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 "A Taste of Things to Come..." (DM Only)

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Arius
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Join date : 2009-08-21
Age : 33
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Level: 30
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PostSubject: "A Taste of Things to Come..." (DM Only)   Mon Apr 26, 2010 7:57 pm

Pain, followed by darkness.

For a single instant--all-too-brief--Kestiel floated in a sea of darkness, truly at peace for the first time in her long life. She knew what had happened, that her erstwhile companions had chosen her moment of weakness to exact some kind of revenge against her, but she couldn't bring herself to care, not really. In fact, she couldn't even blame them for their actions, knowing that strategically, what they did made perfect sense. She wouldn't have wanted to fight herself in her prime if she didn't have to, after all. Still, what was done was done, and she'd not let her soul be weighed down by any hatred or ill feelings for her comrades on its journey to the hereafter.

Silently, she forgave them. She forgave them all. It just didn't matter any more...

Her journey was not meant to be, however, and the beautiful half-elf cried out in agony as memories came rushing into her mind, images, sounds, smells, sensations all belonging to another creature, yet belonging to her in the same instant. It was chaos, and the mind that was Kestiel retreated deep into itself to numb the pain as a new consciousness asserted itself. What remained of Kestiel could only watch in mute horror as she bore witness to hundreds of evil deeds, deeds perpetrated by the very creature that was now taking control of her body, and her power. Legions of men, and of elves, fell before her, scattered to the wind like ash as great gouts of flame escaped her lips, roaring around mighty fangs the size of longswords. She was an unstoppable force, a dragon of nearly-unequaled strength, and of withering magic. In her wake was only destruction, and all who opposed her were crushed by a power that they were unable to contest with. She was the inferno. She was magic unfettered.

She was L'Grada, "She Who is Feared" in the old tongue.

There was a frightening moment when Kestiel realized that even as she could access L'Grada's memories, the ancient dragon had command of hers as well. Deep inside, the dragon laughed, a hollow, painful sound that forced Kestiel's consciousness even further down.

"You claim to be the inheritor of His powers, yet you let yourself be slain by such creatures!" the voice of L'Grada rumbled. "How ashamed He must be... But do not worry, the time will come when I shall take vengeance on those who work to stem the return of our Great Mother." The dragon chuckled again, adding, "Or perhaps I should thank them for releasing me. I have to confess, elfing, that I have been trying to come to dominance for many years; you are simply too strong-willed, and I was ever rebuffed in my efforts."

With nothing else to do, and nowhere else to go, Kestiel simply screamed.

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Kestiel screamed.

With a burst of fire and magic, the dead-sorceress' body rose up, her long fingers tightening into fists, her auburn hair moving to and fro, blown about by the arcane winds that surged around her. Hovering scant inches above the ground, Kestiel looked down at her body, a cruel smile twisting her features as she watched her numerous wounds closing right before her eyes, which glowed with a frightening power. She continued to study herself for a time, unmindful of the group of adventurers around her.

"To think," Kestiel said softly, her voice overlapped by a deeper, rumbling voice laden with menace, "that I have been reborn into such a frail form..." She laughed, the ground below her quaking with the sound. "It matters not. Weak and frail though the body may be, the Power surging through it is fantastic. My Power!" Without another word, the creature that had been Kestiel let out a blood-chilling laugh before rising up into the sky and shooting off to the south with a flash of fire, leaving her stunned and terrified former-companions below to simply watch her departure.

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She could sense His power ahead.

Far below, a meager army pushed its way onward, having just cleared the great southern desert, The Blight Wastes, on their journey northward. From the memories of the half-elf, L'Grada knew that this was the small force loyal to the recently-slain King Lavensha's bastard, on the move to claim the capital and the boy's birthright. The fools, let them have their city, and their crown. All would be ash and death soon anyway...

L'Grada smiled at the thought.

Continuing on, the dragon-reborn entered the Blight Wastes, soaring high above the ever-shifting sands as she zeroed in on the one she sought. Even now, in his old age, He exuded enough power for her to locate him, though he was no doubt trying to hide his presence and preserve his peace. If what L'Grada had learned from the elfling's memories was true, then He would have much to answer for, and even more to explain. Moments later, its ruined towers barely seen above the sea of sand, she flew over the lost elven city Halbrinon, built untold ages ago when the Blight Wastes had been a beautiful forest, and the elves had still claimed dominion over these lands. It was here that He slumbered, in a lair carved out from the bowels of the ancient city.

She descended slowly, still not entirely used to the mechanics of flying without wings, until her feet touched the hot sands of the desert. By maintaining a constant wall of heat around her, L'Grada ensured that she remained undisturbed by the swirling sandstorms that tried to tear at her clothing and flesh as she strode forward to lay her hand upon the crumbling remnants of a once-grand, spiraling tower. The entrance was there, as she knew it would be--the very same entrance that Kestiel had used so many decades ago to reach His lair--and L'Grada wasted no time in entering. Once inside, she let drop her fiery aura as she ventured down, deeper into the darkness, each step bringing her closer to her goal.

Closer to her reunion...

To be continued...

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Arius
Dungeon Master
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Posts : 313
Join date : 2009-08-21
Age : 33
Location : Between Worlds

Character sheet
Level: 30
XP to Next Level:
0/0  (0/0)
Hit Points:
189/189  (189/189)

PostSubject: Re: "A Taste of Things to Come..." (DM Only)   Tue May 18, 2010 8:40 pm

She sensed His presence.

Stepping lightly into the night-dark chamber, L'Grada swept her arm before her, sending a wave of fire cascading away into the darkness, illuminating everything for a brief moment before burning out. There, lying before her, was the form of a once-mighty creature, an ancient red dragon, now reduced to little more than an old sack of bones. He raised his head, his blind eyes staring intently forward, though L'Grada knew it was not with his eyes that the old dragon was viewing her.

"You have come," he rumbled, a note of sadness in his voice. "And I have failed." With little more than a thought, the dying old dragon caused hundreds of torches and candles to ignite all at once, lighting the massive chamber with a flickering, orange glow. "So, this, then, is the beginning of the end..."

"What kind words of greeting, Father," L'Grada's voice said from Kestiel's mouth. "Here you denounce me, when I come offering redemption."

Shai-Huluud, the eldest of all dragons, the former commander of Tiamat's Draconic Horde, let out a long, heavy sigh before lowering his head back to the cool stones of the cavern floor. In ages past, he had been the terror of his enemies, laying waste to even the most well-guarded and warded cities, demolishing any and all who stood against him, and leading the armies of his Mistress into victorious battle against the foolish elves, and the short lived humans and their allies. In those days, he had slaughtered many, and ruined the lives of countless generations, and now, at the end of his life, he regretted those horrible things that he'd done.

"It is for redemption that I came here, to sleep eternally in this place," he said wearily, closing his clouded eyes. "I will bring no more sorrow to this world. If you seek to convince me otherwise, then save your words, you who were once my daughter."

"Your weakness sickens me!" L'Grada spat, moving forward to stand right before Shai-Huluud. "How the mighty have truly fallen, dear Father. Do you think that I'll simply let you rot here? Do you think that the gods will forgive you your sins just because of this self-imposed exile of yours?" She raised her dagger before her, its cold blade gleaming with magic as she prepared to strike the ancient dragon. "No, I am afraid not. For your weakness, and for what you did to try and subvert the one whose body is now mine, I sentence you to death!"

Before L'Grada could carry out this sentence, though, a voice from behind caused her to falter.

"I'm afraid I can't let you do that," a soft, male voice said, carrying the same weary not as Shai-Huluud's.

L'Grada turned, laughing despite herself at the sight of a small, bald old man. He wore a tattered robe of faded orange, a pair of old leather sandals, and had a black rucksack thrown over one shoulder. His skin was like old leather, darkly tanned and wrinkled, and his nose resembled that of a vulture's beak, long and curved. He strode forward, stopping mere feet from L'Grada.

"Be gone from here, old man," the reborn dragon said, her lips twisted into a cruel smile. "If you leave now, and I cannot find you when I depart shortly, then you shall be free to go about your business, and I will not hunt you down. I doubt that you would be much sport anyway..." Yet even as she said this, something tugged at the back of her mind, a memory. She narrowed her eyes, for this was not a memory of hers, but rather one of Kestiel's, from an event that took place several days before. Yes, Kestiel had met this old man once, in the bowels of the palace at Port Pence, and he had shown tremendous power then, power to be wary of for certain.

She faltered in her resolve.

That was all it took for the old man to act, and with a speed that seemed impossible for one of his age, he leaped forward, pulling a gnarled old staff seemingly out of nowhere and striking her in the stomach. L'Grada doubled over in pain, a pain that was far too severe to have come simply from that old staff. Before she could regain her composure, a second strike came from behind, striking her in the rear and sending her face-first into the dusty cavern floor.

"You should know better than to judge a book by its cover," the old man taunted, moving slowly in a circle around her. "You're a prime example of it after all. I mean, if I were judging you just by your looks, I would assume that you were a powerful and practiced opponent." He flashed her an insolent grin. "See? I'm obviously wrong."

"What is passing here?" Shai-Huluud rumbled, his head raised once more, though he seemed unable to move his body, for he was truly at death's door. "Who are you, to fell L'Grada so easily?"

"Just an old wanderer," the man said, backing away as L'Grada stood to Kestiel's feet, dusting herself off. "We can talk later, ancient one. First I must remove this unwelcome guest."

"I would ask that you do not harm Kestiel, but I know not whether she still resides within that body or not," Shai-Huluud said sorrowfully. "My poor Kestiel, who was more of a daughter to me than ever L'Grada was... From the beginning I sensed the evil one's presence with her, and I did all in my power to stem her awakening. But it was all for naught, and now Kestiel is gone..."

"Fear not," the old man told Shai-Huluud, "for I can sense the indomitable will of Kestiel still, railing against L'Grada's usurpation of her body. Tell me," he said to L'Grada, "how long do you think it will take for her to regain control and put you back in your box forever?"

L'Grada roared, sending a blinding flurry of snow and ice at the old man, who raised his staff before him to ward off the incoming attack. The magical blizzard seemed to warp and twist, and to flow around him as if he were surrounded by an invisible bubble of force. Not letting this display of defensive power intimidate her, L'Grada then let loose with a concentrated blast of eldritch power, which--like the ice storm--simply bent around the old man. She growled, her body trembling with hate and rage, letting those emotions fuel her next attack, a roaring inferno powerful enough to reduce the strange newcomer to nothing but ash. The blinding display of fiery magic engulfed the little old man, hiding him from L'Grada's view.

"Burn, burn you old fool!" she cried out gleefully, reveling in the power at her disposal. She had been wrong, at first, to assume that this form that she'd been reborn into was weak and frail. Very wrong indeed. "There is no one alive in the world today with the strength to stop me! I will be in the vanguard of our Mother's army, and I will lead the Horde to utter and complete victory!"

But as the flames before her finally died down, the faint sound of a cough could be heard, and the old man stood in the center of a patch of scorched and melted ground, completely unscathed. Her eyes widened with disbelief, and then narrowed into a glare of such powerful hatred that it could have felled any other man on the spot. If this stranger was aware of the baleful gaze, though, he showed no signs, and he simply smiled at her, leaning on his staff, a faint glimmer of amusement in his pale blue eyes.

"Damn you! Damn you!" L'Grada exclaimed, Kestiel's beautiful features contorted with fury. "So you have powerful ward around you, to protect you from my magic, so what! I will come at you over, and over, and over again until there is nothing left of you!" Her entire body quaked with hatred, and her fists were clenched so hard that blood flowed from the palms over her hands, from where her nails had pierced the skin. "You are nothing to me, do you understand? If you had half of the power at my disposal, then you would do something! You would fight me, rather than hide behind your wards and your protections! Fight me, strike at me! Now!"

The old man shook his head. "I don't have to. The battle is already won."

"What do you mean 'won' old fool? You have done nothing to me! Nothing!"

He laughed at her, setting his apparently-empty black bag down on the ground before him. "On the contrary," he said, as he reached into the back, his arm disappearing up to the shoulder as he dug around for something. "I scored the first hit, remember? And what a hit it was. You fool, you're as blind as Shai-Huluud," he continued, letting out a satisfied "ah!" as he apparently found what he was looking for. "You see, you are dying even now, as you stand there screaming at me. The blow I dealt you was a fatal blow, woman, a single death strike that will surely strike you down, unless you seek aid immediatly. And," he went on, looking back at Shai-Huluud before returning his attention to her, "I don't think you'll find that aid here." With that, he suddenly pulled a golden cage filled with a handful of canaries from his rucksack, opening the small door and allowing them to fly free.

This had a nearly physical impact on L'Grada. "Those... Those are..."

"They belong to my master," the old man told her, nodding knowingly. "I am to keep them until such a time as I find the one they are truly meant for, His true exarch here on Elaria..." He pauses, looking to L'Grada with an expression of determination on his face. "Leave, now. You are neither wanted nor needed here. I have spared your life, or rather Kestiel's life, at the behest of your father, but your very presence tempts me to destroy you." He turned his back on L'Grada, spreading his arms and letting the canaries perch upon his arms and shoulders as he walked slowly and purposefully toward Shai-Huluud.

L'Grada's shock at the sight of the canaries was suddenly overwhelmed by her immense hatred for this old man, who had shrugged off her powerful spells so easily. Her eyes widened as a thought came to her, and a cold smile spread across her face. Yes, he had shown tremendous resilience to her spells, which possibly meant that... A sharp, hot pain in her stomach caused her to double over, her vision blurring. She clutched her stomach, in the spot that the old man's staff had struck her earlier. Could he have been telling the truth? Was she dying? A second pain, much more severe than the first, caused her cry out, tears of humiliation at such a sound streaming down her face.

Wasting no time, in case the old man's supposed "death strike" was in fact real, L'Grada struggled to her feet and rushed the strange wanderer from behind, the sounds of her footfalls causing the canaries to go fluttering away, their cries seeming to be a warning for the old man. He spun, again showing amazing speed, but before he could swing his staff, he felt L'Grada's--Kestiel's--long dagger dig into his side, pushing deep and causing a spurt of blood to shoot out from his mouth. She pulled the weapon back, staggering backward and clutching her stomach as she let out another pitiful whimper of pain. The old man put his hand to his own wound, feeling a copious amount of blood gushing out from it. He looked toward L'Grada, his expression one of peaceful resignation rather than shock or anger, or any of a thousand other emotions that the reborn dragon had expected to see.

"You lose, old man," L'Grada said through teeth clenched through pain, a thin trickle of blood running from the corner of her mouth. "Your mercy has been your undoing, for while I may still leave to find medical or magical assistance, you are quite doomed. Enjoy your last moments, both of you. Father, I do feel robbed at not being able to kill you, but you will be dead soon enough anyway, so I will try not to dwell on my disappointment." L'Grada turned and, with all the speed that she could muster, made her way back up through the ruined, buried city before taking to the air and flying rapidly to the northeast.

The old man collapsed to the ground before Shai-Huluud in a pool of his own blood. The canaries flew circles above him, calling out a mournful cry. The ancient red dragon, summoning all of his energy, moved forward just enough to lay his head beside the dying man, his blind eyes closed, his breathing shallow and ragged.

"At least we shall die together, you and I," Shai-Huluud whispered. "And I pray that you speak for me before the gods, as witness to my attempt to pay for my sins..."

"My newfound friend," the old man gasped, blood running from his mouth as he spoke, "I'm afraid to disappoint you, but... only one of us... is going to die here... today..."

To be continued...

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Arius
Dungeon Master
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Posts : 313
Join date : 2009-08-21
Age : 33
Location : Between Worlds

Character sheet
Level: 30
XP to Next Level:
0/0  (0/0)
Hit Points:
189/189  (189/189)

PostSubject: Re: "A Taste of Things to Come..." (DM Only)   Tue May 25, 2010 3:09 pm

Together, they lay dying.

One of them, the small old man, was surrounded by a rapidly-spreading pool of his own blood, his eyes beginning to cloud as death stole in closer and closer with each passing second. Above him, the frantic songs of the canaries echoed through the chamber, their small wings beating the air as they flew in slow circles around him, as if with their songs they could put an end to his suffering.

And maybe they could.

The other was as different from the old man as could be: a massive, ancient red dragon, now languishing in his twilight, each breath ragged and full of pain. His head, monstrous and enormous, rested on the ground beside the old man, his blind-eyes open yet seeing nothing.

"Is this, then, how I shall pass?" the dragon, Shai-Huluud, asked softly, not really expecting an answer. "Here, deep beneath the surface, in the presence of one of His servants?"

A cough escaped the old man, and he lay still unmoving as he, surprisingly, responded. "Tell me truly, O ancient one, one who has brought death and terror to thousands: do you indeed repent for your past sins, and your crimes against the people of Elaria?"

Without hesitation, Shai-Huluud answered, "Yes. Here, in my solitude, my self-imposed exile, I have come to know the error of my ways, and that I served one who would throw this beautiful world into chaos and destruction." A heavy sigh, a deep breath, and the long, slow exhalation that was sure to be one of the dragon's last...

"Good, good," the old man said, his voice surprisingly clear for one at death's door. "You must know, former adversary of my Master, that I have been sent here for you."

"For me?"

"Yes," the man said. "Decades past, I was sent down from above, from the court of my Master, to find you, and to offer you the very redemption that you have sought for so, so long... So tell me, Shai-Huluud: will you serve my Master, the mighty platinum dragon Bahamut, he who turned the tide against your dark armies so many millennia ago?"

At this, Shai-Huluud laughed, the act painful as it shook his fragile, dying body. "You come to ask me such a thing, when we are both surely doomed?" He fell silent then, his blind eyes closing, the myriad candles and torches that he'd lit earlier, upon L'Grada's arrival, beginning to slowly burn out. "Still, perhaps by accepting this offer of yours, it will allow me some small rest in the lands beyond..."

The old man remained silent, and Shai-Huluud wondered if perhaps he was dead already.

Feeling the last of his once-vaunted strength beginning to fade, Shai-Huluud used his remaining energy to slowly, painfully, rise up to his feet for the last time. He raised his head proudly, wishing for a moment that he still had the strength to let out a single, majestic blast of scorching fire.

"Very well, stranger," the dragon spoke, his voice sounding frail and weak to his own ears. "I accept this offer, and will pledge myself, until my dying breath, to do good by the mighty Bahamut in all things, and to stand ever vigilant against the threat of She Who Made Us."

A faint smile spread across the dying man's pale face. "Then it is done. I have finally found the one whom I have sought for so long, and now I can return to my Master knowing that I have completed the mission that He gave me..." The canaries ceased their cries at the old man's words, and one could almost see the intelligent curiosity in their eyes. "Little ones," he told them gently, quietly, "go now to your new companion, the one who has been chosen by our Master. Guide him, help him, and bestow upon him that powerful gift which you have been saving for just this moment... Farewell, my tiny little friends, my only ever-present companions over the long decades of seemingly-hopeless searching... Farewell," he continued, raising his head to look up at Shai-Huluud, "my Successor..."

With those words, a sudden burst of silver-white light shown down upon the old man, as if a shaft of moonlight had come down and pierced through the tons of stone and sand that separated Shai-Huluud's resting place from the world above. With this pure light came a voice, deep and powerful, and full of satisfaction.

"You have done well, my faithful servant," the voice said in draconic. "Return now to me, and to the paradise that you left behind, and know that I am proud of you." With a sigh of relief, the old man's body was lifted up from the bloody stone floor, drawn up through the beam of light until it could be seen no more. The divine light broadened, filling the chamber and engulfing Shai-Huluud in its pure warmth. "You, who were once my enemy, shall now be the symbol of my power on Elaria," the voice boomed. "In you, the armies of the beleaguered and the hopeless shall draw confidence and strength, and you shall lead them into victory against the forces of darkness. Be well, my new servant, and stay strong in your resolve, knowing that I am proud of you, and that you are at long last truly forgiven!"

The light then faded, leaving the trembling, weeping form of Shai-Huluud alone in the darkness. He heard the faint chirping of the canaries around him, and he felt the slight stirring of the air by their small wings. One by one, the birds landed upon him, and where they made contact with his aging and brittle scales, a powerful, soothing warmth spread until it covered him from the tip of his tail to the end of his snout. This warmth then turned to a blinding glow, one that completely engulfed and surrounded Shai-Huluud, causing him to cry out as the sheer brightness of it hurt his eyes, and caused them to water uncontrollably.

Wait...

The ancient dragon realized then that he had seen the light, he had seen it! Not with his mind's eye, or with the false-sight granted him by his powerful arcana, but with his actual, physical eyes. For centuries uncounted Shai-Huluud had had only darkness from those eyes, and the possibility that he could now once again see was overwhelming. Slowly, cautiously, he opened his eyes...

And saw the chamber around him, as well--if not better--than he ever had in his youth. And there was no light source, for the torches and candles had now burnt out completely! Despite what should have been all-encompassing darkness, to his newly-restored vision it looked as bright as day! So overwhelmed was he by the return of his sight, Shai-Huluud barely noticed his new strength, dwarfing anything that he had possessed in his prime.

When he suddenly felt the power and vitality flowing through him, the ancient dragon turned his head up and shot a blast of searing flames straight up toward the high ceiling of the chamber. The orange-red light of the fire filled the subterranean cavern, and Shai-Huluud's unbelieving laughter followed soon after. He strode forward, reveling in the feeling of strength that coursed through his body. Turning his attention once again to the high ceiling, he grinned and made a decision.

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An explosion of sand and stone preceded his exit.

Shai-Huluud, once the most feared and reviled creature on Elaria, shot skyward, his mighty wings propelling him into the air for the first time in thousands of years. The small, bright yellow canaries clung to his scales, hanging on by magic or sheer tenacity, he wasn't sure. Their joyous songs filled him with strength, and he soared ever higher, until he was clear of the constant sandstorms that blew about in the Blight Wastes. Now, with his wings spread, Shai-Huluud allowed himself to comfortably glide through the blue sky, his eyes taking in the sights all around him.

The sun, bright and burning high overhead, reflected beautifully from his scales, no longer red but now a stunning gold, with each individual scale tipped with platinum, granting him a nearly godlike appearance. He let out another blast of fire, for the sheer joy of it, and laughed aloud as he rolled and turned in the air, the choruses of the canaries joining him in his mirth.

He was alive again, reborn, and ready to face whatever dangers may try and throw Elaria into chaos.

He was Shai-Huluud, Bahamut's right hand on Elaria...

To be continued...
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