Adventure is its own reward

From Tried's Mouth to the mysterious Tower, the waters around Scalvoris and the island itself hold a vast array of secrets, just ripe for discovery. Here are landmarks and small villages of note.

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Tue Apr 24, 2018 11:17 pm

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What were the wolves called? Cassion's face took on an expression the like of which Arlo had not seen before. His eyes darkened, almost biqaj-like in their response. He looked, just for a trill, all of the arcs he was, all of the experiences and stories, adventures and all of the weight of them was in his gaze. In the truest meaning of the words it was both awe-inspiring and awe-ful. Looking down at the wolf still remaining, it whined, slightly, but kept it's gaze on Cassion. It was almost like the two shared a moment of something exquisitely, poignantly sad.

The fire wolf backed away, apparently not intending to follow them. Breathing in, Cassion turned to Arlo and spoke in a soft voice, tinged with a deep emotion far beyond the comprehension of a mortal. "Their name is lost in old pages long since turned to dust. They should be named again for a new age." And in a blink of Arlo's eyes, the Immortal stood before him as he had been moments before. He smiled at the young mortal lad and, burnt hand or not, Arlo got a hearty backslap. "New stories to be told, when the final reverberations have died." Glancing around the cavern, one last time, he turned his focus back. "And maybe, in the future, their tales will converge again. Threads and breadcrums, pieces of dust and stars."

When Arlo took the tooth, given to him by Cassion, he felt something. It was a strange sensation, there and gone before it started. Later, though, later he would remember it. At Arlo's suggestion of it making sense? Cassion shook his head, "Little made sense here that night, but it is a tale like few others." With a narrowing of his eyes, Cassion wondered. "What would you give to save the ones you love? Would you condemn yourself to an eternity of torture to save their life? Knowing that throughout that life, they'd know how you suffered and were powerless?" Quirking an eyebrow as he glanced at Arlo, Cassion asked another question. "What if your redhead made that sacrifice for you? How would you carry on?"

When Arlo asked why the statues were made and by who, though? A broad smile of amusement crossed Cassion's face, back now to the expressions Arlo was more used to. "You can ask them," he said and walked out behind him.

Arlo led the way, using his sense of direction, navigation and experience and soon, they approached where Arlo believed the statues were. As they stepped there, though, there was more and more of the black and dark grey ice. "This comes from the moment that the volcano was born," Cassion said, almost casually. "It was a sight to behold, that. Not a common one, even for me. This ice is nearly as old as the island." He reached out and touched it, and as he did Arlo realised that in front of them, and just to the right where he thought the statues were, there was an opening and either side of it stood two pillars, carved from ice but green in colour. When he looked back at the Immortal, there was a slight, almost melancholy expression on his face, but he wasn't looking at the archway or the pillars, but at the ice. As his eyes adjusted, Arlo saw that the ice was in the shape of a pair of legs, rising from the feet - Cassion's hand touched what would be the tip of the big toe and, if this was a real person, the Immortal who was taller than Arlo by quite some would be less than half way up their shin. "Such a waste," he said and then turned back to Arlo.

"Ah! The entrance. Come!!"

Gesturing to the pillar, The Sojourner spoke. Arlo would be forgiven for thinking that the pillars reverberated in response to that voice, a light dancing through them. "There are four of these throughout these caves. These, green for the earth equivalent of the fire creatures we just met. They are awake. Her sacrifice was for naught."

And into the room they went.
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It was beautiful in there. A large cavern, cathedral like in its glory, with pillars of ice and statues of the same. He'd seen them before, of course, by the lake which should not be water, yet was; by the side of that lake were the footprints of a little girl. It was to those footprints that Cassion walked and knelt next to them, "She walked into the Darkened Lake on the night the statues were made. That life, and every life thereafter, she has died here." The statues were there, as he recalled them. Except, in the middle of them there was a light. Each one of them, a light which flickered but faintly.

Yet flicker it did.

And one of the statues, a woman sitting on a chair, in her hand she held a light. Or, no, that wasn't right. As Arlo looked at it, he realised that she held out her hand, palm upwards. Hovering above it, there the illumination shone; twinkling and flickering more strongly than any other in the cavern at the moment, yet as he looked Arlo realised that it was flickering in time with all the others. In a steady, rhythmic pattern.
a beat... badum..
But as he looked, it seemed to be growing stronger. More regular.
baDUM.... baDUM... like a heartbeat

Just like a heartbeat
And the statues were there, as they had been for a time inconceivable to the young mortal boy, the lake too held its secrets and stories. And as he drank in the sights he might notice, prowling around the edges of the vast room, hints of movement hidden in the shadows, flickering and reflecting. Fire, ice, earth and even ripples in the wind.

And the Immortal's eyes were upon him.
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Sun Apr 29, 2018 4:24 pm

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When Arlo asked about the wolves, he became privy to a facet of the Immortal that he hadn't experienced before. Of course different times and circumstances called for different reactions, and mostly they'd met under circumstances that were most times exciting, even dangerous, or even festive times. This facet though struck him as sort of melancholy. As if he'd seen and experienced things during his long life that had left a mark on him. It was a Cassion he was seeing at this bit that seemed to be possessed of a strong sense of empathy. It was enlightening, and it also made Arlo all the more curious. Though there was a limit to how much he'd ask or press.

The wolf seemed to know as well, and there appeared to be some silent sort of connection between animal and Immortal. "New times, new circumstances. New names seem fitting," he figured. The tooth though. He'd known it was not just a tooth, having come from a very unusual source. But there was something, just for a trill and then gone, that seemed more somehow. He'd work that out later, maybe. But then? Cassion answered one of his questions, with another one instead. And what a question it was. The statues were all created in a night? It seemed curious but then sensible in a way, considering how they all seemed frozen in place in a trill. While dining, dancing, engaging in conversation.

"That's a conundrum I'm not sure I can answer," he said as they walked along the tunnel where he believed he'd seen the statues before. "For her? I'd sacrifice anything. Everything. On the other hand, I wouldn't want her to do it for me, but I think she probably might." The knowledge of the other suffering, knowing what had happened though..."If she came to believe I was dead, in time, whether I was or i wasn't, then I'd go on considering it a sacrifice worth making. In hopes that in time she'd move on and be happy again. If the roles were reversed though? I wouldn't want her to make the sacrifice. It would be worse going on without her in that case." A conundrum indeed and an impossible one. And he was a hypocrite then. He'd give anything for her, and hope she wouldn't if the roles were reversed.

But if he could ask the statues himself, then it meant they weren't just statues. Had they been people who made that sacrifice themselves? "Some of them were children," he said, and that was more troubling than all the rest. How could a child make a decision like that? When they reached the entrance to the cavern though, Arlo realized that there was so much more to see than he'd seen before. Had it all been here before and he just hadn't noticed? Or was it Cassion's presence, an Immortal's presence that made the difference? The dark blotches in the ice made sense....Sort of. Ice that should have melted but instead was turned black by heat and soot.

When Cassion actually touched the ice, Arlo realized just why he hadn't noticed. And what was already new, the color of the ice that was, became so much more. Two wide and tall green pillars in the first instance, but then following their height with his lifted gaze, he realized that they were legs, part of a figure. And there was that look again on Cassion's face. Had this been a real person? Then who? He was still distracted by the question, and the sight of the ice appearing to respond to the Immortal's touch, when he noticed more of the statues, and Cassion explained. Sacrifice. "Her. You mean the statue? Who was she?"

There though was the cavern and the statues and the lake. And even the footprints leading into it. "Why did she do it?" he asked when Cassion explained the small girl. The statues looked different this time. More alive maybe? Maybe it was just because he knew more now, but in fact knew very little. But those lights inside them definitely weren't there before. Was it Cassion? Surely, it must be, Arlo thought. His gaze traveled to the seated woman, the glowing, pulsing light in her upraised hand, then back to the lights inside the figures. A heartbeat. It reverberated round the room after all. Heartbeats in time with that twinkling light in her hand. "Who is she?" And the other question on his mind. "Is it because you're here?"

There were other things afoot though, round the edges of it all. The shadowed edges and Arlo caught them from the corner of his eye. Had they too been there before when it was just him and Vega? "Are they," he said, a glance at the shifting shadows, "part of the reason for all this? Or are they here to make sure nothing changes for these figures?" Arlo remembered Cassion saying though that he should ask one of them. He wasn't sure if it had been a serious directive or a quip, but he'd found himself face to face with one of the female figures nonetheless, and looked into her face. "What happened to you?" he whispered.
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Mon Apr 30, 2018 5:56 pm

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"So full of questions." The Immortal with him chuckled slightly, then he spoke again and his voice was more sombre, deep and melodic. "The world was ending, or so they thought. The volcano and these caves were raising from the boiling water and she had a chance to save them all." At Arlo's answer to his question, though, of what he would do in that situation Cassion glanced sideways at the young mortal next to him. He'd give all and expect and hope that she did not? "Gallant," he said and even in this place there was just a hint of mirth in his voice. "Not too bright, but gallant." There was amusement and approval in both of those statements, but he said no more than that.

Arlo asked about the girl and the Immortal touched the ground, yet though his hand moved over the footprints, they were not disturbed. "She was afraid and had lost everything." It was an answer and it was the right one, yet none of it made sense of course. Was it because he was here? Cassion glanced at the dreamwalker and inclined his head, almost imperceptibly. "There is Truth in stories," he said and it seemed to be all the explanation Arlo was going to get. Except, when it came to the things in the shadows, those for whatever reason, Cassion seemed more inclined to talk about. "Those are the creatures, the wolves. They are growing in strength and, as they do, things here will change." With a glance to the statue of the woman Cassion shook his head just slightly. "Nothing is forever. Not even me. Only stories remain and one trial, even this tale will be gone, until it is found again."

None of it made sense, of course, and then Arlo whispered to the statue. The woman turned back to look at him, perhaps somewhat unexpectedly as she blinked and turned ice white eyes to him. "we gave our future to stop the island from sinking into the sea." Her voice was scratchy, like shattered ice. "The waters were boiling, lava spewing and huge icebergs appearing. We were called by," she paused and ice white eyes turned to Cassion who shook his head. "we were called. Three of us came, one was already here. Her." With that the woman apparently carved entirely from ice motioned to the one who was sitting and holding the light suspended above her open palm. "One from each Edge. Using the portal stones, three of us came and we brought the stones with us, so that no one would be able to follow. She was here, with the base stone and preparing for us." She stopped then and sighed deeply. "Four of us, four generations of each family. That was the sacrifice."

It was strange to see a statue of ice cry, but a single tear fell and trailed, slowly, down her cheek."My daughter," she whispered. Cassion spoke then. "Four families, four generations. They were told that their sacrifice would save the island from the four creatures, that they were what caused the seas and the lava." He needed to say no more to be very clear that what the people here had been told was very much not true. "It took our life and used he used the energy. The one who told us. It has been so long and it is so cold," the woman said and her voice carried the weight of the aeons which had passed. "We just want to rest."

"It was ancient, the relic used here, when they came," Cassion said and he gestured around. "Everything degrades and Ralaith can not be stopped, just... paused now and then. As it degenerates, they slowly fade. Eventually, they will be gone, the creatures will be free and they will move on to their next Adventure." If it was a strange way to talk about no longer existing, he didn't seem to notice. "Free us," the woman said and Cassion looked up at her. "You know the deal you made. I can not." The sob which sounded from her was as genuine a sound of desperation as Arlo had ever heard. "We were tricked," she pleaded. Cassion nodded. "You were. That does not change what is. I may not help you. No one you ask may, so consider your words carefully."

The light in each of the statues glowed a little brighter and the heartbeat increased.
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Thu May 03, 2018 6:33 pm

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"Traveler and explorer," Arlo quipped when Cassion pointed out just how many questions he tended to ask. "Comes with the territory I guess." It did, in a sense and was very much part of his nature. Always had been. Even before he'd left home, for as long as he could remember, Arlo had wanted to know how things worked. Where they'd come from. How they fit together. In truth, he'd wanted to know everything. Even though everything was more than just an awful lot. The universe surely held so many mysteries that was he to live a thousand lifetimes he'd never uncover them all. Didn't stop him from asking.

Had the world been ending back then if not averted in some way? Probably not. He wasn't very old in the scheme of things and there were plenty of others much smarter than him. But he figured the world changed over time, shifted, changed, but ended? Maybe it only started up some new phase or beginning. Still, he snorted and grinned again when the Immortal combined traits that probably suited any number of actions. "I don't know about gallant. Stupid? I dunno. Honest, I guess." His answer had been that, no question about it. The things that one's nature or sense of right or wrong told them to do, might not always been the wisest when it came to the concept of self preservation. But it had been an easy answer for him, as much as the question itself was impossible. He wouldn't want to go on without Vega. He'd want her to go on without him, if that's what it came to.

But as Cassion went on to explain the place they were in, Arlo continued to explore and look on in wonder. There was always truth in stories, some truth, even the most outlandish ones. Especially those, he thought. The shadows were explained, much of it was, but there still remained more mystery than there were answers. So who had called, he wondered when the woman made of ice spoke back to him? Clearly, Cassion preferred that she didn't say. And for once, he reasoned that maybe it was a question he'd be better to leave to the side. And now, looking back to the time when he and Vega had visited this same place, he wondered if these statues had been watching them then. If he'd spoken to them then, would they have answered? Arlo still suspected that it was Cassion's presence that was making that possible.

"I heard about the stones," he said then, frowning a little then glancing at Cassion. "Some scientists came, discovered them and took them away." The tear rolling down her cheek struck him. It was an awful thing, he thought. Trapped here so long like this, Immortals only knew how long. Thinking, feeling, grieving but frozen time. "Ralaith?" Having studied a little at the university, Arlo didn't know a lot about Ralaith. Mostly he'd studied the originals. But mostly bitterness, wisdom..."Time," he uttered. Couldn't be stopped. Only paused.

When the woman asked for help though and Cassion said he couldn't, his tone struck Arlo in such a way that it wasn't because he didn't know how, but there were rules that he was fixed on following. But shouldn't somebody help, if only they could? Another Immortal maybe? "Is it only because she asked?" he wondered suddenly. "Is there anybody who can? And if there is, do they only need to offer?" After all, if that was the case, then it only required someone to come along and do it. But he couldn't imagine that many people wandered in and out of this place and would happen to stumble upon the scene.

Still, he was no one in the scheme of things, but he'd offer himself if he had the power to or if the sacrifice and cost wasn't beyond his ability to make. "I mean, I'm not an Immortal or a mortalborn or even a powerful mage. I'm a traveler, a storyteller...I'm nobody really," he said to Cassion then. "Is that it? If someone was to offer, anyone, what would they need to do? What would it take?" Arlo asked.
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Fri May 04, 2018 10:50 am

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It was hardly surprising that the Immortal was a little hard to read; enigmatic was probably fairly standard for him and his kin and he, perhaps, foremost among them. When Arlo said, however, that he was honest, although not so sure about foolish or gallant, Cassion roared with laughter. "What a conundrum you mortals are!" He seemed delighted with the response, although why was not apparent. However, things quickly became much more serious, as the pair of them made their way and watched as the story unfolded. That was what Cassion did, after all, he watched at the unfolding of stories, he walked with those whose tales were great - and small. His eye on Arlo, as the young Sojourner asked about Ralaith and spoke of the stones, the DustWalker nodded. "Those portal stones have parts in stories still," he said and he motioned to the statues. "They brought them here, not realising what it was they were doing. Not thinking that they would be trapped here by Ralaith's item. It was never meant for this use, but such is the way of mortality." It could sound judgmental or accusatory, but it didn't. It was an observation, nothing more. "An ancient item, intended for the most beneficent of uses." It had been a long time ago, Cassion said, when a medic of great renown came here with the hope of healing his beloved from an incurable disease. As time began to run out he had begged the Immortal of Time for more of it, and had been granted an item. Not to extend life, but to freeze it. To hold his wife in a state of being frozen in time while he worked. "He paid a heavy price, but it was one he was more than willing to pay," the Immortal said and he smiled at Arlo. "Every trial her life was extended by in this frozen state, so his was shortened by one. Gallant or foolish? Maybe both."

But that had happened and, eventually, the medic had accepted that he could not cure the illness. As Cassion spoke, walking around the room and looking at the statues, each one, his voice reverberated and the air itself hung heavy with the story. "He shattered the item, held her while she died and left. Never seen or heard from again. But those with jealous souls turned their attention to his work." Once he was gone, others came and tried to replicate the medical miracle of freezing people in time, not aware that it was a relic granted by an Immortal which did it. Arcs passed, Cassion said, and then the relic of Ralaith was found. By a man who was full of greed and sought power over life and death itself. He wanted to use the relic to achieve Immortality, to ascend among the gods. "But for that, he needed lives. And here, in this place, he found them. These people, they were to be his first but he had the opportunity. They thought the world was ending and he, a mage of great power and renown, said he could save it, save them all at the cost of just sixteen lives. They agreed." Cassion gestured to the statues.

And then, Arlo asked his questions and the Immortal of the Tale smiled, although his expression lacked mirth or humour. "It is her curse. Their curse. Those who walk here, do not see them as anything other than statues of ice. Usually. The combining of the four elements on the outskirts is allowing you to see more clearly." And that happened, of course, because of them and their actions in the other room. But Cassion didn't mention that, Arlo was a bright lad - he could work that out. "And should someone see them, hear them, then should they ask for help and receive it, then their curse will simply worsen, affecting more and more of them." It was, his tone seemed to imply, quite the conundrum.

But what would they need to do and what would it take? Cassion looked at Arlo and seemed to weigh his words. "It would take a hardy, adventurous soul, I'm sure. No one could tell him what to do, he would have to look at the clues around him. The situation as it stands, or sits." He gestured to the woman, sitting on the chair with the glowing light hovering above the palm of her hand. "As for who you are, and how important you might be in this tale? Well, lets see shall we, Arlo Creede?"

The woman he had spoken to, then, spoke again to him. "I do not ask anything of you. I would not do so. I can tell you that we have waited a long time for someone to come and break the influence of the item. Doing so will give us the release we seek. Eventually, the item will degrade but those that he has brought here before, over the centuries and eons, they have not wished to risk the destruction of an artifact, not knowing what the consequence will be. We do not ask. Not even for the sake of our children" Her voice betrayed the desperation she felt, and she fell silent. "It can only be broken by mortal hands," Cassion said, gesturing to the light above the statue's palm. "Or, of course," he said and gestured to the exit, away from these people and these decisions. "We could leave. These people sacrificed themselves for the island, the world, and they did so knowingly. It is a leap into the unknown to do anything but leave."

Cassion looked at Arlo with ancient eyes. "It is a leap of faith, is it not? And quite a large one."
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Fri May 04, 2018 8:23 pm

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Arlo adopted something of a sheepish but grinning expression when Cassion barked with laughter. All mortals? Was he a conundrum? He'd never really considered himself to be one. On the contrary he'd figured he was fairly straightforward as human's went. But Vega. She was a conundrum but he liked it that way. As for the portal stones, it was interesting. He wasn't at all sure how the things worked or even what they looked like. He'd only heard snippets about them, here and there. There were a few notes referencing them on the map that he'd been given...in what amounted to chicken scratch. But that was about the extent of Arlo's familiarity with the things. "I think they're being used now to keep portals open between Scalvoris, Viden and Rynmere." At least that was the case, last he'd heard.

It didn't sound like such a terrible thing to do. This medic wanting to keep his love safe and suspended in time, until such a time as he found a way to heal her. Even if he aged, while she didn't. It was a sacrifice made from the heart, for love. That was never foolish so far as Arlo was concerned. Though if he'd heard somebody say that, oh, four arcs ago now, he'd have said they needed their heads examined. Things had changed since then. But then all sorts of power, influence or actual relics of great strength, well that was the way wasn't it? The good they could do in the right hands, was equal or even less than the potential evil in the wrong hands.

That was when innocent people suffered, just like the ones here suspended in time but not ignorant to the passage of it. And even if someone happened by in this remote place, stumbled upon them and somehow managed to arrive under the same circumstances, they couldn't ask. Then how would those passersby know? "It's a lousy way to spend an eternity," he said, stating the obvious. He did consider himself to be the hardy and adventurous type. Maybe more so, after Cassion had blessed him. Looking around them, at the statues, the pillars and shadows, the seated woman with the upraised hand and the light. Well of course no one could tell him how. And naturally, he thought sardonically, it needed to be a mortal and Cassion wasn't telling.

It almost sounded like a dare however. And the Immortal must know that Arlo found those particularly hard to resist. But of course any who'd come before him had thought twice before destroying an artifact. And this one, belonging to the Immortal of time itself? Well didn't that just figure. Last time he messed with something that twisted time back on him, Vega had read him the riot act. And to be honest, he didn't want to shave any more arcs of his life than he already had. What would Vega do, if confronted with the same choice, Arlo wondered? Could he just walk away and forget, and not remember the ones that had been left behind and he might have helped?

Arlo wasn't sure he could live with his own conscience in that case, then the woman went and did it. She mentioned children. If it was Vega then, Arlo was fairly sure she'd try to help them in any way she could. Dammit. His gaze had strayed more than once to the seated woman and the light. That must be the relic he finally decided. "I've made mistakes too. Honest ones where I didn't understand the consequences," he said to Cassion. "I'd hate to think I'd have to spend an eternity paying for them." So, a leap of faith. And Cassion was right. A really big one.

But the relic, if the light in the woman's hand was it. It must be. But did he really have to touch it? Frowning thoughtfully, he turned and approached the seated statue and pulled out an arrow to hold in his hand, Reaching up, hoping to be able to tap arrow against relic, his thinking was that he then might bat the thing right off of there, like a game of ball in the yard with a good sturdy stick. Figured that it didn't, if it indeed didn't work. And if that was the case, he'd put his arrow away and turn back to Cassion with a frown. "Here goes nothin', huh?" Or other hand, something very bad. Whichever the case, all else failing he'd see if he could reach up and give the thing a nudge with a gloved finger, without fully taking hold of it...just yet.
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Sat May 05, 2018 12:43 pm

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Everything has a beginning, a middle and an end. From the apparent eternity of the suns to the final breath of a dying mortal, those three stages exist. Always. In every tale, no matter how small or epic. Beginning, middle and end.

In the moment where he felt his whole body turn to ice, as he realised that he could see and hear everything but could not move or speak at all, Arlo might reasonably consider that this simple act was the end of many things, many aspects of his life. He might ruminate that perhaps, as a blessed of Cassion, with increased appetites and the blood of an Immortal flowing in his veins, this was going to be a very long eternity. Indeed, it would not be unreasonable, if he realised that he was about to be stuck in the middle for a very long time.

An eternity, in fact.

And so, the few bits before the ice overtook him. Those moments where decisions he made turned him into a statue made of ice, might be important to Arlo and might, just might, be something he wanted to consider.



5.....


That it was a lousy way to spend an eternity was not something anyone present would argue with ~ especially not those doing it. Cassion had told him as much as he was going to, the decision now was Arlo's. The Immortal had even given him the knowledge that those before him had chosen to exit. So, he looked around the room and he listened to those few meager words which gave him the scant knowledge he had to act upon and Arlo Creede considered.

He considered his options, his choices and he knew that he had to act. Not to do so would be to deny who he was, after all.

Which sometimes, isn't the worst idea in the world.



4.....


Was it a dare?

Yes, there could be no doubting that it sounded a little like one. Cassion's expression - his words unspoken as clear as those he vocalised - they spoke the truth. Yet Arlo's mind turned to the last time that he had engaged with something which might, arguably, be considered the domain of the Immortal of Time. Then, his life had aged by maybe three arcs, his whole body changed. If that was what could occur from the sipping, just a sip of some liquid - what could this do?

For a brief moment, it seemed that Arlo's future hung in the balance as he considered. Could he, in all conscience, walk away from this place? From these people who were undergoing what could only be described as torture? He didn't think he could, but he was not sure, not yet. Not in this trill.

But then, the deciding words came.


3.....


Children.

What was it with the two of them and children? Now, there was no doubting that Arlo was convinced that any focus on children belonged to the female of the pair, the redhead with a bad attitude. But she would be quick to point out just how Not At All True that was, were she here with him. Yet, Arlo was here alone, as far as mortal companions went. Cassion watched him and it seemed almost as though time slowed as the Teller of Tales observed this one unfolding. When Arlo spoke of having made mistakes, honest ones, Cassion nodded just once. Spending eternity paying a price was something these people were doing, there was no doubt.

And so, Arlo decided and he took a leap of faith.



2.....


First, he tried the arrow and, whilst a good idea, Arlo was probably not completely surprised when the arrow moved through the glowing light, like the thing wasn't there at all. When he turned to Cassion with a frown and a quip, though, the Immortal's expression was once again somewhat enigmatic. And although he could not know for certain, to Arlo it felt like everyone in the room held their breath. Wolf, statue, Immortal. Each one of them seemed to be there, immoving and immobile as his finger moved to nudge the relic.

As he touched it, just the tip of his gloved finger against it, Arlo felt something very solid there and the light blinded him.


1.....


But he couldn't move his hand.

His instinct, as the light from the relic glowed a sudden intense white, was to throw up his arm over his eyes. But he could not move. The light was a single flash, one blink of his eyes and it was gone. But his eyes wouldn't blink, he realised. And then, Arlo swapped places with the woman who sat - not in a physical sense, he remained standing where he was, but in the sense of what he became.

Unmoving.

Cold. Colder than it was possible for a human being to be.

And the light which glowed at the end of his fingers beat in time with his heart, which he felt in his chest. It slowed.... and slowed some more.

But in front of him Arlo got to see, through frozen eyes which were unable to blink, the release of sixteen souls. Men and women, boys and girls; four generations of four families. They stood there, for just a moment, in front of him. Glowing white, transparent and smiling each one. "Thank you," the woman who he had spoken to said to him. Her voice reverberated around the room yet it was naught but a whisper. The child in her arms, a toddler of maybe two arcs, waved at him. Each of them looked at him, thanked him, and he was unable to do anything.

He might notice that he wasn't even breathing.



... and then..


And then, they were gone. The statues were still there, of course, and now there was a new one among their numbers. A perfect rendition of Arlo Creede. Strangely, it wasn't where he was. He could see it, sitting at a table and lifting a drink towards his mouth. The scene looked almost familiar.

"Whatever you do," Cassion said. "Do not ask me to help you. The curse has transferred, one mortal to another, with the same... what the?" It probably wasn't reassuring to Arlo that Cassion sounded somewhat surprised. As Arlo felt his heart rate begin to increase, to get louder and louder, the Immortal of Adventure looked rather surprised, it must be said.

With his hand wrapped around the small trinket which no longer glowed at all, Arlo breathed in a great whooshing gulp of air and then he collapsed to the floor. The overwhelming encasing of ice had left him colder than he had ever felt, in shock and his system would take a moment or two to right itself as he breathed once again. "Well, I'll be." Cassion said, delightedly. "Boy, what did you do?" It had been Cassion's intent to help Arlo as soon as the curse hit him, but as it transpired, he did not need to. "And why, pray tell, are there two of you?"

There, sitting at the table of ice were indeed two of him. One, the eighteen arc old who had lifted the drink to his lips on the docks of Scalvoris, the other, the twenty-something arc old he was not. Two of him. Out of time and out of sync with his own life.

In his hand he held a small ice statue of a bear. It didn't glow, it didn't thrum. It was just a trinket which had once been a relic created for good, used for quite another purpose and so damaged that a boy who was not in his own timeframe pushed it over and shattered the last of it's power.
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Sat May 05, 2018 3:52 pm

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Just a trill after everything changed, maybe forever, Arlo got a chance to wonder. If he had the opportunity to go back and rethink it, would he make the same decision again? He could never be sure, but it was just as likely as not that he'd have a very long time on his hands to think about it, and not much else but that. A very long time. At that bit there was only the overwhelming, very human sense of panic come of not being able to move, or speak, or even blink. He felt colder, cold to the bone, than he'd ever been in his life and even the body's natural response to that, shivering, was beyond him. But he could see and hear plenty.

Cassion, the other statues, the woman's voice. And there he was, crafted from ice same as them. But strangely he thought, it was the much younger him that he'd been a mere season ago. And then of course he got to thinking about more than the immediate problem. If this was forever, if he'd genuinely traded places with the other poor souls there, what about Vega? Would Cassion tell her? Would she know what had become of him, and eventually come to understand why he'd done it? And then maybe, eventually, forgive him and move on? The initial shock of it, though maybe not because the outcome had come as a shock, if it lingered would quickly evolve into regret about what was lost. The past, the present and the future.

It was some consolation when the woman thanked him, the child waved and apparently because of what he'd done, the souls were finally freed. If he had an eternity to think about it, at least he'd know it hadn't all been for nothing. But had Arlo expected Cassion to help him if things went south. He hadn't. He'd done what he'd done, realizing that the consequences could be dire. Even these consequences. He wouldn't ask regardless. He remembered the rules. Then again, he eyed the other version of himself seated across the way and though he couldn't move, Arlo frowned inwardly. Shouldn't there be just one of me? he thought.

His head had been swimming, a natural result of his heart slowing down. But then it sped up again, his thinking was clearer. Though he was no clearer on what was happening, or began to happen then. Cassion looked surprised, but couldn't have been more surprised than him. Then suddenly it was if something broke loose around him, he could breathe freely and the sudden sense of freedom caused him to drop to his knees, gasping for air. He was still colder than he'd ever been. But he was free. What did he do? Why was there two of him? "You didn't do it?" he asked, looking up at the Immortal as he struggled back to his feet, and eyed the other him that was still frozen in time at the table.

Looking down at his hand, the one that he'd reached out with to touch the orb of light, he saw the statue. No one would ever use that thing again. Not for good, but more importantly not to harm others. He grinned as it was sent crashing to the ground where it shattered. And then he couldn't help but grin as the full force of what he'd done came back to him. All without him realizing it. "I think I've inadvertently double crossed the Immortal of Time. You think he'll hold it against me?" That potion. The cross was then, or it was now. But whichever it was, it appeared that inadvertently, that potion back then was responsible now for as good as saving his life. "They're gone now? They're free?" he asked, finally taking a good look around where the statues were still fixed in place. Forever more, maybe, as a mystery for others to stumble upon. A curiosity or maybe even a warning.
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Sat May 05, 2018 6:07 pm

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Cassion watched him as he realised that he was alive; although he hadn't ever been truly dead but still. He was free and as the young man knelt on the floor breathing in great gulps of air, the Immortal of Adventure smiled at him, benevolently. It was a good story, the tale which had unfolded here this trial and he always liked the ones with a twist. Especially when it was a twist he hadn't seen coming. "No, that one wasn't me," Caassion said and then his expression lit with mirth, "although, it probably was. Just my presence, really." He moved over to the two statues of Arlo, looking at first one and then the other and he frowned slightly. "I assumed that it was married life which had made you haggard," he said, waving a hand to show that yes, he knew that Arlo wasn't married exactly. It all amounted to the same thing to him. "So, tell me about it?"

It was a tale to be heard, Cassion was sure. The statues of Arlo, should he examine them, were perfect just like the others. They were all there still - and probably always would be. Whether they would serve as items of interest or oddities or even warnings, who knew? But in among them were two perfect statues of Arlo. As for the Immortal of Time, Cassion laughed and shook his head. "He would not approve of this use of his item. I imagine he would at least be pleased to see it ended. He gets tense about people messing with his things. Possessive." It was always rather hard to tell whether the Immortal was being entirely serious and this was very much the case right now.

"Yes, lad, they're free. Finally. Their souls were trapped, so they missed Vri, but Famula will come by, I'm sure." From the darkness around them came then a low growling noise and Cassion stood and spoke to the darkness. "You have no wish to tussle with me, old friend. Your duty here is done, thanks to this one."

From the darkness came four wolves. One of flame, like Arlo had already seen. One of earth and stone. The third was a shape in the air, swirling eddies of wind creating a definite shape and the fourth was carved in ice. Each of them was huge, larger than any wolf should be and as they stepped forward, there was a low growl and deep bark from the Ice Wolf. "Not I, no. He did. Gave himself willingly and then broke the curse."

It was at those words that all four creatures turned to Arlo to look at him. Then, one at a time, they stepped forward. "These are the embodiment of four creatures which once walked Scalvoris," Cassion said. "When the four families were cursed, they were part of it, cursed to guard this place and defend the statues. They will not harm you, Arlo Creede."

First the fire wolf stepped forward, heat radiating from it. Looking at him it tilted it's head to the side and then stepped closer and sniffed him. It was hot - very much so - but it did not burn him. "Hold out your hand, let it know your scent." Cassion instructed and, should Arlo comply then the wolf did indeed sniff his hand. It touched its forehead to his hand and the heat was enormous, but he did not burn and then the wolf stepped backwards two steps. It seemed to dip its head in acknowledgement and then turned and walked away. Then they each came, the three remaining. After fire came earth, then air and finally, water in the shape of ice. Each of them mirrored the movements the Fire Wolf had made as they sniffed his hand, touched their forehead to it and then seemed to almost bow. Arlo would start to notice a slight itching on the back of his hand where they touched him, but as yet there was nothing.

"So," Cassion said, once the four creatures had disappeared back into the shadow. "Is there anything you'd like to take as a memento here or where we have been?" Cassion understood better than most the need for such things and besides, Arlo had always dedicated those trinkets to him. As was right and fitting, of course. However, it was only fair that he gave the boy time to look for something if he wished it. The young man looked a little shocked still, but he'd be fine. Once they left here, he had some wisdom to impart to him, but he would keep that for the walk back.
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Thu May 10, 2018 2:39 pm

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So Cassion didn't intervene, Arlo marveled as he'd caught his breath again and climbed up off of the floor. Being there? Maybe. But the storyteller was convinced there'd been something more to it. As for married life, he didn't feel the need to correct anyone on that count. Especially not an Immortal and one he'd devoted himself to serving. On the other hand, Arlo wasn't completely sure that Cassion was wrong about that. Sure, he and Vega hadn't stood in front of a judge or other figure of authority and taken any official vows. But in every way that mattered, he guessed, they were bound by their own choosing.

"This?" he said and grinned, gesturing to his face when Cassion mentioned it. "No, this happened in the blink of an eye. Last I saw you, that was me," Arlo added and gestured at the youngest looking ice version of himself. "There was a Biqaj woman. A vagabond, my stepfather would have called her, and my mother a traveler. Either way she enticed me to swallow something blue in a vial and when did?" He grinned and shook his head. "Time slowed down, sped up, and the universe sang." And when he came back to his senses, well, "This," he finished, gesturing to the more current looking version of himself.

Now the statues surrounding them were just that. Or maybe the better term would be monuments, and him among them. Now that it was all said and done and he was as right as he could be, body and soul, Arlo sort of liked knowing that some trial, a hundred arcs from now, even a thousand, someone might stumble upon this place and ask 'who was that handsome fellow at the table all alone'? And maybe they'd make up stories about him, just as he'd done the first time he'd been here.

So the souls were gone, but the wolves were still here, and Arlo watched curiously as they crept out of the shadows. Both challenging and curious at the same time. Each of them unique, each different, they were unlike any creature he'd seen before. And clearly they knew Cassion. There were other times he'd have felt more uncomfortable with a pack's sights set on him. But clearly this was different and he smiled a little, turning his hands out for just a trill to show they were empty. And then the wolves approached him one at a time.

He'd intuitively believed they wouldn't harm him and he didn't flinch a bit as each approached and made contact with him. It was a solemn process, strangely humbling and he smiled. "It appears you're free then," he remarked as the last of them stepped back. When asked if he wanted to take or keep anything, Arlo looked thoughtful and turned round on his heel to consider. Ordinarily, there was no question he would take something. But this felt different. This was where those souls had spent arc after arc. What was around them had been the extent of their world. It truly did feel like some sort of monument, and it felt personal too, even with his own likeness there.

"No," he decided. "I think I'd rather leave it just as it is." Arlo wasn't sure whether or not Cassion would understand the gesture of leaving it all as they'd found it. But to him, it felt right. So if the Immortal was ready to head back they way they'd come together, then so was he.
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