Tree of Saviors and the Heroes Four

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ThisFeeling
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Tree of Saviors and the Heroes Four

Post by ThisFeeling » July 3rd, 2014, 5:18 pm

Tree of Saviors and the Heroes Four

I: Then and Now

In the beginning, there was only humanity and the world's Goddesses. The Goddesses protected humanity from evil so dark and every bit as timeless as they.

But then the almighty Tree of Saviors appeared, and humanity's guardians vanished with naught but one final trace: Laima, the Goddess of Destiny, through the Tree of Saviors bestowed great power upon four chosen humans, giving them a fighting chance against the evil spawn that threatened to subjugate the world. These four champions were the children of destiny, a Goddess' gamble, a righteous group of heroes who rose up in the world's darkest time and quelled the endless army of monsters.

In the wake of the heroes' passing, the rest of humanity followed in their footsteps. Though the monsters from long ago were defeated, they could never be killed. Evil never dies. It always had its way of making a comeback. The chosen of the Tree of Saviors wielded their great strength and magic in their efforts to fight the good fight; these warriors, now, then, and forever, until the end of time, lit the way into a darkening future.

Two hundred years after the Tree of Saviors first appeared, four ambitious youths, friends from their young childhood years, stood in the center of their village square. They formed a circle and held their right fists in the center.

Zaniel, the eldest of his circle of friends, stood boldly with a long sword hanging from his hip. He was the "leader" of this group. Always headstrong, never faltering even under trying times, his friends looked to him for guidance and comfort.

Quark, Zaniel's best friend, was grinning. His staff clung to his back with not the aid of a sheath or attachments, but his own magic. Quark wasn't like most wizards; he was a party animal and a playboy whenever beautiful girls were present.

Elyso, so sleek of personality, emitted strong, quiet energy as he pressed his knuckles against Zaniel's. His hung his bow over one shoulder, across his body. Elyso could often be seen wandering alone, attending target practice by himself, and even making solo journs through the monster-ridden forest nearby.

Vinny, the youngest of the group, was a mousy boy with a gentle demeanor. He was a pious cleric, a servant of the Goddesses, wherever they may be. He was made to carry a wooden club by his trainer, as he used to be bullied and remained a prime target for thugs and doubters. Some people did not like clerics for the fact that in history some clerics went mad when the Goddesses disappeared, and they realigned themselves to evil. Vinny's friends often joked that he was secretly the most powerful boy in the village. One time when a monster the guards stood no chance against attacked the village, it cornered Vinny, and he smote it to ashes... on accident.

Zaniel was saying, while he and his friends stood there with their fists in the center of the circle, "Starting today, we're not just village boys looking for adventure. Today marks our coming of age. Quark, you've trained tirelessly through your studies, and you're one of the best wizards I know."

Quark pretended to sound affronted. "One of the best?"

"Elyso, your agility, expertise, and guts make you someone I can count on when monsters ransack my house in the middle of the night." Zaniel smirked. There was a time, one week ago, that a giant spider snuck into the village and entered Zaniel's home. Elyso was sitting on the rooftop of his own house, enjoying the night air when it happened. He never went anywhere without his bow and arrows. Before the spider could eat Zaniel right out of his bed, Elyso killed the monster with a single shot through Zaniel's broken window... all the way from his rooftop, two houses away.

Elyso made a noise in the back of his throat and nodded awkwardly.

"Vinny..."

The smaller boy lit up.

"Can I have a heal?" Zaniel teased, referring to a time the four of them had to fight a gang of brigands out on the highway connecting their village to a seaport an hour's walk away. Monsters weren't the only monsters in this life.

"Aw, what?" Vinny complained.

"Kidding, kidding. Still, Vinny, I can think of no one better to go to when I need help. You really are the strongest out of all of us, in more ways than one."

The cleric turned his head, finding a sudden interest in the fish market across the square, hiding his blush. "Thanks."

"To this," said Zaniel, "I say we swear an oath. Repeat after me: Strangers in blood, brothers in spirit..."

"Strangers in blood, brothers in spirit," the others chorused.

"Should the Goddesses call, we shall hear it..."

They repeated the phrase.

"The Tree of Saviors lights our way..."

Zaniel's friends recited the line with growing fervor.

"Together shall we find Eden's Day."

"Together shall we find Eden's Day!"

The four friends pressed their fists together and, on a silent three count, they threw their fists into the air.

For one glorious moment, a wave of golden light rippled across the blue sky. It was as though the Tree of Saviors, from so far away, honored the friends' declaration.

They believed they were chosen to find the lost Goddesses. Only by finding them could the world truly be safe again.
Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.
--Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the US (1809 - 1865)

ThisFeeling
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Re: Tree of Saviors and the Heroes Four

Post by ThisFeeling » July 5th, 2014, 9:22 am

II: Seaport

The Tree of Saviors was located on the mainland continent, the country where the original four heroes once lived. Zaniel, Quark, Elyso and Vinny decided to sail to the mainland and begin their search for the Goddesses at the great tree itself, so they bade their teachers and fellow villagefolk and heroes farewell, and set out for Seaport. Of the four friends, Vinny was the most in-tune with the deities of beyond. If the Goddesses decided to speak to any of them, they'd contact Vinny first.

The highway of dirt trailed through plains of green grass and trees. Creeks and small rivers wound here and there like sparkling blue ribbons. The hour's walk was a quiet one. No monsters strayed from the forest today. There weren't any shady looking guys skulking around, but the four friends learned during their years of training that in the absence of danger, you should keep your friends and your weapons closest. They walked the highway in formation: Zaniel in the lead, Quark next to Vinny in the middle, and Elyso bringing up the rear. They carried their weapons in their hands, ready to fight at a second's notice.

But then they arrived at Seaport, and that was when everything got out of hand. Seaport was rife with commotion. Bells were ringing and people were cheering.

Vinny peeked out from behind Zaniel's back and asked, "Is there a celebration?"

The swordsman shook his head. "Not even close," he said darkly. As the bells rang and the people cheered, smoke and flames rose from the shore's edge of the town. Those celebratory cheers came from the seafaring brigands running amok through Seaport, masking out the death screams of the innocent. The friends could see five pirate vessels with red sails docked at the port.

A short distance outside the town gates, a messenger was dead and face down on the highway with multiple shiv wounds in his back. The group approached the corpse.

"Do your thing, Vin," Quark said. "We'll keep guard." Zaniel raised his sword, standing beside Quark. They were facing the town, waiting for any reckless pirates who might've decided to come running up the road. Elyso had an arrow nocked behind them.

Vinny's been in contact with many injured and dead people in his life. Though the cleric seemed frail, he was no stranger to this sort of carnage. Unbothered, he knelt beside the dead messenger and placed a warmly glowing hand on the messenger's back. Divine magic did its work. It spread across the messenger's body like a gleaming coat of star steel, the cobalt light closing the messenger's mortal wounds instantly. The resurrection was a success.

Wearily pushing himself to his hands and knees, the messenger coughed up coagulated saliva, which he spat into the dirt. Vinny sat back on his heels as the messenger settled onto one knee, wiping his mouth.

"What happened?" the messenger managed as another coughing fit set in. He hocked up more saliva.

"You were slain," Vinny said meekly. "How much do you remember?"

The messenger shook his head. "I... don't know." He looked back at Seaport and gritted his teeth. He seemed surprised that his town was under attack.

"When you are killed," Vinny explained, "your soul lingers in this world for seven minutes. Every minute you spend dead, you lose an hour's worth of memory. You could have been dead for six or seven minutes."

"Hey, guys," Zaniel said, "we'd better move in, because the guards don't seem to be faring well."

Elyso, who rarely spoke more than a few words at a time, lowered his bow, came into the middle of the group, and grabbed the messenger by the back of his tunic and lifted him to his feet. "Go. Alert the village. We will need reinforcements."

A shadow of fear filled the messenger's eyes. The messenger ran off down the highway toward the four friends' home village from which they came, panting with newly replenished vigor, thanks to Vinny's power.

"Ya didn't have to scare him, Elyso," Quark said. Elyso passed between Zaniel and Quark, heading toward the chaos that was Seaport. The archer broke into a dead run. Zaniel and Quark hurried after him. "C'mon Vin, hurry!"

They were greeted at the gates by a pair of pirates posing as guards. "'Ey thar, lads! If ye want entry, ye give us yar weapons and coin."

Not a moment after the pirate spoke those words did Elyso draw back his bowstring and shoot the pirate through his windpipe. The pirate fell to the ground with an arrow sticking out of his throat. His partner shook away his shock, turned tail, and ran through the gates into the burning Seaport. He was outnumbered, so running was the smart thing to do. Being a pirate, however, wasn't. Especially when Elyso hated pirates and thugs in general with a bloodthirsty passion. The archer loosed another arrow, impaling the fleeing pirate through the back of his neck and severing the spinal cord. At that Elyso nocked another arrow and fearlessly marched into the burning town. One by one, pirates rushed him with swords or knives or clubs held high, and Elyso shot them all through the heart at point-blank, killing the pirates while looking like he was on a leisurely walk through a forest.

The others followed suit with Elyso. Vinny stuck to Zaniel like glue, going wherever the swordsman went, engaging every foe Zaniel engaged. Zaniel clashed sword-to-sword with one unlucky pirate, and Vinny enchanted Zaniel's blade with divine energy. Zaniel's sword cut through the pirate's weapon, slicing the blade cleanly in half as easily as one would wave their hand through a falling stream of water, dividing the pirate into two bloody halves.

"Thanks, Vinny! Come this way!"

As the swordsman and cleric ran off toward a group of pirates chasing a woman and her child, Quark was having a field day, facing off with five armed foes.

"Har har har!" they laughed their sea-faring laughs. "We got arr-selves a wizard, boys! Pick a bodypart!"

Quark saw something fine out of the corner of his eye, and he couldn't help himself. It was a pretty female pirate, and she was going one-on-one with a Seaport guard. Her sword was moving so fast that Quark couldn't see the blade.

"Yar! Ye making groggly-eyes at our wench?!" All five pirates leaped forward at the same time to take Quark's life. His pleasant waking dreams of supple chests and curved hips and full lips were ruined by the stink of men's sweat and machismo and hairy arms.

All five pirates collided with a wall of pulsating white energy. Quark stood there, his clawed hand exuding concentrated arcane flow, as he sneered hatefully at them.

"You guys don't deserve such a beautiful woman."

As their faces squashed comically against the magic barrier, the looks on their features betrayed a kind of dread you'd only feel before you die. Their hair and beards frizzed up, and they were blasted backwards by five bolts of lightning, each one of them a shining blue lance through the pirates' hearts. All five pirates met their end simultaneously. They lay there, blackened and smoking. Quark dissipated his energy wall and ran his hand over the top of his slicked back hair, stylishly.

And then the female pirate from earlier ran up behind Quark and clubbed him in the back of the head with the pommel of her sword, knocking the wizard out cold.

Suddenly an arrow sprouted from the female pirate's jugular. Elyso flanked her from the side and finished her off with a stab of an arrow through the eye. As she fell over and died, Elyso used that same arrow to shoot a bellowing pirate through the mouth. Elyso stood protectively over Quark, keeping their enemies at bay.

Even with the help of these four adventurers, Seaport fought a losing battle. There were simply too many pirates. The guards were getting killed off, innocents lay dead in the streets, and houses and shops were burning to the ground. For every pirate the guards or the four friends killed, two more pirates took their place.

To make matters worse, the sound of a loud, shrill whistle brought the battle to a halt, and the brigands turned around and retreated through the streets. They congregated together in large groups, giving the survivors room to breathe. They were clearly up to something.

All was silent, save for the roaring of large flames all around. The remaining guards were able to put away their weapons and help the surviving citizens to safety. Zaniel and Vinny came and stood by Elyso. Vinny cast a healing spell on Quark, rousing him from unconsciousness and mending the damage from the blow he took.

The pirates' captain made an appearance. The pirates gathered together behind their captain, who was definately not human. He stood one and a half times as tall, and twice as bulky as your average human warrior. He was mostly bare-skinned, save for his ripped pants and heavy boots. He had a flat nose, pointy ears, and absolutely no hair anywhere on his musclebound body. But his face was ugly enough to induce nightmares.

He was an Ogre.

"WHAT DO WE HAVE HERE?" the Ogre-Captain thundered. "FIVE WOULD-BE HEROES, COME TO SAVE THE DAY?"

"Four, Captain," one of the pirates told the Ogre.

"Four?"

"Aye."

"MY HENCHMAN TELLS ME THERE ARE FOUR OF YOU."

"Is he stupid?" Zaniel muttered.

"He's blind," Elyso pointed out. "Look at his eyes."

Sure enough, the Ogre's eyes were clouded and in terrible shape.

"I HEARD THAT, HUMAN. I MAY BE BLIND, BUT I AM THE GREATEST WARRIOR YOU'LL EVER MEET."

Elyso broke away from the group and tip-toed around the Ogre, staying at a safe distance. He was repositioning himself for a clean single-shot kill.

"Captain," a pirate warned, watching Elyso.

"I KNOW, I HEAR HIM. HE SMELLS LIKE AN ARCHER."

Elyso froze. He betrayed a hint of fear. Elyso didn't scare easily, if at all.

"You got this, Zan?" Quark asked.

Zaniel stepped forward. "Ogre-Captain!"

"EH?"

"Leave Seaport alone. There's nothing for you or your seadogs here."

"Ah... you're a SWORDSMAN. I CAN SMELL THE STEEL IN YOUR HAND. KNOW THIS, HUMAN: YOUR STEEL WILL NOT PIERCE MY SKIN. MY BODY CAN WITHSTAND THE WEIGHT OF CRUSHING TIDES!" To accentuate his point, the Ogre lifted his knee and stamped the heel of his boot down, cracking the stone pavework beneath him. "WHAT CHANCE DO YOU STAND? WEAKLINGS!"

Zaniel looked to Quark and Vinny. Quark knew what that look meant. He nodded and stepped up. Vinny was in no hurry to join Quark, but the wizard was going to need some protection.

"I should resurrect some of the guards," Vinny said to himself shakily.

"YES, RESURRECT THEM, SO THAT I MAY SHOW THEM A SECOND DEATH!"

Quark shook his head at Vinny. "Don't put 'em through that again, Vin. Sometimes you have to let the dead be. Even if it were me, or Zaniel, or Elyso."

The cleric winced. He didn't like that. These men and women and children had lives. But deep down, he knew Quark was right. Resurrecting someone just to live without their family, or bringing back a child just to traumatize them....

"HMMM... A WIZARD AND A CLERIC. YOU TWO ARE GOING TO BE A PROBLEM..."
Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.
--Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the US (1809 - 1865)

ThisFeeling
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Re: Tree of Saviors and the Heroes Four

Post by ThisFeeling » July 6th, 2014, 4:10 am

III: More Than What They Bargained For

"WHICH ONE OF YOU WILL BE FIRST?" The Ogre-Captain punched his palm. Blindness be damned, he knew exactly where everyone was.

Quark announced, "I will. And I'll also be your last."

"YOU'RE BOLD. COME, AND TEST ME, HUMAN."

Quark spun his staff around overhead, and the tip of his staff adopted a blue glow. As Quark continued to spin the staff, the magic light traced a neon halo. Quark spun his staff faster, and the halo became more prominent. Sensing danger, one of the pirates started to move toward Quark, but the Ogre grabbed him by the head and tossed him over his shoulder.

Quark swished the head of his staff so that he held his weapon high and vertical. The neon halo of cobalt energy formed an axis around Quark's staff. When he moved, the energy halo moved, too, as if it were connected to the weapon. Quark carefully brought the humming energy down and, swinging his staff in a ripping underarc like a scythe, he flung the energy halo. The magic attack wasn't aimed at the Ogre; the halo bounced off one of the Ogre's henchmen, electrocuting him to the point of combustion, and continued on bouncing between all of the other pirates. The frontmost ranks were all crispy husks before the rearmost pirates figured out what was going on. They tried to escape the halo, but Quark's spell was designed to seek the wicked.

Once all the pirates were fried and dead, the energy halo flew in behind the Ogre. The Ogre spun around and swatted the energy halo into a nearby burning building. The magic detonated the building, a deafening blast shaking the earth as debris flew everywhere, raining down in fiery chunks.

"MAGIC... I HATE MAGIC." He held up his scorched hand and showed it to Quark and his friends. "YOU'RE STRONGER THAN THE LAST WIZARD I ATE. YOU MANAGED TO HURT ME... SLIGHTLY."

One of Elyso's arrows whistled through the air, catching the Ogre in the ribcage. Elyso's arrow barely stuck into the Ogre's skin. The Ogre plucked the arrow from his ribcage like a measly rose's thorn. Grinning maliciously at Elyso, the Ogre snapped the arrow in half with his thumb.

"NICE TRY, ARCHER."

Zaniel took his turn. He raised his longsword and charged at the Ogre. The closer he came to the Ogre, the more he realized he was signing his own death warrant. His intention was to anticipate the Ogre's reprisal and jump out of the way at the last possible moment, but the Ogre did something Zaniel didn't expect. He bent down, and he let Zaniel run right into his face. The Ogre sank his teeth into Zaniel's tunic and stood up, lifting him into the air. The Ogre grabbed Zaniel and tried to take a large bloody bite out of him, like an apple. Zaniel kept the Ogre's razor sharp teeth away by parrying them with his sword. He was sure he heard Vinny screaming his name.

The smell of burning flesh rose into Zaniel's nostrils. Slashing the Ogre across the bridge of his nose, forcing him to pulls his head back, Zaniel took a split second to look down, and he saw Vinny's holy fire magic roasting the Ogre's belly. For the first time, the Ogre showed vulnerability. The Ogre howled in pain and threw Zaniel aside. He then leaped twenty feet into the air and came crashing down where Vinny once stood. Vinny was frozen in terror, but Quark used a telekinetic spell to hurl the cleric out of the way. Vinny flew, hit the ground and rolled an extra five feet like a log before getting back up.

The Ogre was clearly enraged, now that he sensed he was in danger. He put on a primal display, punching the ground twice and blasting a hole in the pavings. His blind eyes were alight with bloodlust.

"Vinny!" Zaniel yelled. "Run!"

Elyso fired a distracting shot at the Ogre. The arrow stuck out of the Ogre's lower back. The Ogre immediately forgot all about Vinny and jumped after Elyso, who was directly behind him. In mid-jump, the Ogre was stricken down from above by Quark's spellwork: a large wave of telekinetic power. The Ogre crashed to the ground and came sliding toward Elyso. The archer jumped as high as he could, and the Ogre slid beneath him. He landed and put as much distance between himself and the Ogre as possible.

Even with the burn on his belly and arrow sticking out of his back, the Ogre was only getting angrier. He got back up and bellowed so loudly that the four friends, and even the guards running the citizens to safety, covered their ears.

"KILL YOU! TEAR YOU! EAT YOU AS YOU DIE!"

The Ogre was going into a berserker frenzy. He started maneuvering on his hands and feet like a massive gorilla, and he moved much faster because of it. He caught Elyso, picked him up and tossed him over a burning housetop.

"Elyso!" Zaniel recovered from his dirtnap with the dead; when the Ogre threw him, he'd landed amidst the pile of pirates Quark killed. He called Quark and Vinny, "Let's do Maneuver 7!"

Maneuver 7 was originally a tactic that involved evasive action against a larger oncoming opponent and a quick strike against their side. This was taught by Zaniel's trainer, and Zaniel taught his friends how to perform Maneuver 7 as a team. Running to Zaniel's side, Quark and Vinny stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the swordsman.

"Hey, Ogre!" Zaniel taunted. "Come and get me!" The Ogre followed the sound of Zaniel's voice. Hunkering down, the Ogre ran for him. Quark and Vinny evaded the Ogre, and Zaniel barely moved in time to let the Ogre stampede through. As the Ogre ran between them, Quark shot him in the side with a concentrated glacial spike the size of a human body, a product of his cryomancy. The icy projectile broke through the Ogre's skin and ripped him open. Reddish black blood splattered upon the paved ground.

At the same time, Vinny called forth his holy power and smote the Ogre's other side with a streak of silver light. It moved so quickly; it appeared, swiped the Ogre across the ribs, and it was gone, leaving a burn mark. The Ogre faceplanted, groaning in agony as his blood painted the glacial spike stuck in his side. The Ogre lost his strength, and he lay there, panting laborously.

"Magic... feh... had you been... without it... you would have..."

And he died. Every limb fell still, and his muscles, once taut with effort to climb back up, went slack.

Elyso came stumbling back around the burning house, his arm injured from the fall he took. His bow hung from his bad hand, and he gripped an arrow so tightly in his other fist that his knuckles turned white. He had murderous eyes. With a growl, Elyso sprinted up to the dead Ogre, threw his bow down and mercilessly stabbed out the Ogre's eyes with his arrow.

"Elyso, he's dead! Calm down, it's over!" Zaniel dropped his sword, too, and tried to haul Elyso off the Ogre. Elyso was lost to his need for vengeance. He wasn't going to quit until the Ogre cried out. The archer elbowed Zaniel in the face, forcing Zaniel to let go, and jumped back on the Ogre.

Vinny also tried to get through to his friend. "Elyso! Please, no more! I'll—I'll heal you!"

"Die!" Elsyo snarled, deranged and almost frothing at the mouth as he got Ogre blood all over the place. "Die...! DIE!"

Quark snorted. "Cover your ears, guys." He gripped his staff with both hands and lifted it up. Zaniel and Vinny, who, for some reason, stood too close to Zaniel, like a young critter sheltering itself from a rainstorm, did as they were told. Elyso forsook his arrow and carried on with his insane assault on the dead Ogre, his hands bare. Quark chanted an audiokinetic spell incantation, and slammed the tail of his staff against the ground. His magic created a concussive blast of sound that could have stopped someone's heart. Elyso woke up from his trance, shaken.

Blinking hard, Elyso asked, "I did it again... didn't I?"

///

The aftermath of the Battle for Seaport (that's what Zaniel called it) was tragic. All of these pirates... dead. All of these innocent men, women, and children... dead. The smell of decay was starting to fill the air, mixing with that of burning structures. Five empty pirate ships bobbed up and down in the port. The Seaport guards returned, along with the tearful survivors, mostly women and children who grieved the loss of their husbands and fathers.

The messenger from before, who Vinny resurrected at the beginning, came back with other heroes in tow – other warriors, also chosen by the Tree of Saviors, young and old.

"Aw," one boy was saying, "we missed all the fun!" He looked like another swordsman.

"That's a shame," said an old, mustached man carrying a wicked looking bow. "I wanted to see how many pirate ka-bobs I could make."

The guards asked the other heroes to assist them in burying the dead, offering compensation in return. Many of them agreed. One guard asked Zaniel, Quark, Vinny and Elyso to finish their fight by destroying the pirate vessels. They agreed.

The four friends set four of the five pirate ships aflame and let them burn to the sea. They took the fifth one for themselves.

When there was nothing left for them to do at Seaport, the four friends sailed out on their brand new ship.

But it wasn't until after the sun set, and they were riding the waves toward the mainland, when they discovered that they got more than what they bargained for. They had a ship, they had the delicious food that came with the ship...

...and also, the ship's prisoner.
Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.
--Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the US (1809 - 1865)

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Re: Tree of Saviors and the Heroes Four

Post by ThisFeeling » July 8th, 2014, 11:02 am

IV: Shattered Secrets, Part 1

The four friends thought they were going to have a normal voyage to the mainland.

If only they knew how wrong they were.

Some hours after the moon and her children, the stars, took the sky, Elyso woke from his dreams of everlasting forests and endless hunting game, feeling seasick. He'd been sharing a room with Quark, who he let have the bed while he slept in the hammock at the corner. Instead of retching in the room, Elyso picked up the deep pan he'd already vomited in once, and he carried it out, past the room Zaniel and Vinny were sleeping in, and took it up to the deck, bringing his bow and arrows with him.

Alone beside the mast, Elyso shared the night with only the steady waters and the star spangled sky. Elyso never thought about riding a ship across the ocean before. He was used to being surrounded by forest or plains; solid ground that sat still. Lowering himself to his hands and knees, he positioned the pan under his chin and, into the pan, he ejected the contents of his stomach. Elyso was not a very quiet upchucker.

Spitting the last of his seasick into the pan, Elyso pushed the pan away and fell onto his side, and rolled to his back, looking straight up at the moon. This was almost nice, if only the smell of sea salt were replaced by pine. And if only the hard deck were soft grass.

Elyso heard Quark appear nearby; whenever the wizard used invisibility magic, it made a sound, like wshh.

"I'm well, Quark," Elyso said irritably. "Go back to bed."

But the voice didn't belong to Quark, or any of Elyso's friends. It was a woman's voice, and it was deep. "I heard you all the way from the cellar. I doubt you're well, human."

Elyso grabbed his bow, loaded an arrow in mid-roll and came up on one knee, his arrow pointed at the heart of an... Ogress.

She wasn't as tall or bulky as the blind Ogre from Seaport, but she was still larger than a human. She didn't have a whole lot of muscle, but that was because she appeared to be a spellcaster of some sort. She was dressed in a long skirt and top that only covered her breasts, leaving her mid section and shoulders bare. She had rings on every finger, both hands, including her thumbs.

If the Ogress was at all in fear for her life, she wasn't showing it. A gust of seaborne wind blew her curly black hair over her shoulders. She said, "You're more skittish than a wig-wag, aren't you?"

"Who are you?" Elyso demanded, pulling his loaded bowstring back a centimeter further.

"My name's Uka, and I'm the prisoner of this vessel. Hi," she added, grinning her sharp teeth at Elyso. "I'm a researcher, chosen by the Tree of Saviors to chase my ambition."

Elyso relaxed, but he stayed wary of this so-called "prisoner." She was an Ogress, and that meant she was a monster. Monsters should never be trusted. He lowered his bow.

"What's your name?" Uka asked, her sharp-toothed grin turning into a harmless, cheerful smile. She clapped her palms together. So unlike your typical Ogre did this woman act, that it worried the archer.

"That's none of your concern," Elyso snapped. "What do you know of the Ogre who attacked Seaport?"

"Who wants to know?"

"I do."

"Um, he was my brother. He's dead, isn't he?"

Elyso caught his yes before it escaped his voicebox.

"No," Uka hastily added, "I mean, he was my tribal brother, see, and he wanted to use me for my magic."

"So he took you prisoner," Elyso said skeptically. "You do realize I'm finding this all difficult to believe... right?"

"What do you mean, Wig-Wag?"

"I mean," Elyso said through gritted teeth, "I think you're in on it. You're lying to me, to save your own hide."

"I like the way you think," Uka said. "You sound like you have experience with that, Wig-Wag."

"Stop calling me that." Elyso had been kneeling the whole time. He stood up, keeping his hands on his bow.

"Why? I think it's a cute name, for such a cute archer... Wig-Wag."

The archer growled and took aim at Uka again. She swaggered up to him and poked his bow with her finger, gently pressing it aside.

"You forgot to draw the string back," she flirted. "Wig-Wag."

It was true. Elyso completely blew it. He feigned an impending attack without actually pulling the bowstring back. "Still your tongue, Ogre."

"Ogress," she corrected him. Elyso looked away, and Uka, with the same finger she used to move Elyso's weapon, guided his attention back to her. Elyso realized how close he was to the large woman, and he was noticing her beauty... for an Ogress, she wasn't half bad looking. He'd just been pulled into the danger zone. Elyso jumped back away from Uka.

"No!" he shouted. "I know what you're doing, researcher! Using magic. You're trying to invoke a love charm on me!"

Uka threw her head back and laughed at the sky. "I don't know any love spells, Wig-Wag. You're just in love with me."

"I would never love a monster..."

"Then why do you keep inching toward me?"

He'd moved forward without realizing it. He was within arm's reach of Uka again. So he backed off... again.

"See? Admit it, you're attracted to me."

"No!"

"You're the cutest human I've ever seen. You look so dark and brooding. Not a whole lot of meat on your bones, but that's why you're so agile. And that hair! I love how it covers one eye. You look feminine, but then you've got that chin fuzz."

Elyso glared at her, and she smiled victoriously at him. "You torment me," Elyso confessed. "This is too good to be true..."

"So you were lying when you said you'd never love a monster."

"...Yes."

"Are you truly in love with me? Or are you in lust? This is where my curiosity takes me. We Ogres don't believe in love. We just have a bit of fun, have children, and work as a tribe to raise them. But you humans are so strange. You'll devote yourselves to one person, and get angry when someone else loves your mate. You're all too restricted."

"Are you any better?" Elyso retorted, slinging his bow over his shoulder and putting his arrow away. "From what you're telling me, you think we should fornicate with anyone we wish, ceremonial weddings be damned."

Uka nodded.

"So," Elyso went on, "all those things you said... you didn't mean them, did you?"

"I did," Uka said matter-of-factly. "Don't you see? I want you with me."

"We met seven minutes ago... and now you want me to be with you for a lifetime."

"I never said lifetime, Wig-Wag."

"Oh." That hurt. "Then... until you find someone better than me?"

"Not better," Uka said. "Just new. You're the best I've seen. Think of it as generosity. I'd share you with so many women that you'd—"

"I'm going to bed!" Elyso interrupted, making a beeline for the cabin. Uka's footfalls pounded upon the deck like a war drum. Thud, thud, thud, and she caught Elyso by the wrist.

"Oh, no you don't," she said playfully. "I want to show you my secret workshop."

To Be Continued
Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.
--Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the US (1809 - 1865)

ThisFeeling
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Re: Tree of Saviors and the Heroes Four

Post by ThisFeeling » July 8th, 2014, 5:06 pm

IV: Shattered Secrets, Part 2

Uka's secret workshop. One word could sum it up: enchanted.

She and Elyso snuck through the cabin of the ship and down to the cellar, where the pirates from before had established prison cells. They were all empty. The cellar was pitch black at night, what with no sunlight to shine in through the window in the cabin above and give the cellar luminance. Uka lit the way through the cellar with a beam of light cast by one of her rings. Inside the last cell on the right, Uka pushed the wall open just like a door. What awaited them beyond the secret door made Elyso's jaw drop. The room was as large as the ship itself. There was a nice rug by a hearth, tables set up throughout the area with unrolled scrolls draped over the surfaces, all of them having been written on. Every table with a scroll had, also, an inkpot and feathered quill. Books filled shelves all around the edge of the room. What amazed Elyso most was how the windows in this room framed the scene of a snowy fjord in twilight, from a sky-high mountain top.

"Come on in, Wig-Wag, and make yourself at home," Uka said, walking to one of the the fine leather sofas halfway across the huge room and sitting down. Because of the Ogress' size and weight, she made the sofa look tiny, and she sank into the cushion.

Elyso stepped inside and closed the door behind him. On this side of the cellar wall, it looked just like a normal wooden door. "What... is this?"

"I put my gifts to use and took on dimensional magic research," Uka said. "This is a workshop located at the roof of the world. You can travel from that ship to this place, and it's only a door's click away. Come here, Wig-Wag, you look tired."

In conclusion, Elyso thought, homing in on the leather cushioned sofa, this was all one big dream. It just had to be. What did he have to lose? He sat down on the sofa and, against his own better judgement, lay his head upon Uka's lap, and closed his eyes. He remembered Uka's surprisingly soft hand caressing his hair and petting his head. She was sweeter than any human woman Elyso ever spoke to before. They were always afraid of him, for some reason. But not Uka.

Not Uka...

The last thing Elyso remembered was the sound of Uka's voice singing, "Good night~"

///

And the next morning, Elyso woke up back on the ship, in his hammock. Just when he started to feel like he lost out on paradise, he picked up the card that was laying his chest. It was addressed to—

"Who's Wig-Wag?" Quark asked, peering at the card. Elyso started, forgetting that he was on a hammock, and rolled out and fell to the floor. "Whoa, you okay, Ely?"

Elyso didn't answer. He scrambled to his feet and flew from the room, carrying the card with him.

Quark couldn't believe his eyes. "He... forgot his bow and arrows."

Elyso raced down into the cellar, to the wall inside the last cell on the right, and pushed.

The wall was closed solid and wouldn't budge. Elyso opened the card, but he couldn't read what was written. He climbed the stairs, back into the sunlit cabin, and read the note:

Dear Wig-Wag,

Bet you didn't know Ogres could write ♥

There's a lot you don't know about me.

There's a lot I don't know about you.

I've sealed the door to my workshop because something came up last night.

I'm sorry, Wig-Wag, but I'm going to need to make myself scarce for the time being.

Your Girlfriend,
Uka


"That's what I would have written," Uka said from behind, "if something terrible really happened."

Elyso jumped out of his skin while Uka was talking, and out of habit he reached for his bow and arrows. They weren't on his person!

Uka had snuck up the stairs from the cellar while Elyso was reading the card. He saw that triumphant grin on the Ogress' face.

"Don't say it," Elyso said.

"Mmmmdon't say what?"

"You know damn well what."

"No, I'm afraid I don't," Uka replied, as though reading lines aloud from a cue card, "could you please elaborate?"

"Argh!"

Uka laughed loudly at Elyso's exasperation. Elyso hissed for her to quiet down.

"You don't want your friends to see me?"

"They'll kill you," Elyso lied. "Please, can you keep this... us... a secret?"

She stared at him blankly. Then a smile appeared so big that Uka's eyes squinted shut. "Wig-Wag~"

"...What?"

"If I hide, what will you give me in return?"

Red alert: Elyso just dug himself into a hole. "Um..."

"Yes?"

"Uh..."

Quark's voice: "Ely, ya down here, bro?"

"Money!" Elyso whispered desperately.

"I don't care for money," Uka whispered back.

Quark: "Ely? Are you talking to someone?"

"A kiss!" Elyso burst, barely above a whisper.

"Okay, right now. Come on."

Quark's footsteps!

Panic!

Uka bent down, puckering those Ogress lips of hers. She really was hauntingly beautiful. Elyso had only kissed a girl once in his life, but she was long gone. He leaned in and pecked Uka on the lips. He tried to pull away, but Uka caught him by the back of the head and held him there, in the longest, most drawn-out kiss in his life.

One of Uka's rings shimmered. Elyso closed his eyes.

Quark entered the room.

Elyso remembered thinking, This is it, my life is over.

But then, Quark said, "That's weird. Maybe I was just hallucinating." He didn't see them! They were right in front of him, and he didn't see them! He didn't go into the cellar, either. He left the cabin.

Uka let Elyso go, and he pulled away, gasping for air. While they were locked in the kiss, Uka cast an invisiblity spell on them both. The spell was now wearing off, and Elyso saw his hands materializing.

"Humans taste good," Uka said, licking her teeth. "I haven't eaten human in a whole week."

To Be Continued
Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.
--Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the US (1809 - 1865)

ThisFeeling
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Re: Tree of Saviors and the Heroes Four

Post by ThisFeeling » July 8th, 2014, 8:17 pm

IV: Shattered Secrets, Part 3 (Final)

She held up her end of the deal, thank Laima, and went back to her workshop. Elyso told her he'd go get her when the ship docked at the mainland.

"You want me to travel with you guys?" Uka asked before disappearing behind the secret door.

"Yes," Elyso said without hesitation. "Invisibly."

Uka liked that idea. She was the type to enjoy a nice, hot cup of shenanigans... for better or for worse.

With Uka safe and sound in her workshop, Elyso stealthily made his way to the deck. He had to come up with a story for where he disappeared to and why, but he was terrible at telling lies, mainly because he's never had to lie before he met Uka. His friends could not find out about her. Just last night they were nearly killed by a blind Ogre... how would they react to an Ogress who could both see and tap into dimensional magic? Perhaps when he told Uka that lie about his friends possibly killing her, it was actually the truth.

Before Elyso knew it, he was standing out in the open, on the ship's deck, with his bow and arrows on his person and not one single idea of what to do. Little Vinny was jogging updeck from the back of the ship, and when he rounded the corner of the ship's cabin, he ran into Elyso.

"Oof!" Vinny grunted. "S-sorry, Elyso. Um, hey, um, have you seen Zaniel?"

"No," Elyso said, relieved that he didn't have to lie about that. "Is something wrong?"

"Well..." The cleric fidgeted, his face alight with embarrassment... or perhaps a sunburn, due to the sun's rays reflecting off the ocean water. "I think I scared him. But I—I mean, you won't hate me, will you?"

"...What?"

"Sorry! I just have to apologize to him. What I did was wrong."

"What are you talking about?" Elyso enjoyed the fact that he wasn't the only one who was keeping secrets.

"Well, I... when I woke up this morning, I got up to leave, and I saw Zaniel laying there in his bed, still asleep..."

Elyso made a noise in the back of his throat. He's suspected it for a while, but he honestly could care less if it was moral or immoral.

"And I felt it was my only chance," Vinny said, "so I gave him a kiss. It—it wasn't that kind!" the cleric went on to say, hastily. "It was just a—you know..."

"I'm guessing Zaniel woke up while you were doing it," Elyso said.

"How'd you know?"

"Archer's intuition," Elyso joked, not even cracking a smile. Vinny stared. "I'm kidding."

"Elyso... you've never told a joke before. Are you okay?"

Damn it, Elyso thought. Uka was rubbing off on him. "Look," Elyso continued, "I... have something to confess, too. Can you keep a secret?"

The cleric puffed out his chest proudly. "Men and women have confessed the best and worst to me. I hold all confessions in confidence. And yours, too."

The archer looked around, making sure Quark or Zaniel weren't anywhere on deck. "This ship had a prisoner, and she's an Ogress named Uka." And Elyso told the cleric all about the meeting, the workshop, and the fact that he and Uka might have been an item.

At the conclusion of Elyso's story, Vinny looked star-stricken. "Elyso, you're... it's no wonder you don't sound so depressed anymore! That's wonderful! Goddess be praised!"

"But I need you to keep this quiet," Elyso told him hurriedly.

"Keep what quiet?"

Quark, and his stylishly slicked back hair, emerged from the cabin.

Elyso shook his head. Quark turned to Vinny. "Keep what quiet?"

"Personal business," Vinny pseudo-lied. "It's not important, Quark. Um, h-have you seen Zaniel?"

"Yeah." Quark gestured over his shoulder with his thumb. "He's been hiding with the chamber pots all morning. He won't talk to me. You guys didn't, like, play a nasty prank on him, did you?"

"N-no!" Vinny shook his head and waved his hands.

And Quark and Vinny had a staring match. Vinny grew more antsy by the second. A minute of this, and Elyso started to think that Quark might've known more than he let on.

He was a wizard, after all.

"How much do you know?" Elyso spoke up. Quark looked at him, and smirked slyly.

"Dude," Quark said, "Vinny's had a crush on Zaniel since the day they met."

"WHAT?!" Vinny burst in forced outrage. He was overacting.

"I saw everything," said Quark, "and I'm not worried. I just wanted to mess with Vinny a bit. But now that that's done..."

Oh, Laima, Elyso thought. That gleam in Quark's eye only meant one thing.

"Who were you talking to last night?"

"I was asleep," Elyso lied horribly. Quark didn't even waste his time calling Elyso out on it. "But then I got up, and threw up, and I was talking to myself."

"That's a pretty amazing trick," Quark said. "I didn't know you could change your voice that drastically, y'know, into a woman's voice. You're pulling my leg here, Elyso, who's the lucky lady?"

"Quark? Um, w-we should go get Zaniel," Vinny said quietly.

"Sure, Vin," Quark responded with a grin, not taking his eyes off Elyso, "you go do that."

"Quark," Elyso said warningly. "Seriously. Lay off."

Uka's life was in danger. These four friends hunted monsters together for as long as Elyso could remember.

"Hey, I can take a hint." Quark shrugged. "You're not gonna talk unless I beat it out of ya."

Elyso snarled, "Is that a challenge, wizard?"

"You bet'cha!"

Vinny looked like he was about to cry. "Guys, no...! Don't fight..."

"Run along, Vin," Quark condescended. "The men are talking."

The cleric's eyes flashed. Quark apparently pushed a button, because Vinny threw his hand up and swung it down like he was slamming an invisible lid. There was a krac-kaboom! and a silver lightning bolt smote the deck between the archer and wizard, forcing them both to jump back.

"Hey!" Quark cried. "What the hell!"

"If keeping secrets is going to make you guys violent toward each other," Vinny started, his voice raising a semitone in pitch with every word he spoke, until he no longer sounded like an eighteen-year-old boy, "then secrets just aren't worth keeping anymore."

"What...?"

"This ship had a prisoner," Vinny said, "and her name is Uka. She's Elyso's companion! This ship is dimensionally connected to her workshop far north of here! She's an Ogress! A magician! A friend to us! She had nothing to do with the pirate attacks on Seaport!"

The archer and wizard were too stunned to speak. Vinny's voice had gone alarmingly high-pitched and unrecognizable.

"And because I've betrayed your secret, Elyso," Vinny went on, his high voice edging on the brink of emotional breakdown, "it's only fair that I give up the guise I've hidden behind for the past five years."

The cleric drew an enchanted crystal from his pocket. The crystal was as white and symmetrical as the moon. And Vinny hurled the crystal between his feet. The crystal shattered. Vinny's image cracked like glass, as if a silver sunlight were gleaming for freedom from inside his body. As Vinny's image shattered like that crystal, a different person appeared underneath his visage.

She had the same hair color, same skin complexion, and same eyes, height, weight, and attire as Vinny, but she was a she. Her hair was long, and her eyes were welling up with tears.

"Do you see," female Vinny said, "what secrets can do to friends? I do now... I'm so sorry I kept my true self hidden from you guys."

Since they were younger, Elyso and Quark realized, they've been friends with an illusion. It shouldn't have been a big deal, but... she was a total stranger now. She was the same person, right?

Elyso's speech faltered. "Who... are you?"

The cleric wiped her tears from her eyes. "My real name is Victoria. But please... keep calling me Vinny. I love that name. And please, treat me as you did before. That's all I ask. I—I don't want to be treated differently just because I'm not a boy.

"When the man in the cloak gave me that crystal, the Order of Clerics saw potential in me! As a boy, they treated me like I was really somebody, like I could be relied on. I had a duty to uphold. They didn't let girls join unless they were related to the men of the Order, and even then, the girls were always told to sit off to the side and do nothing. The men could handle everything. It was so sickening!

"I'm so, so sorry I lied to you guys!"

This even made a wizard like Quark rack his brain. He usually had a witty comeback or response to everything. But for this? "Hey, Zaniel!" Quark yelled as loud as he could, running full-steam into the cabin. "Zaniel! Zaniel, you're okay, dude! You weren't kissed by a boy! Come on, buddy!"

As the commotion unfolded in the cabin, Elyso and Vinny's eyes met.

Vinny dried her tears again. "You must think I'm an idiot. I'm sorry... I'm so, so, so sorry... could you forgive me?"

"First of all," Elyso said sternly, "stop apologizing. All you did was use what resources you had available. Is that a crime? You keep apologizing, you're going to create a rationale for failure. What you did was something I would have done. Any of us would have done it. The difference between you and the rest of the world is that you have guts."

Vinny laughed away her tears. "You've spent too much time around Zaniel. Do you forgive me, though? I sold your secret about Uka."

"...It was inevitable. I'm glad it ended this way. You saved me a lot of trouble, Vinny."

Zaniel emerged from the cabin and his eyes found Vinny's. The ship swayed on the ocean blue, and the situation became dreamlike.

"So, this is the real you, huh, Vinny?" Zaniel asked. "Yeah, it makes sense now. Sorry I was a jerk to you this morning, but I'm not into other guys. Hey, let me officially re-welcome you." He held out his fist, and Vinny placed her fist against his. "Strangers in blood, brother in spirit..."

Vinny repeated, with her own twist, "Strangers in blood, a sister in spirit..."

They finished the oath in unison.

"Should the Goddesses call, we shall hear it. The Tree of Saviors lights our way, together shall we find Eden's Day."

"Man," Quark said a moment later. "Everyone's got someone now. I'd better step it up. I hear the mainland's got tons of lookers to choose from. And speaking of the mainland..." The wizard pointed across the ocean. Everyone looked out, and sure enough, there was land on the horizon. "We'll be there by nightfall."

The four friends spent the remainder of their day lounging, practicing their sword drills (Zaniel), meditating (Quark), praying (Vinny), and inspecting their arrows (Elyso). They had a few sparring matches on deck, and a miniature tournament of hand-to-hand combat – no magic or weapons. Quark and Vinny's round ended in a draw; Quark was subconsciously afraid to hit Vinny, now that she wasn't in her illusory disguise. This upset Vinny and compelled her to kick Quark between the legs. Once the wizard was down and squealing like a baby pig, she used a healing spell and made him all better, with a promise: "You make a joke about this, I—I won't heal you anymore!"

In his round with Elyso, Zaniel emerged victorious. Elyso was fast, and he had hard, snappy punches and kicks, but Zaniel withstood Elyso's shots and hit him back twice as hard. Of course, Zaniel was naturally the best melee fighter of the group. Vinny conducted a healing ritual on everyone when the sparring session ended. Every nasty injury they sustained was gone.

"Thanks, Vinny," Zaniel said. She looked out at the sea, trying to hide her blush.

"You're welcome."

///

The sun went down, and the four friends docked their ship at the town of Bladeshire. As they were departing from their ship, Uka appeared out of nowhere and startled Zaniel, Vinny, and Quark. Elyso's timely explanation calmed things down between them, not that things ever escalated. But one could never be too careful.

"Did you miss me, Wig-Wag?" Uka asked Elyso, embarrasingly, in front of his friends. Quark instantly went snerk.

"Wig-Wag!"

Elyso decked Quark in the face, knocking the wizard to the dock. Vinny healed him, and he got back up, laughing.

"Sorry, Wig-... I mean, Ely."

"So we can trust you?" Zaniel asked, casually pointing up at Uka. "You won't try to eat us?"

"I only eat criminals," Uka said with a shrug. "But mostly wild game."

The five companions set off through Bladeshire. Over the course of time, the city earned its nickname, The Slayground.

It was a city of mercenaries.
Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.
--Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the US (1809 - 1865)

ThisFeeling
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Re: Tree of Saviors and the Heroes Four

Post by ThisFeeling » July 10th, 2014, 11:35 pm

V: Sinners and Saints, Part 1

He's wandered alone for centuries. They all knew him as the "cloaked man." He was a tall and majestic figure draped in cloth that hung from his shoulders like dormant shadows. His hood shrouded all but his smooth jawline.

The cloaked man walked through the night of the perilous Bladeshire. The city was like a shady suburb, a gutter to catch the most unsavory types of man as they fell from grace. Lit throughout by the dancing flames of standing torches and glowing lanterns hanging from posts, Bladeshire's most bustling activity took place after sunset. Of all the places in this world, the cloaked man found himself returning to this particular city. He's been to the Vannet Isles, where he remembered meeting a thirteen-year-old girl undergoing a peculiar identity crisis. He gave her an easy solution to that problem... for a price. He's seen every desert, every mountain, every cave, dungeon, and den, but this city, Bladeshire, was full of the most interesting people.

As the cloaked man traveled up an incline in the dark street, he found his path blocked by a large man carrying a spear on his back. The man just so happened to be traveling the opposite direction.

"Huh?" the man grunted. "Who're you?"

"I am Zelieth," the cloaked man said. "Hello, Bilcan."

The big spearman didn't know Zelieth; they've never met once before now. Bilcan used to be a mercenary, much like many of these "heroes." These days, he spent his time working in Bladeshire's taverns. He was chosen of Laima. Now he was caught up in a money game. He'd gone astray and turned his back on the Goddess of Destiny.

Bilcan harrumphed and shouldered past Zelieth. Zelieth grinned to himself and traveled on, putting that name and face out of his mind. Most mercenaries became sellswords because of a tragedy in their lives, or because they stopped caring about anything except money. Laima's Chosen, however, often took the path of the mercenary because of ambition. They'd sooner kill the weak than protect them. But was that truly their decision? Or did Zelieth's influence affect them? Zelieth lost count of how many heroes he's defected over the years. Looking around this city, he saw gaggles of mercenaries spending their time together outside of taverns and other buildings, laughing, chattering, telling stories... why? They'd all end up killing each other tomorrow.

Amusing.

Everyone knew how many Goddesses there were in this life. But not everybody knew their names, and no one knew why the Tree of Saviors truly came to be. These mortals were so blind; they did not realize that Laima's gifts would lead to her own undoing. Expiration at time's behest was out of the question for immortals such as the Goddesses. But that didn't mean they couldn't be defeated in battle and be put in a state in which they'd find death preferrable. Goddess Laima was so desperate to survive her approaching confrontation with Giltine, Zelieth's mother and the Goddess of Death, that she dragged these mortals into her war. What chance did mortals stand against the almighty Giltine? Zelieth reached inside his hood and covered his shrouded face with his palm. He found himself chuckling aloud at that absurd notion.

Mortals... facing Zelieth's mother in battle, to save Laima. Idiots!

So caught up in these amusing thoughts was Zelieth that he neglected to watch where he was going, and he walked into a four-year-old boy named Arkie. He and his big sister were orphans, and they lived here in Bladeshire their whole lives, even back before the mercenaries came and turned Bladeshire into a shady place, and forced the guards to quit, leaving Bladeshire to be governed by the lawless.

"I'm sorry, mister!" the boy squeaked. "Did I hurt you?"

Zelieth knelt down and patted the boy's head.

"You're really cold," Arkie noticed. "Are you sick? Are you dying?"

"Hello, Arkie," Zelieth said.

"How did you know my name?"

Zelieth smiled, but he didn't answer the question. "Where's Agathene?"

That was the name of Arkie's sister.

"Follow me!" Arkie said, and he led Zelieth down a dark and desolate alleyway. Halfway through the alley, Agathene sat on a wooden stool she'd stolen from a nearby tavern, and she was playing a spritely melody on her lute. Her masterful musicianship was such that her music made Zelieth's hair want to stand on end. She was indeed one of Laima's Chosen.

When she saw Zelieth following her little brother, she put her lute down, jumped to her feet, and drew her knife. The first thing she said was, "Get away from him, or I'll gut you like a fish."

"Agathene," Zelieth greeted with a nod. "How fortunate I am, to meet you."

Agathene shifted. He must've heard of me, Zelieth caught her thinking. Agathene was growing more popular here every day, for her toughness as a scrapper and skill as a minstrel. That knife of hers has brought down larger people than that spearman, Bilcan.

"Don't hurt him, Sis," Arkie pleaded, "he's just a sick old man. He needs help."

"I hate to break it to you, Arkie, but this guy doesn't look sick. Or old. He's one shady SOB, though. Creepy as hell."

"Perhaps," Zelieth said, "you'd like to get to know me?"

"Uh-uh! Hell no!" Agathene gestured with a slash of her knife. "Anyone who covers up as much as you do can't be trusted. I bet anything you're a killer." She picked up her lute and put away her knife. "We're leaving this guy alone, Arkie."

"Aww, okay."

With her lute in one hand, Agathene steered her brother toward the alley exit. Zelieth pulled his trump card.

"I know who killed your parents," he called after them. Agathene froze. Those six words – Agathene has always wanted to hear them. Her parents were brutally murdered in Bladeshire three years ago. They were found dead by the guards, back when there were guards. Agathene turned around.

"You'd better not be lying to me."

///

The five companions secured their ship and ventured into Bladeshire, Zaniel leading the way as per usual.

"O-kay," Quark said confidently, "all we hafta do first is grab a guard and get him to tell us where we can find the nearest inn. Easy."

They didn't see anyone who looked like a guard, but there was an inn not far from the docks. A lot of the scary people here were eyeing the group, especially Uka, like hungry lions contemplating a snack. Vinny stuck so close to Zaniel that you couldn't fit a piece of paper between them. Now that Vinny was a girl (outwardly!), Zaniel was okay with her invading his personal bubble. Seeing this, Uka nudged Elyso.

"Hey, Wig-Wag."

"What?"

"Want me to hold you?"

"No."

"I'll keep you warm and safe."

"That's my line."

Overhearing their dialogue, a couple of the nasty looking street dwellers (who were suited up in expensive looking armor, mind!) sniggered. Elyso heard the word "Ogre" being passed around in whispers, and he glared menacingly at the bystanders. Whether it was the firelight upon Elyso's face or his well-practiced Don't-Screw-With-Me look, the armored thugs caught their breath. Elyso and his friends went on without missing a beat.

None of them saw the incident coming.

It wasn't the guys Elyso glared at. The friends went inside an inn. Zaniel and Quark were negotiating with the innkeeper when Vinny placed her hand to her head.

"Guys?" she said faintly. "It feels like the world's spinning. It's... so powerful."

"Eh?" Uka noticed that Vinny was swaying. The Ogress put her big hand on Vinny's tiny shoulder, slanting the cleric's posture with the weight of her hand alone. But at least Vinny stood steadily.

"Zaniel," Vinny gasped. She was drowned out by Quark yelling at the innkeeper; apparently the innkeeper thought it'd be funny to jack the price of a night's stay up to exactly one million and one gold coins.

Elyso and Uka thought Vinny was going to pass out. She did pass out, actually, but it happened like she went into a trance, or something. The cleric's pupils twinkled like starlights. Vinny teetered into Uka. The Ogress caught Vinny and carefully lowered her to the floor. The innkeeper-jerk took half-hearted notice of what was going on behind the level-headed swordsman and outraged wizard. Following the direction of the innkeeper's gaze, Zaniel and Quark saw what was happening and rushed to their friend's side.

Vinny was staring wide-eyed at the ceiling. She looked so awake and alive with those specks of white starlight in her eyes. Zaniel worried, but at the same time he noticed a supernatural presence about Vinny. All of her friends noticed it. Even Uka, who said,

"I think I see a Goddess! Wow...!"

The mystical lights in Vinny's eyes went out as suddenly as they came on. She sat up in alarm. The first words out of Vinny's mouth were, "Agathene! Arkie! They're in danger!"

To Be Continued
Last edited by ThisFeeling on July 10th, 2014, 11:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.
--Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the US (1809 - 1865)

ThisFeeling
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Re: Tree of Saviors and the Heroes Four

Post by ThisFeeling » July 10th, 2014, 11:35 pm

V: Sinners and Saints, Part 2 (Final)

They didn't stick around to hear the innkeeper's "Have a good evening" but they were making good time in the distances they covered.

Vinny was running through Bladeshire like a wild deer, and she wouldn't stop for anything. Zaniel kept trying to talk to her, but she always responded with "No, keep going!" and "We have to find them before it's too late!"

Vinny led her friends on a chase for a seemingly long time, but it might only have been five minutes. They found a tavern in the middle of Bladeshire (the city was huge!). Vinny ran inside.

Zaniel cursed. The last time Vinny went inside a tavern, she was assaulted because of her status as a cleric. Back then, she wore the illusion of a boy. Zaniel hurried inside the tavern.

"What, we're gonna drink now?" Quark swaggered into the tavern like nothing was wrong.

"I hate crowded places," Elyso grumbled.

"That's okay, Wig-Wag," Uka consoled. "You can stand guard out here." She started making her way into the tavern, ducking her head to get under the top of the doorframe. Elyso caught her by the skirt, mainly because he didn't want to pull her hair, and partly because he wondered what Uka's skirt was made from, because it didn't look like the standard type of cloth. And other reasons not worth mentioning. Uka yelped, but the yelp was restrained and... unconvincing. "Oh, Wig-Wag, you wolf!"

Elyso let go of her skirt as if it burned him. He apologized and followed Uka into the tavern, wondering why the hell he did that. It wasn't like Uka was going into the tavern to pick up some other man... right?

Inside, Vinny was talking to a woman who looked to be in her mid-twenties, her short maroon hair swept back, kind of like Quark's slicked style, except bushier and more feminine. The woman's kid-brother stood beside her, holding her hand. In her other hand, she toted a lute. Strapped around her right thigh was a sheath, and in that sheath... a big scary knife.

Agathene and Arkie.

"Wow," Agathene said boredly, having listened to what Vinny told her. They were at a table near the edge of the tavern. The table was loaded with delicious food and drink – booze for Agathene and fruit juice for Arkie – and they haven't even sat down yet. "So you're saying you had a talk with Vakarine, Goddess of the Evening Star..."

Vinny nodded solemnly.

"She told you about me..."

Vinny nodded again.

"Said I took an offering in the form of a sack of money from Zelieth, the Son of Giltine, Goddess of Death..."

Vinny nodded a third time.

"And now every coin I spend contains a fraction of my life force, and every coin I spend knocks year off my lifespan? He finds people who need help and gives them miraculous prizes he knows they'll take advantage of, just to kill them? Is that what you're telling me?"

"Yes," Vinny said.

"Something tells me you and this Zelieth are in cahoots. That, or you want my money."

"N-no! I want to... I—I want to save your life." She looked around at Zaniel, Quark, Elyso and Uka, whom all stood behind her. Agathene looked at them, too. She let go of Arkie's hand and reached for the hilt of her knife.

"Run, Arkie," Agathene said. "Hide somewhere close until I'm done here."

Arkie started to complain as Zaniel took it upon himself to peacekeep. He came forward, standing between Vinny and Agathene with his hands where the minstrel could see them.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa," Zaniel said, "take it easy. We're not looking for any trouble. Vinny's a cleric, and she had a vision that led us here."

Agathene tapped her weapon's hilt with her finger, deciding whether or not she should believe Zaniel. She off-mindedly plucked one of her lute strings with her other hand. She must have been using magic, because there was no way such a weakly plucked note could be powerful enough to stab Zaniel through the ear, down his neck, and up the back of his brain. Every joint in Zaniel's body locked, paralyzing him where he stood.

Being a natural at judging friend from foe, Elyso drew his bow and loaded it with an arrow. He took aim at his favorite target on a person: Agathene's windpipe. Out came Agathene's knife with a sharp hiss.

Vinny tried to calm everyone down. They were in a crowded tavern, and they were quickly becoming the center of attention. The barkeep waved a big man over and pointed him toward the commotion. The big man had a spear on his back. He started making his way over.

Vinny's mission was clear. She had to save Agathene's life. "Please. Agathene. Just abandon the money. Zelieth tricked you!"

"Let my brother and I eat," Agathene demanded, facing Elyso's loaded bow defiantly. "We haven't eaten in—"

The bouncer came and interrupted Agathene. "Hey, thief. Here to steal more tavern property?"

Agathene rolled her eyes and swore. She put her knife away and plucked a different note on her lute. This note was gentle and warm, like the fur of a motherly cat nursing her young. Zaniel was able to move again after hearing the note. Elyso forgot why he was preparing to shoot Agathene. Vinny, Uka, and Quark had no reaction to the note, but Arkie explained to Zaniel and his friends,

"My sister's a minstrel. Her music is the best ever. She made us money with it. And she can use her music like a weapon!"

"Kicking me out, Bilcan?" Agathene asked the bouncer, sounding hurt.

"That's the way it goes," he told her, his deep voice slow and calming. In the five seconds these two spent looking at each other, it was like they had a full-blown argument, telepathically. They reached some kind of understanding, and Bilcan went back to his order of business. Agathene and Arkie packed up as much food as they could, and they left the tavern. Zaniel turned to his friends.

"What the heck just happened?"

Vinny didn't stick around. She ran after Agathene, and her friends followed. They caught up to the minstrel and her brother outside the tavern, where they stood in the light of a nearby torchfire and ate their food... ravenously.

"This is good, Sis!" Arkie exclaimed with his mouth full. He looked like he was in Eden. "Zelieth was so nice!"

Agathene watched the concerned Vinny (and her friends, too!) out of the corner of her eye. "Too nice. Something weird's going on here. Now that I think about it, who the hell goes around, handing out gold by the thousands? He didn't even hand the money to me, it just appeared – a sack full, on a cord around my waist."

"That's what happened with me," Vinny told her. The cleric was so short in comparison to Agathene that she had to look up. Agathene was taller than Quark and Zaniel. "How much money did you spend on that food?"

"Thirty gold. Why?" Before Vinny answered that question, Agathene realized what that meant. She pieced Vinny's story together. Each coin that Zelieth gave Agathene contains a fraction of her life force. Each coin spent is a year off her lifespan. She just lost thirty years of her life in one transaction! "No..."

"Yes," Vinny said. "I'm glad we found you in time, Agathene. The—the Goddess—I mean, Vakarine showed me where to find you. Like the evening star that guides us home when we're lost. I met Zelieth five years ago. He was the man in the cloak I told you about," Vinny said to Elyso, and returned to Agathene. "Five years ago, I joined the Cleric Order. I couldn't join because I was a girl, but Zelieth showed up, and he gave me a special, magical gem, a-and I used it, and it transformed me into a boy. Vakarine told me that every year I spent as a boy, it took a decade off my life. I've lost fifty years from my lifespan. The curse ended when I got rid of the gem.

"So, Agathene? I need you to do something that you're not going to find easy."

"I know. You... want me to abandon all this money."

"Yes."

"This is so ironic it's sick. Day to day, hour to hour, playing my music for these... losers. Waiting for them to give me their blood money, no doubt they got from killin' someone's brother, or sister, or parents, or kid. I finally strike it big for Arkie, and for myself, and it all turns out to be one big trick.

"I hate what I'm about to do. But you know what? Now that I know what kind of shit this Zelieth guy's pulling, I don't mind so much. I'll throw it away. No. Wait. I'll only lose my life if I spend the money, right? Is that what Vakarine said?"

Vinny nodded.

"Alright, then. Here, Arkie." She unfastened the cord from her waist and gave the sack of coins to her kid-brother. "It's your money now. Congrats, kid. You're rich. Do me a favor and don't ever lend it to me. I'll earn my own."

Arkie held the sack of coins in his arms. He couldn't believe what he was hearing. For the second time tonight, he looked like he'd awakened in Eden. "Thank you, Sis!"

The lighthearted moment didn't last long. Vinny went on. "I know where the Goddesses are. I know why they disappeared. And I know what's coming. We have to find the Tree of Saviors, or Destiny will be lost. Giltine already has an army of lost heroes, souls she'd sent Zelieth to procure, and it's growing bigger every day. Unless we save Laima from Giltine, this whole world is..." Vinny looked to Zaniel. She chose a set of words she hoped would impress him. "The whole world's going to hell and back."
Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.
--Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the US (1809 - 1865)

ThisFeeling
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Re: Tree of Saviors and the Heroes Four

Post by ThisFeeling » July 15th, 2014, 9:10 pm

VI: Slogutis, Part 1

Zaniel, Quark, Elyso and Vinny stayed the night at the same inn where Quark yelled at the innkeeper over his outrageous price gouging. Agathene and Arkie stayed with them, too. Arkie was actually the one who paid for the rooms with Agathene's gold, so the innkeeper went easy on the boy and charged him the correct fee. They went about their morning business before meeting up outside the inn.

In the daytime, there weren't as many mercenaries out and about, and Bladeshire looked less like a murder haven, and more like a normal city wherein you could travel without worry of being attacked by some crazed mercenary. If only the city had guards... without them, threat was still imminent.

And speaking of imminent threats...

"Yo," Quark said upon return from his shopping trip. "Did you guys hear about what's going on?"

Zaniel, Vinny, Elyso, Arkie, Agathene, and Uka were present and accounted for. Elyso was inspecting his arrows, Vinny and Zaniel were holding hands, Uka was stuffing her face with a huge hunk of meat she'd bought from the butcher, and Arkie was dancing in rhythm with the tune Agathene strummed on her lute.

"We've got a huge problem," Quark detailed. "We won't be leaving Bladeshire for a while... possibly all day."

Everyone stopped what they were doing.

"I bet I know what's going on," Agathene said.

Her brother interjected. "Slogutis!"

"Who?" Zaniel asked. Vinny seemed to recognize that name.

"It's a monster that's been terrorizing the people in this region," Agathene told them. "It comes back every now and then. Nobody can kill the damned thing. It's slaughtered every adventurer who went looking for it. Whenever Slogutis is spotted, everyone holes up in Bladeshire. Bet'cha anything all those mercenaries you saw last night are still hiding out here."

"Slogutis," Vinny recited, letting go of Zaniel's hand. "I've heard that name before, back in Vannet. Um, h-hold on..." She thought back so hard that they could practically hear the cleric's wheels turning.

Uka chewed the last bit of meat off the bone she was carrying, and waved the bone around as she said, "You know, if you can't remember something, it helps to have someone spout off random ideas. It stimulates the mind as you try to make sense of them. Ready?

"Porridge! Smack-whistle! Thunder-knock! Sludge! Fat! I-have-a-crossbow! Perturbed anthill. Dogsy-catsy. Gods-and-Goddesses—"

"That's where I heard the name from," Vinny said.

"Told you." Uka studied the meatless bone in her hand for a moment and, with a shrug, poked the bone into her mouth and bit down. Her sharp teeth cracked the bone, and with a sickening crunch, Uka bit the end of the bone off, chewed it up, and swallowed it down. She made a face and tossed the bone aside. "It's stale."

Quark liked what he saw, and Elyso, who was just starting to get comfortable being around the Ogress, stepped away. Uka didn't seem to notice.

"Slogutis," said Vinny, "is a dangerous demonic entity, a-and it thrives on pain and terror. The reason why nobody's been able to kill it, I think, is because attacking Slogutis makes it stronger. Even... even the Goddesses are afraid of Slogutis."

Elyso hummed. He spoke so little that any noise the archer made drew his friends' undivided attention. "Everything has a weak point... even immortal beasts."

"We might have to do something about this Slogutis," Zaniel suggested. "If we're to get out of Bladeshire and search for the Tree of Saviors, Slogutis has to be put down."

"Um," Agathene said, "you did hear what your sweetheart said about Slogutis feeding on pain, right? And how even the Goddesses are afraid of it?"

"Just because the Goddesses are afraid, it doesn't mean we should be afraid, too. I remember Vinny telling me that Goddess Laima fears indecisiveness. Do we fear it?"

"I get where you're coming from, but we're not just talking about any monster. This creature wasn't born on this world. The Goddesses probably fear it because it's stronger than they are."

Zaniel turned to Vinny. "It thrives on pain, right? So why don't we take its pain away? Your healing magic."

"Would that even work?" Quark asked. "I've heard of healing undead enemies with holy magic to kill them, but I don't know about demons. They're a lot trickier. I'd know, I fought one."

"Was it scary?" Arkie asked.

"It was able to imitate my father's appearance. That was scary enough."

"I say we hunt it down," Elyso said, "and put it out of everyone's misery."

"Huzzah." Uka threw her hand up and let it drop lazily back to her side.

Agathene thought aloud, "If we go it ourselves, it might be suicide. Maybe if we could get Bilcan to come with... he might give us the upper hand. Slogutis had a bounty on its head. Maybe Bilcan'll wanna relive the old days."

"We'll go to him first, then," Zaniel said, settling the matter. "We'll try to convince him to come. If he doesn't, we'll have to face Slogutis ourselves. There's never been a monster my friends and I haven't been able to kill. We'll put Slogutis down. For Laima."

Vinny was the only one who repeated For Laima. Zaniel has never steered his friends wrong before on their past adventures, but they were in a grown-up world now. The mainland was for adventurers who've come to terms with the fact they won't win every fight they get into, and the possibility that they'll die for what they love. Zaniel himself wasn't feeling one hundred percent confident, but what choice did they have?

Uka saluted, placing her right hand over her heart – a human's salute. "I'm with you, Zonebreak." Zaniel cocked his head quizzically at what Uka just said. She played coy. "Oops. You don't know about that yet. Sorry~"

Elyso nodded with a hm. "My arrows will fly true. Just show me the way."

"Ah, what the hell," Quark joined in, "what kind of adventurers would we be if we backed down from this?"

"Count me in," Agathene said, inspired by Zaniel and company's camaraderie and spirit. Her little brother jumped excitedly.

The group departed from their meeting spot in front of the inn and traveled first to the tavern where they saw Bilcan the night before. Vinny volunteered to speak to the spear-toting bouncer, so Zaniel and his friends waited outside. Five minutes later, Vinny came out of the tavern looking dejected.

"He told me to go die because I'm from Vannet," she said miserably.

"Oh," Agathene said, "shit, sorry. I... heh, forgot to mention that Bilcan hates Vannet Islanders. My bad, kid."

"Why?" Quark asked.

"Long story," Agathene replied, waving her hand. "I'll tell you later. We've got a Slogutis butt to kick. Oh, Vinny? Do you know any spells that shield us from harm?"

The cleric nodded.

"Good. I got a feeling we're gonna need you to protect us as much as possible."

The group carried on with their plan. They were almost out of the city when another issue came up. A group of uniformed corsairs were gathered together at the north gates. Their leader was giving them a pep talk.

"You don't fear! You don't feel! You don't care! We're going to get out of this city alive, even if it kills us! We'll cut Slogutis down, we'll take the reward, and Bladeshire will hail us as heroes!" The corsairs pumped their fists.

"Hey!" The leader called Zaniel out. Zaniel was leading the way past the corsairs, not paying them any attention. "Where do you think you're going, boy?"

The fact that Zaniel and his friends ignored him seemed to upset the lead corsair. He detached from his gang and ran past Zaniel's group. He got in the swordsman's way, blocking the group's exit.

"I asked you a question, boy," the corsair said. "Where do you think you're going?"

"To find the Tree of Saviors," Zaniel responded. "And to kill Slogutis when it comes after us."

"Are you serious?! You?!" The head corsair burst out laughing. So did his followers. "There's a five hundred gold bounty on that thing's head. You want it, you have to kill me first."

The head corsair drew his scimitar. Zaniel's hand drifted to the hilt of his longsword. He heard Elyso pulling an arrow from his quiver, Uka growling quietly, and Quark sniggering, "Seriously? Idiot."

Then the other corsairs drew their crossbows. Quark had a reality check. "Okay, that's bad."

The head corsair wasted no time instigating the fight. He told his men to open fire on Zaniel's friends.

The crossbows were loaded. The triggers were pulled. Crossbow bolts flew in a barrage at Zaniel's party.

But at the same time, Uka's rings flashed, and she created two rippling effects in the air: one between the party and the incoming bolts, and one off to the side of the bowmen. The rippling of time and space swallowed the bolts into nothingness, saving the party from harm. The bolts all shot out of the rippling air beside the bowmen, riddling their bodies with their own crossbow bolts. They died to their own attack.

The head corsair let out a battlecry. Zaniel was starting to draw his longsword, and Elyso was ready to shoot the corsair, but Uka took matters into her own hands. She grabbed Zaniel by the back of his tunic, lifted him up, and put him behind her, taking his spot in the face of deadly assault. The corsair slashed Uka across the belly, creating only a small scratch, thanks to the toughness of her Ogress skin. Uka seized the corsair by the neck, raised him over her head, and she killed him in the most creative way she could. Uka's rings flashed, and the air around the corsair leader's head and shoulders rippled. The corsair was sucked away into oblivion. As he disappeared, he tried to cut Uka's head off, but he missed with every swing. Seconds later, the corsair came screaming down from the sky. His body hit the ground so hard that the impact took his life.

In the span of ten seconds, Uka killed a whole group of enemies. Not just any enemies, but enemy heroes. They were all Laima's Chosen.

Uka presented herself to the group and said, "Wups, was I too hard on 'em? Sowwy."

Whatever just happened, Zaniel rolled with it. Uka was apparently the most dangerous member in the party. Vinny wanted to resurrect the corsairs, so the party waited two or three minutes as she extracted every bloody bolt from the corsairs' bodies. With a prayer and a silver light in her hand, Vinny brought each corsair back from the dead, one after another. They lost a few hours of their memories, which helped keep them from exacting vengeance. Each one of them woke up, freshly healed and confused. Vinny lied and said that the corsairs were just murdered by a crazy mercenary, and that Vinny and her party came by to resurrect them just in time.

After that, the party left Bladeshire. All of those resurrections left Vinny mentally drained, so Arkie, the designated supply carrier, handed Vinny a mana potion. She plugged her nose and drank the blue liquid down. When she was done, she grimaced at the taste.

The wilderness that cornered Bladeshire against the coast seemed perfect for a terror like Slogutis to inhabit. The trees were thick, and they formed a canopy above the forest. Even in the daylight was the sunshine so dampened – the forest was a realm of shadows, and yet it seemed so peaceful.

The friends ventured only so far away from Bladeshire when, without warning, a heavy, painful wail escaped the depths of the forest ahead. The wail was inhuman, and the party could feel the soundwaves surging through the earth. It sounded like a siren or a banshee at first. This wail had no gender.

"Slogutis," Agathene murmured. "I remember that terrible noise."

The wail turned to a howl without end, and it was getting louder and higher. Flocks of birds flew out of the treetops in the forest throughout.

Zaniel motioned for everyone to prepare for battle.

To Be Continued
Last edited by ThisFeeling on July 17th, 2014, 8:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.
--Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the US (1809 - 1865)

ThisFeeling
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Re: Tree of Saviors and the Heroes Four

Post by ThisFeeling » July 16th, 2014, 9:39 am

VI: Slogutis, Part 2 (Final)

The monster shambled out of the dark forest in the form of a grotesque mutation. It had long, lanky arms and legs. The creature's body was emaciated, and its skin stretched tightly over its ribcage and spine. The creature was mostly naked, except for the cloth around its waist that covered its pelvis. The most deformed part of Slogutis, though, was its head. It looked to be that of a crying newborn human, but it was disproportionate from the rest of its body that you wouldn't believe the creature's shoulders could bear such a burden. Its ears were pointed, its teeth were jagged, and its eyes were squeezed shut.

The creature was coming toward the party, still with its deafening wail. It moved slowly, shifting its weight at an irregular rhythm. Or, rather, it had no rhythm at all. The monster had no pattern to its movements. Every minuscule twitch and jerk was unpredictable. And yet it still came forward.

Truth be told, Zaniel's bravery faltered the moment he laid eyes upon Slogutis. He wanted to turn tail and run back to the safety of Bladeshire... and he wasn't the only one. Vinny prayed desperately to whatever Goddesses were listening – whatever Goddesses could listen. She cast a spell, and her party members shone with dazzling light, from inside out.

"As long as this shield holds," Vinny yelled over Slogutis' wailing, "you won't be harmed! Stay in my sights!"

The party fanned out into an arc. Vinny and Arkie were behind Zaniel. To Zaniel's left stood Uka, and to his right, Agathene. The outermost people were Elyso, to the left, and Quark, to the right. They stayed away from the center of formation because monsters were naturally tempted to murder clerics first; they saw the Goddesses in them. Melee fighters performed best when protecting a stationary ally. This way, Elyso and Quark could rove around Slogutis and attack it with arrows and magic without worry of the monster charging them down straight away.

Slogutis' wail died, and the land all around seemed to fall into a deathly stillness. Slogutis stood still. They could hear the monster breathing.

"Maneuver 6! Offensive!" Zaniel called.

Maneuver 6 was originally a defensive technique to use against opponents of the same size or smaller, who attacked from the front. However, the offensive orientation of Maneuver 6 was just a full-steam charge at the enemy, with the full gusto of power and intensity of every strike.

Zaniel ran full speed toward Slogutis with his longblade in hand. Agathene drew her knife and ran together with the swordsman. Elyso and Quark flanked the demon from its five and seven o'clock in preparation to time their attacks with Zaniel's. Uka didn't charge with them, though. She had no idea what "Maneuver 6" meant, so she boldly strode forward, extending her arms ahead of her. She tapped into her magic and tore open a riftway between Zaniel and Slogutis.

Through the rift, Zaniel saw the demon's back. Uka's dimension spellwork was sure to give Zaniel and his friends an edge. Zaniel jumped into the rift and landed on the demon's shoulders. He was just about to run his sword through Slogutis' head when the demon defied the laws of physics and swung itself downward, like its heels were hinged to the ground. Zaniel was crushed between the demon's back and dirt. Slogutis swung upright in time to spin a full three-sixty, somehow managing to evade Elyso's shot and Quark's explosive fireball. The large fireball hissed its way past Slogutis, leaving behind a trail of black smoke. The fireball was closing in on Vinny and Arkie. Agathene tried to stab the demon in the side, but Slogutis reacted faster than a creature its size should have been able to react. With a loud, barklike wail, Slogutis Agathene across the broad end of her lute, which she raised barely in time to block the blow. Her lute was enchanted, because it didn't break from the force of the demon's strike. Agathene was knocked several feet back and grounded. Slogutis didn't go in for the kill.

Meanwhile, Quark's fireball was nearly in range to incinerate Vinny. The fireball was slow-moving, but radically powerful. Uka teleported into the fireball's path and intercepted the misfire head on. The holy shield Vinny blessed her with absorbed the impact, and she rejoined the fight with not one single burn.

Zaniel, too, lost the glow of his holy shield. He got back up, unhurt. He knew he wasn't going to be lucky a second time.

"Yo, Aggs! Zan!" Quark hollered. "Run for it! Big attack incoming!"

Zaniel and Agathene looked up and saw what the wizard was cooking. Ten feet above Slogutis, an ice mist was forming. It filled the canopy above with frost. Cold air pressed down on the humid forest atmosphere. Zaniel knew what was coming. He ran to Agathene and pulled her to her feet.

"He's right," Zaniel said urgently, "we need to fall back until the ice clears."

"What is it?" Agathene asked, following Zaniel as he ran back toward Uka, Vinny, and Arkie.

"A reckless move. That's one of his strongest attacks. Arkie, got a mana potion? Good, he's going to need it."

Slogutis noticed the sudden drop in temperature and became fixated on the magic brewing overhead. A mystical sound, like ting, reverberated through the area. A giant inverted iceberg stabbed downward from within the ice cloud. The attack was designed for taking out groups of enemies, but when Quark focused the spell on one target, the effects were devastating. The iceberg came down on Slogutis and, hopefully, penetrated the demon's body like a nail being driven through wood. An arctic blast kicked up a huge cloud of freezing dust, trapping the air in everyone's lungs.

Another ting. The aftermath of the first falling iceberg concealed Slogutis from view. A second iceberg came down like an ice god's spear, right on top of Slogutis, if it was still there. A third ting brought a final iceberg, and this one was the largest and heaviest. Once the ice storm cleared, the ice mist in the trees dissipated.

Elyso had an arrow loaded and ready to fire. Quark wore himself out. He was circling around one side of the aftermath to reach the party.

Shrieking in rage, Slogutis jumped out of the icy, destructive aftermath of Quark's ultimate ice spell, and it caught Quark before he could reach safety. Slogutis lifted the wizard above its head with both hands, and slammed him against the ground like a child throwing a tantrum.

Everyone charged Slogutis. Even Vinny.

While Slogutis was wasting Quark (he was actually okay for now, because of Vinny's blessing), Elyso landed a shot in the back of the monster's head. Crimson energy crackled around the arrow. Elyso dropped his bow and clutched his temples.

"Pain reflection!" Agathene pointed out. "Be careful, you guys!"

Abandoning her charge, Vinny veered off and hurried to Elyso. She summoned a circular panel of silver energy beneath his feet. An upwardly cast beam of light engulfed Elyso and melted all his pain away. Gratuitously, Elyso picked his bow back up, but he abandoned the idea of shooting Slogutis anymore.

Zaniel tried his own attack. He slashed Slogutis' upper arm open as the demon raised Quark up to slam him again. Red energy formed around the wound, and suddenly Zaniel's arm exploded with fiery pain.

"Moron!" Agathene yelled. "Don't attack it! Just save Quark!"

She did her part. Agathene put her knife away and raised her lute instead. She played heavenly resounding chord that miraculously entranced Slogutis. The demon was still holding Quark above its head when it let the wizard go. It let Quark belly flop as it faced Agathene. At first Slogutis appeared awestricken, but that didn't last more than two seconds. The demon stomp-kicked Agathene in the chest, knocking her away. She managed to save herself from falling again, mostly thanks to Vinny's magic. Without it, Agathene may have ended up with a hole where her heart should have been.

Vinny decided to put Zaniel's theory to the test. While Zaniel pulled Quark to safety, she used the same healing spell on Slogutis that she used to heal Elyso's head. The monster didn't stop, crumple, or slow down in any way. The healing magic did not weaken Slogutis. Due to its holy nature, it only seemed to make the demon angrier.

The group was outmatched.

As this became apparent, Uka pulled a trump card. It happened so suddenly: everybody fell through the ground and landed safely around the Ogress. Slogutis searched all around the zone, trying to find where its prey may have gone.

"What was that?" Zaniel asked.

"Teleportation," Uka said cheerfully. "I've just thought of a way to get past ugly."

Following the sounds of their voices, Slogutis spotted them, and now started to shamble toward the group.

"Ready?"

"Yes!" everyone said.

"Everyone, close your eyes, and say, 'You're a Goddess, Uka'."

Uncertainly, everyone repeated after the Ogress.

"Thanks! I know I am. Here we go~ Don't hold onto anything, or anyone~"

Everybody fell into a spinning world of blackness. It was like being tossed around in a void of wind. Zaniel lost sight of his friends. None of them could see each other anymore. He had a hunch that Uka was sending everybody somewhere safe, away from Slogutis, so they could search for the Tree of Saviors. The thought of not being able to kill a single monster burned, like the agony of defeat. Zaniel felt like he failed as a leader. If Uka weren't here, they'd all have been dead by now.

"Uh-oh," That was Uka's voice, speaking above the rush of wind.

"What?" Zaniel asked. "Are we in one of your dimensional rifts, Uka?"

"Yes, but... I think I fouled up the incantation. Hehe... first time doing this, sorry~"

"...Where are you taking us?!"

Uka replied, but the wind of the black void howled in Zaniel's ears. The flight through dimensional space came to an end.

Zaniel touched down. The blackness cleared.

He was standing in the middle of a mountain camp... full of Ogres. His friends were nowhere in sight.
Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.
--Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the US (1809 - 1865)

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Re: Tree of Saviors and the Heroes Four

Post by ThisFeeling » July 22nd, 2014, 8:53 pm

VII: Upon That Misty Mountain High

Zaniel was in no-man's land, that much was for certain.

He was alone in a mountain fort full of Ogres. No snow had fallen yet, but the temperature up here was right enough to paint the world in white, should the sky become burdened so. An Ogre and his Ogress wife was walking by, with a young Ogre child between them, holding their hands. The Ogres here were dressed in animal furs and leather. They were all huge and ugly, but they seemed so civilized. The Ogre child was almost as tall as Zaniel, while the parents towered over him. The child let go of his parents' hands and pointed at Zaniel.

"Look! Ma! Da'! Human!"

The "da" looked at Zaniel and chuckled. "Hohoho! That's no human, son! He's just a pygmy! Pygmies look human, but they're Ogres, like us, except deformed. This one smells like he just had a nice human snack." The Ogre and Ogress laughed heartily as they led their son away.

"But he's a human!" the child complained. They went out of earshot.

So, Zaniel was a pygmy? That would have been insulting if it didn't save his life just now. Ogres were gullible, and in many cases stupider than stupid, but they were dangerous when provoked. But did he really smell like an Ogre to them?

Then Zaniel remembered. Back at Bladeshire, when his friends were facing off with the corsairs, Uka had picked Zaniel up and put him behind her to intercept the corsair leader's attack. Zaniel remembered brushing along her side. If Ogres had a keen sense of smell, then they could smell Uka's scent.

But... still... pygmy?

Zaniel looked for the nearest exit. He ducked behind wooden structures, tents, and dwellings, trying his best to stay out of sight. Maybe only some Ogres weren't too bright. The last thing Zaniel wanted was to run into an Ogre that knew what was what – an Ogre like Uka, only hostile.

When Zaniel spotted the exit, he could have made a break for freedom right then. But as he looked around behind him, checking to see if any of these... Ogre civilians (?) were tailing him, he noticed a fifty foot tall wooden scaffold that he didn't see before. A square post was buried in the earth, rising up through the middle of the platform in the sky. A bound human was being displayed upon the platform. Zaniel could see her from where he hid. She was dressed in ratty trousers several sizes too big, and an oversized tunic that looked more like dress and skirt on her petite body. Her shockingly bright blonde hair was once styled in an exotic double bun, but now one bun was removed completely, while the other barely kept in place. The girl's disshelved hair made her look very lopsided. Ropes hugged her knees and shoulders against the post. Her wrists were tied behind her. Still stranger, she seemed to have been treating her own perilous situation like it wasn't so perilous, like it was a common occurrence in her everyday life. She stared straight ahead like a fearless soldier in the middle of a war, about to cross the frontline. She closed her eyes, and then opened one eye. She closed it, and opened the other. Closed it. She opened both eyes again. Zaniel decided he'd rather die than leave a fellow adventurer in the hands of a fort full of man-eating beasts.

Then the prisoner saw Zaniel.

"Heeeey!" her voice echoed down from the scaffold. "You're finally here!"

One of the Ogres plodding under the scaffold, carrying a big weaponized log on his shoulder, yelled up at the girl, "SHUT UP!" and wandered on.

"These Ogres are planning to eat me!" the girl called down to Zaniel. "I told them I taste best if I've been tied up for a day!"

She's going to get me killed, Zaniel thought. I have to come up with... wait, that's it!

Gullible Ogres.

Maybe Zaniel could put his "pygmy" identity to use, in hopes he wouldn't run into a smart Ogre. If how the Ogre child's parents treated Zaniel earlier was any indication, the Ogres might be friendly toward him. Condescending, but friendly.

Mustering up all his courage, Zaniel took a chance and hobbled out into the open, with the most ridiculous gait he could think of. One of the log-carrying fort watchers caught Zaniel making his way toward the scaffold.

"Pygmy!" the watcher barked. Zaniel stopped. "Move away from there! That's tonight's dinner!"

Zaniel hobbled around the scaffold and went to a shop, where an Ogress was selling wooden souvenirs she'd hand crafted.

"Pretty," Zaniel slurred stupidly, lopsiding his shoulders for good measure.

The Ogress' eyes glinted. "Why are you here, human?"

"Me no human," Zaniel grunted, "me pygmy."

"Pygmies don't call themselves that.. They can't string coherent sentences together like you and I. On top of that, you're too ugly to be an Ogre, much less a pygmy. Are you a friend of that headache up on the scaffold?"

Zaniel came clean. He leaned in and whispered to the Ogress, "I was separated from my friends at Bladeshire."

"Bladeshire...? You're a long way from home. Tch. I hate humans so much... you don't even taste good. You're annoying, you're puny, and you're always going places where you shouldn't, like my shop. Why are my people wasting their time with that hideous bitch up on the scaffold, anyway? A body that small? She couldn't even fill a pygmy's belly. We've got wig-wags all over the place up here – all across the bloody mountainside. No need for you disgusting humans."

"I'll take her off your hands," Zaniel promised. "I'll take her, and you'll never see us again."

"Good. The rest of these people here are morons. I honestly hope you kill some of them. Cull the population. Less mouths to feed."

"Seriously?"

"Yes, seriously!" The shopkeeper's glare hauntingly reminded Zaniel of the blind Ogre from Seaport. "I'd do it myself, but I've already been grounded and pounded once. I'm still recuperating."

"Me? Take on this entire fort?" Now it was Zaniel's turn to scoff. "Tch. You're out of your mind."

"Or your not man enough."

"There's no such thing as 'man enough'."

"You humans are all the same: smartasses."

"You Ogres are all the same," Zaniel retorted heatedly. "Savages."

The shopkeeper grinned crookedly. "Damn right. Now cut that human loose and get the hell out of my sight."

"How?"

"By climbing up there and cutting the rope with that shiny sword of yours, numbskull." She backtracked. "Oh, but you'll probably want her alive. If you went up there now, the watchers would flay you and her. Your only chance is to use deception... and trust me, tricking these idiots won't be hard. I'm the only smart one here, guaranteed. If you want, you could go get on the chief's good side. Maybe he'll let you cut her loose and have the first bite."

"Um..."

"That'd be his intention, you blithering idiot! You don't really take a bite of her... unless that's your thing. Just grab her and make a run for the exit. You know what? To hell with the chief. He's too drunk, anyway. I'll help you. Go up there, and I'll keep the watchers distracted."

"Why would you help me?"

"Because I want you gone, you moron. Yeah, it'd be easier to let them kill you, but remember: they're stupid. They'll gloat about killing you for days, and they'll all start getting drunk... again. I do not want to have to deal with a bunch of drunks for a second time. The first time they all got drunk was when the chief married Uka."

Zaniel blinked at her. "He what?"

"Let me guess, you've met her. That human-loving wench is a demon, I swear. Not only does she love humans, she's a magician! Magic is a big no-no. She started going on about how she was chosen by Laima, and all this, and all that – bah! She left, promising the chief she'd come back. But honestly? Given her record, I don't think she'll ever come back. The chief was too pushy, wanted her all to himself. By the way, I'm ten seconds away from kicking your ass, unless you get your scrawny legs moving. Don't make me waste what precious little energy I've recovered."

The Ogress stooped down to pick something up from behind her shop counter. She set a little hand carved sign on the countertop that read B Bak Soon. As if reading Zaniel's mind, the Ogress said, "Yes, I know the spelling is atrocious. Their reading level is moreso. You've got one chance to set that human free and get out. Whatever happens, I take no responsibility whatsoever. If you get captured, I won't come save you. If you die, I won't mourn you. If you betray me, I'll personally snap your head off. Are we clear?"

"Crystal," Zaniel said, not wanting to push his luck. He put on his pygmy act and hobbled off to hide in a discreet location, behind a stack of wooden crates full of animal hides next to a large tent. The shopkeeper limped away from her souvenir stand, over to a watcher patrolling by the scaffold. Meanwhile, the girl up on the scaffold didn't help matters.

"Hey!" she yelled down at Zaniel. She could still see him from her prisoner's eye view. "You're still alive! That's good!"

The patrolling Ogre threw his head back and roared, "SHUT UP!"

"'Kay!"

As the watcher was about to resume his patrol, the shopkeeper drew his attention in the opposite direction of Zaniel's hiding spot, pulling him into a quiet, animated conversation.

"You can beat 'em!" the girl cheered. "I believe in you!"

"You're really not helping," Zaniel muttered under his breath.

"Whaaaat?"

"You're not helping!" Zaniel hollered back. It was risky, but if the Ogres were as stupid as the shopkeeper said they were, they'd have thought nothing of Zaniel's response. And they didn't. None of the watchers seemed to have been paying attention.

"'Kay!"

While she held the watcher's attention, the shopkeeper glared in Zaniel's direction, as if to say, What the hell are you doing? Zaniel cleared his throat nervously, got into character, and stumbled out of his hiding spot. He went for the scaffold, expecting the distracted watcher to turn around at the last second and yell at him, which didn't happen. Zaniel put one foot on the bottom rung of the ladder. He started climbing. At about halfway to the the top, Zaniel's mind started to wander...

He wondered how a giant Ogre could fit on this ladder. Zaniel kept climbing. He forsook the pygmy act in case his poor posture caused him to slip. He remembered the way that corsair died when Uka made him fall out of the sky. Zaniel didn't want to die that way.

Zaniel made it to the top undetected. The Ogres built the scaffold platform sturdily enough to support their weight, so the lack of creaking in the planks eased Zaniel's worries. He crouched down and stayed low, using the edges of the scaffold to conceal himself from eyes below. The bound girl immediately started talking to Zaniel like he was her long time friend, and she didn't stop.

"So anyway, I was captured by the Ogres, because I was hunting with my party. There were five of us, and stuff, and I was the fletcher, well, I doubled as an archer, but fletchers have to be archers, you know? Anyway, I was able to shoot wig-wags and save the tanker – we call you swordsmen tankers, by the way – from a wig-wag attack from the south, and I also shot a wig-wag coming at the cleric. We had a cleric, isn't that amazing?! It was like a full party. Anyway, I was able to protect them, I was the strongest one in the party, but then they abandoned me when the Ogres attacked, and I went down fighting! That's why the Ogres tied me up here. I was about to be executed, but then, like a heroine, I said, 'But I won't taste good if you kill me now', and the Ogres were like, 'Whuuuuut?' and I was like, 'Yeah, you have to let me stay alive for a day,' and the Ogres said, 'Duh, okay.' So they carried me up here, roped me up, and now you're here. Oh, were you the tanker from my party?"

Zaniel stared up at her. She looked down at him, wearing a little catlike smile, completely at ease despite being doomed to become an Ogre dinner.

"You can help me out," Zaniel said.

"Oh, really?! How can I help ya? I'm really good at that. I racked up a huge set of bounties that way, it was fun."

"Just—stop talking."

"'Kay." But then she thought of something! "Hey, what's your name? You look pretty strong. You couldn't be the tanker from my party, he was a coward. You look like you'd make a good, oh, what were those called? Centurion! You're centurion material, my friend. I'm Nanarex, by the way, nice to meet you! I'm tougher than I look. Here, touch my forearms, you'll feel the muscles. Archer, baby."

"Let's get you out of there," Zaniel said, realizing that to keep Nanarex's trap shut was a lost cause. He crawled over to Nanarex, the Mouth That Never Quit, and quietly drew his sword.

"It's way cool that you got one of the Ogres to help you get me down, tanker. They took my bow and arrows away, so I think I'm going to have to fletch some new arrows and get a bow from somewhere. How'd you make it this far up the mountain, anyway? You'd need to be in a party to make it this far, and I didn't see anyone with you."

"It's a long story." Zaniel carefully positioned his sword's long blade over the ropes that held Nanarex's knees. "Do me a favor, Nanarex, and don't move. This would be easier if I had a knife."

"Why don't you want me to move?"

"Because if you move, I might accidentally cut you."

"Speaking of cuts, I have my share of battlescars. Oh, I have this battlescar on my back, because some crazy adventurer decided it'd be funny to play Slit the Nanarex. I'm the only one who hates that game! He waited till my back was turned to cut me open. He cut me good, too, so he left a scar, but I remember I turned around and shot him in the shoulder. Hehe! What a joke, right?"

"Shhhhh..."

""Kay." For ten glorious seconds, Nanarex managed to keep her mouth closed. Zaniel cut the ropes around her knees with a bit of work. It would've been easier to cut them with a full vertical slash, but Zaniel didn't want to make too much noise. For the record, wielding a longsword like a simple knife was stupid. Zaniel promised himself he'd go pick up a hunting knife if he made it out of this alive. Nanarex spoke again, but she only said, "Excuse me."

"What's wrong?" Zaniel asked, half-minding Nanarex. He'd risen up to his knees, now working on the ropes around her wrists, behind the pole.

"I farted. Sorry."

Zaniel sighed. "Stop distracting me. If I mis-cut, I might get your wrist, and you'll bleed to death."

"'Kay."

With a little more work, Zaniel de-roped Nanarex's reddened wrists, which she tenderly rubbed once they were free. Now Zaniel was on his feet. The ropes around Nanarex's shoulders were going to be easy to slice away. The Ogres did a rush job tying Nanarex's shoulders to the pole. Probably because – and Zaniel almost snickered at the imagery of this – she wracked their brains by talking them into a spiral. "Hold still."

"'Kay!"

Zaniel took a step back and effortlessly chopped the ropes in half. They fell around Nanarex's ankles, along with the other ropes.

"Oh, boy! I need to stretch. Thanks, uh, what did you say your name was again?"

"Zaniel. And don't relax until we're out of here. The shopkeeper's keeping one of the watchers distracted—oh, damn..." Zaniel looked over the edge of the scaffold as he was talking. The Ogress was back at her souvenir stand. She shrugged apathetically at Zaniel. The watcher she distracted before was in full patrol again. "Alright, she's done helping us. Where did they take your bow and arrows, do you know?"

"I don't know, but let's go look for them! They look a lot like those." Nanarex pointed sideways, at a bow lying near the edge of the scaffold, alongside a quiver full of arrows. "A heck of a lot like those. Those arrows look familiar, too. I think another fletcher stole my design choice!"

"...Or, those are probably your arrows and bow."

"Really?" She studied them. Eureka! Nanarex collected the bow and arrows, armed herself, and stood before Zaniel like a loyal private in an army. "Ready to go, sir!"

It's amazing you survived this long, Zaniel wanted to say. That would have been too harsh. "Follow my lead, alright? Don't do anything risky unless I say to. I'll go down first. The Ogres think I'm a pygmy."

"Are you a pygmy?"

"...No, I'm not."

"'Kay, just checking."

"Thanks. Wait here, and I'll wave you down when the coast is clear." Zaniel stealthily climbed down from the scaffold. Once he was on the ground, the Ogress shopkeeper was holding one of her hand crafted souvenirs aloft and rotating her body side to side in a slow shimmy, showing the ware off to curious onlookers. Watching her, Zaniel forgot what he was doing. Something was happening, something he couldn't explain. It happened like a sickness setting in, for the situation became dreamlike, and suddenly Zaniel sensed danger, but he could not gauge its severity, nor could he tell what exactly it was that he felt the need to run from. All he knew was that the Ogress was luring in a mob of Ogres – watchers and civilians. And then Nanarex stepped up beside Zaniel. At some point between the time Zaniel's feet touched the ground and when he became transfixed, she'd climbed down from the scaffold. Nanarex started walking toward the shopkeep, listlessly. Zaniel wanted to see what the shopkeep was doing as well, but he fought his urge to obey his curiosity. Nanarex was moving in close to the shopkeep's stand, squeezing her way through the Ogres. For a moment, she was swallowed up by the mob, but then she emerged, carrying a little wooden statue back toward the swordsman.

"Hey, Zaniel!" she said, her energy returning. "I think I went shopping just now. Like, I don't remember climbing down from the platform thingy!" She was next to Zaniel now, showing him the statue in her hand. It looked like a set of bat wings on the end of a staff. "Lookie this, it's magic! It'll get us off this mountain, that's what the Ogre lady said. Here!"

Before Zaniel could figure out what was happening, because the haze was strong inside his mind, as he faded in and out of his dreamlike state, Nanarex gripped his wrist and lifted the bat wing figurine into the air. "Take us off this mountain!"

The grey sunlight, the mist, and the mountainside – all of it swirled like an unhinging dream, and Zaniel and Nanarex were caught somewhere in between never and forever.

///

Zaniel and Nanarex no longer existed in this fort, and it was as if they never once set foot in these Ogres' lives. A swatch of magic enveloped the two of them, and in an instant they were gone. The Ogress, the shopkeeper, slowly lowered the figurine she holding and set it on the counter. Her mob of customers dispersed, having forgotten what they were all doing.

"You are a slippery one, Zaniel," the Ogress said aloud. "You're also my favorite. O, what cruel fate must he who serves Laima face. All of your endeavors will be for naught. I've already procured the soul of your beloved Victoria. It matters not that she cast away her illusory charm. The deal is sealed, and her soul belongs to mother now. Agathene, too, will serve Giltine when the hour of reckoning comes... and believe me, young hero, that hour is only a sunrise away. Now I have Nanarex, Goddess Laima's young gift to your friend, Elyson. Nanarex was once destined to bear Elyson's children. But I wonder if she'll even live that long."

There was a groan from underneath the Ogress' souvenir shop counter. The Ogress leered down upon her twin, who was bound and gagged.

"Oh, how rude of me," the Ogress imposter said to her gagged subject. Her image flickered, and revealed a tall, hooded man in a shadowy cloak. "I have to thank you, little dievdirbys. I would never have been able to carry out my task without your... charity. I have a special reward in store for you. You will play a part in Goddess Laima's downfall. Just close your eyes, and let go..."

Chains rattled in Zelieth's long sleeves. Harpoons of otherworldly make slipped into his pale as death hands. The Ogress' eyes widened in absolute terror, but she had no time to scream. Zelieth let go of his harpoons, and they shot out of his sleeves by will of magic. One of the harpoons went through the Ogress' chest, and the other went through her neck. She died instantly. Her soul was to remain on this world for seven minutes after her demise, as declared by Laima's Law. Zelieth gripped the chains of his harpoons and pulled them, eviscerating the Ogress' heart and esophagus as his sleeves swallowed the bloody harpoons. She lay there, horrifically dismembered and motionless forever. Nobody was going to come resurrect her.

Zelieth waved his hand, and the Ogress shopkeeper's souvenir stand erupted into black flames, destroying all of her hand carved creations, of Goddess Laima, of Goddess Gabija, of Goddess Vakarine, and even of Goddess Giltine.

Zelieth walked out of the Ogre fort, and none of the watchers could see him. Nobody could see the shopkeeper's stand burning in ebon fire. By the time they discovered her body, it would be too late.

Zelieth was already gone.
Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.
--Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the US (1809 - 1865)

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Re: Tree of Saviors and the Heroes Four

Post by Zefreonnoerfez » July 24th, 2014, 12:10 pm

A fanfic already? Cool. Gonna read it later.

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Re: Tree of Saviors and the Heroes Four

Post by Zefreonnoerfez » July 24th, 2014, 12:12 pm

I suggest make a separate thread for each chapter. To avoid people digging the thread for new chapter amidst the response, review and comments from readers.

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Re: Tree of Saviors and the Heroes Four

Post by ThisFeeling » July 25th, 2014, 7:39 pm

Zefreonnoerfez wrote:I suggest make a separate thread for each chapter. To avoid people digging the thread for new chapter amidst the response, review and comments from readers.
Thanks!

I have thought of making my chapters individual threads, but I decided against it for one reason:

Should a time come that other fanfiction writers begin adding stories, filling the Fan Fictions forum with twelve, thirteen, or fifteen threads of all one story would, in my opinion, be disrespectful toward the other writers. It would also make me look like I have hubris. I certainly hope I don't come off that way, ever, and if I do, let me know.

That being said, I find that writing fanfiction about Tree of Savior helps me contain my overflowing excitement for what's to come, as well as helps me practice certain elements of my craft as an aspiring author for original fiction.

And to anyone that happens to be following my fanfic, sorry for the slow updates. I find, as the story goes on, that I'm becoming more and more picky about which direction I want the story to go. I'm one of those people who have to hand write the story [chapter] first, and later copy it onto my word processor. I can write rough drafts on the computer, but it doesn't feel as "natural" to me as having a pen and a piece of paper. It's a real bugger, but I guess it's how I function. While this fanfiction is fun to write, I have to quickly end it, or else I'll run it into the ground and writing the story will become a chore. Future chapters may feel rushed, but I'll do what I can to make the ending fair one.

Thanks again~
Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.
--Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the US (1809 - 1865)

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Re: Tree of Saviors and the Heroes Four

Post by Flash » July 25th, 2014, 9:57 pm

Maybe we rather should seperate it into Story Thread (only available for authors and only containing story) and Discussion Thread (only discussion between fans and authors but no story parts)?

If you Agree I will move these posts to a new thread.

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Re: Tree of Saviors and the Heroes Four

Post by ThisFeeling » July 28th, 2014, 8:46 pm

VIII: The True Nature of Things

Vinny would never forget Slogutis' terrible siren of a wail. The monster was the epitome of pain, fear, and nightmares. She remembered Uka's spellwork. The Ogress opened dimensional rifts to magically translocate objects in motion, such as the corsairs' crossbow bolt barrage back in Bladeshire, how she killed the corsair leader, and how she gave Zaniel maneuverability against Slogutis. But Uka's last trick, when she teleported everyone away from Slogutis, was the most impressive.

Vinny wasn't awake, but she wasn't asleep, either. Her eyes were closed. She sensed that her body was afloat somewhere between two realities, where there was no ground or sky, but an endless black void full of wind. Vinny was safe. She was locked in a familiar meditative stillness, which she felt only once before when Goddess Vakarine first made contact with her. Vakarine had warned Vinny of Zelieth's activity, and his grand scheme. She'd told Vinny what happened to the Goddesses – the reason they disappeared two hundred years ago.

So the story went...

Laima, the Goddess of Destiny; Gabija, the Goddess of Fire; Vakarine, the Goddess of the Evening Star; and Giltine, the Goddess of Death, once worked together to protect the whole world from all twisted forms of evil more ancient than they. The Goddesses fought tirelessly, with the faith and prayers of mankind on their shoulders.

Preceeding the events before and after the Tree of Saviors, Goddess Laima was the world's creator. Laima was not the highest of her pantheon, but she
was, in fact, inspired by the highest God, Dievas, to create a world of her own, with people and laws of her own design. During the Creation Period, Laima made many mistakes. She failed to sculpt her world into the perfectly symmetrical paradise she wanted from the beginning. She would have erased everything and started over, but Dievas warned her to never destroy her creations. Laima's miscalculations resulted in what her humans came to learn and love as the beautiful, dynamic landscape of mountains, hills, valleys, gulches, oceans, deserts, volcanoes, and so much more.

And then the monsters came, seeking mortal life to feast upon.

When monsters began appearing on Laima's world, the Goddess of Destiny became furious. Gabija, Vakarine, and Giltine were sent by Dievas to aid Laima in defending her humans. Vakarine and Gabija would not have needed Dievas' order, as they were tolerant enough of Laima to do the Goddess a favor or three anyway. But Giltine, on the other hand, detested other Gods and Goddesses, and she despised Laima the most. She hated the fact that Destiny and Death correlated, and how Destiny always had its say over Death in the end. Giltine stood beside Laima only because Dievas ordered the Goddess of Death to do so. If Giltine had her way....

But, while the mutinous Giltine had rebellion on her mind, she was not catalyst to the Goddesses' disappearance from Laima's world. She did her part in keeping mankind safe, together with Gabija, Vakarine, and Laima, for nearly a thousand years. Until one fateful day, the presence of a fifth Goddess changed everything. And she was the only deity whose presence Giltine could stand.

The fifth Goddess' name was Junda. She was the Goddess of War.

Like monsters, Junda caught the scent of mortal life, and she found it so irresistable that she couldn't stay away. Laima, Gabija, and Vakarine asked Dievas to keep Junda as far away from Laima's world as possible. Dievas refused to take much more action than giving Junda a simple warning. Naturally the Goddess of War took Dievas up on his "warning," and she attempted to force herself into Laima's world. The three Goddesses combined their strength, fought, and defeated Junda. They put Junda inside a prison called The Pit, designed for great and powerful demons that couldn't die. Junda was sentenced to fight Slogutis for eternity.

Giltine took no part in putting the Goddess of War away. She came up with a plan. Giltine took advantage of the other Goddess' arrogance, the fact that they became so full of themselves that they believed they could defeat just about
anyone. Junda was young, she had much to learn, and Giltine saw herself as the perfect teacher. While Laima, Vakarine, and Gabija were distracted, Giltine broke into The Pit and freed not only Junda, but Slogutis as well. Slogutis was feared by nearly all Gods and Goddesses, except for Giltine and Dievas. Being the Goddess of Death, nothing frightened Giltine; and being the highest of them all, nothing really worried Dievas. Giltine manipulated Slogutis, taunting the great demon with the smell of Laima's mortals and guiding it down to the Goddess of Destiny's grand creation.

Meanwhile, the enraged Junda wanted to slaughter all three of her captors. Before Giltine's brief departure, she told Junda Vakarine and Gabija's weaknesses. Gabija had a loyal friend in the form of a phoenix named Sol. Vakarine had a giant pet wolf, upon which she rode across the sky after every sunset. Patience wasn't Junda's strong suit, but it paid off. She waited until Gabija left her friend alone, believing no God or Goddess would dare touch her phoenix. Junda then quieted the bird with one of her axes – a swift beheading. The phoenix fell to ashes, and Junda gathered them into a special cage that would serve as Sol's prison when it rebirthed into a hatchling. Vakarine left her wolf in its own special kennel after sunrise, and Junda simply went in, sat astride Vakarine's wolf, and rode it away, baiting the wolf along by dangling the phoenix hatchling's cage in front of its face. Once Junda hid the two Goddess' treasures, she planted false evidence which framed both Goddesses as the culprits to their respective treasures' disappearances.

Deceived by Junda's trickery, the Goddess of Fire and the Goddess of the Evening Star turned their wrath toward each other. Laima was left to defend her world alone. She knew Giltine well enough to expect such a cunning sabotage. The Goddess of Destiny had a trick of her own, knowing that Giltine would, one day, try to unmake her creation.

During the Creation Period, Goddess Laima planted a seed in the earth, given to her by an elder deity she'd never met, who referred to herself as Goddess Ragana. The seed was blessed by Laima's magic, and if her world ever faced annihilation the seed would activate, and a great Tree would sprout, spreading Laima's power far and wide. This power was meant to give her humans the ability to wield otherworldly forces and exhibit divine strength Laima deemed necessary to battle against the monsters. It was Laima's turn to pray to her mortals. Those who were born to fight were to live out their time as Laima destined them to. If they fell in battle, Laima's Tree of Saviors would send their souls to her side, to prepare for an all-out war against Giltine and Junda.

While Giltine was on Laima's world, having guided Slogutis safely to feast upon mortal life, she disguised herself as a beautiful human woman and seduced one of Laima's Chosen. With him, Giltine had a son she named Zelieth, who grew up with only one purpose: to find his mother and make her love him. After Zelieth was born, Giltine left her mortal lover behind. He married a mortal woman and, together, they raised Zelieth, all the while Giltine whispered into her son's mind. Zelieth had Giltine's ability to see the past, present, and future of mortalkind. He knew exactly when and how they'd die. He wielded necromantic powers and puppeteered cadavers, carcasses, zombified remains and skeletal remnants to do his dirty work. In adulthood, Zelieth was given the task of placing Giltine's Mark upon the mortal heroes. He went around and "helped" people by giving them magic items designed to solve their problems. By using the item, one branded their soul with Giltine's Mark. Repeated or constant use of the item shortened the mortal's lifespan, until it eventually killed them.

All who bore Giltine's Mark were doomed to serve the Goddess of Death once their lives were over. Giltine was going to use Laima's Chosen against her.

Eventually, Vakarine realized that she and Gabija had been tricked. Gabija's rage burned like the wildest of fires, and it wasn't so easy to quell. To calm Gabija down, Vakarine hunted down and took Sol back, along with the giant wolf, which were being guarded by a group Laima's Chosen, who'd been branded with Giltine's Mark. Even with all of Vakarine's power, she struggled to defeat the fallen heroes' souls in battle. Though she emerged victorious, she did not kill them. A soul that died a second death was totally obliterated. Vakarine captured them and brought them to Laima. Vakarine and Gabija rejoined Laima's side, and together they went into a long standoff with Giltine and Junda, as their respective armies grew in droves. The souls of lost heroes were a force to be reckoned with, and the fate of this war fell down to numbers.

While the Goddesses amassed their armies, the
Heroes Four were born. Laima specifically chose them to be the saviors of her world. Their names and titles were Zander, the Swordsman Whose Blade Never Stills; Ark, the Wizard Whose Magic Never Wanes; Mardax, the Cleric Whose Faith Never Falters; and Elyson, the Archer Whose Arrows Fly True. The four of them spent their childhood and adolescence going on adventurers together, until they grew into adulthood. When the monsters became too much for most heroes to handle and threatened to completely subjugate the world, the Heroes Four rose to humanity's defense. Each one of them stood to the north, the south, the east, and the west of the Tree of Saviors. The monsters sought to destroy the Tree and end the age of Laima's Chosen. The Heroes Four each took on a thousand enemies... and they defeated them all. In the wake of their victory, the Heroes Four were untouchable. They were considered the world's strongest saviors. The four of them lived out the rest of their lives in peace. They raised families of their own, and they became teachers of their respective crafts; the threat was over for their time, but monsters still lurked in hiding. Zander trained young swordsmen how to fight with a variety of weapons, Ark taught the ways of arcane, Mardax founded many churches and cathedrals across the world, and Elyson lived out in the wild, where he taught young hunters the art of survival. They eventually died of old age, and their children carried on their legacy for years to come. The last of the Heroes Four to die was Mardax. Before he passed on, Vakarine told him of the war that was brewing in the Goddesses' realm. She told him about Giltine's son, Zelieth, and she let him in on a secret. Like Giltine, Vakarine, too, had a child with a mortal.

An Ogress named Uka.

Vakarine told Mardax that he and his fellow heroes would be called upon again someday, in brand new bodies, and that Uka would show them the way then.


That was what Vakarine told Vinny last night, when she fell unconscious in the inn. Vinny remembered the entire story. Vakarine left the decision to tell her friends up to her. She chose not to tell them.

Vinny was the reincarnation of Mardax. The great swordsman, Zander, was reborn as Zaniel. Quark came into the world in Ark's image. Elyso, whose name actually had an n at the end, was the reincarnation of his namesake, Elyson. Vinny and her friends were the Heroes Four, Laima's trump card. But there was only one problem...

Vinny's soul, like Agathene's and that of a girl named Nanarex, who, in a vision sent by Vakarine, Zaniel rescued from an Ogre fort on a mountain top, was branded with Giltine's Mark. They were doomed to fight on Giltine's side. Vinny was going to have to fight Zaniel, the man she loved, and her precious friends, Quark and Elyso. Five years of love and laughter, brought to ruin by a single curse. All because Vinny had to pretend to be a boy to become a respected cleric.

"No," Vinny mumbled, floating through the void on her back. She shook her head, and her long locks waved in the wind. "No... Oh, Goddess, save me... please, remove this curse..."

Vinny had a vision of Elyso and Arkie, who were both hiking through a forest. Elyso had his bow drawn and arrow notched, protecting the four-year-old from hungry wildlife. Vakarine whispered into Vinny's mind, explaining that Vinny's friends were on their way to the Tree of Saviors, and that they would arrive by morning.

A vision of Agathene and Quark flashed through Vinny's mind. The wizard and minstrel were staying the night in a cave a field's distance away from the Tree, using a smooth, slanted cavern wall as an inclined bed. They were both asleep, and holding each other in their arms. Quark was using his cloak to keep them both warm.

Then another vision came, of Uka standing by the Tree of Saviors. The Tree was as big as a mountain. In the vision, Uka grinned at Vinny. "Surprised? That's okay, little cleric. We'll save you when the war begins. Until then, just heed Giltine's orders, or else she'll give you a second death. Even if it means you have to fight us. You can break free. You're one of the Heroes Four, after all."

What about Slogutis, Vinny wanted to ask.

"Don't worry about that creature. Zelieth and I kind of had a chance encounter. We fought and captured Slogutis, and we threw it into The Pit. Turns out Zelieth was just as scared of Slogutis as everyone else. It didn't help that Slogutis went after him."

Why'd you help him?

"I didn't do it out of the good of my heart, Vin-Vin. Actually, me and Zelieth were sort of trying to kill each other while we fought the demon. He's nothing but a little snackface. Once we dealt with Slogutis, Zelieth ran away from me. We are going to see Zelieth when the war begins, make no mistake. You let me handle him, okay?"

Vinny had so many questions she wanted to ask Uka. Before she had the chance, the vision faded away, and Vakarine's magic put Vinny into a peaceful sleep. In Vinny's dreams, Vakarine appeared before her in the form of a constellation of stars. She was sitting on her wolf's back with her legs dangling over one side. Vakarine said, "To be set free of Giltine's Mark, Zelieth must die."

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Maybe we rather should seperate it into Story Thread (only available for authors and only containing story) and Discussion Thread (only discussion between fans and authors but no story parts)?

If you Agree I will move these posts to a new thread.
I think I know how to solve the problem of dealing with jumbled responses and chapter posts. Back when I wrote fan fiction for League of Legends, I noticed that some people linked their stories to fanfiction.net. This was actually quite useful in more ways than one. At this point, Tree of Saviors and the Heroes Four is nearly complete. But for future fan fiction, I'll post chapters on fanfiction.net and link them here. That way it's easier to navigate.

Thanks for reading~
Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.
--Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the US (1809 - 1865)

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