To the land where the Bong-tree grows.....

19th of Ashan 721

A small island with an active volcano, Faldrass is the home to Saoire's school and to the Faldrass Induk.

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To the land where the Bong-tree grows.....

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19th Ashan, 721
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There had been discussions and meetings on Faldrass, there were all sorts of things happening and going on.

But, that wasn't why he was here. Or, it wasn't the only reason.

"And here is my son!" Cassion said, walking up to Arlo with a smile on his face. "Congratulations, boy! A fine piece of news!" The backslap his father gave him was enough to send anyone teetering forward, although Arlo was stronger than most. "How are you feeling?" He seemed genuinely pleased at the news he obviously knew. "There's an adventure afoot and a story to tell, Arlo!" He grinned. "And what we started in the ice caves, and the tale you told in the mountains here? It's coming to a head. Care to join me?"

Should Arlo agree, Cassion would beam a wide smile. Child like in his enthusiasm, the Immortal of the Road gestured for Arlo to step forward. "Besides," he said. "Every man with a pregnant wife needs an adventure to take his mind off the future. To ground him in the now." Laughing at his own joke, he gestured and the two of them were walking together.

It was strange, because they were walking towards a woman.

Arlo might well recognise her from the Docks Collapse, but his father did not wait for such. "And tell me, Albarech, have you and my son met?" Cassion strode towards Kura and as one of the Elements who was with her, as a guard, took a half step forward, he grinned. "At ease, soldier. You don't want to do that." The guard - who had barely moved, in fairness - was still.

"Arlo, my boy, and Kura. I was shamelessly eavesdropping on your conversation with my son's redhead," Cassion said, a grin of amusement showing that he knew he was being difficult and he really didn't mind it. In fact, he rather liked it. "And I thought to myself, you know, it's been a long time since I've chatted to that Induk, and popped to Ishallr." Nodding his head, he turned to Kura with an intense gaze.

"Care to join us?"
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Re: To the land where the Bong-tree grows.....

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It wasn't very often that Arlo saw his Immortal father in person, and when Cassion did happen to turn up, he never called ahead, never sent a note or an RSVP. It was always out of the blue, as was the nature of the Immortal himself, and beyond that, he'd a penchant for sneaking up on Arlo unaware. He seemed to revel in surprises, in fact.

This time was no different. Arlo had been alone at camp when Cassion came strolling up from behind him. He'd been testing out a new sauce to try out, one with Vega and her cravings in mind. Sort of. A dark chocolate sauce to serve over a meat dish of some sort, but one with a kick due to a dash of spice in the mix. Just enough heat to cause a tingle inside the cheek, subtle at first, but more once it caught up with the taster.

He'd just dipped into the saucepan with a spoon in order to test it, when Cassion made his appearance. He jumped a little, startled when the Immortal called out in his booming voice, and just nearly did a face plant into the fire when Cassion 'patted' him on the back. He should have seen it coming, and grinned a little in response. "Father. It's good to see you again," he said, pulling his pan from the fire and turning around. There was no need to ask how his father could have known of Vega's current condition. The Immortals had their ways, and that was explanation enough.

"Thank you. I'm good. A bit nervous, to be honest. But good," he said. "And you? You'll be a grandfather." Chances were, this child he and Vega were expecting would not be Cassion's first. If Arlo himself was the Immortal's only mortalborn son, though he'd never met any others that he was aware of, he'd still have been surprised considering how much Cassion really did love the ladies. "Give this a taste, will you?" he said, offering Cassion a taste of the cooled sauce. "No one else knows yet. We've decided to keep it that way, just for a bit."

But of course, Cassion had come to pull him away for an adventure of some sort. How could it have been anything else? And he hardly needed to ask. Arlo remembered the ice caves all too well, all they'd done and seen there the last time around. He was always game so far as returning there. Apparently now was the time, and for reason. "I remember," he said, taking the time to gather up his weapons and whatever else he thought he might need. And of course his hat. Always his hat.

Right before they left though, he scribbled out a note for Vega, and pinned it securely where she was sure to find it. The reason for his sudden absence, hopefully a short one, would probably come as no surprise when she considered the source and reason.

Any guard who stood in Cassion's path was easily enough handled, whether they recognized the Immortal or not. Of course, Arlo hadn't expected to be meeting Kura again on this trial. Or at least, not under these particular circumstances. Immortals and their plans, however, impossible to predict, therefore better to avoid trying. "Hello, Kura. It's good to see you," he said with a smile while readjusting his pack across his shoulder.
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Re: To the land where the Bong-tree grows.....

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"Kura, we might have trouble." Cally said, her tone notably more cautious than usual. Kura, who was getting a report from one of Balthazar's off-duty guards, looked up and gave a rather nonplussed look as she saw Arlo and someone who gave off the impression of an Immortal coming towards her. Taking in his appearance, Kura guessed Cassion, a guess that was all but confirmed when he started talking.

Cassion, to be fair, was not an Immortal she had a personal dislike towards. He wasn't really malicious, cruel, or even just overly self-interested or hedonistic. But on a professional level, his presence was almost certain to be not good. It wasn't that he would cause a problem, but as someone who was trying to be a good leader for Scalvoris, Kura had a deep and powerful desire for things to be peaceful and calm. If Cassion was in the neighborhood, peaceful and calm were not on the docket. Still, it wasn't really his fault that Scalvoris seemed to attract trouble the way flowers attracted bees, so she nodded at him as he approached.

"We've met...twice now, I think? That thing with the ghost ship and the incident at the docks. Good to see you too, Arlo." she said, holding out an arm as one of her soldiers started to move. "It's all right, Trooper. If Cassion wanted to do anyone harm, there'd already be a fight." she said, her tone calm. At his next bit, though, Kura cocked her head to the side. "Of course you'd find the thing I was most hopin' wouldn't attract your attention. Ah well, I shouldn't have expected the Heart to be as easy and borin' a task as I'd hoped." she said, looking to her escort. "I'll be fine. Let Rand know that The Warden is like to be more trouble than we'd thought and that he needs to be on guard." she said, waiting for the soldiers salute and nod before she turned back to Cassion.

"As it happened, I was gettin' ready to head over to talk to Faldrass myself. So I'll definitely come along." she said, her tone calm. There was a brief protest from one of her soldiers but she shook her head. "I'll be fine, Trooper. I'm not unarmed and I won't be alone." she said, looking down briefly at the bracelet she wore that would turn into an emergency bow. Cally, of course, was coming, but since she was Cally's anchor, that was pretty much a given even if Cally could have been talked out of it.
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Re: To the land where the Bong-tree grows.....

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19th Ashan, 721
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"A grandfather?!?" Cassion laughed deep in his chest. "I suppose so. That sounds like quite an adventure in itself, you know." Then, he tasted the sauce that Arlo offered to him and he nodded, thoughtfully. "That is delicious," he said, seriously. "Venison, I think, would go well with it. Here." Reaching in to his coat, he pulled out a very old - and very dusty - bottle of red wine. "Pair it with this."

He waited mostly patiently while Arlo wrote his note and then they took five steps and - as had happened last time Arlo and his Immortal father met - they were across the island. There, he nodded to Kura and then listened as the pair of them discussed where they'd met previously. "Good!" he declared. "Then we don't need to mess about with any boring getting to know you talk. Let's go! " And, with that, he turned and started to walk.

There was something odd about walking with Cassion. Arlo had experienced it before, but Kura had not. He stepped forward with large, loping strides, and when he did, somehow the land travelled more quickly beneath his feet and, by extension, theirs. Still, they didn't travel long before the Immortal stopped and looked at them both. He had a rare expression on his face. He looked serious and - more than that - maybe even a little concerned. "I spoke to you, Arlo, many arcs ago, about how the elements were needed to maintain balance in Scalvoris. You remember, when we were in the ice caves?" He smiled and nodded at Kura. "And, like your military, there are five. Spirits or souls. Always forgotten." He shrugged slightly. "Scalvoris has Immortals who protect it. Have you ever wondered why?"

He smiled, a rather enigmatic smile, and then he gestured to the ground. They stood at the entrance to the Badlands. To the place where there was a clear demarcation in the ground. "This is why," he said, his voice unusually somber. "Beneath Scalvoris sits the fracture of Fei. You both know this. But over the arcs, different groups and factions, individuals, geniuses and madmen have seen that it ... leaks. That is why Scalvoris is so bloody odd." He grinned then at Kura. "Well, it is. Wouldn't catch all these goings on in the Empire, would you?" Then, he leaned to Arlo. "And it's why I like it here, much more." he grinned at his son.

Then, he turned back. "Places have been built, or have formed, which sort of.... put a stopper in it." He nodded. "Ice caves, jungles, towers and shrines. Mansions." He sighed slightly. "I liked Smooglenuff. Bloody stupid name, though. That's Enri's fault. Always did have a thing about names. Anyhow. This is what they were holding back, and this" he held his hand out, making sure they didn't step over. "This is what happens when balance is lost. You've both seen the effects of it, and both know that there are people who want to try and harness it. They collapsed the docks." They'd both been there, he knew.

"When we step there, you will start to feel your energy drain from you. Dead walk there, fires freeze and ice flames. I'd advise, most pretty lady," he said that to Cally. "That you wait for us. Make your way around, if you wish. Should you traverse the Beneath, you will see that this place is equally .... damaged, there."

That was up to Cally, although the Immortal looked at her with very serious eyes. Then, he spoke to the two mortalborns with him.

"Prepare yourself," he said. Just before they stepped forward, they saw a fleet of Sohr Kahl flying, looking for them. Cassion nodded to them and spoke to Kura. "I think you're needed Alberach," he said and, indeed, the Sohr Kahl spotted them and flew down, the riders dismounted and told Kura of an issue which needed dealing with. Cassion nodded, shook her hand and said, rather regretfully, "Another time. Come then, Arlo"

And, as the now-duo stepped forward, the world seemed to change. They stepped over what was a very real and clear change in the ground beneath them - from lush green to a line of dusty dry earth - and it felt as though they stepped through an invisible barrier. The trees were dead, burned to a crisp. Dust and cold lava covered everything. Immediately, they both felt their knees buckle - not because they'd been drained of all energy, but because it felt like they had. The air was thin and harder to breathe, they felt the dust drain their mouths of moisture. The sky was low-hanging mist of red and black, which it had not been before, and the ground was .... wrong. There were sounds, but they were not the right sounds - they were screeches of the wrong tone and the whistle of a bird sounded off-key.

"Tread carefully." Cassion said, and he led them, slowly, forwards. As he did, without warning, a fountain of purple flame burst out of the ground mere inches from where Kura stood, just ready to take to the skies. Roughly a foot across, there was a sudden enormous rush of it. It was freezing cold, they could feel it and it was gone as quickly as it came. Cassion raised an eyebrow. "That's new," he said. "Come on then, Arlo, lets go see Faldrass. Good trial, Alberach"


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Re: To the land where the Bong-tree grows.....

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"I believe so, yes," Arlo said when Kura wondered, had it been twice that they'd met. Which meant that he didn't necessarily know Kura well, nor she, him. Vega knew her much better, and that was enough for him. But familiarity or passing acquaintance, it mattered little to Arlo. He had plenty of trust in his Immortal father's judgment, even if Cassion moved in mysterious ways. What he did know was that Kura was of good character, and her martial skills were exceptional.

Nonetheless, if Cassion cared enough to show up, then boring or even ordinarily mundane simply wasn't in the cards. "Understand that I'm not quite as up to speed on events in and around Scalvoris as some others may be," he admitted. Though he felt up to the task, no denying. "As Kura is aware," he added for Cassion's sake, "I'm only recently back to the area after being away for some time." What he knew then about what had been going on for the past era or so, was from word of mouth and by observing the changed surroundings.

At any rate, off they went. The terrain rolling beneath their feet as they walked, wasn't exactly a new experience or sensation. But nonetheless, it wasn't the usual unless he was walking with Cassion, and so it remained as novel a feeling as ever. The expression on Cassion's face when he stopped and looked back to them, was unusual though. Concerned wasn't a state that Arlo had ever seen written all over Cassion's face. This was no lark, surely, and it went without saying.

"Yes, I remember it well," he said, recalling those previous breaks spent in the ice caverns. The abrupt change, the demarcation in the ground, the look and change of conditions though, that was new. And yes, concerning. "Geniuses and madmen?" Arlo echoed thoughtfully, with something of a rueful smile. "I've heard something about those. Though you know that they say about thin lines between. I imagine some of those souls have fallen into both sorts at once." Which, of course, and by Cassion's own admission, Scalvoris was one of the places the Immortal liked best.

Arlo was as prepared as he could be. Though like his own father, he considered himself to be adaptable in such a way that he could make adjustments as quickly, or almost as quickly anyway, as the unexpected shifts in circumstances or conditions could. The abrupt shift from a living terrain to an almost tortured seeming, dying one...or at least one in the middle of a painful flux, was unnerving enough. But then there was the physical sensation as well. That of his knees suddenly feeling as if they'd turned to jelly. They threatened to dip out from under him before he caught himself and readjusted to the sensation.

Meanwhile, he pulled a strip of cloth out from his sack and tied it loosely across his nose and mouth, to avoid inhaling too much dust along the way. Tread carefully, was right. Though no piece of cloth could stop the other surprises waiting in the store, lurking, waiting to jump up where least expected. As a column of ice cold flame leapt from the ground perilously close to Kura, Arlo reacted without a second thought. His hand shot out, ready to pull Kura out of the path of danger. Of course she was as capable as he was, presumably even more so in her own way. But instinct was instinct and he could no more change his nature than Cassion could.
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Re: To the land where the Bong-tree grows.....

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19th Ashan, 721
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The badlands spread out before them, the horizon dark . Cassion had not been exaggerating when he said that it would sap energy for, within moments, Arlo felt the leaden weight of his feet accompanied by an almost arthritic ache in his fingers. Cassion, too, seemed slowed almost. His face was grim, determined and more serious than Arlo had seen it. Yet, his expression also showed that he was intrigued by what he saw and he kept his gaze moving around, looking at the sights.

And there were sights to see.

They stood on what could have been mistaken for sand, so thick was the dust and debris. There were a few trees, scattered about and seemingly destroyed ~ stark monuments to the devastation which had been wrought here. As they walked they would notice that the ground beneath their feet was hot. Not the pleasant warmth of the Faldrass sand, but the kind of scorching heat which would burn should bare flesh touch them. Arlo had been wise to wrap a covering over his mouth; even so he felt the hot dust burn as he breathed in. The air was so dry that there was almost a feeling of there being nothing to breathe in as they moved slowly forward. The sky was filled with fire, it seemed and the whole place had a sort of electric charge about it.

"I have no idea what we will face here," Cassion said and he glanced at Arlo with a grin. "Keep your bearings, you'll want to make a map, I think" Looking around, the Dusteater gestured. "Look, over there," he pointed and there was something but it was hard to make out. "That looks like the way to go!" As they walked, Arlo would notice two things about his Immortal father ~ the loping strides which took him places much quicker had stopped and he walked the same pace that Arlo did. Also, he looked intrigued ~ fascinated by the sights around them. It was rare that Cassion found somewhere completely new to him, so he was obviously eager to get exploring.

Overhead, birds which looked like skullgulls circled.

As they travelled, they saw in the distance that what Cassion had spotted was, in fact, a large crack in the earth. Beyond that, there was a sort of twisted hill which seemed to be made of lava to the east, to the north of the canyon - far in the distance - there seemed to be some sort of structure. As they looked, there was a clicking sound, like a chittering rodent.

"Careful," Cassion said as he gave Arlo a sudden shove. It was not a gentle one and would have sent most people sprawling to the floor. Due to Arlo's skill and dexterity, it merely caused him to stumble forward and, as he did, a geyser of ice shards burst out of the ground where he had been standing. It was white-hot and radiated that heat so that it was uncomfortable. "The clicking sound, I think, gives a split trill warning," Cassion said.

He might have said more, but then the ground in front of them literally opened up, undulating and shifting in front of them.

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From it emerged a creature - the beast seemed to almost form from the sands and faded into being there in front of them, like it had always been there, somehow. It was a strange looking animal and unlike anything Arlo had ever seen before. It seemed to be busy eating the still-bloody remains of something (or someone) and then it lifted it's gecko-like head and looked at them.

It hissed.

The creature before them stood at about five foot at the shoulder and it was squatly built with ridges down it's back. Spines swept back from it's face and it's eyes did not so much glow red as seem to be on fire. When it hissed, ice chips flew out of its nose.

"We're suddenly surrounded," Cassion said, casually. "Six of them, no, seven. Shifting sands." And that was all he had time to say. In unison, like they were moving as one creature with one mind, they attacked. Charging forward, the creature in front of them closed the few feet distance quickly.

Spiked horns, sharp teeth, enormous strength and ice-chip breath?

Cassion let out a whoop of delight as the first battle began.
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Re: To the land where the Bong-tree grows.....

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Sorry to see you haven't posted....


Hi Hi!

Since this thread hasn't been posted to in a while, I'm unsubscribing from it. If you return, however, and want to pick it back up just drop me a pm. I'll be more than happy to either pick it up straight away, put it in my waiting list if I'm at capacity, or ask another mod. Either way, it'll be no problem but I might not notice if you just reply.

Thanks! Hope to see you posting here again!

All the best,

Peg

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