A Veiled Journey (Part 10)
PC's: Seldan, Serene, Acedia, Malik, Stjepan
DM / Emitter: Whirlpool
Summary: Flight from the creeping darkness at the heart of the great Whispering Tree leads the group deep into a place in Menesil's mindscape. Temporary safety, yes, but this place holds a secret -- perhaps the key to banishing the darkness that pursues them. But they must understand it first...
The woman said to run. You did. The overwhelming sense of darkness chases you, yes, but given what you know of where you are and aren't it's hard to know for sure what's real and what isn't.
You find yourselves running through a maze of hallways, and then through an equally bizarre maze of hedges, impossibly tall and robust.
And then? You burst into sunlight. A field, tall grass, flowers that seem to be made of crystal and hold the rays of the sun inside them, a sweet scent in the air.
The very wind is sucked from Seldan's lungs after that run, no matter how fit he might be, he is still left to slow once they reach the field , hands on knees, sucking deep breaths to refill his spent lungs. It is several moments before he looks up and around, looking for those that follow him, counting heads, ensuring that all follow after that mad rush - including Menesil.
Malik keeps close to Seldan, keen eyes scanning for any danger he can find as they run for all they're worth. Save that when they finally break into the bright field, his feet seem to stumble a bit, the wizard's eyes going wide. He reaches for Seldan's shoulder, steadying himself a bit as he turns, taking in their surroundings, a sea of questions on his face though the words to voice them fail to rise to the surface.
Serene is certainly just as winded as the others, if a little bit surer of foot than Malik on this particular occasion... but an unhealthy amount of pride prevents her from mimicking Seldan's recovery as the group bursts into the unnatural field. Partly to hide her own discomfort, and partly fuelled by her tendency to meet any threat with her blade, she turns with her sword drawn to face bahind the retreat. As unlikely as any sort of physical object is likely to pierce those shadows, there is some comfort in the weight of it in her hand.
The Gobbo ran as the others did, an eye cast over her shoulder every so often in an attempt to spy their pursuer. The sudden bright light causes her to squeak, and throw her arms up to protect her face as she falters and falls, sliding along the ground for a few paces.
She lays still, panting. "Do these spirits not know that bright light and Gobbo eyes are not good friends?"
Menesil is with you. But he seems to be lost in his own little world at the moment, kneeling before one of the crystal flowers and whispering to it.
Here in the sun, the darkness can not touch, it seems, or at least seems unable to pursue you.
For now. There's a feeling of tranquility at the edge of your senses here.
GAME: Seldan rolls sense motive: (18)+19: 37
Seldan's chest continues to heave, fair skin flushed, but he looks up and around, and once he has set gaze on everyone present, he reaches for Malik's hand wordlessly, turning to let his eyes rove the crystal flowers and tall fields. Unearthly beauty, indeed, and one perhaps not suited for a loud response. Some part of his mind drinks in the peace and beauty, his lips parting just a little, but another part searches his mind for a hint as to where they might be.
GAME: Malik rolls Spellcraft: (12)+25: 37
Malik, though, is still catching up for entirely different reasons. His back straightens as if his hackles were rising, despite the tranquil feel of the air. Looking to Seldan, and then to Menesil, the leather of his gloves creaks as it tightens against the bow. "I --" He starts to say something, and thinks better of it. "I recommend that our respite here be brief."
Peace and tranquility. Serene is immediately untrusting of the situation. The sword stays out, but she does relaxe her guard a little bit as she steps backwards to be closer to the others, sparing little more than a glance for Menesil, just to assure herself that he made it out with them. "A short rest," she agrees "And then?" she asks.
Acedia waves dismissively from her spot on the ground. "You lot go ahead, I'll catch up. I need to find where I left my lungs. And stomach." She rolls over onto her back pack, laying awkwardly on top of it. "And my legs need to not feel like jelly."
Groaning, she sits up. "Do you know where we are?", she says to Menesil. "Probably the only place darkness won't chase you, hmm?"
Menesil doesn't respond. He's busy being crouched in front of a flower, straring at the light refracted on its surface. He reaches out and runs a finger along its edge. Its sharp enough to bloody his finger but he doesn't seem to care. He seems smaller now, somehow. So much smaller.
"We must learn where we are, ere we determine how we may depart." Seldan looks at the group, each in turn, but does not immediately give up on the grasp that he seeks. Not yet. "Dawncaller," he calls, although gently. "Tell us of this place."
"Where we are..." Malik looks around. "I'm not sure that's as simple as it seems. And departing may be more so." He reaches out, one gloved hand brushing one of those flowers. "This is a construct of the mind. Presumably --" A nod to Menesil. A constuct of *his* mind. "Peace and serenity may be -- fleeting. And the safety that it offers may not extend as far as we might wish. Finding a way *out*, however, could be problematic. We don't know his mind."
"There will be time to rest later, Acedia. If you stop now, it will be harder to continue," Serene tells the diminutive paladin before nodding to Seldan. Rather than confuse the ancient elf with too many people pressing him for knowledge or action, Serene begins to walk the field, attempting to establish some sense of a perimeter, and perhaps a means of egress.
"This...", the Gobbo gestures to the glade, "Fits the description of a glade where Dawncaller forged a sword of purest light, and used it to banish a great darkness." Acedia looks to Menesil. "That's a legend of Myn, isn't it? So.. maybe the key is to do what your father did before you, and banish this great darkness that seeks our doom?"
Ace nods to Serene. "Like not removing your boots halfway through a hike through the woods."
Menesil slowly looks up towrds Seldan as he hears the name 'Dawncaller', but he doesn't immediately respond. Instead, his gaze returns to the flower. A small light begins to build inside of it.
That's it for the moment. There's no sign of the Veil, either, or at least it's representative.
Silence does not indicate a non-answer, and Seldan does not look at the others. Instead, he seems content to wait forhis answer. He will answer when he is ready.
Serene continues to pace the field, attempting to get a sense of dimensions, at least, if some exist. She doesn't hold out much hope; if the others are to be believed, this is a construct of Menesil's mind. But it's better than doing nothing, and it helps focus some of her agitated energy.
Menesil leans down. He's focused on the flower. His blood runs down over the surface of it, blending with the light and creating a crimson-hued affair.
"Father used to bring me here. I always felt safe. We'll be safe here. We don't have to leave."
There's safety in dwelling within a child's memory, isn't there? Illusory safety, as illusory as the majesty above you confronted before the darkness seeped through the cracks when it was disturbed. But here, hidden deep within the recesses of a mind, as Malik pointed out, you're at least hidden from the truth and terror of reality.
"I watched him when he worked with the flowers. Even the sun obeyed him, rose at his command, and the light was never far from his power. I do not have his light."
"But you do," he says, speaking to you, without really seeing you.
"If we are to face that which threatens Ni'essa's people, we cannot remain here forever." Seldan's words are slow, and thoughtful. "And yet do Acedia's words, and yours, suggest that among the crystals here may be found a means by which the darkness me conquered." He turns to study the crystal flowers, in turn, looking around him. "Your father used the flowers in his work?"
Malik listens, chewing on the inside of his lip. "Acedia's story suggests that a weapon was forged here," he muses. "But our -- friend's memory suggests that whoever was capable of doing such a thing could command the sun to rise at his whim." He looks around at the others, deadpanning. "The sun does not yet rise at my command. In case you were wondering." Nor does the wizard command many other forms of light or fire, from past experience.
Looking back to Menesil, he gives the man a nod. "'Dawncaller' here, though -- he has some manner of connection with the flowers." He points to the one with the blood on it. "Whatever he did to this one, the others are reacting. Some manner of resonance. It stands to reason that whatever this 'sword of light' was, it wasn't simply physical."
Looking to Seldan, he asks in his best deadpan, "Want to place a bet that our friend the multi-thousand year old elf is possessed of something the ancients would have called an Inner Light?" He raises an eyebrow at that one.
Having discovered nothing of value, Serene returns in time to overhear some of the musing of the others. She keeps glancing back where they entered the place... well, where she thinks they entered the place at least. It's hard to tell, at this point. Then, without discussing it with anyone, she kneels and plucks one of the crystalline flowers. There is a brief sucking in of breath, an unexpected hurt.. when she rises, a thin line of silver creeps down her hand, dripping to the ground. Silver in place of blood. Or.. it is her blood.
Serene looks at the small wound for a moment, then shakes her head, leaving it be for the moment. Her other hand draws one of the rods at her belt, and through it she calls upon a blessing. A blessing of light. As she finishes the incantation, the flower becomes the heart of a small sun, shining brilliantly.
GAME: Serene casts Daylight. Caster Level: 20 DC: 25
The Goblin nods in agreement with Seldan. "We cannot remain here forever. Even your life is finite, and while we tarry, the darkness grows stronger, darker in our hearts." She gestures with a hand to Seldan. "He has the right of it, I think, can you, past and present Dawncaller, show him how your father did it?"
She looks between Seldan and Malik. "Maybe Menesil can call the light, and Seldan can forge a sword of light from it? Or... perhaps from all the flowers?"
Acedia stares as Serene summons a mini-sun. "Or you could do that.", she says with a grin.
"A blade of light," agrees Menesil. He's helpful, but not THAT helpful.
"Weapons of diamond and crystal, they held the light that banished the darkness. He died fighting beneath the boughs of hope."
He runs a hand down the stem, uncaring for the way it makes him bleed. This deep within his mind, he is absent some of his own darkness, it would appear.
The light Serene has poured into it, divine as it is, seems to be reflected in all of them as Malik suggested it would be, a trace of silver now visible within the crystals of the flowers. In Serene's hand, the flowers seems to grow, as if its feeding on her in some way.
It's the light that catches Seldan's attention first, and he turns away without answering Menesil. He throws up an arm to shield his eyes as he watches her and her interaction with the crystal. "It draws upon, and reflects, us," he murmurs, very softly, then looks at his feet, for a different flower to pluck for himself, taking it in both hands, as if to study it.
Malik, for his part, doesn't pick one of the flowers. Instead, he opts for the same stance that the elf takes -- leaning down and running his hand along one of the stems, fully expecting it to be sharp enough somehow to take its toll in blood, as it did for Menesil and Serene. As the light seems to interact with them, though, the wizard gets a strange expression on his face, reaching up and pressing a hand to the side of his neck as he looks -- relieved? Relief is probably the closest way to describe it.
Serene bears an expression that is extremely out of place on her. She looks... startled. The bright light in her hand seems to have her gazed trapped upon it. Heartbeats pass, and then she begins to speak. Lost is the hard edge to her voice.. instead, it's almost gentle. Soft. Full of EMOTION. "I lost someone. My greatest ally. My dearest friend. A battle with dire consequences for defeat.. and we prevailed, but at a cost. Losing him broke me. Or nearly did. I lost faith in fight. For all the good we had done, I could not think of anything save the loss. The failure. It was a man of what I believed at the time loose morals who helped me see... because of my friend's sacrifice, there were others who would see a tomorrow. A future. That my friend would have had it no other way. And I knew then that it was that example I would strive forever to live up to, even knowing I would likely always fall short. That to lose myself in the past, to dwell upon what I had lost, I would fade. That all of the good I might yet do would go undone. And though I mourn that loss to this day.. it was that day that my resolve strengthened. Became tempered. That I would from that day continue that fight, defending the world my friend had died protecting."
GAME: Acedia rolls 1d4: (4): 4 GAME: Acedia casts Mirror Image. Caster Level: 5 DC: 14 GAME: Acedia casts Light. Caster Level: 5 DC: 12
"I died once for a desperate cause, and I would do so again.", Acedia says to Menesil. She, too crouches down to peer at the flowers. She gently runs a fingertip along the crystalline petals, leaving behind her own crimson drops of life.
Standing, she intones something in Goblin-talk, and in taking a step back, five more copies spring into being. Then, each Goblin runs a bloody finger along their mithril breast plate, causing it to light up brightly.
"More light, more light, more light..."
The blood on Malik's flower behaves almost as strangely as the silvery blood on Serene's. His is red. Reddish, anyway. A glance at it reveals dark, oily stains within that red, like some kind of corruption that runs deep, always just coming to the surface before disappearing again. Stranger than that, however, is the fact that it refuses to stay in one *shape*. Here and there, clusters of crystals spring forth, some pointed, some cubes. In other places, it takes the shape of flowers. Animals. As if it cannot decide what it wishes to be. All of them stained with that same dark, oily sheen.
Stjepan looks around, worriedly, not really touching much. He looks troubled, though stares at the flowers like they would reveal their secrets to him.
As with the others, Seldan's blood runs down the cerulean petals and verdant stem of the crystal flower between his hands. His is - different. Complex. Golden, silver, pale blue - they all blend in his blood, absorbed by the crystal of the stem. That golden / silver / blue twists in complex and yet distinct patterns, absorbed within the crystal stem that grows even as he holds it. Fascinated, curious, he watches, seemingly heedless of the stinging of the cuts on his hands.
Serene finally manages to pull her gaze away from the light in her hands, lowering it so she might look past it at the others.. seeming untroubled that the flower seems to be feeding off of her. She watches them, their own reaction to the crystals.. and then Stjepan. For once that ever present hint of judgement in her gaze that spares no one is missing. She just nods to him. Then she looks to Menesil.
Stjepan looks up, "So, how long can we stay here if the flowers are like this?"
"That's right," says Menesil, "Father forged feeling into strength. He had no weaknesses."
Still, there remains an overweening sense of serenity. You see how the feelings can strengthen the flower, representing your essence in some way when interacting with them. A unique and personalized representation of you.
"Banished the darkness," mused Menesil.
The mix of colors now swirl through all the flowers, linked as they are.
"Even so? Her silver, and the blood by which my magic springs - and what of the blue?" Seldan murmurs, closing his eyes and lowering them. He does not lok at Stjepan at his question, but he does answer, in a sense. "These flowers shall become the weapons by which we shall banish that which threatens her people. Fed by us and with our strength, together woven - well may it be enough. I ...."
He opens his eyes and studies it again, noting the wisp of oily blackness, and looks up and around. When his eyes fall on Malik, understanding floods the even features, and his eyes lower again, this time troubled.
Stjepan takes up a crystal flower at that, cutting his calloused fingers on it. The blood runs down, though it does not stay red -- instead, it slowly suffuses the petals with the white-blue glow of the glacier, edged with a silver gleam. He cradles in his hands, holding it carefully, even reverently -- now that he knows it is strength.
Malik catches something that Menesil says, brows furrowing. "All men have weaknesses," he sighs. "Had yours truly had none, he would be with you still. A man that has no weaknesses would find himself unable to bend, and thus entirely predictable, a weakness in and of itself."
Catching Seldan's eye, Malik offers the man a wan smile -- but then notices the reaction, and lowers his own eyes in turn, that troubled expression now matching his husband's.
"A father is never weak to his child," replies Menesil to Malik's criticism.
But there is a distant look in his eyes. He is here, but not here. Responsive, but not really present.
"What will your hearts arm you with? The answer is one you must see to yourselves."