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  • His head breaks the water. Gasping in a lungful of salty air, he turns a slow circle in search of the raft. He slowly swims toward the low square of buoyant wood, boards it, then pulls out a bloodstained map. The lone figure heads toward the rocky coast.

    A Mage's Journal

    The inn lies quiet. The single squat candle sits on a small nightstand. Beside it is seated tall man, hunched over a dusty-blue colored tome. He pauses for a moment, considering something, then looks off into the distance, remembering another time, a time where-

    He slams the book closed. The sound makes him angry, even a small town should not be this silent. He gathers his things and exits the inn, tossing a few small coins at the wizened innkeeper. He recites the incantation, and his only companion joins him, an overly bright Fire Elemental.
    He pulls the tome out again, sits down on the bank steps, and begins to write.

    Had the dream again. The face, a face high above those fetid waves, staring down upon me. Silence. Drifting. Clouds of sediment pluming as I touched cracked flagstones. The darkness.

    People. Said they found me, in the harbor. Taught me the value of a decent robe. Taught me my art, my job, everything. Got curious. Wanted to see the others. Traveled far into the West. Saw a new town, no new people. Kept going. Saw some people. Large ones. One started walking toward me, closely followed by a weird orb, the likes of I'd never seen.
    Quick. Quick I went mist glaze friend could not save no one no one no-
    Again. I had to. My hopes and dreams lay scattered upon the rocky feet of that monstrosity.
    Grey, grey again again again
    In that curious state, I noticed a simple outline in the sheer chaos. Something rectangular, sticking out from underneath my latest failure.
    One las-
    I yanked my robe from the gore, grabbed handfuls of magical herbs, then ran at the shape, deeper into the valley. Three now. No orbs in sight. I could make it.
    Cringing as the ground shook from all sides, I snatched the book, and ran through the closing gap. Panting, I reversed my direction and sprinted straight through the city's gates.
    Fourteen. Fourteen lives were what that book cost. The sole occupant of the town cannot believe my stupidity for such a plain blue book. He quickly gathers the necessary gear, and leaves my presence. I open the cover, once again alone.

    A faded map greets my eyes, scarlet drops of recently spilled life-blood littering the corners. Routes marked in brown, borders of towns marked in black. I had heard of my town's name, Lerilin, but I have only ghosts of memories for other such labeled areas. Turning past this, a front page reveals itself. A strange symbol, that seems to glow. Fractal patterns of ice blue and fire orange tumble into each other. A deep black background. I turned the page. A single phrase, written in a strange ink. Mora des. Several crossed out lines. All the other pages are empty. A strange book, and nothing in it. So much loss, and for just a curiosity.

    The mage stows his book, and heads across the sea to a place he once knew.
     


  • Of Eyes and Sharp Stones

    Yawning, he pushes himself backwards, standing up, using the pillar as a brace. He pulls out the blue book, the salt-caked cover cracked, edges worn. Pulls out the map. Much the same, but more complete, simple black angles marking in more recent updates. The first of his quests had gone well, aside from a bad dream. He greets one of the townspeople, then leaves the dust-ridden walls of Lerilin. He has a plan, this time, and the few straggling ants freeze in the face of his magic. Ambition, once again, drives him from the only safety he’s ever known. Back to a place he once knew.
    The coastline is a welcome sight for his salt-laden eyes. Many powerful creatures lie in the sea, but the true threat waits for him when he arrives. He thinks he can make the journey into town, but history says otherwise. A few Gapers and a few silly birds greet him upon landfall, but none of those Stone monstrosities. He goes to the inn, laughs at the lack of an innkeeper, talks to the potion seller instead. The temple is to the east, straight through the heart of which he fears most. His puny spells cannot help him. He’d rather chance it wit-
    His thoughts are interrupted by the sound of a creaking door. The shopkeeper all but disappears under his counter. A single Gaper enters the shop, and immediately bolts the shrugging mage. Trying one of his own, he scoffs at the measly mark it makes on the bulbous form. He reaches for his pouch of GHPs, knowing this is going to be a long fight.
    Running short on magical power, he resorts to the brutal “art” that is beating things with one’s fists. The gaper rolls its large, glinting eye at him in annoyance, then teleports him to the other side of the counter. Sure, I needed more alone time, he thinks to himself sarcastically as he blatantly steals more of the potions, and waits for a lucky teleport.
    The Northern temple, the shopkeeper said, before he hid beneath the counter. Sprinting out of the shop, he remarked, “Gaper for sale.”
    He began the journey up the coastline, Harpies latently marking his path. History would not repeat that day.
     

  • Tests and Research
    Day 198 of the Fighting Moon

    The mage had gone with the strange book to the temple cleric. The cleric admitted that he specialized in the casting of spells, and did not know their history well. Even so, he could tell it was not a spell of common magic, and that it should not be cast without several clerics at the ready.

    However, the mage could not wait. Thus, he had contacted a Mercenary- a man whose only motivation was gold. "So it’s settled then. The other half afterwards,” said the mercenary, nervously licking his lips. They met in a secluded part of the southern forest of Lerilin. The night before, the mage had left the letter and payment at the usual spot. A large sum for a simple wizard to cast a spell.

    He handed the tome to the Mercenary, and teleported behind a tree, watching for his own safety and the safety of the tome. Time seemed to stretch.

    The Mercenary inhaled, and began: “Mora…”
    The man fell to his knees, not a bird chirping. “Des.”
    Two guards heard the long, agonized scream, although the test was taking place almost halfway to Mirth.

    The mage’s vision of the world had briefly shifted to grey, but not quite- somewhere in between- and he watched in fascinated horror as the man’s blackening spirit was torn apart, each piece flung away in a different direction. One of the ethereal fragments sat motionless on the tome, then sunk into it.

    He heard screaming, as if from a large distance. The world suddenly snapped back into its usual shade, the last of the mage’s scream echoing through the trees.


    The following is a letter addressed to Tamyr the innkeeper:

    This man was found near the town’s gates. Clearly had been into too much ale. Much out of his wits. As I’m... still dealing with my own issue, I figured I might pay one night's fee for him. Only belongings he has are the singed robe he wears, a few bottles of ale, and a strange book. Best to leave him be til he recovers. Could take all day.
    Regards, DG

    Stirring from a terrifying nightmare, still half asleep, the mage whispers: “…Bicolor Tome…”
     

  • A Dance of Ice and Fire
    Earlier that day.

    "Des."
    A pulse of magic lanced through the forest, the likes of which had not been seen since She had stepped out of the cave and created the world from nothingness.

    They were not used to this form. It had been many years since They had even been aware of Themselves.
    Before the two magics had been split, They had been whole. Creation and Destruction. Life and Death. Ice and Fire. Each had Their own followers, Their own bastions, Their own allegiances.

    One demanded nothing but what She created- plants and flowers, and a connection to the piece of Her inside the user, pieces which lay cool inside the soul. She was cold, calculating, but could also embrace and heal with a crystallized whisper. She kept them anchored to the earthly plane, so that others might bring them back to do Her bidding. Her power was more removed from the world, save the farthest reaches of it. This was because She was the Magic of mankind.

    The other promised great power, directly from the hot depths where She lay in the darkness. This power held dominion over the world, dominion over one's being, for She had Sang before the other force. She burned souls with a word, flung gasping mankind out of battleforms and into the Grey. This came with a price: one simply would be consumed by Her power until one was a man no more. Shards of Her crystallized power lay upon the earth, waiting for them to coalesce and be brought to Her altar.

    Together, they sang a song of Ice and Fire. Of wholeness and separation. Of force and form. Words of power singed the mages' lips, sounds that had not been heard from any mage but the most famous and infamous.



    The Mercenary's being was shredded into pieces and then reassembled. Their borrowed corporeal forms slid unthinking to the ground, but still, the weaving of the spell continued. One poured power into his being, while the other threw power into the relic that lay at his feet.

    Finally, with a sizzling blue blast, the Mercenary stood up, looked once at the unmoving mage,
    then robbed him blind.
     

  • A Fiery Brew

    A very bored barkeep continues filling the glasses, shuffling them underneath the flowing tap, into the reach of the beer-soaked Ranna, who downs yet another pint. And another. And another. Finally, the barkeep looks at the still-lucid Ranna and shrugs, showing the empty cask of ale. Ranna giggles, and bounds out the door. This much ale brings back memories.
    The brigands camped outside of Duldrus, close to where a Stone Golem lay dormant, waiting for an unwary adventurer to mistake it for a boulder and start mining.
    Ah, yes, mining.
    Ranna was young then, just old enough to understand the need for ale and a good shelter to camp in. Old enough to heed Volund’s orders.
    “The Hauksen Mercenary Company says it needs supplies- fast. If we are to battle these… people, we’re going to need more food and get more weapons smithed. That means ferrite. Any of you decent with a mining axe?”
    Several hands went up.
    “Far too few of you. That’s why we need more. More miners. More ingots. Any more volunteers?”
    “Perhaps if I… requisition some ale for the workers. After shifts are over. Any takers then?”
    An entire battalion of hands rose. Including mine.
    My father worked me hard when I was a boy- man’s gotta pay for what ales him. Together we worked up a sweat through the night and into the next morning’s heat. No breaks. No food. Just work, and the grit that flew with every strike.
    I was probably the best miner he had. A terrible blacksmith, honestly, but that wasn’t for what he had asked.
    We lined up in front of Duldrus’ western rock bank, picks at the ready, and struck the cold granite.
    It was barely noon before a large stack of swords was piled in the camp, and most of Volund’s men were… not at their best.
    “An’ that’ why they called him Big Jack…” One mercenary told fascinated listeners.
    “Let’s get those… *burp* …feathers off ya.” Said another to a harpie, who did not look the least bit happy.
    The only non-drunk underling was Ranna, who proudly took the other men’s bets. His previous three contenders lied piled next to discarded casks. He was just in earshot of a man who mumbled, “I swear I smell smoke.”
    Screaming was the next thing Ranna heard.
    The adventurers had killed every mercenary in Duldrus. Not even the messenger was left. That was why the main force was completely taken by surprise.
    Ranna grabbed his armor and ran through the smoldering tents, just in time to see the front line crumble and Volund’s banner fall.
    He ran.
    Firelight glinted orange-red off of pools of blood. Ash spiraled through the churning air. Strangled yells and fleet running. The smell of burnt flesh.
    Ah, that would make sense.
    He snapped to the present, blinking at the blows he had practiced, and the dwindling Fire Elemental licking at his soot-tinted armor. Laughing, he forced it back.
    Right into a tree.
    He watched as it died and three more took its place, quickly overwriting his old scars with new welts.
    Ranna ran through the trees, branches whipping him as he fled though the fire- red night. This reminds him of something…
    Oh. Right.
     

  • A Dark Wind Blows Through You.

    The axe rose and fell, rose and fell again. With it a moon, maybe two—several? -- also passed. “Stranded on this blasted isle with nothing to show for it,” muttered Ranna, a unhealthy wax color. He was in dire need for food that wasn’t attached to a rat’s tail or covered in slime. “Wish I could just-“

    He snaps his fingers, startling himself awake. Groaning, he stretches, and shoos a few squeaking rats from the empty mugs tossed haphazardly in his tent. He’s been on Nyn’s Isle for so long he’s started dreaming of mining. Time for a break.

    The beast roars at him, fangs a dull ivory as Ranna frantically rows toward shore. It knows, he thinks. It knows how I fear its teeth.
    Out of breath, he makes it to the Grand City’s gates. It’s an abrupt change, this, going from isolation to civilization. “Pants!” Squeals one of the men near the bank. Ranna is hardly surprised. At least something remains the same every Blue Moon Festival.

    --
    “What’s goin’ on?” Grumbles Ranna, rubbing his eyes. Something is wrong with the moon. A small crowd watches the eclipse as the moon seems to slip backwards in its cycle. A chill goes down his spine. Something isn’t right; it’s like a small sound in the dark mines; something is there but he can’t see it.
    A strange breeze blows through the town, stealing decoration and festivity alike. The people mutter and hold on to their robes, lest they be swept away while running for the nearest building.

    Ranna later pulls one of the little flags out of a tree. It’s torn in several places.

    A single tear hangs on his weathered face.
     

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