Thursday, November 25, 2004
Eternity's Wake: Trapped (5)

   Try not to look at him, Rende thought to himself. Don’t give him the satisfaction of knowing how annoying he is. Rende’s visitor was a Chobble who had wandered into the canyon after he killed his second wind demon and hadn’t made any motion or sound since. Not that this was a big surprise, considering that the traveler couldn’t talk; using gestures instead of sound. Out of all the travelers of the world, Chobbles had the strangest mannerism, which mostly came across as down right creepy.

   As ancient scholars of magic, their appearance had long since taken on a sort of magical form itself. Standing at most half the size of the average traveler, they had no facial features and hardly what most people would call a face. Two red slits for eyes and the rest of the face was blank, no lips, no nose, just an empty void of black.

   Dusk had already settled and Rende had no intention of staying in the canyon with a Chobble after dark. He had slain three wind demons so far, that was more than enough for one day.

   Performing a farewell gesture for his guest, the only Chobble gesture he knew besides hello, he left his canyon home. The little fiend made no returning gesture, barely even noticing his polite motion at all; just continuing to stare off into some other world. The traveler’s rudeness had really gotten to Rende and he continued on venting to himself. The unscrupulous little prick had invaded his privacy and then didn’t even have the courtesy to offer a simple farewell.

   When he tired of reasoning with himself, he stopped and looked around. Where should I go now? He questioned. In his quickness to leave the canyon the thought of a destination had not even crossed his mind. He had traveled many places in the world, and though there were still parts of the world he had not seen, the barren canyon was one of his favorites. Now that his home had been invaded by rude travelers, he was at a loss of where to go next.

   Just as he was beginning to list the places he could head to for the night in his head, he received a distress call. Distress calls were sent out when a traveler found himself grossly outmatched or automatically when his spirit pack was close to failure. The source of the distress signal was not to far from him, so for lack of any better idea he started towards it.

   Must be someone new to the region, he thought. Probably stumbled onto a wretch or some other night-spawn; one more reason to avoid traveling at night.

   Rende noticed right away that something wasn’t right. He had arrived at the location of the distress call, but there was nothing there. No monsters, no sign of trouble and no trace of the one who made the call. The tracks on the ground were talon shaped, Ozwolds for sure; but he had never seen so many move in one pack. The tracks were headed southeast, straight towards their home in the nearby cliff. What interested him more was where they had come from, and so he began to follow the tracks.

   After a few minutes another distress call came to him, this time in the exact direction he was headed. The coordinates were familiar to him, it was the location of the Mesta Cactus. The cactus gave bloom to a pink flower, though of not much monetary value, it was often sought by those interested in aesthetics. He started to run, the call was clearly coming from the source of these tracks and his curiosity was not going to let him pass this one up.

   When the canyon gave way to the small bowl, he was not let down; the scene was unlike anything he had ever seen before. A most unfortunate traveler had somehow been tied to the Mesta Cactus by his feet and was hanging upside down. Two Ozwolds had gathered around him and were apparently taking turns beating him with his own weapon. It was downright humiliating. Though he couldn’t tell how long the beasts had been harassing this poor boy, it looked like he was in pretty bad shape; so he took control of the situation quickly.

   Pausing only to strengthen his barrier with a spell, he rushed straight for the two gloating birds. He hit the first bird with a flash of yellow light, causing it to freeze in place. The other creature barely had enough time to turn before a blow across the face sent it hurdling backwards. The blitz worked as he had planned and the creature who could still move began to run away. Rende was able to land several critical blows before the remaining monster shook his spell and he finished it without any trouble at all. The battle renewed his spirit, and a new sense of excitement began to flow through him.

   Untying the young traveler, Rende laid him out carefully on the ground. He wore the garments of a hunter from Turro, but it was rare that a hunter would come so far into the wilderness by himself. The Ozwolds had injured more than the young hunter’s pride, the beasts had beaten his barrier to below critical and he was beginning to go into shock. When a traveler’s barrier went down in battle, it was a travelers senses which became his biggest enemy.

   Pain, hunger, exhaustion; all the sensations the spirit pack normally held back would overload the brain, causing a seizure like attack. The rushing sensation was not pleasant, especially for those who had been under a spirit pack’s protection for a long amount of time. Once a spirit barrier had gone past critical, fixing it was not as simple as casting a restoration spell. A more complicated spell that few people in the world had mastered was needed to restore a broken barrier; fortunately for this hunter Rende was one of the few who could cast it. Kneeling over his patient, he worked his craft; the spell was a long one to cast and when it was finished he was completely drained. The casting was successful, the hunter’s barrier had been restored; but he was still passed out from shock. He decided to wait for the hunter to wake up.

   I’m not letting this one get away without at least a little gratitude, he thought to himself. More than that, he wanted to hear from the boy just what had happened.

   The bowl shaped canyon was a lot more open than the canyon he usually hunted in, and this left many directions for creatures to wander up for an attack. He leaned against the cactus spire and waited patiently, still paying mind to any movement in the canyon around him.

   It only took a couple minutes for the hunter to begin to come back from shock. He mumbled what sounded like someone’s name, but Rende couldn’t make the word out completely. Then his eyes flew open, and the hunter looked around in a sort of panic.

   “It’s alright,” Rende replied, trying to calm him. “You’re safe; I answered your distress call. You were in bad shape when I found you, your fortunate I know how to restore a barrier.”

   “Where is she? Where did they take her?” He asked frantically, ignoring Rende completely. “You saw her didn’t you? A young girl with blonde hair?”

   “Woah, slow down.” Rende replied, a little annoyed with the hunter’s attitude. “That’s no way to treat someone who just saved your life.”

   “You don’t understand they’re up to something; I have to find her.” He said, scrambling to his feet. Rende couldn’t believe his eyes, he had just saved this hunter’s life and he was going to rush off without even a single thank you.

   “If you go out there now you’ll be killed.” Rende said, grabbing him by the arm. “I fixed your barrier, but I haven’t restored it yet. You can let it recharge on its own or I can restore it for you.”

   “Either way you’re going to have to sit and wait, so you might as well start from the beginning; and the name is Rende by the way” He continued, letting go of the headstrong hunter.

   “You’re right, I apologize if I was rude to you.” he said, finally taking a moment to catch his breath. “I’m Takaen, a hunter from Turro. I came out here as an escort for a friend of mine, a young girl named Starla.”

   “Hmmmm, that name sounds familiar; but go on.”

   “We were going to pick a flower from the Mesta cactus; but when we entered the valley we were ambushed.”

   “Ambushed?” Rende replied, his curiosity was beginning to pick up again.

   “Yes, a large group of Ozwolds attacked us; they tied me up and took Starla.”

   “You’re sure it was Ozwolds that did this?” Rende said, scratching his chin. He was finding it hard to believe that creatures with such a low intelligence would be able to pull something like that off. An Ozwold couldn’t even tie a knot last time he remembered, let alone execute a tactical strike as the hunter described.

   “Yes! And they’ve taken her; it was her they were after all along. They are up to something, and I have no idea what it is.”

   Rende finally made the connection in his mind, Starla was the name of the chief of Turro’s daughter. But what could the animals be hoping to accomplish by kidnapping her, were they planning to use her for Ransom or perhaps some act of war? It didn’t make any sense at all.

   “The tracks, they were headed in the direction of the Ozwold Cleft.” Rende pondered. “But it would be suicide to go up against the Ozwold if they are acting as strangely as you claim.”

   “It doesn’t matter,” Takaen said shaking his head. “I’ve got to go after her.”

   Rende knew it was coming, they both knew the odds and neither of them was that foolish. If he were to have any kind of chance at all, he would need help. This is the kind of foolish venture that will get you killed, Rende thought. It was even more bone headed then the kind of things he once did for the militia, but something about the idea of showing up those military pricks seemed appealing to him.

   “Alright, I’ll do it.” He answered.

   “Do what?”

   “I’ll help you get her back; you’re going to need all the help you can get.”

   “I couldn’t ask for your help, you’ve done plenty for me. Starla is my responsibility.”

   This kid is just too much, Rende thought. There is a fine line between modesty and complete idiocy.

   “Don’t be a fool,” Rende chuckled. “That place is going to be crawling with Ozwolds, and they’ll do worse to you then string you up by your toes, you can trust me on that.”

   That one drew a reaction, Rende thought gloating over the grimace that came over the hunter’s face.

   “Besides, I think I have a plan.”

* * *

   The entrance to the cleft sat like a gapping mouth in the cliff wall. From fortifications high in the cliff, two sentinels kept a close watch on the entrance below. There was a time when travelers could enter the cleft relatively easily and pillage the halls within. But the stubborn birds had fought back rather hard, and managed to take back their home in the cliffs, what’s worse is that they were now apparently well organized. Gone were the days of easy prey among the Ozwold, and if things continued like this the beasts might pose an even greater threat then the goblins.

   “Now.” Rende whispered to Takaen, and the two of them rushed towards the entrance. Thanks to some stealth spells Rende had cast on the two of them, the sentinels above neither saw nor heard them as they rushed into the caves beyond.

   “The spell won’t last forever,” Rende whispered to the air behind him. “So we’re going to have to act fast, hold onto my hand and follow my lead.”

   He couldn’t see Takaen’s response, but he pictured the young hunter nodding his head in agreement. Rende let his instincts guide him through the tunnel, taking the paths which seemed to be the most guarded. He had come here several times a long time ago, but the place seemed to have changed drastically sense then.

   Whenever they found themselves temporarily alone Rende would pause to recast the spells, they were deep in the cleft now; if they were discovered they would be done for. The stealth spells were useful for crossing dangerous territory safely, but never had he used it to infiltrate a place like this.

   The pathways and crude cut stairwells were leading them upwards. Heading to the top of the beasts’ home seemed like a good idea, so he kept following the corridors which headed in that general direction. After a while there were no guards at all, and they continued to climb completely undisturbed.

   At long last they reached what appeared to be the top and two rather large and mean looking Ozwolds were standing watch in front of a heavy wooden door.

   “It looks like this might be it,” Rende whispered behind him. “But we’re going to need a way to get past those guards.”

   “Leave that to me.” Takaen answered back. That would certainly solve the problem, Rende thought. But what’s going to happen to this boy if he’s caught? And what if this isn’t the right room?

   “Ok,” Rende replied. “But take this with you, it’s a warp stone. If you get in trouble don’t hesitate to use it, I won’t be able to help you here. Try to lose them if you can and meet make your way back here.”

   “Don’t worry about me, just find Starla.” Takaen said taking the stone.

   The guards gave out a screech of surprise when the young hunter appeared seemingly out of thin air and then quickly darted back down the stairs. The ruse worked and the two guards left the door in full pursuit.

   He skipped down the stairs quickly and was putting a good distance between him and his pursuers, but he couldn’t seem to shake them. He would turn randomly down tunnels, but he could still hear the Ozwolds close behind him. The beasts had the advantage of knowing where they were going, and it didn’t take long for Takaen to become completely lost.

   Swinging around a corner, he nearly knocked over two more guards. There was no choice now but to keep going and the guards joined the loud pursuit behind him. The crowd was steadily growing and it wouldn’t be long before the whole place would be after him. It would only be a matter of time before he took a wrong turn or the creatures managed to corner him. He had given Rende more than enough time now, I should use the stone to escape while I still can, he thought.

   He called forth the stone, but something within him caused him to hesitate. I can’t leave without even knowing if he found her, he thought. The hesitation was long enough, and an Ozwold mage hit Takaen with a spell, causing him to lose his balance. The warp stone left his hand and fell somewhere on the dimly lit floor beneath him.

   There was no way he could find it now, his only hope for survival was lost. Scrambling back to his feet he took off running once again. His only hope now was to make a blind run for the entrance, but the chances of making it were slim. Please let him find her, Takaen prayed, before sending out the distress signal. There was really no point, nobody would answer it. The Ozwolds would have him this time for sure.

* * *

   “Good job Takaen,” Rende whispered after the sound of the Ozwalds’ pursuit faded in the distance. He carefully approached the door, but as he was about to open it he heard voices on the other side.

   “My Lady, he has entered the cleft.” A harsh and gargled voice declared.

   “Good, see that he makes his way here.” Replied a loud, feminine voice.

   “Yes my lady.” The harsh voice replied, and Rende heard the sound of movement followed by the sound of a heavy door swinging shut. A third voice started to speak, but it was quieter then the others and Rende had to lean his ear to the door to make it out.

   “…be sorry.” The soft voice cried, it was a young girl’s voice; most likely Starla.

   “You should have never left the safety of the city; the wild is just too much for the likes of you.” The loud voice chuckled.

   “He’ll save me, and then we’ll see who laughs.” The soft voice pouted.

   “Yes, we’re all waiting for his arrival….” The voice paused briefly. “Speaking of which we should bring our guest in, it is after all rather rude to eavesdrop.”

   Before Rende could move, something pushed him from behind and he crashed through the door and into the room beyond.

A transformation, a message and an untimely demise.
Next Whispering: A Pleasant Surprise


Posted at 01:44 am by The Listener
1 leaves have fallen  


~Another story,
          another conversation
                    with a babbling brook~







Monday, November 22, 2004
Eternity's Wake: Distress (4)

   The bridge stretched onwards into the distance and on the horizon the spiraling city of Jotun could be seen.  It was a truly magnificent sight, the last great haven in the northern region and the only city to have survived the savage wars of the past. Standing upon its island home, it was a pillar of strength for all the races of the world.

   “All roads lead to Jotun” a common phrase among travelers; with good reason.  The island city sat at a connection point between two major continents and was the central hub for most of the travel through the world.

   The Entarian traveler did not stop to gaze upon the majestic city in the distance, but concentrated on moving quickly across the road in front of him.  Since no beasts of travel were allowed on the bridges into the city, this meant that all land travelers had to walk the long bridge by foot.  The Entarians’ weaponry and marksmanship were surpassed only by their pride, resulting in the common quip: A humble Entarian is a dead Entarian.

   The long legs of the traveler allowed him to cover ground quickly, even at a pace of a light jog.  Most travelers enjoyed the long walk across the sea, one of the few stretches of land where one could stroll without the threat of being attacked by the creatures of the wild.  This traveler however had no time for the small pleasantries, he had appointments to keep.  He would soon be arriving in the city on an airship, and in order to keep the records clean he needed to be in the city before his arrival.

   Outside the city gate a long line of travelers eager to set foot in the city stretched across the bridge.  This was the city portal, a monitored entrance to the city.  Inter-territorial treaties stated that all travelers must surrender their weapons and spirit packs upon entrance to any of the cities within the world council.  It was considered a matter of public safety, and also allowed the cities to keep track of a traveler’s comings and goings.

   The Enatarian made no motion of waiting in the back of the line; instead he continued walking towards the massive city wall.  Scouring the smooth surface of stone, he skirted the wall until he passed a symbol carved careful into the stone.  It was the emblem of the city, a dove carrying a vine which split of in many directions; symbolic of the spreading of peace across the world.  He produced a small black pearl which flashed a dark blue when it was held in front of the symbol.  After a short pause the symbol flashed in return and the whole walkway began to shake as a crack in the wall began to open.

   He quickly ducked inside and the wall closed loudly behind him.  The other side of the wall was blanketed in completely darkness, except for a door illuminated by a small flower in the distance.  His footsteps echoed into the darkness around him, and there was no way to measure how large the room really was.  In his mind he saw the darkness stretching out forever on either side; Staring into the darkness his mind started to form shapes and movement all around him.

   A feeling was growing inside him, that reeling feeling of terror which cried for him to flee.  He fixed his resolve upon the door and quickened his pace; trying to block out the feeling of terror welling up inside him.  When he finally reached the door he threw it open before him, nearly falling into the city beyond.  The wooden heavy door closed behind him and the terror began to slowly subside.  He waited until his hands stopped shaking and his breathing returned to normal to press on into the city before him.

   When he closed the gate behind him, he found himself on the crowded streets at the bottom of the city.  The entrance to the city, or the port as it was called, was actually just a wider continuation of the bridge leading up to the city hill.  The city itself had been built directly onto the hill.  Terraces separated the city into separate districts, in the form of semi-circular rings hung directly on the hill.  Little trace of the original island remained beneath the tower of rock and stone, creating what appeared as a colossal man-made tower.

   The city port was an entry point for travelers over land, sea and air.  At the bottom of the city housing was provided for all passing militia members in accordance with the treaties signed by the Inter-Territorial Council, which made its home on the summit of the city.  Crowds poured through the street lined with small bazaars and cheap entertainment.  Several minstrels were being cheered on by a decent crowd and the Entarian was forced to push his way through.  Everywhere around him people were moving this way and that, a chaotic see of faces and bodies.  Fortunately he was not the only one trying to reach the city proper beyond, and a flow of travelers created a small trickle through the chaotic masses lining the streets.  As he neared the looming city the crowds began to disappear and the traveler found himself able to walk freely again.  The city ports attracted all kinds of filth into the city and he was glad that he wouldn’t be staying within the rundown provisional militia shelters.

   The stairs wound around the inside of the city tower and it was a long climb to reach the top of the city.  The terraces of the city were spaced out in such a way that one terrace did not overlap another, each one hanging on a separate side of the city spire.  The city markets ran from the southwest to the northwest ends of the spire and opened up with a beautiful view of the western continent.  Lined with indoor shops of every kind on one side and the scenic view of the lands below on the other, the market district attracted a different sort of crowd than the port below.  The streets were mostly lined with traveling merchants and men of business.  Lodging in this part of the city was more expensive than the ports below, but the difference was worth the price as the markets held some of the world’s best taverns and inns.

   Though the city did have a fair deal of permanent residents, most of the city was made up of the travelers who came and went.  The city, especially in the markets and port areas, was in a constant state of flux; stores came and went, prices rose and fell and the people were never the same.  A visitor might leave for a week and come back to a completely different city upon his return.  This is just the way things were in the city, it was a place where dreams could be made and lost; but the city itself would keep in spite.  The city could be cold and harsh, or it could be your best friend; it all just depended on how you got to know it.

   Walking down a short flight of stairs the Entarian found himself in front of a shop with a sign displaying “Gobbie’s Bag.”  When he threw open the door to the shop, two of the goblins in the store recognized him immediately.

   “He’s here! He’s here!” They squealed as they fled to the back of the store.  The goblin at the front counter remained visibly calmed and greeted the Entarian.

   “Vibracent! It is an honor to be in your presence once again.”  The goblin said with a hint of fear in his voice.  Vibracent did not reply, instead he pulled out the chestnut club he had been concealing since his entrance into the city.  He swung at the glass case in front of him, and the goblin ducked covered his head as a shower of glass and gems washed over him.  He was pulled up from the ground by the Entarian, who was about twice his height and found himself pinned by the throat against the back wall.

   “What did I do? What did I do?” The goblin gasped between struggling breaths.

   “Cut the crap, you know very well what you little beasts have been doing,” Vibracent said sternly staring down his opponent.  Meanwhile the goblin was eyeing the club which was now raised menacingly over him.

   Its eyes were wide with fear and its breath rasped through its leather mask.  Goblins had been cursed with a heightened sense of smell, which made them very good at tracking things over long distances. But at times, especially in a large city such as Jotun, the smells would be too strong for their sensitive nostrils.  As a result many of the goblins wore a form of mask over their face which could be used to dull or completely filter out smells.

   Even with the mask covering its face, the little bugger was still revolting.  Goblins came in all shapes and sizes, but only one appearance: ugly.  Their truly nomadic nature meant that goblins could be found in just about every corner of the world.  Though half the size of most travelers, the beasts had incredible strength and endurance and oftentimes carried twice their weight on their backs.

   Along with small animals which they hunted for food and goods, goblins would take advantage of any weaker travelers they came across.  This made them a real danger when traveling and their stubborn nature and excellent tracking ability meant that a goblin could tail a traveler for incredible distances. 

   Though the beasts would occasionally gather in groups, their original origin was still unknown.  No evidence of a goblin city had ever been discovered, but despite this their numbers continued to thrive.  The true livelihood of the wandering goblin was in trade, they would trade amongst themselves, amongst the other creatures of the wild and occasionally even in cities; but only under certain back-door treaties.  People despised the creatures, but they had access to certain things that were hard to get a hold of through regular means.

   “Goblins have been seen crossing into the grasslands of Turro.” Vibracent barked, releasing his grip slightly but still holding the menacing club.  “Your people are in violation of the treaties you signed.”

    “No! No!” The shopkeeper squealed hysterically, “They are others; they aren’t from this store or our guild.  You have the wrong ones.”

    “You and I both know the truth, the whole reason for my visit.”  Vibracent released his grip, and the shopkeeper crumpled to the ground.  He tossed a small medallion at the goblins feet.  The goblin picked it up and looked it over carefully.  It was an insignia, a marker worn by the goblins to indicate their guild.  For the goblins trading was life, and oftentimes guilds were formed between them, trading pacts which meant that they would not compete against each other.  Carved into the medallion was the form of a bag, surrounded by four jewels; it was the same as the symbol which was engraved upon the entrance to the store.

   “We also found this on one of your errand boys we killed.” Vibracent continued, emptying a bag of sparkling stones into his hand.  “They are the same as you sell in this store, right?.”

   The goblin did not reply, but remained in a heap upon the floor; covering his head protectively when the stones were thrown at him.

   “This has been an unofficial visit, but if this problem continues or you decide to report this incident; we will be forced to make this official.  Understood?”

   The goblin nodded his head slowly in agreement.  Vibracent left in the same manner in which he came in, and closed the door loudly behind him.

   The creatures were hard to deal with, and seemed to respond best to violence and threats.  A certain level had to be kept over the goblins, or else they might forget their place.  Outside the walls there was a private war being raged between travelers and goblins, having them operate in a city was a liability.

   The confrontation had left him in a much better mood and he decided to pause for a break before he met his arrival back in the port.  His visit to the city would officially begin once he landed, and he wanted to enjoy the last minutes of his unofficial visit.  He had been traveling for quite a while, and although he was still under the safe guard of his spirit pack, he felt he had earned a brief pause.

   Collapsing in a chair set around one of the tables lining the far side of the markets, he stared out over the continent below.  The sun was beginning to set over the mountains to the west, beneath which lay the familiar forests of his home.  It had been a long time since he’d been back to his city, but he felt no particular longing to see it again.  It would only be a matter of time before he would be through dealing with goblins and renegades, soon he would advance into the positions of true prestige, and he had already proved himself to the city chief.  It would only be a matter of receiving the Retainer’s blessing and then he would have true power and a place at the top.  To Vibracent, the beauty was not in the orange light that was being cast across the land below, but the thoughts of what his future might hold.

* * *

   The summit of the city contained the garden, the peak of the city's beauty and nobility.  Amidst the marble walkways and extravagant patterns lay the embassies of all the different regions.  The large building in the center of the city top was the council building, here representatives of the world met together to discuss matters of inter-territorial importance.  Banners from all the different regions hung in the trees and across buildings, creating a wash of color and a display of regional pride.  This district of the city was home only to the extremely wealthy and influential, region champions, and government diplomats.  To have a place at the top of Jotun was considered to have achieved a place at the top of society and was a position coveted by many.

   Behind the council building stretched the most beautiful gardens in the world.  Those who had reached the top could explore the garden unrestricted and unguided; everyone else could see them through a guided tour.  The real beauty of the garden came out at night however; beneath the black star-filled sky, the garden would come to life.  The luminary flowers, which had been basking their beauty in the sun during the day, now released a warm glowing light during the night.  The walkways were lined by Telula vines, which had been pruned in such a way as to provide lights at regular intervals along the edges of the path.  The pond at the center of the garden was aglow with submerged luminary flowers of different colors.  The light from the flowers bled into the serene waters and created a mosaic of reds, greens and yellows.  Along the edge of the water, a lone Tierra sat dipping her legs in the cool colored water.

   Staring into the waters she appeared to be deeply lost in thought and her tail flicked back and forth methodically.  Tierras originated from a long inaccessible jungle island.  When explorers first emerged from the underground passage, they thought they had found paradise.  They were greeted in the jungle by a society of female Tierras who had made their home in the jungle, unaware of the outside world.  The Tierras were fascinated by the travelers and their enchanted items from other lands.  Some of the Tierra were so enchanted that they followed the travelers back through the tunnel and left their jungle home forever.  It had been along time since Destaire had made her journey through the tunnel, leaving her home behind and she often found herself dreaming of the jungle.  The plants and vines of the garden reminded her of her plush jungle home and amidst the flowers and vines she felt her home calling to her..

   Her head suddenly perked up and her tiny nose sniffed at the night air.  When she felt the hand upon her shoulder, she began to purr softly.

   "You were thinking about your home again, weren't you?" Lancaster spoke, sitting down next to her.  He wrapped his arm around her small body and she rested her head on his bulky arm.

   "I can take you back there if you wish," Lancaster continued. "I know you dream of your home, even now."

   The world on the other side was incredible and Destaire had seen many beautiful things since then, but the more she explored the world, the more she dreamed of her home.  It wasn't as simple as returning to the jungle though, she had abandoned her people and she knew she could never go back.  Her true place, ever since the day she saw him, was at his side; no matter where that may take her.

   "I just want to be here with you." Destaire replied, rubbing her face up and down his muscled arm.  Lancaster was a champion to the people; his discovery of the jungle was only one of his many exploits.  Through his acts of bravery and heroism, he had earned a place at the top of Jotun and the respect of the people worldwide.  Being a hero had its price however, and the garden was one of the few places that the two of them could be alone.

   He had honored her request to follow him through the tunnel when he first met her in the jungle.  At the time, he was too blinded by his discovery to see how she looked at him.  Once they had reached the other side of the tunnel, it was too late.  He was responsible for her now.  He cherished her company and even believed that he loved her; but he led a different life then most.  The dark and dangerous places of the world were no place for love to flourish, and he did not want any harm to befall her as a result.

   In the end, he had convinced himself that he owed it to the people.  Their belief in him ran too deep for him to turn away from them; his very existence inspired in them a sense of hope.

   “Vibracent just arrived in the city.” Lancaster continued, breaking the short silence.  “He brought from the chief of Turro.”

   At the mention of the Entarian’s name, Destaire felt a felt disgusted.  She had nothing against him, the tall Entarian with his bearded chin and long ears had never done anything to her.  But whenever he arrived it seemed that he brought a new mission for Lancaster.  It was a name that always meant she would be separated from him again.

   She had heard the speech many times before, it always a crisis or some desperate situation and the wanted her Lancaster to go straight into the middle of it.  And he would always obey, it never failed; when the call came he would answer.  But why did the call always have to come to him?  There had to be others who could do the same.  She knewthat he did it because he believed he was needed.  But I need you too, Destaire thought.

   “The chief’s daughter ventured into the wilderness and has been attacked.  They received the distress call a while ago, but they have not been able to find her.”  He said, trying to get her to understand the importance of his call.

   "I'm coming with you." She quickly replied. Her fire colored eyes had a fierce determination behind them.  She was completely serious; he knew her well enough to see that much.  He had quickly learned that she would follow him to the end of the world if he asked her to or not.  It’s not that she was lacking in strength, Tierras were fierce warriors and possessed a good deal of magical prowess, it was the thought that she might be harmed because of him.  The life of a warrior was no life for something as precious as her; he could not bare to make her a part of it..

   "No," he replied firmly.  "Stay here for me, I should only be gone a couple of days."

   "Let me come with you," She argued. “I could help you fight, I’ve been training outside the city, just let me help you…”

   “You’re staying here” He replied with a growing hint of annoyance.  Destaire wanted to push it further and plead her case but she knew better.  They had argued about it many times and he had never changed his mind.

   “What if you don’t come back?” Destaire pouted, casting her head to the ground.  She knew it was something he didn’t like to think about, but the possibility was very real.  If only he knew the anguish of waiting for him to return, never knowing, she thought. The agony of waiting was worse then anything she could encounter outside.

   Lancaster placed his big calloused hands across her smooth cheeks and lifted her gaze back to his.

   “Knowing that you’re here for me will give me something to return to.”  He said softly.  Destaire emotions were mixed up, she felt angry at him for not letting her join him, but at the same time she felt pity for him.  Beneath his cold blue eyes there was a longing, everyone saw him as brave, heroic and cool; but she knew a different side of him then most.  Like everyone else he was searching for something to live for, but what pained her most was that she knew it wasn’t her. 

   Destaire wrapped her arms around him and held on tightly.  They shared each other’s embrace long into the night; neither of them said another word.  When he got up to leave, she stayed behind.  She waited for his smell to disappear from the night air to before she started to cry.

A search party, a dark castle and a strange meeting
Next Whispering: Trapped


Posted at 06:01 pm by The Listener
1 leaves have fallen  


~Another story,
          another conversation
                    with a babbling brook~







Sunday, November 07, 2004
Eternity's Wake: Taken (3)

   Takaen frolicked gracefully across the barren plateau.  Dodging rocks and leaping over sage brush, he felt the rush flow all the way from his head to his feet.  The sense of Euphoria rejuvenated him and he pushed forward, not wanting it to end.  A leap and a spring from his hands sent him soaring over a large rock and he was already falling before he realized the ground had disappeared.  The rock he sprung over was actually the end of the plateau.  Hitting the steep rocky cliff, he began to roll down on a wave of sand and rock.  With a panic he saw that the cliff face did not end in another plateau, but lead straight into the gaping black mouth of a fissure.  His rolling body was launched into the air once again; landing on his back he began his final slide into the growing black grin.  Out of the corner of his eye, he caught a glimpse of his last hope: a large rock had fallen and bridged the space between the cliff and the other plateau.  Digging his feet and hands into the sand he pushed off in its direcion.  He hit the bridge with an excruciating slap, but his wild slide had been successfully stopped.  Despite this, the world still spun in naucious cirlces and all around him the sand and rock he had put into motion rushed down the cliff into darkness.  Slowly the world began to stop spinning, the sand stopped moving and silence returned to the barren plateau.

   "Takaen, Takaen are you alright?" Called a voice called from above.  Before he could call out a warning, the dirt and rock of the cliff began to slide once again.

   "Starla!" Takaen shouted. "Over here, head towards the bridge!"

   Starla's eyes were wide with fear at the sight of the oncoming gap and she threw her arms about wildly as she fell.

   "Starla!" Takaen cried;  she wasn't going to make it. He leaned over the black grinning fissure and held his hands out to break Starla's fall.  She was still going to be out of reach.  Thinking quickly, he grabbed his wooden staff with both hands and reached across her path.  Starla grabbed the end of it as she plummeted and Takaen was pulled in along with her.  He quickly caught his feet on the bridge and his body hit the side of the rock hard, but he had managed to hold on and onto the edge of the staff hung a dusty, wide-eyed Starla.  When the rock and sand beneath her settled, she dug her feet into the slope and carefully joined Takaen on the rock bridge above.  Sprawled upon the bridge they both panted while their hearts raced from the adrenaline still pumping through their bodies.   A few minutes passed by and neither of them spoke.

   When Starla caught her breath once more, she reached around and socked Takaen hard in the stomach.

   "What were you doing running off like that and leaving me behind! You could have gotten me killed!" She fumed. "You're supposed to be out here protecting me! What if I had been attacked by a grizwold?"

   Takaen didn't look at her; he didn't want to have to face the burning anger etched across her face.

   "I'm sorry. It won't happen again." Takaen replied blankly, though his face was heavy with guilt.  His youthful and somewhat feminine appearance gave him the look of a child, yet somehow he maintained the honor of an adult.  Starla had wondered before if he was frustrated with people not taking him seriously, but he had never mentioned anything about it.

   "I," Takaen continued. "For a moment back there I felt free."

   Starla nodded her head in understanding.  It was a common longing among all travelers, the residual effects of their sole protection.  Though the world may stretch out for miles in all directions, while the device was worn the world always felt like a cage.  For people with a free spirit, it was torture.

   "You sure are something else," She said mashing here hand in Takaen's hair.  He breathed a sigh of relief and betrayed a wide grin.  Starla's soft smooth face and her golden hair made even the barren land seem alive.

   "You should have seen your face." He smirked.

   "That's not funny!" She complained and smacked him firmly on the back of his head, he winced out of habit.  Before long they were both laughing and talking freely.  The recent events faded away and they began to joke and talk as friends.

*  *  *

   The warm blood left a red trail as it ran down Miranda's pale finger.  She played with it as it ran, changing it's direction by moving her hand as it fell.  The fire flickered and flashed on the cave walls and the heat felt good upon her face.  From the shadows of the cave a creature materialized and bowed solemnly before her.

   "My lady," The creature pronounced gutturally through its beak mouth.  "You are still vulnerable, you need to rest or you won't have enough strength for..."

   With a raise of her hand, Miranda brought the creature to silence.  Even before she looked upon the creature, she knew what she would see; they all looked the same to her.  The creature was bird-like in composure, its body covered in dusty feathers and a beak for a mouth.  Though it had wings upon its back, it also had feather covered arms which ended in a hand consisting of three crooked fingers and a thumb.  These were the creatures which called the dry wasteland home, the travelers called them the Ozwold; which is the name of their legendary hero.  Despite their rudimentary intelligence and clumsy fingers, they had managed to carve a crude home into the side of the dry mountains.  They had always been at war for survival with the travelers who crossed into their lands and hunted them for materials and treasures.  Thus far their abilities had been barely adequate to fend them off, but that was all about to change.

   "Young ozwold!" Miranda commanded. "Do not concern yourself with my well being, just be sure your people are successful in bringing the girl to me."

   "Yes, my lady." The creature replied casting its gaze to the ground and trembling slightly. "The girl has crossed into the mountains, she is headed towards pass as you have foreseen.  But she is accompanied by a man, a hunter."

   "He should be no trouble for you." She replied.  "Do with him as you please, but be sure the girl is brought to me."

   "Yes my lady." The ozwold replied, bringing his gaze back up to Miranda, but the lady's wicked grin quickly turned to an expression of pain.

   "Get out!" She yelled and the ozwold scurried quickly back into the shadows.  Falling to the ground, she lashed about on the floor. but her groans were not in pain, but in pleasure.  The feeling was unlike anything she had ever felt, and she found it exhilarating.  It had been getting worse; she knew it would only be a matter of time now.  When the feeling subsided, strands of black shimmering hair which had once been on her head were left in her hands.  She picked herself off the floor and threw the hair into the fire; a pungent odor began to fill the cavern.  She returned to her seat and breathed deeply; she found the smell somewhat relaxing.  Picking up a needle, she pricked her finger and began toying with a new trail of blood, twisting it about her finger as it fell.

*  *  *

   The warren was furious and dove towards its attacker with a shriek.  Its sharp beak opened wide and it readied its talons to tear flesh.  Takaen stood his ground with his staff unsheathed.  The bird bore down hard on him and the force of the blow caused him to grimace slightly.  Though the sharp talons ripped across his kneck, no visible injury was left on the young hunter; instead, a wall of flames shot up and engulfed the now confused prey.

   "Now!" Takaen shouted.  From behind a nearby rock Starla popped up glowing.  White light shot from her finger tips and struck the bird, causing it to veer of course slightly.  The bird shrieked and circled about for another attack, this time however Takaen was prepared for it.  As it dove in for its second attack, he readied his next attack and hit the bird with a shower of rocks, causing it to miss completely.  Starla created a flash of light in front of the bird blinding it temporarily and Takaen rushed forward, striking the bird across the neck with the end of his staff.  The bird quickly regained its sight and flew up behind Takaen, trying to tear into his back.  The creature furiously worked its talons up and down him, trying to cause some form of damage to him.  But with each strike the creature landed, flames struck back in a counter attack.  Despite this it continued its ferocious attack and Takaen fought desperately to dislodge it.  Starla saw what was happening and left her hiding place to come to her companion¡¯s aid.  Drawing a metal rod forged in the shape of a runic symbol, she swung at the bird in an attempt to dislodge it.  Another flash of light blinded it again and Takaen managed to shake his assailant.  He quickly called forth a gust of wind which pushed the bird hard into a nearby rock.  It fell flat to the ground and lay still.  The two companions carefully moved towards the creature, weapons still drawn.  When Takaen got near the motionless creature there was a snapping sound and the device about his waist began to glow.  The body of the creature faded and left behind an egg and a handful of feathers.  Another snapping noise, like that of a lock being put back in place, and the glow faded again.

   "Here," Takaen said, offering the spoils to Starla.

   "You keep them," Starla replied, "They're of more use to you anyways."

   The device clicked again and the items Takaen had been holding vanished from his hands.

   "The canyon should be close," He said as he began to walk.

   "Wait!" Starla blurted, gazing at him with wide eyes.  She wore a look of concern on her face, and she seemed to be searching for words.

   "You," She started, but then she seemed to change her mind

   "I mean we should rest before going further.  Your shield is low and I need to charge my magic." She said softly.

   "Oh," Takaen replied, still staring at the dark blue of her eyes. "That's a good idea."

   Side by side Starla and Takaen began their meditation.  The spirit packs could be made to recharge their barriers and magical energies on their own, but the packs recharged fastest when the wearer meditated.  It was the first thing all travelers were taught before they ventured out into the wild, how to clear the mind and focus energy back into the tiny companion.  Those who were really skilled could even meditate in the middle of a battle, a necessary tactic for skilled mages.

   After a few minutes of recovery, they set out towards the canyon.  The sun had fallen behind the mountain now and the dusk sky was quickly growing dim.

   "I think we can get there before it gets dark," Takaen told Starla. "if we hurry."

   They quickened their pace, heading straight for the narrow mouth of a canyon.  They poured through the narrow canyon until it opened up into a fairly large bowl.  In the center of the bowl a clump of cactus grew as one creating a large spire.  On top of the prickly tower a pink flower could be seen.

   "There it is!" Starla said excitedly, pointing at the flower. "It'll make the perfect present."

   "Let's get rid of them first." Takaen said, pointing at several large wasps which hovered near the cactus.

   Takaen and Starla took down the bees one by one without too much trouble.  With Takaen launching magical attacks and Starla casting support magic to keep him safe; the bowl was quickly cleared.

   "I'll get it," He cried out triumphantly as he began to climb to the top of the cactus.  It was an easy climb, the stumps of the cactus almost forming a spiraling staircase all the way to the top.  He bent down and carefully picked the pink flower, but when he turned to show Starla the world suddenly when black.

   "Let me go! Takaen!" Starla screamed, but her screaming was suddenly muffled.  Takaen felt for the way down, but his feet touched only air and he fell from the cactus top.  When he picked himself up his vision had already returned, and he saw the approaching ozwolds.  Two of them held a gagged Starla, while a third worked at binding her hands and feet with a rope.  She struggled to break free, but the gnarled fingers held her tightly.  Takaen acted quickly and sent a wave of fire towards one of the beasts, but another ozwold stepped in front of the flame and blocked it.  There were too many of them.  He had never seen this many ozwolds gather in one place, except for their home in the cliffs; even then they had never moved with such precision.

   "Let her go!" He cried desperately, launching magic attacks at the creatures.  Two ozwolds grabbed him from behind and he felt his hands being tied.  What were they doing?  He had never seen them act like this; they had always merely attacked travelers.

   "Starla!" Takaen cried before a gag was placed into his mouth.  He saw the birds start to drag Starla out of the canyon before his head was beaten to the ground.  The world was turned upside down and the flower fell from his open hand; the talons of an ozwold crushed the fallen petals into the dirt.

A champion, a secret crush and a missing child
Next Whispering: Distress


Posted at 10:10 pm by The Listener
3 leaves have fallen  


~Another story,
          another conversation
                    with a babbling brook~







Next Page


Looking into the pool of dreams, I see a face staring back at me. This is a place where dreams merge with reality. It is a place of struggle and defeat, but also a place of celebration and triumph. It is a place where dreams come to life and the nature of the human soul is explored. Though reality is distorted by the waves of the pond, the reflection of the face remains, watching, waiting....


   

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