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Innocence Lost

Posted: Tue Feb 21, 2017 12:35 pm
by The Undying
There are moments in every adventure's life that fundamentally alter the way they see the world. Often, these are not the shining moments we remember fondly. Instead, they are usually the moments or peril and sadness that rob us of something dear.

We did out best to move quietly through the hallways - not an easy feat with an Obsidiman Warrior jingling softly under the weight of crystal ringlet. We'd come to these ruins under the premise that they'd been cleared of hazards just days prior. Of course, the cadavermen and the undead magician we'd faced off against moments ago demonstrated otherwise.

Minuial led the way, as always, doing her best to stay within the shadows as we followed a few yards behind. I could tell that Shale still favored his shoulder after our brief encounter with the magician. He'd taken a vicious volley at the start, and while he was never one to complain, I could tell he was hurting. Still, he'd seen worse - WE'd seen worse - and it was hard to believe that the ruins held more in the way of surprises.

... Have I given it away?

Moments after Minuial rounded the next corner, she was thrown back into our hallway. She hit the ground, dazed but still conscious. Shale and I wasted no time rushing forward.

Then, it stepped into the corridor. Perhaps we should've been more careful to begin with - after only, just a few feet into this dungeon and we'd encountered a most unique form of cadaverman, ones which erupted into their own funeral pyre, grappling at us in a desperate attempt to take one last Namegiver into the abyss. This, though, was different. It was a skeleton, no amount of flesh or muscle still lingering on its frame, and where once its forearms were, curved scythes twitched with the gleam of fresh blood over rust-pocked steel. The creature stood over Minuial for a moment, somehow casting a sickly joy from its featureless skull, before the deep-set sockets swiveled towards us.

Shale charged on the construct immediately, giving Minuial the moments she needed to regain her footing. It seemed the creature had the upper hand against Shale, but with Minuial stepping beside him and unsheathing her dazzling sword, the tide turned in our favor. With my two companions obscuring my view, I began to reach down into the stone floors, weaving together my means to quake the Earth and assist.

The other skeleton had somehow snuck its way across the very ceiling before us, and it leapt down on Minuial soundlessly. This monster's blades ended in crude hooks, the likes of which you might find at an autopsy table for the unceremonious paring of flesh, and they were horribly effective. Minuial let out a mewling cry as she fell, a rivulet of blood flashing up and away as the hook pulled free from her skin.

Shale attempted to press forward, to gain some ground and recover our fallen comrade. I continued calling to the Earth, searching desperately for any instability in the rock, the process tediously slow. Minuial did not stir.

It's hard to truly describe the next few moments...

Have you ever traveled with an Obsidiman, and a Warrior Adept no less? There is an abundance of solidity and permanence to their very presence. It is as if the waves of time and violence do their best to crash against them but break upon their surface.

So, imagine what it was like to see this shelter against the storm, this very avatar of fortitude, go limp with a final, sickly slap of metal into tough meat. Time drew to a crawl, affording me a different manner of permanence in memory as I watched his motionless form slip down to the flagstones. Seconds turned to days as the skulls slowly pivoted their hollow eyes upon me. I, a magician, left alone to face two constructs that had just fell a Warrior and a Scout.

And so I ran.

The words are hard to say, but the truth must be told.

As if some by some twisted sense of humor by the Passions, my calling to the Earth was finally answered, and I pulled with all my strength at the fissures in the cavern around us. The walls and floors heaved and bucked as my spell resolved, casting the skeletons at a loss for balance as I turned and fled. No longer attempting to mask their hunt, I could hear the unsteady rhythm of bone hammering on stone as they pursued. But, the spell gave me the time I needed to lengthen the distance between us. I reached the portal leading up to the surface, threw myself into the dying light of day, and flung close the door behind me.

I wept with impotent rage. I was helpless against these creatures, and I was alone, my friends and stalwart companions since Initiation lost in the Horror-stricken corridors. I prayed to the Passions that the two would spring forth from the door given a moment to return to their senses. But a moment turned to a minute, and the minutes stretched on one after the other.

In those brief moments, I found within myself a strength I did not know before. My desire for my own preservation began to wane against my desire to be with my friends, to see them alive and at my side.

I closed my eyes and steeled my thoughts. I brought together the best of my defensive magics, limited as they were, and layered them upon myself like coat upon coat of armor. Once again, I began to call out to the Earth, to once again find those loci of instability in the rock around me. And with the calling started, I ran headlong back down into the darkness.

I think the Passions answered me, in Their way. As I ran down the hallway, I saw immediately before me at the juncture that one, and only one, of the skeletons remained. It was dragging the limp body of Minuial back towards the ritual chamber where we had fought the undead magician. No doubt, given more time, the creature would have performed some Horror ritual, slaying Minuial and raising the magician once more.

My weight crashed against the creature, knocking it away from Minuial, just as the Earth responded to my calling. Again, the stones rolled beneath me, preventing the skeleton from finding sure footing. My arms wrapped under Minuial's shoulders and across her chest, and I dragged her away as quickly as I could, my own path unharried by the tossing ground. The skeleton scrambled after, attempting to find purchase on the floor, the wall, the ceiling - anything that could hasten it's attempt to close upon us ... and make no doubt, it was gaining ground.

But, the Earth was with me, the spell played its vital role, and I reached the exit with Minuial in tow. The last rays of dusk's light greeted us, and I can think of few sweeter sounds I have heard in this life than the reassuring slap of wood upon stone as the hatch closed upon the ruins.

I checked Minuial's crumpled form. Blood oozed weakly from the ragged tear in her flesh, down from her shoulder and across at angle to her sternum. Only the most threadbare of pulse was there - but it was a pulse. I praised Garlen for saving my companion, and I did what I could to ease her down upon a bedroll and tend to her wounds. Still, it was a bittersweet moment, for Shale was lost to us ~ there was no way I could ever manage the feat of strength required to retrieve him and bring him to the surface, and similarly, there was no way I could stand against those monsters.

Again, the Passions blessed us, for perhaps an hour later, Shale stumbled up and out through the portal in the gathering darkness of night. As best as he could reason, the creatures had temporarily abandoned his body as they were unable to haul him to the ritual chamber. No doubt they would have returned, but he'd regained consciousness and made his escape before that time.

The rest of this tale is far less interesting - after all, I am here before you to tell it, am I not? We mended wounds, Minuial and Shale restored themselves, and we ventured back into the black on the next morning. We fell the skeletons and found the Horror in its hidden chamber. We slew the abomination, and with its death, the maddened Orc for which we'd made this quest was restored to health and sanity (thought we would of course find this out later).

More important is the lesson that the tale carries. In the next month, our errands came to a close in that region where the Serpent's North and Mid Reaches met, and we journeyed back to Throal. On the very day of our return, I sought out the local weapons hall and secured instruction in the more mundane arts of war. Ever since, whenever I find occasion to return to Throal, I bid my companions that we stay long enough for me to continue in my study of the martial arts.

You see, in that moment when I found my resolve to do what I could to rescue my companions, I also lost something forever. I lost that naive sense of security that travelling with a Warrior or Swordmaster Adept often provides to we magicians. It wasn't that my imagine of Shale as protector was tarnished, only that the image of safety within him was shattered. I swore that I would never abandon my friends again and that I would train such that I could stand beside then, or over them, if ever such occasion returned. However, I also swore that I would never again have to be protected, that I would find within myself and my skills to stand alone. And so, I am stronger ... and weaker ... for the experience.

Re: Innocence Lost

Posted: Tue Feb 21, 2017 12:40 pm
by The Undying
Another moment-in-time recount of my group's exploits, this time told from a first-person perspective.

I approached this one a bit hesitantly as it's never easy to relate a story where you straight up abandon the rest of the party. However, there was no way I would've survived if I had stayed. But, this was a pivotal moment for Eristed. This was when I as a player felt that he really needed to be a bit more able to stand on his own. It changed his dynamic within the group significantly as he take a bit more risk, puts himself out there more, and actively calls for Shale to assist Minuial more rather than expecting them to rush to his aid when he catches some heat. Additionally, I'd dare say this was also one of the experiences that will help him better embrace the moral relativism he'll grow in to as the future unfolds where a need for survival and strength starts to trump the logic of good/bad.

There's also something prickly under the surface here. It's building in Eristed's personal journals, a record I share only with the GM and where I both account Eristed's personal thoughts as well as matters that we do not submit as part of our adventure logs to The Great Library.

Re: Innocence Lost

Posted: Tue Feb 21, 2017 2:24 pm
by Tattered Rags
Excellently done.

Re: Innocence Lost

Posted: Tue Feb 21, 2017 11:57 pm
by The Undying
Glad you enjoyed it. :D

Our group has developed an ... interesting ... dynamic since this event. Minuial, our Scout, was doing her best to try to cross-train in both Melee and Ranged Weapon, much caused by the siren song of a really great Thread Item sword we found early on. Since then, it seems like encounter after encounter finds her on the flat of her back, either wounded or unconscious. It's almost a running gag. :) It's definitely not a commentary on her player, I think it's just a testament to how combat is evolving, especially with an Obsidiman Warrior in the group. As we move forward, I believe Minuial's plan is to secure some training in as an Archer, which is going to drive her back out of the front line - in fact, I doubt she'll invest much more in Melee Weapon until it starts getting "cheap". That's going to leave a bit of a hole at the front in a three Adept party, one which Eristed is growing in to a bit (although his Health Ratings are always going to suck in comparison to his companions) more as a contingency/emergency role than anything else.

Re: Innocence Lost

Posted: Wed Feb 22, 2017 3:43 am
by Tattered Rags
Good luck with that!

Re: Innocence Lost

Posted: Wed Apr 10, 2019 2:26 pm
by Sporcut28
Great job! Keep going)

Re: Innocence Lost

Posted: Wed Apr 10, 2019 10:49 pm
by Slimcreeper
Very powerful.