Other [FanFic] Rose & Sunflower 2: Vox Arcana (Updates MWF) -Ch 51 [27 January] -COMPLETE

Discussion in 'Fan Works' started by Risukage, Oct 3, 2016.

  1. Risukage

    Risukage Giant Laser Beams

    //Welcome back everyone, for a new story and a new adventure! I mean it as exactly that, an adventure. However, not going to lie, this might end up being pretty stupid. The idea itself isn't too bad, and the story should be fun, but after playing a bit of SDV again in the beta to check a few things, it struck me how drastically different this would be from the game, and it just feels like I'm going to take WAY too many liberties and depart from the SDV "universe." Also, no lie, this started out as a collection of "hey, wouldn't it be cool if..." ideas that became a semi-coherent story that sounded like a fun adventure. Oh well, too late to back out now, I've promised everyone a story and I'm going to deliver, damn it!

    Going to try to keep up with my tri-weekly schedule, unless I get a massive case of writer's block, or it hits me how cripplingly silly this all will be and decide I don't want to embarrass myself any further. :p

    If you're just joining this series for the first time, go back and read the first story. Ha! "The first story." Like there'll be anything else after this. :rofl: Thanks again for reading, here's hoping that this meets everyone's exacting expectations!//

    Sitting around the table at the community center, the members of the Elements of Sound and their support crew went back and forth about the set list for their upcoming gig in two weeks. Sam was only half-listening, as he'd suddenly gotten the inspiration for a new song and was busy scribbling notes in between plucking away at the strings on Harmony, which was being recorded by a microphone and laptop to his side. Lys had been bringing both Resonance and Harmony to practice, since it allowed Sam to do stream-of-thought writing with Lys's help on Resonance, and because Elliott could carry the second guitar, reducing Lys's burden.

    Sam looked up for a moment to make a note on a piece of paper that Lys was looking at, noticing that his friend wasn't reading, just lost in thought, smiling faintly as he ran a finger over the simple platinum ring on his left hand. Unable to stifle a laugh, he startled Lys, who realized what Sam found so funny and flushed a bit in self-consciousness.

    "You got so domestic since you got hitched," the spiky-haired man grinned, "it's actually kinda adorable, you know." Their friends chuckled at this, and Lys rubbed the back of his neck, smiling softly. "And it's also kinda weird. I mean, c'mon, where's that sassy flirt that we all grew to love, hunh?"

    "Do you remember when I moved here a year and a half ago? What I was like?"

    "Heh, yeah! You were so quiet and shy. ...And scared." Sam got thoughtful for a moment, putting his chin in his hands and elbows on the table. "I remember at the Flower Dance, you looked like you were going to run at first when we walked up, but then you smiled and it was so warm and friendly. I decided that I wanted to get to know you better, 'cause you looked like a nice person and I wanted to help you out."

    "And you know now the pain and fear that I was carrying, everything I was running from. Even after I learned that I could trust everyone, I still felt the need to wear a mask, and continued to hide behind a smile and a wink, keeping everyone at arm's length. I don't need to do that anymore." Lys reached over to squeeze Elliott's hand as he brushed the carved pendant with his other hand; it, the ring, and his earrings were his only jewelry now, as the guitar-pick bracelets and pendant were stored in Resonance's case.

    "You don't need to change, dear, I love you for who you are, as you are."

    "I want to be a better person, love, for all of you. And this time I'm changing because I want to, not because I had to." Sam nudged Lys with his ever-present grin.

    "Fair enough, but that better not mean you're like this on stage. Part of the draw is the sexy bassist being all hot and stuff."

    "I'm a professional and you know it. Don't worry, I've simply removed that mask, not discarded it. I'm still not completely in control of my fire yet, but I'm getting closer. I just don't want to burn anyone ever again."

    Abruptly, everyone looked up and turned toward the mountain. Alex's grip tightened on his soda can without realizing it, crumpling the empty container.

    "Did anyone else feel that?"

    "Yeah, and it wasn't an earthquake, it felt more...personal," replied Sebastian. Elliott was also perplexed, a look he did not often wear.

    "It felt like a ripple in my soul, as though cosmic agents had thrown stones in the pond of reality. My body is untouched but my spirit is wary."

    "Once again you know how to articulate what everyone's thinking, love. And it wasn't something like an EMP, 'cause we've still got power and nothing was damaged. Weird..." Uneasily, they returned to their previous discussion, except for Haley, who fiddled with her camera, unable to focus. About ten minutes later she dropped it on the table and stood up, knocking over her chair, turning again in the direction of the mountain.

    "Something comes." This sort of statement would normally have left Sam laughing, but they all felt it, and even he knew that something wasn't right. Lys dashed out the door, followed closely by everyone else, running to the town plaza, guided by some unknown force. Townsfolk who saw their sudden arrival gave them startled and confused looks, but paid them no further attention. Sam glanced around, scratching his arm without thinking about it.

    "Okay, maybe we're just all on edge, or going a bit crazy, 'cause-"

    "Shadows!" Lys suddenly spat, for the third time regarding the approach to the mountain with distaste. At first they didn't understand, until they saw a wave of darkness spreading down the road to town. It wasn't a solid object, simply hundreds of small creatures, numerous and swift, of shadow given form. Beasts, monsters, vermin... The tide of creatures was nearly a swell of void, drawing in light and sound, producing an eerie emptiness, moving as one, a single-minded mass. The swarm shifted, turning away from the plaza and toward them, sensing... something. Panic now gripped the townsfolk, who now saw what bore down on the town, and those who were not paralyzed with confused fear ran. His friends were right behind him and fanned out to break the wave, throwing themselves against the sea of shadow.

    The rage and fire Lys hadn't felt in so long burned hotly within him, and he charged the oncoming onslaught recklessly. There was something new there, however: power. Instinctively, he reached out for it, drawing in energy until he couldn't hold any more. It needed shape, form, use... He knew what it could do, what it would do, and gave it that shape, that purpose. But it needed one last thing, a spark, an initial flame... Reaching into his pocket, he flicked open the lighter that he now always carried and lit it with a practiced motion. The flame caught, and he could feel it, he knew how it danced and moved. It felt alive, like an extension of himself, and he called upon it. The flame melded with the power he held, allowing him to summon fire of his own, which wrapped and spiraled around him, gathering energy with each pass. Guiding the fire as an extension of himself, he lashed out, sweeping the front ranks with a swath of flame that obliterated shadow-creatures ten feet deep and just as wide, leaving nothing but a smoky wisp of un-light.

    Elliott felt something tug at his mind, and glanced out of the corner of his eye to see the large decorative fountain in the middle of the plaza, merrily splashing. It called to him, he reached out to it, and it flowed to him. Water was slow to move, but once in motion it was unstoppable. There was a moment of pause as he felt it merge with his essence, becoming part of himself. Infusing it with power, he nudged it to get it moving, flowing out of the fountain as a single mass, then guided it as it picked up momentum, rising high over the ranks of the army of shadow-beings, crashing down as a tsunami in the center, scattering them like twigs in a whirlpool. Most, however, were destroyed in the initial impact. Nudging the water again, he reformed it and sent the torrent coursing up the hill to the back of the swarm, bisecting it before calling it back, allowing gravity to do the work in crushing his enemies again.

    She had always envied the wind, the way it was always so free and uncontrolled. Abigail loved the sound, smell, and feel of the breeze, and enjoyed windy days, even though she was the only one. Now she could feel the wind, its power, her power. So free, so strong, as gentle as a breeze but as destructive as a tornado. Inhaling deeply, she breathed the air of her home, tasting it properly for the first time, feeling power course through her and making her feel lighter yet stronger than she ever had before. With a flick of her fingers, she sent the energy spiraling tightly, tiny at first, but gaining strength and velocity as she focused, dropping it in the middle of the pack that Elliott and Lys had carved off with their own attacks. The wind served only to ripple the surface "skin" of the creatures at first, then buffeted them, then lifted them into the air as the vortex took form. The vacuum of negative pressure created began to pull in more creatures, which flailed helplessly as they were whirled in an increasingly faster and more destructive pace that shredded them into smoky wisps.

    Energy and Sam were synonyms; he was always in motion and perpetually cheerful. The Sunshine Child, he was often called. But it wasn't sunshine that now caught his attention, it was the crackling of power lines overhead that he had somehow never noticed. Opening his mind, he reached out to the electricity without really knowing how, just already knowing how, and grinned as he felt the lightning answer his request. A brilliant white arc leapt off of the pole into his waiting hand, danced around and down his arm, spiraled around his chest and up his other arm, and leapt like a trained animal off of his other hand, aimed at the pack that was nearly on top of him. Crackling thunder followed behind the trail of zig-zag light as it hopped between shadows, briefly illuminating them before they exploded into nothingness. Laughing, he called down the thunder again, but from the nearest four poles, not one, causing devastation among the creatures that never slowed in their advance.

    Sebastian had never called himself brave. Smart, but never courageous. But in this moment, something awoke in him, and he followed his friends with the intention to protect. He stopped abruptly, feeling something. Kneeling, he put a hand to the ground, listening to it, feeling the vibration. The earth called to him. Almost all of his life he had lived on that mountain, had walked its slopes and traversed the upper levels of its mines. He had always been stoic and reliable, like the earth. And like the earth, he would not be budged unless he put his mind to it, and now he would show them what would happen when the earth itself rose up. Focusing his mind and power, he sent it into the ground in front of him, rippling the stone, feeling the energy wave travel ahead and under the army, where it erupted upward in sharp, jagged spikes in some places, and ruptured into ragged chasms to consume in others. Those lucky enough to evade both of these attacks still found themselves staggered as the ground rumbled beneath their feet, knocking them down and into each other.

    If Alex could choose one word to describe himself it would be "steadfast." There were many who would be surprised that he knew the meaning of it, but he wasn't stupid like many had thought, and he was fiercely loyal and protective of those he cared about. Now, something terrible threatened all of that; his home, his friends, and his family. Angry, he felt himself become more aware of something. Something that could help. Casting about, he saw one of the wood-and-metal park benches in the plaza. The metal, something about it... Grabbing the arm of one bench, he pulled, and the metal stretched like taffy, coming apart from the wood. He had to fight, this was his home, these were the people he cared about, he needed a weapon. The metal understood, and he poured his mind and power into it, forming a warhammer, something that should have been too heavy and unwieldy for anyone to use, but felt light and responsive in his hands. Without a second thought, he dove into the melee, swinging wildly, crushing and scattering the shadow beasts.

    Haley had always been popular, but still always an observer. She saw everything, but rarely talked about it. She had always just been there. Now, she could see everything, and she knew how to use it. Without words, just thought, she saw her friends fighting against the shadow army and guided them; ensuring that their attacks would complement and not collide, assisting each other in watching each other's back. With a focus that she had developed over years of photography, she watched both the entire fight and its individual components, directing and assisting her friends, and with her guidance they drove back and destroyed the shadow wave, leaving behind an eerie silence that slowly faded to allow sound and light to return.

    Before anyone could celebrate, the shadows rippled again, stretching and melding, and from them something grew. It was...something... Twenty feet tall and bipedal with batlike wings protruding from its back, it was birdlike, though the term that might come to mind to those of a classical education was "wyvern." The only thing that wasn't completely ebony-dark were its eyes, simply orbs of pure white. Sleek black teeth in a gaping void of a maw opened and roared, and it lashed out with a powerful forelimb that ended in three long, sharp talons. Lys and Sam dove aside in opposite directions as Alex ran in, blocking the strike on the haft of the weapon, and remembering the weapons training that Lys had given them before, continued the flow with the movement to deflect the attack away and charge in with one of his own. His hammer struck it firmly in the leg, causing it to stagger and swipe at him again.

    "It's solid, so we can kill it," Lys snarled, "Elliott, cover me!" Running in from the side, Lys whipped out with a tendril of fire, intending to strike and slash. He scored a successful hit, though the skin of shadow melted back into place. Sam's lightning crackled over its surface, making it hiss in anger, but seemed to do no other damage. Sebastian and Abigail had teamed up to take it off-balance; the wind battered it from every direction as the ground beneath it rippled and shook, keeping it from gaining a sure footing. Despite this, it remained upright, and reared back to lunge at them and snap at Elliott, who had looped a solid coil of water around a wing and was trying to pull it to one side and take it down. He barely dodged it, and stumbled himself as the beast turned sharply, pulling him along, not expecting it to do the same to him. Releasing the water completely, he tried to call it back from its scattered state, not paying attention for a moment. The beast continued its pivot, now snapping its jaws shut mere inches from where Sam had been, but was too fast to catch, its tail coming around and catching Elliott in the chest and sending him flying backwards, bouncing off of a tree, where he didn't move.

    "Shit, he's down. Sam, check on him, I'll-" Alex was interrupted by a howl of rage. The air around Lys now rippled with heat, and the beast ignored his friends to charge him, seeing the new threat. Before anyone could move to assist, a spiral ring of fire surrounded it, causing it so stop and roar with pain. This quickly became a white-hot, twisting column of incandescent flame, an inferno that obscured the beast from vision and whipped the air around them with the heat of an oven. As quickly as it had begun, the fire dissipated, leaving behind nothing but stone that had melted into a misshapen solid shape and bits of glass where sand had fused together. Panting heavily, Lys swayed on his feet, still holding on his palm a dancing flame.

    "Nngh, damn, I was careless," groaned Elliott, standing up with Sam's help, "that was amazing dear, how did- Ah! Lysander!" The rage that had powered him through the entire fight faded at the sight of his husband, safe and unhurt, and Lys collapsed. Elliott rushed to him, sighing with relief to feel breathing and a pulse.

    "He seems to be fine, but at the same time, what all of us just did right now should have been impossible. I would claim it a dream, as would most of you, but dreams have never hurt like that."

    "This was no dream, wordsmith, and the wizard will see you know," offered a new voice. They all sought for a name to put to the face of the raggedy, unkempt, yet unassuming man, dressed in tatters and holding a strange, small piece of carved hardwood and wound with vines. Linus, he was called, they finally remembered. He saw the questions that they were about to form and shook his head. "He will answer and explain it all, though it may take some time. This was neither chance or a mistake, and your help is needed. Your home is in danger and you have been chosen to fight for it. And yes, your companion will be fine," he reassured, nodding to Lys and Elliott, "the wizard will make sure of that. Here, this will take you to him right away."

    Placing the wooden item on the ground, it stood on its point without assistance, and a bright circle appeared around it, interlaid with runes and arcane symbols, which flared brightly to open a portal above it into... nothing. It was six feet in diameter and completely flat, with an edge sharper than a razor on its side. Elliott picked up Lys and strode toward the portal without hesitation or to wait for his friends, stepping through it and vanishing. The others paused, unsure if they should follow, until Sam shrugged and grinned.

    "It's not the weirdest thing we've done so far today, yeah?" He leapt through as well, and after a moment of hesitation, everyone else followed.
      Last edited: Oct 13, 2016
    • Pudassassin

      Pudassassin Hard-To-Destroy Reptile

      Oh, wow! A new journey begin for the townfolk of the Perican Town, great opening you got here. [​IMG]
      • Minimanta

        Minimanta Spaceman Spiff

        Ohh, looking good so far!
        I like the different powers you gave everybody, they fit them :)
          Pudassassin likes this.
        • Gabaw

          Gabaw Spaceman Spiff

          That. was. awesome! It's very descriptor heavy which is something different from your previous dialogue preference and it's really good! I loved all the origination and discovery of the powers, pretty badass i'd say. I'm also a fan of Haley being a director of sorts. It's not a flashy power but one that in practical application is one of the most important for not killing eachother on accident :rofl: Looking forward to more!
            Alkanthe and Pudassassin like this.
          • Ghostly Fox

            Ghostly Fox Heliosphere

            Oh dear. Sam? With electricity based powers? Hope he doesn't short out too many electronics. Or shock too many people, given he and personal space aren't exactly synonyms.

            I hope to see "how do I control this- oh shit, I just lit that tree on fire." type shenanigan aplenty. Also, Haley as a combat encounter controller? BADASS. Though I wonder if her abilities might be closer to the 'charm person' type, and the ability to "direct" her allies is a sub-effect.

            Also, I see they didn't end up with an obvious healer, which I can see causing problems.
              Gabaw and Pudassassin like this.
            • Risukage

              Risukage Giant Laser Beams

              They're going to need more than one stardrop, mate, their starting energy will NOT be enough for what's coming up. ;P

              Nifty! I'd been bouncing around the idea since something like the first third of the original story, and this all just seemed to fit, but I wasn't sure if anyone else saw it the same. I also wanted to depart from the "traditional" four-element style favored in most Western mythos and storytelling, and the number of characters and types of abilities here just lined up perfectly with what I had in mind.

              I proved with the last story that I can write nuanced dialogue, build interesting characters, and develop meaningful relationships. This time I want to see if I can pull off something more descriptive and action-driven, where the last one was plot- or dialogue-driven. Not a bad start, I suppose! And someone on AO3 remarked something similar about Haley as well; as an IRL support character and a manager, I'm more aware than a lot of people how important it is to have someone to guide and direct. Having a group of skilled people is great, but they need to have someone to coordinate them and look at the bigger picture so that they can focus on their individual tasks and abilities, as well as not get in each other's way.

              Come on, you can't tell me that he'd be anything but an amazing lightning-build. :) As for shenanigans, oh there will be plenty. Also as commented over at AO3, Sam is the walking meme-lord, and is dangerously trope-and genre-savvy, so between him and Lys, there will be a lot of amazing dialogue and world-breaking hilarity. Elliott and Sebastian will have their hands full keeping the two of them in line, as well as putting out the literal fires and keeping them grounded, as they have the two most dangerous and volatile powers, and will need a lot more practice than the rest of the group to control and manage said abilities. Haley is one of those hard to quantify but invaluable types, and I'm having a proper grin that everyone else is intrigued by what she's going to have going on as well. She didn't get a lot of screen time in the last story, so I'm hoping to not only fix that, but also give a plausible reason for why. As for a healer, well, they just got started. We'll see how the party divvies itself up pretty soon. :3
                Gabaw and Pudassassin like this.
              • Risukage

                Risukage Giant Laser Beams

                //Holy exposition, Batman! Soooo many words today. Class is in session, readers, be sure to take notes, and if you fall asleep, well, it's your problem, 'cause this will be on the test later! ;P

                Today we try to make a bit of sense of what just happened. Or a bit of less un-sense, as this all is very confusing. Will the wizard sufficiently explain everything, or is the writer too much of a talentless hack to properly explain everything in a satisfactory manner? Read and find out! Also, you all have NO idea how much fun I'm already having with Sam's dialogue, and Friday's is going to be just as good. ALL HAIL THE MEME-LORD.//

                Elliott stepped aside after passing through the portal, knowing that his friends would be close behind. His eyes adjusted to the slightly dimmer light, and he looked around to gather information about his surroundings. He was inside of a very large, circular room with a ceiling that was easily thirty or forty feet high, apparently a tower, built out of heavy, carved, dark stone. It was illuminated by arcane lights, much brighter than torches, and put him in mind of magical LED lights from their clear, bright color. Numerous doorways led to stairs that went both up and down, the arched frames inscribed with softly glowing runes and sigils. The room was clean and tidy, and the walls were lined with shelves, stacked with books, scrolls, notes, and items to numerous to list or identify. A large, hexagonal circle took up a significant portion of the floor in the exact center of the room, which also bore the same faintly glowing runes and sigils as the doorway, though they looked far more complex and important. In front of him and slightly to the right, toward the back of the room, was a work area, clearly well-used and currently in use; three long, sturdy wood tables met up in a "U" shape, covered with even more notes, books, glass vials and containers, though there was an apparent method and madness to the mess.

                Standing in the middle of the table was an older man with violet hair and a matching moustache and beard, wearing what one would generously call "wizard's robes," all in black and purples, replete with matching cloak, but wearing a somewhat battered and worn cowboy hat. He was adding something to a steaming mug, stirring it before sniffing it, which had apparently produced the desired result, because he set the mug back down and put on a curious set of glasses, with multiple lenses that could be raised or lowered in conjunction with each other. The rest of the group now appeared through the portal, and took in their surroundings much as Elliott had. With a sigh of long-suffering weariness, the wizard picked up the mug and walked toward them, fiddling with the lenses in differing settings as he scrutinized them thoughtfully.

                "Hmm, that's promising. You all display an unusually high level of thaumic entanglement." He peered at Elliott and Lys with surprise and switched a couple of other lenses. "Particularly you two. Well, it looks like you all might survive this after all. And yes, he'll be fine, he simply over-exerted himself. It's not uncommon, and the mana concentration around here his high enough that he should passively regenerate quickly enough. There, see?" Lys groaned, putting a hand to his head and rubbing his eyes, blinking away blurry images.

                "Bloody hell, whatever I just did I really shouldn't- The hell." Elliott carefully let him drop to his feet, still supporting him as he figured out his balance and looked around. "Okay, so that wasn't a weird dream from dozing off at the community center. I really did channel fire and flame to smite my enemies. That's pretty badass. Ah, thanks," he remarked, taking the mug from the wizard, sniffing it experimentally before taking a drink.

                "Dude, you're just going to drink something that some random dude hands you?" Sam asked, happy to see his friend doing well but curious about his actions.

                "All of you are here and safe, and if he really wanted to harm or kill me he'd have done it while I was out cold. What is this, anyway? Doesn't taste like much, but it's somehow refreshing." The wizard was gruff but patient, apparently used to having this sort of discussion, and strode back over to his work area to rummage around for a few things.

                "For lack of a better term, mana potion. You drained your internal reserves far too quickly with that visually impressive but reckless display of power. Yes, yes, it got the job done, but you expended your mana too quickly and in a real fight that is dangerous, and often deadly. Though I'm not surprised, someone always drains themselves in the first few days, and it's damn near always the fire element."

                "So we're not the first to do this."

                "And you all likely won't be the last. You're fortunate that not only was that wave of Shadows extremely underpowered but that you were Activated in time. I shall have to have words with Krobus and the Adventurer's Guild, they are supposed to be the early warning system to ensure that I have time to train you lot before sending you off to do Yoba's dirty work." Elliott was watching and listening carefully, wearing a calculating look that they did not often get to see.

                "You were observing our battle. How? And you speak of others before us. I assume that there is a story to be told, and that our... skills have a purpose. One does not suddenly attain the ability to control the world around them without reason. Further, you mentioned 'thaumic entanglement.' I am familiar with the concepts of quantum entanglement, in which subatomic particles are bound to one another and influence each other's state simultaneously, regardless of distance. There is a similar state for arcane particles?" Lys drained the mug and grinned.

                "So what, do mages have lengthy arguments about whether thaumatomic particles act like waves as well, and whether or not the two -slit experiment can be replicated in an arcane setting? Do you prefer the Copenhagen Interpretation or the Many Worlds theory, or do wizards have their own?" The wizard gave the both of them a flat look, not amused, but not bothered at the same time.

                "You may be jesting, but you are closer than you think. However, I do not have the time right now to delve into higher level arcane theory. Perhaps later. Right now you need to understand why you were Activated and what your enemy is."

                "Oh, nifty, only an hour or so since I discover that I'm a pyromancer and I already meet up with the wise old mentor who will provide the necessary expository backstory in order to set me off on my own Hero's Journey, where I engage in self-discovery and self-actualization as I attempt to save the world, or at least a small part of it, from some Big Bad that will destroy or consume or corrupt all the things if we're not successful." The wizard gave him another look, this one most definitely unamused. "What? I'm a bard, stories are kinda what I do."

                "It's very nearly a pity that the valley will lose your bloodline," the wizard sighed, "it's almost worth wishing that you'd gone and spread your seed or wild oats or whatever euphemism is in use these days." Lys sputtered as Elliott looked embarrassed, and Sam and Abigail laughed.

                "Excuse you! I'm quite pleased with the fact that I shagged half of university campus but didn't walk away with or leave behind anything unexpected or unpleasant, thank you very much! And what does that even mean, that this sort of thing runs in families? Elliott just moved here, so unless there's something that he's never mentioned you've left out details."

                "There are a number of things I've not mentioned because you won't shut up," the wizard snapped as he took back the empty mug, "now if you'll kindly stuff it for a few minutes I can explain and get you out of my hair that much sooner."

                "Totally not a natural color," Sam remarked in a loud whisper, nudging Abigail.

                "Of course it isn't. It's magical, you prat. And if you all keep interrupting me I'll never get some peace and quiet around here." Alex stepped in to try and smooth things over.

                "Sorry, we're all a little wound up and, well, Lys and Sam are both kinda cheeky even at the best of times. Let's start over. I-" He noticed at that moment that he was still holding the warhammer that he'd shaped from the park bench and winced. "Damn it, I forgot about that. I'm going to have to find a way to replace that bench. Um, I don't think we ever caught your name, mister...?"

                "I am Rasmodius, and that is all you need to know about me for now. As for all of you, be seated, this will take a while, though hopefully not as long as I despair it will." He folded his hands behind his back and paced back and forth while he gathered his thoughts as everyone sat down around a table, which was set with cups and a large pot of tea. "You, Lysander. You state that 'stories are what you do.' Very well, tell me about the legend of Yoba and The Shadows."

                "What? Wow, that's a pretty old story, but it's interesting. As I recall, it starts..." He dropped the empty teacup, eyes and mouth wide, and gave Rasmodius a look of horrified understanding, which the other man found satisfying. "HOLY SHIT. You have got to be kidding me! There's no way in hell we should have survived that sort of fight! Even if stuff is lost in translation or myth, or things are exaggerated or changed over time for the purpose of making a better story, we all should have been completely slaughtered by those things."

                "I concur," stated Elliott, pouring tea for himself and Lys, "it is a story that is as old as anyone can remember and a tale that has endured the ages, despite it being a local legend. Further, it apparently has roots in reality and truth, which pertain to our current situation." Abigail stared into her cup, fists on her chin, remembering the story in question.

                "Mom used to tell me that story when I was growing up, and I loved it. I always wanted to be a heroic adventurer, with shiny armor and a sword and magic, going off to fight back the bad guys and saving the world. It's weird how it's actually a thing."

                "I've played tabletop and video games forever to escape reality and immerse myself in a more interesting world," Sebastian commented, taking a sip of his tea, slowly sweeping the bookshelves with a longing gaze, "the thought of being able to study something beyond reality is fascinating, and now... I could actually be a proper wizard. Sam can give me all the shit he wants, but this is almost a dream come true." Sam jabbed him in a friendly manner, grinning like usual.

                "Yer a wizard Sebby. Though now that I think about it, you're a sorcerer, since this was something that we did naturally instead of studied from books. Though you're screwed if you're casting off of your charisma score."

                "And you are screwed if you have to cast off of your wisdom score."

                "Oooh, nice!"

                "We did fight a dragon of sorts, didn't we? Though it looked...small," Haley commented, neatly sipping at her tea. Rasmodius nodded, continuing to pace back and forth.

                "Technically, a beast of that type would be called a 'wyvern,' although classic wyverns lack the forelegs and simply have legs and wings, whereas dragons possess six limbs. However, its size and shape give it the diminutive moniker. And to answer your question, Lysander, yes, by all rights you all should have died in that fight. The only two things that saved you were that it was a hasty, underpowered raid, and the Junimos saw fit to Activate you as quickly as possible. There was no time to properly Awaken and Empower everyone, but they were able to nudge in the right direction." Everyone heard him pronounce the capital letters, and they latched onto those words. Rasmodius waved a hand to forestall the questions that he saw them simultaneously form.

                "You will learn about that in a moment, but for the moment know that you have simply been 'Activated,' in which you have been granted your abilities, but you do not have full control of them nor do you have your full power available to you. And no, while it does not run in families, nor is anyone a 'chosen one' of your story tropes, some family lines do tend to carry the right temperament and skills that are called upon each generation, much as certain animals are bred 'pure' for specific known and guaranteed traits. The von Morgensonne line is one, and every fire wielder has come from your ancestry. That is not to say that every one of your predecessors had been Activated, but they were a known quantity should the need arise.

                "As for the fight, well, I am waiting on word from Linus about Krobus, as well as reports from Marlon and Gil. With the Junimos I was able to scry remotely and view your battle, but only because they were actively assisting. Usually we have some warning of the Shadows preparing to move and attack, but this time it was completely unexpected. They likely attacked in order to cause fear and panic, despite them being weaker and less effective in daylight. A nighttime raid upon the town would have harmed and killed, but not produced nearly the level of terror that they needed in order to derive the power that they sought." Lys set down his cup properly this time, reaching for the pot to pour a second.

                "The stories tell that the Shadows are beings not quite of this world, and they feed off of negative energies. Usually they are only a nuisance and cause small problems, but now and then they get strong enough to form an army and invade. Once they draw enough power they are able to summon Umbra Volatus, and the only people who can destroy it and send it back to the void are the Chosen of Yoba. So how much of this is embellishment and how much is real? And what has been left out?"

                "All is true, and much has been omitted. It is a cyclic event, and one that I and my colleagues have worked for years to try and break, or at least mitigate. They were dormant for three generations, and we thought that the cycle might have finally been ended. But it is this time that might be the last, and for which side I do not know. Usually the Shadows resurface every other generation, and each time I train and instruct those chosen by the Junimos to send them back from whence they came. This is the first time in memory, though, that they have moved like this. We have always been warned and prepared, but this was a surprise assault." He pulled a gold pocket watch on a chain from one pocket, very old and worn, but still in good condition, and frowned at it before continuing.

                "They are thaumavores, feeding off of magic and energy in general, but gain the most from human emotions. Further, this was a relatively small force, so they did not want to waste too many resources on this attack, or they do not yet have the ability to summon more of their kin from beyond. It takes considerable energy for them to remain on this plane, which is why the valley is not constantly overrun. Years will pass before enough power is collected to call forth enough of them to this world to be a threat, but once here they cause untold chaos and fear, which power them further, and can allow them to bring into our world their lord and master, who is capable of existing on our plane indefinitely once summoned, and can use his life force to sustain his followers. Killing him sends him back and scatters the lesser Shadows, but it is a difficult and dangerous fight, and the cost is always paid in lives. ...So many lives..." He sighed and sagged wearily, appearing much, much older than he initially seemed, before sighing once more and composing himself. Alex's forehead wrinkled as he thought of something.

                "So that's why there's no Chosen that are... What was the word, 'Activated' at all times? Because there's no need for it unless there's enough of them to be trouble?"

                "That is correct, and it never fails to surprise me that it's always the one with your power that is the one who considers and asks about a standing army of our own. In addition, your abilities take power from you as well. Having even Awakened members, not even fully Empowered ones would be taxing on the land as well as well as them. I gave up my abilities long ago, but even being merely Activated I cannot stray far from my tower, as the lack of mana outside of the valley would slowly drain and likely kill me."

                "So you were one of us until you took an arrow to the knee?" snarked Sam, earning a punch in the arm from Sebastian and irritated looks from the rest of the group. Rasmodius looked confused, wondering what he had meant by that.

                "No, I simply stepped down and have not re-Awakened my abilities since. The Shadows do not use arrows and I have taken no injuries of that sort. Why, do I walk with a limp?"

                "...It was a joke... Screw it. So what were you?" Sam asked, pouring a second cup for himself and passing the pot to Elliott.

                "None of your damn business. All that you need to know is that Marlon, Gil, and Linus were Activated with me, and we have retained some level of our abilities in order to provide guidance to each next generation so that they are not blind and defenseless, like we were. We are the keepers of lore and memory, and we search for answers, for alternatives. Our desire is to see that nobody ever need to attain this power ever again, but our search has as of yet yielded nothing. And speaking of, where in the name of the light have you lot been?" he demanded, as two men strolled in through a portal that just opened. One wore an eyepatch under silver, unkempt hair, wearing a red cloak over one shoulder and a well-worn but functional green tunic over heavy brown trousers and boots. His companion reminded them of a Gold Rush miner, with a suspenders holding up denim jeans over a grey flannel shirt, sporting a rather thick beard, and almost no hair under a round, wide-brimmed hat.

                "We've been scouting the upper levels of the mines and tracking that pack back from where it came, Ras," replied the man with the eyepatch, "we had no warning, either. One moment I'm honing an edge on a sword and the next a swarm of Shadow-beasts is hauling ass out of the mine and down the mountain. We're lucky it was a daylight raid. They didn't even trip any of our wards."

                "And don't give us crap that we're not maintaining them," his companion added, "I checked them just last week and everything was just fine. Had a look just now and they're still good, still intact. We might be dealing with a new type, one that either we can't detect or is smart enough to mask itself for a short time. Where's Linus? Krobus should have sent up the alarm, unless he's managed to break his binding spell or something and get free." At the mention of his name, there was a swirl of golden light, and the man in question appeared, bouncing a black, flat, smooth stone on his palm.

                "He's still bound to this world, and he's not the least bit happy about this attack. Mostly because he knew we'd breathe down his neck for not saying anything. He's been cut off from the swarm, apparently, because he felt nothing. Usually a buildup even this small would have been enough for him to sense, but he had no idea until I confronted him. This is bad, Ras, we're just lucky that these Chosen are also strong and instinctively skilled in their abilities. How's their bond? They fought well together out there, it looks like they trust each other, and their Voice is good at seeing both the big picture and details at the same time."

                "I've not seen a level of thaumic entanglement like this before, we may yet stand a chance."

                "So what's our power level? Over nine thousand?" Sam asked, grinning so hard his face must surely have hurt. Everyone around the table groaned at the reference, and Sebastian punched him even harder in the arm than last time, which only served to encourage him. The four elders stared at them, wondering what joke it was to which they were not privy. Shaking his head, Rasmodius resumed his pacing.

                "I suppose that it is time to move on and get them Awakened. No time to lose, we may be too late as it is. Finish your tea and we will depart."

                "What is it?" asked Sebastian, peering quizzically into his cup, "I'm not a tea person but this doesn't taste or feel the way tea normally should."

                "It is a mana drink, similar to the one that Lysander was given earlier, though not as potent. I will teach you all how to brew it so that you can more easily replenish your internal mana reserves, but do not become too dependent on it, as you need to passively regenerate through your respective elements as well as the world around you. Mana poisoning is difficult to obtain but once one is ill it is unpleasant until its effects pass. Though I know that at least one of you will try anyway and discover for themselves the hard way, and I've a fair idea of who." He shot a meaningful glance at Lys , who glared right back. "I will explain further and answer questions in a short while. Right now, let's see just how good your bond is, and whether or not you all will have the strength to fight and win."

                He strode off across the room to one of the many doors leading out, taking a flight that went upstairs. Shrugging, Lys pushed back his chair and followed, as did the others after finishing the last of their cups. The other three men watched them go and sat down at the vacated table, pulling out maps and discussing their findings, not at all happy about what they had discovered and what it might mean.
                  Last edited: Nov 26, 2016
                • Gabaw

                  Gabaw Spaceman Spiff

                  omfg so many horrible refs :rofl: I love it. "Yer a wizard sebby" :rip: lmao. There's one thing I did learn, "thaumic entanglement." Something new every day. The plot thickens! It's heating up fast. You can just sense the cusp of urgency in the air. It's gonna be an uphill battle with these guys getting their powers down but they have some intrinsic advantages it seems. Hopefully they're ready when the horde strikes again!
                    Pudassassin and Risukage like this.
                  • Risukage

                    Risukage Giant Laser Beams

                    //Do you ever have moments where you stop what you're doing, sit down, and think to yourself, "what the HELL am I doing?" ...Been getting that all of this chapter, but maybe it'll be easier to be epic when I'm not basically describing Pretty Power Soldier Dress-Up or some nonsense. Also, because it was all descriptors I didn't get to riff on this chapter as hard as I wanted to, but I still got a couple of references, so yay me. (Maybe I should make a game of it, see how many people get and what ones...) And my hat is properly off to and a cookie for anyone who gets the Everquest ref, that's gotta be properly obscure. :3 (Also, yes, Elliott is totally pulling a Log Horizon glasses-adjustment thing, and Shiroe's character design kinda did influence what I wanted his armor to look like. GODS I wish I was a better artist........) I promise to start being more awesome with this soon, just gotta get all of the boring setup out of the way first. ;P//

                    The stairs led up into the room directly above the one that they had just left, which was empty save for the same rune-circle in the center of the floor, and even more sigils, markings, and inscriptions covering nearly every other surface. Rasmodius reached into his cloak and pulled out seven pendants; flat, rounded glass in a gold-colored setting on a chain.

                    "In order to Awaken everyone you will first require a focus. It has no intrinsic magical power, but once you have attuned to it you will be able to draw on your abilities, as well as channel mana from your environment instead of just from your internal reserves. You will be much more powerful and have greater control, though not as much as your Empowered state. However, it does not draw as much power to remain Awakened, whereas being Empowered constantly drains your mana to maintain your armor, weapons, and abilities. I will elaborate further, but for the moment, put these on and assemble at a point around the circle. Haley, I will need you in the center. You are the Voice of Yoba, and you are the nexus of everyone's power, in addition to allowing skills to be transferred to or shared between others."

                    "So, what, the world revolves around me right now? I can live with that," she giggled, putting on the pendant and flipping her hair out of the way. So what do I do? Just stand here and look awesome?" Rasmodius sighed again (and definitely not for the last time) and rubbed the bridge of his nose.

                    "Close your eyes and look inward. Hear the song of the world around you, and reach out to it through your focus. Draw mana through it, and in doing so, merge your mind with the focus. Let it become an extension of yourself." Frowning, Haley did as was asked, and for a moment nothing happened, until the pendant flickered briefly, then shone with a warm light, transmuting from a shard of plain glass to an opal. The rest of them felt as though a door in their minds had been opened, and through it they could feel...something...

                    "Good, the Voice has Awakened. Now for the rest of you, your turn." This sort of self-reflection was second nature for Lys, and he expanded his consciousness to the entire room, feeling and hearing every sound, more clearly and vividly than he ever could have before. Holding the pendant in one hand, he reached out to the power that filled the room, calling to it, providing a conduit through which it could flow. He felt it respond to that call, same as he had done earlier that day, but this was so much more... Energy suffused him, filling him with warmth and strength he'd never felt before, and with a flick of his mind sent it spinning and dancing in and around himself.

                    The pendant grew warmer, but not unpleasantly so, and he felt it become something different, something familiar, an extension of himself. Running a thumb over it, he inspected the new gem, which was now a deep red garnet. He looked around the room to see that everyone else had been successful; Alex now wore a diamond, an amethyst for Abigail, Sebastian admired an emerald, a topaz matched Sam's hair and vibrant grin, and Elliott held a dark, ocean-blue sapphire.

                    "That went better than I had expected," Rasmodius commented, suitably impressed, "it usually takes a couple of tries to get everyone Awakened. You all show promise."

                    "Looks like we missed part of the show," said Marlon, sauntering up the stairs, followed by Gil and Linus, "but now the fun part begins. I've half a mind to go make popcorn, this part always amuses."

                    "Laugh all you want, Marlon, but training and guiding them is my responsibility, so you'll excuse me if I'm delighted to find my job made easier. Now sit down and hush, I've work to do." He turned back to the Chosen, most of whom were stifling giggles. "You should be able to feel the ambient mana in your surroundings now and properly channel it for your use. You have numerous skills and abilities available to you right now, but they are not as powerful or versatile as those in your Empowered state. Further, while you have limited ability in sharing and transferring skills, you suffer no such limitations when Empowered." Haley saw something moving at her feet and squealed with delight.

                    "Ohmigosh, they are so cute! What are they?" Small, apple-shaped creatures with spindly arms and legs began to materialize in the room, and everyone stared in delighted wonder.

                    "These are the Junimos, and they are your guides and assistants. Now that you have Awakened you can see and interact with them. They are the ones who chose each of you for your mission, and they are what allow you to channel the elements." Sitting down, Haley reached out to them, and giggled happily as one bounced into her lap to be hugged. Alex looked at them with a puzzled expression, trying to remember something, then gaped in awe.

                    "Before time there was only the endless golden light. The light called out to itself...'Yoba'. Yoba wanted more. Yoba swirled the golden light into a vortex. Yoba swirled and swirled until a hole formed in the eye of the vortex. From this hole sprung a seed. Yoba smoothed the golden light. Yoba smoothed and smoothed, and the light became soil. Into this soil, Yoba planted the seed. The seed sprouted, and behold! A vine sprung skyward, twisting and probing, casting a writhing shadow onto the golden void. After 11 days, the vine bore fruit. Yoba, with knowing wisdom, peeled the tough skin off the fruit and saw that the world was inside. And so that is how the world came to be." Everyone looked quite impressed, especially Rasmodius.

                    "Very impressive, young Alexander, you know the scripture of Yoba from memory. Forgive me if I did not take you to be devout in your beliefs."

                    "Err, I'm not, actually," he averred, blushing a bit, "but grandma has that on a needlepoint in the living room that she did years ago, before I was even born, so it's just something that I kinda picked up, y'know? They look exactly like the fruit she stitched, so... Well..."

                    "You remember correctly. Yes, the Junimo are made in the image of the fruit of the world, and are the valley's protectors and guardians, though they cannot do it alone, just as we cannot fight the Shadow by ourselves. We must all work together." Lys was amused by the multicolored creatures, and knelt to offer a hand to one. The ones near him squeaked in terror and backed away. He stood up quickly, startled and shocked, not expecting this reception.

                    "Did I do something to offend them?" Rasmodius listened to their frightened chirping and shook his head.

                    "...The Wildfire. That is their name for you. They fear your power and lack of control. You have always had a volatile temperament, and apparently at one time you threatened to 'burn the world.' They have not forgotten this."

                    "I- That was for something entirely different! I couldn't hurt them!" Rasmodius raised an eyebrow in reply, and Lys felt Elliott's hand on his shoulder. There was sympathetic sadness in those blue eyes for a moment that he didn't understand, until he realized that he had summoned fire without thinking about it; flames flickered and twisted around his clenched fist. Dispelling it, he looked away, embarrassed. "I've always tried to protect everyone. Have they forgotten that, too?"

                    "It is not a matter of forgetting, it is that they do not yet trust you to maintain control when lost in, well, to make a joke, the heat of the moment. And with that, let us proceed to the next step and unlock your next state." Removing and carefully folding the glasses, he put them in an inside pocket and gave everyone in turn a stern and determined look.

                    "Not only will you be at your full power, you will draw upon the skills and knowledge gained by those before you. Currently you are novices learning your first steps, but when Empowered you can delve into the thaumic memories of your predecessors and learn from them. Hundreds of years of knowledge and fighting prowess will be at your command. Clear your minds of everything. And I mean everything. The only thing in your thoughts will be your focus. Study it, embrace it, become one with it. Reach through it into the past, grasp the knowledge latent within, and draw it to you. You will find a shape within your mind: it is the armor that was used before, and though you will craft your own, you must first reach out to what was before you can create what will be. Haley, once more, you will lead."

                    Again, Haley did as told, her face scrunched up in concentration. A brilliant light surrounded her, and her clothes changed, shifting and morphing into something new: a simple a-line dress in white, with butterfly sleeves, and the symbol of Yoba in gold across the bodice and again at the waist in a belt, remarkably resembling the dresses traditionally worn at the Flower Dance. Gasping again in delight, she twirled around once to see the wide-paneled skirt flare out as she admired herself.

                    "Oh, it's lovely! I wish I had a mirror! Though... Something is missing. I think, yes..." Focusing again, her eyes narrowed as she saw something not quite there, reaching out to grasp something unseen, and a golden staff, topped again with the symbol of Yoba, appeared in her hand. "Ah-ha! I thought that I was missing something. But now I'm not missing anything. My mind has expanded beyond the boundaries of space and time. I may be the Voice, but my eyes and mind are more open than they ever have been. So this is what it's like to be clairvoyant." Abigail bounced up and down with unbridled glee.

                    "Eee! We get transformation sequences! This is so freaking amazing! I'm going to be such a badass Magical Girl!"

                    This new surge in power was felt by everyone, and once more Lys was the first to try it for himself. He called out to it, inviting it, like a partner to dance, and it replied. In his mind there was a form, but he couldn't see its shape. That shape now called to him, asking him to give it form, and he replied.

                    I am a Bard. I am quick of wit and blade, skilled with song and sword. All skills are mine to know but none to master. Dance with me, sing with me, let us resonate...

                    He felt himself swell with energy, and a shape took form in his mind. Pouring energy into that form, he felt his clothes change and shift around him, being more than mere garments. A tunic-shirt, open at the neck, flared out over his elbows and hips, in dark crimson, over which a waistcoat in black similar to the ones that Elliott wore wove itself into existence. The waistcoat was lightly armored, enough to protect, but not at the cost of agility. His trousers shifted slightly, from the cargo pants he'd favored into something heavier and more reinforced, again providing defense without costing speed. Fingerless gauntlets that covered his arms almost to the elbow and belted, knee-high boots completed his change, but there was one last detail, one more thing that called to him...

                    Reaching through space, he opened his mind and sought two last items: the swords that he and Abigail would practice with. He felt them with his mind and grabbed them by the hilt with his hands, pulling them from their previous location. As he did so, he felt the scabbards follow, materializing to affix crossed across his back. Marlon stared at him with a mix of relief and anger, which was impressive for a man with only one eye.

                    "That's where the hell those have been?! We've been searching for those since the last Chosen were called up!"

                    "I found one in my attic, but I've no idea how Lys got it just now," Abigail replied, as surprised as Marlon. Sebastian crossed his arms across his chest.

                    "And I found the other while swimming in the lake by the house a few years ago. I also want to know how the hell Lys pulled that off, though it is pretty cool." Marlon huffed with the same mixture of relieved anger at this information.

                    "That would explain it. The last Chosen took the death of the owner of those pretty hard, but we never expected them to hide them to hide away those blades like that. Regardless of their loss, it's a weight off of my mind to get them back." Lys sheathed them neatly over his shoulders, noticing that it was a practiced, fluid, and instinctive movement, though it was something he'd never done before. Apparently one or more previous fire wielders had used this style. His hand brushed something protruding from his back, and he reached over his shoulder to bat at it, grinning as he felt something bat-like.

                    "Oh, no way. Guys, I've got wings. I'm a sexy incubus, yes! Totally rocking the corsair swashbuckler look, too!" Small wings, barely a foot long, twitched as Lys tried to figure out what new muscle groups controlled them, or if they were just a part of his clothes. Rasmodius tilted his head to the side, examining Lys's new form.

                    "I am not surprised. Fire and air are the two elements who have the innate ability to fly, though you are the first fire Chosen to have manifested a physical trait, and I do not know if it will give you greater control and stability or if it is merely for show. I hope that they are functional, as wind flyers are slower but more stable, and fire is fast but chaotic. You had best stock up on bandages, as you're going to find yourself losing to gravity quite often for some time."

                    "That will be unnecessary," remarked Elliott, pushing his silver half-rim glasses back up his nose, which he hadn't been wearing earlier, "I will see to his injuries, as well as those of my friends. I believe that I have found my calling, and I shall now answer."

                    Like Haley and Lys before him, he opened his mind to the past and the present, and summoned his own armor: elegantly tailored slacks and a coat in white over a sapphire-blue shirt, with buttons and accents in gleaming silver. Knee-high belted boots, similar to the ones Lys wore, white with blue and silver were next, but not final. Silver armor flowed like mercury into place over his left shoulder and covered diagonally the left side of his chest, protecting vital areas but leaving him free to move. Other segments of armor flowed into place over his arms and legs, but were not fully connected, simply providing some level of defense. A white cloak settled into place, clasped under the armor on his shoulder, and he brushed it aside with a dramatic flourish, holding out one hand, palm up, willing one last item into existence. A massive book, leather-bound and silver-accented, dropped into his waiting hand, opening neatly, its pages turning of their own accord as they were rustled by the arcane power that its owner imbued it with. Heavy silver chains now spun into place around his waist, linking to the book, which Elliott closed with a snap.

                    "I do believe that I now possess sufficient skill as to put our good doctor Harvey to the test. If knowledge is power then it appears that I have ascended."

                    "Dang, bro, I totally wouldn't have pegged you for a cleric," laughed Alex, and Sebastian shook his head.

                    "Arcanist. This is healing power derived from study and knowledge, not granted from an outside power. Though that may be a misnomer if we're being powered by the Junimos. And speaking of knowledge, I know exactly how this needs to go."

                    Closely mimicking his coat that he wore when performing with the Elements of Sound, he was enveloped in a dark green set of robes with a double-breasted row of obsidian buttons, and a silky black shirt and trousers. Arcane runes in black shone around every edge; collar, sleeves, hem, and hood, and he was the third to sport the tall boots, though not as heavily armored as Lys and Elliott. A slim, glasslike staff of solid obsidian appeared in his hand, and after a moment of thought and a cheeky grin, the material at the top flowed and solidified into a thin, sharp, and glinting scythe blade.

                    "Now that is a proper wizard's staff."

                    "Aww, no more sexy butler, but you do have the Gentleman Wizard thing going on," noted Abigail, observing him with her fists on her hips and a pleased smile. "Well, looks like it's my turn. Sorry, sweetie, no chainmail bikini, but if you ask politely later I may try to make an exception!"

                    Her armor was very similar to Lys's, though a vibrant violet shirt instead of red, and a snug-fitting black leather armor chestpiece with matching gauntlets, and small, feathery black wings. Holding out both hands, she called to herself the weapon of her element, a large compound recurve bow, etched with runes and sigils.

                    "Kick ass, I bet I can wreck fools from a crazy distance with this! Though I can also see an improvement..." She stuck her tongue out of the side of her mouth as she focused, and with a strange warping of the material, the bow broke in half and melded into twin pistols. "Freaking YES, ranger and gunslinger. I've got slow, hard-hitting power as well as fast and reliable damage. I am going to kick so much Shadow butt, you have no idea." She twirled both pistols expertly and secured them in holsters that had formed in response to her new weapons.

                    "Not as much as I will," rebuffed Sam, "I've got a good feeling about this."

                    His clothes didn't change much; the denim of his jeans and jacket looked more reinforced and sturdy, and he was the only one to retain sneakers instead of boots in addition to adding fingerless gloves (not the long gauntlets that Lys and Abigail wore), but copper lines, resembling the circuits on a silicon chip, worked themselves around every edge of his clothes, same as Sebastian. The air around him seemed to crackle with power, and a simple, six-foot long staff of solid copper was his only weapon.

                    "Looks like I'm already badass enough, I didn't need fancy stuff like you all do. Wow, I feel so...fast. It's like the most amazing caffeine rush ever, but without all of the bad side effects. I can't wait to grab my skateboard, I bet I could set some land speed records with it. Hmm, this is cool, but it's kinda gonna get in the way. Let's see..." A moment of concentration later, and the staff neatly wrapped itself in a coil around his left arm, and a look of comprehension dawned as he realized the implications of his new abilities. Alex rubbed the back of his neck and shrugged.

                    "Looks like I'm last. As weird as this is, it's kinda cool. I wonder what I've got going on."

                    Armor. All of it. Gleaming steel armor with runes and sigils covered him in a manner that would have made warriors of old stand up and take notice. Full plate allowed for no breach in his defenses, and though it looked heavy enough to weigh down even someone of his strength, he wore it as if it were no bulkier than a windbreaker. At his mental command, a shield affixed itself to his left arm as a warhammer materialized in his right, and he laughed as he saw the resemblance to the one he had crafted earlier.

                    "I think I could get used to this. I used to look up to the idea of the heroic, chivalrous knight as a kid, especially when dad got really..." He trailed off sadly as he recalled bad memories. "I wanted so badly to be strong and honorable, who would look out for people that couldn't. It looks like I've got that chance."

                    "You have for a while now, y'know," Lys smiled, "I picked a fight with you and you still took the high road and became my friend anyway, and you've watched my back ever since. You've been the knight in shining armor you've always wanted to be for a lot longer than you think." Sam pumped his fist in the air and called his staff back to its original shape.

                    "And I think we're going to kick all of the bad guy ass! We've got a tank, heals, deeps, and crowd control. Let's do this! Leeeeeeeeroy-!"

                    "No," Sebastian interrupted, punching him in the shoulder again, "we are not going to Zerg the mines today."

                    "You're no fun."

                    "I'm in no mood to get my ass kicked before I get the chance to figure out all of my spiffy new powers." Rasmodius sighed again and disrupted the banter before it could get going again.

                    "This was a far smoother process than it has been in the past, so for the moment I am encouraged. Now the difficult part is to see whether or not any of this information is going to stick. Notice, for instance, that you all feel much, much more powerful than you did just a few minutes ago. But notice also the toll that it is taking on your bodies. In time you will learn to boost your natural regeneration from the world around you in order to maintain your Empowered state for longer, but right now the only thing that's keeping you at this level is the tea you just drank. I have two last things to instruct you while in this state before I must ask you to revert back. Linus?" Nodding, Linus rummaged in a bag on his shoulder, producing more of the strange vine-wrapped shards of hardwood, passing a handful to everyone.

                    "Even in your Activated state you will be able to teleport short distances around the valley, but only to specific locations. These shards will allow you to open a portal to any destination of your choice, but they are destroyed by the arcane energies that they channel and can be used only once. The portal will remain open as long as the person who created it powers it, so all of you can travel via a single portal, but the person who opens it must be the last through. There are, however, a few places to which you can travel to and from without the need for the warp shards. You all are familiar, I am certain, with the carved stone statues around town?"

                    "Hey, yeah! I wondered what that thing was behind my house!" Lys piped up, and Sebastian seconded the statement. Elliott tapped a finger to his chin as he thought and remarked that he'd seen the same on the beach near his old cabin.

                    "Those are statues and many others are ones that we carved and empowered ages ago to allow fast travel across the valley for a minimal power cost. They derive their energies from the land around them, and can be used to travel between each other without burning your internal reserves, and if you are attuned to them, you can teleport to them directly from nearly anywhere in the valley. Simply visualize the statue in your mind, open your power to it and once you feel the link connect, step through space to it, as though- Damn it, not yet! Lysander, you- Augh!" Slapping a hand over his eyes, Rasmodius made a strangled noise of frustration as the red-clad and red-haired man grinned with understanding and vanished in a swirl of light.

                    "Pay up, Gil," Marlon remarked, and the gray-bearded man muttered something unintelligible as he rummaged in a pocket and handed something over. "It's always the fire wielder who teleports first and without warning. Every damn time. Runs in the family, I guess!"

                    "Is there anything that the pyro-guy does that doesn't annoy the hell out of Razzy, 'cause this is honestly kinda funny," Sam laughed, earning him a look of irritation from the wizard in question.

                    "First, no. Second, don't ever call me 'Razzy' again. Third, I shall return presently." He vanished in the same swirl of light and reappeared about ten seconds later through a portal, holding Lys by the scruff of the neck, who was having a very good laugh.

                    "What? You said to pay attention and I did! It's not my fault that you're such a good teacher that I just did it automatically." Rasmodius now shot Elliott a frustrated look.

                    "I should feel empathy for you in that he is your problem to deal with on a daily basis, but at the same time you are the one who was foolish enough to marry him even though you knew what you were getting into."

                    "He has redeeming qualities, I assure you," the Arcanist replied, chuckling politely, "though sometimes I do confess to experiencing moments of frustration as well."

                    "But I always make it up to you, love," Lys replied, flashing Elliott a leer and a wink.

                    "I do not think that that will help ameliorate the situation with him, dear, so you'd best be on your best behavior if you wish to avoid future altercations."

                    "You're probably right. He's too old, and he looks like he could be Abby's dad, and that's just weird for me." Pinching the bridge of his nose in frustration, Rasmodius took several deep, calming breaths as this time Linus nudged Marlon.

                    "It's your turn to pay up."

                    "If you three are done having bets at my expense..."

                    "For the moment."

                    "...Right. You all have about another half an hour of power left in this state, so while you are here it is a good time as any to practice your abilities, in addition to learning to work together. This room is heavily shielded and warded, so nothing you can do will damage this place."

                    "Challenge accepted!" piped up Sam and Lys at the same time, earning a flat, blank, unblinking stare that Rasmodius held for so long they almost began to worry.

                    "...As I was saying... I will watch and guide, but I will not intervene unless something becomes too dangerous. Time to see just how skilled you are and how good your teamwork really is."
                    • Gabaw

                      Gabaw Spaceman Spiff

                      "If knowledge is power then it appears that I have ascended." OOOOOO SNAP!! mic drop Well idk if it was intended that way but it sounded pretty badass :p Not only does everyone have a fitting power but also fitting uniforms now too. i got no clue what an a-line dress or a bodice is but the reference to the flower festival helped :rofl: Sam tho... lmao what can I say. Dude already came dressed for success hahaha. I think ol Razzy's gonna find out that his indestructible room just hasn't met the right group of misadventurers!
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                      • Pudassassin

                        Pudassassin Hard-To-Destroy Reptile

                        DAMIT, I totally not expected that to happen :rofl:[​IMG]
                        And I like how you blend them all together, great work!
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                        • Minimanta

                          Minimanta Spaceman Spiff

                          Ohh, they all look so awesome! :D
                          I'm loving this fic already, sounds like next chapters is gonna be exciting.
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                          • Risukage

                            Risukage Giant Laser Beams

                            Yes, that was a Badass One-Liner and/or a mic drop, and I've got so much epic dialogue queued up for him. This sort of setting is where he can just freakin' shine. And Sam has so much (more) opportunity to fully don the mantle of Meme-Lord. I almost feel bad that Lys is going to be, well, upstaged by others, but at the same time I'm so happy to finally give everyone else more of a voice and develop them the way I didn't in R&S1.

                            And neither was Rasmodius, though as Marlon and Gil demonstrated, he really should have expected it, and imagining his face at that moment makes even me laugh. I mentioned it elsewhere, but I'm loving the Stadtler and Waldorf vibe I'm getting off of those two right now, and I really feel like I'm getting the group dynamic down. They're going to be a good team together.

                            Huzzah! Monday won't exactly be a training montage, but I'm looking forward to letting them finally start showcasing their powers. And I'm this close to having Sam bust out with some rendition of "Be A Man" from Mulan at some point, but that might be too silly. :p
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                            • Kid Absurdity

                              Kid Absurdity Big Damn Hero

                              It was. It reminded me of a Hearthstone card, whose coming-into-play voice-over line is "Knowledge is power, and I know a lot.
                                Risukage and Pudassassin like this.
                              • Risukage

                                Risukage Giant Laser Beams

                                Ha! That totally sounds like Jaina or Khadgar. :D

                                In today's news, I love thinking about real-world applications for magic and how it could be possible. This chapter was so much intellectual fun, and I hope some of you get a kick out of it as well. I'm an Engineer; understanding how the universe works is my bailiwick and drive, so this kind of storytelling is just so cool for me. <3 Think I'm awesome or full of crap? Challenge me and call me out in the comments! I wanna know what you think. But for now it's time for our heroes to learn how to use their skills. Grab some popcorn, this will be fun.//

                                At first they mostly tinkered and tried out their abilities alone, getting the feel for their new-found power, and learning how to not only channel the energies but control them. This relative peace ended as soon as Sam decided to see if he could “taze” someone, and since he knew that Sebastian would be immune to such shenanigans, and that water conducts electricity, snuck up behind Elliott and gave him a rather impressive shock. Neither he or Lys were amused, though everyone else was, as he artfully and almost unsuccessfully dodged lashing tendrils of water and searing bolts of flame. Because of his complete lack of armor, Sam was the fastest of all of them, thinking and maneuvering much more quickly than his two opponents. Eventually Lys decided to close the distance, as Sam was just too fast to hit with ranged attacks, and summoned fire to boost his own speed and agility and launch at close range. Sam somehow held his own between them, as Lys provided a powerful distraction up close while Elliott focused on trying to grapple him with a serpentine length of mana-infused water. However, Lys and Elliott already had a close bond, and with that and the link they formed through Haley, their teamwork led to Sam dodging out of the way of a feint into Elliott’s attack, which he immediately froze around the lightning-wielder, sending him sliding across the floor from his existing momentum.

                                “Damn, that was pretty good,” Sam grinned from on the ground, “I kept you two busy for way longer than I thought I could. But as the saying goes, I needed to be lucky a lot, you two had to be lucky once.”

                                “Are you injured? You did fall rather hard and fast,” Elliott asked, releasing Sam from his icy bonds and helping him to his feet.

                                “Nah, I’m good, we seem to be really resilient in these outfits. I mean, even I was kinda surprised at how hard I zapped you, but it looked more annoying than painful, and that ice-thing you did was chilly but not as cold as it should have been.” Sebastian was shaping bits of stone as though it were modeling clay, making it flow between shapes as they came to mind. Watching him curiously, Abigail grinned and nudged his arm.

                                “Hey, Sebby, you think you have enough control to throw those?”

                                “Yeah, what do you have in mind?” She drew her pistols and twirled them again, grinning. Sebastian knew what she was thinking of and returned the smile, forming the stone into several discs of varying sizes.

                                “Are you ready?”

                                “Pull!” Lys and Sam sat down to watch them work together; Sebastian was trying to give her a challenge, but at the same time trying to maintain control over the discs, in addition to reassembling them as they shattered, and Abigail getting used to the way her weapons worked, as well as tracking multiple targets with two weapons. They both improved with amazing speed, confident in their own abilities and trusting each other to know what to do. By the time they had to pause to take a break, Sebastian was forming and sending the discs out as quickly as Abigail could shatter them, which was the time it took for her to line up with it.

                                “You two are proper impressive,” Lys commented, standing up and brushing himself off, “you’re a better team than Elliott and I are. And you know, I wanna try something. Hey, Alex, are you up for a little sparring?”

                                “Bro, that is such a bad idea, I could wreck you in one hit.”

                                “That’s the idea. I seem to be the second fastest out of all of us, and you’re the strongest and most heavily armored. A straight-up fight would end badly for me, as I don’t think it’s possible for any of us to get through your defenses, and I really don’t want to test out Elliott’s healing skills just yet. I’m just thinking of a little game, to see if I can successfully disarm you. You just have to keep me away for a bit. Maybe set a time limit, just so we’re not here all night?” Alex smiled and hefted his warhammer to rest it on his shoulder, looking relaxed and confident.

                                “Fine, you have five minutes, but I can give you more if you need it.” Lys’s smile was cocky and self-assured as he drew both swords with a flourish, already flowing into a fighting stance with his dancer’s grace.

                                “Talking trash so soon? Your arrogance will be your undoing.” Spinning the warhammer in one hand in a manner that normally should be impossible, Alex adopted a sturdy stance of his own.

                                “You’re the one that’s all talk and no fight right now.”

                                “Very well. En garde.”

                                Allez, bro.

                                Springing forward, Lys moved on his toes, nimbly dodging around behind Alex, who almost was too slow to step out of the way of a leg sweep, swinging at the space that his cousin had just a second ago occupied. Dancing and feinting, Lys was in constant motion, flowing between forms and stances as he probed Alex’s defenses with the occasional slash or stab. Alex, in contrast, changed his footing very little, moving to block or turn aside attacks, but otherwise allowing Lys to do all of the work, preparing to wear him down through endurance. Expecting this, Lys continued his multi-sided assault as well as testing his boosted physical abilities, performing a neat flip over Alex’s head that allowed him inside of Alex’s defense for only a second, before it was blocked by that massive shield and he was forced to retreat. Even Marlon and Rasmodius were impressed by the friendly combat, with Lys now adding fire to his attacks in order to distract or disable his opponent with a second front to defend against. Alex smirked as he blocked Lys over and again.

                                “Time’s running out, you better think of something clever.”

                                “You asked for it.” For the second time, he leapt high, but instead of over, he tried to land on Alex’s shoulders. Ducking slightly, Alex raised his warhammer above his head and parallel to the ground, holding the haft in both hands. Lys was unable to change his trajectory, only able to try to land and not lose his balance before he could spring off again. The moment Alex felt Lys’s weight on his weapon, he tightened his grip and swung as hard as he could, sending the other man flying across the room. Without really knowing how, Lys dumped power into his wings and rotated around his own center of mass, allowing him to land on his feet and skid to a stop rather than crash haphazardly. The wings flexed again as Lys tested something, and his grin was predatory as he crouched, gathering power.

                                "Round two, fight!" Alex was caught by surprise as Lys sprang off again, though this time much faster and with acceleration that he didn't expect. Blocking the initial strike, he was forced back a few steps as Lys attacked with a flurry of strikes and fire, and when by all rights he should have swung and connected, Lys pirouetted away, somehow turning again around without touching the ground and launching himself in a different direction for a short distance before pivoting again and diving at Alex. Rasmodius and Marlon were no longer watching with relaxed interest, they now watched intently, studying every move.

                                The fight had gone three-dimensional; Lys was no longer limited to the floor, as he could now use those wings to immediately redirect his momentum in any direction or cancel it entirely, storing it for later use. Burning even more power, he dodged and maneuvered in every direction, keeping Alex off-balance and forcing him to fight completely defensively. Finally, he saw his opening and landed directly in front of Alex, who ducked again behind his shield and changed his stance to drive forward in an attack. The wings immediately grew in size, now as tall and as wide as Lys was, which he used to catch the edge of the hammer head and parry along its length, knocking it aside and leaving Alex wide open to attack. Unable to regain his balance, Alex staggered back and tried to throw up his shield, but Lys was already inside of his guard and snapped the other wing open to send that arm wide as well. A well-placed kick sent the warhammer spinning across the floor as a flick of a wing caught Alex under the chin and knocked him to the floor. His head spinning, Alex was too slow to prevent Lys from pinning him, one foot on his chest and the other on his shield-arm against the floor, and a sword at his throat.

                                "Bloody hell, mate, you made me work for that. Good show." Sheathing the swords with effortless ease, he hopped aside and offered a hand to his defeated opponent, who recalled his weapon and secured it across his back, although there were no attachment points or straps to be seen.

                                "Same here. You got crazy fast there at the end. And how did you just start flipping around like that? Wings might let you fly, but you were violating the... The... Conversation of, no, that's not it..."

                                "Conservation of Angular Momentum," supplied Elliott, who was inspecting Lys with great interest, though the wings had returned to their small size, "and I agree, one should normally be unable to instantaneously change their rate and direction of travel like that." Lys shrugged and pointed over his shoulder with a thumb, flexing the wings for emphasis.

                                "It's these. I can't quite explain it yet because it's still intuitive, but with a bit of power and focus in them I can halt what direction I'm going in, and either stop entirely or redirect that energy to send me moving elsewhere. And apparently they give me a bit of defense, too, 'cause you saw how I was able to block and deflect Alex's attack. Doing that with a sword would have hurt or outright not worked, but I think I was able to 'steal' a bit of the momentum and use it to redirect his hammer. I am a walking violation of Newton's laws of motion, among others." He thought about something for a moment and grinned again. "Be right back."

                                With a bouncing stride, he ran across the room to the door. Elliott watched him go with a perplexed expression.

                                "What are you doing, dear?"

                                "Heat rises." He took the stairs going up, and for a few seconds the room was quiet as everyone digested these words but came up with no logical answer. Then Rasmodius and Elliott came to the same conclusion in panic, and with a simultaneous shout of, "LYSANDER!" charged the door to the stairs. Everyone else followed, though more out of the desire to obtain an answer than the purpose that stirred the wizard and the Arcanist. These stairs led up and outside, to the top of the tower, which had a wide, flat area that contained only a few tables and chairs, a telescope, and some assorted arcane items that nobody bothered to identify. Lys was standing near one wall, his wings now at their maximum size, with a wingspan of over fifteen feet. He flashed everyone a grin of confident mischief as he took off sprinting to the other side of the roof. Hastily, Elliott pulled water from the air and their surroundings to create a tendril of water, hoping to reach out and latch onto him, but he wasn't fast enough, and Lys got up to speed and leapt off of the edge.

                                "Ahh! Shit! Damnit- Wait- Woo-hoo!" They crowded the edge as Lys pulled up after plummeting a good twenty feet, arcing up neatly and gaining altitude, wrapped in a bubble of energy. Shaking from rage and latent panic, Rasmodius pounded a fist against the top of the wall.

                                "Fool of a Morgensonne!" Sam laughed at this, and when the wizard gave him an angry look, he shrugged.

                                "What? That was a good reference, and I think you did it better than the other guy."

                                "'Other guy?'"

                                "Yeah, that famous wizard that- Holy crap, dude, you haven't read that? How long have you been stuck in here?! That's a classic, even I've read it."

                                "...A very long time..." Elliott was only half paying attention to this exchange, drumming his fingers on the wall, and watching Lys with relief that he wasn't hurt but with fury that he'd done something so foolish.

                                "I love him dearly and I do not want to shout, but it is for that reason I shall have to have loud and angry words with him when he returns." Lys was slow to return, as he looped a couple of times as he appeared to try something without success, until on the fourth or fifth try he suddenly took off like a round from a rifle, flying with incredible speed. He was very nearly out of sight before he turned around and returned, shooting past once and turning around again. On the next pass he suddenly dropped his speed and the bubble around himself, retracted his wings, and once more rotated around his center of mass with just enough momentum to let him drop neatly and softly to the ground. Seeing Elliott storming over, Lys at least had the grace to look slightly abashed and offered a smile of apology.

                                "Sorry to scare you, love, but I just had to try that while I was thinking of it." Gripping him by the shoulders, Elliott appeared to be caught between wanting to shake, slap, and hug him all at the same time.

                                "Do not ever do something like that again. Though my curiosity barely outweighs my frustration for the moment. How did you do that? Your wings are far too small to create sustained and powerful flight of any sort more than a mere glide, and the speed you displayed indicates some level of propulsion."

                                "Well, I was thinking about something I'd read previously and wanted to give it a try. You know that new idea for an engine that basically folds space by contracting it in front of and expanding it behind a vessel to theoretically produce speeds greater than light? I gave it a try with energy instead. Though I guess it produced more of a vacuum than a folding of space, but it worked because I felt the energy wanting to move from a higher state, in front of me, to a lower state, behind me, and since I was in between, I got carried along with the effect. Kinda cool, hunh?" Elliott stared at him in disbelief and awe.

                                "My dear... You are a living Alcubierre Drive. That..." He tried to start a sentence again a couple of times but gave up, shaking his head. "Just please be careful in the future. While I understand your enthusiasm, please understand my concern for your health and safety." Lys hugged him and kissed him on the cheek, trying to be reassuring.

                                "Sorry, love, I'll be more careful. Like I said, I don't want to test your healing skills quite that quickly. Though playtime may be over for the day, I'm feeling a little tired."

                                "I'm surprised that you haven't passed out already," huffed Rasmodius, watching him with a stern glare, "you are new to this and your abilities, and have three times pushed yourself beyond expected boundaries. All of you, release your Empowered states, it is time for you to rest. Linus should have another pot of tea ready for you with which you can recover, and we can review your training at that time." He turned to go back down the stairs, not bothering to see if they would follow.

                                Sighing deeply, knowing what it was like to not have that level of magic, Lys reluctantly allowed himself to return to his Awakened state. There was still some magic there, definitely more than he'd had when he woke up that morning, but he still felt diminished. He wasn't the only one, judging from the expressions around him, and they filed back down the stairs after the wizard, back to the main room.
                                  Last edited: Oct 10, 2016
                                  Alkanthe, Minimanta and Pudassassin like this.
                                • Pudassassin

                                  Pudassassin Hard-To-Destroy Reptile

                                  Well, with power come responsibility, and they really need a lot of that. This mean only one thing-- Training!
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                                  • Minimanta

                                    Minimanta Spaceman Spiff

                                    And the monday chapter did not disappoint, that was exciting! :D
                                    Lys is a proper little devil in this chapter.
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                                    • Kid Absurdity

                                      Kid Absurdity Big Damn Hero

                                      Not them specifically, rather a more generic Dalaran mage.
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                                      • Gabaw

                                        Gabaw Spaceman Spiff

                                        idk if "Allez, bro" has ever been said before so this may be a first :rofl: Lys has basically decided that the whole non-relative physics thing wasn't working out and went full warpdrive. Zeropoint turns, non-Newtonian flight. and he can uppercut like a monster w/ those wings too dayum hahahaha. Gotta say tho I'm impressed w/ Abby's dual pistol skills. That's no easy feat either. i guess the last thing is that Sam should b pretty happy that he's got an effective pair of impact resistant jeans. reverse engineer that s**t and make bank lmao!
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                                        • Risukage

                                          Risukage Giant Laser Beams

                                          They're responsible enough, but oh gods, they will need so much practice and training. They are a great team together already, but mastering control of their abilities and maximizing their potential is going to take a little while and a lot of effort.

                                          He's very...enthusiastic... It's quite lucky for him that his husband is the group healer... Writing his shenanigans in this chapter, plus all of the magic + science stuff was just great. I have SO many fun ideas for their future abilities, both solo and using them in conjunction with each other. It's gonna be brilliant.

                                          Eh, close enough. :rofl:

                                          I humbly propose that we substitute "come at me bro" with "allez bro," 'cause it sounds proper classy. :p Lysander? Well, nobody ever told him that he couldn't do that stuff, and because he knows enough science/physics to be dangerous but not completely explain them, well, you get stuff like this. And since I don't think everyone here is familiar with the concept, this is what Elliott was referring to: Alcubierre Drive. So yeah, um, I follow a lot of physics and quantum mechanical YouTube channels and sites and the like. Also, I wanted to make a FF X-2 reference with Abby but I didn't think anyone would get it, and there was nothing terribly quotable anyway. As for Sam, he's gonna need some sturdy gear 'cause he moves like the dickens, and with all of the friction he's going to generate regular denim will probably catch fire or something. (Who here remembers Dash's outfit from The Incredibles? I loved Edna's monologue about the specs of everyone's suits. :D)
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