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Midara: Paradox

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by TanaNari, Dec 29, 2019.

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  1. TanaNari

    TanaNari Verified Dick

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    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2019
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  2. TanaNari

    TanaNari Verified Dick

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    This post might hold something.
     
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  3. Threadmarks: Chapter Zero
    TanaNari

    TanaNari Verified Dick

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    Chapter 0: The Breach- In which a character is smoother than the author could ever dream of being

    He regarded the park with real enthusiasm, gawking as only a tourist might. though few tourists could see what he was seeing. Instead of noting the beautiful reds and purples of the crafted scenery, and the subtle scent of moisture and decay heralding winter's embrace, his eyes were locked on the spiritual world.

    There, life and death did not merely dance around one another; they waged a war for primacy. Flickers of nature spirits, weakened by age, were swarmed by hungry cold and death spirits and drained of their remaining life. Some months later, the scene would reverse, as the frozen and starving death spirits would be driven out by the next generation of life spirits.

    He smirked at the brutal little microcosm, noting a more introspective sort would take some sort of personal lesson from the scene playing out. Instead, he was far more interested in the artificial magic chained through the air; magic meant to protect people from suffering at the hand of spirits and beasts the same horrors they inflicted upon each other.

    Magic which redirected human spiritual energy along controlled pathways, like ditches and levies to control the flow of water, and even turned that very same spiritual energy into fuel to continue the magic that made it all possible. In effect, sensory magic was dulled to near blindness for those beings who had not trained specifically to work around it. So long as it remained stable, it would serve as protector and prison for all who embraced 'civilization'.

    It was admirable, the lengths to which men would go to ensure the violence of the world could only travel in one direction where they were concerned. Though that was, again, for those more interested in navel-gazing than he.

    Right now, he was less interested in men, and more interested in one specific woman which was unique in both layers of reality.

    Her soft-yellow hair, natural in spite of the absurdity of such a thing, framed a round, youthful face that looked as if it had never once experienced suffering or difficulty in life. Her soul glowed with even more vigor, possessed of incredible raw potential as a psion that had received little refinement. She smiled and pointed at trees, and even made a timid attempt at touching one of the glowing blue caterpillars which were seeking a spot to cocoon themselves.

    The perfect expression of a nobleborn girl who had no experience with the real world, no doubt an avid reader of things that she never experienced, written by people who themselves had never experienced what they wrote of. He was willing to bet this girl had never so much as witnessed a person die with her own eyes. All power, no skill or guile to call her own; the perfect target.

    Her two companions were less unusual, but much more dangerous. The one with brown hair was middle-aged; an obvious warrior with more than a little experience perfecting what was a lackluster talent in terramancy. She was alert, capable, and protective of her young charge.

    The green-haired woman was around the age of his target, from a strong nature-oriented bloodline which she had leveraged into self-augmentation. With a few more years of experience she would be truly formidable, but for now she was much like her golden-haired mistress; an easy mark. She was, however, shielded only by a passionate love he'd have to struggle to overcome, so he dismissed her as an option.

    As he observed them, his mind was running through approaches. He needed a persona dangerous enough to appeal to the blonde's obvious yearning for adventure and experience, while being safe enough to slip by the others' suspicion.

    He could almost hear Arishka teasing him. No doubt something about having more pride in his talents and enjoying the challenge. He'd make some snide remark about that being a human way of thinking. She'd retort with a comment about how humans also believed that knowing how prey thinks is a benefit to a hunter.

    Chuckling to himself, he chose his approach. He walked through a more secluded and overgrown section of the park, adjusting his skin and flesh to suit his approach. Meanwhile, he named the girls after their hair colors: blonde, green, and brown. Brown being the difficult one; he'd have to find a way to neutralize her without being obvious that she did so.

    His toasted-brown skin darkened until it was just shy of the shade of rich soil and an almost opposite color one would expect of the lazy fops of courtly life.. Of the three, two were worldly enough to think little of his coloration, while the one that mattered would find it exotic and thus desirable.

    His skin swelled with water, hiding his lean muscle behind a layer of what a human eye would think was fat, while retaining enough shape that he'd appear like a bulky laborer, rather than obese and weak. Appealing to a girl long weary of the opulence of nobility, unimpressive and nonthreatening to a pair of skilled warriors whose magic-enhanced strength went far beyond what flesh alone could ever accomplish.

    With his shape decided, he took a moment to reacquaint himself to the lumbering walk of a man who stood tall and confident, but lacked in pride and ego. A simple, happy, gentle giant who had earned his time off and wanted to spend it somewhere quiet and beautiful.

    With his best friendly smile, he stepped out from the shadows, moving toward the three girls. He didn't make it far before pretending to blunder into the pair of overprotective guardians.

    "Where do you think you're going?" The brown haired woman all but barked at him.

    "Ah, apologies are in order." He stepped back, bowed his head. It was a dangerous position to be in, a flick of her wrist and he'd be enjoying the autumn chill where his head used to sit. "I was to be enjoying the trees, but your friend's great beauty was distracting me from trees and you."

    A moment of confusion, as they puzzled through his heavy accent, followed by realization. Brown settled on annoyance and suspicion seemed her default state of emotion regardless. The blonde was second, a brief flash of almost bored acceptance of flattery, followed by a tinge of intrigue as she considered he different he seemed. Green was last, annoyance followed by jealous resentment.

    Interesting, he thought to himself. That was an exploitable angle.

    "She has enough company, as you can now see." Brown kept her eyes cold.

    "Yes, you two being greatest of friends to lovely woman." He picked the words to emphasize the situation, and pretend he didn't understand the subtext of servitude while reminding them of it. "But is saying among my people that is not possible to have enough friends. All being different, all being worthy of knowing."

    "I think that is a wonderful sentiment," Blonde finally spoke.

    In truth, he couldn't even imagine someone believing such tripe, but it resonated with Blonde while annoying Brown; both moved him closer to his goal.

    "We've been over this, Nes." Green's voice dripped with a long-growing frustration. "He's trying to worm his way into your bed."

    He could sense that part of Green burned that it was never her that was the subject of these sorts of attentions, but she seethed that the one person she yearned for more than anything was out of her reach.

    "Come on, Fee," Blonde said with weary sigh. "There's no need to be so suspicious, he's just being friendly."

    His fake smile felt a little more genuine for a moment; the wedges had been formed, now he could take advantage of them, but first he had to disavow the target of her developing need to defend him. It had its benefits, but she was the damsel in her fantasies, not the knight.

    "I do not wish being contrary, but your protective friend has the truth of it." Stunned silence from the thoughts of the duo, as he settled their argument in a way neither of them could ever have anticipated. It hadn't solved the issue of Brown, but he had determined her default emotion was paranoia, so there was nothing he could do to get through or around her.

    "I... did not expect you to say such a thing." Blonde now held a controlled, almost hostile, tone and mindset. More than that, she was now reaching out at him with her natural psychic potential. Perfect.

    "I am suspecting they do things differently here, yes?" A moment of hesitation; like all ladies, she must have had diplomatic instructions, enough to accept that other cultures had other methods. He gestured at his skin, and with it invited Blonde to consider his features and how they appealed to him. "I am coming from far away, being unfamiliar with your way of doing."

    "Then perhaps you misunderstood what Fee meant?"

    "No, I am believing that 'bed' meaning is clear." She had offered an interesting out, and for another girl it might even have been the ideal approach, but this one found being his bold contradiction desirable, even if she wasn't aware of that impulse in herself. "Our way of doing is to speak and learn of the other, then decide if there is liking. With future learning might blossoming romance and marriage, and sharing of bed. Is this not your way?"

    It wasn't, not among nobility like Blonde, and they were all pretending they didn't know it. Green crossed her arms. "No, it's about the same. You're just terrible at it."

    Perfect. "Thank you."

    Irritation bowed to surprise once again. Blonde found her footing faster this time- no doubt her natural mind magic letting her adapt to his tactic. "I admit, not the response I expected."

    He gave a happy laugh. "As I am thinking, skill is needing practice." Or the right magic to let you cheat. He had plenty of both on his side. "Lacking practice is being proof of honesty. Is those with skill in twisting words one must watch." Let nobody say I didn't give them fair warning.

    The bitterness off of all three was tangible, but Blonde the most. "I must admit, I like your way of thinking."

    Of course you do, every word of it is everything you've ever wanted to hear.

    "Be that as it may," Brown cut in. "We're leaving. Now."

    Blonde opened her mouth to argue, but was cut off by the older woman's glare. "-Very well." She looked at him. "Please, accept my apologies."

    "No apologies being necessary." He kept his false cheer up, powerful enough to hide from the immature probing of Blonde's power on his surface emotions. "I am thinking you having good reasons. My people saying all things having good reasons, and if reason being good enough, fate will be finding ways."

    "You have a lovely culture," Blonde said as she began walking past, to join her guards. "I'd like to hear more of it some day."

    "Yes, some day being... lovely..." he took the opportunity to use a deeper tone with the last word, evoking a more seductive tone than his usual cheerful voice. Just enough to play on that more animal desire this poor, sheltered, child had not yet learned she could be a master of rather than a slave to.

    "R-right." She ran off, a whirl of half-comprehended desires.

    He sat down under a tree, pretended to watch the skies for a moment, then closed his eyes and began playing with the defensive magical structures. He could siphon a little power off them to bolster his own strength, but doing so came with numerous risks. Not worth taking a chance on if it could be avoided. However, if instead of siphoning, he could imagine a lopsided boost creating a slow collapse...

    Several hours later, he pretended a voice shook him from his meditation. "G-greetings."

    He smiled up at her. "Ah, I am not expecting seeing your beauty again so soon."

    "I wasn't expecting to, either, but," she looked over her shoulder. "I had to get away, if only for a little while."

    Stupid, stupid child. "I am thinking everyone is knowing such feelings, from time to time." He climbed to his feet, quite a bit taller than her. "Shall we be talking of culture, now? Perhaps walking to making head clear?"

    She swallowed. "Yes, I'd like that."

    "For starters, I am being from far in the occident, near a great ocean that I am not seeing on your maps..."

    They walked, talked, for an hour, and with every step he led her further from familiarity and safety, while drawing her ever closer to doing what her body was screaming for, rather than listening to her more rational mind. Soon, he had her holding his arm, laughing and smiling just because he looked at her.

    Meanwhile, the way her psychic abilities probing at his mind escalated to the point where they would have been considered almost as obscene as what he planned to do to her.

    In the end, he managed to lead the naive girl to his temporary abode without her once questioning the path they were on. He leaned in and gave her what he was certain was her first kiss, which she returned it with the wanton abandon that only a young adult with no experience could.

    "Would you be liking to come in?" He asked. So close to being able to drop this stupid accent.

    She hesitated for one moment, then another. "I... I really shouldn't be..."

    He'd have been more worried and less annoyed if this wasn't such a common occurrence with the young ones. "There is being no problem," he lied. "You are being free to making your own choices, I am seeing you tomorrow, and after. You are being ready when time is right, is the nature of things."

    Now she hesitated for another reason, thinking about how untrue that statement was, though not in the same way as her tall and dark partner. Her mind cycled back to what would happen when she returned to the estate- sneaking out had been hard enough, there was no chance she could get back in without being caught. If indeed they hadn't already realized she was gone.

    She would never see him again no matter the other consequences, though she couldn't bear to tell him such. She also had no way of knowing how to find her way back, so she'd need to ask his help. And she could feel his longing and the disappointment he was trying to hard to hide.

    She took a breath, then made herself smile again. "On second thought, I think coming in is sounding nice."

    He led her in, closed the door, then began to kiss her neck while leading her further away from the last possibility of salvation. She stopped him one last time. "Sorry, I just realized... I forgot to... My name is Nesare. We almost, without even, how silly would that be?"

    "Is not so silly as you are believing." If anything, he found it remarkable how many times names were forgotten entirely, which he preferred if only to help keep things he had to remember to a minimum. "I am being Empel."

    "Empel. It's a nice name." She laughed a little as she surrendered herself to his ministrations. So distracted she was by sensation that she didn't even notice when wings unfurled in the darkness of the room.

    Her nervousness laughter turned to giggles.

    Giggles turned to moans.

    Moans to gasps.

    Gasps. Screams.

    Silence.


    -----

    "Still a better love story than-"

    "NO! NO, IT VERY MUCH IS NOT!!!"

    Meet Arakash... calling him the hero of the story is a bit more than a stretch, so let's just call him 'a very reluctant protagonist'. The actual villain, believe it or not, manages to be far worse.

     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2019
  4. Index: Welcome to Midara, and the author discussing his cowardice.
    TanaNari

    TanaNari Verified Dick

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    Okay, so those familiar with Requiem have already been made familiar with the basic backstory of Midara, but, now... let's do an overview of Paradox.

    This was the first truly complete story I'd ever written. Ever. While Midara itself has a very long history of poorly organized notes dating back to the days I was in middle-school, Paradox was the first time I sat down and created a full length... well, not a novel, because it's more like a script for a game. A poorly written script. A script that is four hundred thousand words long.

    All of it written like this:

    PORT CITY KALE
    Start with a view from sea of a fairly large port. There's a couple obviously military vessels, one docked and one out at sea.
    Zoom in rapidly, skipping over dozens of smaller vessels, mostly fishing boats. Some exotic small vessels with blue/white motiffs in the port that contrast heavily with the standard wood construction of the others.
    The "tour" drops onto the beach and goes to where Arakash and Ada are climbing over a few stones into view.
    ARAKASH: This place never changes.
    ADA: You've been here before?
    ARA: On occasion. I remember when your kingdom was nothing but a Siral fishing colony.
    ADA: That was over two hundred years ago!
    ARA: Actually, closer to a hundred and fifty. Your historians exaggerate. Typical. Now, we have to get you new clothes. For now, I'll just put a simple illusion on you so no one notices. But that's a temporary solution.

    Now... imagine 400,000 words with that sort of information density. Set scene, do dialogue like a play. Yeah... I should mention I'm also a big fan of Planescape: Torment. Though I didn't play that game until after Paradox was more or less complete. Also, that 400k doesn't include most of the game design concepts like character classes, abilities, which (voice) actors and body concept models I'd use... and various info you'll only see in lore menus and/or in-game tomes. That's at least another 90k words right there.

    But let's not delve too much on the fact that the script version of the story has a word count rivaling the combined Lord of the Rings novels and the completed story might wind up bigger than the Song of Ice and Fire series (less incest, however)... down that path lay madness.


    Instead- Paradox has a whole lot more history behind it than some teenage geek who grew up loving Final Fantasy and Chrono Trigger trying desperately to bring a similar joy to others. More tragic and probably longer than this super-novel itself promises to be. Don't worry, you'll be getting a very brief summary.

    It begins with a little trivia- there were two times when I managed to make contacts with actual gaming companies which held pretty strong possibilities of turning Paradox into a game. I'm going to try not to give much detail because I really don't want anyone being able to guess which companies I am speaking of. One I'm not too worried about since I wasn't close enough to know anything that's not public information. The other... well... the other ended in more than a few tears and there's the possibility that if I say too much, I might be talking to lawyers. I'm not certain and I don't want to find out.

    One fell through when a certain mistake sent a certain company into chaos, cost I don't want to know how much money, and resulted in a lot of people losing jobs while many other projects- speculative and otherwise- going up in smoke. Mine was just one of many.

    The other... well, again, I'd made a few contacts and even got a "job" there. It was something between a freelance gig and an internship, so air-quotes are appropriate. Still, foot in the door, right?

    I was quite a bit younger and a whole not more naive back then. Plus people hadn't quite caught on to how truly shitty a lot of game companies were back then.

    To avoid getting too deep into this, suffice it to say there was a great deal of drama I had nothing to do with save for being collateral damage. A false rape accusation was made (not that we peons knew anything but rumors), jobs were lost, a project was destroyed, a good man's life was ruined and ultimately ended, a little girl lost a damn good father... and I lost the closest thing I've ever had to a positive male role model, and stopped writing for the better part of a decade.

    I feel like a selfish prick- others suffered so much more than me in that fiasco. But don't mind me, I like to get angry at myself when I fall into this melodramatic self-pity party. Getting pissed helps me pull myself out of the funk. I doubt it's healthy, but, well, fuck me I guess.

    Then, when I started writing again, it was by convincing myself that it didn't matter. That it was okay if I was bad at it, and that I was writing to bring myself happiness, and it didn't matter if anyone read or liked what I did. Not to say I was lazy or uncaring about my other projects- I loved them all passionately- it just didn't matter to me if others loved them.

    And that worked for me... until it didn't.

    What were you expecting? I told you I'm a coward.

    And also melodramatic, but I'm getting sick of this shit, so time for me to get pissed at myself and face down this psychological trainwreck. If only for the sake of what remains of my damn sanity.

    Because every time I wrote, my mind kept drifting back to that first truly realized project, the one which I attached all my dreams to and then saw them burn. In truth, I don't think I have ever felt for a lover the same unflinching passion as I do for this story. I can't not care what others think, and I've run out of excuses to keep running to other projects.

    I'd say it's starting to hurt me in other aspects of my life, but that implies I haven't been letting these demons walk all over me for a long time, now. Enough is enough


    So now, when I say that I hope you enjoy it and I value your feedback, you know how much I mean it. This time, I don't just enjoy the feedback- I need it. And I don't mean some unearned hugbox praise or other such bullshit. Tear it apart and help rebuild it the way it would have been if it had been set in front of a proper series of story designers.


    Thank you for reading this trainwreck-of-thought post, and I'm sorry for inflicting my baggage on you. I promise future updates will avoid this heavy personal stuff and instead will be about demons, slavery, and assassinations. You know- cheerful topics.

    And, who knows, maybe some day, I'll tell you the story of a damn good man who deserved better from life. Of course, knowing him, he'd be pissed at me for writing it... but it's not only his story to tell.
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2019
  5. Threadmarks: Character Sheet: Arakash
    TanaNari

    TanaNari Verified Dick

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    ARAKASH:

    As what is effectively an incubus, Arakash should ooze enough sex appeal to overcome the fact that he is an unapologetic monster. And for the ladies who find the 'serial killer' grade bad boy to be attractive for some incomprehensible reason, let's see if we can make panties break the sound barrier.

    Arakash's basic humanoid form should be modeled to look like a young Shah Rukh Khan. His demonic form, somewhat like Goliath of the 90s Gargoyles cartoon, but with a more slender, catlike build rather than the body builder superhero look.

    Speaking of Goliath, Keith David would be an excellent selection for a voice actor. My original pick for a voice actor was Tony Jay, but sadly that's not an option anymore.

    Theme music: A metal remake of Futile by Lord Lovidicus seems ideal to me.


    Class: Plague Lord

    "An enslaved demon. What madman thought such a beast could be controlled?"

    6'4'' (193cm), Solid black eyes, Dark purple skin, black hair.

    Hobbies: Eating young girls (no, not the fun way), being a freakin' demon.

    STATS: (Note, stats increase with levels, so what will be listed is a grading scale of A-F suggesting what you can expect of this character compared to equivalent levels).

    Strength: B

    Agility: A

    Vitality: C

    Intelligence: C

    Perception: B

    Willpower: C

    Elements: Miasma, Negation.

    Combat Style: Stealth, Assassination, Battlefield controlling debuffs

    Relies on poison and illusory magic. Fairly effective against most enemies so long as you choose to use the correct abilities. Weak against the undead and "holy" enemies.

    BASE ABILITIES: These are natural traits available to Arakash.

    Flight- Can fly. Flying counts as movement, even if staying still, and can slow other actions

    Immune to Disease, Mind Control, Poison, Darkness, and resistant to cold.

    Nightvision- Cannot be blinded by darkness

    Vampirism- A weak attack that allows Arakash to heal. Best used against downed or otherwise incapacitated foes.

    Vulnerable to fire, holy, and light magic.

    No natural healing/recovery. Only recovers via life draining.

    Meldcast Effect: Corrosion. The target(s) of a Corrosive Spell get a debuff to their resistance against spells of that element for the rest of the battle. Cumulative.

    WEAPON TYPE:

    Vilos Parasite- Arakash' weapon is derived from a parasitic organism which has fused itself to his arm. The creature has a unique form of claylike bone substance that it can alter in order to create various weapons. One of the key skills the player needs to master in using Arakash effectively is determining which weapon design is best for which opponents.

    Claw- Short range and very fast, 4 blades each deal a small amount of damage (effectively 4 hits), makes it very strong against poorly armored targets, but very weak against armored foes.

    Tandem Blades- Twin claws, each dealing about 50% more damage than one claw, but only having two blades. Most effective against medium armor.

    Katar- Short range, fast, single blade that does about 50% more damage than one of the twin blades (125% more than a claw). Good for heavily armored foes.

    Longblade- Medium range, effectively a longsword, moderate damage and speed- good generic option

    Crossbow- Slow ranged weapon that's overall weak- but can be used to attack from the safety of the air.



    ARMOR TYPE:

    Light or Medium armors. Arakash cannot fly except in light armor.

    MAGIC STYLES:

    INFESTATION: All these carry a generic feature of infecting a target, or targets, with disease or poison- resisted with Vitality. The AoE and contagious spells of this class are just as capable of hitting allies as enemies. As is RPG tradition: the stronger spells won't be available in the early game.

    Nausea- reduces perception and agility (as well as speed)

    Paralysis- Base poison, harms accuracy

    Neurotoxin- Reduces vitality and strength

    Venom- Enchants Arakash' weapon with one of his other infestation class spells granting a chance to inflict the status with each hit, stacks (makes claw type attacks really good for stacking debuffs)

    Miasma- Harms the lungs- lowers vitality and agility of all caught inside

    Virus- Infects a target with a virus that slowly drains health, damage climbs exponentially over time. Can spread.

    Acid- Cause damage, weakens armor greatly

    Zombie Plague- Does health and agility damage over time. If victim dies, becomes a zombified version of the unit that goes berserk and targets the nearest large animal.

    Acid Bath- Like acid, but area damage (can destroy terrain)

    Manaphage- Infests a target, causes damage to health equal to the mana cost whenever target casts a spell.

    Spore- Hits multiple targets. If infected dies, body explodes, replicating the original spell. Causes damage similar to virus and slowly lowers stats.

    Lycanthropy- Makes the target go berserk and attack closest living unit, regardless of team. Slowly increases stats and health over time. Can infest via certain (touch) attacks- lycanthropes only target each other when there are no other targets available- this spell actually could be useful to cast on allies on occasion

    Manaspores- Similar to manaphage, has the spore effects as well

    Ebola- A greatly improved version of virus

    ILLUSION: These spells either affect the mind or alter light/sound to create illusory spells. Some are offensive, others defensive. Arakash uses two types of illusion magic: Shadow and Memory.

    SHADOW: All create zones where light cannot pass. These black shadows are impossible to see through using normal vision, but are pure illusion with no substance or ability to interact with the world.

    Blind- Covers the target's face in shadows. Causes blindness, but no damage

    Dark Shield- Creates a cube of pure black that cannot be seen into or out of

    Shadow Beasts- Creates creatures and humanoids that are pure shadow. They have high agility, speed, and evasion. They lack substance, so cannot inflict damage and if they get hit by anything, they risk vanishing. Useful as decoys and intimidation.

    Prism Eater- A special defensive spell that negates any light based attacks on the shielded. Falters after absorbing its power worth of damage.

    Dark Wall- A much wider version of the dark shield

    Black Hound- A Shadow Beast upgrade that can kamikaze itself into a foe, inflicting a selected "memory" spell.

    Abyssal Night- Covers the ground with a fog of black. Doesn't reach high terrain, but floods most area. Darkness affects all targets and shifts the local magic field two steps toward 'negation'.

    MEMORY SPELLS: A special class of mind magic that forces the target to remember emotional events in his/her life. These spells are devastating and can pierce most mental resistance to illusion or mind magic, but short lived. All are single target and short range.

    Memories of Fear- Reduces accuracy and speed (unless fleeing), lowers morale.

    Memories of Longing- Distracts foe, reducing action speed

    Memories of Desire- Decreases Willpower, thus making the target more vulnerability to mind control or other means of persuasion

    Memories of Pain- Reduces vitality and strength

    Memories of Betrayal- Target randomly chooses one ally and attacks. Duration determined by Arakash' magic, resisted by Foe's willpower.

    Memories of Failure- Reduces "luck"- decreasing the odds of success for any action.

    Memories of Loss- Reduces perception and awareness- might skip turns

    Memories of Rage- Enters a berserk mode. Also boosts strength and lowers agility

    Memories of Loneliness- Greatly lowers willpower

    Memories of Isolation- As fear, also "forgets" about allies, which means the AI won't support them or try to avoid catching them in AoE attacks

    Memories of Nothing- A powerful stun spell that temporarily erases the target's mind

    OTHER SPELLS- These generally don't fit in previous categories.

    Locate Energy- Arakash senses the combined energy of health+magic of everyone in range- this is valuable tactically and can reveal hidden targets and higher stat foes.

    Sense Lust- Arakash can identify sexual desires directed toward himself, and identify some of the subject's desires and motivations.

    Paralysis- Stacking agility damage attacks, to keep a victim unable to move for vampiric purposes.

    Strip Essence- Uses vampiric drain on a magical construct, reducing effect and duration of many area control spells (mainly forcefield effects)

    Charm- Makes the target like Arakash. The target(s) will not attack him if he doesn't attack them, and might cast support spells to aid him. But will not be under control and will attack your other characters.

    Consume Essence- A more powerful variant of strip essence and vampiric drain which sacrifices energy for speed. Does more damage, but costs too much to provide much power restoration.

    Seduce- Can mind control a target that finds him attractive, grants control during the battle and adds the victim to the "cohort" roster after battle.

    Rend Spirit- Does direct magic damage, highly effective against mages

    Black Grip- Holds a target with an invisible claw. A powerful binding move, but Arakash cannot take other actions while using this ability
     
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2019
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  6. wichajster

    wichajster Away

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    Are you also interested in typo reports, like missing capitalization in "though"?
     
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  7. TanaNari

    TanaNari Verified Dick

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    Always. It's not biologically possible to write this many words and not have typos. Fixing them is always a goal.
     
  8. Threadmarks: Chapter 1: The Summoning- In which two assholes try to out-asshole each other.
    TanaNari

    TanaNari Verified Dick

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    Several black-robed mystics chanted to one another, weaving the complex summoning spell together to the essential moment and required outcome. One of the ritualists gasped, reached for his chest, and collapsed upon the pure marble of the chamber floor.

    Another ritualist stepped into the circle, next to the collapsed man, and took up the chant right away while too others in the back went to move the fallen.

    "My apologies, M'lord," one of the men whispered to another. "We'll remove him to be dealt with-"

    "Toss him in the pit."

    The two tending to the fallen also looked up, frozen by uncertainty. "M'lord?"

    "He failed to so much as warn us he was going to falter. If he can't serve to control the ritual, then he'll serve as raw material. The ritual is the only thing that matters. It is more important than any of our lives. The pit."

    The ritualist attempted to struggle, but he was outnumbered and having a heart attack. He was shoved into the shallow pit in the center of the chamber. Long, slender tendrils of living darkness reached up from through the floor, embraced him, then began the slow process of peeling his flesh off one long, almost loving, stroke at a time.

    For a brief moment, the chamber glowed as lightning danced across the gold and gemstones installed in the pure marble of the chamber. The excess energy was absorded, balanced, and evened out across the supernatural matrix. A spell of this magnitude taxed not just the ritualists, but the fabric of the Ether itself. One mistake, and the excess energy would rupture and spill uncontrolled into the physical world, killing all of them.

    Meanwhile, the others continued their chanting while weaving the web of magic. The lord in question noted with some satisfaction as one of the other chanters stepped back, replaced by a fresh chanter. He had always believed the best way to get results was to remind people of the stakes.

    Several agonizing minutes later, the upswell of controlled chaos reached its apex; the point where time and space could be folded in on themselves, torn assunder, and forced into new configurations.

    The lord slipped a dagger out from the concealment of his robe and sliced his own palm. Holding a hand out over the pit, he allowed his blood to soak the stone, soon to be taken as nourishment by the black tendrils. Nasty creatures though they were, they were the most attainable of a short list of components that could achieve this final effect.

    As they had consumed so much blood and tissue, the spell now consumed them. They screeched in protest as they were converted first to a toxic smoke, then converting that spoke to a carefully balanced mix of void and negation magic.

    With the resonance established, the portal could be torn through reality- at the other end, a specific and unique magical signature that existed in one and only one spot. Energy was consumed, space was transposed, and without fanfare a hairless beast of dark purple and black standing half again as tall as a man found itself in the middle of the pit.

    Twin talons on a digitigrade leg carved through the stone while wings unfurled and three-fingered claws opened wide, ready for the challenge. Its solid black eyes darted looked around like a caged animal's.

    The demon tilted his head back and screamed, releasing reverberations of warped sonic magic meant to cause terror and madness. The shielding created by the ritual prevented any supernatural aspect of the scream from escaping the pit, but several of the ritualists faltered and stepped back. The lord made a mental note of which ones proved to be cowards. He wouldn't punish them; they did accomplish their mission. However, they would find themselves receiving less favor than the ones who stood their ground.

    It then lunged forward, straight at the lord who had overseen this ritual. Its arms jerked back momentum yanked the body forward, wrists are tethered by invisible chains to the center of the pit.

    "WHO DARES SUMMON ARAKASH, LORD OF BLIGHT!?!"

    So it finally speaks. "That would be my doing." He remained calm, removed his hood to reveal his handsome, if somewhat older, features with blond hair long faded to grey. Unlike many, he was uninterested in using magic to emulate youth; he took pride in knowing he earned every wrinkle on his face. "I am King Sorda".

    "Then I am in Tiras," Arakash responded. He stepped back, then stood to his full height.

    Facing down the creature that was almost eye level to him in spite of standing in the pit, Sorda smirked. "So you're educated, then. That'll save us some time."

    "The only time you should concern yourself with is when I break free from this prison. Then I shall see your civilization razed to the ground. You will live as my slave until I tire of your screams".

    "I think you'll find that quite impossible."

    Arakash lunged again, straining against the bindings holding him. His talons found purchase in the stone, allowing him to pull himself forward step by painful step. One arm got close enough that Sorda could have reached out and touched it, if he had any such desire.

    "Impressive, but you're at your limit, and the spell i-" A bone spear shot forward from Arakash' wrist, cutting off Sorda's speech and only instinct and reflexes kept his head from going with it. He caught his composure after a moment. "Hmm, I hadn't realized you were hosting a Vilos. But even if it had struck me, what would it have accomplished? Even if you somehow managed to land a killing blow despite my defenses and my healers' best efforts, I'd have been revived within the hour. A waste of effort."

    "Don't care, it would have hurt." Arakash knew better than to reveal his actual plan was to bury the Vilos boneblade into the man's flesh in order to drag him into the pit.

    "I should think that those of our stations would be above such petty displays. But if you insist." He nodded toward the sorcerer next to him.

    The hooded summoner raised his hands up to his face and formed a triangle with his hands above his forehead.

    Arakash screamed, dropping to his knees in agony. The parasite attached to his arm writhed, white bone flailing around it and leaving gashes in the demon's flesh. After what he considered enough time, Sorda held up his hand, and the summoner stopped.

    "Now, a lesser man would resort to threats after a display like that one, such as ripping that disgusting worm out of your arm." He took a step forward, then jumped down into the pit. Magically enhanced muscle made the drop harmless. He walked toward the demon. "But I like keeping my tools as useful as possible, and it is easier to demonstrate that you've already lost."

    Arakash rose again, reaching out to grip the vulnerable throat of his captor, only to stop at the last moment. "W-why? How." He drew back, looking at his hand as if it had personally betrayed him.

    "Part of the summoning process. You were bound into my service before you even knew the spell was being cast. Did you truly believe I would come this far and leave such a glaring oversight as allowing you the ability to do me harm in any way?"

    "You did WHAT!?!" Arakash's eyes widened in what might have been horror. "Command magic requires consent, there's no sacrifice in the world high enough to over come that law."

    "And that is where you're wrong." Sorda smirked at the creature. "There is at least one method, and while there is a sacrifice required, it is one I would not hesitate to pay a thousand times over to claim a tool like you."

    "I... see." Arakash grit his teeth, running through every scenario in his head where he might kill the man before him via indirect methods that could circumvent the binding spell. He found none.

    "Now, shall we get to business?" Sorda asked, as if it were a pleasant dinner meeting. "Preferably in a human form."

    "Very well," Arakash snarled, With a moment of concentration, his flesh twisted in on itself. His two pairs of wings folded inward and rolled into his back, his skin changed from dark purple to a medium brown. Hair sprouted from his scalp, clothing manifested over his body, somehow. In seconds, a handsome and muscular man had replaced the demonic beast. "What service could you possibly consider worth the price paid this night?"

    "One which is simple, and anything but straightforward," Sorda said. "You are to protect my daughter".

    Arakash let out a bitter and cruel laugh. "I must admit, I never would have anticipated such a demand. Surely such a great lord as yourself would have better servants than a Noctrel to be around what would surely be a beautiful and," he took the time to smile and lick his lips. "Extremely tasty young maiden."

    "There's no risk to her." If he felt any concern over the obvious threat and innuendo, he showed no sign of it. "When I claimed you were bound to me, that was not entirely true. It is in fact her that you are specifically chained to, while I'm using my status as her father and my talent as a Blood Mage to exert some limited version of that control over you. Your powers are useless on her. More than that, her life force was chained to yours. Your body will take on any injury meant for her. So long as you live, she cannot die."

    Arakash bit his tongue; proclaiming something impossible while witnessing it with his own eyes would make him look both weak and foolish. It was better to spend his efforts seeking a way to break the spell, instead. "Is there anything else I should know about this binding magic?"

    "Just the mundane ones," Sorda answered calmly. "On the off chance you aren't familiar. You can't lie to or betray her, must obey her commands, and cannot knowingly bring her to danger or harm. All standard for any sort of bound servant. Certainly I needn't go over the tedium. One such as you should already know the details of such magic."

    "I... understand." All but the most important detail, which was the question of how this sort of comprehensive binding magic could be applied without the consent of all parties. "Your daughter is about to be exposed to specific dangers, which is why you need me." It was the only reason he could think of that Sorda wouldn't have bound him to himself over any other.

    "I suppose it was an obvious conclusion." Sorda kept his tone neutral. "Yes. If you're aware enough to identify my nation by my name, then you're aware of recent political history. Princess Adageyudi is being sent on a diplomatic mission to Karana. You are to use your extensive natural talents in manipulation and deception to assist in every way possible."

    "I'm sure the fact that Karana is matriarchal played a role in this decision, but how do you expect me to avoid all the security magic?"

    "The binding magic will hide you from any passive detection or shielding. So long as you don't attempt to actively cast spells on someone, you'll be fine. Even if you do attempt spellcasting, I doubt they'll realize you're Noctrel. They'll simply think you're a particularly stupid mage, which will endanger my daughter's mission."

    "Which means I'm unable to attempt it in the first place." The idea that the binding could hide his presense suggested it was, in fact, a double-structured binding, where she was bound to him as well as him being bound to her. Which he knew had been tried before by Noctrel and allied human mages, but if this Sorda's claim proved true, it was far more advanced than any technique he had ever heard of before.

    Once again, he was struck by how impossible the conditions of this magic seemed. Not for the first time, he regretted that his talents were of a more physical nature, rather than the magical genius that his sister and their mother shared.

    "I'm relieved to see you've finally managed to grasp the situation." Sorda stepped around the demon, making toward the stairs leading out of the pit. "Now, I am a busy man, so my servants will see to you. They will provide you to some guest quarters and what information my informants have on Karana's social and political situation, to aid your mission. Remember, as my daughter benefits from my property and agents, harming them is the same as harming her."

    Arakash growled under his breath as Sorda left the room, swearing upon demons far more horrifying than himself that one day he would torture this man to death twice for every day he had to suffer the humiliation of servitude.

    And oh, the unspeakable fate which awaited his daughter.

    =====

    To quote one of the best movies of all times" "I knew it! I'm surrounded by assholes."

    Personally, I think Sorda won the asshole contest, how about you? But, unorthodox though it may be, you have to admit it's a really effective plan if you can make it work. Sorda is not a man who half-asses security. Or playing with eldritch horrors, black magic, and demonic entities.

    Fun fact: in the original notes, that whole summoning scene was about 50 words. The conversation another 200 or so. Whew.

    Personally, I think too much media just glosses over ritual magic... treating it like Star Trek treats "science" fiction. I'm trying the opposite- treating magic as Arthur C. Clarke treated technology- there's engineering theory and laws that might not be physics, but are still more or less physics. Tell me how it holds up, please.

    Fun fact: There's no true need for chanting as part of a ritual, but it definitely makes things easier. Kind of how it's possible to do a dance choreography routine without music... but when failed timing means death, you're gonna use every tool available.

    Also, Vilos parasites are terrifying and you'll be seeing much more of them later in the story.
     
  9. Threadmarks: Chapter 2: Excuse Me, Princess.
    TanaNari

    TanaNari Verified Dick

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    "Stand tall, the last rule to remember is that you must never show weakness in front of this creature. It will tell any lie, use any opportunity. While near it, all actions will be a contest of will. Do not allow it to win."

    "I must voice my objection to this plan, father," Soret said. He stood tall, perhaps hoping that his physical stature might intimidate his father into reconsidering. "Ignore the Karanans, or let me go in their stead. Surely anything is better than risking your daughter with this monster."

    "Once again, your objections are noted and rejected. Unless you've come up with a new argument, I order you to drop it." Sorda let his impatience slip into his voice. "Now, Princess Adageyudi will take the Noctrel and use every advantage it offers in negotiations with Karana. Do you both understand."

    Ada spared a glance over to her elder brother. The worry made him look more like his father than he ever had before. While they shared the same height and blond hair, her brother always had an approachable, happy demeanor. Sensing no help would come from him, she answered for them.

    "Yes, Father," Ada nodded, taking a slow breath and preparing herself for the confrontation that was to demonstrate whether she was worthy of her claim to royal blood.

    "I don't like the hesitation." He gave both of his children a look, making certain they understood he wouldn't tolerate dissent.

    "My apologies." Ada turned her eyes down. "I feel uncomfortable about having a slave."

    "Is that so? Come with me." Sorda turned and walked toward one of the castle's side halls.

    Contrary to popular fiction, the amount of floor space available in a castle was rather limited, especially a defensive fortress like Castle Tyras. Even in wealthy of nations castles were often more stone than room, and Tyras was a young nation that had not yet amassed the wealth necessary to craft an opulent palace.

    This showed in how little time it required for them to reach the room which he had the newest addition to their forces waiting. He opened the door himself, and noted that the creature was leaning back in a chair with his bare feet on the table. It didn't bother to stand.

    For his part, Arakash knew this minor act of rebellion would annoy the otherwise untouchable king; nothing in the loyalty clause of his somehow forced 'contract' required he act with respect or decorum. He was, however, starting to regret this defiance, for now he was in a vulnerable stance. While Sorda was a known factor, and the slender purple-haired girl was easy to dismiss as little more than a weak mage, the boy following behind was anything but a simple problem.

    The tall fair-haired man shined with magical power. Power which he had trained alongside his body until both were as well-crafted as the magical blade which he wielded. In any fair fight, he knew he'd lose. Fortunately, Noctrel thought of fighting fair as anything other than a weakness to exploit in their enemies. Unfortunately, the man was wound so tight that he might go for the kill with the slightest provocation.

    "He doesn't look anything like I expected." Ada thought she muttered it quiet enough to not be overheard, but Noctrel senses were far sharper than human.

    What was a surprise to him was how little he could take from that impression; most of the time, Noctrel could sense intent, emotion, and all the numerous flavors of desire that they evoked. Where he was accustomed to reading through most women with impunity, there was emptiness in the girl's aura. Others might have taken it as a lesson in humility, but Arakash found yet another reason to rail against this treatment.

    "It," Sorda corrected. "Is a Noctrel, not a 'he'. If you must, its name is Arakash, and it is yours to command. I suggest you start by ordering it to show its true self."

    Arakash clenched his teeth, his eyes darting between the three. For now, he would need to bide his time. Once girl was away from her much more controlled father and overprotective elder brother, then he could work on acquiring his freedom.

    "Understood, father." Ada looked straight at the man she had been told was a demon. "Arakash, I command you to reveal your true form."

    He resisted as best he could, for it seemed they expected him to. If nothing else, the two heartbeats between when the words were spoken and the compulsion blossomed in force taught him how long he could fight the magic's compulsion. He didn't see any way it could help him now, but the future was rife with possibility.

    Try as he might, however, his body moved without him. Flesh warped, swelled, shifted in shape, color, and even mystical signature as he was forced into his true state.

    Ada gasped and steps back a couple feet quickly, before regaining her composure. "I hadn't realized."

    "Now, perhaps, you should ask it how many innocent young men and women it's fed upon in its long life. I'm certain the answer will enlighten you to the true nature of this creature."

    She drew a breath, staring down the beast which was enslaved to her. "Well, you heard my father. Tell me, how many lives are you responsible for destroying?"

    The expression on his inhuman face was unreadable. Yet again, a means to test the nature of the compulsion using an honest, if vague, answer. "I don't know." The pressure eased for a moment, before coming back harder still. The spell demanded more, teaching him that it was basing its definition of a proper answer on her mind. "Do you track every side of lamb or beef you've ever eaten?" The pressure continued building. "I've lived a long time; it must be in the high hundreds by now." He hissed as agony lanced through his skull. "Thousands, no doubt."

    So now, he knew that the spell went beyond simple compulsion, and rewarded evasiveness with pain. Better to learn it now than during something important. That technicalities were included in the spell's nature convinced him even further that what guided the spell was tied directly into how he and the princess perceived the situation, rather than some objective Truth magic.

    "You see," Sorda said. "It is unworthy of sympathy."

    Ada looked down, unwilling to face either her father, or the creature she now commanded. "Yes, father. I apologize for questioning your wisdom".

    Soret, still eyeing the beast whose chest was above his head, could no longer hold his tongue. "I don't. This thing convinced me it's even more dangerous than I imagined, before. It won't let itself be controlled forever. I'm an accomplished knight and it is my duty to protect my sister, not this abomination's!"

    "You're heir to the throne of Tiras." Sorda sighed at his son's outburst. "You can't be replaced."

    "And my sister can!?" Now, Soret turned away from Arakash, stepped up to his father's face, and gripped his robe. "How can you say that after-"

    With speed that surprised everyone, Sorda backhanded his son with enough force to send him sprawling across the room. Arakash in particular was taken aback by this display of power; he had known the king to be a skilled summoner, but he hadn't sensed this level of accomplished warmage in the man. Then he remembered the man was a Blood Mage, no doubt using his blood bond to his daughter to hide from his senses the way she was hidden.

    "I tolerate your objections because a good king must be able to hear disagreement, as you will have to learn some day." Sorda straightened out his clothes as he spoke. "But do not dare to presume that makes us equals. And never raise your hand to me again."

    Soret rubbed his jaw as he used his magic to heal it until it was sore, rather than broken. "Yes, your majesty."

    "Be glad nobody other than family witnessed your childish behavior," Sorda finished. "Now go prepare your sister's guard. The circumstances have somewhat swayed me to your concerns, so you may choose five more you feel suited to join the ones I've already assigned. Make it quick; I will tolerate nothing delaying the departure."

    "Thank you, Sire." Still shaking with anger, Soret climbed to his feet and marched for the exit.

    "Speaking of delays, I have my own matters to attend to," Sorda said. "I advise you have it take on human form again, before the servants see. It would be best if it waited at the main gates while you ready yourself for the journey." He walked out, not far behind his son.

    Ada waited for a moment, still trying to digest how she felt about what had transpired, in addition to now having control over a monster. "You heard my father. What are you waiting for?"

    Arakash found the exchange fascinating, especially how he gave commands to his son, but made 'suggestions' to his daughter. He suspected that, too, was related to the nature of his binding magic. As he considered the possibilities, he returned to a human appearance.

    "The main gates are through the large doors. You'll find yourself in the inner keep, take the main path through the garden until you come to the gate itself. Tell the guards you're to wait there for me." She hesitated for a moment. "And while on the subject, you're not to speak to anyone of what you saw in this room. Or, for that matter, do anything else that might embarrass me or the family."

    "As you command, Princess."

    He gathered himself as Ada left, considering all that he had learned. There wouldn't be much chance to play the father against the son, as he'd be gone too soon, but perhaps he could turn the daughter. Without being able to read her emotions, she'd be a challenge, but even humans could manipulate one another, so he felt confident he'd find a way.

    He stepped out, and went wandering; the princess hadn't demanded he go without delay, so he could take some time, and the emotions pulsing off that little princeling right now were fascinating.

    In a side chamber, a green haired woman looked up into the concerned and gentle eyes of her all-too-handsome prince. "Are you still certain? I mean, after I-"

    "Please, Fiora." He put his hands on her shoulders, aware of the effect he had on her, and the fact that this was the closest they could ever be, for her sake. As much as both of them would enjoy the affair, he wasn't willing to use her knowing there could be no future in it. "You are the only one I can trust, and right now Ada needs a friend as well as a guardian."

    She fought down her emotions; the ones that wanted to run crying from the room, and the ones that wanted to jump on him and confess all her feelings. Instead, she indulged more self-loathing. "But, I-"

    "Hush." His word held no force, but to her it was an absolute command. "I keep telling you that was not your fault. Nobody is perfect, and you weren't the only one she tricked."

    "I can't allow myself to believe that." She looked away. "I'm a loyal soldier, I'll do my duty no matter what it requires. But don't demand the impossible of me."

    Soret let her go. "I suppose that will be enough for now, but this isn't over."

    "I know," Fiora said. Then she stepped away and fled from the room followed not long after by Soret.

    Neither noticed Arakash in his temporary illusion as an older servant observing them. Personally, he thought the young lord could do better than some low-class warrior, but he was less interested in the man's tastes than the fact that he was sending the woman with them. While her aura spoke of a well trained and strong warmage, she wasn't a threat to him, and she wasn't shielded from his power.

    One more stone to chip away at. Sooner or later, something would give, and he'd use that weakness to free himself and exact his revenge.

    =====

    A/N- In the game version, you'd be able to run around with Arakash for a bit, steal a little bit of early-game items, and pick some amount of setting lore... but we'll skill all that because this is NOVEL!Paradox, not GAME!Paradox. But, y'know, if any of my readers know any devs out there, I'm listening.
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2020
  10. Threadmarks: Character Sheet: Fiora
    TanaNari

    TanaNari Verified Dick

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    FIORA:

    Fiora should look the part of a soldier... not particularly attractive in terms of facial features. In spite of her more emotional personality when around Soret, she's the quintessential 'tough chick' archetype. A little distant, a little angry, haunted by burdens of the past, and those ghosts should show on her features in spite of her being fairly young. Pity the "80s punk" personality isn't popular anymore, I want a voice actress which can channel the attitude of a sailor. Or, soldier, as case may be.

    Theme Music: As a shamanistic Earth mage, percussion-type tribalistic would be ideal. Something like this, but with more wind instrument:


    Class: Penitent Knight

    "A woman with a painful past. She would rather die than fail again."

    5'10'' (178cm), Soft green eyes, tan skin, jungle green hair.

    Hobbies: Training, doubting herself

    STATS: (Note, stats increase with levels, so what will be listed is a grading scale of A-F suggesting what you can expect of this character compared to equivalent levels).

    Strength: A

    Agility: C

    Vitality: B

    Intelligence: C

    Perception: C

    Willpower: A

    Elements: Earth, Nature

    Combat Style: Blitz-Tank

    Naturally high resilience, moderate healing magic. Relies on casting spells that cause her damage, then healing her self-inflicted wounds magically.

    BASE ABILITIES: These are natural traits available to Fiora.

    Feral Berserk- Can boost all her combat stats, at the price of inflicting damage as she fights. Cannot use healing magic (or anything requiring concentration) while in this status.

    Herbalism- As the party traverses the map, this ability lets her discover various herbal "loot" that can be converted to various potions and/or chemical weapons.

    Knapping- The talent of crafting stone into tools, magic edition. Fiora "picks up" various stone tools as the party walks, generating free ammo for the Launch spell below.

    Meldcast Effect: Stone of Aeons- Spells she meldcasts gain increased resilience, represented in longer duration, dispel resistance, and more damage absorption before collapse.

    WEAPON TYPE:

    Fiora prefers large, heavy weapons like hammers or clubs which favors her brutal close-combat battle strategy.

    ARMOR TYPE:

    Heavy. Prefers the most Damage Reduction possible, because it doesn't matter if her already crap speed stat takes further penalties.

    MAGIC STYLES: Fiora is a primarily a frontline fighter, but can help her allies by granting numerous buff spells, or inhibiting enemy mobility with earth magic. Works out well for her.

    BUFFING: All these heal or enhance the stats of allies.

    Mend- Low level heal spell

    Cleanse- Removes the effect of poisons and diseases, also cleanses poisoned/diseased food and water.

    Haste- Speed boost, inflicts damage on recipient.

    Chameleon- Stealth spell

    Guardian Stone- Awakens the earth, creating a one-way shield that blocks incoming ranged attacks to the area. Single target.

    Lessen Gravity- Eliminates penalties from heavy weapons and armor.

    Parapets- A wall that is the perfect design to hide behind and fire from cover. Absorbs and blocks enemy actions, but not your own. Line target.

    Blessed Terrain- Party gains slow regeneration for rest of the battle. Strong shift to "Nature" field element.


    BATTLEFIELD DEBUFFS: These spells alter the environment in order to screw over the enemy. Also effects allies.

    Shifting Soil: Ever tried to run on sand? Imagine that, only even more annoying. AoE effect that inflicts movement and footing penalties.

    Undergrowth- Plants grow up, ensnaring the target. Move penalties, severe aiming penalties with spells and ranged weapons.

    Break Barricade- Damages walls and other structures, including magic created spells. Breaks weak ones.

    Stone Cacophony- The rocks in the earth grind together, generating loud noises that make concentration difficult and being heard impossible.

    Gravity Calling- What goes up, must come down. This spell makes a flying target unable to remain in the air. It's not the fall, it's the sudden stop at the end.

    Quicksand- A more powerful version of shifting soil, can result in heavy opponents drowning.

    Entomb- The soil sucks the victim into a early and not particularly shallow grave.

    Shattered Terrain- A violent spell that not only generates an earthquake, but turns the entire battlefield into a maze of sharp spikes and deadly pitfalls. Serious penalties for anyone that needs to walk, especially creatures that take up larger spaces.


    RAW DAMAGE: Spells meant to deal lots and lots of damage. Fiora gets these rather late compared to her buff and BC spells. She's not meant to be a blaster. Her less than impressive agility makes most of them unlikely to hit.

    Bullet- Accelerates a rock to near-sonic speeds. Hurts if it hits. Requires no ammo.

    Launch- Sacrifices a light, handheld object to fire it at incredible speeds at the enemy. Like bullet, but with bonus pointy-object damage. Also a good way to deliver dangerous potions at range.

    Cannon- Accelerates a bolder to a few hundred kilometers per hour. Hurts lots if it hits.

    Shotgun- Fires multiple bullets in a spread, numerous potential hits.

    Shrapnel- The Shotgun upgrade to the Launch spell.

    Meteor- Not quite dinosaur-killer sized rock from space, but that's fine, you're not planning to use it on dinosaurs.
     
  11. Tortoise

    Tortoise Getting sticky.

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    Typo/grammar stuff:
    who

    Why say she was "only" shielded by that, if it was enough to make him dismiss her?

    "he", and probably also "it being obvious" or "making it obvious"

    That "opposite" phrasing is off, also ends with two '.'

    how

    seems like the wrong verb

    her

    remove comma

    probed

    remove "it"; "could" what? Either there should be a verb, or it should be "with wanton abandon as only a young adult with no experience could"

    Short dashes normally have spaces on both sides, long dashes on neither. Is this intentionally written with asymmetric spaces?

     
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  12. TanaNari

    TanaNari Verified Dick

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    Proving once again: I suck at wording.
     
  13. Threadmarks: Chapter 3: Giving Love a Bad Name
    TanaNari

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    "Give it up." The man laughed, leaning back against his chair. "Admit it, save us some time, and yourself some pain."

    Arakash eyed the old, overconfident soldier. He seemed affable enough, and while strong, it was a predominately combat ability, not a man who knew much complex magic theory. "Funny, I was about to say the same thing to you." He grabbed the palm-sized glowing artifact in front of him.

    "I'm tellin' ya, it's never gonna work." The soldier crossed his arms, certain of his victory.

    Arakash heard a chuckle from behind him, as another soldier chimed in. "Some people gotta learn the hard way, sir."

    "That they do." Arakash placed his piece on the tile right in front of an opponent piece, as diagonal to another, then nudged them together. The three panels began to glow, his white, theirs black. Moments later, the two black panels flickered and died. Not because they should have, but because Arakash used his magic to siphon just enough power from the board to give his piece victory in spite of the odds.

    The man just stared at the two pieces he lost. He moved one of his pieces to take the piece that had just taken two of his, but at this stage of the game it was a formality; his formation was broken and his pieces outnumbered. Attrition would see to the rest. "The pigs are whislin'." He gave the board a nudge toward Arakash. "Your game."

    "Beginner's luck." "Yeah." "No way you knew that would happen."

    Dismissive though the soldiers were of his victory, there was no hostility, only good-natured teasing. Mage Chess was for gamblers, and this was a gentleman's game.

    Arakash stood as well, eyeing a number of heavily armored knights and mages gathering near the keep gate. "I'd offer to play again, but it looks like the people I was waiting for are arriving." He walked toward them, leaving the local guards to wonder who he was that he would be joining the Princess' entourage.

    He didn't have long to wait, before Ada joined them along with her brother and his would-be lover. He strolled toward them, back straight and head high; if they wanted him to play the role of an elite guard, he had no choice but to play that role to the best of his ability. "This is everyone?" Counting himself, that would make fourteen elite guards for the girl. "I must say, I am impressed."

    Soret bristled, but he played along because he had little choice. "Nobody but the best to protect Princess Ada."

    Arakash's smile was almost genuine; he not knew that not everyone in the group knew his true nature. "Surrounded by so many powerful guards, it seems like my presence is redundant." Let the cautious prince digest that statement for a time. The truth was that this crowd counted no less than nine people he was confident could destroy him in individual combat. The rest, minus the princess, were still too strong for him to dismiss.

    "Be that as it may, the King has spoken." Soret tried to ignore the demon's subtle goading. He looked at the men and women who waited in silence for his orders. "Let's depart. I'll be joining you to the edge of the city."

    Left unspoken but not unnoticed was the lack of Sorda's presence.

    On leaving the castle proper, they began their walk through the castle down. Like many fortress-castles, it traded the convenience of flat ground for the security of sitting on the edge of a mountain. The route to Castle Tyras was well maintained, but steep enough to make walking difficult and provide as many advantages as possible to a defending army. In some places, there were stairs for people and long, snaking paths for animals and wagons.

    The castle-town that always blossom around such construction was built in narrow strips along magically landscaped flat layers in the hills next to the main road since it was impossible to occupy both sides of the winding route.

    What few townsfolk were nearby backed away and knelt as the progression marched onward. Yet another reason to keep the business of the city away from the main route was the minor annoyance of having to stop and grovel every time someone important went by. While the underclasses of Tyras were better treated than their contemporaries in many nations, they still preferred to avoid their overlords where possible.

    Princess Ada took the time to smile, even wave, as they walked by. Nobody waved back, but such was to be expected. She hoped that they would at least think kindly of her for being kind.

    Then chaos exploded around them. Ada stumbled as an explosion of sound and light erupted out of her back. Arakash hissed in agony and clawed at his own chest, unable to identify where the pain was coming from.

    "Assassin!" Soret shouted. "Mages, shields! Defensive circle! We need a healer! Scouts! Find the location of that sharpshooter!" He gripped the bolt sticking out of his sister's chest, only to scream and release the magical-infused metal. "Don't worry, we'll have you better in a moment."

    Fiora arrived first, and took over Soret's position tending Ada. "It's Miasma magic!" Insulating her hand and arm, she grabbed the metal. The venom slammed against her magical defenses, and for a moment they held. Gritting her teeth, she pushed the bolt deeper to try to force it through, knowing healing would be impossible until it was removed.

    The energy began to seep through and every beat of Fiora's heart carried the burning venom further into her bloodstream. Her arm went numb and fell limp at her side, followed by her collapsing to her knees. "... Sorry..." Unconsciousness took her.

    In that time, Arakash stumbled his way over. With more force than was perhaps necessary, he shoved the bolt through and ripped it out of the girl. Only then did his breathing return to normal. "I'll find the assassin."

    Two rust colored bears standing twice the height of the men burst forth from the ground and knocked aside the nearest knights. "Fine!" Soret wouldn't have agreed to such a thing under normal circumstances, but at this point he needed to deal with more pressing concerns. "Ada, look after Fiora!"

    Concealing himself in shadow, Arakash jumped up and used a flap of his wings to take him over the fighting and onto a nearby building. This maze of slum buildings was a great place to hide from most people, but not so much against his eyes. He looked outward for signs of magic, specifically magic capable of insulating against Miasma magic so intense that it could disable a druidic warmage.

    Not including the defensive magic of the castle itself, there was one aura which fit the description. It was fleeing on foot. Arakash scaled the rest of the way to the roof using his claws, then got a running start before taking flight.

    It didn't take long before he found his target, and swooped down on him. The man screamed in terror as he was lifted off the ground. Or, perhaps, the screaming was because demonic talons were now embedded into his arm bones. Arakash didn't know or care, he just used what momentum was left in his dive to drop the man on the roof of the nearest building before letting the darkness dissipate.

    The terrified marksman stared up at the monster which had captured him. To Arakash's surprise, the terror bled out, replaced with hopeless resignation.

    "S-so her evil is even greater than predicted."

    "Well, before I was going to torture you on the principle of the matter." Arakash crouched next to his captive and leaned down. "But somehow, you managed to say something interesting. What is this about evil, and who's predicting what?"

    The bleeding man had the nerve to smile, even. "I couldn't answer the second question if I wanted to. Magical binding." Arakash doubted it; bindings could be broken with time and effort. The question was only a matter of whether it was worth the effort. "As to the first, if you don't already know... the princess. She's a monster, and if she's allowed to live then the whole world shall suffer."

    "I suppose you have some proof to back your claims." Arakash began the process of transforming back to a human state as he spoke. "Because I've met Princess Ada, and... speaking as something of an expert on monsters and suffering... she doesn't seem the type to me."

    "It's been foreseen!" The man tried to sit up, only to fall back again. "Our oracle is never wrong! I failed, but there's still a chance! You have to believe me. Kill her while you still can, if only for your own safety!"

    "Out there somewhere is no doubt a god that thinks all this is very clever and amusing," Arakash muttered. He grabbed the man's face, holding his jaw as he siphoned away energy to restore his wounds and spent energies. "But why should I listen to an oracle too incompetent to know you were going to fail? Or maybe he just doesn't like you very much."

    =====

    A/N- Dun! Dun! DUN!!! As if the story didn't already have enough going on.

    This chapter just so happens to cover two different game tutorials.

    "Mage Chess", as the temporary placeholder name for the game (if you have ideas, I will listen), will involve plugging sarite shards (for those who haven't read Requiem, they'll be explained in-story in a few chapters) into pieces and then playing a strategy game where you try to use your pieces to weaken the opponent's pieces and take them off the board. There will be a bit of RNG in addition to type-beating-type, pile-on, and flanking tactics involved. Mostly it includes gambling where the winner gets to take one of the loser's shards on winning.

    The external twist to the game is characters will have the ability to cheat in various different ways. Arakash cheats by siphoning off energy from opponent pieces. The opponent can also try to cheat. Getting caught cheating is an auto-lose. One of the future party members has an ability to always notice a cheat attempt. So choosing which party member plays will have a huge impact on how you play.

    It's a mini strategy game inside a larger strategy game inside the main game, which happens to be strategy based. Did I mention I really like the oldschool JRPGs?

    In any case, don't expect it to feature much, if at all, in the novelization. Other than right now, to show that A- The game exists, and B- Arakash cheats at board games even if there's nothing to gain. What an asshole.

    Speaking of tactics- this is your "tutorial battle mission". It'll teach you how to fight enemies in a fight where your side is so overwhelmingly powerful that you can stand there doing nothing and win. Arakash, Soret, Fiora, and Ada are under your control, there are six enemies, and numerous allied NPCs.

    Chasing the sniper is a "bonus mission objective" thing that I expect first-time players to miss or fail, but is there for the second playthrough or whatever. It will a feel for flight movement as Arakash can fly while the target has to run. (Ada can get some really easy XP here casting spells on her allies- especially Soret- since xp gain is calculated by the level of the target, and she's grossly underleveled).

    One of the advantages to Arakash is immunity to most forms of poison, natural or otherwise... which extends to Ada thanks to their bond. Trust me, that's a big deal... there's a lot of poison based damage types in the game (neurotoxin, paralytic, necrotic, etc) and the one thing they all share in common is that you will despise every enemy which uses them.

    The big disadvantage... he is Ada's HP pool. Yeah... any damage she takes transfers to him. She's effectively invulnerable long as he's still breathing, but that makes her an easy target if you want to kill him.

    Just be glad this isn't a shooter... I hate escort missions in shooters...

    Also... only time you'll have a chance to see Soret's current character sheet, so he'll be the next one I display.

    PS: I will apologize for the pun when someone figures out what it is.
     
  14. Threadmarks: Character Sheet: Soret
    TanaNari

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    SORET EN TYR

    Tough 'warrior' archetype, classic heroic features with a hint of a softer look. Start with John Reardon, do a bit of blend of battle-hardened and caring, put in high quality armor. Perfect.

    Theme Music: As what is effectively a war-leader archetype, something vaguely militaristic is appropriate, but more along the "hopeful" angle than ominous stuff like, say, Mars, Bringer of War. And definitely not so frantic as Flight of the Valkyries. Unfortunately, I can't think of any good ones to work with. Whatever it ends up being, get Basil Poledouris to write it and we have ourselves a winner.

    Class: Paladin Prince

    "A man trying to balance family, love, and duty."

    6'2'' (188cm), Piercing blue eyes, fair skin, blond bordering on white hair

    Hobbies: Hobbies?

    STATS: (Note, stats increase with levels, so what will be listed is a grading scale of A-F suggesting what you can expect of this character compared to equivalent levels).

    Strength: B

    Agility: C

    Vitality: A

    Intelligence: A

    Perception: D

    Willpower: B

    Elements: Creation, Mind

    Combat Style: Okay frontline tank.

    Primary value is his "battle guidance" ability which allows him to grant a series of buffs to his allies, making him a force multiplier that improves as the team does.

    BASE ABILITIES: These are natural traits available to Soret.

    Shared Awareness- When Soret is in the party, valuable tactical information is known to all party members rather than just the ones that have the appropriate ability (special senses, line of sight).

    Telepathy- Can communicate mentally, negating effects that make vocal communication impossible.

    Truthsayer- Anyone trying to lie to Soret will find it's a losing proposition.

    Truthsight- He ignores most deception based magic and can spot hidden objects, traps, and ambushes much more easily than others. Does not convey an ability to see through other objects.

    Meldcast Effect: Twist Spell- AoE spells he meldcasts will ignore allies (if harmful) or ignore enemies (if a beneficial spell).

    WEAPON TYPE:

    Soret prefers the spear, but can also work sword-and-board well. Also makes a good archer.

    ARMOR TYPE:

    Heavy. Soret is an effective warrior, with the ability to boost his strength and endurance, but will never be a striker.

    MAGIC STYLES: Soret is a Psion who focuses mainly on bolstering himself and others, as such he has a series of "aura effects".

    Auras work as such: Target the entire battlefield, effect every target the ability describes.
    Soret has a limited number of targets he can influence simultaneously. This number increases as he gains levels.
    Soret gets double the benefits from any aura he has active that targets himself.
    Can use multiple auras or even the same aura multiple times. Each aura counts its targets separately, meaning that if one target is effected by three auras, or the same aura three different times, that target counts as three against his limit.
    Passive- The thing about auras is that they don't require actions or concentration, nor do they cost mana when running. Meaning he can be an active combatant while laying down his effects.


    GUIDING AURAS: All these auras grant bonuses to allies ('ally' includes Soret and anyone else aiding him in the fight- he can also choose not to include specific individuals as allies) within range ('range' any part of the entire battlefield not blocked by a applicable shielding/antimagic/immunities).

    Focus- Grants a 5% increase to mana regeneration.

    Calm- 5% improvement to willpower for purposes of resisting/recovering from mental effects (mind control, fear, confusion, surprise, etc).

    Strike- 5% improvement to accuracy for weapon attacks and certain spells.

    Block- 5% improvement to all blocking chances (whether via weapon or shield)

    Step- 5% improvement to evasion

    Counter- 10% improvement of odds of a counter-attack.

    Press- 5% reduction to cooldown between actions.

    Accuracy- 20% reduction in "friendly fire" hits.


    SUPPRESSION AURAS- These auras work by weakening enemies. In situations where there's a single powerful foe, it can be more effective to use these as opposed to using the offensive aura. Since debuffs are often less predictable than buffs, I'm not sure what percentages will be used. Probably something like 3% instead of 5%. Or at least some calculation of diminishing returns so that 20 applications of the aura is a 50% penalty instead of 100%. Balance testing exists for a reason. And most suppressions are more specific since the player will by definition know what they're trying to exploit.

    Apathy- Reduces enemy action speed, but also their vulnerability to certain mental effects (like fear)

    Dread- Boosts vulnerability to fear effects whether natural (morale, intimidation) or magical

    Ache- Increases sensitivity, causing a reduction of agility for movement purposes and boosting pain effects natural or magical.

    Fugue- Decreases perception, causing all sorts of annoyances.

    Vertigo- Reduces agility and perception for purposes of balance and accuracy.

    Loneliness- Reduces willpower for purposes of persuasion, natural or magical.

    Hate- Decreases agility for evasion purposes and perception for 'don't run into a dangerous situation' purposes. But increases some damage and vitality purposes, and resistance to fear and some other mind effects.

    =====

    A/N- John Reardon? Oh, yeah, I remember him!
    Also, Basil Poledouris died quite a while ago. :(

    Look, most of these profiles were originally written in the late 90s/early 00s, and I'm choosing not to edit them any more than I have to, because I want as much of the "original raw footage" (in as much as that concept applies) to remain as possible.
     
  15. Threadmarks: Chapter 4: Casually Counting Casualties
    TanaNari

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    The rest of the fighting had finished by the time Arakash returned, leaving the entourage to regroup with minor injuries at worst. As one would expect when a group of terrorists attempt a direct assault against a small army of military elites.

    Soret stood facing the demon. "Did the assassin escape?"

    "No, I caught him. Turns out, he was with some radical cult that thinks your sister's some kind of evil threat to the world." Seeing Soret's expression, Arakash smirked. "That was about my reaction, too. Still, not the craziest thing I've ever heard a cultist tell me, and he believed it. Something about an oracle who can predict the future. But, you know how it goes with torture, and I was hungry."

    "You killed him!?" Soret shouted, then glanced around and got control of his emotions. "You know we could have gotten more information off of him!"

    "I'm eating for two, in case you forgot." He gestured toward the princess, specifically the hole in her blouse, below her left collar bone. "Someone had to make up for the life force that cost me, and he was the easiest target."

    Ada looked down, touched the scorched fabric framing her bare skin. "It would have killed me."

    Soret's attitude shifted, in response to his sister's statement. From angry commander to doting older brother in an eyeblink. "It would have, but you're fine, now."

    "I knew the ritual was supposed to make me immortal, but I couldn't believe it," Ada said. "It didn't even hurt".

    "Speak for yourself, princess," Arakash muttered. "Because if any language has invented words for what I felt, I've yet to hear them."

    "Maybe I shouldn't have doubted our father," Soret whispered.

    "Oh, I wouldn't say that," Arakash growled. "Do you know how to forcefully summon one of the Noctrel? I won't bore you with the details. But it requires human sacrifice. My estimate is twe-"

    In a flash, Soret's blade was pressed against Arakash's throat, "Make no mistake, monster, I don't believe you for a second. But I will not listen to you besmirch my father's name."

    "You don't have to believe me," Arakash continued. "Ask any summoner what it takes to call one of my people. While you're at it, see if you can discover what your father did to bind me to your sister. I admit, I'm curious about that, myself. Every scholar of the topic I can name believes it to be impossible to create such a link without consent. However he pulled it off, the cost must have been staggering."

    "You're getting desperate," Soret smirked. "It doesn't really matter. Ada knows not to believe your lies".

    "Of course I do," she agreed. "I wish you could come with me, I'm going to miss you".

    Soret pulled her into a hug. "Be well, sister."

    "I'm more worried about you," she answered back before breaking the hug and stepping away. "Come. If we don't hurry, we'll never make it to the dock in time."

    Having little choice, Arakash followed behind. "So, we keep marching hot on the heels of an assassination? Things must be more dire than I was lead to believe." He paused for a moment, then when Ada didn't speak, he tried again. "Listen, Princess. The binding compels me to be as effective a guardian as possible. In order for that to be possible, you need to share the mission-critical information with me."

    "If you must know," Ada said without looking back. "While you were hunting, my brother contacted our father to inform him of this attack. I was not made privy to the specifics, however the command was made clear: we will complete the mission no matter what obstacles arise."

    As the princess and the demon continued on, Fiora stayed behind for a moment. "Princess Adageyudi brings up an important point: now that we know how effective the binding is, what are you going to do?"

    Soret sighed. "Nothing I can speak of to you, for your own good. Now, go. I'm entrusting you to a far more important mission."

    Fiora clenched her fists. "As you command, m'lord." She turned and walked away, frustrated at her inability to do more to help the man she loved.

    The path to the castle broadened, as it became a less steep slope first carved by long-forgotten glaciers, then widened by rain and runoff until what remained was a series of farms well into the growing season. Farmers still worked the fields and vineyards, while the soft glow of magic from peasants who had just enough power to drive off insects and irrigate soil had long since become part of the local ecosystem.

    Much better than the glaring magical pollution of the city, which had left Arakash half-blind, in the same way the sun left people blind to the stars which remained even in the middle of the day. Yet, even with the advantage of clearer eyes, he had a mere moment to shout his warning. "Ambush!"

    A flash and upsurge of energy was followed by a massive reptile manifesting itself within throwing distance of the group. Eight legs, each as thick as tree trunks, held up a body shaped almost like a pumpkin, if pumpkins were rust-colored, covered in scales, and large enough to build a decent sized tavern inside of. Extending from this body, six long necks, each with a crocodile-like head.

    A scholar might have taken offense with the description, stating that the heads were appendages not unlike hands, and that the organs one associated with the head such as brain and mouth were in fact in the creature's back. That scholar would then be eaten by the hydra, having done nothing to deter the creature's carnivorous rampage.

    To be fair to the scholar, however... the knights and mages did not fair much better. Even bolstered by magic, bolt and blade could only accomplish so much against dragon hide. If the beast had done nothing but allow them to assault it, then they might have won after an hour or two, but it had other plans.

    With a screech loud enough to shatter eardrums, it drove its assailants back. If only that were the worst it had in mind. It then vomited forth a putrid mix of half-digested prey and draconic bile over itself. The fluid burst into chemical flame and billowed outward in the form of a caustic cloud of pain and death.

    Men and women deafened and bleeding from the ears were then blinded by the acidic mist. Left alone with their agony, they died within seconds of inhaling the toxic gas. They were the lucky ones. Others, those with natural resilience or the foresight to bring magic items which shielded against the toxins, instead found that their resistance did nothing but prolong their suffering. Unable to see, unable to breathe, their magic struggling with all its might to keep them alive, they collapsed in the field.

    Arakash was one exception; Noctrel immunity to poison was, in fact, immunity. He abandoned his disguise and took to the air even as the others collapsed beneath him. He had no hope of fighting the beast; even a weak dragon like a hydra was well beyond his power, but he didn't need to kill the hydra. He needed to kill the Summoner.

    Summoning magic was powerful, but also came with severe limitations, of which there were three that mattered to the guardian demon.

    First: summons place severe strain on the body and mind of the caster. A small creature like a bird or cat for spying was difficult for all but the most skilled casters. Something as big as a hydra would render them insensate.

    Second: Summoners had to be near the summon, at least when the spell was cast. The distance varied depending on the power of the mage and the summon itself, but it had to be close, and couldn't be blocked by obstacles such as walls or hiding underground. There.

    He dived down at the woman sitting in on the ground, drool dripping from her slack jaw onto the wilted blackened grass in her lap. She had been in a good hiding spot within the brush, before the chemical attack killed everything nearby except three people. She didn't blink, didn't register that she was in peril even as the Vilos bone pierced her skull.

    Third: summons don't outlive their Summoner. With the mage gone, the congealed pool of mana, will, and concept which summons were made from lost cohesion and returned to the ether from whence they came. Arakash wasn't certain how it all worked, but he knew the only thing that mattered: how to kill it.

    Tears streaking down her face, Ada tried again. Purple magic bled out from her eyes, her mouth, even her fingernails as she attempted to heal the body laying on the ground by her knees. "Come on! You're still there, you have to be. You're too strong, you have too much to live for."

    Arakash eyed the corpse; no magic he'd ever heard of was going to bring that mess back. Resurrection magic might be able to put the body back together, but draconic magic damaged more than mere flesh. Bad news for Soret, he supposed, since this had to be Fiora's body.

    He promised himself to find a way to exploit that, but it would have to wait. "You know, Princess, a lot of people are trying to killing you."

    "JUST SHUT UP!!!" Ada twisted around to scream at him. In doing so, she bumped the half-molten corpse. The stomach popped, and spilled outward like an over-ripened watermelon. "No!" She stumbled away in horror, and in the process further tore her own damaged clothing.

    Silently, Arakash grabbed her arm and pulled her away from the body. His own magic manifested in his eyes, black tendrils moving outward, down, and into the body of a dead girl once called Fiora. In another moment, he began walking away, dragging Ada with him.

    She pulled back, failing to have much effect against the demon's insurmountable strength. "What are you doing? Stop!"

    Arakash halted, then glanced back at the princess. He took a breath and pulled her again.

    "What is wrong with you! Answer me!"

    Arakash growled, now able to speak again. "Listen, Princess, there are at least seven people following us right now. Unless I miss my guess, and I'm very good at guessing, they're coming to see if they need to finish what the Summoner started. We don't want to be here when they arrive."

    "How? Why?" Ada started to cooperate, jogging to keep up with Arakash. "What did I ever do?"

    "How should I know?" Arakash began picking up speed; on the plus side, it seemed his illusion magic was working and they hadn't been spotted yet. It wouldn't last, but with luck they'd investigate the the battlefield first. He didn't think they had any flyers on their side, either. He hoped they didn't, because then they had to hope this protective magic meant the princess didn't need to breathe. And that the ocean predators would ignore them.

    Ada slowed when Arakash took them off the trail, marching straight toward the cliffside. "Where are you going?"

    "Our way out, princess." Arakash stopped at the edge of the cliff and grabbed the girl into a bridal carry. Standing almost twice her height, it wasn't hard. Then he jumped over the edge, hoping his ability to at best glide with the extra weight meant they wouldn't hit the rocks below too hard.

    Ada screamed the whole way down.

    =====

    A/N- That's gonna leave a mark.

    ONE melted corpse, Ah Ah Ah!
    TWO melted corpses, Ah Ah Ah!
    THREE- Okay, you get the idea. No need to drag this out the whole day.

    In any case, this is something of "Tutorial Battle Two." In which I teach the audience lots of things. Like how there are enemies that can't be beat by just running into battle, and tactical decisions are necessary. And also that I can and will horribly murder characters after putting so much work into making them likable and giving them plot threads that now can't be concluded.

    Oh, right, and giving players (readers) an idea of what a weak dragon looks like. It's important for later, when you're introduced to strong dragons.

    Also: if you're wondering why the other assassins were far enough away to give them their head start... it's because they knew there'd be a hydra and would prefer a less painful death.
     
  16. Threadmarks: Character Sheet: Adageyudi
    TanaNari

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    Princess Adageyudi na Tyr

    Soft, inexperienced, well-meaning. Round face, slender, could be mistaken for being a teenager rather than a young adult. This will be something of a plot point. Given Hollywood's propensity for not liking actresses of her features and body-type, I'm at a loss for examples.

    Also, important plot point is the purple hair. While every other hair color natural or otherwise will be fairly common in Midara, only one bloodline results in purple hair.

    Theme Music: Soft, sad, piano-heavy focus. Chopin's Prelude 4 or 7 are great places start.

    QUIET RESOURCE!!!


    Class: Princess

    "In so far over her head that she found Atlantis."

    5'1'' (154cm), Soft purple eyes, light purple hair, somewhat tan skin

    Hobbies: Reading

    STATS: (Note, stats increase with levels, so what will be listed is a grading scale of A-F suggesting what you can expect of this character compared to equivalent levels).

    Strength: D

    Agility: C

    Vitality: D

    Intelligence: A

    Perception: B

    Willpower: A

    Elements: None.

    Combat Style: Support mage, at best.

    With low stats, a very low level compared to the party and challenges, and limited spells... she's going to be a combat liability. Not only to herself, but to the main striker. However, the spells she does have are far more effective than they look if you know how to use them.

    BASE ABILITIES: These are natural traits available to Ada.

    Noctrel Resistances- Due to her bond with Arakash, she's effectively immune to anything a Noctrel is immune to. Which covers most harmful status magic associated with Negation, Time, Rage, Miasma, and Hypothermia aspects.

    Meldcast Effect: None

    WEAPON TYPE:

    Princess Ada isn't well suited for any weapon, but can make excellent use of sarite shards and mage crystals.

    ARMOR TYPE:

    Light. She's a dedicated mage and is better served with defensive magic than armor.

    MAGIC STYLES: As a very limited mage, Ada mostly works with healing and telekinetic spell types as well as some support spells.

    Heal: Standard HP restoring spell.

    Wayfare: A buff spell that effectively boosts speed by, in effect, reducing distance between move points. Very useful.

    Long Road: A debuff reversal of wayfare.

    Extend Reach: This smell improves the range of all weapons, melee or range. Doesn't work with spells.

    Deflect: This spell makes a ranged attack, including spells, go off course by about 30 degrees.

    Skip: a spell that accelerates the target, causing cooldown/attack/stuns to be accelerated by several seconds. In effect, can grant a bonus action with every cast (or at least make long actions take less time).

    Temporal Tide: A nasty attack that causes part of the body to move through time at a slower rate than the rest of the body. Unpleasant for the victim.


    =====

    A/N- Yeah, many years after the original writing of Ada and this character sheet, I stumbled across that gem of a piece. The second I heard it, it became the only acceptable bit of music for the young princess. It is her, it is everything her character is meant to convey. Except maybe the title... though even that works in a dark sort of way.

    If this ever becomes the game it was meant to be, I'll be desperately clamoring for Evelyn Stein to do a few pieces for it.


    Also kind of disappointed that I've gotten this many sheets finished, and nobody's shown any interest in any of them. Feels like I shouldn't bother anymore.
     
  17. Simon Buchan

    Simon Buchan Making the rounds.

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    If it helps, I like what I've seen so far, and really like this set up. I'm curious/suspicious of the viewpoint being the demon rather than the princess - she seems more likely than the demon to have interesting thoughts about this situation, and it seems like this might be a holdover from being a game, but this could easily be proven wrong depending on what you're doing.

    As a story, this still feels really early to comment. As I said, I like the set up, but we've only really had setup and some character work so far. It does feel a bit overly mechanical in the sense of everyone seems to be thinking in terms of mechanics, which makes sense given than you're adapting a game script, but that's not necessarily an issue, especially early on. I don't yet have a good grasp of Ada's character, but I wouldn't expect to. Things like that.

    The game design notes read really oddly to me, like I'm not sure if I should be trying to read this as a story or judging game design. So far, I've been trying to read them separately as historical notes about why a scene reads the way it does, but I suspect that's a lot of why this is reading as mechanical, you're literally explaining why the mechanics mean the scene happens how it does. I expect this is mostly because we're still in tutorial island here though, so I wouldn't think too much about it.

    I'm not sure how this fits with your character sheet posts: I don't like them being publicly posted much, but I never do, and plenty of successful stories do the same and they are liked there? Basically my opinion shouldn't count here, but it's not like you're going anything odd.

    Sorry I'm not more helpful!
     
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  18. TanaNari

    TanaNari Verified Dick

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    That'll start soon. The thing is, the narrative *is* meant to surround Ada, but only as the story evolves. In the next few chapters she'll gain progressively more focus as she exerts more agency until... probably around chapter 10-ish (hard to predict considering the nature of this conversion)... she becomes the primary focus character for the rest of the story. Plus or minus individual side stories revolving around other characters and their plot development.

    But for now, she's more a passenger in the story than the captain, so the narrative is treating her as such.

    Does it? I mean, I can see that of the notes and stuff... but if any in-character text feels more like a game than them being caught up in the events, then that's a thing I need to fix. Aside the brief mage-chess thing. That's clearly meant to be viewed as a game even in the narrative.

    That being said- magic in the setting does follow clear, mechanical, rules... at least to the extent that things like machinery and computers follow clear, mechanical rules in our world. Mages in Midara are more like engineers or hackers than they are miracle workers, and I'm trying to write the magic to feel that. A "hard" system.
     
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  19. Threadmarks: Chapter 5- Long Walks on the Beach
    TanaNari

    TanaNari Verified Dick

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    Arakash steered their fall as best he could, taking them toward Port Kale. The landing was hard, but the worst he'd receive were a few minor bruises rather than broken limbs. He looked back at the cliff; nobody seemed to be looking over the cliff for them, but his magical senses didn't extend the whole cliffside, so he could be mistaken.

    He looked at the princess, sitting on her knees. "I know you can't be that tired because I'm not. We don't have time to take a break."

    Ada took a trembling breath as she dug her fingers into the sand. The thought that all of them were dead ran in a cycle through her mind. She knew most of them, to some limited extent. They had names, loved ones, families. The tears blurring her vision did nothing to hide their faces. Then there was Fiora, perhaps the only person in her life who wasn't family that cared about her rather than her title. "I can't believe we left them behind."

    "I'd offer to let you go back and join them, but we both know I can't." Arakash' binding forced him to serve, but nothing in it required empathy. Perhaps because contract magic couldn't force the impossible. "Besides, I might have left a cute little surprise for them. Now let's go."

    Ada looked up at the creature; he may have looked like a person, now, but he certainly didn't act like one. "What did you do?"

    "Nothing special, just took advantage of all the miasma energy that summon spread up there to hide a trap."

    Up above, the assassins approached the blighted landscape. "Lesvar, what do you make of this?" One of them gestured at the pierced skull of the Summoner.

    Another came up to look at the dead woman and sighed. "Well, you know what they day about overconfidence. Check the corpse, see if the summoning gem is still there. If it isn't then we have to assume there were survivors. The question is if the princess is one of them."

    "I meant, do we take her back with us and try to get her resurrected?" The bounty was more than enough to cover it, twice over if need be.

    Lesvar glanced back again, as if the idea hadn't so much as crossed his mind until now. "Don't know. Tell ya what, we should bring her with anyway; can't have an exorcist interrogating her ghost, after all. We'll bring it up later if we want to revive her or split her share among us." His statement was tantamount to saying 'no', but this way let him pretend it was out of his hands.

    Nobody liked her or her creepy religious monologues.

    "Yeah, that sounds fair." The other man knelt down next to the corpse. He wasn't certain what he expected, but when the body wrapped her arms around him, he was too startled to scream a warning. If he had, it would have saved lives, though not his own.

    On the beach below, their target heard and felt the magical detonations above and behind them. She stared at the demon, unable to find words to describe what she knew had happened. "You didn't."

    Arakash smiled and kept marching forward. "There are many things I didn't do. But if you're saying I didn't infuse as many corpses as I could to the edge of the bursting point, then left proximity triggers to explode moment they were touched, then you're wrong. Now let's get moving; I doubt my little gift did more than slow most of them down."

    "You desecrated their corpses!" The finality of their deaths were beginning to settle in. Before she had hope, but if their bodies were that thoroughly destroyed. "We could have resurrected them at the castle, but now..." They were beyond the power of revival. Now Fiora and the others were gone for good.

    "You ever seen someone brought back who was killed by a dragon?" Even as he argued, he kept walking, and as long as the whiny child of a princess kept following, that was good enough for him. "Neither has anyone else."

    She couldn't accept that answer; the guilt which came with it was "You don't know that!" Ada chased after, stumbling in dirt which couldn't decide if it wanted to be sand or gravel. She grabbed Arakash's arm. "How can you just keep walking as if you did nothing wrong?"

    "Because I don't care, Princess." He turned, facing down the girl. "I wouldn't be here, risking myself for you, if not for being enslaved to you. And you'd already be dead. But here you are, and here I am, following my orders to defend you even at the cost of my or however many other lives needed to keep you safe."

    Princess Adageyudi stepped back; she might have been immune to the supernatural aspect of Arakash's charisma, but she was still human.

    He took advantage, continuing his rant. "Orders which those soldiers back there were no doubt also under. They did their duties, they died, and then they did their duty just a little bit longer. And if any of them have a problem with that, then I'll apologize the moment they ask me for an apology." He turned and began marching toward town again. "And while it means little to me, maybe you should show some damned gratitude for their sacrifice and stop trying to get yourself killed by slowing us down."

    Ada spared one look back at the cliffs they retreated from. She offered a short prayer in her head and decided that, self serving though it was, she should heed Arakash's advice and not let their sacrifice be in vane. With a small burst of magic, she warped space around herself and her demonic guardian. Now every step took them twice as far as it should have.

    Arakash blinked in surprise and almost, almost, said he'd never seen magic like this before. It wasn't any of the elemental magics, nor was it any form of Fundamental magic that he knew. One part of him wanted to ask, but the cautious part decided it was better to give away nothing. "Interesting trick," was all he was willing to say.

    "I can't keep it going forever, but I can make up for slowing us down." Now Ada had the footing advantage, moving with the sure footing of someone who could force the terrain to twist to her needs rather than be at the mercy of short legs and a less than ideal fitness routine.

    Arakash couldn't beat that, but he adapted well enough. He couldn't help but think back to the crazy cultist who had told him this girl was going to be a threat to the world. With a power as alien as this, he could see why an oracle might get nervous. He began adjusting his plans in his head, considering the possibility of corrupting the young princess instead of destroying her. But that was a problem for future him to worry about.

    Upon turning a bend, they found themselves looking at the small city itself. Port Kale was in fact quite a bit larger than the castle-town around Tyras, with dozens of vessels great and small taking advantage of the natural harbor around which the city was built. He spotted one military vessel docked, while two others were in the bay, no doubt to scare off pirates and smugglers.

    Arakash considered the city for a while before deciding that his best course of action was to establish dominance by experience. "This place never changes."

    "You've been here before?" The inexperienced princess walked into the metaphorical trap.

    "On occasion," Arakash said. "I remember when your kingdom was nothing but a Siral fishing colony."

    "That was over two hundred years ago!" Ada had thought many things, but she hadn't considered how old he might be in spite of not looking much older than she was.

    "A little less than a hundred and fifty, I'd say. Historians love to exaggerate things like this." He only told her to make her question her education and wonder if he was a better source of wisdom than they. He only got away with it because it was true; young nations like Tyras hated to admit how little prestige they had in the world. "Now, we have to get you new clothes. For now, I'll just put a simple illusion on you so no one notices. But that's a temporary solution. You're paying."

    Ada looked down at her dirty, torn, and in some spots melted clothing. "I don't look any different."

    "You're immune to my magic, remember. Everyone else will see a threadbare but otherwise normal outfit. Unless they have a lot of magical resistance, but those sorts are rare and would probably recognize you on sight, anyway. Long as we don't rely on it too much. So, first priority: outfit. Second: transportation. Third: a cheap inn for the night."

    "But we have a transport." Ada gestured at the ship in port. "Tyr's Hammer is one of the finest ships in the world, we'll be going on it. And Duke Leriel will be more than happy to give us a place to stay, and a good meal, and a message to Father."

    Arakash stopped for a moment. "Oh, I'm sure he will. Plenty of poisoned soup, and when that doesn't work, our throats slit in the night. That'll send a message."

    "Surely, you cannot be insinuating..."

    "Insinuate? No, I'm openly stating. Someone is going to a lot of trouble and spending a lot of money to kill you. And I can't think of anyone with more money or motivation than another lord who is high up on the inheritance chart." Ada made to object, but Arakash cut her off. "And even if he's not, your assassins are going to be watching the places you're likely to go. They'll be waiting for you to either try to get back home, or to go for one of your vassal holdings. Then they'll be in danger; your hunters have shown a cheerful willingness to kill as many as they have to so long as one of them is you."

    Adageyudi considered his argument for a moment. "And the warship?"

    "We avoid the royal boat, too." It seemed almost too convenient to him that the same tactics that would give him the best chance to manipulate the princess were also the ones that protected her best. "If we go out on it, I bet it ends up at the bottom of the sea in a day. We can't drown, but when the sea monsters find us, you'll wish we had."

    She had to admit his argument was a sound one, but still her father's words about never letting the demon be in charge rang through her mind. In a situation like this one, she was supposed to make his ideas into her demands. "Can you promise you'll find us an alternative route to Karana?

    He hesitated for a moment as the bond compelled him to answer truthfully. "Admittedly, I don't know. But if I fail, then we can always take the ship. Maybe if we're lucky, the added delay will convince the assassins that the hydra killed you." He doubted it, but he had little choice but hope she'd accept his plan.

    She doubted it as well; finding a different transport was fast becoming the only logical path, but right now she wanted the day, everything, to be over. Even knowing the risks of letting the demon call the shots, she didn't have the emotional strength to fight it. "Very well. Clothes, then shelter."

    =====

    A/N- Title might be a bit misleading. And poor princess... she's dealing with a lot of shit right now.

    If anyone's asking "Why kale?", there's actually thought behind the name. Port Kale is hardly the first city named after its primary export. Not quite as many as are named after a nearby geographical landmark, but still plenty. I live a few miles away from a "Coal City", of which there's more than a few in the USA. And, hippy stuff notwithstanding, kale is an excellent crop for rocky foothills terrain. Highly tolerant of cold, doesn't need the greatest soil quality, bug resistant and better than average yield. Very well suited for Scandinavian terrain.

    If anyone brings up the unlikelihood that a different reality would have the same plants as ours... I agree... but one that managed to have humans probably would. And frankly, I don't feel like making up a bunch of stupid fictitious names and properties for crops. So I'll stick to stupid real names and properties, thanks.
     
  20. Threadmarks: Chapter 6- The Hottest Girl in the World
    TanaNari

    TanaNari Verified Dick

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    Their first stop wasn't far from where they entered the city; a nondescript shack of a building that Princess Adageyudi thought looked more like a gardener's shed than a place of business. She wasn't a fan of the smell, either.

    "Hail, stranger," Arakash said while giving a flourish of his hands, opening his arms as if in the gesture of a hug while bowing his head. It was the traditional greeting, revealing a lack of weapons and putting oneself in a position that would make most spellcasting difficult as well.

    The stocky leatherworker gave him a glance, his eyes glowing red as he worked. "Hail. Please, give me a moment to finish." He brushed his hand over the tanned material, smoothing it, before dipping it back into the infused fluid that would give it its magical properties. "I beg your pardon, it is hard to find help during farm season."

    "I cannot help you there, but perchance we can make your labor fruitful." He was looking around at all the outfits; nothing here looked better than his own armor. "Something light, suited to my mage-friend, here."

    "Aye," the man gave Ada a long look, too long for Ada to consider polite, but his interest was for reasons other than suspicion. "If'n you seek quality but light, I recently finished a fine suit of gryphon hide. I guarantee, when wearing it, you'll feel like you're n-flying." The minor slip-up was politely ignored by Arakash, though Ada found herself stepping back.

    "Gryphon is fine material," Arakash said. As common magic leather went, it was some of the best. He hadn't expected dragon or even wyvern in a place like this, nor could they have afforded it if there was. "Now, let us discuss the price."

    Several minutes of haggling later, and Ada had her outfit in her arms. "Was that really necessary?" The question carried numerous undertones. "And the way that lecher kept staring at me..."

    "Yeah, well, that lech gave us quite the discount for the sake of 'the pretty girl'," Arakash said. He tactfully left out the part where he'd been subtly using his power to influence the man. Her frustration worked in his favor, after all. "If you agreed to change in the store, I bet we could have gotten it at cost."

    Ada considered, for a moment, punching the demon then going back into the shop and giving him a proper dressing down. "I'm not doing that again."

    Arakash suppressed the urge to laugh. Perfect. He kept walking for a moment, allowing the girl to stew in her resentment until he spotted a pair of attractive, if somewhat older, women coming toward them. Timing won wars, as the saying went. "Welcome to the poor side of town, Princess," He whispered. Then he offered his best smile to the women. "How are you lovelies this fine day?"

    They giggled, but didn't shy away from the 'younger' man flirting with them. One woman had the social awareness to glance Ada, in case she might get upset. The bolder of the pair ogled him openly. "I'm sure you have ways to make my day better."

    "Ah, but if I could." He put on the charm nonetheless, with the smooth flowing body language that only centuries of practice could accomplish. "Alas, I find myself saddled with too many responsibilities and too little time."

    "A pity." They walked away, but Ada noticed them both looking back more than once.

    "That's how people live outside of the fanciful halls of the rich and powerful," Arakash said. "Guys lech on girls, girls lech on guys, and most of us take it as a compliment." He was taking a risk in talking about this subject with the princess; if she made the association with his typical dietary habits, it could push her the wrong direction.

    "But it's so..." Ada searched for the words.

    "Crude?" Arakash offered. "Yes, it is. The world is a crude place. And most people wouldn't have it any other way. Certainly better than basing your entire view of people on their money and power.

    "But if it bothers you, then perhaps you'd better head to the inn, because it's going to get worse." He gestured at the docks they were approaching, taking time to point specifically at the nautical figurehead sitting over the entrance of a tavern which proclaimed itself the 'Drunken Mermaid'.

    The artwork's depiction of a woman with comically oversized breasts covered only by the hair on her head. He had to admit, however, that the wood bleached to the point where it could be mistaken for ivory was a nice touch, if nothing like the real verion, which had neither breasts nor hair.

    Ada stared at the carving for a moment. "What sort of place..."

    "The kind which sells alcohol and other services to lonely sailors," Arakash said. "Unless you're a specific sort of woman, you're better off staying away, so it's best for you to get a room for us while I find us a ship."

    Ada considered his plan, then made certain to push her own point. "You don't hurt anyone, and you come straight back when you're done. Swear it."

    "I swear it." He tested the limits of his enslavement again, and found that his mental assurance that he'd kill if he had to protect himself didn't push the compulsion. "When you get there, only ask for one room, merchant quality. Also request two baths."

    She blinked. "What? Why?"

    Arakash yearned for the coming day when she took his word at face value instead of questioning everything. Until then, he'd continue giving advice so obvious it made her feel dumb for not thinking of it herself. "I don't need to sleep, so there's no point in a second room. It calls attention, but if they think you're alone, you'll be lucky if the worst they do is try cheating you. This way you sound like you're ordering a room for yourself and companion. Which would also explain your lack of baggage. I'll know if you're in real danger, but better to avoid it in the first place."

    Ada considered his logic for a moment, and had to wonder if the world was as harsh as he implied, but she lost little if he was wrong and couldn't risk it if he was right. "Very well. You had better return soon."

    Arakash stepped into the bar, content to trust the magical compass he had to monitor the princess while he took care of business. Within the building was a creature which stank of poison magic, power, and greed. There, he identified the man sitting near the back. He was tall, and the right side of his face was covered by a solemn black mask. A cloak covered his right side as well. The left side revealed a middle-aged man, face and clothes aged by the rigors of life at sea.

    He walked over and sat down at the table, ignoring the man's two companions. Men like this didn't appreciate cowardice. "Hail, Captain."

    The captain's good eye narrowed. "What do ya want, lad? Ye'r ruinin' my drink."

    No point in beating around the bush. "I'm looking to charter a ship."

    The captain laughed, and after a moment his subordinates joined in. That moment revealed a great deal to Arakash about how the man ran his ship. "Look somewhere else, mine ain't no luxury cruiser fer ferrying whelps around."

    "That is precisely why I'm interested." Arakash reached his own cloak, then pulled out the large summoning crystal containing the power of a hydra. "For this, I think you'll reconsider."

    The captain kept his surprise hidden as he considered the prize at hand. "Hmph, and what would I be needing with such a gem? It be too much trouble to sell quick. Take yer little barter elsewhere."

    In spite of the rejection, Arakash knew full well the man was salivating at the idea. A summoning stone of this degree of power could buy a ship. The trick was finding someone who could afford it. A process that might take months. Arakash held out his hand, stone atop his palm. "I'm not asking for a cut. You bring us to Vara and it's yours to keep or sell at your leisure."

    "Very generous, lad." The captain moved the mask to the side, revealing the hidden half of his face. While the men with him recoiled in disgust and horror, Arakash just kept his eye on the man. With both eyes locked on the glowing rock, he reached out to touch it and all the wealth it represented.

    Arakash gripped the gem and pulled back. "You'll get this tomorrow, after we've left port, not before."

    The captain pulled his mask back on, and smiled. "We leave at dawn, when the winds change."

    Not saying another word, Arakash nodded and walked out of the bar; the longer he stayed, the greater the risks something might go wrong.

    One of the men took a moment before asking the question both were thinking. "What are the real orders, sir?"

    "For a treasure like that? I bet he's a criminal, maybe robbed it from one of the noble houses and now wants to flee for his life. We take him on board, then it's just a matter of if he's worth the effort of selling to the navy, or tossing into the sea."

    Arakash took a few minutes to explore the area, what little freedom was allowed before the control magic's compulsion became too powerful to bear. Still, it was longer than he expected; either the binding was growing weaker, or he was developing a tolerance to its effects. He could taste his freedom, and his revenge, growing ever closer.

    Princess Adageyudi jumped when he entered their shared room without needing her to unlock the door. She ran through things to say, but by the time she thought of any it was too late to feel natural. "Do we have a ship?"

    "Yes. We'll leave near dawn tomorrow," Arakash said. "It's a cargo ship, so keep your expectations low, but I doubt anyone will expect the princess to be travelling with them." Except as a hostage, he added in his head.

    Ada nodded; she had a mission to complete, and she was so tired. "You've done well." A phrase her father often used, which came with the unspoken 'now leave me alone'. She sat down on her uncomfortable bed and, before she had a chance to complain that this inn didn't even offer a free meal with the room, she fell into an uncomfortable sleep.

    Arakash waited, watching over the girl. At first, he tried to find a way to kill her, but the compulsion was too strong to so much as consider the scenario. Instead, he went to the window and climbed out, scaling his way to the roof. He couldn't attack the princess, but with enough power, perhaps he could attack the bond itself.

    He shifted into demonic form, and with it took on the full clarity of his senses. His eyes glowed red, and the city became a sea of black, with the glow of people and magic showing in dim lights of red, orange and yellow. Each one, the glow of living essence, prey for him to feed upon. He'd get one attempt; if it failed, he had no doubt the princess would make certain he had orders to never feed again. If he was lucky, she'd add 'without my permission'.

    He found his target: a burning, almost white, ember of living magic. He spread his wings and made his way toward his target, his prey, his salvation.

    He found her sitting, relaxed in an alley, examining a delicately ornate curved dagger with a blade of silver, and a shade of red just a little darker than that of her hair. She was a beauty, even he could see it, and bold to be in this part of town alone at night. Then, with the aura of power she possessed, chances were low that she ever met a fight she couldn't win.

    How fortunate for Arakash that he could beat her without a fight. He approached, once again using the best of his casual charm.

    Her eyes narrowed as he approached. "What do you want."

    Arakash brought his hands up as a show of harmless defensiveness, as he had earlier with the leather worker. "My apologies. I didn't mean to interrupt anything important."

    She considered him for a moment longer. He was young, seemed helpless enough, and she supposed most people would find him handsome. "No, things are really quite boring right now. You're a welcome surprise."

    Arakash chuckled and smiled. "Glad to be of service to such a beautiful woman"

    "I was hoping you'd feel that way," she replied. Then she pointed the dagger at him. "Now hand over your weapons and valuables."

    Arakash stepped closer to the woman who was now mugging him. "I don't have much money, but I can offer something so much more fun if you give me a chance."

    She laughed. "I can't tell if you're clueless or just that confident. I'm sure that line works on some girls, but I'm not-"

    Arakash' eyes glowed blue as he poured his power into the most blatant of his mind altering magic. The girl's jaw fell open as she dropped her weapon and lost all focus and some balance. In most cases, expending this much power on a single victim would have led to him starving to death in days, but for a girl with this much power, it was worth the effort.

    He caught her in his arms the moment her legs gave out, then kissed her neck.

    In her half-conscious haze, she mumbled. "No, you can't." As Arakash slid his hand up under her shirt. Then her skin began to glow orange.

    Arakash stumbled back, holding his smoking hand. His discipline and need for secrecy kept him from crying out at the pain, but didn't hide the snarl, surprise, or fear on his face.

    Engulfed in flame, the girl stood dazed for a moment. "Wha.... what did you do to me?" She got her bearings, then stared straight at Arakash. "What were you trying to do to me!" A burst of flame traveled from her hand, almost striking the demon as he fled.

    Panic wasn't something that came naturally to Noctrel, who shared more in common with the dead than the living. Their hearts did not beat, they subsisted on magic alone, and their emotions were muted as a result. He had not considered that a weakness until this day. As he pushed his legs with as much strength as he could, he yearned for that extra bit of speed which terror bestowed. The extra push that might have led him to run through the wall of flame which erupted at the end of the alley, trapping him with the creature of living flame.

    A moment of hesitation, a surge of power he could ill-afford to spend, he forced his transformation to demonic form and jumped up against one wall, kicked off it, then the other, and then over the flames. The updraft from the heat served to push him into the sky, where he would be safe. He'd head for the sea, where she'd be unable to follow.

    Or so he though, before the girl grabbed the dagger by her feet, and took off after him. He had never encountered a being of living fire before, but in retrospect it made sense that such a thing wouldn't have a weight.

    He ducked and rolled as two more bursts of flame nearly struck him. Fire blossomed where the attacks struck building and found the sea-rotted wood to its liking. Driven back, he lost control of his flight and slammed onto the roof of another building. He ran for a window and took a burst to the back which drove him through the paper of the window.

    Arm broken, he pulled himself to his feet and ignored the screams from the residents. They had more to worry about him, anyway, as the inferno started to take this building as well.

    =====

    A/N- The best laid plans of rebellious demons often end in tears and hellfire.

    Meet Shiara. Objectively the strongest main character in this story. More on that (much) later.
     
  21. linkjames24

    linkjames24 Versed in the lewd.

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    I enjoyed Price. Hope I'll enjoy this. So you have a 400k backlog?
     
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  22. TanaNari

    TanaNari Verified Dick

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    Not as much as I hope... this story is heavy for me... I've never been so nervous in my life.

    I have a 400k rough draft. To call it a "backlog" is a bit much, but to give you some idea... there are over 420kb in text documents dedicated to Paradox.

    I have used up less about 14.5 kb from one of those files so far. Which is to say 2.4kb per chapter on average.

    And considering the further we get into the story, the more info-dense it becomes due to me not bothering to explain things and use "cutscene descriptions" as often... if there are no surprised (and there always are), I estimate a solid 300 chapters by the time this project is done.

    Note: none of that includes the character sheets. They're not that big and aren't a "real" part of the story.
     
  23. Simon Buchan

    Simon Buchan Making the rounds.

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    She seems nice.

    BTW, I have no complaints about these last two chapters: we're getting some good world building and character development, and starting to see the outline of the larger story arc and the ongoing character conflict is being established. These might seem to be quiet chapters, but they're doing a lot of lifting!
     
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  24. TanaNari

    TanaNari Verified Dick

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    I happen to like her, at least. She set Arakash on fire, and that's worth a lot in my book.

    Yeah, I sort of think of them as the "bar scene" in Final Fantasy 7. When things slow down and you get to meet the characters and get to know them for more than their polygons and statblocks.
     
  25. Threadmarks: Chapter 7- Horrors and Honey Traps
    TanaNari

    TanaNari Verified Dick

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    It's coming. Ada bolted, running through the castle from the thing following her. She turned the corner to hide in her chambers and instead found herself in the kitchen. A flash of power, she warped the stone of the castle and cracked the framework of the entry. Rubble came down, blocking that entrance while she ran for another.

    That path, too, was blocked by rubble. She turned and saw that the entry she came through was clear again. Green mist flowed forward, within it the lumbering rotted corpses wearing the faces of the dead. Those who tried to protect her, Fiora, even her sister and mother walked out of the death-fog, flesh dripping off them with every step.

    She screamed, clawed at the rubble in the desperate hope she could find a way out. Then she spotted Soret. "Help!" She ran for her brother.

    He smiled at her. "There's nothing to fear, watch."

    She could do nothing but watch as Soret walked toward his dead family, allowed them to embrace him, smiled as they peeled his skin away with their clawed finger bones. She screamed more, looking around for any help she could find.

    She spotted her father and Arakash in demonic form facing one another. His stern countenance against his snarling visage. Neither seemed to notice she was there, nor did the advancing wall of the dead pay them any heed as it moved toward her, screaming in horror and pain.

    No... no, it wasn't screaming. Where was the screaming coming from?

    Her eyes opened to an empty room. Empty. "Arakash?!" She jumped to her feet, seeking out the demon, and the source of the screams. She found one answer soon- outside her window, the glow of flames and smoke. She pushed side the thin cloth of the window meant for little more than keeping out the bugs and was treated to a scene out of the paintings of ransacked cities from novels.

    She could feel that Arakash was out there somewhere, thanks to the magic chaining them. She was certain he was responsible for this disaster, thanks to the constant warnings from her brother and coaching from her father.

    Pulling on her new leather armor, she took a breath and allowed its energy to merge with her own, creating the numerous subtle changes to her magical aura that bolstered her speed, vision, and resistance to harm. It was a series of enchantments made for a hunter rather than a warrior, but she wasn't well-suited to be a warrior in the first place.

    She ran from the building, layering herself in her own space-warping magic to accelerate her perception of time and bend distance to her favor. Part of her acknowledged that right now she was running around in a dangerous city at night, but it seemed nobody was interested in stopping her from running toward the inferno.

    A turn here, a twist there, she found herself having to double back once because of a dead end where someone built a shack in the alley between two buildings. Half the roads were impassable because a building had collapsed into the street, leaving nothing but burning debris.

    By the time she got close, she was panting and exhausted, but she was close and she spotted it when a glow of fire flickered and vanished. She didn't think Arakash had magic to put out fire, and she was certain he couldn't create it, but she was lacking in other leads so she went that way.

    She found the demon limping toward an unconscious woman laying in an alleyway. One arm hung limp at his side, while his wings were so mangled that she could see the girl through the holes in them. He raised his arm, lifting the leprous white blade to stab the girl.

    No. "HALT!" She shouted. "Don't kill her!"

    Arakash paused, then looked back and growled at her. "Don't interfere, princess".

    This is why you must keep an eternal vigil against the beast. "You are not going to kill an unconscious girl," she commanded. "Not while I draw breath."

    "Look what she did to me!" Arakash screamed, gesturing over his charred body.

    Ada had to admit, most men wouldn't be able to move if they had indeed survived those sorts of wounds. "You probably deserved it." She then paused to consider the situation. How did he find himself in this situation? "In fact, I order you, tell me, were you responsible for this mess."

    "No," Arakash said. "She tried to rob me. I..." Arakash grimaced in pain, the culmination of his wounds and the backlash of a binding enchantment that was all the more powerful while he was weakened by his injuries.

    "My father's mages made the spell very specific, Arakash." Ada kept her voice cold, emulating her father's as best she could. "You don't have to lie in order to trigger retaliation. All you have to do is attempt to hide important details from me.

    Arakash snarled at her; he had discovered that compulsion hours ago, and wasn't fond of having this slip of a girl lord it over him.

    "Not as naive as you thought, am I?" Ada walked forward, watching the demon and daring him to resist. "Now help me take this girl somewhere safe. We don't want to be here when the authorities show up." She wasn't certain if authorities would show up, but it was excuse enough. Much of the city was on fire, and with the chaos and looting, they had their hands full.

    She knelt next to the unconscious redhead, brushed some of the thick curls away, and touched her neck. She was pretty in a subdued 'cute' way, and perhaps a couple years younger than she was, though Ada knew from her own reflection that youthful features could disguise one's true age. "I don't think there's anything wrong with her but exhaustion. Do your supernatural senses tell you if there's anything dangerous about moving her?"

    "No, she's depleted her magic, but is otherwise healthy. She'll recover in a day or two." He began shifting back into his human form. Even then, he remained disheveled and burnt, and still seemed unsteady on his feet.

    Ada lifted the girl, using her magic to aid her. Although the concept of gravity was one she had no knowledge of, her instincts were enough to bend the flow of space such that it cut both their weights in half. "You lead the way. Try to keep us away from trouble. And no more trying to eat people."

    "Very well, princess." Arakash started walking. "If anyone asks, the cover story is that we were caught up in the confusion, and she's your sister who was knocked unconscious by a falling plank."

    They avoided the worst of the riots and fires by going the long way around to the dock area. While they saw some riots and looting, they were all people interested in taking unguarded property rather than starting fights. Nobody bothered the three of them, and those that were considering it thought twice about confronting the tall, angry-looking man and girl in adventurer's leathers. There were easier pickings than an obvious warrior-mage duo.

    Until they heard the screams in an alleyway; first a woman's, then a boy shouting "Get away from her!"

    Ada couldn't help but get involved. "Stop," she commanded her demonic servant before she moved closer to the sound of the noise. She found four soldiers, two of whom were holding a girl who looked barely out of her teens, while two others were now busy grappling with a stocky, angry young man. "What are they doing?"

    Arakash thought the answer was obvious. "A murder, a rape. Maybe two murders. Maybe two rapes, the one's not interested in the girl."

    "But they're soldiers! They should be helping!"

    "Lots of things should happen. You'd be surprised how few do."

    "We need to stop them!" She reached for her pouch. "I've still got my crest, if I tell them who I am, they'll-"

    "Kill you to hide their crimes," Arakash interrupted. "They'll already be tortured and hanged, what can you do, revive and kill them again?" He didn't care what happened to the girl or her would-be defender, but he couldn't let Ada get herself killed for any reason. On the other hand, there was some opportunity to be had here. "But, I could do something. I just need to use the full extent of my abilities. And I recall you said something about not eating people?"

    She knew she was being manipulated, but she couldn't find it in her to argue. In her best command voice, Princess Adageyudi gave her permission. "Rapists don't count as people."

    Arakash chuckled, then began his metamorphosis. He lost much of his height, ending not much taller than the princess. That mass moved elsewhere, adding to his hips, his chest, and then smoothing itself out. His windswept mop of black hair lengthened to the small of his back, while he changed the pigmentation of his skin into a different form of exotic beauty.

    She stumbled into the alleyway with the appearance of a love goddess made flesh, with features so foreign as to be an obvious stranger to this land and just a little extra magic to urge their impulses were the final part of the honey trap her sister had perfected over a century ago. Her version was inferior to her sister's, and it took all the power she had left, but she was so desperate she needed to take the chance. "Pardon? Am being lost, you can help, yes?"

    The men lost interest in the pawing the scrawny girl, and even the ones trying to stop the resisting youth paused to look. Which resulted in one of them getting cracked with a hammer before the boy grabbed the girl and fled.

    Arakash watched the pair escape, and she promised later she'd make several snide comments to Ada about how little gratitude people had for those who helped them, but that was later. For now, she had to force her legs to move toward the quartet of soldiers. One thing she wasn't faking was her weakness; weakness made worse by the mechanically frailer female body. "Please, strong men, helping please?"

    "Don't worry, we'll help you." The soldiers allowed their guard to lower some; Arakash had made herself into the perfect victim, one which would lure men who were otherwise not brave enough to follow through on their darker impulses. For these four, or three of them at any rate, she was every fantasy that drove them to do what they were already doing.

    She didn't resist when they got close, feigned surprise and fear, but not resistance. What little apprehension existed in their minds faded when they realized she was going to freeze rather than scream. They could take their time.

    One remained outside of his lure and control, but he was a follower and perhaps in denial of his preferences, so he played along. Until he couldn't. His eyes widened as he looked down at the white blade which had pierced his throat. What screams he attempted were stopped by him drowning on his own blood, but he couldn't understand why none of the others noticed as he slumped to the ground. The last thing he saw was a purple haired girl staring at the scene in shock and disgust.

    One by one, the others fell, sapped of their strength. It was a crude method, which Arakash preferred to avoid because it rendered what should have been months worth of energy down to a few days at most and greatly increased the odds of getting caught. Killing made people suspicious, killing by way of mana vampirism raised flags which attracted Exorcists and Inquisitors. Doing so in a manner this sloppy all but guaranteed capture.

    If the city wasn't burning around them, if she wasn't starving to death, she never would have risked it.

    Moments after, she dropped to her knees and howled in agony as the forced temporary transformation reversed itself, and forced him back into his native form in the most uncomfortable way possible. "Haa... ha... ugh..."

    Still carrying the unconscious redhead, Ada ran into the alley now devoid of rapists and victims. "What was that?"

    "The... full extent... of my power." Arakash watched the burn marks vanish from his skin, as most of the life force he just stole was expended to mend damaged flesh. "We have to head for the ship." He pulled the purses off the dead men before he stood; they wouldn't have much coin on them, but trying to fence their weapons would prove more trouble than it was worth.

    He rose and began walking away. If he was lucky, they'd lay there long enough for the telltale signs of Noctrel feeding to fade and it might be mistaken for a robbery in the chaos. Or not; so long as he was gone before the discovery was made, he didn't care.

    Princess Adageyudi watched him march off and asked herself yet again how she was supposed to control such a monster. Then she looked down at the girl in her arms and swore she'd find a way to do it, and to make up for those she'd already failed.

    =====

    A/N- That was fun. That encounter with the soldiers is something of "optional sidequest" material in the game proper- and there's meant to be a number of scenes to stop looters and such that the players can pursue, with various rewards (most notably, an opportunity to boost some levels and get Arakash' energy levels back up since he doesn't have a natural healing process. And, yes, the game will randomly assign sexualities to NPCs to determine which enemies Arakash can and can't lure with his power.

    Also: if anyone asks "why didn't Ada just start stabbing herself in the leg in order to make Arakash return"... that is a great question, and I assure you that if you tell her that idea, she'll feel stupid that she didn't think of it herself.

    Incidentally, if you thought of it before reading the author's note, do leave a message saying so. I'm kinda curious how many responses I'll get to that effect out of my couple hundred-ish readers.
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2020
  26. Simon Buchan

    Simon Buchan Making the rounds.

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    I certainly didn't. On the other hand, the city is on fire, maybe stabbing your protector isn't the best idea right now...
     
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  27. Threadmarks: Chapter 8- Masks Crumble
    TanaNari

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    By the time they returned to their room, they were exhausted. Ada took the time to tuck the redhead into her less than comfortable bed, then sat on the floor next to her; this room didn't come equipped with a chair. She glanced back at the demon standing near the door, uncertain what to say or do. She had made the mistake of taking her eyes off of him once. "Why?"

    Arakash crossed his arms. "You really have the nerve to ask why a slave would want to escape?" He showed no sign of remorse, made no attempt to pretend he was apologetic. As long as her mind was locked onto his defiance, she might not consider his methods. Beyond that, he was angry; the plan seemed flawless, yet here he was in a worse position than he started. "Aren't you going to bed, Princess?"

    Ada glared at her demonic... slave, she had to admit, he was a slave. She vowed to make her peace with that concept; she had to, if she wanted to prevent this from happening again. "After tonight? No. There's no way I'm going to give you another chance to escape."

    "You could simply give me an order," Arakash said.

    "I don't trust the spell that much." She never should have in the first place. "You've shown a penchant for resisting. Perhaps not for long, but probably enough to kill her." Ada gestured at her unconscious 'guest'. "Maybe you'll decide that if she wakes up, she might be a threat and trick the spell that way. I'm not going to give you the chance to try."

    "Possibly." Arakash wasn't certain one way or another, but as exhausted as he was, he knew he couldn't make it happen tonight. "But sooner or later you will need to sleep, Princess. Your daddy didn't think of that."

    Ada looked at the floor for a moment and fought off the urge to cry. Instead, she whispered. "He thought of it. I was meant to be well escorted during this trip, by individuals hand-picked to be resistant to your influence."

    "Ah, yes, I remember." Arakash smiled, or snarled, one would be hard-pressed to determine which. "Death chases you like an unrequited lover, Princess."

    Ada watched him- it. She had been lulled into imagining this creature was a person, just as her father had warned her not to. "By the time I need to sleep, she'll be awake and safe. I know you can't hurt me, asleep or otherwise. And we already know she can protect herself. Once we're in Karana, I'll have guards again. That will control you."

    Arakash made certain his expression was neutral, but in his head he was seething at his failure to secure his freedom, thanks to having the bad luck of stumbling across the perfect bait and not realizing it was a trap. "You seem to have all the answers, don't you?"

    Ada looked over at the girl in the bed. "When it comes to creatures like you, I don't have the luxury of anything less."

    They remained silent for a few minutes, then Arakash spoke again. "Wake up princess, it's time we get going."

    Ada jumped up, her eyes opening to realize there was light in the room unrelated to the glowing flames that were still being fought back. She'd fallen asleep and hadn't even realized it. At least her charge still seemed to be breathing.

    "Relax, Princess, I didn't touch her." Even with a few hours to consider his position, he'd given up on playing the 'nice guy' role. It failed and almost got him incinerated, and then the girl he was trying to ply with empathy had sided with the one who tried to kill him. "Thought about touching her. Thought about touching you."

    "You do know I can order you to kill yourself, right?" Ada stood, trying her best to ignore the aches of sleeping while sitting up on the floor, in her armor. She wondered how she felt that, yet didn't feel an arrow piercing her heart.

    "No control spell is that powerful, Princess." He was confident she wasn't lying, but he'd accept being proven wrong if it provided more secrets to the nature of the binding spell.

    "Not directly," she said, taking the bait. "But if I, say, had you drop your disguise and attack the local barracks, the results would be much the same, would they not?"

    Arakash paused for a minute. It seemed unlikely the spell would allow that, if only because it would contradict the protection imperative. It might be enough to crack the control spell, too. Or perhaps it would force him to run a suicide attack on armed war mages. There was only one way to find out, and he wasn't quite that desperate yet.

    Sensing she had the advantage, Ada pressed harder. "You didn't think of that, did you?"

    "You didn't, either." Arakash snapped back. "I'd say it was your father, but I've witnessed his threats, and they're less juvenile in nature. So your brother's the most obvious source. Don't use all of his material up too quickly, Princess. Once you're out, you'll just be a silly little girl trying to control an entity centuries older and far more powerful than her."

    "That's what eats you up, isn't it? That it's me in control?" She took a step forward, challenging him to tell her she was wrong through the truth-enforcement of the control spell. "I think if it were a great king like my father, or a powerful skilled warrior like my brother, it wouldn't bother you so much. You'd hate it, of course, but it wouldn't be so... insulting. Being controlled by 'a silly little girl' must be hell for an egotistical monster like you."

    Arakash said nothing.

    "I thought so," Ada said. "And I'm glad, even if it's nowhere near the justice you deserve. This conversation's over, let's get to the ship." She turned and picked up the third member of their trip.

    "As you command, Princess."

    Smoke still drifted thick in the air, made worse by the morning fog. Activity bustled about as guards and repair crews went about in force seeing to it that the damage was limited, and that those with money were protected enough to rebuild their livelihoods. Nobody cared about those who didn't, as was par for the course, but a few might find some coins helping in the repairs.

    "Trouble incoming," Arakash muttered. "Trust me and follow my lead."

    Ada wanted to make some comment, or at least ask what lead she was supposed to follow, when two guards approached them. "We're going to have to ask you to head back to your residences. It's not safe here."

    Arakash knew better; they were keeping people isolated so they could go through them one by one to find him and the redhead. After last night, the pair of them were due for an executioner's block. He put on the air of an upper-class accent. "If you please, we lack a permanent residence the city. We booked transportation to Karana, seeking a proper cure for my lady-friend's ailing sister." He gestured at Ada and the girl she carried.

    Ada caught on quick enough. "Please, good sir. We were separated from our companions in last night's chaos, including our doctor." It didn't take much to bring tears to her eyes, either. "She'll surely die without care."

    The guards considered their position for a moment, nudged by Arakash's magic to desire, and with luck empathy, for the pair of women. They glanced at each other, seeing if the other would take initiative in this situation. The evidence seemed believable, the accents seemed genuine, and Karana was known for a healing techniques greater than anywhere else in the world. If they were liars, it could cost them their jobs. If they were genuine, then indirectly killing some lord's child would be worse.

    Still, it Arakash could tell that it wouldn't be enough on its own, so he reached out his hands in the usual sign of supplication, with his palms up. In each palm sat a pair of gold coins. "Please, we have little recourse."

    A week's pay for each of them to look the other way. That it led credence to their persona as nobility didn't hurt, either.

    One of the reached out and took his hand, palming the coin. "Of course, Sir, we wouldn't want to inconvenience you. "If you head that way, you should be able to avoid the worst of the carnage."

    In other words: it was the best path to dodge other guards. "Thank you, I swear on my honor I won't forget this!" Arakash walked off, followed shortly after by Ada.

    "What was that?"

    "A bribe. In my experience, only lust motivates people moreso than greed does."

    "But... they're guards." She looked back again. "They're supposed to be better than this."

    Arakash continued walking, but reveled in the opportunity to put this stupid child back in your place. "Are you really this ignorant of your own nation? Your people tried to assassinate you twice in a single afternoon. Your father started a war with an unprovoked sneak attack that even two decades later hasn't been forgiven. You haven't been married off yet because you're political poison no other nation will touch. And all that is before enslaving demons. Does it surprise you to learn your soldiers are lacking discipline?"

    It did, but Ada wouldn't admit it, so instead she walked in silence and considered all she was learning now that she was no longer shielded from the harsh nature of the world.

    Arakash felt the ship before he spotted it; all ships had magical enforcements to hide them from sea monsters, but this one used a special design meant to hold something in rather than keep things out. He'd say they were playing with fire using such a method, but he had sworn off all flame-based idioms and puns after last night's debacle.

    Two men holding swords blocked them on the dock. "Where do you think yer goin'?"

    "Such a friendly greeting," Arakash said. "Your captain is expecting me."

    "We were told, but he said nothin' of those two." He pointed his sword at Ada, but fortunately didn't move close to her. Arakash would have hated to have to murder the man in so public a venue.

    "And yet, here they are." Arakash opened his arms, but as he did so the hidden Vilos prepared its bone, on the off chance it was needed. "If you have a problem with that, we can leave, and you can explain to your captain how you sent us away. I'm sure he's a fair man who truly appreciates your judgement and will have no problem with you costing him lots of money."

    The sailors considered their situation for a moment, but sarcasm aside, they knew they had little choice. "Welcome aboard."

    One began leading them to their room, while the other went off presumably to tell the captain. "Yer staying in a storage room. We were told there'd only be one man. The women will just have to deal with it."

    It was something of a surprise to Arakash that they even had a room planned for him at all, considering the obvious nature of this trap. "I'm sure we can find some means to entertain ourselves."

    Ada resisted the urge to chastise the demon. "We'll be fine. It's only for a couple days, right?"

    "Hmmph, don't keep the rats up all night."

    The moment after he left, Arakash went to open the door, which did not go unnoticed by Ada. "Where do you think you're going?"

    "There is some business I must take care of," he said. "I might have left out a detail or two about our ferry."

    Now Ada crossed her arms. "I know you think I'm naive, but I'm not so stupid that I didn't recognize what sort of ship this is."

    "I didn't think it'd fool you for long." Arakash wasn't certain what the Princess thought she knew, but if she realized the real truth, it would end in a disaster that got them both killed. "If I don't have a conversation with the captain, we may find ourselves fighting our way off this ship. We both know what happens to me if you're harmed, so you know I'm not going to do anything stupid."

    Ada doubted her definition of 'stupid' aligned with the demon's, but she also knew he couldn't lie to her. "Very well, you may go have your talk. Do not take any more time than you have to."

    Arakash nodded. "As you command, Princess." He left the door, then cloaked himself in shadow while opening his senses. Later, they'd be watching the door more closely, but for now they had their hands full with setting sail and heading out. He felt the shudder of the ship as the magic changed and allowed the waves to take control of the boat's motion.

    Arakash found the captain's quarters easily enough. For a moment he considered how tacky a gilded dagger was as a door ornament, but it was the captain's stolen gold to do with as he saw fit. He sat down in the captain's chair and considered pouring himself a glass of liquor, but he hated the smell of alcohol more than he loved the idea of annoying the man a little more. There was no longer a reason to keep up pretenses.

    Fortunately, he didn't need to wait long before the man arrived. "What an unpleasant surprise." He, too, had little reason to keep up pretense.

    "It doesn't have to be, if you listen." Arakash smiled. He then tried to offer the man a deal that involved caging the princess, such that she was safe and he was a 'free' enough to find a more permanent solution, but he failed to express any of the words. A pity, but he hadn't expected that gambit to work in the first place.

    "Out with it lad, I ain't got all day."

    "I know what you are," he said instead. "I know what this ship is. And I know you what you think I am."

    "And what would I think you be, lad?"

    "A valuable bounty, in your eyes. You must know I'd fight."

    "Fight to yer heart's content, lad. You ain't got a chance."

    Arakash didn't argue the point. "You're probably right. But I know all about your special guest, and I bet I can break its chains before I'm stopped. I've some talent in the arcane, you know."

    The captain's good eye widened. "Do that and we all die. Yer no exception."

    "If you're half as smart and a tenth as old as I suspect you are, you know all about my people, what we're capable of." He allowed his form to shift just enough to reveal his true eyes. "Let me assure you that every rumor about our spitefulness is well deserved. I'd do it, and hope I lived long enough to kill you before it kills us both." More bluff than truth, but the captain needn't know that. He was only forced to speak truth to the princess.

    "And what would you be wantin', instead?"

    Arakash took out the summoning stone and placed it on the table."Nothing but you keeping your bargain from before. We land in Vera, we leave, and you keep the stone. Not the windfall you were hoping for, I know, but it's hardly like making less money is the same as losing money, let alone your life."

    "That be a problem, lad." The captain held still, though his eye couldn't help but focus on the stone. "But you'd already know that if you've realized what this ship is."

    "I've also realized that you do a lot of business on the Karanan coast near Vera." He chose not to explain how, but it wasn't like it was hard to identify the supplies on the ship. "You know a way through. Smuggler's tunnels, I'd bet."

    "Ah, well, ya got me there, lad." The captain acquiesced that this creature had outplayed him. "But it's not safe this time o' year."

    "Surprisingly kind of you to warn me, but we'll take it anyway." Arakash stood, leaving the gem behind on the table. At this point, he had ensured the only safe play for the pirate slaver was to get him off the ship without violence. Or to sneak enforcers on board, which would lead to them discovering his secrets and executing the both. It was an unusual form of hostage negotiation.

    "Yer funeral."

    After Arakash left the captain with the information he needed, he took the time to sneak through some of the halls. A handful of coins here, a healing potion there, but the true prize was a wand that the princess could use as a proper weapon."

    He was starting to feel confident about himself again, after the humiliating failures of yesterday. Until he opened the door to their cubby-hole.

    "YOU!!!" A voice shouted, and then the room was engulfed in fire.

    =====

    A/N- While Arakash doesn't strictly fit the psychiatric definition of a narcissist or a sociopath, he does have elements that would be easily diagnosed as such... however, he is an inhuman being, and as such no traditional psychiatric classification (definitionally tied to human psychology) can be considered accurate. However, he does have anger issues that come out when his plans fail. And then he makes himself feel better by ruining someone else's day. So, whatever his psychological profile, he's an asshole.

    In the game proper, sneaking about looting the pirate ship will be a bit of a stealth oriented minigame. You won't be able to loot the entire thing no matter what you do, but it will at least net you a few pieces of equipment that are higher level than they should be.

    Also: this was a fun cliffhanger to end on.
     
  28. Threadmarks: Chapter 9- Useless lesbian holds her crush's hand. Sets it on fire.
    TanaNari

    TanaNari Verified Dick

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    Ada took a moment to watch Arakash leave before she sat next to the unconscious redhead. As easy as it would be to blame the demon for everything, she couldn't; she was responsible for keeping a dangerous monster on its leash, and she failed. There wasn't much she could do about the rest of the disaster, but it was in her power to save this one.

    She took a slow breath, and in spite of her limitations, began working her magic toward healing. Her ability to mend flesh was limited, but she could infuse the body with energy and compel it to mend as all living tissue mended.

    The girl's eyes opened, revealing eyes of light auburn. "Wha-" She tried to sit up, only to be dropped back down by a dizzy spell.

    Ada put a hand on her shoulder. "You shouldn't get up. You need more time to recover."

    Now that the surprise wore off, the redhead stared up at the purple-haired one. She'd never seen that color before. "W-what happened?"

    "You don't remember?" Ada considered the implications, and decided that it probably made things worse. "We're on a ship." How could she explain to this girl that she burned down portion of a city? She felt guilty enough for her indirect role in the disaster.

    "I hate ships." She thought for a moment, collecting her thoughts through the dull throb of the headache she suspected wouldn't vanish for some time. "I remember some guy, then I-" The flash of energy, of power, just like-

    Ada reached out, put a hand on the girl's shoulder in an attempt to comfort her. "Don't worry, I know about your fire magic." She worked up the bravery to tell her what happened, but decided against it for now. Fear and guilt aside, she needed to make sure her patient was well before delivering such terrible news.

    She looked away. "I don't like to think about it."

    "I can imagine." Ada considered the circumstances. "You're safe, now. I swear, whatever else happens, you will be safe."

    They sat there for quite some time before the girl found her voice. "It was never so intense before." She looked back at the girl sitting next to her, trying to find the words. You're beautiful. "You saved me." Why?

    Now it was Ada's turn to look away. "After... everything. You passed out. I've been taking care of you all night. I'm sorry."

    "Don't be." She offered an uncertain, fragile, smile. "You're a healer?"

    Ada gave a grim chuckle. "My father insisted, but I never had much talent. As a healer or any other sort of mage." She had raw power to spare, but no ability with any sort of bloodline. A burden she saw no reason to saddle on this girl who had problems enough of her own. "I recognized your mana exhaustion and did what I could to feed you energy, that's all."

    "I've always been a pyromancer, but I've never become fire before. I..." The redhead closed her eyes, to stop herself from crying, but she couldn't hold back the memories clawing their way up from the darkest parts of her mind. "How many people died?" This time.

    Princess Adageyudi held her breath, considering how to answer the question. She forced herself to look at the girl, at the tears leaking from her closed eyes. She couldn't bring herself to lie, no matter how much she wished she could. "I... don't know. Much of the city was in flames when we escaped. There were riots, and looting, and..."

    "I knew it would be bad." It always is.

    "I'm so sorry." Ada choked back tears of her own.

    "No!" The girl tried to sit, and again found she didn't have the strength. Instead, she put her fingers on top of the hand still on her shoulder. "It's not your fault, it's mine. I'm the one who lost control." She stopped when that only seemed to make it worse, and opted to change the subject. "Say, what's your name. I'm Shiara. Shiara na Ifaril."

    Ada forced herself to smile at the absurdity of the situation. "Shiara? That's a pretty name." She also recognized the title from her spiritual lessons; Ifaril, God of Purifying Flames. "You're a priestess?" It was something of a stereotype, but pyrokinetics did favor Ifaril.

    "No," Shiara said. "My family was very religious." As grateful as she was, this was as close to the truth as she could bring herself to come.

    Ada nodded in understanding; it explained the name in spite of her being too young to be priestess to any god she'd ever heard of. "I'm Adageyudi na Tyras." There was no point in not finishing with title, given that to her knowledge her own name was unique.

    "You're Princess Ada?!" Shiara sat up in shock, and this time managed to not fall over again. The adrenaline burst of knowing she was literally rescued by the princess overcame her exhaustion. It was all she could do not to bounce with excitement. She was rescued by a princess.

    Ada moved back in surprise at how fast the girl seemed to recover, and how happy she seemed to be. After yesterday's series of disasters, and Arakash's constant use of her title in a way that felt like a pejorative, she felt the need to put boundaries around her title. "Please, just call me Ada. I'm trying not to call attention to myself."

    Shiara realized how close she was, and slid back a little. "... Ada." She still added 'Princess' in her head, and nobody could stop her. "You're right to be careful, with the bounty on your head." And you trusted me with the truth.

    Ada kept her expression as neutral as she could; she'd had a great deal of practice doing that of late. "Bounty? There's a bounty?"

    "It's a small fortune, too." I'm helping the Princess!

    Even Ada was starting to sense the excitement off Shiara. Was that a spark of electricity in her eyes? "You're not going to try to kill me, are you?"

    "No!" Shiara then realized she was shouted the word. Her face turning red with humiliation, she looked down. "I'm no assassin. I mean, I've hunted monsters, and there are a lot of people in that work who... also hunt people, which is how I knew about the bounty! But not me! And I'm no snitch! Even if I didn't owe you, I'd never tell. You can trust me with any of your secrets." Please?

    Ada smiled, relieved that her good deed wouldn't come back to hurt her. Or, she hoped it wouldn't. Shiara seemed like the honest sort to her, but recent events had taught her that she was a terrible judge of intent. "I'm glad." She took a slow breath, and lowered her voice. "But, I have one more thing you need to know."

    Shiara's breath caught, then she leaned in, not daring to think what she was hoping, for fear she'd ruin it. "You can tell me, I promise."

    It was then that the door opened, and Arakash didn't get the chance to walk in.

    Shiara jumped to her feet as her hair caught fire. "You!" Moments later, the fire flickered out and she landed, this time caught in Ada's arms. They both tumbled to the ground, with her still staring at the bastard. "He tried to kill me!"

    Ada cradled the girl and stroked her now normal hair. "It's ok, he can't hurt you, not now or ever again."

    Shiara struggled, though she barely had the strength necessary to move. "You know this freak!?"

    "I don't see how you of all creatures get to call me a freak," Arakash crossed his arms, smirking at the weakened girl that had almost killed him. "But you could say we're familiar, in more ways than one."

    "Silent, you freak!" Ada shouted. "Don't move, either." She didn't have time to deal with Arakash's passive-aggressive rebellion and Shiara's justified fear and anger. "It's a long story, but I control him, and I've given him orders never to hurt you."

    Shiara took her eyes off the demon just long enough to look at Ada, mere inches from her. It was nice, though it would be better without the company. "How?"

    "It was my father's doing," Ada said. She knew that trusting Shiara with this much information was a risk, and took the plunge regardless. "I only understand the basics, but it's a specialized form of binding magic. Most of it's a standard Servitor Bond, but with an added advantage that If I'm injured, it draws from his life energy to keep me alive."

    Shiara wondered if she was being lied to; she hoped not, but she'd never heard of such a spell before. She imagined it would be labeled as 'blasphemous' and get its users 'purified', but if anyone had forbidden magic, it would be royalty. "That's incredible."

    "I can't disagree. I'd already be dead if not for this spell." At this point, Ada realized how close the two of them still were, and made to untangle herself from Shiara, then turned to look her in the eyes. "Now you know why you don't owe me anything. He has to protect me, but it was my responsibility to protect everyone else from him, and I failed."

    "You shouldn't apologize," Shiara almost went to hug her, but didn't. "But why did it attack me?"

    Ada wondered just how sheltered Shiara was to not know the answer. "He's a Noctrel, eating people is what they do."

    Shiara shook her head. "I know that. What I mean is that I'm... different. Most supernatural beings run when they sense my presence. I think they somehow knew what might happen. It sought me out when there were so many less dangerous victims to target."

    "Arakash, answer the question."

    Arakash, meanwhile, had been standing in the corner wishing he could escape his enslavement for just one moment. If he could, then it would all be over, both of them would die, and he'd have some chance of freedom. He resisted as best he could, but all that happened was he began to tremble as pain creeped across his muscles. "In order to escape the bond."

    He hoped that would be enough. It wasn't.

    "How?"

    No! In spite of the pain, Arakash refused to answer. There was still the possibility he could find some other source of power that they might overlook, so long as they didn't understand the mechanism he was trying to break. If that secret became public knowledge... "Princess, every time you give a command, I get better at fighting it." Warning her off might be his only chance.

    Ada sighed, then reached over and gripped Shiara's hand in her own.

    "Eep!" Shiara had been so intent on what the demon was doing that she caught by surprise when the Princess' dainty fingers curled around her own. She was even less prepared for what came next.

    "Set my hand on fire," Ada commanded.

    "What?" Arakash and Shiara said at the same time.

    "Please, trust me." Ada turned to Shiara. "It doesn't have to be a big fire, just enough to burn flesh."

    Arakash decided this was going too far, and tried to stop them in spite of still being unable to move. "Wait a minute, you're going to hurt your chan-"

    "If you're sure." Shiara barely heard his panicked over her heart pounding while staring into Ada's beautiful purple eyes. She drew on some fragment of her strength and allowed that power to erupt from her fingers. To her surprise, Ada didn't recoil at all as the flame licked up to their wrists.

    Arakash hissed, gripping his arm and struggling to fight as what little energy he had retained from his most recent victims began boiling away. He would have collapsed to his knees, if not for the command not to move. "THIS was your FATHER'S solution to my RESISTANCE, wasn't it PRINCESS?"

    Ada looked away from Shiara, and channeled the best of her father's lecturing tone. "We can keep doing this until you run out of strength and die, Arakash."

    Arakash's face warped as the limited concentration needed to maintain his human disguise began to falter. The best he could do was hiss as he was tortured by proxy.

    Ada squeezed Shiara's hand just a little tighter. "The weaker you become, the less you'll be able to fight the binding. You will obey."

    "Fine! You win." His hand, blackened by fire which had never touched him, began to heal the moment Shiara stopped fueling the effect. He'd bought some time, and with it, perhaps a way to deflect the question. "If we absorb enough energy, it changes our life essence. I hoped that by feeding on her, it would change me enough to cause the binding to fail."

    "That can be done?" Ada flinched the moment she realized how much she revealed with that question.

    Arakash tried to take advantage of the question by misdirecting her curiosity. "There's a chance it would work. And if it failed, you'd be none the wiser. As you already realize, I miscalculated."

    Shiara kept holding on to Ada's hand, and planned to do so for the rest of her life, but she noticed the hole in the demon's logic. "Why did you fight so hard to keep that a secret?"

    Arakash snarled at her, but he'd been snarling the whole time. "Obviously, I don't want her to know how I planned to escape."

    "That's not enough," Shiara said. "You may be able to con her, but I've played better players than you. There's much more to it."

    "What?" In hearing her statement, Ada still couldn't put together what she was getting at.

    "Think about it, Ada." Shiara smiled, excited to be able to help protect her newly discovered princess. "He fought that question, tried to change the subject, anything to avoid answering it. Like he said, it's obvious he wanted to escape. Why fight to hide it?"

    "You're right." Once again, someone else had to show her the truth. She turned her attention to Arakash again. "Well, answer the question. The complete answer, this time."

    As the girls conversed, he thought of every profanity of all twenty seven languages he knew. No possible combination of them adequately expressed what he was feeling in this moment. "Fine. If we absorb too much power, it changes us, if only for a while. We have to put effort into digesting it, and in that time we are... vulnerable."

    "How?" Ada asked.

    "I can answer that, I think." Shiara felt downright giddy. "If he absorbed my energy, and I survived, I bet I could still control that power. I would make some spectacular fireworks. He could also be tracked, maybe his powers wouldn't work for a while, or he might find the energy sets off an alarm, and lots of other stuff. I'm sure an Archmage could find a thousand ways to exploit that weakness."

    "If this became common knowledge, my kind would be exterminated to the last," Arakash admitted. He didn't think sympathy would work, but it was his last refuge at this point.

    "You deserve it, and worse," Shiara said.

    It seemed he was correct; there would be no pity for his people. "So be it. I care nothing of your judgement."

    "He's right." Ada looked down at her lap, then over at the hand Shiara was still holding. "There's no reason to argue with evil. You simply purge it and move on."

    "Sounds like your father's words again." Arakash growled. He had already decided that King Sorda was the being he most hated in all his years of life, and every time he heard more, it made him all the more certain of his opinion.

    "He's a wise man." Ada sighed, feeling weary and tired in spite of the early hour. "Unless you have something important to our mission to tell me, you shall stay silent for the rest of the voyage."

    Shiara resolved to do everything she could to comfort the fatigued princess. "Is he always that bad?"

    "I wish," she said. "I hate everything about all of this mess, and I'm sorry I dragged you into the mess."

    "Don't be. It's not your fault, I'm fine, and we learned something nobody anywhere knows about one of the most dangerous monster species out there." Her optimism was forced; there was blood on her hands. "It's the demon who should be apologizing, which won't happen. Now what do we do?" She hoped the 'we' was obvious enough without being too obvious.

    Ada was too oblivious to catch on. "I'm heading to Karana, for diplomatic purposes. We're travelling to Vera now, which should take a couple days. Then I'll give you some money to get back to Kale, but you might have to wait for a return vessel, I'm sorry."

    Shiara just starred at her oblivious princess. "I think I'd prefer to go with you to Karana. Kale was getting cramped, and after last night I don't think it'll be any better." If anyone realized she was the source of the fire, she'd be lucky if all they did was execute her. When faced with that, or spending more time with the beautiful princess who saved her life, the choice was obvious.

    "You don't know how happy I am to hear that." She closed her eyes. "I think I need to get some rest. Arakash, you stay in the hallway and don't cause trouble. I'm going to sleep against the door."

    =====

    A/N- Shiara is adorable. If you disagree, I will set YOU on fire. Also... I almost feel bad for Arakash... almost. And it occurs to me if someone fix-fics this story, it'll probably end up being a harem fic. PS- I promise, this is NOT a harem fic. You can tell because the characters have personalities.

    And I'm really sad I have so few active readers. Nobody seems to catch my subtle jokes. Or my subtle foreshadowing. It sucks. :(

    Holy balls, I'm glad to rewrite this section. The original was a disaster bordering on the nonsensical in which Shiara blurted all sorts of shit about herself out that no sane person would tell to strangers. I mean, yes, Shiara is the youngest character in the story, and I wanted her savior-crush to be obvious to everyone who's not Ada, but there are limits.

    Don't worry, Shiara's history will come out eventually. One delicious piece at a time.

    Incidentally, there are a lot of people named Shiara or some similar name in Midara. It's basically the setting's equivalent to Mary... though Shiara's a fancier variant than most, so her name specifically is probably more akin to Maria. Which, well, finding out a girl named Maria had unusually religious parents isn't going to surprise anyone.

    And the sheer lack of tact in addressing the whole 'city in flames' thing? Eeesh... even as a teenager I should have known that needed to be better written.

    ADA: Don't worry, I already saw you in your fire form.
    SHI: It's not something I like to advertise
    ADA: I can imagine. You almost destroyed half the city last night.
    SHI: It was never so intense before. (she looks at her hands). Usually the most I can do is cover myself in flame. I never completely became fire before.
    ADA: From the looks of it, you probably shouldn't too often. You passed out. It took everything I had to heal you.
    SHI: You're a healer?

    Then there's the part talking about the bounty, and Arakash, and... look, let's just say the original draft of this section was a breathtaking pile of trash and leave it at that
     
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2020
  29. Threadmarks: Shiara Character Sheet
    TanaNari

    TanaNari Verified Dick

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    Shiara na Ifaril

    Shiara should have a lithe, athletic body type. Get a ballerina for her body model. She's a Kinetic Revelation. Unlike most characters, she'll need a more dynamic hair model, with use of magic causing it to do all sorts of visually fun things like glow, or burst into flame.

    She'll need a second model for her fire mode, which should be somewhat vague in form and look like living fire rather than just a 3D model with fire effects slapped on top of it.

    Vocals: whoever it is, will need some range. A young voice trying very hard to sound older and wiser than she is, but not quite selling it. So... either a very good actress, or a very bad one that just so happens to be good at delivering lines.

    Music: I have no idea. Shiara's standard music should be something soft but fun... perhaps take the first 20 seconds of Lieberman's version of Killing Me Softly and extend it into a full song.

    Peter Gundry's "Last of Her Kind" could work if the violin is relegated to a background instrument instead of being so upfront. A drum would help, too.



    Her transformed state should have a similar tune, but faster and more violent.
    Class: Fire Dancer / Inferno Incarnate

    "She's more dangerous than she looks. Trust me." / "World's Cutest Conflagration."

    5'4'' (162cm), Soft amber eyes, red-orange hair / Vaguely humanoid fire

    Hobbies: Dancing, Music, reading waaay too much romantic literature, pining for unattainable women.

    STATS: (Note, stats increase with levels, so what will be listed is a grading scale of A-F suggesting what you can expect of this character compared to equivalent levels).

    Strength: D / D

    Agility: A / S

    Vitality: C / S

    Intelligence: B / A

    Perception: C / B

    Willpower: B / S

    Elements: Fire, Fire, More Fire

    Combat Style: Functions as a "rogue" with environmental stealth and sneak attacks with her fire bolts. / All shall be ash before her.

    Shiara's defining ability is her transformation ability, which grants her significantly enhanced abilities by effectively merging her mind and body into a singular hyper-powered form. This form grants numerous advantages, but will drain her health and mana as long as she's in it. Best saved for boss-crushing.

    Shiara has a general stat advantage over almost all other party members- her core weakness is that there is an exceedingly limited amount of equipment she can use. She has no armor, and with exception to her dagger, no weapons or accessories. She can use sarite, but only a limited amount of fire oriented options.
    BASE ABILITIES: These are natural traits available to Shiara.

    Fire Bolt- Shiara has a single-target fire spell that she can use at will without costing mana.

    Immune to Fire- Shiara has blanket immunity to any harmful effect which has heat or flame as part of its element. She can still benefit from positive spells with that descriptor. She still takes damage from any physical harm included- such as with a burning arrow or inhaling toxic smoke.

    Internal Furnace- Shiara's body is a (super)natural furnace, making her resistant to cold, immune to all natural diseases, and most unnatural ones.

    Emergency Morph- If Shiara suffers from any form of mind control, poison, or life-threatening injury, her body will enter elemental mode in order to save her without her awareness or control.

    Transformation- When Shiara enters her elemental mode she gains immunity to all physical damage, chemicals, and any mind-altering effects. Outside effects (say, blindness by being in a fog or smoke filled area rather than eye damage) are unaffected.

    In her transformed state, she losed the 'internal furnace' trait and can now has a vulnerability to cold, ice, and water attacks.

    Meldcast Effect: Burn- Any spell with this effect deals 50% of its damage again next round.

    WEAPON TYPE:

    Ecrosian Dagger- The only weapon Shiara can use. It's a reasonably high stat item for the early game, but becomes obsolete fast. Not that Shiara should be in melee combat.

    ARMOR TYPE:

    None- Shiara can't wear armor, and in fact has a limited number of clothes she can use without destroying them when she transforms.

    MAGIC STYLES:

    FIRE: Yeah. Just "fire". Lots and lots of burning. Her transformed state greatly increases damage output.

    Firebolt - Free cost quick attack that counts as ranged for attack accuracy.

    Explosion - Fire damage explosion, quick and cheap for the damage, also causes stun and daze status effects.

    Flametouch - This spell lets her deal fire damage (as 'bolt') every time she strikes or is struck in melee.

    Fireflash - Does fire damage and blinds target. Must be healed to recover sight

    Bloodboil - Does serious heat damage and can cause mental status damage like confusion and rage

    Manaburn - Causes target to lose a great deal of magic as it converts to flame and vents

    Flamethrower - Short-ranged stream of fire

    Nova - A spherical explosion with herself in the center

    Ignition - Target bursts into flames that cause continuous damage, lowers stats, and reduce fire resistance. All effects grow slowly over time.

    Flame Dance - Shiara wraps herself in flame, and actually does a dance performance that can affect the minds of men (and gay women). Those entranced will do nothing but watch her unless attacked. This mind effect relies on agility

    Heatwave - Forces the elemental field to shift toward fire, causing the temperature to match those of the worst deserts. Greatly lowers vitality for everyone who isn't fire resistant, especially those in heavy armor.

    Hotplate - Causes targeted metal armor or weapon to get incredibly hot. Victim will attempt to drop or otherwise escape the object. For every turn they're in contact with the heated metal, deals damage that increases over time.

    Immolation - Killing move. Deals high damage to target, and if the target is killed, causes an equal damage explosion.

    Dragon Breath - Generates a cone of flame that slowly reduces in potency and increaces in width/height as it gets further from Shiara

    =====

    A/N- Shiara's mechanics are not-so-subtly inspired by Terra of Final Fantasy Six. As characters, however, they really have very little in common.
     
  30. Threadmarks: Chapter 10- Salty slave stabs salty snake
    TanaNari

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    Over the next couple days, the group settled down into their routines. Shiara and Adageyudi spent their time discussing their favorite authors. Arakash remained silent, contemplating numerous creative torture techniques which could revolutionize the industry. Around them, the smugglers pretended they didn't exist. So it remained until a smuggler tapped on their door.

    With a simple "We're here, get out before we toss you overboard," they were informed that it was time to leave and gathered what little supplies they had brought with them.

    "You'll love it. They have such lovely architecture, and I'm told the music is-" Ada hesitated when they came out from below deck. "This isn't Port Vera." She looked over at Arakash. "You said we were going to Vera."

    "There was a slight change of plans," Arakash said. "We're close to Vera, but have to make the rest of the trip on foot through the mountain pass."

    Ada glanced around at the others, aware she had an audience. She didn't appreciate the looks they were giving her, either, so she walked faster, in an effort to get away from these men before some other disaster happened. That in spite of them being criminals, they were better behaved than what were supposedly her law-abiding and law-enforcing subjects galled her more than she would admit.

    Arakash lagged behind, just a little, as they stepped off the deck onto the safety of solid ground. With one hand on the rail, he reached into the ethereal and drank deep of the power running the complex mechanisms of the ship. A little more energy for him, a little more trouble for people who annoyed him. While not the target he truly wanted to suffer, he was willing to settle for now. He then hurried after the girls.

    Once they were away from people, Ada turned and faced Arakash. "Why didn't you tell me about this last night?"

    Arakash smirked. "I seem to recall that I was ordered by my slave-master not to speak. A command which I followed faithfully. Would you be so unjust as to lay at my feet her regrets for her own actions?"

    Ada sighed. "This is going to be a common occurrence, isn't it?"

    "That is not for me to say." He might not have the power to defy her, but Arakash was dead set on attacking her on every angle he could conceive. "I am a mere servant, with no control over what whims my unreliable mistress may hap upon."

    "Ugh, I was told you were a demon." Shiara, not being held back by the weird sense of guilt and responsibility Ada was, stepped between them. Her eyes glowed as she confronted Arakash. "Not some whiny, petulent, child. It's pathetic. But if you like, I'm sure I can spare you the onerous burden of not being executed like you deserve."

    "Thank you for the assistance, but this is my burden." Ada put her hand on Shiara's shoulder. "Arakash, consider it a standing order not to attempt to annoy me or Shiara. Or anyone else that isn't actively trying to kill us."

    Arakash glowered, but was still forced to obey. The pressure was as strong today as it had been the day he was enslaved, no doubt due to his recent injuries weakening his resistance. "As you command, Princess. The pass is this direction." Arakash began walking ahead of the girls, getting far enough ahead of them in to obscure himself with the trees, if only to be alone under the lush semitropical canopy. He could trust Shiara to do her best to slow the princess down with meaningless prattle, anyway.

    "Why do you put up with him?" Shiara muttered once Arakash was out of sight. "We should get rid of it. Make him hold still and I'll do it, then you won't have to worry anymore, and I'll protect you from anything else."

    Ada hesitated; she liked Shiara, but the talk of casual murder worried her. "I... can't do that." She wished she could, but she couldn't. "Leaving aside that regardless of motive, he saved my life twice? Killing him when he's not a threat and can't protect himself is too much for me. I'll understand if you disagree; it wasn't me he tried to kill."

    Sensing the turn of Ada's mood, Shiara caved. "I don't think I'd be able to do it, either. Not in cold blood. Besides, if he saved your life, then I suppose he's earned a chance." Shiara fought down her twinge of jealousy. She wanted to save the princess, too. Then maybe she'd... but, no, that was out of her reach for now. "But if he goes out of control again, I will end him."

    Ada forced herself to smile. "Thank you."

    As Arakash walked ahead, he considered his priorities. It was obvious he had little of gaining freedom any time soon. If he did somehow find a way, he'd then need to kill both of them to prevent the information they knew from becoming public, which was far easier said than done. Not that he felt a particular loyalty to his own kind, but because it would sooner or later lead to his death as well. While killing the princess would be easy enough, he had no reliable weapon against the elemental.

    After several minutes, they arrived at a the pass, or as it happened, the cave. Shiara looked around at the glimmering white of the walls, reflecting the sunlight in a trillion sparkling lights. "Ice?" She gazed up.

    "Salt," Ada said. "Scholars say this part of Karana was once sea floor, until it was forced up by some cataclysmic event. The water evaporated, leaving these salt caves. The path looks stable and well-used, they even built stairs in spots." Eyes wide staring into the darkness, she considered their options. "Shiara, could you use your fire like a torch to make light for us?"

    "Just give me a moment." With a bit of focus, Shiara's hair burst into flame. "But, as much as I'd love sightseeing." And in such a romantic spot. "Can we hurry through? I don't like caves much better than boats."

    Ada hesitated; she didn't want to put the victim of her failings through any more stress. "Are you certain this is the way through?"

    Arakash almost laughed at how pathetic the exchange was. "It's the one way through that's reliable this time of year. I had a very thorough discussion on the subject before we left the ship."

    Ada cringed as she considered his implications. "What did you do?"

    "Does it really matter?" Arakash asked. "They'd have done far worse to you if they had the chance."

    "I hate to agree with him, but he's right." Shiara stepped forward into the passage, darkness driven back by flame in a scene that looked for all intents like a portal to the deepest bowels of the earth. "They were pirates, they'd have sold us all into slavery, or worse."

    "I suppose you're right," Ada conceded, then recognized she was losing control of the situation again. "But to be clear, I command you to stop making decisions behind my back."

    "It gives me no small pleasure to announce that I refuse your order. It appears the binding contract has a loophole, or the closing of a loophole. I can, and must, disobey your orders in order to protect you." It was an amusing loophole, regardless. What annoyed him was the spell forcing him to inform her of the how and why of that refusal.

    "Interesting." Ada walked faster, hoping that the red glow of the flames would hide the glow of her own humiliation. She knew about the contract, and had been forced to memorize its contents; the order to defend her life and freedom was given priority over all other things, even the obedience law. She was even given specific instructions about the threat of him using the spell against itself in such a way.

    They made their way through the caves, and aside from having to use her gravity magic in some places where the spring rains had knocked the easy trail out, they found it to be a comfortable, if cramped, trips. After one particular cliff face, they found themselves staring out at a wide expanse of shimmering pools of water sitting in sunken pits of crystal salt. It was like looking out at an alien ocean. "It's beautiful," Ada murmured.

    "Incredible," Shiara agreed. She swallowed, then moved a step closer to Ada, and slowly began moving her hand to touch the princess.

    A crack and pop later, Arakash shifted to his demonic form and jumped over the two of them. "We have a monster!"

    "What is it?" Ada glanced around, and grabbed for her focus crystal.

    Shiara wanted to cook the demon for ruining the moment, no matter how important the reason. Then she laughed at herself; who was she fooling, she'd never have been able to work up the courage to follow through, anyway.

    "I'm uncertain. It's big, and it's fast." Arakash glanced around. "But I only barely sense any life force from it."

    One of the pools exploded, and from it emerged a long, slender, serpentine creature coated in the same reflective white rock as the cavern proper. Finger-like protrusions opened, to reveal its gaping maw coated in countless crystalline teeth. While it showed no sign of eyes, it seemed to have no trouble tracking them as it propelled itself forward with hundreds of tiny tendril-legs.

    "Pless! Erat nar!" Arakash cursed. "It's a wyrm!" Arakash jumped forward; the opposite of the direction he wanted, but someone had to block the monster from eating the princess, and his binding forced the responsibility on him. His Vilos began to rework its weapon, resulting in a long spear that he braced against the ground.

    Streaks of flame and ice rushed over his head and struck the charging beast. While it didn't seem more than superficially harmed, it twisted around and dived into the nearest pool of water.

    "Did that scare it off?" Having the worst eyesight for this situation, Ada glanced around uncertain.

    "Scare off a wyrm?" Arakash laughed. "You can't scare off wyrms. Walk into its territory, and your choices are run, kill, or die. And we're too deep for the first option to work." It seemed this was what the Captain meant by the trail being dangerous during this time.

    He felt the motion before he saw the attack, as several shards of rock flew forth from the inky darkness of the caves. He braced himself for pain as gashes formed across his flesh. He hissed at his injuries, while Ada screamed in surprise.

    Shiara, however, screamed in pain and rage. The same emotions that had driven her to transform when Arakash attempted to violate her mind blossomed forth at this new thing that had tried to hurt her princess. Her veins coursed with power, flesh subsumed into the conflagration. With a gesture, the wyrm's sheltered position erupted in a fireball.

    Arakash closed his eyes; they were useless in the blinding glare, anyway. "It's still moving," he said. He pointed with his left hand, the one not holding the Vilos spear. "It's heading that way, I think it's going to come up... now!"

    As much as she hated the demon, she hated the thing trying to kill Ada more. Another surge of power wrapped around and through her, and with it compressed ball of flame streaked toward the location in question.

    The wyrm screeched in surprise more than pain, then back in the hole it went.

    "It's not dead yet," Arakash shouted over the howling winds caused by the heating of the narrow tunnels. "It's made of the same salt of the cavern, it won't burn easily. Ada, you try. Now!"

    A bolt of ice energy struck near the wyrm, but missed. Another volley of dagger-like salt crystals shot forward. Arakash did what he could to evade the attack, but was rewarded with another wound due to Ada being too slow to react.

    Sensing a moment of vulnerability, the wyrm rushed them again. Several bursts of fire washed over its crystalline hide, causing pain but not injury. It's what it didn't feel that surprised it, when it went over what seemed like just some more rock formation and something pierced through its exoskeleton and into soft flesh.

    It twisted and rolled away from the offender, then retreated yet again, leaving Arakash wounded and laying on the ground.

    Not for the first time, Arakash was glad his lack of a heartbeat confused creatures that hunted mainly by sound. If the binding wasn't forcing him to sacrifice himself to protect a far less resilient princess, he'd be at the exit already.

    "Are you okay?" Ada ran to him. A swirl of purple light enveloped him, fusing him with some small amount of mana to help his own body recover. Ada's method of healing by accelerating normal recovery was less than impressive, but it did serve to heal Noctrel, which was something most healers could not do, even if they wanted to.

    "No I'm not!" He forced himself back to a crouching position. The bleeding had stopped, but it cost him power in the process. "I took a wyrm's charge for you! They hunt by tracking heartbeats, which means you. So you need to distract it."

    "Hey! That's not the deal!" Flew over their heads; from her position touching the ceiling, she looked for approaches from the monster.

    "No, he's right," Ada said. "Whatever it takes to get us to safety."

    "The plan is you start running that way." He pointed toward where the wyrm had originally attacked from. Shiara... now that it's bleeding, it'll think twice about your fire. Go!"

    "Without telling us what you're- hey!" As Shiara tried to argue, Ada had made up her mind and begun running. "Why are you listening to him!?"

    Ada considered her answers, and had only one that made sense to her. "Because he's better at killing than we are!"

    Arakash stumbled behind, tracking with his senses the wyrm as it navigated its own submerged paths. There. He stopped over one path, and allowed his blood to drip into the pool. It glowed as his magic joined the mix, coating the surface of the water with a viscous slime toxic to any living thing.

    The wyrm emerged, unknowingly coating itself in the deadly fluid. Arakash struggled to follow, but was relieved to see the bursts of fire pushed it back again. It retreated into a clean pool of water, but that wouldn't matter. With luck, it would swallow some of the water, and with it the poison.

    He didn't trust it. "Turn around, run back this way!"

    Ada's magic-enhanced movement twisted around a stalagmite in a flagrant violation of the laws of momentum, with Shiara nearly running into a wall before she corrected her own movements.

    Arakash stumbled to another nearby pool, laying his trap yet again. But he didn't stop there, moving to a third pool and a fourth as the wyrm kept moving. Sooner or later, the toxic sludge would kill it and everything else in this cavern.

    It emerged, slower than it had been. It opened its massive jaws and ejected the contents of its stomach. It had learned the lesson about the now deadly waters, but continued its pursuit on land.

    Arakash stopped for a moment to smear his own blood over the Vilos bone, then came after the creature from behind. He kept his distance, however, because Ada and Shiara were hammering it with their magic.

    One lucky shot from Shiara saw a burst of flame enter its throat, causing it to begin writhing as it experienced its insides burning in addition to blood loss and toxins soaking into it through its skin.

    Arakash got the kill, however. Invisible to the beast, he approached with the most cautious of steps, until he had the opportunity to plunge his blade into the section of the body that contained both the heart and brain of the wyrm. With it dead, he began the process of twisting the blade and pulling open a hole in the thing's hide.

    "What are you doing?" Ada approached, with Shiara back to normal following right behind her.

    Arakash grunted in effort. "It's called survival, Princess. Wyrms might be the weakest of all dragonites, but they are still dragonites." He plunged his fist into the hole he carved and ripped out the precious jewel within. "Sarite, fresh from the still-warm corpse. A fine reward, I'd say."

    Ada fought down the urge to be sick. "Sarite?

    Arakash snorted. "Don't tell me they skipped that part of your education, Princess."

    She found herself getting angry. "I know what sarite is. I just thought it was... refined, or something."

    "It's usually better to refine it," Shiara said. "The natural stuff can have all sorts of ugly surprises and side effects."

    "This one doesn't. The question is who uses it." Arakash stood, then walked over the wyrm using his claws for balance. There was no reason to do so, other than to literally step on one more troublesome pest. "It's got an earth bolt spell and a boost to toughness. I'm not compatible, but either of you will be fine."

    "Give it to Ada," Shiara said after a moment. "I had a few shards, but except for my one fire shard, they were destroyed when I transformed. Along with most of my gear. Best that I don't hold anything valuable."

    "If neither of you can use it." Ada reached out and accepted the gem. She took a moment reaching out to its energy with her own; she had little experience with attunement, and even experienced sarite users required some effort.

    Arakash stepped down on the other side of the slain wyrm.

    "What about reagents?" Shiara asked. "It is a dragonite, like you said."

    "Most of it's useless." Arakash turned to examine the corpse. "Any organs the poison hasn't melted are going to break down before we reach a buyer. But I suppose some of the scales will be salvageable. Let's get to work."

    =====

    A/N- In Soviet Russia, too much people bad for salt's heart!

    I've seen all sorts of pretty RPG environs done by countless games over the years, but I don't think anyone's done salt caverns, yet. Which is a real shame- they have a unique and alien beauty all their own that deserves the attention.

    [​IMG]

    Incidentally, it will be a game mechanic that certain forms of attacks will damage or destroy loot you get in fights. What attacks destroy what types of loot are for the players to determine. But as a good rule, anything that involves poison will be bad for blood and flesh based reagents. This section also introduces the Sarite mechanic into play. Right now, the party's got two pieces, but that'll expand rather quickly.

    Random Fun Fact: the girls had and used a chamber-pot in their 'cabin', but nobody wants to read about that. Or maybe they do, but I don't wanna write it. Some details just don't need to be mentioned.
     
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