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Join date : 2012-02-06

PostSubject: Alyssa Munroe   Mon Feb 16, 2015 7:59 pm

Alyssa was the daughter of Allen Munroe, a retired veteran of the Talibarian Legion. Her atypical childhood did not include learning to sew or pour wine, but was instead spent sparring with her brother, Alex, and generally making trouble. The village of Kheltus had a small population, its children either too young or too old for the siblings, and their father was always working at his new trade as a blacksmith. Their mother, Sarah, had gone missing not long after the twins were born, never to be seen again. Alex and Alyssa, for the most part, could only count on each other.

~Sometime during Alyssa's 16th year~

Allen
Allen Munroe was a busy man, grim from the loss of his wife as his two children were still mewling in their cribs. By necessity, and perhaps choice, he filled his days with work. The governing nobility's fondness for expensive things meant high taxes and less food on the table. Sarah had always been the gardener, Allen's hands were only good for fighting and smithing. So he let the farmers do the growing while he gave them the tools to do so.

Allen's time in the legion taught him that Aeria was a dangerous place, but filled with wonder. He didn't want to decide his daughter's life for her, and thought that perhaps she would choose the life of an adventurer, those wandering spirits who were heroes to some, murderous vagrants to others. In addition, an odd mood had taken him, filling him with ideas, inspiration, designs. For these reasons he began his greatest works, setting aside several orders to complete his legacy to his children, and to the world.

A few days' walk from Kheltus was a peculiar rock formation. A river had etched a smooth rock face which jutted from the otherwise flat woodland, and the faintest silver shimmer could be discerned from it. Allen stumbled upon it long ago, when he had searched these forests for his wife. Its location reappeared suddenly in his mind, and he knew that this metal was needed.

Many swings of a pickaxe later, he had a large chunk of this ore, which required a horse-drawn cart to carry back to town. Bandits had become a problem in recent months, but he never caught sight of pursuers. The swords were forged in far less time than even his most generous guess. Each step of the intricate process was clear as day, and the entire project could not have progressed more smoothly. As the embers died down, he stared in wonder at the leather-wrapped wooden hilts and polished steel guards, and a pair of blades with an unearthly shimmer that defied description.

Allen died that very same day.

In the evening, as the sun had just sunk out of view, a group of bandits larger than anyone could have imagined descended upon Kheltus. The village's meager defenses were overwhelmed in seconds. Allen told his children to run as fast as they could as he left to confront the horde. Alex had actually listened, leaving Alyssa standing there. Allen gave his daughter pleading looks as he cut down several of the invaders, but a horseman suddenly struck him with a club. He was dead in an instant.

Morsus
The bandits had a leader; his name was Morsus. Giants' blood was surely in him, as he had three feet on Alyssa and two on the rest of his men. He rode the largest horse, and carried an axe the size of the 16-year-old that ran at him. With little hesitation, the leader of the bandits dismounted and pushed her to the ground. She swung at him with a training sword, which he easily knocked from her hand. She punched and wailed, and he threw her down again. She tried to get up, but the blade of his axe was lodged in her torso. Blood and vomit streamed from her mouth as she collapsed. "Aw, you had to kill that one?" someone asked him. He did not respond, he had to clean his axe.

Little was gained from this raid on Kheltus, but little was lost. Most to that damned blacksmith. The jewels recovered from the manor house could be sold, the survivors made into slaves, albeit cheap ones. The fanged girl had her revenge against these minor nobles and their tiny farming community, though for what grievance he did not know. Indeed, he had not an inkling as to why he followed her commands in the first place.

The Beginning
Alyssa regained her senses lying on her back on the gravel road. At first it seemed as though the events of last night were a bad dream. She couldn't have fought that enormous man, couldn't have been split like firewood, couldn't have seen her father die. She smelled smoke, and heard nothing. When she opened her eyes she first saw the sun, and as she sat up, something dark moving into the trees. Her father's corpse was beside her. Though she was clean, the ground beneath her was stained with death. Her clothes were still torn where the axe had driven through. She was dead.

But her lungs worked. She had a heartbeat, and could stand. She couldn't turn to look at her father. She walked to what had once been her home, now a pile of charred wooden beams. A glimmer caught her eye.

Sword in hand, she walked along the river's edge. Her hair had been bleached a bright blonde, her eyes strangely reflected in the water, as if they gave off their own light. She was not dead, but something altogether different.

~4 years later~

Alexander
Alex didn't run that night. Not for long, anyway. He had turned back, only to find that he was too late. His father's head was bent at an angle no one's should be, and his sister... it made him sick to think about it for too long. He had nothing but himself and his sword. A remarkable weapon recovered from the fires of a dragon horde - his preferred story. His dead father's burning smithy was a little too shocking, and made him sound like a scoundrel.

Being a sellsword wasn't much better, of course, but it was honest work, as honest as he was going to get for the time being. He had learned his father's trade well, both as a swordsman and as a smith, but a forge wasn't cheap, and he had only his weapon to make money with. Sentimental reasons aside, he would say to the tavern-goers, why sell a fine sword only once when you can sell it over and over for years?

Alex found himself in the employ of Surna's watch, to help combat a recent bandit threat. Some upstart named Morsus. A real giant, that one.

A Dream
They had made their home in a condemned building that creaked and moaned with age. Rats and insects could be heard scratching in the darkness. Among this group of sleeping squatters was a young woman with distinct blonde hair. She was taller and tougher than she had been those years ago. Surna may have been a fine town for those who had a trade, but she had nothing but a sword. One night someone had tried to take it as she slept. It was at his throat in an instant. Oddly enough, despite the thugs he brought with him, he merely smiled and made an offer. Her blade was his now, for better or worse.

She was lying awake one night, as she did most nights. Despite the consequences, there was still the occasional nocturnal visit. Her most recent suitor had come close to losing his identity.

Her suspicions were confirmed, as she heard the soft yet distinct sound of footfalls approaching her cot. In the darkness, she could not make out any of his features. He was definitely a man, but wore dark hooded robes that cascaded to the floor. Keeping her eyes half-closed, Alyssa could see him standing near the edge of her cot. He made no movements, but a faint whisper emanated from the darkness of his hood. Words that were for Alyssa's ears only.

"Your brother yet lives. Leave through the northernmost gate tomorrow at sundown, and venture into the woods. Beware of bandits."

Her eyes snapped open, but the figure was gone.

Family Reunion
Chances to slip away rarely came, especially just before sundown. That was when the day's "earnings" were counted. That smiling thief from years ago made it seem as though a great sum was owed to him, the exact amount of this sum never stated exactly. But what was made clear was that it grew with time, as it accumulated "interest." She could help him make money but could expect nothing in return but food and board, which, to his credit, he had faithfully provided. Alyssa had tried to escape once, but after being caught, never again decided it was worth it. As she ran down the alley, yelling erupted behind her. He had to be there. He had to be there, or she was dead.

The size of Morsus' tent was due to more than just his pride, of course. It was hard to miss, assuming one made it that far through the tangle of trees, undergrowth, arrows, and blades. Two people converged on it, a small and confused army of friends and foes dragging behind. In the fading light, a pair of swords ignited, a glow that pierced through the gaps in the leaves and branches. Nothing, it seemed, could stop them.

A low branch cut across Alyssa's face, drawing blood. An arrow whizzed by, and a bandit stepped out from behind a tree, only to be hewn in one swing. As she chased her brother through the trees, she could hear his footsteps drawing nearer. She could almost see him. The forest suddenly gave way to a clearing, in which sat a huge tent.

Some of the men there ran, others took up arms as they cursed the cowards. But soon more were fleeing than fighting. Blood was everywhere, split leather armor, shards of blades cut in two, and thick chunks of flesh sliced cleanly through the bone.

She was shocked when Morsus came roaring out of that tent, armored and with axe in hand. She knew now why Alex was here, and turned to him- just as he disappeared in a flash of blue light. Next to Morsus was a mage, his hand aglow with the same light. He let it drop, along with the rest of him, overcome by a sudden bout of exhaustion. A look of panic was on his face as he collapsed, but Morsus paid him no mind.

"Surna sent a little girl to kill me?" he asked in bewilderment.

Alyssa faltered, the glow of her blade dying as its tip collided with the ground. Alex was dead, now, too. She could hear the plants rustling, see the shapes of Morsus' warband emerging from all directions. Those who had run had simply regrouped.

"You look familiar," Morsus said. "Why do you look familiar? Why do you..." the mighty bandit leader burst into a laugh that shook the forest. "The Gods must surely hate you. They pluck you from death's hand, to deliver you to me again!"

Alyssa looked down at her sword as several blade points pressed against her back. It shimmered bright orange in the dusk light, too bright for her eyes. Too bright.

The mage leaked blood from his eyes, nose, and mouth. Morsus kicked him to the side as he convulsed on the ground. "This time, I won't end it so quickly," he continued. "Perhaps the Gods will wake you again if I make your death amusing enough."

The blades suddenly fell away from her, replaced by a warm spray of blood. Moments later, Morsus' stunned expression was permanently affixed to his face. His axe was cleaved in half, his armor was mangled, and his head finally came to a rest 8 feet below its normal height.

Better Days
In stunned gratitude the watch awarded Morsus' hefty bounty to the twins Alyssa and Alex. Even through its sheath her sword glowed still, but her brother wore the blade of a bandit, his own seemingly gone. Meanwhile, there was no word of what became of the smiling thief and his men. Whether they forgot Alyssa or moved on was, for the time being, a mystery.

Their revenge was finally had, and both earned a new chance at life. Yet in time they drifted apart, haunted still by past events. Alyssa resented Alex for fleeing that night, leaving her to fight and die alone. Alex refused to believe she had actually died, and reasoned that Morsus and his band would have merely defeated both of them had he stayed.

With his sack of gold, Alex finally bought that forge and continued in his father's profession. What fame brother and sister earned for Morsus' defeat was soon overshadowed, for Surna was a crossroads for many of the heroic sort, and a site of numerous great happenings.

Alyssa and her shimmering sword had a great many adventures, most lost to time. Among her friends she counted the kind spirit of a lovelorn warrior, a giant-blooded Pychekan, and a healer who dabbled in necromancy. She saw a great deal of combat, and strove always to improve herself. If the smiling thief ever returned to collect his due, she would be ready. But her reasons for working so hard, she realized, were also born of a desire to help, something Surna always needed. Had this desire always been part of her, or was it something different?

It was an ordinary day when the most important of Alyssa's many friends arrived. He did so without fanfare, dressed in simple robes, looking no higher in station than a beggar. Dressed in this fashion, Alyssa believed him to be the figure in her dream those months ago, and called to him immediately.

Although she was wrong in her assumption, there was a connection between the robed figure and the man who stood before her. As he explained, he was visited like she had been by a cloaked figure. A lifelong scholar of Tyr, Jacob (as was his name) spoke thus:

"I have traveled far, from a foreign land scarred yet preserved by the grace of Tyr. In His absence the world has festered, and numerous grievances have gone unanswered. But here His most important blow shall be delivered! Meeting His chosen instrument so soon can be nothing but providence."

Alyssa raised an eyebrow at this. Since escaping her old gang she had hoped her days of being used were over. Her hand went to her sword.

"If you will allow me to elaborate, that blade you carry was divinely inspired. Your brother carries its match. The power within them is too great for a lesser metal, or a single blade. Indeed, too great for a lone wielder. Together, they can not be stopped. Apart, they can not be kept.

Agents of darkness have expended much effort in preventing these events from coming to pass. Your home was destroyed by this "Morsus," guided in secret by a daughter of Shar. You were slain, your life restored by the grace of Tyr. And later, Alex in a similar fashion was saved."

Alyssa was shocked and afraid. This man, this "Jacob" knew more about her than she knew about herself. And he served a God, beings whose dominion over this world was felt in the blazing of the eternal sun, beings whose notice she had tried to escape - unsuccessfully. She wanted to run, but had enough courage to ask, "How do you know so much about me?"

"Is it not obvious? When prayers go out to the False Judge, there is no answer. But my God answers. And He has revealed much."

The Path of Righteousness
The nights grew longer, though it was spring, and the days became dreary and grey. The forest began to empty of birds and deer, and in their place monsters boldly stalked. Among them were the Shades, new horrors at the time, which terrorized Surna's populace. Darkness was growing, and like leeches vampires began to infest the town.

Although Alyssa had worked hard in the months before, now was when her true test began. Jacob did not seem concerned by the loss of her brother's sword, but instead pushed her towards further training. With his guidance, and the help of friends, she began training in earnest.

Lige was an old spirit, older than anyone knew, even himself. But his skill with a blade he had not forgotten, and this he passed on to the young warrior. In return, Alyssa was to find a way to put him to rest. This she swore, but with the condition that she would complete this journey before embarking on another. He accepted her word.

Zayl Rathman was Surna's most accomplished mage, specialized in healing, but quite skilled in the dark art of necromancy. His past was long and storied: a great evil haunted him, followed in his wake, killed those he loved. He tried to make a life for himself in Surna, even taking on the responsibility of being father to a displaced child, a girl named Isabella. Perhaps he sensed the danger that was approaching, that threatened all of Surna and beyond, and so agreed to help Alyssa, asking nothing in return. In her, as he later said, he sensed something abnormal; something had affected her, body and soul. More the latter, as he discerned, since she now had some magical talent, which he taught her to wield. Her magic was all lightning and fire, golden and cleansing. It reminded him of the celestial beings between the pages of dusty tomes, beings that had not shown themselves in a great many years, as he understood it.

She also knew the famous (or perhaps infamous) Kain Redwell, the Monk who became the most powerful man in the world. But that is a story best left for another time.

Of Jacob Alyssa saw little, but when he appeared it was always with more directives, more "commands from Tyr." She did not question him, as he had already proven himself to know things that were unknowable. She wanted this ordeal to be over, and Tyr to move on from her.

Alongside her training, she slew dark creatures. Her brother had already taken up the lucrative profession of hunting werewolves during the night. It was the view of many that his "magical accident" had left him with some means of teleportation. Though such a thing was unlikely, it was curious how the man could move fast enough to cut down a lycanthrope on his own. Regardless, he was undoubtedly a skilled warrior, Alyssa's equal in combat. At Jacob's urging, she sought him out, and began accompanying him on his hunts. In this way the two began to mend past wounds.

More than werewolves now roamed the forests at night, creatures new and old with indescribable forms perpetrated great evils. Alyssa had faced much, but one of her greatest feats was yet to come.

The Felling of the Dragon, Part 1
Despite the noble efforts of Alyssa and those near her, the darkness that spread throughout Surna and the surrounding lands would not be dispelled. Each sunrise revealed more fallen, heroes and commoners alike. Drained of blood, skinless corpses were all that remained. And in greater numbers were those who simply went missing, never to be seen again.

During one of their nightly hunts, Alex and Alyssa were ambushed by invisible creatures. Powerful claws raked their flesh before any defense could be raised, and their armor offered no resistance. It was only by a burst of magical light that the twins were spared. Their hunt forsaken, they hobbled back home, Alyssa struggling in her weakness to maintain the only light that protected them. All around them, shadows danced.

After Zayl mended their wounds, Alyssa ignored his caution and left in search of Jacob. Alex, who had received the worst of the assault, stayed behind to recover.

She did not travel far before finding him. He stood alone in a dark alley, oddly unscathed by the treacherous shadows.

"I've done everything you asked!" she called to him. "But I have yet to see Tyr's hand in this. Everyone is dying. My brother and I-"

"I had hoped there would be more time," he spoke suddenly. "But She moves more quickly every night. Tonight was but a taste of what is to come. We must strike back, tomorrow morning, or we will not live to see the next."

"Strike back how? These monsters are everywhere. Nothing we do seems to slow them."

"These creatures act with purpose, beyond what their small minds are capable of. A malevolent will has bent them towards its own ends. It is Shar's agent on this plane, one of her strongest generals. The Black Dragon Tyaminorel, Flayer of Men."

The Felling of the Dragon, Part 2
The small warband trudged through the undergrowth, occasionally slashing through low-hanging branches and shrubs.

Alex was dressed in scale-mail armor of his own devising, carrying a dagger and longsword on his belt. Slung over his shoulder was a heavy crossbow with steel-tipped bolts.

Alyssa wore a studded leather jerkin and greaves. She carried a kite shield on her back, and her sword, which glowed faintly still. On her belt were several throwing knives and a gladius.

Lige floated nearby, dressed as he was in death, a spectral set of bronze armor, shield and spear, the helmet of a centurion. Beneath it was nothing but an empty void, a mystery Lige had long forgotten the answer to. His equipment mattered little; his mind was his defense as a spirit.

Last of all was Forawian, an elven mercenary of some notoriety. He carried a pair of matching swords, and wore splint mail. His arms were protected only by his gambeson, and his hands displayed prominent markings, suggesting magic.

Jacob wore his usual robes. Alyssa, for one, pondered how he intended to face the Flayer.

"Do you know where we're going?" Alex asked Jacob. "There's no path here. How do you even know where this dragon is?"

"I'm curious, too," added Forawian. "I've never heard any tales of a dragon around these parts. And it's not exactly easy for a dragon to hide."

"I know he's here," said a voice like a whisper on the breeze. Lige's wispy form drifted past the group. "Was, at any rate. If memory serves."

"Oh, great, so we're trusting the senile ghost."

"Silence," Jacob commanded. "He is here. As you said, Forawian, it isn't easy for a dragon to hide. Finding him was the simplest part of this task. I accomplished it some weeks ago, with Lige's help."

"I'm glad you kept me in the loop," grumbled Alex. He turned to Alyssa. "How long have you known about this dragon?"

"Only since last night. And now I'm supposed to help kill it."

"The tales of the Flayer date back centuries," said Jacob, brushing aside a stray plant. "But they have faded from memory. Part of this is due to a long hibernation. He has doubtless been awakened once more to take part in Her machinations. Even if that were not the case, this world could do with one less evil in it."

"What kind of dragon flays people?" Alex asked. "I thought they only cared about roasting us alive, eating us, taking our shiny stuff..."

"Tyaminorel possesses an uncommon cruelty. Shar has given him gifts that compliment his malice. Among them, a breath that deconstitutes flesh. And long life, beyond his most aged kin. He is unfathomably old, and very cunning indeed. We are fortunate to have the element of surprise, though there is still great danger in this."

"I'm liking this idea less and less," said Forawian. "If it wasn't for the dragon-hoard-sized payment, I'd be headed back right about now."

"Are you sure he's not aware we're coming?" asked Alyssa. "Because it sounds like we're pretty badly outmatched here. There's only five of us, four who can fight, against an ancient dragon who breathes acid."

"You should know what you face, but my intention is not to demoralize. I wholly believe that by our strength and Tyr's guidance we will prevail. Tyaminorel has lived so long and accumulated so much that he no longer feels threatened by any being. This is his weakness - once we remind him of his vulnerability, he will falter, and he will fail."

"I hope you're right," Alyssa said nervously. Slight nods and solemn looks spread through the group.

"And you're mistaken, Alyssa," Jacob said after a time. "There are five that can fight. And some better than you think."

The Felling of the Dragon, Part 3
The mountainside was strewn with bones and rotting corpses. Streaks of blood ran down the stones and stained the dirt a deep brown, almost black. Though it was midday, the sun was nowhere to be seen. Clouds were pulled over the sky, and a mist hung over everything. The trees were still and bore no leaves, flowers, or birds; life had been leeched from the entire clearing.

"This is definitely it," said Alex, his voice trailing off.

"I knew it was here. Didn't I tell you?" Lige floated towards the side of the mountain, disappearing into the rock.

"How do we get inside?" Alyssa inquired. "I don't see an entrance anywhere."

"There are but two." Jacob approached the rock face, feeling along it with his hand.

"Is now a bad time to mention I'm claustrophobic?" Forawian quipped.

"Yes." Jacob's hand found a particular section of rock, which held a small opening, a crack just large enough to fit a man. Or woman.

Moments later, Alyssa was scrabbling out of the narrow passage, in complete darkness. She had to take off her belt to fit her weapons, and for a while stood fastening it, before she realized she was alone. She glanced around, first to the lone shaft of light cutting through the blackness, and then to the deeper parts of the cave, which she couldn't make out.

Suddenly, a light flared as a figure shot out of the darkness at her. She didn't move, however, even as it passed through her completely. And harmlessly.

"That's never worked on me before, Lige. Did you think now would be different?"

"Wrong! It did work the first time. You even screamed, a little."

"More like a small gasp. Which had more to do with the chills than anything else."

A crossbow clattered to the ground, and Alex emerged, barely visible in the dim light. Lige took on a brighter glow, illuminating the cramped cavern they now found themselves in. "Shouldn't you two maybe, I don't know, keep it down? Did you forget we're in a dragon's lair? With a dragon?"

Forawian shot out of the gap, landing on hands and knees. It took him a few moments to catch his breath. "Gods damned caves. And we're going to have to go back out that way aren't we, except trying to haul bags of gold. Why did I agree to this..."

"I'm just trying to take people's minds off it," Lige said, sparing a brief glance at Forawian.

"That's easy for you," Alex replied. "What do you have to lose? Not like you can die again."

"Wouldn't be so sure about that," Forawian said, dusting himself off. "I wouldn't expect a common beast to be able to kill a spirit, but a dragon? Much different story."

"We're all at risk," said Jacob, walking up alongside Alyssa. "Lige, douse your light. We can not afford to alert him until the time is right."

"When did you-..." she began, but trailed off. "Right, well, I guess we should press on, then."

"Yes," Jacob responded. "Lead the way, Alyssa."

She gave him a quizzical look, but noticed the group awaiting a decision. Her decision.

She stepped into the darkness.

The Felling of the Dragon, Part 4
What space there was shrank with each step, and the darkness remained a constant oppressor. Alyssa's only guidance was the feel of the wall against her fingers. The dark had never given her much pause until now.

Without warning she was plunged into icy water. Seemingly alone, she fought to get to the surface, swimming never one of her best skills. Finally she dragged herself onto the rocky ground, her arms bruised and cut from thrashing against the stone walls of the pool.

Lige, risking Jacob's scolding, suddenly lit up the chamber. There was indeed a pool of water here, treacherously deep. To the group's horror, a bloated corpse floated near the edge, and the waters were murky, befouled with blood and gore. Another corpse brushed up against the far wall, bobbing in the disturbed water.

Alyssa coughed a few more times than necessary, backing away from the grisly scene.

"Looks like a dead end," said Alex. He shot a stern glance at Lige. "Don't."

"Don't what? I wasn't going to say anything."

"The nearer we draw, the more dangerous such chatter becomes," Jacob said, his voice barely above a whisper. "This is... not what I expected."

The concern in his voice did not help the growing dread Alyssa felt. "So this isn't a way in... the only other route is-..." she glanced around. "...Where's Forawian?"

"Did he fall in, too? Or did he get lost somewhere further back?" Lige asked.

"And didn't call out or anything?" Alex said. "No, he must be down there. Maybe something got him."

"This is bad," Alyssa shakily stated. "If we find him, we should turn back."

"There can be no turning back," Jacob answered forcefully. "If something claimed Forawian, then it's only a matter of time before Tyaminorel discovers our presence. If that happens, it will be impossible to reach him again should we leave. It might even be impossible to leave."

The group looked at him in silence, until Alyssa spoke. "We should look for Forawian. We've come this far, and... Jacob's right. Surprise is our only advantage, and if we retreat, we lose it. How would we kill the dragon then, with more of us dying every night?"

"Have Lige make the dive," said Alex, after a short pause. "He can't drown, he's got light. If he finds the elf, great, if not... I guess we keep moving. Maybe there's another tunnel back that way."

"I won't be long," Lige said, before submerging. Minutes passed, and he did not return.

"Gods above," said Alyssa. "This is getting worse by the second."

Jacob stared at the pool for several more moments, before his head snapped up. "Stay close to me," he said. "I'm going in."

Before either of them could protest, Jacob sank into the water. "Wait!" Alyssa called after him. With an irritated sigh, she dove in.

The Felling of the Dragon, Part 5
There was a faint glow at the bottom. Alyssa followed it, propelling herself deeper into the frigid water. She tried not to think about the contents of the stagnant pool, which stung her eyes and seeped into her nose and mouth.

Just as she was about to catch up to the glow, it disappeared. Not because anything doused it, she saw, but because there was a secret tunnel in this pool. She turned around but did not see her brother. Had he fled? As her mind filled with curses, she swam through the small tunnel.

The glow was there for an instant, but faded. Perhaps it left the water. Or something extinguished it. Alyssa tried to stay calm, but her heart was pounding in her chest. Her lungs began to ache, and she realized she didn't have enough breath left to go back. She swam upwards, scraping along the ceiling of the tunnel, feeling for an air pocket.

Finally, her head broke the surface. She tried to inhale quietly, but soon realized there was no need. All around her were the sounds of a battle. Again, she found a glow, but it was obscured by shifting shadows. She began moving towards shore, but was grabbed by an invisible hand. It grabbed her ankle with inhuman strength and forced her back underwater. She struggled to find her sword as she thrashed and choked on the disgusting liquid. Barely, she managed to unsheathe it and swing. The grip relaxed, just as a powerful flash, its source unknown, blinded her for several seconds.

Collapsing onto shore, Alyssa noticed the fighting had stopped. Forawian sat on a low boulder, nursing a bleeding arm. He looked drained. Jacob stood beside him and Lige. The spirit, whose glow illuminated the small chamber, stood tall and straight in mid-air, but something was off in the way his shoulders bent. At his side, the armor was slashed, revealing patches of emptiness beneath. A black vapor drained from the cuts.

"Lige, you're... hurt." Alyssa stammered. This was the first time she had ever seen Lige injured.

"Oh, sure, feel sorry for the guy who's already dead," Forawian griped, wincing as he wrapped his arm in cloth. "Not the one bleeding all over the place."

Alyssa glanced at him. "...Sorry. I can heal that, you know. Here." She gently took his arm, ignoring his annoyed gaze, and channeled some magic into it. The slashes stopped bleeding, but remained scabbed over. They looked infected, despite being fresh. Alyssa examined them in bewilderment.

"These creatures inflict wounds as unnatural as they are," Jacob spoke. "After this work is done, we would do well to visit your friend, Zayl."

Forawian snapped his arm back, and returned to wrapping it. "Hexed wounds, just what my day needed."

"Did your brother not make it?" Lige asked, concerned.

"I didn't see him in the water," said Alyssa, her gaze falling. "I guess he decided to turn back."

"I could go back for him," said Lige.

Alyssa turned to Jacob, but he offered no input. "...We can't afford to lose any more time. Did any of those things escape?"

"No," said Jacob without pause. "None that attacked, anyway. But the noise would almost certainly have alerted others."

A rumbling from the cavern's depths echoed through the tunnels leading out of the chamber.

"The dragon stirs," Forawian said. "Time to go?"

"Yes," Alyssa said. "Time to go."

The Felling of the Dragon, Part 6
The chill of the cave made being soaked that much more unpleasant. Alyssa and Forawian shivered alongside the relatively composed Lige and Jacob - whose robes were oddly dry. As they ventured further, the air grew warmer. Alyssa didn't know how far below the surface they were now, only that they always seemed to be going downhill.

Regular gusts of hot air washed over them. The smell was foul beyond description. Alyssa fought the urge to cough, glancing at Forawian in the dim light. He looked uncomfortable, to say the least. Blood stained his bandages, despite the healing he'd received earlier.

It was revealed, of course, that the winds, which occurred at regular intervals, were the exhalations of a slumbering dragon. The cavern was easily the size of a cathedral, yet only barely a home for Tyaminorel, who filled most of the space. His black scales jutted out of its skin like so many sharp thorns, and the webbing of his wings was a deep purple.

He slept with his head on his front feet, talons larger than any sword splayed on the stone floor. Here the granite was etched with claw marks, yet the claws that made them remained razor-sharp. His tail was spiked like a mace, teeming with sharp scales and spines. It coiled around his body.

Far above the dragon's head was the other exit: an enormous hole in the ceiling, obscured by stalagtites, through which dim light streamed. The clouds had thickened, and it seemed far too dark to be late afternoon.

She heard a crunch. Looking down, she had stepped on a bone. Bones of every kind littered this place: animal and man, parent and child. She drew her sword, which shimmered only faintly. Not since the night she slew Morsus had it glowed with its full luster. Not since its companion was destroyed that very same night. Now it seemed woefully inadequate against the monster that rose to his full height before her. Why hadn't Jacob acknowledged that her sword's power had been extinguished?

"So you have come, Zerachiel." spoke Tyaminorel, not with his mouth, but in whispers that pierced their minds like glass knives. "I grew so tired waiting for you, I fell asleep. But you have finally come."

"Who's Zerachiel?" Forawian asked no one in particular.

"Tyaminorel," Jacob interjected, his voice louder than Alyssa had ever heard him speak. "Of your countless crimes against the free peoples of Talibar and beyond, Tyr has found you guilty. Your punishment shall be the destruction of your mortal flesh. Repent, and your soul will be forgiven. Resist, and you will be forever damned."

There was a pause, as the dragon exhaled through hs nostrils. "Just what I have come to expect from your misbegotten kind. You have the gall to proclaim yourselves champions of these 'free people' yet all are slaves to the whims of a self-proclaimed judge, a pitiful and broken excuse for a God. A mere mortal could usurp your Lord, such is his weakness. Is your mind so small that you can conceive of nothing but persistence as his lapdog?"

"I speak to the only lapdog here. A once-great creature, the pride of all dragonkind, who now begs at Shar's feet out of fear of death. Now you will face that fear."

The dragon snarled, baring teeth like jagged rows of daggers. "I think not," his voice rasped in their minds. A roar filled their ears, as the voice in their heads rose to a shriek that tore at their sanity. Tyaminorel's wings drew back, filling the entirety of the cavern, and took but one flap to dash them against the rocks with hurricane-force winds.

The dragon's mouth opened, his fangs flashing as purple breath blanketed the group. To Alyssa's horror, it was a fire that burned only skin. With a flash of magic she doused it before it could spread, and exclaimed a barely-recalled incantation to heal herself before the pain proved too great. Forawian survived by virtue of a glowing shield around himself, and both Jacob and Lige seemed unmolested by the flames.

Alyssa struggled to stand up, her mind reeling from the psychic assault, but was permitted no respite. Tyaminorel's looming shadow shattered into dozens of Shades, which in an eye-blink were upon them. Forawian's shield flickered unsettlingly as he used every ounce of his magic and swordplay to fend off the dark creatures. Alyssa blinded them with a flash of light, slew what she could, and produced another flash. When one got too close, she shot lightning from her fingertips, stunning it before taking its head with a single slash.

The dragon's dread maw opened for a second time, gushing violet fire. Alyssa was ready this time, imitating Forawian's shield to block the majority of the flames. The Shades paid Tyaminorel's breath no mind, and she felt sharp claws tearing open a hole in her armor. Blood spilled onto the stone, and right as the pain stung white-hot, Tyaminorel unleashed another shriek, sending her and Forawian toppling to the ground.

Lige fought his way over to where they lay, bashing shades aside with his shield, impaling others with his spear. "Jacob, do something!" New wounds had joined his old ones, more black vapours hissing out. Jacob, oddly untouched by the frenzied shadows, seemed more focused on the dragon. But upon hearing Lige's words, he sprang into action. A sword was suddenly in his hand, and where it slashed, a cluster of Shades fell dead.

Powerful winds buffeted the group, and Tyaminorel began to take flight. Jacob turned his attention to him again, and parted the clouds above. The sun never looked so bright, a beam of light so potent Tyaminorel's scales steamed where it hit him. His giant eyes squeezed themselves shut, his wings faltered, and he roared in pain as he came crashing down. The entire cavern shook as Tyaminorel's massive weight threatened to shatter its foundations.

"There is no escape from here, coward," Jacob exclaimed. "You will face your sentence." In a yet brighter burst of light, the remaining shades were obliterated. Alyssa finally managed to stand, beginning to heal herself of the numerous wounds she had received. Forawian was still alive, but in no shape to fight. She did what she could to stabilize him, keeping an eye on the dragon as she did so. She didn't see Lige anywhere.

A familiar voice echoed in her mind. "You could not kill me in your full glory, Archangel. Now you, spent, a pale fragment of your former self, think to challenge a cornered dragon?" Tyaminorel roared with enough force to shake the entire cave. Stalagtites fell from the ceiling and shattered on the stone ground. Alyssa dove out of the way as one exploded next to her.

It was then Alyssa realized that the dragon had taken no notice of her. Though its voice thundered in her mind, its eyes were affixed to Jacob standing there in his robes. He did look pale, and tired. His sword was gone from his hand. The fight had taken its toll on him just as it had on everyone else. She took a step towards the dragon, clutching her sword. It flickered somewhat, but not enough to attract Tyaminorel's attention.

"Whether by my hand or another's," Jacob said, "Whether in one minute or one millennium. Justice will be done."

"I continue to be disappointed by your foolishness. Is it possible you think your brothers will help you? They have abandoned you."

"It would be more accurate to say I abandoned them. But neither would fully be true."

Just as Alyssa neared Tyaminorel's foreleg, it shot backwards, kicking her into a rock. "A good attempt, slave, but I am not so easily fooled." Alyssa could only gasp in response, the wind having been knocked out of her.

"This is the fight the Archangel Zerachiel brings to my doorstep? It is a bad joke." The dragon reared up for one final blow against Jacob. "It's time to finish this."

"I agree." Alexander and Lige emerged from the tunnels, charging the dragon head-on. Seeing a chance, Alyssa rolled beneath it, jumped to her feet, and stabbed as hard and as high as she could. Her sword hit its mark, pushing past the softer scales of Tyaminorel's underbelly and deep into his body. Lige's spear struck the dragon in its exposed neck, sending hot blood spilling onto the stone. Alex raised his crossbow, and by miracle or skill, his shot buried itself in one of Tyaminorel's great eyes.

The shriek filled their minds again, as the dragon countered viciously. Its talons passed within inches of Alyssa's face as she dove out of the way. She heard Alex scream as he was hit by the flames. She looked up just in time to see Lige swallowed whole by the beast. He did not reemerge.

Forawian, pale as death and bleeding from numerous wounds, found the strength to stand. With a look of defiance, the embittered elf slung a fireball at his foe. Jacob's arm shot out in the same instant, and the wild toss found its way into Tyaminorel's other eye. Blinded and bleeding, the dragon shrieked in rage, its terrible tail lashing out like a whip. Both Jacob and Forawian were hit. Alex, supine, avoided the deadly blow. Tyaminorel's tail came back dripping with blood and gore.

Fighting back tears, Alyssa turned to see her sword lying next to her, glowing brightly. She did not know if it was her imagination, a sign from the heavens, or an indication that it had somehow regained its lost power. Tyaminorel roared in anguish, his wings flapping a few times. With no eyes, the dragon could not hope to take flight... could it? Wasting no time, Alyssa ran at her enemy, and sank the golden blade deeply into his flesh. Again and again she impaled it, as the lumbering beast roared and thrashed in his death throes. Twice he nearly killed her, but in his blindness his lethal blows failed to connect. Each time she dodged back and charged in again with another stab.

Finally, Tyaminorel's legs gave out, sending him to the ground with a quaking thud. "I die," he spoke. "But you... you will not be so fortunate, Alyssa. How my Queen has desired this..." he breathed his last.

Alyssa placed her sword in its sheath, staring at the corpse of an ancient dragon. It dawned on her that she had no strength to stand, and thus she collapsed.

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PostSubject: Re: Alyssa Munroe   Sat May 30, 2015 1:05 pm

Labyrinth
It was dark. She was alone.

She felt no ground beneath her, no sense of space or time, only darkness. She supposed she was dead.

"No."

Instantly, she was seated at a table, across from someone she did not recognize. The walls, if there were any, were shrouded and invisible. The floor was carpeted in shadows. Only the table, the stranger, the chairs, and the dim light that illuminated the scene - light which had no source - was visible.

"No?" was her reply. She looked around, confused.

"You are not dead," spoke the stranger.

"Why am I-"

"-here. It is your decisions that led you here."

"Am I a prisoner?"

"Yes. As are we all."

"Where's-"

"-my brother. How are you doing that? Get out of my head. And now you're repeating a drinking song over and over in the hopes I'll stop. It doesn't matter."

She got up from the chair, turned around, and walked away. She came to a table and two chairs, dimly lit. A stranger sat across from her. She turned again and walked forwards. There was a table there. When she turned her head, there it was. There was always the table and chairs, the light, and the stranger.

"You're looking for answers, but that isn't my purpose here. I am here, in fact, to ask you questions. Not because I lack the answers, but because you do. And I want you to learn that you do."

She sat back down, glaring at him.

"You're determined not to cooperate. You don't realize how little power you have. That's typical of your kind. Very well, let us begin. You have, in fact, already discovered the first question. Why are you here?"

"...I don't know. You wouldn't tell me."

"I supposed you would say something like that. I'm afraid it's not the answer I'm looking for. Why are you here?"

"I don't know."

"You aren't listening to the question. Why are you here, sitting at this table, speaking to me at this very moment?"

"I don't know!"

"This clearly isn't going anywhere, Alyssa Munroe." The stranger mouthed her name with disgust. "So I'll give you a hint. You aren't answering the right question."

"You mean-"

"Yes, exactly. Do you have an answer?"

Silence.

"You've never thought about it, have you? You aren't the only one. Very few of your kind think about it. Actually consider it, beyond the surface of it. But that is only the beginning of this discussion."

"I don't understand any of this. What do you want from me?"

"You just said it. You don't understand. You wish I would be less cryptic. But you see, it isn't something that can easily be explained, especially to someone who doesn't understand. The root of the problem is you. Not as an individual, but as a collective. You believe yourselves to be important, to have value. This is demonstrably false, but because this disagrees with your irrationality, your so-called 'ideals,' you choose to ignore the facts."

"Indignation. How dare I call into question your delusion. I will go further. You destroy everything you touch. To even keep yourself alive, you must. You hide these shameful acts behind tradition and procedure, behind walls physical and mental. You claim to desire order, altruism, justice, whatever name you call it - but to 'achieve' these things you destroy more. They are merely excuses."

"Now you're angry. Too much to think, to accept what has been said. You lack the necessary perspective, and you won't allow yours to be changed. But you have no control over any part of this."

She screamed more loudly than she ever had before. What followed was confusion and disgust that gradually ebbed.

"Pain and pleasure. These are concepts your primitive intelligence understands. They can change you, whether you want to acknowledge it or not. In time you will gain the understanding my Queen possesses. And you will be able to serve your true purpose."

The stranger talked, and she resisted. Ceaselessly, patiently, he corrected her. The table, the chairs, and the light remained unchanged. If time passed, she could not have known.

"Most of reality exists as infinite possibility," spoke the stranger. "It is a black-greyish 'substance,' if you can call it that. It has not one form, but infinite. One such form is this... place. This form exists because it was one possibility, but it is also a possibility for it not to. Because of this, it will die. It will happen in a very short time, in fact no time at all. Your limited perception is what makes it seem so... lasting."

She nodded, her face soaked in blood. She tightly clutched strips of skin, clumps of hair, and the strange jelly-like flesh of her own eyes. The stranger was not going anywhere, nor was the pain. She was, at this moment, little more than bruised flesh stretched over broken bones and severed ligaments, torn open to expose raw nerves and tender muscles.

"The creator, of the Godhead, as 'He' is named in some circles, had something to do with the way this pocket of existence was formed. 'He' made it 'solid,' 'liquid,' and 'gas.' Three distinct forms, the same but different. This primal state, all three forms in unison, is known as 'Truminum.' It is the foundation of all things physical. Of you, and your realm."

"The plan, in basic terms, is to revert what is there to this basic form, and rebuild in a superior configuration. The Godhead can not, 'His' possibility ended where ours began. But my Queen has found a way."

"Your Gods lie to you. They promise salvation, eternal life... but you are the seeds of death. Their commitment to you shall doom them. This existence need not end, but so long as you creatures exist, it will. You must be rewritten."

She only had the strength to shake her head.

His tone carried with it a hint of disdain. "You make me waste so much of my energy, so much of my... time. I could break you if I truly wanted. Like a sword shattered on the anvil. That might be what will happen. It's your choice, if you even possess the faculties to choose."

She was forced let go of the pieces of herself - her index and pinkie fingers were being pulled in opposite directions. With a loud pop the skin and connecting tissue tore free, and the fingers continued moving apart until they left her hand. There was a loud snap as the middle and ring finger were divided in a similar fashion. She had long since lost her fingernails, and most of the skin was already gone. There was very little blood, and to her surprise, the ruin that was once her hand fell off with little resistance and disappeared on the darkened floor. Her other hand, she saw, suffered a similar fate. And then, suddenly, came the pain, as fresh as it had been the first time she felt it. She screamed, but no sound came out. Behind her shattered jaw and broken teeth, her voice had long since died in a spray of blood.

Time passed, and the stranger left, apparently satisfied. He brought the light with him. In a moment she realized she was standing, and the table and chairs were nowhere to be found. The pain was also gone. She stuck out her arm - which, to her amazement, seemed intact - but touched nothing. She reached down to feel the floor. It was solid and smooth, nothing more. There were sounds, she thought, the sound of breathing - her own. The sound of her heartbeat, her footsteps as she frantically walked in the darkness.

In time, her heart sounded like thunder. Only the floor existed, everything else was darkness. She heard distant cries, and saw strange shapes that floated and danced across her vision. As with the table and chairs, nothing could shut them out. The words of the stranger echoed in her mind, and the cries grew louder, closer. She fell still and collapsed.

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