• Solo • Growing Roots in Etzos

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Aylune
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Growing Roots in Etzos

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Spread my wings, watch me soar.

Tilting forward with tight-shut eyes, a brown-skinned man teetered over the edge of nowhere before diving fully unto darkness. Hurtling through another world somewhere between the real and the unreal, North slipped his legs forward into the whipping air until foot met ground. With a jilting skid through the flaming waters, he slowed to a brisk gait upon the pools of reflection within the Veil between worlds.

Turning his head and flicking his tail, North’s wolf-like ears perked until he heard the splash of his co-confidant, South, the one true friend he had in Idalos. “Here we are again, in this place, where the dreamers dream and the lucid walk. I do wonder when the danger here will be made apparent.” Amber eyes swept suspiciously over the crackling flames, a doorway of stone leering back from beneath each scorching pathway to another place.

“You know how I feel,” said South, “about here, where ‘now’ or the passage of time itself is in question. Nothing good can come of this.”

North smirked. Reaching up and through the licking flames, he pushed open a door and peered through the crack, his limbs surrounded by the warmth of dancing light that did not bite. “You know,” said North as he peered into another dream, “this place is more useful than you know. I recall that Etzos was a place without Immortal revelry, and yet everywhere I look, Sintra has sunk her fangs. I don’t like it. Not one bit, South.”

Seeing more of what he didn’t want, North shrugged and pulled the door shut with a groan of cinders, steam billowing from his skin as he pulled his hand from the flames. From what he could read of the Elements, they weren’t very fond of this place either, their voice muted and twisted into something unnatural that he couldn’t control.

To test this thought, North snapped his fingers and Manifested a single flame, his finger as the wick. It burst to life, like there was tinder in the air. Before it could grow too out of control, he pinched the flame to its end and rubbed his fingers together over the rousing sensation of a mild burn upon his fingertips. “I never really noticed that Ether seems more potent here. I’ve been having thoughts, in my dreams, about that place I went as a child. Father thought it was a Fracture, and from what he’s told me of such a place, that Ether ignites so brilliantly as it leaks from Emea, the boundless chaos of unreality. It’s beginning to make sense.” North peered at his Familiar. “Do you think the Veil is the bridge between waking reality and Emea?”

Slowly, South gave a nod. “I would imagine so. Those ...things inside your Soul draw their power from that place. Do you remember when magic ceased and your Sparks were ringing with desire? We resisted becoming something else, but you feared the magic would not return. Shortly after this, the Etherstorms...”

“Yes,” said North, scratching his chin. “The Etherstorms.” There was so much going on in the world all at once, a mess of things really. “Melrath seemed to have more luck quelling the strangeness of that time. The values of Etzos, it seems, have completely crumbled. The very Immortal of deceit now holds the High Marshall’s ear absolute, and so many are fine with this. What changed? How did this happen?”

South bowed his head in thought, before shaking his head.

“It had to be the magic. A powerful mage must have been keeping Sintra’s lot at bay.” North snapped his fingers again, trying to remember his days passing through Etzos so long ago, and who the people revered back in those days. It came to him in a flash. “Karnos Vuda,” came the name, rolling from tongue. “What happened to Vuda, Chief Advisor to the High Marshall?”

“Do you think of him a mage?” asked South. “Your time here was from before I had met you, though we came through on the return but we were sweeping through like the wind bound for home.”

North nodded. “I heard rumors. The people here seemed to think he was powerful. I’m not sure what his Sparks are, but I know he ran a tight ship here in Etzos. If he’s still alive in all of this...”

South interjected. “-But do you want to? I mean, who are these people to you? This was never your home. Wouldn’t it be safer to stake our claim somewhere else?”

North shook his head, sighing abruptly. “It might seem like chaos here,” said North, “and it might seem like a lost cause, but the Immortals have their roots deep within every other city upon Idalos. This place is also close to the borders of Melrath. Think of the troubles the Lotharro brought to our borders, children of an Immortal? Sintra would set her sights on Melrath next. It needs to stop here.” North squeezed his fists tight, recalling the warnings of his people, dredging up old sentiments of distrust and unease, and the stories of his youth. “I’m convinced, we have to try, South. We have to.”

A spell of quiet began between them, but South broke the silence: “I will support you, wherever, whichever way you choose.”

North nodded, then motioned for them both to get a move on. “Come, let’s get to the bottom of this. I don’t want to be left in the dark when Sintra drops the guillotine on her enemies.” Stepping towards another door, he peered inside, and what he saw made him still. “South...” North’s voice choked.

The Familiar poked its head through by North’s knee, the pair of them wide-eyed as the peered out at a scene of utter carnage. They were speechless. A scorched battlefield, bodies piled high, a man covered in dirt and rime screaming and swinging his sword at loincloth-cladded tribals with pointy sticks as ghostly wraiths clashed with them and clouds of insects.

“This dream is too dangerous, North,” warned South, but North was already pressing inward with a leap into the fray. Reaching deep inside, he undid the stoppers on all the restraints in his mind, and as naturally as you or I could breathe, he pushed his body into the shape of another. A flash of hot pain coursed through his body, but it faded in an instant as he Unleashed into battle not as a man, but a wolf, bounding to the man’s side.

South joined them, but kept to the edges of the conflict.

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Aylune
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Re: Growing Roots in Etzos

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Drums beat to the sound of marching boots as the conflict bloomed. North heard the death howl of men upon spears and sword alike, and the battle raged beyond them both. As more men raced by to join the foolish pursuit of an early death, North held the gaze of the dreamer, slowing to a trot and then a slow walk as no other paid him heed.

North made no hostile move, keeping his lips down, his head lowered on the approach. The human held his sword as if to defend himself, but the guard faltered as this feral beast turned its head to gaze off into the distant battle before stepping forward to slide his flank against a leg, inviting the man to lucidity.

Coming around the other side, North flicked his head. “You’re asleep, in a dream--think, what’s your last memory? Follow me, soldier.” He began to walk, and the man hesitated but soon followed after him.

“Who... what are you?”

Ducking beneath the hollow of a vast tree root system, North led the man away from the battle and into a more neutral space, though the sky remained red with the sun filtering through a heavy cloud of smoke. As they entered a clearing, North stood still, his Familiar joining him. He looked to the other black wolf, and then back to the man. “I am on the side of Etzos, and against the Immortal. Is this the war I heard about, the war against Lsirra and Rhakros?”

The man nodded. “Aye, I fought in this conflict. Bloody one, a lot of death, a lot of strange things never thought I’d seen, like an army of ghosts. I don’t know what you are, but the city’s lost its mind...” The soldier hesitated, a glance away an easy tell for North to pick up on.

“Afraid I might be one of her spies?” asked North with a toothy grin. “No, Etzos was one of the few bastions untainted by Immortals in the world. I’ve been to Etzos before, and I remember a very different city from a few Arcs ago. I haven’t been here long, a few Trials at most; we’re safe from prying eyes and ears hear, so what can you tell me about avoiding Sintra’s web?”

It was a lot for the man to unpack, the soldier’s jaw opening and shutting before it was all over. “...Are you Padfoot?”

North had never heard the name, but he didn’t downplay it. “If I were?”

His gambit worked. “We need a man--monster? Something like you. We were sure you were dead. Thought you’d be bigger, from the stories.”

Shaking his head, North sighed, weaving the lie a thicker web. “It’s in the past. I go by-” His mind searched for a quick word, something representing him more closely. “I’m, I... the moon,” rambled North. “I go by Aylune now.”

“Sergeant Deckard,” said the man with a salute. “There are a lot men who think you ought to be hung, but I’ll take what I can get.” His hand went down to his waist, his form statuesque. “Sintra’s eyes and ears are everywhere--the spiders. That damned Immortal knows everything, but we’ve got a group going on in the Underground where we keep a room free from spiders to talk about what’s next.

North nodded. “I’ll look for it,” said North. “I’m interested in Vuda, do you know him?”

The man shuffled awkwardly, leering as if some bad memory had tainted his view of the man. “The mage who eats the souls of orphaned children? He hasn’t been seen in awhile, in fact I’m pretty sure he’s dead.”

“Was there a confirmation?” asked North.

“Well, no...” said Deckard.

“It’s a possibility, then. It’s also possible Sintra spread those rumors about him. This could all be a farce designed to tarnish faith in the Etzori way. I want to at least look: a powerful mage like that man would be instrumental,” said North.

“-So you’re saying you want to find the Chief Advisor, huh?” asked Deckard. “You could try the prison many Trials to the east, but I know for damn sure Sintra’s already got her web all over that place. We’d have better luck rallying the ghosts.”

“The ghosts?” asked North. “The dead fight for Etzos, but how many?”

“Thousands upon thousands, I’m not sure we ever counted them all. Gives me the creeps, but they were instrumental in the war on Rhakros.”

North gave his agreement with a nod. “Duly noted. Thank you, Sergeant. The ghosts are pretty passionate in Etzos, are they?”

“They are. Even my own house is haunted with the soul of an Etzori loyalist. Buggers really suck the life out of the enemy,” said Deckard. “You think you can rally them?”

North was mum for a moment, but then he shrugged. “I don’t know, I’d have to study them.”

The Sergeant groaned and massaged his temples. “Everything is coming down, it’s scary. The city is being converted day by day. Sentiments are changing from her bribes, and her lies... ugh.”

“You’re doing a good job, soldier. I’m honestly glad I could find at least one person with a free mind.” North had what he needed, so he turned towards the tree and began to focus on stepping from the dream into the Veil.

“Thank you, Aylune,” said Deckard. “This really gives me hope; I take it we’ll see more of each other?”

“You can count on it,” said Aylune before he stepped out of the dream with his Familiar in tow. On the other side, he collapsed with the heaviness of his emotions. “This is such a huge endeavor. This problem runs so deep.

“Let’s take this one step at a time,” said South. “Aylune now, is it?”

“I like the name,” grumbled North, now Aylune. “I wouldn’t want to be perceived as a noble if I’m trying to win over the commonfolk, and it protects my old life taking a new name.”

“I see,” said South. “Will I be getting a new name too?”

“Yes,” said Aylune with a chuckle. “You’ll be... Needle, like the needle of a compass. I named you South as my counterpart before, but ever since we met, I’ve found you to be different enough to warrant a name more unique to who you are.”

“Needle; that name sounds nice. I like it.”

Extending a paw, Aylune pushed on the familiar’s face with a smirk. “I love you, my dearest friend.”

Needle’s tail wiggled as the spirit rolled against Aylune for a nuzzle that made the Becomer feel all fuzzy inside, and there they shared a moment, just absorbing the destiny before them and all of these new elements coming into play at once.

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Re: Growing Roots in Etzos

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North? Aylune? Padfoot?!!?

Experience: 10 No magic experience, as the magic use was light... You only get magic xp for practicing magic up to your current level, generally speaking. Not for theorizing.

Knowledge:

Defiance x2
Intelligence x2
Tactics x2

Renown: none

Skill Usage: Appropriate to level, except that using even the slightest bit of magic in Emea (While lucid) is very dangerous at your dreamwalking level. Please be wary of doing that.

Loot/Losses: none

Injuries/Conditions: none

Consequences: The next time you dream, you may find an Emeyan creature haunting you, lured by the magic you used on your last dream. Do with this as you will.

Comments: Nicely written.

North mentioned that Sintra was the Immortal of Deceit. This is not true. She's the Immortal of Manipulation/Entrapment/Arachnids. The closest Immortal there is to the domain of Deceit is Audrae. But I suppose North's ignorance can be forgiven, being Melrathi he may not be entirely aware of the lore behind the Immortals.

Other than that... It's nicely done. I wonder why the soldier thought North is Padfoot/Mal? Surely they see many other becomers in Etzos, being a fairly liberal state when it comes to the acceptance of magic.

Sorry about the lateness of the review. Enjoy the rewards.

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