Who Are You?
Quest Description: You’ve been wandering around this new land, and you encounter a very strange and surprising individual.
Quest Goal: Find out who this other person is!
Quest Takers: Luquiere Kalina Lilant (AMimsyBorogove) and Ascheritt Myrion (Sicon112)
GM Notes: (The “other person” is you. You meet each other.)

Quest 7: A Storm Is Coming
Quest Description: A storm is coming.
Quest Goal: Prepare for or prevent the storm.
Quest Takers: Alexander (Victin) and Oswald Redmond (Blurred_9L)
GM Notes: It looks like it will be a particularly nasty thunderstorm.

Quest 8: By the Book
Quest Description: You discover a deserted library.
Quest Goal: Learn what you can!
Quest Takers: Eon (Pixelmage) and Jeffrey Pelton (narrativedilettante)
GM Notes: There are skeletons in the library that have swords and want to kill you.

Quest Deadline on all quests is Wednesday, August 19th, 2015, at 11:59 p.m. EST.
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Re: Floating Castle Past ~ Main Quest Thread

Postby Sicon112 on Thu Aug 20, 2015 2:41 am

Quest 6: Who Are You?

A man glanced around the barren landscape, glaring through squinted eyes at the setting sun on the distant horizon, the faint grey of the stone ceiling high above him only barely visible past the distant wisps of white that passed for clouds, and everything in between as if it was the source of some perceived insult to his character. This metaphor was probably a little more accurate than it should have been, considering the adventurer and self-proclaimed Hero of the day was none other than Ascheritt Myrion, infamous worldwide, or at least as much of the world as he had covered in his travels, primarily for his unrivaled egotism and terrible personality.

Turning his indignant glare to the faint traces of a stain on his black glove, he withdrew a rag and a gourd of water, freshly filled with the droplets along the outside having not evaporated quite yet, and quickly scrubbed at the stain, applying a few droplets of precious water to his cloth. “Tch, what a waste. Being forced to spend my limited resources in this worthless desert is only slightly less distasteful than having the blood of that ingrate staining my gauntlet.” Satisfied for the moment, he rung out the rag and sneered at the now useless liquid as it soaked into the sand and vanished. “Dictate my actions, now will they? HAH!” He tossed the strap of his water gourd over his shoulder to hang next to the cloth-covered zweihänder that already rested there and gesticulated in a rather grandiose manner as he ranted to the air. “Presumptuous fool of a 'king'!” He made the title sound more like a curse than an honor. “A Hero like me isn't some mindless vassal to order about! And to have the gall to attempt to pass on and enforce his blockheaded mandates on me through nothing more than a common guard! Ridiculous!”

Ascheritt stormed through the dull brown of his surroundings towards a distant speck of black he could see protruding from the earth, not out of any real curiosity, for his mood was far too poor to commence his Heroic duties by starting an investigation at the moment. His next grand adventure could wait a few hours while he relaxed, certainly, and if a few people, perhaps a certain pretender with a nonexistent throne and some of his minions, were disadvantaged by his lack of action... well Ascheritt wouldn't be too upset in that case.

The source of his current ire, as could be deduced from his frustrated ranting, could be most certainly found back at the main encampment surrounding a small oasis of colour in the barren landscape, dubbed 'Mirage' by whatever undoubtedly incompetent and creatively bankrupt minion had initially stumbled ignorantly into the sanctuary, probably not even noticing it until they fell straight in, knowing the types of grunts that could be found setting up a perimeter there. Ascheritt sneered in a decidedly nasty manner and marched onward, recalling his rather brief stay at the watering hole.

As the Hero, it was obviously both his right to acquire water and supplies whenever he needed them, and their duty to allow him to do so. Of course once he started his first adventure in this new land he would be more than well-off enough to pay whatever peasant was in charge of what passed for a general store in any towns they founded or came across for their wares, though of course he wouldn't stand for overcharging, naturally. However, as things now stood, they possessed no economy to speak of, so such trinkets as money would be useless as barter was the word of the day. Ascheritt was not unfamiliar with such situations, and so naturally he acted with peerless logic and sense when he informed the soldiers securing the oasis of his status as the Hero and all that entailed. In fact, since he was feeling magnanimous and he liked to exercise his infinite patience from time to time – it was a virtue after all, something any Hero has in great supply – he also explained to them the good sense of allowing him to resupply so that he could be properly prepared when the call to adventure inevitably found him, and he was required to save them from whatever monster or villain rose to be defeated by him this time.

He should have known, of course, that such elegant words were wasted on meatheads like them, and he did, naturally, but it wouldn't do for a Hero to be confused with a common thief, so he explained anyway, more for the benefit of anyone of at least some intelligence who might have been in the vicinity than anything else. That did not make the subsequent interruption of his resource acquisition and the attempt to detain him from the guard captain on duty any more forgivable. Luckily for them, as previously mentioned, Ascheritt was feeling magnanimous at the time. After all, he had, against all odds, successfully been magically transported to a majestic castle in the sky; a new domain, simply waiting for a Hero to come answering the call to adventure to reveal its wondrous and/or dark secrets and create a grand epic that would have history books millennia in the future praising his name. Since he was in such high spirits, and after all, they were simple grunts, not worth mentioning, he left his sword where it hung on his back and incapacitated any who dared attack his person. If his methods were somewhat humiliating, like say tripping up a charging guard and slamming him face-first into the oasis, well, their sheer ignorance and arrogance in daring to presume they could pose a threat to him was quickly dampening his spirits. When the imbecile that served as commander of the lot on duty finally made to strike at him, Ascheritt was certainly quite a bit more out-of-sorts than he had been initially, and so if the man received a broken nose as punishment and a reminder to remember his place, well, it was no more than he deserved really.

Checking over his glove, which had unfortunately been sullied with the blood of an idiot due to being Ascheritt's instrument-of-choice in the aforementioned nose-breaking, for the tenth time since he had cleaned it and nodding approvingly when he saw that the damp spot from his scrubbing had finally vanished and taken the stain with it. It was only natural of course. Water was the best removal method for blood. Anyone of any intellectual standing knew that, so of course such a fact was obvious to a hero of his caliber, but he still gained satisfaction from a job well done.

Brushing a bit of dust off his tattered coat and in better spirits than earlier, though not quite up to the same good mood he had been in upon awakening that morning, he turned to inspect the black object he had walked to as the sun slowly disappeared below the lip of the castle floor. Before him, a crooked black husk of what might once have been a tree stood hunched over, the only landmark in sight as the light dimmed over the deserted floor. Shrugging, he walked the last few meters to the ancient plant corpse and brushed some sand off of a protruding root with his boot, an expression of mild distaste on his face at dealing with such a dirty terrain.

Before he could sit, he heard a gentle scrabbling noise echoing from within the black trunk a few feet away and his keen eyes caught a flicker of movement within a hole in the bark. Kneeling silently, he fluidly withdrew a small hunter's knife from his boot and twirled it languidly through the air, projecting an air of relaxed disinterest in the world around him, but focusing his eyes on the small opening in the trunk before him. The head of a small lizard, or some equivalent life-form, poked its head out of the crevice and looked around, beady eyes meeting the smug grin of Ascheritt as the hilt of his knife fell back into his hand with a soft 'thunk'. He lunged forward before the lizard could finish processing the danger it was in.


The fire crackled merrily before the Hero's seat on his chosen root as the pitch black of the castle night finished settling over the land. It had been child's play to use the desiccated branches of the ancient tree to set up his fire and get it alight, and use his knife to prepare and cook the small lizard he had found living in the tree. He recognized the species only vaguely, not recalling its name – useless information for him – but easily calling to mind proper preparation methods and important information like the nutritious nature of the tail when properly prepared, which granted a temporary boost in strength.

Not one to pass up a free advantage, he had flawlessly cooked the tail and slipped it into a small vial in his pouch to be stored for the proper moment of need, which, of course, would inevitably find him. After all, such a bounty had been simply waiting in his path to be found, so clearly the valuable tail would come in handy when his adventures began in earnest. That was simply how a Hero's life worked, though he made a mental note to keep an eye out for the lizard's kin, which surely inhabited this floor and perhaps other areas of the castle as well. He was a Hero, not a hunter, and would not demean himself that way, but if he happened to come across more... well, he was proud, not stupid, and at the very least they would be valuable bounties to sell off once a proper economy started in this forsaken wasteland.

As he finally finished off the last of his meal – he hadn't seen any need to hurry himself and had taken his time with the small dinner – he heard the crunch of sand underfoot and harsh, chattering voices approaching from the darkness to his left, the side facing away from the tree. Narrowing his eyes, though not bothering to look toward the approaching creatures, he smoothly cleaned his knife blade and stowed the tool/weapon out of sight within his boot once more. It was always good to have a trump card. Shifting himself so he lounged arrogantly with his back against the trunk, laying with one leg extended down the root carelessly and one boot in the sand next to his fire, facing the noises that were quickly coming closer. It gave him a suitably regal air, and conveniently placed his cloth-covered blade, which was leaning against the tree as well, within reach of his hand and his boot next to the fire in case hostilities broke out and the enemies were rude enough to try to stop him from drawing his sword. People and monsters alike tended to get distracted when flaming sticks and embers flew at their eyes, after all.

Soon enough, the source of the mysterious chattering came into sight, in the form of three hunched figures that approached hesitantly at first, but grew bolder as they drew closer, seeing that the man by the fire wasn't moving to interfere with their steady advance. Drawing into the circle of light provided the fire, their features fell into stark relief, revealing sharp, angular faces colored in earthy hues of green and brown, discolored by the dust and sand. Their attire was ragged, their frames thin, and their hunched, hungry demeanor most unsightly in the eyes of the Hero they had dared to approach. Nevertheless, he hardly even looked at them, even as they began to slowly encircle him, clutching various makeshift weapons in their scrawny hands. The leftmost of the three carried a small, jagged blade, while his counterpart on the right flank wielded a large wooden stake, leveled at the man beneath the tree in a thoroughly sloppy fashion. The Hero spat under his breath as this second figure deigned to step into his view. The demi-human's posture was all wrong, with all its mass shifted so far forward it was a wonder the pathetic creature didn't simply fall flat at his feet, as it ought to have.

The third figure, though, at least seemed to have some potential. Clad in a red cape, and wielding what looked to be an actual bronze sword, it carried itself in a much more upright manner. The Hero sneered, giving a slight chuckle to himself. The little thing even had an eyepatch! Part of him wanted to commend the unsightly creature for its effort to actually uphold its image as a bit part villain. Even so, it was still a poor showing, but he supposed this stage would have to suffice as entertainment to go with his dinner.

"'Wake, are 'ye?" Hissed the middle goblin, presenting several lopsided fangs in a mirthless sneer. "Lucky 'oo." The creature's voice was hoarse and raspy, as though it had been spending the past day inhaling the sand that filled the desert around them en masse. "Spares me da trubble o' wakin' ya. Ya seez, me an' my boiz here 'been walkin' since da sun come up, and we ain't been gettin' nowhere. So now we'z tired. Tired... an' hungry." The creature grinned, pointing the tip of its sword at the fire and the visible evidence of a meal of meat having been prepared. The Hero sneered back. It thought it could take what was rightfully his, did it? Adorable.

"Hoooh~" Ascheritt made a small noise that somehow managed to convey immense amusement and absolute disdain all in one as an insufferably smug and predadory grin slid across his face. "It's not everyday one gets a trio of hunchbacked sub-humans as evening entertainment, I suppose. If you're here for food, then, I wonder how your begging holds up." He completely neglected to inform the creatures that he stared down upon that he had already eaten the only food in camp. Maybe if they were suitably amusing to toy with, he would give them the scraps that were inedible for him. "Perhaps you know a good dance? It's been a while since I've met a competent minstrel, so I'm sure my standards have dropped at least a little."

"SHUDDAP, redblood!" Snarled the goblin with the knife, looming ever closer in the firelight in a manner that suggested it actually thought it could intimidate him, Ascheritt Myrion, while being a three foot tall hunchback with a bent cooking utensil. The idea was almost ridiculous enough that he could overlook the insult. Almost. "Da boss don't beg for nothin' from nobody, least of all you! Now then, we tellz ya how this workz. Hyu givez us dinner, and we don' make ya into it!"

Amusement vanished in an instant from Ascheritt's face as a stick in the fire snapped with a crack that made the imbecile posing as a spear-creature start in surprise. "Well, well, insects with an attitude. I suppose that could be considered entertaining in its own right, but if you presume to insult me with such impotent threats, that takes the humor out of the situation quite quickly, now doesn't it?" He sneered down at the goblins before him with an expression that made absolutely no attempt to conceal that he was now considering them as prey instead of potential playthings. He focused his gaze finally on the garishly clad leader of the group. "Your minion's presumption is grounds enough for me to take my time separating your limbs from the rest of your body, but if you throw yourself in the dirt and lick my boots at once, perhaps I'll stop at disembowling your underlings and only mildly cripple you in reparation for his foolishness." He glared down at the three creatures, tone holding an immense weight of threat. "Well?"

The Goblins drew back in surprise, seeming not to have anticipated the possibility of their target not even considering them a threat. Nevertheless, they remained confident in their positions surrounding him, and in the advantage of numbers, and after a few moments of quietly chittering to each other, held their places. The Hero breathed a heavy, disgusted sigh. As usual, these lesser beings' intelligence - or lack thereof - continued to disappoint him. He supposed he'd just have to take his time in dissassembling each of the three miscreants before him, so that he could be sure that they'd understand the full extent of their foolishness prior to exsanguinating into the sand. But, before he could make a move to do such, he became aware of something, as an instinctive sense of wrongness came over the small camp beneath the tree. The Goblins seemed to sense it too, as they didn't even try to stop him from rising to his feet immediately and reclaiming his sword, their attention wholly focused on... his right shoulder? No, something above it, rather. He realized this just in time to be relatively unsurprised by the sudden peal of laughter that resounded from directly beside and behind him - a gentle, and yet somehow cruel-sounding giggle that held no outward malice, but rather, simply seemed somehow wrong, given the current context.

"So, you've chosen to kill them, then?" Asked a curious voice as a small figure seemed to materialize in the firelight, its - or rather, her - tiny frame seeming to perch weightlessly upon his shoulder. The strange girl's red eyes peered at him at an odd angle as she cocked her head, spreading two batlike black wings proportionate in size to her own miniscule frame as she lifted off of where she'd alighted and floated casually into the air.

This fourth being was, at a glance, the tiniest of all those who were assembled around the fire. And, given the rather diminuitive stature of his would-be assailants, that was saying something. Given her current proportions, with a somewhat oversized, rounded head perched atop narrow shoulders and a wiry thin torso, and possessing stumpy limbs seeming only haphazardly designed to look vaguely humanoid, without offering any attention to detail in the process, she looked less like a living being and more like some kind of construct or doll of some sort. And yet she'd spoken, so she was clearly alive. Either that, or simply the puppet of the best ventriloquist he'd seen in his time.

The girl laughed again, giving a shrug with her tiny arms. "I suppose I should not be surprised. In such a situation as this, the most practical solution is to simply dispose of one's attackers," She observed, floating casually behind the Hero's head and around onto his other shoulder. "Although, who knows what the consequences of such an act might be? It might spell full blown war between the Goblin tribes and the other Humans who've appeared on this floor. If I recall correctly, they forged an alliance of some sort or another, did they not? I doubt the other Goblins would be happy to find that an interloper had killed some of their own. They would demand reparation, and when it was not granted, surely, they would seek blood," She observed casually, strolling out along the span of his shoulder before stepping off into thin air. Idly, he noticed that the Goblins hadn't moved so much as a muscle since this girl had appeared, seeming too transfixed in apparent horror to either speak or act, as though they feared they would be killed in an instant should they do so.

"Hah! Do not presume to speak down to me, creature!" The Goblins seemed to be screaming to him in silent horror, imploring him not to speak so brazenly to... whatever this floating girl-thing was, but he ignored their fright completely. Heroes did not fear anything, least of all beings 1/7th their own height. "If those scum take issue with my justified punishment of these criminals and rise against the humans, then I shall make ending that war and avenging their unrighteous acts of aggression the beginning of my adventure in this new land!" Actually, that idea didn't sound half-bad. He might even be able to uncover some conspiracy guiding the goblins' actions that would lead him further into the Castle and closer to whatever ultimate evil lay in wait at the top to be vanquished by his hand.

"So all who commit acts of evil will be punished, and all who are innocent will be saved, hmm~?" The demonic-looking girl asked, her voice disturbingly sweet, as though praising the Hero for his noble aspirations in the same way a parent might commend a very, very young child. "But can you really protect everyone?" She asked pointedly, speaking in a thouroughly innocent tone as she began to walk across thin air, strolling back around the Hero, and once more into his direct line of sight. "To Humans, is not war of any sort most strongly defined by those who die because of it?" She continued, before giving another idle shrug, as though such things did not concern her. "But then again, what would I, Luquiere, know of such a silly thing as what you call death?" She gave another quiet, shrill laugh, and stopped her floating circle around the Hero's head directly in front of his face, giving an elegant aerial curtsey to complete her impromptu self-introduction.

Ascheritt snorted, seeming amused by the little being's attempt at condescention, and schooled his body language to give the appearance of looking down at her despite the fact that she stubbornly floated at an even height, which he supposed he could forgive, since this was at least the first intelligent conversation he had had since his arrival. "Nonsense. If a Hero saved everyone, the people would soon forget the need for such a person and scorn his aide. Humans are nothing if not foolishly and obstinately forgetful of even the most important facets of their bleak existence." He waved dismissively at her, seeming to think the very idea of her arguments were ridiculous. "No, a Hero's duty is to stop those who commit evil, and bring a just punishment down upon them! If innocents can be saved in the process, all the better, for then they can face the reality of their helplessness and truly understand the accomplishments of their saviour, but only a fool would run himself ragged trying to save every being who suffers. It would only lead to his own self-descruction and leave the world without a defender of right to smite the forces of darkness."

The tiny Demoness gave an unreadable expression, her miniscule shoulders seeming to slump slightly as she uttered a quiet sigh. "So you do good and punish evil simply for your own personal fulfillment," She observed, reading between the lines of what he had said. "A life of the utmost selfishness, wearing a guise of utter selflessness? I suppose it is fitting that such hypocrisy should weigh so heavy upon the shoulders of one who would become a paragon of strength for all men to admire. In that regard, Humans are oh so predictable." Although it had seemed at first as though the Demoness was trying to tempt him, to poke holes in his moral code and lure him away from the path of the Hero, this particular comment didn't seem like a declaration of triumph, or even the traditional claim that "you're not so different from me." Rather, she simply seemed... vaguely disappointed. Turning, she strolled casually back across the empty air separating them, resuming her earlier perch on his shoulder.

Ascheritt's eyes narrowed dangerously and he looked for a moment as though he was considering striking the small thing out of the air, which he, naturally, was, for it had spoken a grave insult. "It would be wise, whatever you are, to pay better attention to the person you are addressing such that you do not take away such grevious misunderstandings from my speech." He began to gesticulate dramatically to emphasize his speech once more. "That which I desire and the path of a Hero are one and the same. I do not act simply for my own amusement, with justice being a mere cooincidence. Such a man would be no better than swine! What amuses me and what actions I take are naturally the same as what is just, as it should be for a Hero! The path of the Hero is not an indulgence of whims or flight of fancy! It is a responsibility that can only be borne by the greatest among men, and I have taken that weight upon myself willingly. Not for any reward, but for its own sake! The fame and prestige that I will one day gain are merely a natural result of the process I have set out to complete, not a goal that I chase across this land!"

"So that is why you remain so fixated on punishing the few, even though the many may suffer for it," The Demoness, Luquiere, gave another quiet laugh. "I had thought you a mere charlatan, but it seems that your desire for justice, at least, is genuine." Shrugging, she sat upon his shoulder, looking up to see what choice he would make. "So?" She inquired curiously. "If you plan on killing them, then go ahead. I wonder, will the burden of the lives lost in the future be a worthwhile price to pay for seeing justice done now?"

Ascheritt smirked, brimming with confidence bordering on arrogance. "Naturally! A Hero cannot allow injustices to go unpunished when he has the power to do so or else he would be nothing but a hypocrite. The burden of lives lost because of the pursuit of justice is a weight I shall proudly bear until I can extract the appropriate penance from those who would presume to cut them down!" He smiled coldly down at the goblins before him, Luquiere seeming content with her perch on his shoulder. "Now then, where were we?"

His smug assurance, however, swiftly turned to outrage as his eyes were met not with the three cowering bandits, soon to be punished, but rather with a cloud of sand kicked up in their wake as they fled wildly into the darkness of the night, screaming about vigilante madmen and tiny Daemons who hungered for blood. Luquiere blinked, watching as they disappeared into the shadows, until even her keen senses could follow them no more.

"Who would have guessed," She said innocently, although her voice contained a hint of sarcastic mirth that she couldn't quite conceal, despite her best efforts. "Apparently, evildoers are unwilling to simply stand and accept their death at a Hero's hands."

Moments after her comment, she found herself floating where there had once been a shoulder as Ascheritt whirled on her in a cold fury. "I possess working ears, 'Tiny Demon', so spare me your attempt at wit. This breach of justice lies entirely on your undersized head!" He angrily stomped out the fire and slung his sword across his back for travel once more. "Absolutely unacceptable." Whirling back around and fixing the flying thing that was the target of his ire with an icy glare, he addressed it once more. "For obstructing my work here, you must also face punishment." He considered for a moment. "However, since I find myself growing bored, and you have provided me with the only thing approaching decent conversation since my arrival here, I think it would be best if I am at least somewhat merciful." Nodding emphatically in agreement with himself he pointed straight at the flying doll-girl who was observing him curiously. "Henceforth, until such a time as I see fit to absolve you of your guilt, you shall serve as my assistant in hunting the forces of darkness that are sure to lurk within this Castle!"

Luquiere gave a slight smirk, seeming rather amused by the Hero's outrage. More than just that, even as he who advocated the swift delivery of justice above all else claimed that she herself was guilty in his eyes, she hardly batted an eye, seeming unconcerned with the danger he presented, although she never once attempted to retaliate. And, surprisingly, when he made his declaration that she would have to serve as his assistant, she did not offer even the slightest protest, in spite of her obvious pride, which, although much more understated, may well have been a match for Ascheritt's own. Whatever her reasoning, she merely crossed her arms casually, seeming amused. "To think that I should see the day that I, Luquiere, became an ally of justice. I suppose I should thank you, Hero. Few of your kind have ever shown me much more courtesy than simply refusing to kill me outright." She gave a wry smile, seeming to be comparing the Hero before her with others in her mind before at last, she settled upon a final verdict.

"How interesting," She murmured, almost more toward herself than to the Hero, nodding with approval. "You may prove worthy of such lofty ideals, indeed." Deciding thus, she adressed her unexpected new traveling companion. "Very well. I shall follow you and see where this path will take you, then. But where do you intend to begin this hunt of yours, Hero?" Indeed, located in the middle of a vast wasteland in the dead of night, there were few obvious paths that would take them in the direction of wrongs to be righted.

Spinning slowly in place, Ascheritt scanned the horizon with a critical eye, before seeming to finally find what he was looking for. Grandly pointing in the direction of the edge of the Castle, where stars glimmered in the distant night sky, he seemed to be singling out one star in particular - though which one of the hundreds available was anyone's guess. "There! We shall let the light of that star guide us through the night! Now that I have a suitable assistant, it is time to begin this next great adventure!" So saying, he marched with somewhat comical determination into the darkness, leaving the old broken tree and the fading embers of his fire behind.

Shrugging to herself, Luquiere spread her wings and floated aimlessly off after him. As they journeyed off into the night, something seemed to occur to the Demoness, who hovered alongside the wandering Hero. "Although your enthusiasm is commendable, I was under the impression that Humans were required by their biology to regularly pass out, hallucinate vividly, and then discard their memories of the entire experience as preparation for any major undertaking. Is this not the case?" She asked.

"Bah!" Ascheritt waved derisively over his shoulder. "Justice never sleeps, and as a Hero, the pursuit of justice is my sworn duty!"

"Ah, yes, we were talking about justice, weren't we?" Noted Luquiere, deciding to resume their earlier conversation to pass the time. As she must have realized, this was all the prompting Ascheritt needed to launch into yet another speech about his ideals, to which the curious Demoness listened with interest. His search for evil to vanquish was only just beginning, but her search for those possessed of extraordinary convictions had apparently already yielded most promising results...
Normal people are the easiest to manipulate. Too smart and they have an annoying tendency to catch wind of your plans, too dumb and, in the words of a certain pirate, "You can never tell when they are about to do something incredibly...stupid."
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Re: Floating Castle Past ~ Main Quest Thread

Postby narrativedilettante on Sat Aug 22, 2015 4:01 pm

Quest 8: By the Book

Even after spending days in this Castle, Jeffrey still didn’t properly know the lay of the land. A few notable locations had made their way into his mind… the oasis, the goblins’ cactus (which he’d been careful to avoid), that cliff he found on his first day. The trouble was, all these landmarks were entirely too far apart, amid vast stretches of… dirt. Sand. Rocks. The occasional weed. For as much time as Jeffrey spent trying to explore, to discover something that might be of some use, he wound up losing himself more often than he found anything interesting.

Now, this rock formation… that was interesting. It looked like there may be an opening, a way underground. And underground, there could be all sorts of things. Running water, perhaps, in a spring or a cave stream. Mushrooms, or small rodents, that could add to the food reserves that have been so hard to come by. Neither would be particularly appetizing, but Jeffrey was resourceful, and he suspected that he and those others who’d come to the Castle would need whatever resources they could find. The land had not been kind to them so far.

As he approached the cave entrance, he found it inviting large and shallow, hidden yet easy to traverse when one found it. He walked in, making a small fire in his hand to light the way, and was surprised when he found the gentle slope giving way to carved steps. So far there’d been no evidence of structures, or any prior human activity, in this place. Yet here, as soon as the natural slope became more steep, some ancient carver had evidently determined that there ought to be an easier way down.

The steps led Jeffrey to a short hallway, and the hallway led him to… well, to something that took him a moment to properly understand. He hadn’t been expecting to find a room here, and if he had, he still wouldn’t have thought it likely to be primarily filled with shelves holding books and scrolls as far as could be seen in the dim light. That surprise was the least of the ones that met Jeffrey, though, for he was far more shocked to see animated skeletons swinging swords recklessly around the room.

Atop a bookshelf sat a man who seemed to be the target of the skeletons’ ineffectual attacks. This might not have been surprising on its own, as climbing a bookshelf to escape an attack seemed quite sensible. The man in question, however, appeared entirely unconcerned with the skeletons or their swords, and made no attempt to escape. Rather, he sat calmly atop the bookshelf, eyes focused on a book in his lap.

And that, Jeffrey found, was by far the most surprising thing about this whole mess.

“What are you doing up there?” Jeffrey called out, so bewildered that he let his curiosity overwhelm his common sense. At once, several skeletons turned away from the man on the shelf and started towards Jeffrey, who had to interrupt his fire spell in order to freeze them in place, compromising his ability to see while he switched magical tacks.

“What are you doing here? What are you doing here…?” Eon muttered distracted before jolting his attention away from the book he held, still ignoring the skeletons on the floor that had their, already dim, attention divided by the new arrival. “Very good question indeed! What are you doing here? I don’t expect you intend to burn any books, am I right? Anyway, for such a hidden place, they sure kept a great deal of romance novels… Maybe the owner was a bit lonely… I am the one called Eon, by the way. And you might want to climb somewhere for now, our hosts here don’t seem to be that nimble… Although I would criticise their manners, not only do they ignore conversation, they neglected to offer any form of beverage. Baffling, just baffling.”

Jeffrey blinked, perplexed by this strange man and his apparent lack of concern with the undead creatures surrounding him. “Are you-” He abruptly stopped talking as another skeleton turned its attention toward him. Dodging out of the way, he took Eon’s advice and ascended the nearest shelf, though it groaned under his weight. “I don’t expect that these skeletons possess working vocal chords,” Jeffrey observed. “And it would be rather unorthodox for their master to have given them the power of speech if they were intended as warriors, rather than conversationalists. But in fairness, to answer the same question I asked of you… I came here out of curiosity. My name is Jeffrey.”

“Warriors? These?” Eon laughed quietly. “I’m afraid they don’t look the part. A warrior must have a solid build, discipline, training. These guys are so scrawny that they’re practically skin and bones! Well, they are bones, but that’s no real excuse. Also, Jeffrey you say? If you’re just curious you might want to go to the fifth aisle from your left - there are interesting books there. Otherwise there’s not a whole lot in the way of amusement in this cave. Or library. Or tomb. I’m not sure what the proper name actually is… Crypt, maybe?”

“The fifth aisle from… Do you understand how ridiculous you sound?” Jeffrey looked at the group of skeletons gathered beneath him, roughly equal now to the group that still menaced Eon. “Please tell me that you’re merely playing with me because that book of yours describes how we might rid ourselves of this menace. Otherwise I have no choice but to consider you a fool.”

“Ridiculous! The novels there are some of the amazing ones hidden here. They also happen to be the ones I actually have read, so I couldn’t easily recommend things I did not look into yet. As for this one… Eh, just poetry. Not exactly my favored type of it, either.” Eon began to wonder about the books, but paused on a particular thought. “Wait, rid ourselves… What, you intend to destroy those guys? Why? They’re harmless, and you can get used to the creaking for company, too. Bit of an acquired taste, I’ll admit. But still, they’re just a necromancer gone wrong. Nothing bad about that.”

“Harmless?” Though the skeletons were fairly slow and ineffectual, they still wielded dangerous weapons, and Jeffrey wouldn’t want to be left in the same room with them for long. “I would hardly call these abominations harmless. And why do you say they’ve gone wrong? If they were intended to guard this library against intruders, well, they’re doing a pretty good job of encouraging me to stay away from here.”

“Acquired tastes, Jeffrey. Acquired tastes.” Eon was laughing quietly again. “But, if only you were more of a novelist than you appear, you’d have seen that room at the end of the hallway. Candles, ink, a few bones that aren’t moving about. Impressive stuff, seriously. Looks very much like a necromancer’s ritual to me.” He seemed to wait for a reply, but immediately spoke again, jolted by an afterthought. “There’s even a big black leather bound grimoire talking about liches and immortality laying on the floor there. If these guys were intended to be an army, they sure have no commander around here.”

As soon as Eon mentions the ritual, Jeffrey begins to head toward it, turning on his bookshelf and crawling to the next one, trying to traverse the library while staying out of reach of the skeletons below him. “If we can alter the ritual, we might be able to destroy these guys!” He calls out to Eon as he goes.

Noticing Jeffery run, Eon decides to follow. Calmly closing and setting aside the poetry book, then all but vaulting forward with the aid of what could crudely be described like a broomstick. “So that picked your interest, uh?” The skeletons that initially followed Jeffery began to creak and turn erratically, trying to decide whether to go for the quiet man, or the loud and jumping one. Eventually they decided pole vaulting was a higher threat and converged around Eon once again. “Didn’t figure you out for a mage type, though. Magic books are on the other side of the library, though. I’m pretty sure the leather one is just misplaced over there.” Eon commented, almost as if he didn’t notice the extra attention he attracted.

By the time Jeffrey arrived at the ritual room, Eon was surrounded at the entrance of his intended hallway and was forced to stop there. “Don’t think you need to destroy them, though.”

“I know, I don’t look the type,” muttered Jeffrey, sending a bolt of ice to block the stray skeleton that approached as he climbed to the floor. If he could keep them blocked off, then maybe he could have the time to read over the spellbook and figure out what needed to be done. He didn’t know much about necromancy, but many of the basic principles were in common with the magic he had learned… including matters of intention, and the focusing of one’s energy. The particulars were where necromancy got weird. Though Jeffrey lacked much formal training, having had more opportunities to learn in battle or just messing around on his own, he could pretty much follow instructions and understand what was going on in a ritual like this.

Thankfully, most of the skeletons still seemed interested in Eon. That probably had something to do with his lack of concern… he didn’t seem to care whether they attacked him, as they were easily kept at bay while he swung his staff at any who approached close enough that their swords might reach him.

The necromancer’s circle was in disarray, whether from the years that had passed or from some event that had interrupted the ritual, Jeffrey couldn’t tell. Eight candles were required, according to the book, and only seven were set up in the circle, most on their sides. The ritual was indeed one of immortality. At first Jeffrey assumed that the other skeletons were intended as energy sources that would contribute whatever life remained in the bones’ memories to create an eternal vessel for the necromancer, but he found that the book didn’t call for any bodies besides the caster’s at all. Rather, the intention behind the spell seemed to be that one’s own life energy would be halted, that rather than gaining new energy and expending it as humans did, the caster would become a constant being, neither requiring sustenance nor capable of exertion. Not the type of spell a warrior or even a mage would typically cast, as it would necessitate living a quiet life, one of consistency and quietude.

A piece of parchment, held in place by three candles at various corners, contained a sigil, one which served as both metaphor and as a physical manifestation of the spell. Jeffrey read the words in the book aloud, “That my body may be as eternal and unchanging as ink.” The sigil would have to stay with the caster, and as it faded, so too would the power of the spell. Sunlight would be detrimental… whoever casted this must have intended to remain in the library eternally.

Jeffrey set about gathering the ritual materials back into their intended formation, trying to think about how such a spell may have inadvertently led to the library’s current infestation. He lit the seven candles, and in so doing discovered the eighth lodged under a shelf. Picking that one up, he held off on lighting it for the moment, not wanting to complete the circle until he knew what he was doing.

The skeleton nearby began to break out of its ice, so Jeffrey froze it again, looking beyond it to the mass of skeletons that still surrounded Eon, though they had made no progress toward harming him. Of course, no man would be able to fend them off indefinitely. Even eccentric little strangers eventually need to sleep.

If there was no need for all of these skeletons, where did they come from? thought Jeffrey, before the answer came to him. “I know what happened here!” He called out. “You’re right, it was a botched spell. These people weren’t even meant to be part of it. The caster meant to spread his own life energy out over eternity, but instead of granting it to himself, he spread it across the entire population of the library. These skeletons… they all contain a small portion of the caster’s life force, so diffuse that it can’t do anything besides reactively attack intruders.”

“Oh, okay.” Eon said, nonchalantly. Still twirling his staff around to keep the skeletons at a safe distance. “You’ll be in there long? I might need switch gears if this continues.”

“That depends!” Shouted Jeffrey, watching with concern as Eon kept holding his ground against the skeletons. “I could burn this paper, and that might end the spell. It would if the spell had worked right, but it might not have… the connection between the life-force and the sigil may not have been completed. So if I burn it and it doesn’t work, then we’ll be stuck with these skeletons for all eternity. BUT!” He looked back to the book, confirming that the spell requirements were what he thought they were. “I think I can complete the spell, turning our army of skeletons into one skeleton, and then I can destroy that skeleton by burning the sigil and we’ll never have to deal with any of this again. We just need to figure out which one of these was the original caster and get it back here. It’ll be tricky but I’m pretty sure it would work!”

“Okay. Now that makes some sense.” Eon was panting slightly, but his smirk was back on his face. He turned to the skeleton directly between him and the ritual room. “Are you the caster?” The skeleton creaked and swung clumsily. “Good enough. Clear the doorway!”

In a single motion, Eon swept his staff to maximize his range, and thrust forward as soon as it was aligned behind him - hitting the skeleton squarely in the middle of its ribcage. The force of the impact would have broken the chest of a normal person, but being light as it was, the skeleton flew backward, into the ritual room. Followed by a running Eon sliding past the door and crouching on the side. He was short on breath and covered in sweat, but immediately started fumbling with something he pulled from his belt. “Hold the door for a spell.”

Jeffrey allows Eon his space, and stands at the entrance to the room, lightly frosting the approaching skeletons with ice. He avoids freezing them completely to avoid the bother of thawing one out if it happens to be the caster. “What are you doing in there?”

Eon raises again, having recovered his breath, and tilts the tip of his staff forward, showing a spearhead attached to it. “Never carry a weapon as a weapon, it’s dangerous stuff. But since this is taking a bit long, I’ll need to fight seriously, otherwise I’ll be too tired to finish that book today. Need me to find the caster, right? I’ll keep asking.”

“Asking? What do you mean, asking? I already told you I’m pretty sure none of these people have vocal chords.”

“They can creak.” Eon replied, completely serious.

“I don’t have time for this,” shouted Jeffrey in exasperation. He took his club from where it had hung by his side and, for the first time, bashed one of the skeletons with it, breaking its fingerbones and removing the sword from its grip. Then he picked it up and turned to carry it into the room to see if it might be a proper receptacle when Jeffrey attempted to complete the spell.

“I don’t see much else going on though. You weren’t even reading anything.” Eon commented taking position in the doorway where the skeletons started to break free from the ice. One deep breath and he fell silent again, taking a spearman stance with the spearhead low to the ground and his left hand resting not on the shaft itself, but on the flat end of it. It would probably take one minute, may two, until the remaining skeletons managed to clear through the ice, but the moment one managed to get in range, there would be no room to avoid Eon’s attack.

Except… There was a cracking sound from the circle, the skeleton there wasn’t the one needed, and just as Eon thought to hook another one into the room, a rock came flying at his face. “WAIT!” He yelled at the undead, barely avoiding a direct impact. The projectile bounced off his shoulder but his stance was broken. “You never told me you could throw things!”

“They never told you anything!” Jeffrey couldn’t help but retort even as he grappled with the skeleton in the circle. It showed far more strength than before, and he was glad that its sword lay abandoned on the ground. He swung his club with force, smashing the bones to pieces. They may still regroup and attack in time, but he could ignore them as they twitched on the floor until he got the right skeleton in place.

Sticking his head out the doorway, he called, “Send in the next one!”

The door frame offered a very distinct advantage to a spearman, and now aware of potential projectiles, Eon had a much easier time maintaining them at bay than when he had to dance around an entire circle. For the next three attempts, things were almost formulaic. Push advancing forces back, stick one between the ribs and pull it in, then repeat. But as the wrong skeletons were dispelled, the remaining ones kept growing stronger. When there were only three left in the immediate hallway, something odd happened, and Eon was the one jumping back and across the room.

One of the three pulled a piece of a bookshelf to hold as a shield, and as it approached - running, no less. The other two still relatively clumsy in comparison, simply stopped. Much like the ones that had fallen once in the ritual circle.

“Caster?” Eon asked, looking at the slightly more menacing skeleton that remained.

The skeleton creaked.

“Well get it in here!”

Jeffrey stood in the doorway and allowed himself to catch this skeleton’s attention as it ran forward. The creaking response to Eon’s question might not have meant anything, or even have indicated that the skeleton understood that a question was being asked, but Jeffrey needed to keep trying, and this skeleton was as good an option as any.

He backed up behind the circle, quickly ensuring that all candles were lit save the nearest one to him. As soon as the skeleton entered the circle, Jeffrey lit that final candle, which would, if this skeleton was indeed the caster, allow the spell to come to completion.

As before, a blast of magical energy created a great noise. However, instead of the crack of their previous attempts, this time the sound was more akin to a whoosh. The remaining skeletons outside the room collapsed to the floor, as the one in the circle stood in place, dropping its sword and makeshift shield as it raised its arms in a gesture of… gratitude, perhaps, or gloating. Its intention wasn’t clear, but its completion was. This skeleton was no longer some fragment of a necromancer’s scattered energy. It was whole.

Well, as whole as a reanimated skeleton could possibly be, at any rate.

After a moment recovering from the shock of what he’d just witnessed, and of finally meeting success after so many failures, Jeffrey lunged forward to grab the sigil so that he might burn it and destroy this undead being for good. Before he could reach it, however, the skeleton nimbly plucked it from the ground.

“Unf!” Cried Jeffrey as he hit the floor. He felt a tap on his head, and looked up to see the skeleton leaning over him, raising one finger in front of its lipless mouth, as if gesturing for him to keep quiet.

“I think Steve likes you.” Eon said, from the other end of the room, disassembling his spear back down to staff and dagger.

“You’re…” Jeffrey began, before the skeleton tapped him again. He picked himself up and shuffled over to Eon, whispering, “You’re not seriously giving it a name. We have to kill it!”

“Why? He’s not trying to kill us anymore. Well, could be a she, though… Hard to tell with just bones like that.” Eon started scratching his chin. “Maybe Steve isn’t such a good name… So, what should we call you?”

While the two watched, the skeleton began picking up items around its ritual space, locating a piece of parchment that did not contain any ritualistic sigils on it, a quill that had lost its luster, if not its function, and an ancient pot of ink that still had some usefulness. It began scratching letters onto the parchment, showing no evident hurry.

The letters amounted to a single word. “Pages.”

Eon couldn’t hide his grin, interrupting any attempts the caster’s skeleton might have in mind to write more. “That’s perfect! Pages the librarian, right?” Without any time to write, Pages creaked. “I’m going to take that book from earlier with me for a while, if you don’t mind. Though I’m not sure you have a ledger ready to keep track of those things… We need to sort this place out, too. Everything is scattered everywhere. Any books you’re looking for, Jeffery?”

“I-” Jeffrey started, then realized he didn’t have an appropriate response ready. “I think I need some time to think about all of this.” He turned to begin walking out of the library, hesitant still to turn his back on the ‘librarian’ but all the more hesitant to stay there and continue taking part in something he certainly didn’t understand and couldn’t be sure whether he would support.
Never put off until tomorrow what you can put off until the day after.
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