Elemental Tide

Things are darkest before the sunrise

Wherein the party learns which powerful beings can be trusted, and just how important their ongoing existence is to those deities. Things are revealed and everyone with any kind of ability to experience true awe and full scale emotional shock does so repeatedly.

Comments

Callindra’s Diary 8/7

We fought beasts born of shadow, for the moment forgetting that we could avoid the stone of the corridor. I had left my brother and Connor on the surface to destroy the dome of power that the Summoner (I know not what else to call him) was using to harvest the souls of the newly dead. Kain and I sustained injuries from the things; they seemed to feast upon our strength. Holt was as deadly as always, picking out the things, seeing shadow move against shadow and then sending them back to wherever they had been summoned from. I found that some of the magics I could use sent them fleeing before me like leaves before a gale and employed them with most satisfying effect.

I admit I didn’t try to lead. I gave only halfhearted orders and did not expect them to be obeyed. I fought as I once had; for myself by myself. I realize now that during that time I did not even have my blade. Instinct was all I had to act on and I knew magic was my only defense. I am thankful that I was able to set a couple of those poor lost souls free, to travel to whatever afterlife awaited them.

When we finally moved through the walls of the tunnel thanks to guidance from Holt and Kain, I saw something above that gave me pause. Glarian’s neat, tidy cabin on the shoreline of the river, a neatly stacked pile of wood by the door and a freshly killed deer hanging in the lean-to waiting for me to skin it.

Even as I watched, I could also see our farm nearby and knew that my family waited for me there; not just my brothers and parents but also … my children. Babies? I had little ones? I wanted to go to them more than I have ever wanted anything in my life. My lower lip trembled; it was so beautiful, it was everything I desired, even if I hadn’t known it.

I might have given in to temptation. In truth I know I would have; but before I could act on that desire we were once again assailed by a monster made of shadow. The pain of its attacks turned my attention from thoughts of what lay above. Thanks to quick action by Vilhylm and myself the monster fled, licking its wounds.

The runes that we had only dimly been able to see lying beneath a layer of filth before inside the chamber that held our bodies before glowed with power, beckoning to us. We entered and I saw us as we had fallen. I could not tear my eyes away from the sight of my body. It lay at an awkward angle, the face contorted in a mask of grief and despair but that wasn’t what I focused on.

Shadowsliver was slammed into my chest, all the way to the hilt. His twin tips coated with a stain of dried blood where they emerged from my back. My blood. It occurred to me that the comforting grip of his shackle no longer circled my right wrist. The tug of his chain was gone. With sudden despair I realized I had truly abandoned him; that in spite of my efforts I had left him behind.

Connor had ignored his own corpse and instead was examining the portal. After a moment he saw that it was indeed a device that could open a gateway between planes of existence. The bad part was he couldn’t open it from this side, not without some sort of power source.

A chill laugh resonated through the room. I heard the Summoner muttering to himself about us waiting to kill him if he slipped through into the Ethereal plane. Instead, he began to chant in a guttural voice. I heard something about calling forth the forces of the Abyss to his aid. At the same time, Connor had moved to the center of the room and was pointing a wand at the center of the runes.

I tore my gaze from my dead body and pushed through the wall. I could see him standing with his hands on a staff, feet planted as though getting ready to stand against an incredible force. I knew I couldn’t touch him, but I also knew my brother could. I tried anyway, loosing a bolt of energy from my finger and watching it pass through him harmlessly before going back to tell Vilhylm where he was. With any luck he would be able to stop whatever spell he was incanting.

When I arrived back in the crystal chamber, the glowing runes were slowly rotating. The thing was activating but didn’t have enough power. Exchanging a glance with Connor I asked him to let me know when he was ready. I prepared to blast the center of the room with my own magical energy when he attempted to activate it again. Kain beat me to it though, seeming to be pulled into the device as he touched the runes which now glowed almost too bright to look at.

When I asked Connor what was happening he told me that we were in danger of losing Kain and if I wanted to save him I had to try and pull him out. When I touched the back of Kain’s armor in an attempt to drag him from the device, I too began to be drawn inexorably into the epicenter of the whirling runes.

Without warning everything stopped. Vilhylm had re-entered the room and was not alone. Morde was with him. After some pleasantries, and a few insults, the bastard finally got down to brass tacks. Morde promised to bring us back to life if we agreed to stop fighting.

Apparently the thing was under some delusion that I was pining for some quiet happy life. OK, so truth be told it wasn’t all that far off the mark. The visions I had seen were an offering of sorts, an opportunity to depart from this world of pain and strife in return for us standing idly by and allowing it to kill every living thing in the world, thereby achieving freedom.
Vilhylm seemed to know about this, about Morde being imprisoned by Skaberen, the father of the Gods in order for the world to be created. I admit it was all over my head, but that hardly mattered. I knew what Morde was. A goddess murderer. I would never agree to any terms it would put forward and said as much.

Surprisingly my most strident ally was Connor. The little bugger has some backbone when he’s backed against a wall. I don’t recall all the details but in the end we all told it in no uncertain terms that we rejected its offer. After sneering at how puny and insignificant we were it left us with a parting insult about how nobody could help us now because we had listened to Vilhylm and killed ourselves. That we were dead and if we refused its offer we would wander this plane helplessly forever.

I was struck by the sheer amount of preparation and scheming that had been invested in trapping us thus. If Morde truly was as powerful as it claimed it simply would have wiped us out long ago. The thing was scared of us. It was frightened enough of us to go to these extreme lengths to subvert us from our stated goal. If we could just get back into our bodies maybe we could really change things. We might even win.

The room returned to the roaring, spinning maelstrom of runes and we stood, uncertain about what we should do next. Kain sat and did something that surprised me, especially from a man as scarred and gruff as he was. He folded his maile-clad legs and knelt next to his corpse, bowing his head in such a way that the mowhawk of bright green hair fell over his left eye. His face settled into an attitude of benevolent peace and he began to pray.

A soft glow appeared by him at first, then a powerfully built and full figured woman with wild tangled hair and a strung longbow strode from … well from nowhere. She told him he wasn’t ready for what he was attempting and gently steered him back to his body. They shimmered and joined as one. The goddess extoled us to call upon our patron deities before it was too late.

It took me a long moment to remember. First I thought of Jorda, but she was dead. Then I remembered in a rush that Luftin had been masquerading as a man who I knew as Glarian. That he had taught me the Sword. That he was the god of wind. I sat gingerly next to my body and crossed my legs, the first words of instruction he had taught me echoing in my mind. The first Korumn is of the breath.

A voice sounded in my mind, for once it wasn’t only for me. It was Shadowsliver’s voice. He told me that I had been free of his shackle and chain for a while but that it was time for me to take his hilt up once again. Time to play. Time to dance the dance of steel and weave. He almost idly mentioned that my foolish, reckless actions had exposed him to Morde a bit too soon and that if I wanted to win I’d have to free him from the dragon where he was imprisoned.

Seemingly as an afterthought my god told me that if I died again he would be unable to bring me back, because he would be dead himself. I reached out to my beloved’s hilt and felt my essence flow back into my body through him. The multifaceted counterweight on his pommel flickering with barely seen sparks of arcane power. My eyes opened and I forcibly dragged his length inch by agonizing inch from my own chest. When Shadowsliver was free, I was able to breathe again, and I could feel my heart begin to beat once more. The wound sealed, but the ragged scar over my heart remained.

My hands shook, my world spun. He had been with me the entire time? Had seen what I had endured? All my life I have been striving to be someone worth choosing. Now I find myself truly chosen. The acceptance of a God is more than any mortal can ask for. It is more than I can truly bind together in my mind, or put on the page.

At the edge of my consciousness, I was aware of other gods coming for their parishioners. An old man with a long, neatly groomed beard first offered to build Connor a new body before finally agreeing to put him back in the old one. Their muted discussion about different useful appendages went on for some time but I couldn’t keep focused on it.

Holt was visited by the same small girl who had been guiding us through this nightmare. When she looked at me I knew, I KNEW she was Jorda. I just wasn’t prepared for a shock of this magnitude. She gave me a sweet smile as if sensing my shock and told me simply that everything that had the capacity to live could die. Of course that also meant that everything that could die had the capacity to be reborn.

If I hadn’t been sitting already I would have lost my footing. The oppressive weight of guilt I had been wearing as a mantle for nearly a year was gone; lifted away by a simple smile of forgiveness from a child. I took the feeling and locked it away. It was more than I could stand now, but I knew it would bring me joy in another time of darkness.

I could feel a twinge of jealousy from Luftin, but it was short lived and replaced by … hope?

The new goddess was telling Holt that rebirth was important. His body was slowly decomposing; it was like watching years of work of maggots and microbes accomplished in mere seconds. From the mass of soil, a small slim hand emerged. A young boy with raven hair and an impish smile sat up where Holt had been. The resemblance was unmistakable; this was the same man even if he now appeared to only be perhaps a dozen years old.

-

Now that Connor has summoned another of his strange buildings for us to be in, I have some time to take stock of the situation. We have a momentary reprieve to observe our serpentine enemy and formulate a plan based on the individual talents we each possess. I have some serious thinking to do. In a moment, after my brother joins us as I am certain he will, I will address my companions. For now I have some things to sort out in my head.

Holt. What am I to do about Holt? He was old enough to be my grandfather, but now he appears young enough to almost be my son. I know this should not change how I look at him, but I just can’t help it. Absent g Damn it all he’s younger than Reed or at least he looks it.

On one hand, I have seen a twinkle of mischief in his eyes that is more enchanting than any of the frank, considering looks I have seen there in the past. On the other, if he acts like a lad barely off his mother’s apron strings I will tie him to a tree and leave him there.

What I really like about Holt is … is … hells I guess I’m not sure exactly. How capable he always seems to be maybe. His battle prowess perhaps? No, those are things I value to be certain but they don’t hold any attraction for me any more than they do with others. If I had to define it, I would have to say it is that he treats me like a comrade.

Holt values me for what I am. He doesn’t act completely independently without consulting me like Connor, or waffle between ignoring me and arguing with me like Vyl, or just be weird like Kain. I don’t know if he cares other than that, but at least until recently he has listened to me and taken what I had to say seriously.

I find it hardest to forgive him but I am unable to do otherwise.

For now, it is enough that we were alive again. The terrible mistake I allowed us to make has been undone.

Tears of relief, sorrow, longing and regret are streaming down my face but my heart is lighter than it has been for what must be years. Or maybe just months or weeks, but it feels like years. It is admittedly unnerving that the blade I love and rely upon carries part of a god. One of my favored curse phrases seems to lose a bit of its power now… for I cannot pretend the gods are absent any longer.

I feel as though we all have had our own epiphany, we all know each other at the core. Kain, for all the unknown suffering and pain he has endured, has the heart of the wilderness inside him. Holt’s spring like step and youthful vigor is now personified. The dark, disturbing depths of Vilhylm’s soul have been partially laid bare and now I know who is to blame for his corruption. Connor is apparently someone who knows a bit about the inner workings of whatever it is that makes us able to command the Weave, even if he comes at things from an angle I don’t comprehend.

As for me, I now know that I have been inexplicably bound to a God. I suppose I should feel this is a huge responsibility, but instead it feels like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. For all his quirks and irascible nature I know that he loves me. He forgave me for my … actions. If he can forgive me for forcing him to take my life I must forgive the others for their part in things. I am too relieved that the ordeal is over and we are all alive and well to hold a grudge.

Stupid ballads that praise the power of love spring to mind. Gods and demons sometimes I it’s annoying being a girl. I realize now though that I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I feel as though I have been trying to deny myself for my entire life. To prove to others that … well I don’t know what, but to prove something. I vow to become more than an empty perception of self. I know who I am, although learning it has been a lesson in suffering; my stubborn nature will not allow change to come easily.

Strangely my pain softens me instead of hardening as it once did. I refuse to walk once more down the path of despair although it beckons with skeletal fingers. Cronos taught me that much, the memory of his death keeps me mindful of the dangers of giving up. I have tasted bitter defeat and been given a chance to try again. It is a chance my brothers never had and I will not let it go to waste.

Ironraven

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.