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Legendary Heroes: A R.O.S.E. Tale {Completed} By Galexi


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#1 KingArthur

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Posted 23 July 2010 - 10:48 PM

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(picture drawn by Fleur/Borammy. Thanks bora!!!)



Chapter 1: Heroes
Chapter 2: A Time to Shine
Chapter 3: Battle's End
Chapter 4: Shipwrecked
Chapter 5: Detour
Chapter 6: Metal Monsters
Chapter 7: The Resistance
Chapter 8: The Sound Box
Chapter 9: The Resort, Part 1, 2, and 3
Chapter 10: Inner Courage
Chapter 11: Allies
Chapter 12: Escape
Chapter 13: Junon Polis
Chapter 14: Fayhter
Chapter 15: Fight or Flight
Chapter 16: Buried Treasure
Chapter 17: Memories Lost
Chapter 18: Shaken
Chapter 19: Eliteness
Chapter 20: Gone
Chapter 21: Memories Gained
Chapter 22: Another Theory
Chapter 23: Updates
Chapter 24: Old Acquaintances
Chapter 25: Lightning
Chapter 26: Cracked
Chapter 27: Quest Complete
Chapter 28: Confrontation
Chapter 29: Last Stand
Chapter 30: Choices
Epilogue: THE END


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#2 KingArthur

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Posted 23 July 2010 - 10:50 PM

Heroes

â??In a world where chaos reigned supreme and disorder ruled the land, finding happiness and hope for a better tomorrow were sparse. Monsters ravaged the three known planets of our federation, leaving our citizens desperate for aid. Heroes from off-planet were recruited and trained in basic and advanced arts in four distinct professions. Together, they seek to cure the worlds of evil â?? to rid them of the sins wrought by â??â??

Galexy doubled over laughing, both arms clutching at her sides. Tears threatened to leak from her already overfilled eyes as she giggled maniacally. She pointed one finger at her friend, her words spilling out between bursts of laughter. â??You canâ??t seriously be marketing that, Faelin!! I thought you were making a pamphlet to recruit more heroes, not a sci-fi novel.â?

Aruaâ??s fairy frowned at the girl seated before her. Faelin flicked her shimmering wings in disgust and adjusted her bonnet. â??I am completely serious. This is not a laughing matter, Lexy. We need more Heroes! This will bring the adventurous and heroic people into Adventure Plains to start their training. We can â??â??

â??I donâ??t know, Faeâ?¦Pamphlets and recruiting conventions are good and all, but I donâ??t knowâ?¦Maybe you should just make all the teles uber complicated, you know? Blank out the texts on their screens so they canâ??t see where they are going. Theyâ??ll have to push a random button and hope for the best.â? Galexy snickered and shrugged. â??Once the Visitors are here, theyâ??ll be stuck. Theyâ??ll have to train just to survive. Besides, we could always use more randoms distracting the monsters and collecting items for craftingâ?¦â?

â??Not everyone gets here the way you do, Lexy!! Iâ??ve told you time and again that it wasnâ??t my fault that your User Interface did not support the use of our teleporters. Everyone saw the texts of the NPC addressing system except for you.â? Faelin sighed, knowing that the muse was probably teasing her once more. The developers were in charge of maintaining the NPC addressing system, not the fairies. â??You want more heroes here just as much as I doâ?¦and you love playing with your so-called â??randomsâ?? every chance you get. And you donâ??t even craft!â?

â??But I could. One day. Iâ??m thinking of taking up another profession, you know? Full-time healing and buffing gets old after awhile. Making jewelry seems like a fun thing to do. Or gem crafting. Something shinyâ?¦â? Galexy leaned back until she was lying in the soft, green grass. A dreamy look glazed over her expression as she closed her eyes.

â??You and your obsession with all things shinyâ?¦â? Fae rolled her eyes. The tiny fairy hovered over Galexy, a mischievous glint in her eyes. â??For someone so obsessive, youâ??d think your gear would be refined at its highest and adorned with a multitude of gems...â?

The clericâ??s tongue poked out from between her pouting lips before she calmly replied, â??Do you know how expensive refining is? Or how much gems cost? Pfftttâ?¦Iâ??m lucky I donâ??t need food to survive. Not sure I could afford that.â?

â??Only â??cause you spend too much time goofing off here and on the Sunshine Coast. If you defended the planets more and sold your loot, youâ??d be a lot richer.â? The fairy opened her mouth to say more, but in that moment the teleporter behind them lit up in an array of light. As the bright beams dimmed, a green-haired man stood in the center of the machine, a look of utter astonishment on his face.

â??Looks like we have a new Visitor! See you later, Lexy.â?

The cleric opened her eyes to watch her dutiful friend flutter off to reassure the newcomer and explain his new world to him. The surprise never really left his face, but at least he was animatedly conversing with the young fairy now. Galexy had asked no questions on her arrival and ran off without a word to the fairy on shift. If not for the wooden short swords scattered about the area, she wouldâ??ve ended up in the infirmary in town within a heart beat. As it were, she ended up there eventually anyways. Who knew attacking pieces of candy could take so much out of you?

She spent many, many days visiting and re-visiting the townâ??s clinic over the next few weeks before she finally became strong enough to survive the unwarranted attacks on her tiny body. It was easy to choose her profession after spending so much time with the talented and skilled healers who attended her. Though, if she had trained in something a bit sturdier, she probably would not have had to visit the other townsâ?? infirmaries as she battled the monsters of the various worlds throughout the years.

A loud cry echoed through the plains. Galexy pushed herself up onto her elbows and gazed out onto the field. A pink haired visitor doubled over and fell to the ground before a mini Choropy, unconscious.

â??My duty calls too it seems,â? she said, smiling.

She stood and dusted off the bits of grass clinging to her flower shorts and hid behind a tree. Her disguised wand peeked out from behind the trunk as she cast her resurrect spell. She quickly followed this spell with her heals and various buff spells to help aid the tiny visitor before attempting to blend into the floral that surrounded the area.

â??Ty!â? called the visitor as she stood from her fainting spell. The visitor turned towards the mini Choropy and renewed her assault on the tiny caterpillar-type monster. Within seconds, she won and gained more experience as a hero. The visitor waved cheerfully at Galexy, clearly repudiating the clericâ??s self-proclaimed supreme hiding skills.

â??How did you see me?â? complained the muse, a frown pulling at the corners of her lips. â??I was totally hiding...â?

The visitor looked at the girl in confusion. â??Youâ?¦ have a giant pink flower hanging over your head. And you sort ofâ?¦I donâ??t know..glow?â?

â??Do I?!â? Galexy jumped up and down ecstatically. She clapped her hands in excitement. â??Iâ??m shiny!â?

The Visitor nodded her head slowly and backed away from the muse. â??Umâ?¦thanks again,â? she muttered before taking off in the opposite direction.

Not that the cleric even noticed. She had taken up dancing by then, chanting about her shiniest for all to hear. She twirled in place with her stuffed honeybee plushie. Gradually the sun set and the plains dimmed in response. Still Galexy danced, a smile plastered on her face.

After all, she was shiniest at night.

* * *

The morning sun shone brightly overhead by the time Galexy rolled out of bed and into town. Ronway and the Aruaâ??s fairy in charge of the morning shift were there recruiting lots of new visitors. Gray and his secretary were busy issuing Proofs of Identification to all the new Visitors and shuffling them out of the city proper, directing them towards Zant.

A good majority of the Visitors were already lost. The maps Gray handed out did not even have Zant located on them. For some reason, they never did. Perhaps the old village chief thought that it would be a great training exercise for the recruits. There were plenty of opportunities for the young heroes to train as they wandered aimlessly through Adventure Plains trying to find the city of Zant before someone eventually told them to head through the Valley of Luxem Tower first.

It had only taken Galexy a good fifteen levels or so before she made her way out of Adventure Plains. By then, though, she easily breezed through the valley and found Zant. She smiled at the memory. At least she had collected a lot of valuable loot from her extended stay in the plains.

The cleric scanned the crowds, seeing who needed the most guidance that day. A blonde visitor to her right was busily scanning through his User-Interface attachment on his arm, no doubt checking the map for any signs of a location called â??Zant.â?

Lexy approached him, adjusting the red beret on her head and stuffing both hands into her blue jeans. It was her disguise of the day. Despite the large, refined Fairy wings she had on, the muse did a good job of blending in with the newbies.

â??Hey there,â? she said as she approached the visitor. She glanced at his ID-tag, emblazoned in block lettering above his head. A short sword hung at his side. â??Angel4Hire356â?¦Welcome to Adventure Plains! Howâ??s the training going?â?

"Good, goodâ?¦You donâ??t happen to know where the City of Zant is, do you, Galexy? Iâ??ve checked this map, but I canâ??t seem to find it anywhere!â? Angel shook his head in agitation and thumped on his UI attachment. The map expanded a few centimeters, but did not help enlighten him on the whereabouts of the elusive city.

Galexy smiled. â??You can call me Lexy,â? she responded. Flipping open her own User-Interface attachment on her right arm, Galexy toggled open the area map. â??You take this road here, leading out of town and head northwards toward the Valley of Luxem Tower. Either entrance will do. Once there, you move directly north, north west until you see the entrance for Zant.â? She paused, rapidly punching the buttons on her wrist attachment until her inventory window opened up. She slid her fingers across the surface of the UI until she found what she was looking for. She tapped the icon twice and waited while the item materialized in the palm of her right hand. â??Take this scroll for now. It will take you directly to Zant so you donâ??t have to run all the way there.â?

â??Awesome! Thanks, Lexy,â? responded the visitor. He reached for the item with his left hand, where his UI was located, and took it. The item disappeared, having been sucked into his inventory. He looked back at Lexy. â??Uh, how do I use it?â?

â??Toggle open your inventory box by pushing that button there and select your consumables tab. Yep, that one. Now find the scroll and tap on it twice. Itâ??ll take you directly there, no walking needed.â? Lexy nodded knowingly. How she hated to walk!

â??Thanks again!â? Angel said before tapping on the scroll. A bewildered expression crossed his face just before he disappeared from view. Perhaps she should have explained the mechanisms of teleporting by scroll a bit more, but then it wouldnâ??t be as fun. Nothing could beat teleporting places â?? especially with scrolls. She did not have to hassle with the NPC addressing system which still liked to mess with her by showing up blank now and then.

With that settled, Lexy decided to grab a bite to eat. She did not necessarily need to eat to maintain her health points since she could easily cast a healing spell to recover lost hp, but eating was a habit that was hard to break (no matter what she had told Faelin the previous day.) Fruits were inexpensive and easily obtained here in the plains.

She headed towards the tavern and approached the Tavern Owner. The woman who usually ran the place was out that day, running errands or doing some heroic deed. In her place stood the robotic representation of herself. Galexy sighed and flipped open her User-Interface toggle and hoped for the best.

To her relief, the NPC addressing system was working. Options scrolled across her UI screen. She tapped on the option to browse the store. Within moments, the storeâ??s inventory opened up. She selected a few apples and bananas and pulled them into the check-out window and selected the confirm button. The items were then transferred from the storeâ??s inventory into her own. With a few more taps, an apple appeared in her hand and Lexy walked away from the store.

Even after all these years in Junon and Luna, Galexy could not get used to the elaborate setup these worlds provided for her or how profoundly different they were from where she had lived prior to her move. The UI system alone was astounding. The tiny machine kept tabs on everything for her â?? what items she held, her friendsâ?? contact information, her magic spells, her health and magic power levels, even her Hero-level.

â??Good stuff,â? she murmured aloud before taking a huge bite from her apple. Her health points' bar went up one point. â??What to do now?â?

A tinkling of bells sounded, accompanied by a pulsing red light on her UI. Galexy answered her phone.

Xylerâ??s voice echoed out of the wrist attachment. He sounded out of breath and elated all at once. â??Hey Lexy, you busy? Weâ??ve got a party going against the drunken polar bears and we need a Cleric. Care to join us?â?

Only true Heroes would call a group of people fighting against monsters a â??party.â?? Galexy smiled. â??When have I ever missed a party?â?

Xylerâ??s laughter echoed in her mind even after she closed the connection. Toggling open her inventory once more, she tapped on one of her scrolls and â??ported.

â??Time to party.â?
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#3 KingArthur

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Posted 23 July 2010 - 10:51 PM

A Time to Shine

Eldeon, the third planet of our Habitation, has long been a mystery to our Citizens. Darkness is a constant fixture on this wilderness planet. Cloaked behind the lush greenery of the lands, monsters and the Infected roam freely. Attacks are frequent here and, often, fatal. It is not a safe planet for high level Heroes, much less lower levels ones. Only the truly courageous, or the truly insane, explore the vast unknown of this world.


Heroes under level 120 were warned away from the planet, for their safety. Recently, the Akram Kingdom issued a decree forbidding the admission of any low level Heroes onto Eldeon. Alfonso, the piloteer of the famous Flying Vessel, was honored with the duty to insure that the edict is followed. No one under Hero Level 120 will be allowed to travel to Eldeon, henceforth, from either Junon or Luna. A robotic scanner has been installed on the luxury liner to aid in Alphonsoâ??s efforts.


Excerpt from Visitorâ??s Newsletter, Issue 81


"Lexy, get down! You're going to get us caught!" Xyler whispered, heatedly. He glared across the storage hold at the Muse, his dark brown eyes sparkling in anger.


Galexy smiled at her Hawker-man and remained standing nonchalantly in the middle of the room. Her brand new velvet dress shone brightly â?? the only source of light in the Flying Vessel's storage hold. She flipped open her User-Interface and winked, her eyes never leaving Xylerâ??s scowling face. Small pink, white-winged hearts floated around the Cleric in response to the activated Kissing-Scroll. Xyler, clad in his unrefined armor to better blend into the ship's cargo crates, narrowed his eyes.


"You worry too much, love," she said, moving to where he crouched, half hidden among the barrels. She crouched down next to him and tilted her head sideways to survey him. "Alfonso's scanner can't see us, much less catch us,â? Lexy giggled and kissed Xyler on the cheek. â??Leet hax0rz ftw! Even if they catch us, we're already in the air. It's not like theyâ??re going to throw us overboard!"


The constant noise of the ship's engine echoed in the distance; a deep, rumbling sound that was discordant with the laughter in her voice. Footsteps and the low hum of voices of the other passengers were audible through the thin, wooden planks of the vessel. Together, the sounds created an eerie atmosphere within the darkened storage hold.


"You're not cautious enough, Lexy." Xyler whispered, the fear of discovery and the excitement of the adventure warring with one another. He struggled to maintain his anger and lost. "Alphonso might just throw you off the ship, you know. And then where will I be?"


"Hiding, like a good stowaway," Galexy retorted, snuggling up closer against Xyler.


The katar-wielder laughed and shook his head. â??This better be worth the effort. We could have been out training instead of fiddling with our UIs.â? Xyler paused and tapped idly at the blank screen of his UI. It unnerved the both of them to have the devices turned off, but they had little choice. The Flying Vesselâ??s scanner could not read them this way. To the machine, they did not exist. The â??simpleâ? task of switching the UI off had taken three days to hack and a stressed filled week to figure out how to turn it back on. â??We donâ??t even know what Eldeon holds in store for low levels like us.â?


â??No time like the present to find out,â? murmured Galexy as she straightened her posture and looked purposefully towards the stairs leading up and out of the storage hold. She smiled mischeviously. â??Time to test the legends of this planetâ?¦Perhaps we can ask the other passengers about their past trips.â?
â??No way!â? Argued Xyler as he too stood, arms crossed. â??You agreed to behave if I hacked your UI. You said--â?


Xylerâ??s words were cut off as Galexy leaned closer and placed a single finger on his lips. The floral scent that seemed ebbed into the Clericâ??s very essence encased Xyler in its intoxicating aroma. The fragrance muddled his thoughts and left him speechless. It was always harder to think straight with Lexy so very close and she used this to her advantage at every given opportunity.


Xyler blinked rapidly, trying to piece together his scattered thoughts. Lexy smiled and plopped on the Jaguar Hat of his level 100 outfit. She placed her own hat upon her head and slid her Persian Mask into place. Xyler sighed and did the same with his Black Mask.


â??Why do I keep following you?â? He said slowly, his eyebrows knotted together in worry. He glanced above Galexyâ??s head where her ID-tag shone brightly for all to see. Despite his best efforts, hacking a Visitorâ??s ID-tag was a failure. They just had to be careful and not run into anyone they knew or anyone that might report them. â??It isnâ??t good for my health.â?


â??Itâ??s very good for your health, love,â? Galexy responded, smiling. She tugged on Xylerâ??s sleeve, taking care to avoid the sharp dragon-y parts, and pulled him towards the stairwell. â??Weâ??re doing what adventurers do! Junon would be so very proud of our ingenuity.â?


â??When did you start to care about what the god thinks?â? Xyler muttered as he followed her.


Together, they mounted the steep stairs, Lexyâ??s outfit lighting their way. Xylerâ??s katars, strapped upon his belt, clinked loudly as they ascended. They hung there, useless and dim, like the Clericâ??s Crystal Wand on her own sash. Unusable weapons were one of the minor setbacks of an inactivated UI.


â??How are you going to explain our outfits to the other passengers?â? Xyler asked, one hand on the doorknob of the heavy wooden door at the top of the stairs.


â??Awesome stats, of course.â? Galexyâ??s eyes twinkled in the darkness.


â??Of course.â?


* * *


The fresh breeze of the open air was welcoming after the long minutes hiding in the storage hold. Galexy twirled about the top deck, making a spectacle of herself as always. No one seemed to mind, not even Xyler. The Hawker stood beneath the main mast embroiled in a heated discussion over the mechanics of skill and stat allocation. The men brandished various weapons of likes the Muse had never seen and spoke in battle jargon that made her head spin.


The celestial sky was filled with a smattering of stars, each radiating its own sparks of light. The planet Junon dwindled behind them as the massive green surface of Eldeon loomed ever closer. Visitors of all professions filled the vessel from stern to prow. Some posed for screenies with their friends, others set up trade or vending stands, and some just stood there, pinging clanmates from the private messaging system of their UIs.


Lexy pulled the sleeve of her dress over the darkened surface of her UI, suddenly cautious about her actions. She edged towards the front of the ship, eager to witness the approach of the beautiful planet. From this distance, it was hard to imagine the dangers that awaited them on the surface. It was hard to find the wild stories of the planet truthful.


A cry of alarm rang out from the opposite end of the ship. Passengers turned towards the sound. The cry was joined with other voices, each rising in caliber at whatever spectacle awaited at that end of the ship. Some passengers ran towards the sound, Galexy among them. As she neared, a wave of surprise overtook her.


Tribesmen, wearing barely anything but a loin cloth, touting spears and jagged swords attacked unarmed passengers. Many lay already slain on the deck of the ship, a look of dismay etched on their unblinking faces. Soldiers and Mages attacked the tribesmen, but more streamed over the sides of the Flying Vessel, entering from the empty vastness of the skies. Hawkers and Dealers rushed to halt the invasion and Clerics rushed to heal the wounded. Confused, the Muse shoved her way through the crowd and peered over the shipâ??s side.


A blue, sparkling vortex shadowed the shipâ??s underbelly. From this mysterious teleporter the enemies emerged. Masses of tribesmen and creatures streamed from the lone portal. They latched easily onto the boat and clammored over the open sides. A large sword swung over the edge of the ship, slicing Galexyâ??s face from brow to chin. The pain and surprise of the attack knocked her backwards sprawling onto the deck.

A heavy set man, arms webbed in an uneven pattern of scars, vaulted in behind his sword. He had a thick nest of hair that stuck out from all angles upon his round, squat head. His eyes, mere pebbles in his dried, coarse face, gleamed menacingly. He smiled crookedly at the fallen Cleric, spittle leaking from the corners of his mouth.


Galexy hastily pulled her Crystal Wand from the sash tied about her waist and aimed it at the horrid man. â??Icebolt!â? she yelled, glad that she had invested in at least one offensive skill. To her dismay, nothing emitted from the her wand. The weapon laid powerless in her hands, useless without its connection to the UI.

In her haste she had forgotten.


The tribesman did not flinch away from her useless words nor hesitate in his attack. He raised the sword above his head and swung downwards, aiming for Galexyâ??s head. Caught in the abundant folds of her velvety dress, Galexy could not move away even if she had more time to react. The Muse jerked, eyes closed, and readied herself for another, harsher impact.
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#4 KingArthur

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Posted 23 July 2010 - 10:51 PM

Battle's End

A loud thump resounded in the space just beside Galexy. The sound of metal connectiing with flesh, the fresh metallic smell of blood, and the sickening squishing sound as the blade was removed from the body. The Clericâ??s eyes snap opened. She gazed the fallen tribesman for a moment before jerking her eyes away from his corpse. It was an unnerving feeling withnessing the death of another person so close at hand ? and not wanting to revive them.

Xyler towered over the corpse, breathing heavily, his worried eyes accessing his muse for further injuries. He slipped one hand out of his bloodied Dragon Knuckle and reached down to pull Galexy up. He wrapped his free arm around her, craddling her close.

â??Are you alright?â? He asked as he cupped his hand under her chin. He tilted her head to one side, examining the long gash the tribesman had inflicted. He frowned, his dark brown eyes furrowed in anxiety. â??We should get you to a Cleric.â?

â??Itâ??s not that bad, really,â? replied Lexy, one hand clutching tightly to Xyler. â??I ? I just wasnâ??t prepared for thisâ?¦â? She shook her head slightly and slumped against the Hawker. â??They donâ??t dissapearâ?¦like the monsters on Luna or Junon. What does it mean?â?

Before Xyler had a chance to respond, another tribesman angled his way across the shifting vessel towards them, his pointed spear held before him like a lance. The Hawker swung out of the way, dragging Galexy with him. Tucking her behind him, Xyler donned his Dragon Knuckle and launched himself at the tribesman.

Galexy watched in silent terror as the fight ensued, one hand clutched around her useless wand and the other pressed against her face to stanch the bleeding. A bright spot alighted above the tribesman head ? an attack buff. The manâ??s maddening smile grew wider, eerier. His attacks on Xyler intensified, with the Hawker using only his katars in defense. There were no buffs for the Hero, no skills to aid in his battle, nor any Cleric to help heal his injuries.

And yet, the man defeated the invader and another body decorated the deck of the ship.

* * * *

A hushed atmosphere descended over the Flying Vessel. The tribesmen and tribeswomen were defeated or turned away. There were lots of injuries and some casualties among the passengers. Clerics were hard to come by, on any planet, and were hard pressed during the battle. It was hard work healing the injured and staying out of harmâ??s way on the same deck. In the end, sixteen invaders and five passengers filled the emergency life boats that now doubled as the deceasedâ??s final resting place. Everyone took the losses hard.

â??Here, let me take care of that for you.â?

Galexy, craddled in the safety of Xylerâ??s arms, looked up at the speaker. A bright orb of light floated before her, speaking in a maleâ??s voice. She blinked twice, her vision blurred by the caked blood on her face and the tears that still ran down her face. A warming ray of light enveloped the Muse, its curative properties working instanteously. The blood evaporated from her face and the wound closed and vanished.

Despite the healing, more tears streamed down Galexyâ??s face. â??Iâ??m useless,â? she moaned, burying her face in Xylerâ??s shoulder. â??I couldnâ??t even help!â?

â??No mana?â? asked the male Cleric. When neither of the pair answered, he shrugged and sat down in front of them. â??Whatever the reason, itâ??s not your fault. Some of the passengers did not even have their weapons equipped.â? He nodded to Xylerâ??s weapons and Galexyâ??s wand. â??At least you were prepared. And man can you fight!â?

The Cleric gave them a friendly smile and continued. â??Youâ??re a born fighter, thatâ??s for sure, the way you threw yourself at those tribesmen. And no skills either. That sure was something. It was a shame that I was on the other side of the ship. It wouldâ??ve been a treat to see you attack like that while buffed!â?

His friendly banter helped ease Galexy out of her depressed mood. She raised her head to stare at the man who had healed her. â??Youâ??re very shiny,â? she said matter-of-factly. She gasped and covered her mouth, surprised that those were the first words out of her mouth. The male Cleric laughed.

Xyler smiled, relieved that his party partner was back to normal, and squeezed her in a quick hug. â??Iâ??m Xyler, by the way, and this is Galexy. Thank you for helping us.â?

â??Iâ??m Nova,â? replied the Cleric, his eyes jerking up to the name that floated above his head. â??Iâ??m glad someone appreciates my outfit.â? He winked at Galexy.

â??Are the trips to Eldeon so eventful?â? joked Xyler. â??Iâ??ve heard about the dangers of the planets, but never thought that they would spill over into the voyage itself.â?

Nova shook his head. â??Iâ??ve made the journey countless of times, but nothing ever happens on the ships themselves. An argument might break out between traders or vendors and their customers, but nothing like the invasion today. The Infected usually remain dirtshideâ?¦â?

â??The stories of the Infection are true, then? Is it as widespread as the rumors claim?â? queried Xyler. Other people milled near them, listening quietly to the conversation. Aside from the frantic workers of the ship, the passengers of the boat had lulled themselves into a calmer state of mind.

â??Itâ??s bad there,â? said Nova quietly. â??No one talks about it much. We do what we can to help, but most prefers to stay away from them. Battles between Heroes and the Infected areâ?¦unwelcome. The aftermath of these battles is hard to endure. As youâ??ve witnessed, they do not dissappear upon death as Monsters do.â?

â??Yesâ?¦I can see that,â? murmured Galexy. â??This was more adventurous than even I had planned for.â? She shook her head, a shadow of a smile forming on her pale lips. â??Perhaps Eldeon can wait awhile longer.â?

â??Level 120 isnâ??t long enough?â? interruped Nova. He had to raise his voice above the dinn of voices that rose behind him. The shipâ??s crew was discussing something very loudly amongst themselves. Some of the passengers migrated towards them to eavesdrop.

â??Donâ??t get me wrong or anything,â? continued the Cleric. â??The planet does have its hazzards, but the rewards are even better! You wouldnâ??t believe the drops you can get there! And the planet itself is beautiful. As long as you travel in a good party, you can get some good experience. The Junon Order even pays a nice sum to do some exploring and information collecting there for them. Itâ??s a sweet deal for the adventurer at heart.â? He smiled and winked again. â??And I can tell you two are adventurers, through and through. Donâ??t let a small thing like this invasion stop ya!â?

Galexy smiled fully then. Nova didnâ??t know the half of it. â??Youâ??re right.â?

â??Whatâ??s going on now?â? said Xyler. He stood, pulling Galexy up with him, and watched as the frantic expressions of the shipâ??s crew spread to the passengers. The feeling of deja vu was overwhelming. His hands gripped tightly around his katars and his body tensed ready for action.

â??Are there more invaders?â? asked Nova incredulously as he too stood. Buffs sprang quickly from his wand, encircling all three of them with its bubbles of protection and power.

The Flying Vessel rocked beneath their feet, bucking like a wild animal. The wind blew harshly through the sails as a loud cry echoed up from the engine room.

â??Weâ??ve lost power! Weâ??re going down!!â?
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#5 KingArthur

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Posted 23 July 2010 - 10:52 PM

Shipwrecked

Silence greeted the engineerâ??s words. Belief in yet another sudden disaster was too much to bear for this collection of passengers and crew. And in the sudden silence, a horrid sound greeted all listeners. The rhythmic thrumming and whirling beats of the shipâ??s propellers, so familiar now to everyone on board, faded and slowed. As the heartbeats of the Flying Vessel sputtered and died, the heartbeats of all Heroes quickened.

The prow of the boat dipped suddenly, pitching everyone forward. A collective gasp of surprise from the passengers was audible. Did air ships crash in space? Were they in danger of falling? The crew surged outwards, each to a different station on the ship. Their frantic movements were all it took for chaos to erupt yet again on the small Flying Vessel.

â??Where is she? What have you done with her?!â? â??Get in the lifeboats, people!â? â??But-butâ?¦Theyâ??re full!â?
â??Dump them out! We need the boat.â? â??You canâ??t! Thatâ??s --thatâ??s disrespectful!â? â??Iâ??m not going to die over respect!â? â??Where is Rosemary?â? â??Outta my way!â? â??Have you seen her??â?

â??We need to get to one of the free life boats,â? said Nova, calmly assessing the situation before them. He looked over at his two party members. He spoke in hushed tones now; his words nearly drowned out by the frantic cries of those around them. â??There are ones not filled with the de-â?¦Not filled.â? He jerked his chin towards the front of the boat where no one stood. Who wanted to be near the â??fallingâ? end of a ship after all? â??There are boats up there. Iâ??ve seen them.â?

Both Xyler and Galexy shook their heads. â??We need to get below,â? whispered Galexy, her eyes glazed over with worry. She rubbed the blank surface of her User-Interface screen underneath her overlong sleeves unconsciously and turned her gaze up at Xyler. â??We left the tools down there. Weâ??llâ?¦weâ??ll need them when ? if we crash. Weâ??ll need our skillsâ?¦â?

â??Iâ??ll get them,â? Xyler replied. The same calmness that had settled over Nova exuded from the Raider as he released Galexy. â??You get into one of the ships with Nova.â?

â??You guys are worried about tools at a time like this? You can get new ones from vendors all over!â? He grabbed both of their hands and pulled them towards the shipâ??s bow. â??We need to get out of here!â?

The Flying Vessel shuddered again and the floor planks creaked in protest. Alphonsoâ??s level-detecting robot shrilled violently and added to the cacophonous atmosphere that surrounded the trio. To their amazement, the floor heaved beneath their feet, looking both pliant and solid at once. Bodies of the deceased, dumped unceremoniously from the small dinghies that served as life boats onto the main deck, rippled along the wave-like surges that moved along the floor boards.

â??We need to go. Now!â? yelled Nova. The lifeboats were dispatched hastily, its small propellers whirling wildly in the night air. About half of the passengers were now shipped off or preparing to depart. Not many ships were left now. The Flying Vessel dipped a little lower.

A loud booming sound interrupted Novaâ??s pull towards the bowsprit and Xylerâ??s steps towards the hull door. Flames erupted from the hatch over the hold, covering their only entrance back into the hullâ??s storage sections. Somewhere, below the burning floor boards, laid Xylerâ??s specialized UI-hacking tools.

â??Too late,â? whispered Xyler.

â??Yesâ?¦â? replied Galexy, deflating.

They watched, frozen, as the flames spread to the shrouds and webbed rigging that neighbored the hatch door. Before long the flames were creeping its way up the top mast of the ship and outwards towards the lifeless propellers of the Flying Vessel.

â??Itâ??s not too late!â? Nova continued, not understanding the depressed mood that hung over the pair. He jerked them into movement, away from the roaring flames. Alphonso, looking more peculiar than usual, ran past them in the opposite direction.

Galexy spared the captain one last look before she was hauled into the lifeboat after Nova and Xyler. He was making his way back towards them now, peering oddly into nooks and crannies as if looking for more passengersâ?¦Only all the places he looked were odd places to hide ? if people hid when ships were crashing.

â??We canâ??t leave him behind,â? she said softly, her voice barely audible. â??Everyone else is goneâ?¦â? She stood from her seat, wanting to go back to help the man, but unable to make the move to do so. Some Hero Iâ??m turning out to be, she thought dimly. But the memories of Alphonsoâ??s welcome when she came aboard, the guilt she felt at deceiving him and his robotic invention, and her dismay at the violent aftermath of their bloody battle returned and Lexy took a step forward.

Before either guys could move to stop her, Galexyâ??s foot bumped against a small lump of fabric on the floor of the ship. She bent over and picked up the familiar bundle and examined it. A sudden burst of realization came over her and she leaned over the edge of the lifeboat and waved it.

â??Iâ??ve found it, Alphonso! Itâ??s here! Rosemaryâ??s Doll!â?

The captainâ??s head snapped up. He ran towards the small life boat at the end of the Flying Vessel just as it dipped another 45 degrees downward. Alphonso slipped and slid the rest of the way towards the lifeboat and was pulled in by the Clerics and Raider.

â??Thank you, thank you!â? chanted the captain as tears streamed down his face. He clutched the doll to his chest and sat hunched over on one of the open benches. Xyler and Nova took turns hacking and magicing away the tethers that anchored the lifeboat to the main vessel as Galexy tried to comfort the distraught captain.

To the dismay of the onlookers, floating some distance away aboard their own little lifeboats, the last little blue boat did not release itself from the mother ship. A loud explosion erupted from the mid-section of the boat, blasting it apart from the captainâ??s cabin to the crewâ??s quarters. The flames had finally reached the shipment of mana oil and cart gas-things (=x). The fires consumed the entire ship, its broken and burning pieces floated away from each other, propelled by the force of the explosion. Some pieces fell into the wormholes that surrounded this quadrant of space.

The tiny lifeboats, full of sullen and somber Heroes, turned and entered the last of the spiraling wormholes. At long last they would reach their final destination ? Eldeon.
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#6 KingArthur

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Posted 23 July 2010 - 10:53 PM

Detour

The stifling heat that beat down around them was unbearable. It beat into their lungs, suffocating them, and felt like it was burning them from the inside out. Their bodies felt heavy, as if the heat had melted away their bodies. It was hard to move.

The bright lights blinded Galexy, though her eyes were closed. Slowly, the Muse opened her eyes. She blinked away the dust that had collected around her eyes. Everything was blurry and unfocused. It took awhile before she found the source of light that was blinding her. To her surprise, it was not the Flying Vessel as she had expected. Instead, a brilliant orange-red sun shone down on her from a flawlessly blue sky.

The Cleric sat up slowly and gazed around her. Bits of wreckage decorated the area around her. The surrounding flora bore scorch marks from a recent encounter with fire and a tiny depression in the ground marked where she fell. Broken tree foliage served as a cushioned bed for her. She gazed up at the circular opening of the densely packed forest and was blinded once more by the sunâ??s rays.

She stood slowly, every muscle in her body straining in protest. The last of her buffs spluttered and blinked out. The branches of the tall trees and the buffs had undoubtedly saved her life. She wondered how the others had faredâ?¦and feared the answer.

Galexy painstakingly picked her way through the dense overgrowth of trees. She did not know which way to go and could only hope that she had chosen correctly. She had seen the angle of her decent, as marked by the way the trees were broken. Her fall was in line with the setting sun, so she followed it. It would make sense that the others had fallen on the same trajectory as she did. She would find them soon.

One quick glance at her UI told her that, though it was undamaged from the impossible fall, it was still inoperable. It would have been nice to PM the others, use some heals, have her swords chop down some trees to help her passage, and eventually use her cart to get around.

A bright swatch of sunlight welcomed Galexy as she emerged from the thick forest. Her Velvet boots sunk into the powdery white sand that covered the expanse of land that stretched before her. Waves lapped the sandy beach and bumped softly against the rocky outcropping of the natural piers. In the middle of the empty beach, a single, large leaf was stuck into the sand. Hiding beneath the shade was a male figure.

Galexy ran towards the figure, her feet soundless against the soft sand. Though her muscles shouted in protest, she did not slow her stride. She skidded to a stop a few feet from the figure. She did not recognize the male. She had hoped that it was any three of her male companions, but this man was neither.

The male sat beneath the shade offered by the leaf dressed in a swimsuit of sorts and sandals. His arms were languidly draped over the armrests of his make-shift chair. He clutched a glass of juice in one hand and a hammer in the other. A much battered copy of the Book of Concentration lay carelessly to one side of the male in the sand. No name or identification hovered over the maleâ??s head.

The blonde man pulled his gaze slowly away from the gently splashing waves and peered over his dark sunglasses at the Muse. He raised his glass of reddish juice to the Cleric in greeting and smiled. â??Hello, there,â? he drawled lazily. â??Welcomeâ?¦to my beach.â? He paused and winked. He speech came out slowly, as if he had to think through each word before speaking it. â??Did you. Come from. The bright glowing thing. That crashed earlier?â?

He laughed once, a half-mad sound, and shook his head. â??If youâ??re going â?¦.to make illegal space crafts, youâ??re going to â?¦.need to work â?¦on the landing.

â??I ? Iâ?¦wait, what?â? Lexy shook her head in confusion. His demeanor and attitude clashed against her current feelings and threw her off balance. â??You saw us crash?....and you did nothing?â?

â??I watched. It was hard to tell where you fell.â? He looked up at Galexy, his speech a little more coherent now. Galexy wondered if the man was just waking up from a prolonged rest or if he was half-asleep and talking. â??Us? Are there more of you here then?â? He paused and took his time examining the beach for more survivors. â??Come, come. Have a seat. You look like you could use one.â?

â??So you havenâ??t seen the others, then?â? queried Galexy. She sat down across from the strange man. She was suddenly exhausted, the last her adrenaline rush ebbed and died. You could only run full throttle for so long. â??Where exactly is here?â?

The Dealer shook his head. â??Thereâ??s no one here. On this whole continent. Except for me. Until you came crashing down, that is. You survived the fall. Iâ??m sure your friends did, too. Even without the heals.â?

He paused then, drank from his cup. He held the cup up for Galexy to have a sip, which she took gratefully. Her mouth was parched from her time spent unconscious under the sun in the forest. She downed the cup in one large swallow and sat for a few minutes coughing and spluttering. The juice wasnâ??t juice at all, but alcohol. The man wasnâ??t half asleep, he was drunk!

The Dealer refilled his cup from a glass bottle buried in the sand and smiled before answering her last question. â??Why, youâ??re on the planet Skaaj, of course. A planet of rest and relaxation.â? He held up his goblet as if toasting something and drank from it once more.

â??Skaaj? Butâ?¦its not a part of the federation yet. We arenâ??t allowed to come here..â? She couldnâ??t work herself up to the point of disbelief. After all that has happened that day, what was one more surprise? â??The Junon Order had said that this planet was not yet safe for us to inhabitâ?¦â?

â??Yea, themâ?¦Itâ??s a business thing, you know.â? He sat back against his chair and took a sip from his drink. His words came out more fluently now as his tales of conspiracy unfolded. â??Why share a beautiful planet like this with mere Visitors, when they could keep it all to themselves. They have tiny resort cities already built on the main continent, complete with every accommodation one could ask for.â?

â??Resorts?â? Galexy asked, her curiosity getting the better of her despite her wariness. â??Youâ??ve seen them?â?

â??Yea, Iâ??ve been there. They have some serious security around their cities, despite the lack of trespassers here. And itâ??s not like there are any Monsters here that would attack their precious cities.â? The Dealer paused and took a longer drink from his cup. He smiled and continued. â??I suspect something bigger going on in their little resort towns, but I canâ??t get close enough to their main buildings to check it out. Identity checkers and all of thatâ?¦â?

â??Are you sure youâ??re not making all of this up?â? asked Galexy as she arched her eyebrows at the Dealer.

â??I can take you there, if you want,â? he replied. â??After the sunset.â? He hiccupped. Twice. â??Weâ??d have to fiddle with your ID tag a bit, so that the Bots donâ??t detect you.â? He glanced over at her nametag, hovering above her head as he said this and his eyes traveled down to her User-Interfaced system strapped to her right arm. He bolted up from his seat and grabbed her wrist before she could jerk away.

â??Did it break in the fall?!â? he asked incredulously. Galexy would have laughed at his expression if she had any energy to do so. â??Iâ??ve never seen anything like it. Hm..Not a scratch on it, either.â? He turned his piercing gaze at the silent Cleric, his eyes suddenly alert and fiercely focused. â??You did something to it, didnâ??t you? How? Howâ??d you do it?â?

Galexy shook her head. The Dealer looked harmless enough and there seemed to be no point in hiding it. Plus, she was so tired now. She didnâ??t feel like getting confronting his battery of questions. â??I didnâ??t do anything. Xylerâ?¦Xyler did it, so we could get to Eldeon early. Only he knows how to turn it off and on.â? She pulled her arm away from the man and he released her. She frowned. Where was her Hawkerman now? Was he out there, somewhere, hurt and unable to find her? She needed to go to himâ?¦fix her UI and heal him. â??I need to find him.â?

â??Thatâ??s amazing! Do you know what this means? We can get further into their resort cities! I was able to hide my ID so they couldnâ??t tell if I belonged there or not, but once they detected my UI-system, it would be all over.â? The Dealerâ??s eyes lighted up with pleasure at the idea and did not notice Galexyâ??s mood. â??We can go find them, no problem.â?

At this, Lexy looked up. â??Really? Can we?â?

Instead of answering, the Dealer pulled out a whistle from his pocket and blew two short sounds into it. A large, black boar bounded out from the forest onto the beach, its large tusks gleaming in the light of the afternoon sun. It was easily three times their size.

â??You said there were no Monsters on this planet!â? cried the Cleric as she jumped away from the rapidly approaching animal, wand automatically in her hand.

The Dealer laughed and lurched to his feet, swaying slightly. â??Nah, heâ??s not a Monster. This is my cart. Pigcart, meet Gal. Gal meet Pigcart.â? He smiled and bowed slightly. â??My nameâ??s IONIK, though you can call me Dex.â?

â??Call me Lexy, please,â? replied the Muse, her eyes staring dubiously at the animal that was the drunkard Dealerâ??s cart. In a whisper, she added, â??Are we going to ride that thing?â?

â??You do want to find your friends, donâ??t you?â? asked Dex as he vaulted onto the pigâ??s back effortlessly. â??Pigcart can run maneuver so much better than carts or even you and I can through these forests.â?

Galexy nodded and clambered up laboriously after the Dealer, envious of how the drunk man was able to accomplish the task so easily as she struggled.

â??Letâ??s find my friends.â?
  • 2

#7 KingArthur

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Posted 23 July 2010 - 10:54 PM

Metal Monsters

â??Aaaaannddd the winds came down
Quickly, easily - they swirled through town
Crashing and blowing, - what a sound!
Itâ??s dessss-truction widely renown-ed.

But what could be worse
Than this silly, nonsense verse?
From air came monsters so diverse --�

Galexy covered her ears from the continuous ballads that the drunken Dealer insisted on singing. At first, she had feared that a NPC would hear and report them to the Federation guards on the main continent, but Dex had reassured her that no one lived here.

â??No Non-Peon Classes live here; no Noble Patrician Controllers, no Network Productivity Councilmen,â? Ionik had sung as he pulled a shirt out from his Inventory. â??No Visitors, no Heroes, no nobody.â?

He had laughed at his cleverness at his redefinition of the NPC clan acronym. This elite clan housed a diverse grouping of the natural inhabitants of Aruaâ??s seven planets ? those that were born on the planets, before Heroes were recruited and trained from other areas of the galaxies. It was hard to tell, sometimes, who belonged the unidentified and unmarked Native Planet Citizens clan. One assumed that all townspeople, especially those running shops, were part of this clan. Under the guidance of the Founding Four (also known as the Federation), this clan ran the three inhabited worlds.

â??In all my years of travel here, I have never seen anyone belonging to either Unions visit. Why battle the rainforests here when you can live in grandeur up there?â? He had paused and laughed. â??Youâ??ll see what I mean.â? He started in on another ballad then, something about teaching bears to drink.

That had been hours ago and still the Artisan sang. She bounced around atop the giant boar, surprised that it was not as uncomfortable as she had first assumed. They made good pace through the trees and covered a lot of ground.

And yet there was still no sign of the others. No smoke, wreckage, or sounds to signal their whereabouts. She called for Xyler, for Nova, and for the poor captain in between Dexâ??s songs, but no one ever answered. The light of the day was quickly waning. Soon it will be too hard for them to navigate the forest. They would be forced to stop.

Suddenly, the boar skidded to a stop. â??What is it, Pigcart?â? queried the Artisan. The pig snorted and whirled to the right, almost dislodging both riders in the process. â??What? Do you hear something?â?

Lexy squinted through the trees in front of them, wondering what had attracted the huge beastâ??s attention. â??Are we headed towards something good? Or something dangerous?â?

Dex shrugged his shoulder. He was about to answer the Muse when the boar stopped once more. He paused in front of a large crystal berry patch that grew up and over the dense shrubbery of the forest and began munching on the berries.

â??Good, I suppose,â? Dex said softly as he tried to hold back his laughter. He dismounted and picked berries from the bush and tossed them up to Lexy. â??Eat. Youâ??ll need your energy soon enough.â?

â??Thank you,â? she said as she caught the berries and stuffed them into her mouth.

Galexy constantly kept up surveillance from her high perch upon Pigcart, looking for any sign of her comrades. The sun was setting now, casting the forest into dark grey and black overtones. From her seat, however, the Cleric caught sight of something shiny in the clearing just beyond the berry bush.

â??Thereâ??s something out there, I think,â? she said to Dex, her heart beating faster. â??It could be pieces from the wreckage. Xyler might be there.â?

â??What are we waiting for?â? Dex stuffed the berries he had been gathering into large pouches and strapped it to his boar. He jumped onto Pigcart and directed the animal towards the glinting object that Lexy had spied.

As they neared the metal object, it grew in size. Soon, it was obvious that the metal object would vastly tower over them if they got any closer. It moved like a giant robot, but made no sound. The metal Monster tore trees from the ground with a swish of its massive arms and uprooted plants that had probably been around since the beginning of time.

Pigcart made a snorting sound and cowered behind a large fallen log.

â??How are the controls?â? yelled a deep baritone voice.

â??It sticks a bit,â? replied the robot that was nearly as tall as Junonâ??s castle. â??But it works! If it can rip trees this big without any problems, imagine what it against Monsters!â? The robot laughed with a high girlish twitter and waved its metallic arms in victory.

â??Alright, Alrightâ?¦Come off of there and give me a try,â? ordered the first voice.

The robot shuddered once and bent forward, both arms resting on the ground before it. A lithe form stretched up from the giant Monsterâ??s neck and clambered down the arms. The female Dealer clapped the man on his back and handed him over a round, multi-faceted gem that shone deep purple with its own light.

The man climbed the metal Monster slowly and with much difficulty. A seat, hidden behind the neck of the beast, rose to meet the man as he reached the top. He settled into the plush seat, pulled the purple crystal out of his UIâ??s inventory, and plugged it in a slot.

The red heart of the Monster pulsed red. It rose swiftly, if a bit jerkily, and swung both arms in a wide arch. The Dealer-woman dodged for cover and cursed fiercely. Pigcart cowered in fear.

â??I bet thatâ??s what theyâ??re making on the other continent,â? whispered Dex excitedly. He pulled out his capture and took screenies of the monster and its controllers. â??Man, what I wouldnâ??t give to ride on that!â?

â??Who cares about the Monster,â? argued Lexy, eyes sparkling. â??Did you see the size of that gem?!â?

Dex raised an eyebrow at the Muse, but did not comment. Gems are easily made, a mixture of chemicals here, a bit of tinkering with colored heart stones, and a dash smaller gems. It was means of making money for the dealer. He had never considered it to be a way to lure, erm, entice women callers.

The metal Monster and the Dealer-woman moved away from the pair hiding in the thicket. Aside from the thundering of falling trees, their passage was relatively quiet. It was amazing that something so large could be so soundless. Their voices drifted on the winds, carrying snatches of the conversation back to Galexy and Ionik.

â??â?¦Will be excitedâ?¦works smoothlyâ?¦â?
â??Yesâ?¦Time toâ?¦test runsâ?¦â?
â??Hebarnâ??s ordersâ?¦poor Visitors.â?

Cackling laughter filled the forest valley just as the last of the sunlight blinked out. The misty night air settled chillingly around them and raised goosebumps along their arms.

â??He said Hebarn, right? As in the planetâ?¦.or the god Hebarn?â?

â??I doubt the planet can give orders to people,â? the Dealer announced, subdued. He ran a hand over his face and sighed. â??But why would they take orders from Hebarn for? It doesnâ??t make any senseâ?¦â?

â??Maybe we heard wrong. Itâ??s been a long day. Youâ??re half drunk and Iâ??m exhausted. Weâ??re not thinking clearly, thatâ??s all.â? Galexy nodded as if to emphasis her words, though it was clear that neither of them believed the statement.

â??Thereâ??s a small clearing back a ways. We can set up camp there. Weâ??ll look for your friends again in the morning and visit the facilities on the main continent. There isnâ??t much we can do now that itâ??s dark.â?

Galexy followed the Dealer on foot. Their mode of transportation had fled into the forest some time ago, the brave beast that it was. Dex pulled tents out of his inventory and set out pallets for them to sleep on. There were no Monsters on this continent, aside from the metal machine, that would interrupt their slumber Dex had insisted. It was unnecessary to take turns keeping guard. Galexy was too tired to argue anymore.

She laid down on her pallet and curled the patchwork cloth blanket tightly around herself. The stars were invisible beyond the thick foliage of the forest trees, but Galexy imagined them as they wouldâ??ve appeared if she were able to see them. Somewhere, out there, despite her absence, her home planet lived. Somewhere, on this planet, Xyler was without her Support. She could only hope that he faired as half as well.
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#8 KingArthur

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Posted 24 July 2010 - 12:41 AM

7. The Resistance

The godâ??s pale lips pulled back, revealing two neat rows of razor sharp teeth. He snarled at the crowd gathered before him, the sound of it vibrating the very walls of his citadel.

'Impossible!â? Another roar ripped from his throat. He flung out one hand in a sudden, dismissive gesture. The man kneeling before him flew across the room and crashed against a far pillar. â??I have not come this far to be thwarted now!â?

Those gathered before their leader bowed ever lower, praying that the godâ??s wrath would not find an outlet in them, that, perhaps, their kneeling neighbors might face the pain instead. A lone pair of Hawkers stood upright within the midst of the cowering crowd. The female bounced across the floor, patting the bowed heads idly as she passed.

"Now, really,â? she crooned, fluttering her overly long lashes. â??Was that truly necessary?â? The Raider cuddled up against the god, resting her head lightly on his shoulder and wound her pale arms around him. â??There, there, milord. Donâ??t be upset. Iâ??ll fix it for you.â?

The other Hawker, a male, followed in the femaleâ??s footsteps, ignoring all of those gathered in the great hall. His stride was purposeful, if slow. He held a certain elegance in his demeanor and dress. He held his head high, walked straight, and had eyes only for the two now on the central stage. He bowed slightly at the waist, never taking his eyes off of his master and the female, as he halted at the edge of the throne. Only the slight narrowing of his eyes indicated his displeasure at the sight before him.

â??We will fix it for you,â? the Dual Raider intoned, his voice as stoic and expressionless as his face. â??Just tell us what we need to do.â?

The god smiled at his two favorite minions, his earlier anger reined in. â??Find the Fighter Clowns and bring back the scrolls they have stolen from us.â? His voice boomed across the hall, a sound felt more than it was heard by the listenersâ?? ears. â??Show them what it means to defy me and mine.â?

â??Scrolls?â? scoffed the female, tossing her lime green locks over her shoulder flippantly. One taloned finger traced the deep red embroidery pattern sown onto the coal black cloak the god wore. â??That is the emergency that has all the Randoms scurrying around in utter fear?â?

The godâ??s hand shot out quickly, cupping the female Katar Raider beneath her chin and lifting her a few feet off of the ground. â??Those scrolls, by dear girl, are the only things keeping Her slumbering. Without them, She will awaken. And that CANNOT happen!â?

With his final yell, the god tossed the Hawker away from him as if she weighed no more than a lump of meteorite. Despite the suddenness of his actions and the ferocity of his toss, the Hawker landed on her feet in a half-crouched position some distance from the stage. She bowed her head solemnly to the god and let herself fall to her knees.

â??Then Iâ?¦We,â? she corrected, sparing a coy look at her partner. â??Will seek out the Fighter Clowns and return the scrolls to you, milord.â? Her head came up slowly, a sly smile already in place. She stood and held out her hand, waiting.

â??Go,â? ordered Hebarn. â??Do not return without the scrolls.â?

There was no need to threaten them or provide a time-frame for which the task had to be completed. The pair had run many quests for their patron god before. They had witnessed what fate befell those who did not satisfy the deityâ??s demands. It was enough to motivate even unwilling followers and this pair had been more than willing to obey Hebarnâ??s commands.

Esseff bowed once more to the god of WHATEVERNESS (=p) and backed away a few steps before turning smartly on his heels. He walked briskly this time, his mind already on the quest at hand. Hebarnâ??s followers quickly shifted away from his path, careful to avoid his gaze as much as his person. He walked by the female Hawker and made as if he would continue on, ignoring her outstretched hand.

Katinka narrowed her eyes, her Glacier Blades suddenly in her hands. The cool blue blade glowed ominously, sending out rays of rainbow-hued lights in all directions. A soft tinkling of bells sounded, low and unthreatening in its unearthly beauty. Everyone in the Citadel froze - including Ess. He raised his right hand away from his body and held it there wordlessly. Relieved, Katinka unequipped her weapons and reached for the proffered hand. As she gripped it tightly, the sounds of bells died away.

The two walked out the door hand in hand, one resigned to his fate, the other whistling a tune of pure delight loudly for all to hear.
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#9 KingArthur

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Posted 24 July 2010 - 12:41 AM

8. The Soundbox

The morning dawned beautifully. The suns rays danced down into the small clearing through the gently swaying leaves and the wind brought with it the delightful smells of summertime. As if to further contrast with her melancholy, butterflies in bright blue and yellow hues fluttered around Galexyâ??s face and birds trilled enchanting songs from their hiding places among the trees.

Ionik busied himself at the bonfire in the center of the clearing. Slabs of meat, skewered on a stick, sat roosting above the open flames. Next to the bonfire, cooking on heated rocks, were eggs. Pigcart laid adjacent to the bonfire busily eating something from a small bowl. The dealer looked up as Galexy approached him.

â??Good morning,â? he said, taking a skewer of meat and handing it to her. â??Eat. You look like you could do with a few more hours of rest.â? He smiled sympathetically. â??Iâ??ve tried contacting Alphonso through the private messaging system,â? he announced, patting his UI. â??But no answer. Nothing from this Nova friend of yours either.â?

â??Thank you for trying,â? she whispered, accepting the meat and nibbling at its edges. She had hoped that a message would get through to them. Alphonso would be hard to contact, from a Random like them, but Nova should have answered â?? if he had been able to. â??Did you try messaging Xyler? Maybe he was able to turn his UI back on?â?

The Dealer shook his head. â??I thought of that and tried. Nothing on that front either.â? He straightened and poured sand over the bonfire, effectively putting it out. â??But itâ??s a new day! Weâ??ll continue on this trail that youâ??ve set. Surely weâ??ll find something today, yes?â? He smiled brightly, patted Lexy on her shoulder as he passed, and begun to break up camp.

â??What about the metal thing we saw the yesterday?â? She took another bite from the meat, glad to have found a dealer in the middle of this wilderness. â??What if we run into it again?â?

â??Donâ??t worry about it,â? he said offhandedly. â??Why go borrowing more trouble when we have plenty on our plate as it is.â? He stuffed the tents and blankets into a small bundle, which quickly disappeared into his UIâ??s inventory. When he was done, he came back to where the bonfire sat, and grabbed his own kabob.

"The pair of wonderers ate heartily, enjoying both the eggs and meat. Dex pulled out some orange juice to go with their breakfast and winked at the Muse as he added a little something extra from a silver container at his hip into his own juice. Thankful for his company and for the meal, Lexy felt that it would be more prudent not to commentâ?¦So long as he was lucid for their journey.

After their quick breakfast, they boarded Pigcart and set off in search of the missing party members. The headed westward on the same trajectory path in which Lexy had crashed, hoping that the others would have fallen in as much the same angle. The sun was behind them, lighting their way and keeping out of their eyes.

As they traveled, the spoke of their past and how they came to be here. Lexy told of her adventures on Junon, her heroic rescue of Xyler from the Jelly King when they first met, and her collection of guises and disguises hidden within her inoperable inventory. In turn, Dex told her his heroing adventures, the hows and whys to becoming an Artisan, and so forth.

Neither mentioned the origin of their birthplace or of their childhood. It was an unspoken taboo. Only natives of Junon, Luna, or Eldeon ever spoke of their childhood â?? and even then, the practice was rare. The Divide between the two types of inhabitants was great, though altogether ignored. Visitors were encouraged to forget their past, since no one could ever leave, many did just that and adjusted to their new lives.

Nearly an hour into their travels, the smell of burnt and charred trees assaulted their senses. Dex urged the boar forward into the thicket of fallen trees. There, amidst the shattered forest, laid the wreckage of the life boat from the Flying Vessel.

Lexy dismounted with lightning speed. She hiked up her skirts as high as they would go and clambered over the decaying and burnt logs. Her heart pounded in her chest, making it difficult to breathe. Tears welled up in her eyes of their own accord. At first, she wished that her friends were there, that they were finally found, but seeing the wreckage up close, she solemnly wished that they werenâ??t.

Still she climbed on, her immaculate dress tearing and shredding in her haste. The boat laid overturned on the ground, a broken shell of its once stellar beauty. She peered underneath the piles of bent metal and broken wood, tossed chunks of the ship behind her, and called for her Raider, for the Cleric that healed her, and for the lonely pilot.

She cried herself hoarse, yelling into the forest for them, and would have continued if Dex had not stopped her. â??Thereâ??s no one here,â? he replied softly. â??Itâ??s a good thing, Gal. The crashed caused a big fire here. They were better off out of it.â?

â??Why didnâ??t we see the fire?â? she wailed, her voice coming out haphazardly. â??Why arenâ??t they HERE??â?

â??Weâ??ll find them. You just have to trust me, trust in them.â? He smiled half-heartedly and wiped the tears from her face with a cloth. â??Weâ??re on Skaaj. Who ever heard of anyone dying here?â?

Pigcart snorted, interrupting the Dealer. The boar strutted to the edge of the wreckage clutching a filthy object in his mouth. â??What have you got there, my man?â? asked Dex. He climbed down off the broken boat, tugging the Muse behind him.

Pigcart dropped the ragball at their feet. Lexy bent and picked it up, her face lightening up fractionally. â??Itâ??s Rosemaryâ??s Doll,â? she whispered in wonder. â??I gave it Alphonso right after we got into the life boat.â?

â??Thatâ??s a good sign then, isnâ??t it? That pilot is never far from that dratted thing.â?

â??Aside from the dirt, itâ??s still in good condition. Itâ??s â??â??

Galexy stopped talking mid-sentence as a rattling sound emitted from the doll. Itâ??s mouth opened and closed as if it were speaking and the sound repeated. The dollâ??s eyes blinked up at Lexy and her garbled message was repeated.

â??Is it trying to talk to me?â? the Cleric asked, astounded.

â??Itâ??s a sound box!â? Dex exclaimed. He held out his hand for the doll and Lexy gave it to him.

â??Whatâ??s a sound box?â? she queried. She had never heard of such a thing before. â??Is it like a robot? Like the NPCs use while they are away?â?

â??Itâ??s similar, but a lot less complex. A sound box plays back sounds, like music, songs, or speech. Some sound boxes can record as well. I think this is the recording kind.â?

â??Can you make it play?â? Galexy edged closer to Dex, peering intently over his shoulder. Perhaps this sound box recorded something that they could use, something that will hint at its ownerâ??s whereabouts.

Dex nodded in response, flipping the doll onto its back. After an initial hesitation, he pulled up the dollâ??s ragged dress and popped open a hidden panel on the dollâ??s back. Dirt and sand fell from the hidden compartment and the Dealer shook more loose. Taking a small rag, he cleaned the rest of the doll and wiped the dirt from the joints in the dollâ??s mouth.

â??That should do it,â? he announced, adding a small dab of oil to the mouth and eye joints of the robotic doll. He handed Rosemaryâ??s Doll back to Lexy.

She picked up the doll and held it hesitantly, unsure of how to activate it. Lexy held the doll aloft and cradled its head. â??Hello,â? she said to the doll, feeling childish and nervous all at once. â??My name is Galexy.â?

â??Heeellloooo,â? sputtered the high-pitched, sing-song voice of the doll. â??Iâ??m Arua. Do you want to play with me?â?

Galexy looked over at Dex, unsure how to proceed. â??Did this doll just call itself Arua? As in the goddess?â? The dealer shrugged and made shooing motions for her to continue addressing the childâ??s plaything. â??What games do you know?â?

â??Many, many games,â? replied the childâ??s voice. â??Skip rope, jelly bean hop, dress upâ?¦â?

â??This wonâ??t help us,â? Galexy replied, dismayed. She looked from the doll over to Dex. â??Itâ??s just a childâ??s toy. It wonâ??t help us find Xyler or the others.â?

In the background in a small voice, the doll continued its list. â??Kiddie-cart races, treasure huntingâ?¦â? The doll paused momentarily, as if assessing Lexyâ??s words. â??Treasure Hunting Quest accepted. Objective: Find Xyler.â?

Galexy stared back at the doll incredulous. Dex blinked a few times and stepped closer. â??Now thatâ??s an odd game to program into a doll,â? he muttered. â??How do you play the hunting quest?â?

â?? Find the clues,â? replied the doll, its tiny eyes blinking up at them as its mouth opened and closed with the words. â??Solve the clues and find the treasure. Find the treasure and you win!â? Sounds of cheering and applause followed the final proclamation.

â??Where do we find the clues?â? asked Galexy, holding the doll closely. â??How do I find him?â?

â??I tell you the clues, of course. Clue Number One: Recording,â? continued the doll. Abruptly she stopped talking and another sound started. A live recording, broken but coherent, emitted from the doll. â??We crashed hereâ?¦allâ?¦except the girlâ?¦Weâ??re lostâ?¦hurt, but aliveâ?¦I see somethingâ?¦a cart?..too bigâ?¦castle gear! Impossibleâ?¦Mildun did notâ?¦Itâ??s comingâ?¦Run, runâ?¦RUN!!â?

The end of the message garbled out and ended. The voice on it was unmistakable. Alphonso had recorded the message. â??Would you like to hear clue number one: recording again?â? intoned Rosemaryâ??s doll.

In total, they listened to the message nearly 20 times. They were able to pick up noises in the background, Xyler and Nova talking to one another, the loud crashes of trees falling, and the sound of bells.

â??Do you think that the castle gear Alphonso mentions is that metal monster we saw yesterday?â? asked Galexy.

â??It has to be. What are the odds thatâ??s it anything else? He does mention Mildun as well. Theyâ??re all inventors, the lot of the them,â? Dex looked up around them. What they had taken for a natural opening could have been made by the metal monster they saw.

Galexy noticed the look and came to the same conclusion, the sinking feeling in her stomach returned. â??At least it left a noticeable path,â? she joked, brow wrinkled in worry. She straightened up trying to act as brave as the Xyler would have been in her place. She had the clue that she needed and the affirmation that he had survived the landing. It was a start.

â??They must have come by here on their return,â? Dex said, surveying the area. â??It would have picked them up, being strangers and all. They could be ok, enjoying the resorts Skaaj has to offer.â?

Clutching the doll in one hand, she let Dex help her onto Pigcart and the followed the Castle gearâ??s trail as it curved northwards towards the main continent.
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#10 KingArthur

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Posted 24 July 2010 - 12:42 AM

The Resort, Part 1

Galexy pulled the large brim of her Velvet Hat down over her eyes, shielding them from the sun. She inched forward from her sprawled position on the ground and peered over the sharp dip of the cliff upon which she laid. Ionik edged closer and peered down the edge.

A few feet from them, a splendid waterfall tumbled over the rocky cliff into the pink lake below. Purple and blue winged birds flitted in and out of the waterfall, untroubled by the weight of water on their downy feathers and moving with much speed and grace.

Below, taking up most of the large open valley, stood a grand complex. White-finished buildings, gilded in gold and silver, sparkled luxuriously under the afternoon sun. The five-story complex stretched across the expanse of the beach in a U-shape formation. Gauzy white drapery swayed back and forth in open first floor windows of the complex on the gentle winds.

In the center of the complex, a smaller domed structure stood. It looked more like a gazebo than a building and its walls were constructed entirely out of glass. A single round podium could be seen sitting in the center of this structure.

Small villas dotted the beach front, complete with lawn chair and umbrella assortments scattered about. The contrasted with the towering structure behind them and added to the resort-type feel of the environment.

Everything was very white, very shiny, and very quiet. There were no people in the entire area.

"Beach front and lakeside living,â? Dex commented quietly. He held his Dealer magnifier up to his eye, adjusting the focusing apparatus at its side to clear up the view. The gem-cutting eyeglasses came in handy when doubled as a telescopic device. He handed a spare set to Lexy. â??Howâ??s that for resort life?â?

"Where are all of the people?� Lexy flattened the top part of her pointy hat, hoping that it could not be seen if anyone were looking up at the waterfall, and adjusted the gem-magnifier to zone in on the scene below. Two small porkies roamed the beach front, weaving between the villas, disappearing into the forest beyond the buildings, and back again. No other evidence of life existed below.

"Theyâ??re down there, beneath the complex.â? He pointed at some of the palm-like trees that lined the border of the resort. â??Those trees are man-made, used to detect entry by the guards inside. They work similar to Alphonsoâ??s level-detecting robot, with only a few minor alterations. And they donâ??t pick up animals, probably because they do not have UI-linked ID-tags.â?

As if on cue (which it incidentally was, through author-style manipulation), a group of white-uniformed personnel exited from the forest beyond the resort and approached the out-cropping of â??palm-trees.â? Through the small spyglasses each wore, they were able to clearly see the personnelsâ?? approach.

All three workers, dressed in a brilliant white jumpsuit, paused before crossing the invisible line made by the palm trees. The man took a step forward. As he did so, a meshwork of laser light netting appeared, stretching from the ground to the tips of the trees. His name ID-tag flashed green and then he was through. The next two approached the invisible net in much the same manner. They each went through one at a time, the net appeared, their names flashed green, and they entered.

The last to cross was a female, wearing the common clothes of a Visitor. She approached the line slowly, clearly not wanting to walk through the netting as the ones before her had done. She shook her head at them and argued about something. The others nodded their heads, said something reassuring to her (probably, it was impossible to hear what they were saying from up a top a waterfall), and urged her to cross the barrier.

Resigned, shoulders drooping, the female crossed the barrier. The netting showed up as it did for the others, but, unlike them, her name flashed red. Part of the netting collapsed around the Visitor, binding her movements and ability to speak. Shock showed on all of the faces of those gathered around her as they each sprung into action.

The man who had been first across the line ran to a large boulder just inside the palm treed area and flipped open an invisible panel on its surface. He punched buttons in madly, his eyes darting back and forth between the boulder and the frozen woman.

The other two companions both ran to the woman, standing at her sides, and trying to pull her free of the netting. It did not work and only served to get them caught in the net as well, despite their names glowing green.

"What happened to her?� asked Lexy, as dismayed as if it had been her that was caught in the trap.

Dex, mumbling a string of numbers beneath his breath as if committing them to memory, was slow to respond. â??Trosed,â? he explained cryptically.

"T-rosed?� The Muse looked at Dex quizzically. The phrase sounded made up and not at all threatening as it looked.

"Sheâ??s stuck, in everyway possible. Sheâ??ll be stuck like that, unable to move or talk, until her UI resets.â?

"How is she supposed to reset her UI if she canâ??t even move?â? Galexy had never heard of such a thing before. Being stuck like that was a scary thought and to think that it had to do with the little User-Interface systems their lives revolved around did little to ease her anxiety.

"It resets itself,â? replied the Dealer unfazed, eyes still focused on the scene below. The man had turned off the netting somehow; the red laser lines were gone despite the trio still standing on the border line between the palm trees. Their names reverted to their normal white shade. â??It takes a few minutes to kick it, but it usually fixes itself without needing any assistance.â?

His sentence was barely complete when the woman collapsed into the arms her peers, no longer bound by the Trosed trap. She stood shakily as they attempted to console her and led her through the opening and into the main complex as the man stayed behind and re-armed the netting device. He, too, entered the main building and disappeared from view.

"And thereâ??s our way in,â? Dex said, smiling in satisfaction. He repeated the litany of numbers again and raised his eyes to meet Lexyâ??s startled gaze.

"You want me to go in thereâ?¦.and disarm the netting so you can follow, donâ??t you? You think the trees wonâ??t detect me cause Iâ??m not taggedâ?¦like the animals down thereâ?¦â? Her voice faded out. She had been able to get by Alphonsoâ??s robot without being detected. This was similar, sort of. She gulped. â??Will it work, you think?â?

Dex smile broadened, but he did not answer. It was her choice to make, her life she would be risking. He would not be able to free her from the netting or help her if she Trosed. It was obvious that he wanted to try it.

She eyed the circular footprints in the sand belonging to the castle gear as it lead to the main building. The risk would take her one step closer to Xyler. She had no choice, really, if she wanted to find him - and the others.

She met Dexâ??s smile with one of her own. She would be brave for her friends. She had started out this journey wishing for adventure and Junon, the god of adventurers, had surely granted her wish. She exhaled. â??Weâ??ll wait for nightfall to try it.â?
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#11 KingArthur

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Posted 24 July 2010 - 12:43 AM

The Resort, Part 2

The sunset had been breathtaking. The rainbow of colors had filled the horizon, instilling beauty in every segment of the sky. When the final lights faded, Galexy found herself stunned once more by the beauty of the night sky.

The stars twinkled above in a dazzling display of lights. They shimmered and sparkled as they seemingly moved across the sky. Lexy, always drawn to the constellations of the worlds above, had never anticipated such beauty. The night sky, as seen on Skaaj, was intensely better than any other planet sheâ??s been on.

The beauty of the planet served as such a contrast to the events Galexy was about to face. Or, perhaps, it served to steel her nerve. A place this nice could not have too many dangers lurking beneath its surface...could it?

Lexy gripped her Crystal Wand tightly in her fist, a look of fierce determination flitted across her face, replacing the worry that had been overly prominent lately. Next to her, Dex brought out his Crafting Block Hammer and hefted it.

â??A crafting hammer? Really?â? she whispered, not taking her eyes off of the scene before her. â??Havenâ??t you a launcher or gun instead?â?

â??Iâ??m an Artisan,â? he responded, silently wishing he had indeed thought to bring his weapons with him on his vacation. There simply had not been enough inventory space for weapons AND vacation clothes. â??What need have I for weapons? Besides, this pick is enough. Nice and sharp. What about you? What good is your wand without any skills?â?

â??Itâ??s as good as your hammer,â? she responded. She missed the glow and tiny vibrations the wand had when it was fully activated, but what could she do? At least she had the defenses and additional stats provided by her outfit. â??Itâ??s sharper, too.â?

He snorted softly, adjusting his dealer spyglass-thing to a higher setting. The scene before him magnified, coming into sharper focus. â??As sharp as a wooden short sword.â?

â??Pfft. What does an Artisan know about fighting anyways?â? She twirled the wand slowly in her hand, wondering if she could use it as a cudgel. Despite the Dealerâ??s comments, she felt that the wand was plenty sharp and small enough to handle much easier than a larger melee weapon. She tested the pointed spokes of the wand with her fingertip.

â??About as much as a full support Cleric may,â? he responded, eyes still scanning the beach front. â??Plus, Iâ??m a guy. I automatically know more about fighting than any girl.â? He mocked swinging his hammer to and fro and flexed his muscles, earning himself a smack in the back of the head with Lexyâ??s wand. Dex had been right. The wand wasnâ??t at all as sharp as it looked.

â??Whatever,â? she responded, smiling. She knew he was trying to make her feel better. And it was working. â??Some warriorâ?¦dressed in a tropical print tee, shorts, and flip-flops.â?

â??Iâ??m an extreme warrior,â? he announced proudly, still miming fighting moves with his hammer. â??Iâ??m more than extreme, Iâ??m DEXTREME!â?

He stood quickly then, waving his hammer and thrusting it forward as if he was a soldier and it a giant spear. â??Letâ??s go,â? he announced, smiling. â??Thereâ??s no one about now. Letâ??s see if we can fool those Palm-robots.â?

â??Still seems like a bit of a gamble to meâ?¦â? Lexy said uncertainly as she stood to join the Dealer.

â??You know me,â? he responded. â??Whatâ??s life without a bit of a gamble here or there? If I could, Iâ??d live in a city full of risk-taking, chances and gambling.â?

â??Seems pretty risky living anywhere, nowadays,â? she said. â??Monsters appear by the spawn-load each day.â?

Galexy followed Dex as he repelled down the cliff effortlessly and speedily. Special stones, called Sagittarius stones, increased their movement speeds when worn. Dex not only had a complete jewelry set for himself, he had an extra set to loan to the Muse. They needed every bit of magic available to them if they were to pull off this stunt.

They had debated for most of the afternoon about which jewelry set to wear. Should they look for something defensive? Offensive? Being both unskilled at the art of attack, they felt that being on the defensive side would be best and that getting in and out was even more important than having extra health or whatever.

Before long, the pair reached the edge of the palm tree border. No one was in sight. Lexy stepped out of the forest first, her purple boots sinking quietly into the soft sand dunes, and approached the line.

â??Well, here goes nothing,â? she whispered, eyes forward and trained on the boulder before her. She repeated the litany of numbers Dex had given her. He had them memorized from the personnel people from earlier. She held her breath and jumped across the line.

Galexy landed with a soft thud on the other side of the line and gazed up quickly at the border area. As the Dealer had predicted, the palm tree robots did not even register her presence. She did not have an ID-tag, so of course she was an animal that roamed the area. What else could she be?

She stood up on shaky legs, a small grin plastered on her face. She turned to Dex and waved marginally. He, on the other hand, was smiling goofily at her and gave her the thumbs up sign. She walked to the boulder, entered the code, waited for Dex to cross the barrier unharmed, and reactivated the code to re-raise the barrier. It would have been too suspicious to leave it down.

They snuck towards the building and opened the door they had seen the personnel enter. It was unlocked and unguarded. The hallway was dimly lit and smelled of oils and chemicals - not what one usually associated with a resort-type atmosphere.

A lone voice drifted down the hallway, singing some upbeat song that Galexy had never heard. The pair of adventurers followed the sound of the voice, their â??weaponsâ?? at the ready. At the end of the hallway, a single door stood open. They peered hesitantly around the edge of the door.

Inside, atop a large table situated in the center of the room, a Muse stood dancing. Her eyes were closed behind her small glasses as she belted out the happy tune. She twirled about, carefree. The white lab coat she wore over her Dimple Suit, its pockets stuffed full of papers and other knick-knacks, moved rhythmically to her song.

After a few moments, she hopped off of the table and went to one of the glass beakers on the table. She poured a small vial of blue, viscous liquid into the green mixture and swirled it gently about, still singing loudly to herself.

Galexy tip-toed towards the Muse as the Museâ??s back was turned and tightened her grip on the wand in her hand, summoning up the courage that she would need to accomplish her Quest. She did not notice as the wandâ??s glow flickered and on off, for a second resembling its state before she and Xyler had fiddled with the UI. She raised her wand above her head. With any luck, a quick downward stroke would knock the lab Muse unconscious long enough for them to tie her up and question her when she awoke.

Dex stood watch in the hall, his eyes alert for any signs of other people. Unlike Galexy, he was more excited than nervous. He had been trying to get into the complex for ages now to discover its secrets. He studied the cabinets that lined the wall and the vials and beakers that filled the tables and itched to read the labels upon them. Though he had never been a potions crafter, the art of it interested him. To discover that the resort was actually a secret laboratory like he thought was more exciting than he could put into words. He watched both Muses with growing anticipation.

The lab Muse was oblivious to her approach. Galexy came as close as she dared, arms still raised above her head, and stuck down quickly, aiming for the other Museâ??s head - with her eyes closed. It was at that exact moment that the lab Muse pirouetted to the side, accidentally avoiding Lexyâ??s blow.

The Muse shrieked loudly, her song forgotten, at the sight of the intruders. Lexy, panicked, joined in on the screeching. The Muses glanced at one another, eyes locked, and their screaming intensified. Dex ran into the room and shut the door, effectively cutting off the noise from traveling any further than their little room.

He approached them, preparing to intervene, and paused quizzically. The Muses were jumping up and down now, clutching one anotherâ??s arms. Their frightened screams were replaced by delightful squeals of surprise.

â??Leexxxyyyy!â? cried the Muse, pushing up her petite glasses that kept threatening to fall off her face from the exuberance of her bouncing. She launched forward and grasped Galexy in a tight embrace. â??I canâ??t believe youâ??re here!!â?

The Cleric, a huge grin upon her face, hugged her friend back tightly. â??I havenâ??t seen you in eons, Elly!!â?

â??You two know each other, then?â? quipped the Dealer, one eyebrow arched at them. He crossed his arms over his chest, his crafting pick tapping lightly against his shoulder. â??That rather simplifies things.â?

Elly turned to look at Dex, her gaze traveling up and down his form. She returned her gaze to Galexy, her own eyebrows waggling suggestively as she jerked her head in Dexâ??s direction. Galexy blushed and shook her head animatedly. She flicked her eyes over at the Dealer, taking in his attire, and back at Elly. Both Muses burst into a fit of giggles, much to the confusion to the scrutinized Artisan.

â??So, heâ??s unattached then,â? asked Elly, looking at the dealer slyly. She smiled. â??With a little wardrobe alterations, I bet we could change thatâ?¦â?

â??Hey!â? Dex looked down at his favorite floral print shirt and back up at the twittering girls. â??I happen to be on vacation. This is what one wears on vacation.â?

â??Uh-huh,â? Elly said, nodding. â??Like anyone vacations hereâ?¦â?

Galexy interrupted them. â??Elly just likes clothes,â? she said, trying to sooth the Dealer. â??She likes to come up with new things, designs and such. Donâ??t mind her.â? She turned to her friend. â??And Dex really was on vacation, until I interrupted.â? As an afterthought, Galexy introduced them to one another. â??Ionik, this is Ellyâ?¦We trained together back at the Arumic School for Muses from like Level 3 till 50? Before Elly zoomed on pass and outgrew me. Elly, this is Ionik, though I call him Dex. We just met here on Skaaj.â?

They each shook one anotherâ??s hand in greeting. Dex gazed up at Ellyâ??s ID-tag that read â??Ellylovesessâ?? and turned to the Muse. â??Whoâ??s Ess?â?

Galexy followed his gaze and pounced on the question. â??Yyeeeaaa! No wonder I didnâ??t recognize you. Youâ??ve changed your name! I donâ??t know any Esses. Did he train with us back in Adventure Plains? Or in the Forest of Wisdom? Or did you meet him after your second job change?â?

The other Muse blushed and shook her head. Locks of her bubblegum pink hair fell from the golden coils on her head and into her eyes. â??Itâ??s not like that at all,â? she said, her voice suddenly shy.

â??Then what? Who is he?â?

â??Itâ??s not a he,â? the Muse corrected. Her eyes staring at the ground. â??Itâ??s a what.â? She blushed a brighter shade of red and continued in a barely audible whisper. â??Itâ??s short for essenceâ?¦â?

Galexy squeaked, her face contorting as laughter bubbled out of her. â??Essencee?? Like the chemical?â?

â??Lexxyyyyy,â? moaned the Muse. She actually stomped her feet, pouting. â??Iâ??m a Chem Mage. Itâ??s what I doooo.â?

â??I know, I know. I donâ??t mean to laugh,â? said Lexy, wiping the tears of laughter from her eyes. â??I just thought that there was more to it, thatâ??s all.â?

â??What about you?â? asked the Mage, changing the subject abruptly from herself. She glanced at Lexyâ??s and the Dealerâ??s missing ID-tags. â??Whatâ??s up with your names? Itâ??s all missing and stuff...â? Her eyes opened wide and her mouth formed a tiny O of surprise. â??Youâ??re not supposed to be here, are you?â?

Galexy shook her head slowly as Dex lifted up his hammer, preparing for an attack (just in case). â??Weâ??re here looking for Xyler,â? she whispered softly, the laughter gone from her voice. â??Itâ??s a long story, but weâ??ve reason to believe he was taken here after the crash.â?

â??Heâ??s a Hawker, right? Jaguar clothes, katars?â? Ellyâ??s eyes narrowed in worry. â??Also missing an ID-tag, like you guys?â?

â??Youâ??ve seen him!?â? Galexy held her breath.

Elly placed a hand on her friendâ??s arm. â??The, um...He was brought here a few days ago. They said he was a spy, from another faction, trying to steal the secrets of our lab hereâ?¦â? She raised her eyes to her friendâ??s and *^^*ed her head to one side. Her voice was quiet, but firm when she spoke again. â??Are you spies, Lexy?â?

â??What do I care about the secrets here?!â? Lexy yelled, angry. She took a deep breath and clutched Ellyâ??s hands in her own. â??Do I look like a spy? I just want Xyler back. I donâ??t care what it is that you guys do here. Truly I donâ??t. Iâ??ve never lied to you before. Iâ??m not lying now.â?

Elly stood there, calculating. Her eyes flitted back and forth between Galexy and the Dealer. Finally, she sighed. â??I do believe you,â? she said. â??This rather complicates things.â?

â??And here I was hoping that it would simplify thingsâ?¦â? replied the Dealer, finally joining in on the weird conversation that passed between the two Muses. â??The Hawker was alone then? No Cleric or Alphonso?â?

â??Alphonso? What would he be doing here?â? Elly looked at the two in confusion. â??There was no one else ? just the Hawker.â? She turned to face Lexy fully.

Galexy retold the tale she told Dex, about the trip aboard the Flying Vessel, the fight and subsequent crash, and the events on Skaaj that led up to their entrance into the Resort complex. She even talked about Hebarn. At the mention of the Metal Monsters, also known as Castle Gears, Ellyâ??s eyes grew round again.

â??The Castle Gears are one of the secret projects weâ??re working on here,â? she confided in the two. â??Itâ??s a separate division that mine, which deals more with new potions and chemicals, but Iâ??ve seen them at work. Itâ??s supposed to help us fight off the invasion of Monsters to our worlds.â? She sighed again and sat down. â??Itâ??s a big secret. Theyâ??re afraid that the other factions will find out and steal the schematics before weâ??ve had a chance to perfect it for mass market selling. Hebarn has nothing to do with it...They thought Xyler was a spy sent by the other factions. They took him off planet already. Heâ??s to be questions by our leader.â?

â??And who would that be, exactly?â? Dex folded his arms across his chest and waited for an answer.

â??Hm..I donâ??t know really. I answer to RschLdr01, our Veteran research scientist here and he answers up the chain of command. Iâ??m just a Rookie here... Itâ??s a good job. Weâ??re told not to ask questions, just focus on our research. I never thought anything of it. We do have spies here every so often and theyâ??re carted off planet for questioning.â? She paused. â??Iâ??m sorry I didnâ??t find out more for you, Lexy.â?

â??Do you have any idea where they would have taken him?â? Galexy asked, knowing that her voice sounded overly hopeful.

A blaring sound drowned out Ellyâ??s answer. Blue lights flashed in the corner near the door. â??Someone is landing in the courtyard,â? Elly told them. She ran to a computer terminal and keyed in some quick strokes. A scene opened before them, showing a brand new flying vessel landing in the ocean just outside of the Resort.

â??Ruvenâ??s brought someone here,â? the Mage said. â??He never shuttles anyone here directly unless theyâ??re someone really important. I donâ??t understand why heâ??d be here in the middle of the night, though..â?

Elly punched in a few buttons into the terminal and the image zoomed in. Three figures rowed to shore aboard the tiny dinghy that left Ruvenâ??s personal flying vessel. One of the people on the boat was Ruven himself, looking very wary and disturbed. He was also the only one rowing the boat.

The other two, both Hawkers stood in the rowboat, unbothered by the rocking of the waves upon the sides of their tiny boat. Though their names were difficult to make out in the distance, the symbol and name of their clan was easily read.

â??The Affliction.â? The name glowed in the dark, pulsating a sinister shade of purple in the night air. The name brought with it a sense of dread and surrealness that shook the trio to the core.

They were the monsters of fairytales, the demons of that lurked in the night, ones even Heroes could not kill. It was name of the group of assassins and warriors, told to native born citizens of the inhabited planets ? stories reinforced and told to the training adventurers throughout Junon. They were the followers of evil, the apostles of Hebarn. They were nightmares incarnate.

â??Theyâ??re only tales!â? hissed Elly, trying to zoom in on the quickly approaching boat. â??The Affliction does not exist!â?

â??Looks like they exist to me,â? Galexy replied warily. Like they needed more problems right now.
  • 0

#12 KingArthur

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Posted 24 July 2010 - 12:43 AM

The Resort, Part 3

It was with a sense of morbid fascination that the trio watched the arrival of the Affliction clan members. Both glided across the white sands of the beach, hand in hand, as if the softness of the ground provided no hinderance to their advance.

Ruven, looking a bit breathless, stumbled a few paces behind them. He nodded or shook his head to questions that the female Hawker threw over her shoulder at him. She paid little to their surroundings and danced about more so than she actually walked. Her partner walked silently ahead, his eyes forward.

A few meters into the complex, the male stopped and looked around. His eyes zoned into the tiny security camera, disguised as a swivel-headed bird perched upon a branch of a tree on the Resort grounds. The camera zoomed into his face, taking in his smoldering expression. He narrowed his eyes and directed his next comments to Ruven.

The piloteer motioned this way and that with his hands, clearly describing the security measures set up by the leaders of the facility. After a few silent moments, the man turned his attention away from the camera and continued on his path straight for the domed structure in the middle of the complex.

â??Wow,â? whispered the girls in unison.

â??Wow is right,â? repeated the Artisan. â??How did that Hawker see the camera? He was barely on the beach, its pitch dark outsideâ?¦Thereâ??s no way he couldâ??ve seen that!â?

The Muses both giggled. â??Thatâ??s not what we were wowing about,â? whispered Galexy somberly.

Elly shook her head and gave the Dealer and crooked smile. â??That Hawker is H-A-W-T!â?

â??Hot or not, we gotta get out of here,â? said Lexy, her face suddenly serious. â??Dex and I arenâ??t supposed to be hereâ?¦ and Iâ??m not sure if you should be here either, if people from The Affliction are involved.â?

â??Iâ??m afraid youâ??re right,â? agreed Elly. Eyeing the room quickly, the Mage started to pack up supplies. She pulled beakers and vials of chemicals off of shelves and storage cabinets and stored them in the inventory of her UI. She hoarded notebook after notebook of data. She filled up every slot in her inventory and proceeded to fill up the remainder of Dexâ??s as well. When heavy, she slid on an orange backpack, a small glowing Jack-o-Latern smiled back at them from the packâ??s top, and wirelessly connected it to her UI. Instantly she was able to carry heavier objects without straining her internal computing system.

As she packed, Galexy kept a constant watch on the scene displayed on the computer monitor. The group approached the domed structure and entered, cutting them off from view of the security camera. A few quick keystrokes by Elly and they were observing the scene from within the domed structure. Again, the maleâ??s eyes found the camera and he watched it as surely as they watched him.

Does he know he is being watched? Wondered Lexy, amazed at his insight. How is it possible for him to know these things? She wondered if the god Hebarn had a hand in this Hawkerâ??s insight or if it was just the luck of an observant man.

A sigh from the Mage interrupted Lexyâ??s mind babble. There were still vials, different sized crystals, and materials crusted with dirt to be stolen from the lab when the packs were full. Elly looked at Galexy in dismay. â??With your UI off you canâ??t carry anything can you?â?

The Cleric rolled her eyes and lifted a spare pack from the hook on the wall. â??Iâ??ll do it the non-lazy way.â?

She opened the flap of the pack, much to the amazement of the others, and piled the items left on the countertop into her pack, careful to place the breakable vials in last. Once everything was in, she closed zipped the top of the bag, slid her arms through the loops, and hefted the pack on her back.

â??Easy Peasy,â? she responded, smiling at the stunned expression of her peers. On the screen behind her, the two Hawkers walked through to the central podium and stood upon it. Ruven flipped a switch on the wall near the door and the entire central area of the domed structure sunk into the ground and disappeared. Ruven, clearly looking relieved, exited the building at a quick pace and returned to his ship.

â??I didnâ??t know you could do that.â? Elly opened her own pouch and peered inside. No one had ever suggested that the packs themselves could carry something. They had always served as an attachment for the UI to increase the weight one could carry ? not allow additional items to be held. â??You think I could hold more in here, too?â?

Dex looked up from his own bags, full now of real gems that Elly had not bothered to pack. â??Itâ??s heavy for me to pick up, but Iâ??m able to do so. Since it has nothing to do with the UI, it doesnâ??t strain the system, making it hard for us to move.â? He lifted the bag and putting it on. â??You sure are full of surprises, Gal.â? He smiled and patted Lexy on her head. â??Now letâ??s get out of here, shall we?â?

The girls nodded and headed towards the door. At the entrance, the Mage paused and ran a hand against the wall. â??Might as well go all outâ?¦â? she whispered as a hidden compartment opened. A glowing purple gem sat amid within the large safe. Elly pulled it out and stuck it in Lexyâ??s pack.

â??Thatâ??s the thing they used to start the Castle Gears,â? Lexy begun.

â??Yes, but it does other stuff too.â? Elly held up her finger to her lips for silence as she opened the door and peered about. The hallway was empty. Quickly and as stealthy as possible, the party headed out the way they had come. No one stopped them.

The exited the building undetected as well and quickly trekked across the open ground, heading to the boulder to disarm the palm-tree robot detectors. Dex quickly entered the numbers into the system as the Muses watched him. Neither one was keeping watch when a voice made a three jump.

â??What are you guys doing, hm?â? The high, girly voice sounded more curious than anything else. Elly and Lexy turned to face the female Hawker, each clutching the other with shaking hands. Dex slowly stood and turned to face her. â??Are we going camping? I do looooveee to camp!â?

The male Hawker stood next to the fluttery female, his stance relaxed and alert. It was clear to all of them that he anticipated a fight. â??I do not think that camping is on their minds,â? he stated slowly, his voice deep and emotionless. He met Lexyâ??s startled glance and quirked an eyebrow. â??Are you?â?

Two sharp looking blades appeared in each hand as he spoke. A sinister glint shone in his eyes as his gaze bore into the Clericâ??s own. The female Hawker giggled and a sound of tinkling bells filled the air. In a soft voice, her laughter still apparent, the female sighed. â??Thatâ??s just too bad.â?
  • 1

#13 KingArthur

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Posted 24 July 2010 - 12:55 AM

Inner Courage

Galexy raised her Crystal Wand just in time to stop the downward arc of Katinkaâ??s Glacier Blades. The katars gave off a blinding light that seemed to pulse to an unseen heartbeat. The light blinked red, then orange, then yellow. It pulsed outwards in colored rays of green, blue, and purple, respectively. Coupled with the sweet sounds of bells, it created a mesmerizing effect. Lexy could not look away from the glow.

â??Huh.â? The female Hawker withdrew her weapon and took a step back. She tilted her head to one side and glanced at Galexy, confusion evident upon her scowling face. The Male Hawker remained where he stood, both swords still in his hands. He had made no move to attack them. Both Elly and Dex lay unconscious on either side of Lexy. The Cleric blinked and stepped back. She had not seen her friends being attacked, much less knocked out.

â??She stopped your attack,â? the male said simply. One corner of his mouth quirked up in a shadow of a smile. His eyes moved up to where her ID tag should have been and back down to her clothes. â??She canâ??t be more than lvl. 100.â?

â??You think I donâ??t know that!â? raged the female. The sound of bells intensified, making both the male Hawker and Lexy cringe. With that, Katinka attacked once more. She lunged at the Cleric, slashing rapidly with her Katars.

The Cleric stuck out her Crystal Wand just in time to stop the Screw Slash that came at her. Katinka yelled out her rage and came at Galexy again and again with her flurry of attacks. Each attack was stopped in time by the Clericâ??s wand.

â??Howâ?¦Areâ?¦Youâ?¦Doingâ?¦THAT?!â? grunted the Hawker in between her attacks. Beads of sweat formed around the outer edges of Katinkaâ??s face, forcing her to stop. It wasnâ??t very neither dignified nor ladylike to fight covered in sweat afterall. She advanced on Galexy slowly, her Katars relaxed by her side.

Lexy backed away, afraid. She had managed to stop the blows - but just barely. She wasnâ??t strong enough for another round of attacks. Her eyes darted to the male, who remained standing where he was watching the scene unfold, and back over the bodies of her friends. Elly was beginning to stir. The Mage blinked and opened her eyes. Their eyes met.

â??Who are you? Why are you here?â? came the girlish voice of the Hawker. She did not notice the mage on the ground. Her eyes, cold and angry, were trained on Lexy.

Lexy straightened her pose and plastered a fake smile on her face. â??Wouldnâ??t you like to know?â? she taunted, trying to keep both Hawkers eyes on her instead of the Mage who was slowly inching her way towards the Dealer. Lexy rubbed at her ears and cringed. â??Whatâ??s with all the nasty bell sounds?â?

â??Nasty?!â? screeched Katinka. Her eyes reflected the angry pulsing of her weapons. â??Itâ??s classic. A beautiful lullaby to see you to sleep.â? Her mouth curved into a horrid imitation of a smile. â??Itâ??s time for you to sleep now, Muse.â?

â??No thank you,â? retorted Lexy, albeit shakily. She held her wand loosely by her side and relaxed her stance so that she could jump in any direction at a moments notice. Elly had reached Dex and was clutching his arm with one hand. In the other hand, she held a teleportation scroll freshly removed from her inventory. She looked up at Lexy, her eyes beckoning.

The female Hawker stood between her and her friends. Sheâ??d have to dodge pass the The Afflicition clan member. She didnâ??t pause to think it through. Thinking would only cause her to hesitate. She could not afford it now. Before Katinka had a chance to attack, Lexy launched herself at the Hawker, wand pointed outwards like a spear.
The Hawker raised her Glacier Blades smoothly and blocked the attack. She stepped sideways, flinging the Cleric off and away from her, and brought her blades up in preparation for a Combo Slash. When the attack came down, the targeted enemy was gone - along with the two supposedly unconscious Visitors.

Katinka cursed loudly into the night air, to the amusement of the male Hawker, and took her anger out on the Resortâ??s perimeter. By morning, a third of the forest had been decimated and one of its most prestigious new scientists had disappeared, along with a wealth of the complexâ??s research.

------

The purple vortex dumped the trio onto the ground with a great thump. They breathed in the crisp night air deeply; glad to have air in their lungs once more. The journey had been sudden and painful. A scroll never took so long to take effect before and the duration had never been so long.

â??I canâ??t believe it worked,â? huffed Elly, her breathing still labored. She pushed herself into sitting position, one hand clutching her side painfully. She smiled sheepishly, repositioning her small rimmed glasses upon her nose. â??We made it back. Are you ok?â?

Lexy nodded automatically. She poked the sore spots on her body and cringed. Pain meant that everything was working ok, so everything had to be alrightâ?¦right? â??Where are we, Elly?â? She crawled over to where Dex lay and checked his pulse. He didnâ??t look so good. His face was pale and bruises were already beginning to show. â??Heâ??s going to need a Cleric.â?

â??Youâ??re a Cleric, Lexy,â? reminded Elly. She pointed to the wand laying forgotten on the grassy floor. â??It looks like its working again.â?

Galexy stared at the Crystal Wand in disbelief. The Mage was correct. The wand glowed softly and emitted a steady red glow from the garnet set in its hilt. Lexy picked it up and glanced at her UI, which was still non-functional. â??Do you think it works?â?

â??Try it,â? Elly urged. â??Try it.â?

Galexy lowered the wand slowly over Dex, hovering it inches above his face. â??Soul Revive,â? she whispered softly, her hands quivering as if she were still an apprentice to the Arumic school for Muses. Most Heroes did not need to say their skills aloud anymore to activate it. After months of training, their bodies told the User-Interface system what action needed to take place. But Galexy did not have the luxury of the UI and trusted that the words would achieve the desired effect that her UI could no longer provide.

The wand glowed steadily, but nothing happened. Dexâ??s breathing slowed. A slow tint of blue crept along the edges of his skin, coloring it with the awful shade of stillness.
â??Try again,â? Elly gulped, hands clenched tightly on Lexyâ??s sleeve. She smiled reassuringly, her eyes shiny with unshed tears. â??Thereâ??s no one else here. You can do it. Seventh in class, remember?â?

A small smile formed on Galexyâ??s face at the reminder. The classes were competitive, everyone vying for first-in-class. They had both achieved that seat for their respective profession, Lexy as a healer and Elly as a mage. They would have both kept that position until their Hero Lvl 50 benchmark if they had not been out pestering the Fighting Clowns to hide their cart scrolls early instead of studying for their Muse exam.

The missed exam had caused them to drop six places in rank, but it had been worth it. No one believed that they could pass the Cart Quest before Hero level 50. They hadnâ??t the skills nor stats to accomplish the task, but they did it. They had the licenses to prove it.

They could pass this task, too.

Lexy closed her eyes and concentrated, imagining the cool, white-yellow glow of the resurrection spell enveloping her fallen party member as it breathed life back into him. She pictured the steady rise and fall of his chest as his breathing regulated and the blue tint of his skin fading, replaced by the rosy red glow he had when tanning beneath the sun the first time she spied him. She pictured the warmth of a sun, slowly healing them and taking away nightâ??s chill.

When she opened her eyes, Dex smiled back at her. â??Thanks,â? he said, pushing himself off of the ground and raising his hands up to the bonfire.

â??Good job,â? Elly whispered, hugging Lexy close. The Cleric sniffed and hugged her friend back.

â??Hey, where are we?â? asked the Artisan, interrupting the Muses. He looked around at the trees around them, noticing the difference between the beauty of Skaajâ??s forest and the sinister look of these forests. â??How did we get here?â?

â??Planetary Scrolls,â? announced Elly proudly. She pulled another handful out of her inventory and showed it to them. â??Itâ??s my current research project,â? she said. â??Iâ??ve been working on it nonstop since I got to the Resort. I havenâ??t had a chance to test it, really, until just now.â? She smiled sheepishly and diverted her eyes. â??Iâ??m glad it workedâ?¦â?

â??You tested new scroll types on us?!â? Dex looked at them in shock.

â??It was either that or become shish kabobs to the crazy Hawker-lady,â? Lexy replied calmly, despite the butterflies in her stomach. â??It worked and weâ??re not dead. Be happy.â? She squeezed Elly in another hug. â??Itâ??s an awesome invention. Much better than Flying Vessels, especially considering my last experience with them.â?

The Mage nodded. â??I need to work on some form of air supply or something. Exiting the other side short of breath may not be the best thing.â? She looked around. â??Weâ??re on Junon, I believe. Forest of Wisdom, by the looks of it.â? She paused and added, in a small whisper, â??I havenâ??t exactly perfected the formula of where the exit locations areâ?¦ Itâ??s not as exact as town scrolls - yet. It will be, though.â?

Dex rubbed the back of his head. Despite his interest in the Resortâ??s research, he had not liked being an unintentional lab rat. He changed the subject. â??Man, those Hawkers were fast. I didnâ??t even see them attack.â?

â??The male didnâ??t attack at all,â? said Galexy. She waved her wand in the air and applied a party heal. â??Only the Katinka woman attackedâ?¦â?

â??That woman is crazy,â? added Elly with a shudder. Everyone nodded in agreement.

â??Speaking of the male,â? Dex put in. He smiled mischievously, his eyes on Elly. â??Did you guys happen to catch his name?â?

â??No,â? started the Mage, confused. â??Why are you looking at me like that?â?

Galexy giggled. â??His name was Esseff.â?

â??You sure the â??essâ?? part of your name means â??essenceâ?? and not â??Esseffâ???â? queried the Dealer, laughing.

â??As if I would love an Affliction member!!â? replied Elly hotly.

Lexy nodded. â??Thatâ??s right. No matter how sexy and smoldering he looks.â?

â??Hey! Youâ??re supposed to be on my side,â? pouted the Mage, crossing her eyes in mock indignation.

â??Iâ??m always on your side,â? Lexy replied. â??Even if it means getting two weeks of detention, loss of shopping privileges, blocked Whisper and PMs, loss of leveling party privileges...â?

â??Ok, ok, I get it.â? Ellylovesess smiled. â??We did get into a lot of scrapes together, back in the day, didnâ??t we?â?

â??Seems like you guys still do,â? commented Dex.

A crowd of Smolies, young and old, had formed around them while they were talking. Normally it would have been an easy task to push them back. They were high leveled Heroes, afterall. But as they watched, the whole forest seemed to converge on the trio. There were many, many more Smolies in the forest than they had ever seen.

â??Easy Peasy,â? said Galexy as buffs exploded from her wand and supported her friends.
  • 1

#14 KingArthur

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Posted 24 July 2010 - 12:56 AM

11. Allies

Drip. Drip, drip. Drip. The monotonous sound droned on, as it always did, and did little to drown out the distance yells that echoed within the prison walls. Candlelight flickered from brass lanterns hung intermittently between the cages that lined each wall. Trails of lights dotted in and out of the darkness, often accompanied by their ghostly bearers, and brought little comfort to those imprisoned there.

A low moan, followed by the soft shuffling of feet upon bare dirt, came from one end of the corridor. The moan intensified, sounding more sorrowful and eerie than before. The figure neared the cages. People hastily retreated from the bars of their cages, wanting to be out of reach as the creature neared.

Light fell across the stooped figure as it moved under one of the lanterns. It illuminated the decrepit woman, bent over in some half-broken stance, and did little to bring color to the grey pallor of her skin. Spittle dripped unchecked from one side of her gapping mouth.

Her glassy eyes saw little. She held her rail thin hands out in front of her for balance and direction. Her steps were labored. A manacle weighed down on leg and the other seemedâ?¦wrong, somehow. It was a miracle that she was able to move at all.

But that was part of the magic of this prison. Little was as it seemed. Hundreds of prisoners, much like the woman, moved indifferently throughout the hallways and passages of the corridor in their zombie-like manner. They harassed the caged and instilled a fear in them more terrifying and lasting than anything the guards could offer. For in the free prisoners, those trapped saw their own likely future.

Xyler sat, hunched, on the floor of his cage-like cell. There was little room to lie down or stand. Thick bandages wrapped across his exposed chest and over one shoulder to staunch the bleeding of his various wounds. The majority of his armor was stripped away upon capture, leaving him only clothed in worn Brown Jeans and Visitor Sandals. The cold and dampness of the prison had been hard to bare - at first. He no longer felt anything.

His cool, blue eyes stared unblinking at the female prisonerâ??s progress down the corridor. He did not flinch away from her touch as she crashed into the side of his cage and grabbed his arm. Her nails raked thin lines across his flesh. His eyes moved slowly from her face down to her body and, finally, down to his arm.

She yanked a bit harder, bringing his arm near her mouth as if to bite him, but his lack of reaction bored her. The prisoner released the Raiderâ??s arm and moved on to torment the livelier prey.

â??Another one gone,â? came a hoarse whisper once the zombied prisoner was out of earshot.

â??Such a shame,â? replied another voice, softer than the first. â??Heâ??s only been here a few days.â?

â??They had him up there for most of that time,â? chimed in a third, who shook his head. â??Surprised heâ??s still in one piece. None of the others came back.â?

â??Thatâ??s what happens when you try to fight,â? intoned the first. He craned out of his cage, arm reaching towards the bowl of food and water set untouched in Xylerâ??s cell. â??Look at his eyesâ?¦more than half gone now.â?

â??What wrong with my eyes?â? The three speakers jumped back and away from the cage they had all inched towards, surprised by the sanity evident in Xylers even voice. Xyler turned his eyes on each of the speakers in confusion. â??They didnâ??t do anything to my eyes.â? The things they had done to try to get him to talk had been plenty bad. He did not want to imagine them trying anything with his eyes.

The three stared at him in shock. The man who had spoken last was the first to recover enough of his wits to reply. â??Theyâ??re blanked out, your eyes. Everything is blue. No iris, no pupil, no whites.â? He paused, unsure if he should even waste his breath explaining the circumstances to a semi-zombie. â??Itâ??s one of the first signs that youâ??re turning into one of those things.â? The man inclined his head towards the woman zombie-prisoner clawing at a caged victim.

Xyler was too stunned to reply. He brought his hands up to touch the lids of his eyes, as if that were enough to confirm their diagnosis. He shook his head slowly, careful not to draw the attention of the woman. â??I feel fine,â? he said, mulling over his wounds. He gingerly touched the sore spots, wishing for the billionth time that Lexy was there to cure him - and thanking the goddess that she was not. He could not imagine her in a place this horrid. â??Apart from their form of questioning I feel fine. Not zombie like at all.â?

â??How come you let her get you like that then?â? The three men nodded their heads in agreement. The speaker cringed at the thought of the femaleâ??s touch, her sharp talons raking into his own skin. He glanced at the bread rolls lying on the cage floor next to Xyler. â??Youâ??re not eating anything either.â?

â??Thatâ??s easy,â? replied Xyler, his voice confident. He brought up his left hand and showed them his stolen prize. â??They all have their pockets stuffed with things theyâ??ve picked up from around the prison, I guess. That one is a resourceful sort.â? He brandished the Glacier Knuckle proudly. Too bad he had not seen a pair, but one weapon was better than nothing.

â??It was shiny. How could you not see it?â? He smiled at his words, surprised that Galexyâ??s words had tumbled so freely from his lips. She would have laughed outright at him and teased him constantly for finally agreeing with her. The thought of his Muse warmed the iciness that had seeped into his body.

â??Iâ??d rather not look at them for very long,â? replied the man across from Xyler. He sat leaning against the bars, green hair ruffled. A short beard adorned his chin and wrapped itself slowly around his mouth. Unlike the hair on his head, the manâ??s facial hair was white. It reminded Xyler of Santaâ??s Beard.

â??What about your food?â? asked Xylerâ??s neighbor, his beady eyes trained on the rolls. Xyler, seeing the manâ??s expression, tossed the rolls to him. The man ate them greedily.

â??I canâ??t fit through the bars as I am,â? he replied as if it were the sanest thing in the world. His fingers ran lightly over the metal rails of the bars, testing the spacing between them. â??Soon I will be able to.â?

â??Soon?â? rallied the third. â??It will never be soon enough. No matter what you say, youâ??re already half turned. Without the food to keep your strength up, youâ??re just going to turn faster.â? He shook his head in dismay. â??Weapon or no. Youâ??re stuck in there. Whatâ??s a high level weapon going to do for you anyways? You canâ??t even wear it.â? He made a huffing sound and turned his back on them.

The others were not so pessimistic. They eyed the already lean Hawker and the bars of his cage. â??If we had something to pry the bars just a bit more, you could probably fit now, without starving yourself,â? his neighbor said through the mouthful of rock-hard bread. The man scratched his bald head. â??Never thought to starve myselfâ?¦nor look to the zombies for aid.â? He sniffed petulantly, nodded, and took another bite out of the stale roll. â??Youâ??re a clever one.â?

â??Think we could get out that way?â? queried the other, pinching the flab on his stomach dismally. He pulled at the magical lock of his cage sadly. There wasnâ??t even a key-hole for them pick at.

â??I donâ??t see why not.â? Xyler stretched out his legs in front of him and rubbed them idly. It was an odd sensation, to feel the coldness of his legs through his pants with his hands, but not feel the coldness of his legs themselves. He mentally shrugged off the vague worry as his thoughts returned to Galexy.

He worried about her. Not knowing where she was or how she was doing was the only thing that kept him moving and planning now. It was what kept him sane after all the questioning he had gone through. His skin prickled at the reminders to the Afflictionâ??s methods of questioning. He knew that Lexy was not here. They had not captured her when they had taken Nova and the pilot. She had been lost before the crash. No doubt falling out of the boat as was her custom.

The thought, which would have normally brought a smile to his face, caused him to frown in worry. The Cleric was known for her clumsiness. How she had managed life on Junon before they met was beyond him. She needed someone to watch over herâ?¦and he was here rotting away in prison for a crime that he did not commit knowingly.

He did not plan on crashing on the super secret research base. He would not have even known about the research base if they had not brought him to the building. He didnâ??t even know where he was, much less plan on spying on the people holed up there. He only knew it was not Eldeon when he was carted off that planet to Eldeon for questioning.

A loud thump shook him from his thoughts. A large plank sat wedged between the bars of his cage and the bars of his neighborâ??s cage. â??My bed,â? his neighbor said sagely. â??This should do the trick,â? the man mused. His face was animated now. Hope was a wondrous thing. His brow creased in concentration. â??Hm..If I can justâ?¦yes, there we goâ?¦Ahhh..â?

The man scooted to the end of his cage, sticking his legs out through the bars, and held onto his cage bars with both hands. He rested his legs against the wooden plank and pushed outward with it, causing it to bend against Xylerâ??s bars.

The loud creaking noise echoed down the corridor. The soft moaning noises of the zombie-prisoners greeted the noise. It meant someone was moving about, becoming lively. They were always the best ones to gnaw on. The Cannibal Cooks licked their lips and joined in the zombie march, their sharp machetes swinging inaccurately about their bodies.

The creaking intensified as Xyler helped push the wooden board against the bars, forcing the opening wider and wider. Then with an arm-jarring SNAP, the board broke in half. Xyler pulled the board closer to him and continued the process alone. It was too short now for his neighbor to be of any help.

â??Hurry,â? they chorused. All four men (even the surly one pretending not to pay attention) eyed the slow approach of the free prisoners. Another SNAP and the decaying board broke once more. Xyler bent down and examined the small hole created between the two bars. It would be a tight fit, but not impossible.

The Hawker laid down as much as he was able and stuck his upper body first through the hole, one arm at a time. His shoulderâ??s stuck slightly but he kept pushing with this feet and pulling with his arms until he slid through. The bars caught and pulled at his bare skin, but the new wetness provided by his seeping blood helped his escape. He slid right out after that.

â??Run!â? cried his neighbor. â??Before they get close.â?

The others added their own hurried whispers. â??Hurry, before the ghosts come.â? â??Or the guards.â? â??What are you waiting for, idiot?!â? The last voice that chimed in belonged to the surly man, his eyes no longer turned away. He scowled at Xyler as the Raider stood there, motionless.

â??Iâ??m waiting for them to come.â? He stretched, wincing as the movement jarred his not-so-healed cuts and irritated his new ones. He slid the Glacier Knuckle onto his right hand. It was true that the weapon was meant for higher level Heroes, but with his UI still deactivated, there was nothing to censor such actions.

He smiled. His non-functioning UI had been a main point of all the questioning he received, but even they were not able to restore it to functionality. It made them curious, which may be one reason he was still alive. And now it was working in his favor again.

His comrades had had their inventories stripped and the rest of their UI functions placed on lock down. Though their UIs were activated, nothing worked. They were in the same boat as he was, except the UI still regulated much of their actions. They would not, for example, be able to hold the weapon he now held for their level and class restrictions were still functional.

â??Yep,â? commented the surly man. He seemed to slump in on himself, like a huge weight had come crashing down on him in that short second. â??The boyâ??s lost it.â?

â??Their weapons are stronger ? bigger,â? Xyler explained. His all-blue eyes stared at the approach of the prison-made Monsters. â??If they try to attack in this small corridor with those things, Iâ??m sure a few cages will get knocked aboutâ?¦â? They all mirrored the look the pessimistic man had. Xyler shrugged. â??Some bars or locks may get broken in the process.â?

â??Weâ??ll also get knocked about quite a bit,â? intoned his neighbor. Instead of sounding dour, he smiled. He liked the idea. â??Itâ??ll cause quite a rucous, though.â?

â??Iâ??ve only been here a few days, but it seems to me the zombies are always causing a bit of a ruckous among themselves and no one ever bothers to come investigate.â?

â??Cause whoâ??s stupid enough to make a lot of noise to attract their attention except other zombies?â? The last man smiled for the first time. â??Letâ??s get out of here!!â?

The man threw Xyler a short wooden stick to whole in his other hand. Though small, it was sturdy. It would make a good offhand. His new allies needed his help. He could not leave them behind while he ran off. Heâ??d get them out and then go find Galexy. Heâ??d have to hurry, like they were urging. Who knew what trouble she was getting into now without him?

â??Here they comeâ?¦Good luck, mate.â? Xyler nodded and dropped into a fighting stance.
  • 0

#15 KingArthur

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Posted 24 July 2010 - 12:56 AM

12. Escape

The prisoner ricocheted off of the cage, its head lolling to one side. The once-male gibbered incomprehensibly before launching himself once more at Xyler. The Raider deflected him easily and sent him crashing into the cage on the opposite side. Like the Monsters that had invaded the three inhabited planets of the Federation, the zombie-prisoner disappeared upon death.

The first time it had happened, Xyler had stopped his attack and stared incredulously. Even his allies locked in their cages had given gasps of surprise. This new tidbit gave credence to their theory that the zombie change was more than just a loss of sanityâ?¦that more was at risk here than just their mentality. It was not a calming thought.

This new discovery, however, was welcomed by the Hawker. He did not want to accidentally kill a prisoner who may have had a chance to recover. Nor deal with the site of unconscious, or otherwise incapacitated, bodies strewn about the prison floor.

Xyler dodged another attack by the Cannibal Cook, managing to miss the blow aimed for his waist. This time he planned the assault correctly. The large cleaver, having missed its target, clanged loudly against the metal bars of the cage behind them. The heavy blade of the weapon continued on down its arc and swiped the rusted lock cleanly off the cage.

The bald man, shaken from the jarring of his cage, tested the door to his cage. It opened easily. Before he could step out, however, a rush of zombie-prisoners approached and tried to grab him. He hastily closed the door and waited for Xyler to rid the corridor if its unwelcomed visitors.

Xyler smiled and taunted the cook to follow him across the short corridor to attack him on the other side. Along the way, he dispatched more zombie-prisoners deftly. Metal resonated against metal and another lock popped off. The man inside smiled broadly and poked at the free prisoners around his cages with a large wooden stick he had found. This new activity delighted him.

Xyler moved in front of the last cage, making sure the sole Cook followed him again. He barely managed to dodge a blow and slammed hard against the bars of the cage. The surly man stuck his hands out of the cage and helped the Hawker regain his balance in time to raise the Glacier Knuckle to stop the blow. Three free prisoners took that chance to converge onto the distracted Hawker.

They clawed at Xylerâ??s bandages, stripping them away from his unhealed wounds. The cook swung his blade again, aiming higher. Again, Xyler stopped the attack. But the force of the blow struck him sideways. He fell to the ground. The free prisoners fell upon him. The Cannibal Cook looked on eagerly.

The small creak of a cage door opening went unnoticed by the prisoners too intent on their current prize. A second creak joined the first and it, too, was overlooked. One male picked up a Mercury stone dropped by a deceased free prisoner and the other picked up an empty Mana Steam Rifle. With their new weapons, they rushed forward to aid the fallen Hawker.

To their surprise, before they had even attacked one zombie prisoner, the Monsters walked away from Xyler, their interest in him gone. They had barely been at him for more than 20 seconds. They did not even turn to look at the two silent men frozen in front of their open cages. The free prisoners, including the sulky looking cook, hustled down the corridor to the new sounds of yells that came from another hallway.

Surely they are not done...dining. thought one man hesitantly. He did not want to look over at their liberator, in case, but could not still his morbid curiosity. Aloud he said, â??Is it done, then?â?

The bald neighbor walked up to Xyler and dropped to his knees by the man. The Hawker looked gastly lying face down in the dirt, his wounds exposed to the three pairs of eyes watching him. The candlelight flickered ominously and raised goosebumps on the arms of all observers.

The man stretched his arms out to Xyler, turned his head slightly so he his face was exposed, and gently felt for a pulse. â??Heâ??s breathing,â? started the man. He watched the dust spin as Xyler blew out a shallow breath and took in another. â??Iâ?¦I canâ??t seem to find a pulse though.â? He frowned.

â??How do you expect to find anything with hands like yours,â? growled the round man still trapped in his cage. â??Youâ??re shaking all over like aâ?¦like a Noob.â? He pushed against his own bars and reached out a hand, snatching Xylerâ??s arm from the ground nearest to his cell. â??Let me do it.â?

Before he could assess the Hawkerâ??s well-being, Xyler blinked and opened his eyes. â??Are they gone?â? he breathed, his voice raw. He pulled his arm from the manâ??s grasp and struggled to push himself up off of the ground. He coughed, long and deep, as he struggled.

The others helped him into sitting position and looked worriedly on. Even in the dim light it was apparent that Xyler was way too pale. He looked sickly and tired. They were afraid to move him, but they could not loiter here. Guards could come at any moment. They needed to keep moving - to get out.

â??The cook guy didnâ??t happen to break your lock, did he?â? Xyler managed after another fit of coughing. He glanced at the lock with his glazed-over eyes as everyone confirmed that no, the lock was still in place. â??Here,â? he added, his voice barely audible now. He could barely lift up his arms to hand the bald man the Glacier Knuckle he still clutched. â??Try..â?

The bald man nodded in understanding and took the blade. As soon as he did so, however, it dropped to the ground next to him. Puzzled, he picked it up. Again, it slipped from his fingers and fell to the ground. He looked at his hand warily. He opened and closed his fist, wondering if he had lost some use with his hand. He tried, and failed, a third time.

The other man tried to pick it up and was unsuccessful as well. He, however, had the insight to look at his UI as he did so. He read the tiny script text aloud. â??Requirement level not met.â? [can't remember the exact wording at this moment. Gahh] The man flinched. â??*^.^*â? [not sure what this symbol looks like either. ahah you'd think we see it enough...]He flinched again as the tiny happy face bubble appeared over his mouth, censoring and muffling his words.

Xyler sighed and bent over to retrieve the weapon apparently only he could hold. Neither of the free men were Hawkers, or if they had been, were not high level enough to grasp the Level 200 weapon. He stood shakily, both men supporting each of his arms, and ineffectually hammered at the solid lock.

His arms felt rubbery and lifeless. Xyler was not sure if he had the strength to break the lock even if he was unhurt. Despite the feeling, he kept hammering away at the lock. After a few minutes with the others helping out (they grabbed his hand and banged at the lock while he merely held the weapon static), the three stopped. Everyone looked worn and tense. The three men outside of the cage could not meet the trapped manâ??s gaze.

Dizzy, Xyler slumped forward and slid to his knees in front of the lock. He stared resignedly at the lock in front of him and let out a long sigh of defeat. They would have to leave soon. They couldnâ??t linger any longerâ?¦But he could not bring himself to leave this man behind, however rude or pessimistic he had been.

â??Leave me,â? came the quiet voice within the cage. â??Go.â?

Xyler closed his eyes and shook his head slowly. He couldnâ??tâ?¦He wouldnâ??t. His breath came quickly then. He clenched his fingers around the knuckle, but could not move. Her heard the other two shuffling their feet behind him. They wanted to leave, he knew, but did not want to be the one to make that horrible decision.

He opened his eyes and stared blankly at the lock in front of him. â??One more try,â? he whispered. â??I can do it.â? They helped him up once more. â??One more.â? One man held him aloft while the other grasped his wrist, helping him pound at the lock.

With a quiet shattering, the lock broke at the first blow. Tiny pieces rained to the ground, joining the large chunks that already laid there. The surly man exploded from his cage, relief evident on his haggard face, and picked up a piece of the lock.

â??Argh!â? He dropped the lock and shook his hand. â??That thing is frozen!â?

â??Shh!!â? hissed the two men supporting Xyler. They looked hastily around to see if anyone had noticed the noise. No one had. Undoubtedly the screaming that still echoed in the prison further in still attracted all of the attention of the zombie-prisoners.

â??We did it,â? Xyler whispered. A quiet laugh slipped out. â??Dancing Flower Shorts,â? he said, smiling brightly. He met each of the other three menâ??s worried glances and blacked out.
  • 1

#16 KingArthur

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Posted 24 July 2010 - 12:57 AM

13. Junon Polis

The market square teemed with people. Heroes vied with other Heroes over glory, honor, trade, and skill. Vendors filled every niche and corner marketing their wares, occasionally yelling out what they are looking to sell or buy. Visitors stumbled in through the front gate, awed and astonished by the crowds. Con artists waited for these weary travelers, luring the naive and gullible into their slimy traps and scamming them for all their worth.

Here, in this great metropolis, all walks of life existed. The wealthy conversed with the poor, the good natured with their poor tempered, the famous with the newly transportated.

It was into this great heart of Junon that Galexyâ??s party strode. The normalcy of the city seemed unreal to these world-weary travelers. Lexy, dressed in a Dealerâ??s garb and holding a crafting mallet, strode consciously down the cobblestone roads. The mallet weighed heavily in her arm, making her miss the light airy feeling of her Crystal Wand now tucked away in her pocket. The missing-name B.U.G. when holding a Crafting Mallet was well known, Ionik had assured them. People would not glance at her twice for not having an ID-tag if they thought that she was a Dealer.

They walked slowly around the main fountain where the Mayor entertained his guests, greeted the new citizens of Junon, and awarded Heroes their level 100 congratulatory certificates. Only a few days ago Galexy had been by to visit him. Her certificate, deeply treasured, remained locked in her inaccessible Inventory now. Crune, walking pass them, had been there for her heroic moment as well, helping her refine her Velvet dress to its current state.

And now it laid, tattered and unworn, in a pile at the bottom of Lexyâ??s backpack. The second hand Dealerâ??s outfit, on loan from Ionikâ??s Inventory of â??for saleâ? items, was big on her petite frame and did not shine in the least. Elly, good friend that she was, consoled her long time friend. It was awesome that she could even wear clothes belonging to other professions, Elly had said. It meant that the Galexyâ??s attire selection just quadrupled. Dex, ever practical, merely reiterated the fact that the Cleric needed to hide the reason to her missing ID-tag and pretending to be a glitched Dealer was the way to go.

Thus consoled and convinced, Galexy had agreed to enter the city to find additional clues to their situation. They meandered through the throngs of people and shops towards Alfonsoâ??s dock. To their surprise, a newly crafted vessel floated moored to the dock, its sails already unfurled for departure.

â??Why the new ship?â? asked Ellylovesess nonchalantly. She batted her eyes at the stranger manning the ticket booth. â??Did Alfonso finally raise enough funds for a new vessel?â?

The man, always willing to spill a new tidbit of gossip, leaned eagerly forward. â??Didnâ??t you hear?â? he started, knowing full well that these people probably did not know (seeing as how so many travelers failed to visit cities for days or weeks at a time while they hunted Monsters or whatever it is these Visitors occupied their time.) â??Alphonsoâ??s Flying Vessel exploded mid-flight!â? He paused dramatically, waiting for their gasps of surprise and exclamations for him to continue. He was not disappointed.

â??According to the survivors of the ill-fated flight, they were attacked by Pirates in the sky! Demons, some say, worse than the everyday Monsters that roam our planets. What was worse, they said that the Demons didnâ??t even die correctly.â? He cringed and waited for a similar response in his listeners. The little green-haired Dealer girl looked a little pale, shaken even, and he hadnâ??t even reached the best part yet. What a great audience! he thought silently.

â??They stayed. They didnâ??t disappear as they ought to have done. Nope. Was a real mess, they said! Many passengers were cut down on that ship too. Not near enough Clerics to do anyone a bit of good. â? He shook his head sadly. â??The Heroes overthrew the Demons, of course. But another problem arose.â? He paused for effect. â??There was a fire on board, roaring and hot. It took the ship within seconds! Most passengers ran towards the life boats to escape.â? His voice lowered, taking on a more somber pitch. â??Alas, Alphonso was among the passengers that did not make it away alive.â? He ducked his head, hiding the real sadness he felt for so great a pilot. â??His life boat, along with his Flying Vessel, exploded into the night air. The wreakage still floats up there. We have to fly through it each time now.â?

â??Who flies the new ships if not Alphonso?â? queried Elly. She took a step closer to Galexy and held her hand. She, too, saw the expression that crossed her friendâ??s face at the mention of the ship. They had prepared themselves for the shock of an empty berth. That the position of piloteer to be so quickly filled had not crossed their minds.

â??Why, Ruven, of course,â? exclaimed the man. â??If not him, then some of the men apprenticed under him. Heâ??s got quite the business set up now.â? The man shook and pointed to the sign. â??Itâ??s quite the expense now to travel from planet to planet.â?

Galexy, agitation forgotten, gasped at the price. â??No way!â? The others in her party mirrored her reaction. â??How is anyone supposed to afford that?!â?

â??Itâ??s a travel method only for the rich now, it seems.â? The ticket seller shrugged. â??We used to think 500,000 zulie was big business, but now that he has the monopoly on Inter-Planetary travel, he can charge whatever he wants. If you want or need to go to other planets, what choice do you have?â?

â??But what of the risks of more space pirates?â? interjected Dex practically. â??Wouldnâ??t people want to avoid the risk and the cost of travel?â?

â??If you want a higher Hero level, you have to go off-planet,â? shrugged the man. â??And thereâ??s the zulie rewards for adventurers to map out the undocumented areas of the other two planetsâ?¦and all the various bounties they offer than Junon simply cannot.â? He paused. â??However you look at it, Ruven is still making money - more so now than ever before. Itâ??s becoming quite classy to travel via Flying Vessel anywhere nowadays. Trips are even booked in advance!â?

â??Does no one mourn for Alponso? Or those lost aboard the crash?â? Lexyâ??s voice was soft and distant, as if she did not expect an answer from the arrogant and talkative man. â??How quick the world is to move on.â?

â??Things cannot stay stagnant,â? replied the man indifferently. â??It is the way of our worlds, our economy. We cannot stop ferrying people around because one pilot is lost or one ship has sunk. There is little time to mourn in our times. Battles are frequent, as are deaths.â? These Visitors, with their questions and round, vunerable eyes, were quelling his happy mood. They made him feel guilty andâ?¦wrong for being who he was. He wanted them gone and abruptly changed the topic. â??Are you going to buy a ticket or not?â?

â??Who can afford that?â? cried Dex. He herded Galexy and the scowling Elly away before she could pounce on the man.

After a few minutes of quiet walking, Elly broke the silence. â??What do we do now?â?

â??Merohfey.. ehfuhe. Squeaakk.â?

â??What was that?â? Elly squeaked, jumping away from Lexy and staring at her pack warily. â??Something squeaked! Donâ??t tell me youâ??re carrying around a rat in there!â?

â??Rosemaryâ??s Doll!â?Lexy looked around and guided the trio in a corner off the crowded pathway. She slipped the pack from her shoulders and rummaged around in the pack. She had forgotten the doll after stuffing it into a pocket in her dress. She pulled the doll out from the jumble and dusted it off.

The dollâ??s head rolled to the side and its robotic mouth opened in what seemed to be a smile. â??Youâ??re not done with Clue #1 yet,â? it said smoothly, the sound no longer muffled by the items stowed in the pack. â??You have gained a party member and have taken one step closer to your objective, but there is still much to left to do!â?

â??Omg,â? sighed Elly. â??You have a doll that talks.â? She paused and giggled. â??When did you replace your Bumble Bee with this doll?â?

â??Istillhavemybumblebee,â? muttered Lexy, looking down at the doll. In a louder voice, she explained the discovery of the doll and the Quest to find Xyler to the mage.

â??Rosemaryâ??s Doll is named Arua?â?

The doll beeped. â??It doesnâ??t matter what my name is. Finish step one of your quest now that you are here!â?

â??I donâ??t know what that meanssss,â? wailed Lexy. She gazed around the city as if forcing the clue to reveal itself.

â??We should talk to Mildun,â? Dex said, his practicality and ingenuity proving useful once more. â??Alphonso mentioned him in the recording. Besides being in charge of the cart quest, wasnâ??t he involved in the whole engine building and stuff with the Alphonsoâ??s Flying Vessel?â?

â??Youâ??re right,â? the girls agreed. Lexy brushed the dollâ??s synthetic hair with her fingers idly. She stuffed the doll into her pocket, hiding it from view. â??Heâ??ll probably know something about the Metal Monstersâ?¦I mean, the Castle Gears.â?

The trio, decided, walked in search of Mildun. As usual, the man stood before his shop offering Heroes permits to drive his carts and selling them basic cart parts. They watched as he whispered to the Heroes, telling them no doubt to keep his involvement in the Learning to Drive Quest objective private. Despite all of this nonsense, everyone knew he was the man to go to for the license. You just had to bug him, and a few Fighter Clowns, often to get him to cooperate.

â??Mildun,â? Lexy said as she approached him and interrupted his conversation with a sweet looking kid. The boy did not look to be more than 10, much less Hero level 50. She flashed him a noteworthy smile. â??We need to talk to you.â?

Elly, not to be outdone, swished her hips as she approached and swung an arm around Lexyâ??s shoulder. â??In private, if you please,â? she added, winking. The Muses batted their lashes at him even as Dex rolled his eyes at their ploy for the manâ??s attention.

To the Dealers chargin, the methods the girls employed worked. Mildun nodded and motioned them into the shop behind him. He held the door open to admit the girls, but shut it on the Artisanâ??s face when the man tried to follow. Dex scowled at the wooden door, folded his arms, and leaned against the frame to wait.

Let the girls do the hard work for a change he thought sleepily. Time for me to take a nap anyways. Despite his standing position, the man soon fell deeply asleep at his post.
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#17 KingArthur

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Posted 24 July 2010 - 12:58 AM

14. Fayhter

The trio wandered along the winding dirt path that snaked its way through the Forest of Wisdom. The tiny tan flecks of rock and sand crunched beneath their feet. The morning sun shone brightly overhead. Well rested after a stay at the town inn, the party had left in good spirits.

Galexy wondered about the construction of this path, like so many others, that filled the inhabited worlds. Who had laid the foundation? How did they magic the paths so that Monsters avoided them? Was that a simple coincidence? Or a mark of evolution on the Monsters part to stay away from the Hero-infested pathways?

Whatever the reason, it was nice to stick to the enchanted pathway and not worry about the Smolies and other Monsters that lurked within the forest. They walked quickly, regardless. Pigcart, having spent most of their previous adventures locked away in Ionikâ??s Pat Inventory, had scuttled off the moment he was released and could not be called back to assist the party.

â??So all Mildun said was to find a guide with an eye patch in the Forest of Wisdom?â? Dex said softly. He kicked a rock across the dirt path dejectedly. He still sulked about his pet boarâ??s abandonment. It wouldâ??ve been nice to ride to the forest instead of walking along the trail - again. â??Doesnâ??t sound like much to go on..â?

â??He wouldnâ??t even tell us which eye-patched guide it was in the first place! We had to wheedle that tid-bit of information out of him,â? Lexy replied. She twirled a small gillyweed in one hand and waved it about. In her other, she clutched onto her glowing Crystal Wand, glad to have its comforting weight in hand once more. She had disliked holding the heavy mallet. â??Do you know how many guides there are with an eye patch on Junon alone?â?

â??Yep,â? intoned Ellylovesess, dancing around the pair. â??Donâ??t hate, appreciate!â?

Lexy, clad in an extra Dimple outfit Elly pulled from her bank storage, laughed. (It was much preferable to the plain Dealer outfit.) It was nice to laugh and smile again. She missed her Hawker dearly, but it wouldnâ??t do to dwell on the sadness of his absence. She needed to concentrate on her Quest to find Xyler. She couldnâ??t do that if she was morose all of the time.

It was good to be around Elly. The Mage knew how to draw her out, to make her happy once more. And while each heartbeat thumped Xy-ler, Xy-ler, her mind was able to look past the sound and focus on her friendâ??s happy antics.

â??Who says that anymore?â? Lexy paused, mid-thought, and pointed. The path forked at this junction, opening to the area known to be inhabited by the Clown-type Monsters. â??Look, itâ??s Fayhter!â?

The girls giggled and moved to meet the infamous Fighter Clown. â??Where are you girls going?â? fumed Dex. Walking was undignified, not to mention tedious. He wanted to help the Cleric find her friends, but the pull back to the city to vend his wares was great. They needed to get on with their Quest already. â??The guide is right over the ridge there.â?

â??You go on ahead,â? Elly replied as she waved to the Fighter Clown.

â??Yea, weâ??ll catch up with you in a second,â? added Lexy, moving to intercept the fleeing Clown. Elly skipped along after her, her arm still waving. â??Fayhter, wait up!â?

The Dealer rolled his eyes at the girlsâ?? antics. Far from trying to argue with them or understand their reasoning, he continued along the path to find the guide Mildun spoke of. The girls had proven their mettle during the last battle fought a scant few hours ago here in this forest. They did not need his protection. And, he thought secretly It was nice to be away from all of their giggling and constant chatter for a change. He smiled and disappeared over the ridge.

â??Where are you going in such a hurry, Fayhter?â? questioned Lexy looping an arm around the disgruntled Fighter Clown. â??Surely you saw us coming?â?

Elly looped her arm around the Monsterâ??s other arm and pinched his cheek lightly. â??If you didnâ??t see us, surely you heard us,â? the Mage laughed. â??Itâ??s been too long!â?

The Fighter Clown growled at them, low and guttural, and swung his arms ineffectually at them. â??It hasnâ??t been long enough,â? he grunted, eyeing both Muses. He puffed out his chest and tried to untangle himself once more.

The girls, winking over his head, each gave the surly Clown a kiss on the cheek closest to them. The simultaneous movement caught the Monster unawares. He released a long sigh. â??Fine, fine,â? he said, blushing. â??You win. I wonâ??t run. Now let me go.â?

They dropped his arms and crowded around him. The other Clowns, busy at work digging, burying, and unburying, gave them little notice. As long as the Visitors did not pester them, they could pass by unhindered by these usually passive Monsters. If one were to encroach on the Clownsâ?? territory, however, the punishment was quick and brutal. No one messed with their treasures.

â??I donâ??t have anything shiny to give you,â? he said straightaway, sharp eyes trained on the Cleric. He turned his round, black eyes to Elly. â??Nor do I have any new research that would interest you.â?

â??We didnâ??t come looking for anything from you,â? Elly said, batting her eyes.

â??Not this time, anyways,â? Lexy added, smiling demurely.

The Fighter Clown rolled his eyes. They had charmed him and his comrades out of their wits not so long ago, convincing the Clowns to dig up scrolls containing information about cart driving and Mildun. Fayhter couldnâ??t even remember how he had been charmed by these Muses, but ever since that day they had not ceased to come back looking for more.

To the girlsâ?? credit, however, they had aided the Clowns on many fronts during their visits. They chased away Heroes that came by to molest the Clowns to bury secret objects for them. They helped dig holes and fill them - always blind-folded so that they would not remember the exact location of the buried object. The girls even gave the Clowns fun things to bury at times. In return, the Clowns gave the girls cast offs, items that were too nice to be buried, or items too interesting to be stowed away underground.

â??Weâ??re on a Quest,â? Lexy informed him as she crouched down to look him in the eye. â??Just wanted to stop by and say hi before we go Questing.â?

She pulled some extra health potions and food parcels and handed them to the Fighter Clown. Fayhterâ??s family clan spawned rapidly in this area. Extra commodities were always needed. It was an acceptable pass-time for the girls to help this Monster. He was, afterall, a part of the Ecaep Clan.

This small clan comprised of many pacific races of Monsters. They were not violent and never attacked Visitors that did not attack them first. They were, however, easily and often confused with their brethren. The Heroes of the Inhabited Worlds aided this clan as often as they were able to, providing food and care and advertising their existence throughout the worlds.

It was a thankless task, made difficult by the constant influx of Visitors transported in their worlds. The younger adventurers struggled to make this distinction. Many found it hard act upon it, to provide aid to Monsters they were trained to eliminate. To those new-to-life, It was unthinkable that not all Monsters were bad Monsters.

â??What sort of Quest?â? asked Fayhter, curious. He propped his pick axe against the ground and leaned upon it. Both girls took turns explaining all of the recent events to their long-time friend. As they did so, the Clownâ??s eyes grew round with awe. These girls were a spunky pair, indeed! he thought gaily, secretly enjoying their visit.

Questions filled the manâ??s head, waiting to explode. He held his tongue, not wanting to interrupt the outrageous tale. How he loved stories! Other Clowns stopped their monotonous tasks to listen avidly. A Wise Clown, stationed just around the bend, came running up to him, causing the girls to back up in alarm. The Clown spoke to Fayhter fluently in their fluid language and the Fighter Clownâ??s face dropped in dismay.

â??Hide!â? he ordered the Muses. He looked at all of the frantic faces gathered around them and barked orders. The Clowns flew back to their posts and resumed their jobs, bodies tensed for some unseen danger. He pushed the Muses roughly into a concealed hallow within an old, dead tree. â??Do not come out, no matter what!â?

The Wise Clown muttered something more and winced as if in pain. Fayhter nodded. He turned back to the girls. He expression, for once, was not guarded. They spoke volumes to the girls in that second, radiating an emotion that they did not have time to understand. â??Stay hidden until they leave. Then take the path to the Elder Tree. Ten paces southward from itâ??s highest root lies a treasure beyond measure. You must protect it!â?

He pulled a thin, filmy cloth over the opening of the tree. Itâ??s surface designed to look like old bark, blending perfectly with the natural color of the dead tree. From their vantage within the tree, the Muses were able to make out blurry shapes in the distance. They could not tell what it was that they saw, but they could identify the sounds clearly.

A cart rumbled up the pathway. It stopped abruptly on the grassy hill in front of the giant Clown. It barely missed hitting two other Fighter Clowns who had jumped out of the way. Two blurry blobs exited the fancy cart, one leaping from its frame onto the ground in a graceful arc, the other carefully opening the cartâ??s door and exiting the normal way.

â??I believe you have something that belongs to us,â? came the silky voice. It was low, but clearly audible. The voice raised goosebumps along Galexyâ??s arms and she felt Elly shiver with recognition. â??Return it to us and you may be spared.â?

A high, tinkling laugh echoed the words. It came from the smaller figure that danced its way between the stock-still Fighter Clowns. â??It doesnâ??t look like theyâ??re going to cooperate, Effy dear,â? the female drawled. Her voice gratted against the listeners like fingernails across a chalkboard. Too loud, too high. Lexy cringed backwards into the hallow and clutched at Ellyâ??s hand.

The Clowns had not moved and an inch. None of them responded to the threats. They did not even raise their tools to use as weapons. â??Perhaps we should convince them,â? replied the male Hawker. It was easy to imagine him smiling as he said the words and see the expression mirrored on the face of the female.

The sound of bells filled the morning air, drowning out the sweet chirping of the birds in the background. It was followed shortly after by the quick swish of metal being equipped. â??Yes, letâ??s!â? replied the all-too eager voice. â??A demonstration is called for.â?

â??No, no, no,â? wailed Galexy softly. She took a step forward, arm reaching out to push the fabric covering away. She could not let these death dealers harm her defenseless friends.

Elly, echoing her distress, yanked back on Lexyâ??s hand. â??We mustnâ??t,â? she whispered. â??Fayhter ordered us to stay.â? She paused, her voice already breaking. â??We have to get protect those scrolls for him.â?

Lexy nodded, agony washing through her. She had lost too much already. How could she stand to lose more now? Was the void in her heart not big enough? How could she survive a new loss, a permanent loss? The blood pounding in her ears did little to drown out the cries of the fallen. It was hard to breathe through the ripping sensation in her chest, an almost physical, tangible pain. It reminded her of her pain over Xylerâ??s disappearance and her searing anguish redoubled.

â??Donâ??t look,â? Elly whispered, pulling Lexy into her embrace. The Muses closed their eyes on the hazy scene before them and wept in silence. â??Donâ??t look.â?
  • 2

#18 KingArthur

KingArthur

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Posted 24 July 2010 - 12:58 AM

15. Fight or Flight

The darkness claimed him fast, binding him to the shadows. The light retreated; shoved relentlessly back by the growing dark. At first, there had been a pang of unease, not quite fear, but not exactly comforting either. This feeling ebbed and went away after a few moments. The pain that had been a constant fixture since entering the prison dissipated as well. The languid silence stretched.

Xylerâ??s mind wandered aimlessly, in the beginning. The voices in his head did not fit the silent world. It made no sense to talk to himself, to mull over anything. He made them stop; tried to make his mind go blank.

Something pulled at him, but he ignored it. He felt himself sink deeper into the feeling of nothingness. Perhaps it was cold here in this void, but, then, what was cold? Could he feel the cold? But there, he was thinking again. It hurt this time. He let his mind go again. It was better.

A light blinked in the darkness. How much time had passed? A lot, a little? It didnâ??t matter, really. The light did hurt though. It brought with it memories of pain..ofâ?¦torture? It did not fit the languid atmosphere of the darkness. He turned from it, rejecting it. He did not want to feel the hurt.

But the light continued its trek towards where he floated. Xyler felt a shock of dismay. He recognized the form in the bright light. She had worn that ridiculous outfit made of petals and leaves. The halo of light came not from her clothes, as he had expected, but from her physical self. He paused. Why had he expected anything? How did he know this woman?

The figure laughed, soft and soothing. The sound shoved the pressure of pain away. He felt warm again, only then realizing he had been cold. Xyler shivered. The girl twirled once, dancing around him, for him. She smiled. He stared, transfixed, caught in her eyes. He felt their pull, a sensation he did not recognize.

He reached a hand out towards her, wanting her to stand still so he could figure this thing out. He felt sluggish and worn. Thinking did not come natural - not yet. She shied away from his searching hand, more giggles poured from her lips. She danced back a few steps and held her own hand out towards him.

Every step he took forward, she danced away. He was chasing a flower through the darkness. The thought amused him. He smiled, suddenly remembering the name of the outfit. â??Dancing Flower Shorts,â? he said softly. He could not tell if he said the words aloud or not, but it didnâ??t matter. She had heard him. The green-haired woman nodded.

â??Wake up.â? She smiled at him. Her lips had not moved, the voice was not hers. She grasped his hand in her own and light exploded around him.

Xyler blinked and opened his eyes. The three men stood, stooped over him. â??Wake up ? " called one man. He paused and smiled in relief. â??Youâ??re awake.â?

â??What happened?â? Xyler asked, confused. He sat up and looked around him. An unfamiliar forest surrounded them. The atmosphere of this new place was no less foreboding than that of the prison walls. â??Where are we?â?

â??You blacked out, mate,â? replied one of the men. He shook his head. â??We took turns carrying you out of there. Whatever the commotion was back there, it distracted all of the guards. No one saw us.â?

The last man, no longer surly, looked on. â??We got these from a Sikiku Fighter on the way up this hill,â? he said, showing four neatly wrapped scrolls. â??It will take us back to Xita Refuge right awayâ?¦and then we can catch a ship off this blasted planet.â?

â??Sounds good,â? Xyler replied warily. His head still ached, along with the rest of his body. He needed to get to the city and find out whatâ??s going on, to get some of his suspscions confirmed. A lot of the questions he was asked during his interrogations seemed loaded. There was a lot going on beneath the radar that needed exposing.

The men each took a scroll and nodded at one another. They were too proud to thank the Raider and he was too out of it to even think to do so. The three other men opened their scrolls and read aloud from it, unable as they were to access their UI for the faster method. They would have to find a Haxor or Proxy back in town to re-enable the main functions of their system. It was an illegal black market profession, but it flourished everywhere as any other profession.

Xyler flipped open his scroll and read the inscription aloud. He blinked, waiting for the sudden blackness, the flash of rainbowed colors, and the jolt of the ride. Nothing happened. He looked down at the scroll, wandering why it did not function. A corner of the scroll had been torn away, ripping off some of its magic properties, no doubt. He was stuck.

Despite his tired state, the Hawker moved forward, easily finding a trail. Did he take it northwards? Or southward? Which was the way to town? Xyler sighed, choosing the south route by default. The walk would be slow and tedious without a speed buff to propel him forward. His bandages itched and chafed against his skin. He worried that the blood soaked in its folds would attract insects, or worse.

Ten minutes passed, then thirty. The sun rose, but did little to dispel the gloom that lived within this forest. An hour passed, then two. He set a steady pace and paid no attention to the protest in his limbs. No Monsters attacked him, though he had seen many on the trail. They looked at him, but never moved to intervene. He thought little of the incident, glad enough that they let him be.

He passed through a giant archway which usually marked a border between locales. Scrawled in neat cursive on a bronze plaque were the words â??Marsh of Ghosts.â?

â??Great,â? muttered Xyler. The last thing he wanted was to run into more ghosts.

The pathway continued on unhindered. Nothing distinguished this area of land from the previous area. It all looked the same to him, down to the eerie out-of-place sounds that echoed from the thick foliage on either side of the pathway.

â??Come at me again, you cur of a man!â? boomed a loud voice. â??You villainous wretch of a thing! I dare thee to attack!â? There was a loud rattling, the sound of chains and metal. A huge gust of wind blew through the forest, tearing leaves and branches off of trees and hurling them through the air. â??Ha! Run you cowardly louse before I break your head!â? A deep laughter rung out.

Two Heroes, a man and a woman, burst from the clearing. The barely glanced at Xyler as they ran pass him, running up the trail and through the arch. â??Huh,â? he exclaimed, wondering if he had chosen the wrong pathway to the city. They had flitted by so fast he had not had a chance to ask them.

He turned back to the clearing, wondering if he should approach the man heâ??d heard in the clearing. He could still hear the manâ??s mutters from where he stood. It didnâ??t sound angry, exactly, but something close to it. He shrugged and went anyways.

â??Come back for more did you, boy?â? yelled the man when he heard the sounds of approach. He laughed again, a rumbling sound from deep in his belly. The ground shook with it, causing Xyler to pause in alarm. How big was this guy? â??What? Wimping out again? Chicken! HA HA HA!!â?

Xyler squared his shoulders and walked forward into the clearing. He cleared his throat and smiled wryly. â??I could do with some chicken,â? he said, staring at the gigantic figure chained to ground in the center of the field.

â??Ah,â? rumbled the deep voice. The Monster sneered and raised its head in a dignified arch, pointing its nose haughtily in the air. â??Another worthy Hero come to claim the prizes of a king.â?
â??What king keeps a chicken on hand as a prize?â? muttered Xyler, ignoring the jibe. He pointed a finger to his chest and shrugged. â??Does it look like Iâ??m in any position to fight?â? A half-pained chuckle emitted from his lips. He sat down on a large boulder at the edge of the clearing and gazed at the large, winged Monster.

â??My bounty is far richer than any poultry!â? The Monster was clearly insulted. He pulled on the heavy manacles that bound both of his arms and legs as he took a step forward. â??You, tiny Visitor, will never be enough to best me, even at your fullest potential!â?

Xyler shrugged again. â??Food sounds down right golden too me right about now.â? The Hawker picked a berry from the bush next to him, sniffed it, and popped it into his mouth. The red berry was hard and somewhat cold, but it made him feel better. That was good. He took another.

He quirked an eyebrow at the Monsterâ??s outburst and gestured to the magicked chains. â??Someone bested you, obviously.â?

The Monster scowled, its regal face distorting in anger. â??Who...areâ?¦YOU?â?

â??I am Xyler, escaped prisoner,â? said the Hawker jovially. â??And you are?â?

The Monster frowned. His wings furled and unfurled as he took in Xylerâ??s words. â??No one escapes the prisons,â? he murmured, shaking his head. The Raider did look a tad unwell. His eyes were the wrong color andâ?¦he did not emit the right vibe. He could not put a finger on what exactly was wrong with Visitor. â??I am the Astarot King,â? he continued haughtily. Who did not know his identity?

â??I thought you lived on Luna?â? asked Xyler, stuffing himself silly on the crystalline fruit.

â??I DO!â? boomed the king. He looked pointedly at his chains. His giant wings beat rapidly, propelling the Monster a short distance into the air. He pulled against the chains in vain and landed softly on his feet once more. As the leaves and dust settled in the valley, he continued softly. â??For the time being, this is my new home.â?

Xyler approached the Monster and studied the chains. He did not look at the Monster itself, but felt the creatures eyes on him all the same. The king did not attack him. He raised his stolen katar and swung it against the taut links of the kingâ??s wrist manacle. There was a loud ring, but nothing happened. Not even a scratch.

â??If I could not break these chains,â? said the Astarot King. â??What makes you think a man-made weapon would?â?

â??It was worth a try,â? said Xyler. He bent down, turning his back on the king, and inspected the chains connections with the ground. â??No one deserves to be chained down like this. Not even a Monster.â?
There a loud huff of exasperation. â??You are the Monster here, not I,â? declared the king. He struggled to hide his humiliation. Defeat was one thing. To be tied up and ridiculed by these tiny pests was quite another. â??It was your people that did this to me.â?

â??Pfft. My people indeed,â? scoffed Xyler. He stuck the glacier blade into the ground, working it like a shovel, and removed the dirt around the bolted podium. â??How far down does this go?â? he murmured to himself.

â??I was not here for its construction,â? informed the Monster. He pulled up on the chain as Xyler dug around it. â??But I will delight myself in its destruction.â?

Xyler rolled his eyes and kept digging. He did not know why he aided the king. He only knew that it was too late to stop doing so now. What was one more rescue on top of all the rescues he had already preformed this day?

A small suction sound, then a pop, and the manacle was free from the ground. Two feet deep protrusions hung from the end of the chainâ??s base. â??Never thought to dig the chain out from the ground,â? admitted the king quietly. He frowned. â??Too focused on the chain itself.â?

â??Now the next one,â? said Xyler, mostly to himself.

The Astarot King bent down next to Xyler, his long clawed nails helping with the digging process. It was much quicker this time, the hole much wider and deeper. The king pulled these spikes out easily. He smiled at the triumph. â??Two more to go.â? His wings shuttered with barely contained excitement and relief.

â??What do you think you are DOING?!â? cried a loud voice from the edge of the forest. A shot was fired, missing Xyler and the king by a hairsbreadth. â??He is our prisoner!â?

Xyler looked up at the first sound of the voice, startled. Four, five, six people emerged from the edge of the forest. All held ranged weapons of one sort or another. None of them looked happy in the least.

The king grabbed Xyler by the shoulders and turned them both backwards. â??This is not your fight,â? he declared, gripping the Hawker savagely. Shots fired throughout the clearing, mixed in with the tiny ZING sound of mage spells. A pain seared up from between the Hawkerâ??s shoulder blades and he wondered if heâ??d been shot. â??I thank you for your help this morning. It will not be forgotten.â?

The pain became overwhelming, threatening to steal Xylerâ??s consciousness once more. â??These men have a lesson to learn. Leave us now.â? Then he was thrown into the air. The force of the toss took him over the trees and away before he could blink. He cringed as the trees rushed up to meet him.

The impact never came. He opened his eyes and looked around him. A rhythmic thump, thump, thump beat against his ears. He turned to the sound and his light blue eyes opened in surprise. The king had gifted the Hawker his own set of wings.

Large, blue Astarot wings sprung from between his shoulder blades. The lush feathers held him aloft of their own accord. It was said that the Monster king had the power to do so, but rarely ever bestowed a gift to any Visitor, Hero or no. Crafters have collected shed feathers to create a replica, but nothing could match the beauty of gifted wings.

They were said to vary in color, from individual to individual. It matched the wearerâ??s inner self. Xyler did not know what blue wings meant, but thrilled in the sensation of flight. He turned, thinking of returning to help the kin, when a loud roar rang from the ground. The king burst in a spiraling pattern from the trees and took off straight into the air.

Xyler watched for a moment, hovering slightly above the branches of the trees. No noises came from the field below. There would be more of them coming, he was sure. Two separate breakout, four prisoners missing. It was not safe to loiter now.

It was time to go and find Lexy. He smiled, remembering the dream. It would be good to see her again. She would ecstaticâ?¦and supremely jealous...when she saw his new wings. The thought made his smile widen.
  • 2

#19 KingArthur

KingArthur

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Posted 24 July 2010 - 12:59 AM

16. Buried Treasure

By the time the Muses had emerged from the tree hallow, the Monsters had all disappeared, evaporated into nothingness as was their custom upon death. Esseff and Katinka had vanquished all of their opponents with ease in between their short interrogations. When the questioning had failed to produce any results, they obliterated the field to try and find the missing treasure.

The scene looked like the aftermath of a battlefield, not the work of two individuals. It was a miracle that they found Fayhterâ??s cap, his name stitched in the inside seam in tiny letters. Discarded treasures laid strewn about the field. The Affliction clan members did not find what they were looking for.

â??At least their deaths came quickly,â? Dex had said when he returned from his visit with the eye-patched guide. He had not known the Clowns. Their deaths, though horrid, did not affect him as it did the Muses. Both girls had grieved dearly over the loss of their friend and his comrades.
They left the area quickly, fearing the return of the Affliction clan. The girls told Dex about Fayhterâ??s directions before he left them in his hiding place. The trio ran to the site and dug were instructed. Flowers sprung in the area where they dug. Ellylovesess took care to save the blooms for re-plantation.

The hole was nearly two feet deep before they hit a metal box. The golden box, inlaid with small gems and protection spells, held three iridescent scrolls. Each scroll was bound by a thin blue ribbon. A blue wax seal with the image of a sheep was stamped on the scrolls, but each seal had been broken.

They opened the scrolls to read them, but it was written in a language non of them understood. Galexy placed the scrolls back into the box and placed the box into her pack. They would find something to do with the scrolls later, someone trustworthy enough to translate the words.

â??The guide said that we needed to go and see Siegel in Eucar,â? informed Dex. The depressed mood of the girls bothered him more than the constant chatter from earlier. He wondered if they shouldâ??ve stuck together instead of separating. Not that their first encounter with Esseff and Katinka had been in anyway successfulâ?¦

â??How are we supposed to get to Luna?â? Lexy whispered quietly. Would the problems never cease? â??Ruvenâ??s new airship prices are ridiculous.â?

â??I havenâ??t made an interplanetary scroll for Luna yet,â? Elly started. â??With some materials and time, Iâ??m sure I can work one up.â?

â??Thereâ??s no need,â? interrupted the Dealer. He turned his eyes away from the Mage, not really wanting to be the one to break the news to her. â??The guide said that Federation just released a new mode of transportation in the wake of Alphonsoâ??s disappearance and Ruvenâ??s take-over.â? He paused, shuffling his feet back and forth.

Elly narrowed her eyes quizzically at the Artisan. â??What sort of transportation?â?

â??Theyâ??ve createdâ?¦er..borrowed your interplanetary scrolls idea..â?

â??Theyâ??ve what?!â? chimed both Muses simultaneously.

Elly crossed her arms and stamped her foot. â??They stole my idea!â?

â??I bet they donâ??t even give you credit for the invention,â? scowled Lexy.

â??How does it work, this stolen idea of theirs?â?

â??Instead of scrolls, theyâ??ve made it into special teleporters across the planets. You purchase a ticket for the porters at the Item Mall and go to the guides in each capital city and theyâ??ll tp you anywhere you wanna go,â? Dex explained, hoping that he got the information correct. â??I took the liberty of trading for three tickets for us to go to Luna and back.â?

He was very proud of his newest conquest. It took a great deal of haggling to get the price down to a reasonable one. Heâ??d access the IM from his User-Interface and seen the going price for them. It was easy to get the guide to lower his selling price. Not many people trusted the new mode of transportation yet. People preferred to stay planet-bound until the teleporters proved trustworthy through use.

Elly frowned. â??At least it wasnâ??t a scroll, like mine, I guess.â?

â??And you need separate tickets for those,â? Lext added as she tried to cheer up her friend. â??Your scrolls can be used anywhere and it can be used by multiple people at once!â?

â??Thatâ??s true,â? conceded the Mage.

â??Letâ??s go back to town, then,â? Dex said. â??Thereâ??s a teleporter there that can take us all the way to Luna. Hopefully this Siegel will give us the answers we need instead of sending us on a wild goose chase like Mildun and the guide.â?

â??Yes,â? replied the girls. â??Time to go.â?
  • 0

#20 KingArthur

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Posted 24 July 2010 - 12:59 AM

17. Memories Lost

In response to Visitorâ??s Newsletter, vol. 212:

It has been noted that, once transported, Visitors to these worlds cease to age. That is, once Visitors have been teleported to our worlds, no one becomes any older. This reward, as some have called it, is a supposed boon to our Heroes who must face such dangerous adventures everyday. These Visitors, turned Heroes by their chosen profession and experiences on the battle field, are forever frozen at whatever age they have entered our worlds, be it 6 years of age or 60.

But this gift of agelessness comes with its own perils kept secret by our rulers. We will never know the joys of parenthood in our static states unlike the natural born citizens of these worlds. We will be forced to watch the NPC age and die. We will be left behind as others move on in their lives, forced to defend a world that is not fully ours. Who wants to fight monsters for all time?

And how is it that this reward, coupled with so many other horrors, is supposed to make us feel appeased? We are already forced to stay on these planets, no hope of return to our real homes, our real lives. Our lives here are little more than a game and we the forced players within it.

How nice of the Akram Kingdom to accept us wayward strangers, only to keep us prisoners when we wished to leave. Legends state that the goddess Arua created Visitors, brought us here to fight off the menace invading the planets.

Yet we know better than that now, donâ??t we? Memories of transported Visitors have been stronger of late. Though some have chosen to forget their past, letting the fading memories slide fully into oblivion, others have not. We refuse to let this injustice continue. We refuse to be the victims of these worlds.

Let our stance be known!

Written on anonymous flyers strewn about Junon Polis, Eucar, and Xita Refuge

Galexy clutched the neon flyer in her hand, shaken. Never before had anyone so blatantly fought against the forced migration. There were grumbles and disputes, sure, but they were always glossed over, soothed by Aruaâ??s Fairies and the Visitor Newsletters. There were so many wonders of the inhabited worlds that many accepted the change quite easily. Others simply adapted over time.

She remembered the Newsletter this flyer referred to. Emblazoned at the top of the article were the words â??VISITORS, adventurers filled with unlimited potential!â? The story followed stating how the Visitors were created by the goddess Arua, their memories of their identity and purpose erased. They had a good spin on the storyâ?¦ The tabla rasa had not seemed so very nefarious as it did now.

Fairies were trained to direct the Visitors and train and prepare them for the world of the Seven Hearts {{Mehâ?¦whatâ??s the seven hearts? Reading intro thing on website and never seen this mentioned anywhere before now.}} The newsletter went on to outline the history of the Visitors occupation of the lands, their acceptance and importance to the inhabited worlds, and the rewards that came with being an adventurer in the worlds of ROSE.

Lexy exchanged a worried glance with Elly. Both had been transported to the worlds of ROSE from other places, other planets. Neither spoke of it - no ever one did. In truth, Lexy had forgotten many facts about her home world. She had memories of her life there, but no memories of the planet itself. What had it been called? she wondered. Who was I there?

It puzzled her that these worries had never been worries before. She disliked the change at first, but never pinpointed exactly why she disliked the it. There was too much to occupy her mind here. Battles, schools, friends...She paused.
Her desires to return to her home world were hushed when she took up her first job change, when she was first accepted into the ranks of the Arumics. She made friends here and found love. She loved the worlds now, even with the current mess she found herself in.

But why did this flyer bring with it a surge of unease and fear?

â??I donâ??t like this,â? whispered Ellylovesess. She leaned in closer, re-reading the flyer over the Dealer-disguised Clericâ??s shoulders. â??It feels weird. And wrong.â?

â??Everything is turning upside down. Iâ?¦I donâ??t know what to do anymore,â? added Galexy.

First the fatal attack on the Flying Vessel, then the crash on the inhabited-uninhabited planet Skaaj and the party separation, followed so shortly by the break-in at the Resort, the appearance of the Affliction, the interplanetary flight, the fight with the Smoulies, the horrid battle between the Clowns and the Affliction membersâ?¦ Lexy cringed and closed her eyes.

â??I donâ??tâ?¦I donâ??t remember anything,â? continued the Mage her eyes wide. â??From you know, before. Isnâ??t that horrible?â? She paused, twisting the Fighter Clownâ??s tiny blue hat. â??All of my memories are of here. Thereâ??s nothing else. I only remember that I was not born here.â? She raised her eyes to the Cleric. â??Do you remember, Lexy? About your home?â?

â??My home is here,â? answered the Muse as she returned Ellyâ??s gaze. â??With you and Xyler and everyone else.â? She sighed, not wanting to deceive her friend. â??I do remember some things of my other life. Not as many as I used to, but more than I have for a long while now.â? The memories had faded over time, as they always do, but lately they had been resurging, becoming more prominent and overwhelming. â??I have not been here as long as you have. Perhaps that is why I remember more. I have not had as many adventures here as you either, to distract me you know?â?

â??Do you...miss it?â? Elly puzzled at the disparity between the two girls. It was true that she had lived a longer time span on this world, logged more hours in battle, and had a higher Hero level. Did this mean that her memories of another world were sacrificed in the bargain? The thought was unsettling. More than that, it irked her that she had not been unsettled about it before she read the flyer. â??I miss knowing. I want to rememberâ?¦now. It never bothered me beforeâ?¦but, it was a part of me, you know? And now all of those memories are completely gone.â?

â??I know what you mean,â? Lexy agreed, staring at the flyer. Other people gathered around the area clutching at duplicate flyers, similar expressions of confusion and bewilderment marring their features. Heroes argued amongst one another loudly. The NPC cast nervous glances at the Visitors, the Heroes. Guards straightened at their posts, tensed. The shouting grew more heated. A riot was going to break lose any second ? over a measly scrap of paper.

â??Iâ??ll take that, thank you,â? shouted a man. He leaned over and yanked the flyer from Lexyâ??s grasp. Dress head to toe in a General Moderatorâ??s yellow colors, the man looked the Dealer-disguised-Cleric over. â??Itâ??s a scam, an exploit to cause fear and disputes,â? the GM said, waving the stacks of papers around. â??Think nothing of it.â?

He moved off, joined by a throng of GMs, all collecting the pieces of paper from peopleâ??s hands. She had never seen so many of the moderators out before. The elite control force rarely made an appearance throughout the inhabited worlds, preferring to post Announcements on boards in the cities or delegating the news and tasks to the Faction leaders, Akram rulers, or other Federation leaders like the mayor.

â??Donâ??t move,â? whispered Elly. â??Theyâ??ve activated the â??Emergency Maintenanceâ?? drill. If you move now, theyâ??ll know something suspicious is up.â?

Lexy froze in her spot, only then realizing that no one around them moved. A yellow light, the same hue as the GMâ??s outfits, blinked rapidly from the UI attachments of everyone in the vicinity. Along with the yellow light came the codes that locked down the UIâ??s communication systems and an activation of an UI-triggered magic spell that locked everyone in place until the maintenance ended.

It was a tense time for everyone. Lexy stood as still as she could, hoping that the small spontaneous movements of her fingers did not give her away. It was an impossible sensation trying to pretend to be frozen and not actually be so.

Dex stood apart from the Muses, intent on his vending. He had not noticed the flyer nor the attention it garnered until the mods made their appearance. He flicked his glance over at the girls, barely managing to make out their expressions from the corner of his eyes. They were thoroughly shaken by the information - more so than they had been in the aftermath of Fayhterâ??s passing.

After a few minutes, the GMs disappeared and the Maintenance was lifted. There was a collective sigh before talk resumed in an explosion of words over the flyer. Peopleâ??s memories were sharp here in this world where surviving meant knowledge about everything around you. Everyone PMed their clanmates, their friends, each asking for information and their take on the flyer. It was chaos.

â??Letâ??s go,â? Elly cried, pulling on the Clericâ??s arm. â??Before something else comes up or someone notices us.â?

Lexy nodded in agreement and grabbed Dex on their way. They found the Teleporter guide easily and handed over their special RTT tickets. The party was directed to stand in the middle of the teleporter and were instantly taken to Eucar.

â??You have to find the elite monsters,â? Siegal mumbled incoherently when they finally found the man. The manâ??s eyes darted back and forth across Eucar city. The scene here looked the same as the one they had just left back in Junon Polis. â??I coundnâ??t fight them on my own. They have the schematics I need.â?

â??Which monsters?â? grumbled Lexy, eager to be far away from the city. She was not sure what they would need schematics for, but this was a part of the Quest Rosemaryâ??s Doll had set her on. Perhaps with his items returned, Siegel would be more forthcoming with his answers.

â??The wolverine, mammoth, tyrant warshipm and behemoth,â? he responded, distracted. Siegel had not even bothered to be evasive with his answers. He just wanted these Visitors gone from him so he could retreat back inside his shop. The streets were teeming with too many confused and angry people. Vending would have to wait. â??Go find them and bring them back to me and weâ??ll talk then.â?

The trio nodded, deposited some items into the Ferrell bank, restocked their supplies of adventuring materials, and quickly left the city in search of the Monsters.
  • 0

#21 KingArthur

KingArthur

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Posted 24 July 2010 - 01:00 AM

18. Shaken

Though he had not expected a welcoming committee to greet him once he reached the city gates, Xyler had not expected to see all of the mounted guards either. Toanu, the Raknu Warrior stationed at the front gate, glared at each passing Hero as he ran security checks on their Identification Tags and checked their User-Interface inventories before letting any of them within the city gates.

Xyler wondered at the level of security in the city. Was it always this heavily protected or had something trigger the heightened defenses? Did it have anything to do with the prison break out or the release of the Astarot King? Or was this all some weird coincidence, something outside of the recent events that happened that occurred deep in the marshes of Eldeon?

Xyler bypassed all of the security checkpoints and all of the guards patrolling the outer gates of Xita Refuge with ease. Using his new wings, he did not even have to land within the city proper. Flying low between the trees, the Hawker approached one of the twin bridges snaking out above the city. One branch of the bridges took Heroes to the Chef and his food and scroll stalls. The other took them towards the station guide and the transport off-planet.

The Raider chose the second bridge to follow. He flew beneath the bridge, listening for footsteps, and continued on towards the underbelly of the docked Flying Vessel. The Rosemary II , with its new wood smell gleamed magnificently from its dock. The captain, a man Xyler had never seen before, yelled out final boarding calls to the passengers. A robotic replica of Alphonsoâ??s level-sensing robot stood at the entrance, dutifully logging visitorsâ?? ID-tags despite this being a return flight from the dangerous planet.

While everyoneâ??s attentions were diverted towards the boarding passengers, Xyler flew up and over the railing on the opposite side of the ship. He landed softly, found the door into the storage decks, and went down the spiraling staircase into the dark hold.

A bittersweet wave of nostalgia swept over the man. It was not long ago that he had snuck aboard a Flying Vessel seeking adventure with Galexy. He had gotten way more adventuring than he bargained forâ?¦and lost Lexy in the mix. Xyler shivered and tucked his wings close to him. The hold was colder than he remembered.

The shipped rocked softly at take-off. No one came down the stairs to stow away additional items. The Hawker sighed in relief and started to rummage through the cartons. He found new bandages to replace the shredded ones across his chest and abdomen. Deep scratches zigzagged across his neck. He pulled a metal gorget, lined on the inside with soft fur, from one of the crates and buckled it around his neck to protect it from further injuries.

Other cartons contained clothing of various styles and sizes. He tried on various shirts before giving up on them. The material of even the thinnest shirt sat heavily on his wounds and made them ache. In the end, he settled on blue and white pattern top that was arranged toga- style across his torso. It did not touch any of his sore spots.

The outfit had only one sleeve, which was different, but thankfully it extended down past his right arm, covering his inactive UI. He pulled matching pants out of the carton, found sturdy shoes and a matching pair of gloves. A brown belt, with gold clasps, was added as a last minute addition.

As the ship continued on in its silent journey, he wondered if they were headed to Luna or Junon. He would need more clothing if they were headed to the winter planet. In either location, he would need weapons. His one Glacier Blade had been extremely useful so far, but it was in need of Repair and may not hold up in a real fight.

To his dismay, the only weapons he found were two pairs of katanas. Long, unwieldy blades - more for decoration than for use in fighting. Nevertheless, Xyler strapped all four to his back. Who knew whether or not these would last very long? It would be safer to bring along all four just in case.

It was awkward, at first, to maneuver the weapons and clothing around his wings, but he found that, once he thought of his wings as being a part of himself, as being an extra limb on his body, it all went a lot easier. They were different that the wings crafted by Dealers.

There were no direct commands needed to get them to work. They moved with his reflexes, the same way of commands one uses to get a finger to twitch. And these wings actually flew. Crafted wings only helped with movement speed on land. Flight was not in the equation.

Xyler found a crowded corner in the hold, near enough to the stairs to make a quick exit, and settled down to rest. Unless one counted the time he passed out in the prison, he could not remember the last time heâ??d slept. He closed his eyes and was quickly and deeply asleep.

â??Hey Xy, wake up man,â? whispered a voice a short while later. A hand gently prodded the Hawker on his shoulder.

The Raiderâ??s eyes slowly opened, struggling to focus in the dim light of the storage hold. One moment Xyler was opening his eyes, the next he was hovering above the shrouded figure, his Glacier Blade in one hand and katana sword drawn in the other.

â??Easy," drawled the voice, both hands up in defense. The figure dropped his hood and stepped out into the light. The light illuminated an older man of medium height and build with rust colored hair and a sly twinkle in his dark eyes. â??Itâ??s me. See?â?

â??LoPan?â? Xyler lowered his weapons and floated lower to the ground, his wings pulling in on the sides.

â??The one and only,â? the Bourg replied breezily. He stepped closer to Xyler, an expression of awe crossing his seasoned face. â??Man, when did you get wings?! Thatâ??s pretty slick.â?

â??Got it yesterdayâ?¦or today. Iâ??m not sure, really. Havenâ??t been keeping track of time all that well, lately,â? replied the Hawker tiredly. He shrugged and replaced his weapons. â??What are you doing here?â?

LoPan shook his head at the reply. Getting the wings was a big deal. They couldnâ??t have been crafted because Xyler was flying. That means he was granted wings by a King. How could someone just forget an event like that? â??Getting my stuff out to Vend on deck,â? replied the Dealer, his expression calculating. Stories and gossip was a common commodity in the world of Rose. He wondered what the price of Xylerâ??s story would be. He decided to change topics to throw the Hawker off guard. â??Why are you down here?â?

The Hawker stared at him, not responding. â??Better yet,â? the Bourg continued. â??Why are you sleeping down here instead of your cabin?â? Xyler remained silent, but one corner of his mouth twitched up in a half smile. LoPanâ??s eyes grew round. â??Youâ??re not seriousâ?¦Youâ??re a stowaway!?â?

â??Donâ??t go yelling it out to the world!â? growled Xyler in whisper.

â??Are you even 120 yet? Howâ??d you get on here? Whyâ??d you want --â?

â??Quiet down and Iâ??ll tell youâ?¦if you help me with something first.â?

The Dealer paused and straightened. â??Whatever you and Lexy are up to now, leave me out of it. Last time I ended up with a six day ban from the cities because of you two!â? Being a Gun-for-Hire, LoPan was usually ready for about anythingâ?¦until he ran into these two miscreants. They had the best stories to tell, but the consequences hurt more than he cared to admit.

Stealing the Mayor of Junonâ??s shorts and running them up the main flagpole was just a game. LoPan took the fall for all three. Xyler rolled his eyes. â??This is serious. Lexyâ??s missing and weâ??ve got The Affliction after us,â? he paused, letting the words sink in.

â??What do you mean Lexy is missing? The Affliction? No way theyâ??re real!â? LoPan paled despite his disbelief.

Xyler continued as if the man had not interrupted. â??Yes, I am a stowaway. I canâ??t show myself until I get my UI turned on again. Iâ??ve lost the tools I made and was hoping that you had an extra set on you.â?

â??I donâ??t h@x anymore,â? the Dealer replied irritably. â??Iâ??m a legit mercenary now. I even have proper contracts andâ?¦Wait. Did you say you actually turned off the UI?!â?

The Raider pulled up his sleeve and exposed the device for the mercenary to see. A blurry image of their faces reflected off of the blank, glossy surface of the UI. LoPan brought up his device and held it next to Xylerâ??s inactivated one, his bright and luminescent in the dim light.

â??I canâ??t believe you actually did it,â? murmured the Bourg, his voice full of respect. His eyes flickered up to where Xylerâ??s name should have floated. â??Nameâ??s gone too, huh? You know how to turn it back on?â?

â??With the tools you sold me last time, I can get it back on, yes,â? replied Xyler. â??But I donâ??t want to turn it back on. Not all of the way at least. Just enough to get my PMs working and a new ID-tag up.â?

â??Why a new one?â? queried LoPan. â??And why not turn it all on again? Itâ??s weird, man, having that whole thing blacked out like that. You just wonâ??t function right.â?

â??Everything is fine without this on,â? said Xyler matter-of-factly. â??I can hold and wear things the machine wouldnâ??t let me otherwise and no one is keeping tabs on me. My old ID-tag can be flagged and I can be traced through it. If I create a new ID, they canâ??t trace me.â?

â??Name changes are easy,â? LoPan admitted. â??New identities with a flick of a scroll. Iâ??ll trade you a scroll and the tools for your complete story.â?

â??Deal.â? The men shook hands in agreement. LoPan traded the materials with Xyler and the pair sat down in the corner. The Hawker began working at his UI instantly with the tools. As he worked, he retold the events of the past few days..Or had it been weeks now?

LoPan had some interesting stories of his own to share as well. He told Xyler of Ruvenâ??s takeover, the conspiracy flyers that circulated the towns, and the new transporter gates. It was oddly surreal how everything seemed interconnected somehow. They came up with new, unnerving theories of conspiracies together as they worked, piecing together bits of information both men had gathered in their years in battle.

It took the remainder of the trip for Xyler to turn on only the Personal Messaging system of the UI and the ID-tag over-the-head display. Together the two men created a new identity for the Raider from scratch. They made him a max Hero, level 210, an experienced but low-key Raider with a spotless record. They named him XyIer, with a capital â??Iâ? (â??eyeâ?) instead of an â??lâ? (â??elâ?).

â??Lol. Youâ??re brilliant!â? LoPan clapped Xyler on the shoulder. A small bump, followed by the slowed thumping of the Flying Vessels propellers, signaled the end of their journey. â??Weâ??re here. We finished just in time.â?

His fingers flew across his newly illuminated UI screen, looking for all intents and purpose to be fully functional when it was not. He keyed a quick message to Lexy, hoping that she would somehow receive it and respond. Lexy, are you ok? Where are you? Iâ??m fine. Please contact me when you get this! The Hawker looked up. â??Where is here exactly?â?

â??Back in Junon.â? The mercenary stood and offered a hand to his long time friend. â??Iâ??ve got a job to finish here, helping a boy level get his cart quest completed. Donâ??t you and Lexy know a Fighter Clown or two? Come along and help me with this one job and we can figure out the rest of your conspiracies out together.â?

Xyler hesitated. His main concern was for his Cleric. The new theories the two discussed made the Rose world just that more dangerous. The news LoPan had shared with him deeply shook his faith in the stability of the world and raised a lot of uncertainties in his heart and mind. According to LoPan, Heroes and Visitors all over the worlds were becoming deeply shaken with this new information.

Divides between clans and alliances that had not existed before were becoming very prominent lately. Relations between those native born to the planets and those transported here were becoming very fragile. PVP battles, once restricted to certain areas to settle disputes were starting to spread to the common areas. There were simply not enough General Moderators to control the populace.

â??We can ask around as we fight,â? rationalized the Dealer. â??With you luring and me helping the kid, weâ??d be finished in half the time. The cities arenâ??t as crowded as they used to be. Youâ??ll get more information out in the field now then you would in the cities.â?

LoPan placed a hand on Xylerâ??s shoulder once more, this time in sympathy. â??I care for your insane Cleric, too. Weâ??ll find her. Weâ??ll spam all of our contacts as we head to the Forest of Wisdom. Maybe your Fighter Clown friend has heard something. Theyâ??re great hoarders of treasure and this story has to score at the top of their list.â?

â??Youâ??re right,â? Xyler responded. â??Letâ??s go.â?
  • 0

#22 KingArthur

KingArthur

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Posted 24 July 2010 - 01:00 AM

19. Eliteness

The mountain air roared in their ears, threw icy particles in their faces, and obscured the world from view. The once-hard packed snow of the field now ran in rivulets down the steep path and left pockets of slush and mud for the fighters to battle in.

â??Watch out!â?

Ellylovesess ducked as the four-pronged, razor-edged claws of Elite Behemoth clamped together savagely in the space where the Mageâ??s head had recently vacated. Elly counted the Monsterâ??s attack quickly with one of her own. A bright blaze of fire streaked out from her staff at her silent incantation and struck the Monster in his chest.

A fierce roar of rage greeted the action and the Behemoth swiped at the Mage once more, this time scoring a hit across her exposed arm. Three deep welts appeared on Ellyâ??s arm, the fabric that had once shielded and protected her arm had long been ripped away.

The injuries vanished as quickly as they had appeared - healed with the aid of Galexyâ??s supportive skills. Though Elly had not even flinched at the injury, it was evident that the attacks and healings were taking a toll on her. This Behemoth was the fourteenth elite Monster theyâ??ve fought this day. Already four Elite Wolverines, seven Elite Elder Mammoths, and two Elite Tyrant Warships had been defeated and their stolen goods recovered.

Despite the growing wariness, Elly redoubled her attacks on the Elite Monster. This monster held the stolen schematics, proudly wearing it wedged beneath his shoulder guards. The Mage was careful to keep her fire attacks away from this spot.

A large cannon ball struck the side of the Elite Behemoth, forcing it to turn its attack on a new target. â??Iâ??m running low on cannonballs,â? grunted Ionik. The muscles of his arms strained against the weight of his launcher. Beads of sweat ran down the sides of his face. Ironic, given the snowstorm that raged around the battle scene.

â??Weâ??re almost there. We got this.â? The Cleric summoned yet another bonfire to the field. The heat that radiated off of the dual fires further melted the snow at their feet, but served to heal and restore the magic power of the partyâ??s fighters. Lexy clutched at her Crystal Wand and waved it in the air, renewing the bubbles of protection and power that surrounded her friends.

â??Lexy, duck!â? cried Elly as the Elite Behemoth turned its attention to Lexy and her annoying bonfires. The wandâ??s light sputtered as the Clericâ??s concentration wavered in response to the attack. Deep gashes appeared across Lexyâ??s lower left arm and stomach. Blood spluttered from the cuts and joined the white slush on the ground.

â??Owww..ow ow ow,â? moaned Lexy, her head spinning. She clutched at her stomach with her injured arm, her stance wavering. She felt slightly giddy. A small giggle escaped her lips. The garnet in the wandâ??s hilt dulled.

A loud blast, followed by a shower of snow, shook Lexy. The drenched Cleric straightened her stance and cast a Recovery spell on herself. New skin materialized over her wounds, closing them. She blinked a few times before refocusing them on the battle that raged on.

â??Are you ok?â? asked the Dealer between the blasts of his cannon. He threw a concerned look over at Lexy, before returning his attention to the Elite Behemoth. If the Monster was hurt, it didnâ??t show it. â??Youâ??re getting a bit loopy there.â?

The Cleric smiled. â??I know, right?â? She giggled, unabashedly, her head still reeling. â??I was just thinking that it was a good thing that this Dimple Suit exposes by belly. No ripped clothing that will need mending later on.â?

Ellyâ??s laughter joined the Cleric. â??Always worried about the clothes!â?

The Mage jumped up and back, sending a shower of fiery meteors at the beast. It shrieked and covered its horned head with its arms. Dex took that opening and launched a flurry of cannonballs at the Behemothâ??s chest. The force of the blow knocked the Monster back a few paces. Elly threw a lightning bolt at it, hoping to further stun the Monster.

Instead, it growled at them and dropped its arms to the sides. The towering Monster stamped its cloven hooves into the pink-tinted mush on the ground and lowered its head, black horn pointing at the trio, and charged full throttle.

Elly executed a back flip up and over the Elite Monster and landed on the ground behind him, throwing a slew of spells at him both during and after her graceful arc. Dex shot a cannonball at the Monster at the same time. The shot rebounded off the Monsterâ??s thick horn and knocked over one of the bonfires. Blocked in on both sides, Lexy had no where to run to. So she made the obvious leap, literally, and jumped on top of the Monster.

â??Lexy!!!â? cried the twin voices in unison. Even Elly thought she was crazy now. But the Cleric did not have time to think over the ramifications of her actions. She clutched to the black horn of the Monster as it howled in anger and gripped her hands into the golden fleshy part of the beast above his three horns to pull herself up.
The Monster clawed at Lexy, its talons ripping into to the thick pack she wore on her back. The contents broke and splashed onto the beast, the liquid momentarily blinding him. Attacks came now from before, behind, and on top of the Elite Behemoth. Before it could do any real damage to the clinging Cleric, the Elite Beast shivered and fell, finally brought down by the resilient trio.

In seconds, the Monster dematerialized, leaving behind a small scroll, a deep indentation in the snowy slush, and three panting Visitors. Dex walked over slowly, holding his launcher above the melted snow, and picked up the scroll before the water could damage it.

â??Youâ??re crazy, Lexy,â? stated the Mage as she collapsed beside the other Muse.

A new bonfire joined the remaining on in the clearing. â??Am not,â? muttered Galexy, twirling her brightly glowing wand around. Bits of grass peeked through the melted snow, the only bit of green on the snow-capped mountain side. The bonfire burned softly now, no longer emitting the intense heat it had during the battle.

Soft, white snow flurries drifted down on the trio, remnants of the snow storm that had passed. The party members relaxed and let the peaceful aura of the fires soothe and calm their hurts. â??We finally have all of the schematics now,â? Dex announced.

â??Time to head back to Eucar.â? Elly smiled. â??I canâ??t wait to get off of this ice planet and back to somewhere warmer.â?

â??I like the cold,â? Lexy said. She gazed up at the sky, letting the snowflakes land on her upturned face. She sighed and blinked the flakes from her eyes. â??I could live here foreverâ?¦Something about this place reminds me of home.â?

â??Home?â? scoffed Dex. He stood, stomping out his boots, and picked up the items that fell from Lexyâ??s pack and store them in his own. â??Where would that be?â?

â??Homeâ?¦â? sighed Elly as she leaned against Lexy. â??Where would that be?â?

â??I wish I knewâ?¦â?

-----

â??What do you mean you couldnâ??t find it?!â? The shrouded god paced across the dais. Thunder pounded the outer walls of his keep, punctuating his words with its ominous melody. â??How could a band of lowly jesters outsmart two of my best?!â?

Katinka, perched on top the headrest of the godâ??s great throne, gave a dainty shrug. â??I questioned them all,â? she replied silkily. Her expression turned rueful. â??We turned that forest of theirs upside looking for your scrolls. There were plenty of goodies, but not the ones we sought.â?

â??You didnâ??t look hard enough!!â?

â??We looked and looked and looked,â? replied the female Hawker, unruffled. â??If the scrolls were ever there, theyâ??re long gone now. Canâ??t you just make new ones?â?

The god of Malice threw her a rather nasty look, from which she was unable to break. â??It had taken centuries to work those spells exactly right. There is too much to be done now that cannot be stalled for centuries.â?

â??My lord,â? interrupted a third voice. Esseff, dressed in black from head to toe, stood off to one side of the dais. â??She speaks the truth.â? Hebarn turned his gaze from Katinka and raised an eyebrow at the male Hawkerâ??s statement. Katinka, struggling to regain her breath now that she was no longer trapped in the godâ??s gaze, did not ? could not, comment.

â??We questioned every Clown we found in the area. We were thorough in our efforts. No Clowns reside in the forest now. There are none left to question.â? Ess paused, his face impassive. He spoke of the events as if the extinction of the peaceful race of Monsters had not bothered him in the slightest, which of course was not far from the truth. â??We are your elite warriors. We have failed you in this taskâ?¦But we can rise from our defeat and be worthy of to carry your name once more.â?

Katinka scowled at mention of defeat. The sources of the godâ??s information were to blame here, not the two Hawkers. She was not about to take the fall for this, no matter what Ess said. She opened her mouth to say as much and was interrupted by the object thrown at her.

She caught the packet with ease and glanced at it. A pile flyers, brightly colored and wrapped in a leather string. â??What is this?â? she asked, her usually high pitched voice strained. She felt as if she was still suffocating from Hebarnâ??s gaze, despite the air rushing into her lungs now.

â??It is your redemption,â? responded Hebarn, a slow smile spreading on his shadowed face. â??A special job for my elite warriors.â? The frowns that marred both his warriorsâ?? faces only served to intensify his laughter. â??Go distribute those flyers in all the towns.â?

â??Why canâ??t the noobs do it like they did last time?â? cried Katinka, furious.

The god turned his gaze to Katinka, who froze in response. â??Are you questioning my orders, little one?â?

She jerked her head from side to side. Ess, ever compliant, bowed to his master. â??As you wish, my lord.â?
  • 1

#23 KingArthur

KingArthur

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Posted 24 July 2010 - 01:01 AM

20. Gone

The hushed silence remained unbroken between the two pair of friends. Seated on one of the outer turrets of the castle, overlooking the great wall of Junon Polis, the Hawker and Mercenary stared blindly at the rising sun.

After another hour of silence, Xyler dropped his gaze from the cloudless sky and buried his face in his hands. LoPan glanced at his friend, but said nothing. What could one say in a situation like this to make everything okay? Everything was definitely not okay.

"How could they all be gone?â? Xyler said. He lifted his face to stare at LoPan. The Dealer had expected tears, but the lack of any emotion on the Hawkerâ??s face was not expected. It worried him more than tears would have. â??All of them? Forever?â?

The destruction of a large section of the Forest of Wisdom came a shock to all. The Fighter Clowns were more or less accepted as one of the many denizens of the worlds of ROSE. That there race was now extinct was unimaginable. Worse yet, it seemed as if the government was trying to keep the whole affair quiet.

Visitors and Heroes were warned away from that section of forest and forcibly deterred if they refused to turn around. Having been a constant visitor to the Fighter Clowns, Xyler had known of many short-cuts to get to the Clownsâ?? main area of inhabitance.

He had not been prepared for the swarms of Soldiers, GMs, and scientists that hovered about the scene. They eavesdropped and learned about the unexplained massacre, for indeed there had been many, many signs and evidence of a large battle occurring on the fields. Mounds of once-buried treasures littered the roadsides. Dealers appointed by the Federation made their way through the piles and documented the treasure hoarde.

LoPan ran a hand across his face and sighed. â??We donâ??t know that the Clowns are all gone for sure. Perhaps some escaped and are hiding somewhereâ?¦â?

"They wouldnâ??t leave without their treasures,â? Xyler argued. He felt cold again, despite the morning sun beating down on them. A numbness that had nothing to do with the cold settled deep within him, eating away at his core. His fist clenched tighter around a pendant in his palm. The rounded corners of it bit into his skin. He tightened his grip on it.

"Life is more important than any treasure, surely,â? reasoned LoPan. He glanced at Xylerâ??s fist and fidgeted uncomfortably. The golden chain from the pendant pooled out between the Hawkers fingerâ??s in a brilliant flow of gilded links. Xyler had risked capture by the Federation when he sprinted out to one of the mounds to steal that pendant. Drops of red now ran down the chainâ??s length, dripping softly from the chain to create a small puddle on the floor.

LoPan gathered up enough nerve to ask the question both he and Exp0, the newbie that they were planning on leveling in the Forest of Wisdom, had been dying to ask. â??Whatâ??s with the pendant?â? Instead of looking at the Raider when he had asked the question, he stared at the ground. It was silly to be nervous around Xyler. He was one of the nicest, goofiest people LoPan knewâ?¦

But something had changed since they last met. The trickster boy he once knew was no longer apparent in the man before him. This new Xyler, the one they both help rename, unnerved him. Though he would never say so aloud, he was secretly afraid of this side of his friend. He wasnâ??t even sure if he wanted to know the answer to his question anymore, not when the pool of blood on the ground was increasing in size after his question.

Minutes passed in silence. LoPan did not think Xyler would answer. He accepted this fact, but did not know what else to say. He sat suffering in the awkward silence, fuming that he had opened his mouth at all.

"It was â?? is Lexyâ??s,â? Xyler said quietly. He opened his palm slowly, his fingers curling away from the pendant as if the move pained him. An opened, pink flower pendant lay cupped in his palm. Each of the seven crystal petals flowed from the center heart bud in two separate rows, one atop the other. A small message was engraved on the center heart pendant. â??I got it for her for the Valentineâ??s Day event a few years back.â?

Xyler rubbed the center heart engraving with his thumb a few times before tucking the pendent and chain into one of his pockets. Without missing a beat, he wrapped a new strip of bandage around the cuts on his hand. â??Sheâ??s never without it. She had it on our trip to Eldeon. If itâ??s here that means she was in the field...But was she there before the attack? Or during?â? He sighed and tapped opened him User-Interface screen to check for any messages.

Other explanations rolled through LoPanâ??s mind. Maybe she lost it on Eldeon and someone found it and sold it to the Clowns. Which meant she might still be thereâ?¦or worse. Maybe Xyler was wrong and the girl had lost the necklace a long time ago or asked the Clowns to hide it for her. There were all manners of other reason, none of them good ones. He wasnâ??t stupid enough to bring these to the Hawkerâ??s attention, however. He chose to remain silent.

"They mentioned the Affliction,â? Xyler continued. â??Funny how a clan from our childhood nightmares suddenly turned realâ?¦and everyone seems to know about them. That General Moderator talked about the clan as if they have always existed. How could they keep this a secret from us for so long? What else are they hiding?â?

LoPan shrugged. He did not want to think about the stories his parents had shared with him about this legendary clan. He grew up in the Desert of the Dead. There were plenty of real things there to scare a small boy, but nothing shook him into obedience as those stories of the Affliction had.

"The stories our parents told us had to come from somewhere. Something in those stories had to be factual.â? He had not meant to say the words aloud, but once he started he could not bring himself to stop. â??All stories start with some grain of truth and they get twisted and elaborated along the way. As the stories grew wilder, adults believed in them less and less. It became a legend, a myth. Not real. The Federation probably counted on thatâ?¦â?

A young boy ran up the stairs of the battlement wall. Exp0, the young newbie that had hired LoPanâ??s assistance with his cart quest, ran up to them with a handful of bright orange flyers clutched to his chest. â??Theyâ?¦wereâ?¦passingâ?¦these outâ?¦in town,â? he huffed, handing one to each man. His eyes were round, in a mixture of fascination and fear. â??There areâ?¦realâ?¦I canâ??tâ?¦believe it!..The Afflictionâ?¦here in town!â?

â??Citizen Newsletter vol. 4.3

Questions for a New World

The confusion and turmoil that ensnarl our worlds have increased of late. Our wondrous Founding Four have been quite adamant when denouncing the truths in these Newsletters. With each installment, with each reading, our minds open a fraction. We learn a bit more, we question a little further. The truth always have a way of getting out, making itself known.

No matter who tries to stop its progress.

Perhaps you have been witness to some city-wide â??maintenanceâ? of late, some uncalled for â??mutingâ? of communications, or random stops and inventory checks by our yellow uniformed General Moderators? Have you noticed the increase in guards at the cities, watching us instead of the Monsters that roam our streets?

Truly, does this not cause anyone a bit of worry? How easily our Federation, our Mayor, our Royals, our rulers, have frozen us where we stand. How is it that our Federation, those that declare to rule and govern us so well, dare lift their hands against us in seeking the truth? They take the truth and hide it, buried beneath their lies. How very easy it is for them to control everything we doâ?¦and even how we think it seems.

Have you noticed an increase of suppressed memories, emotions, lives? Are Visitors truly accepting of their fates to defend these worlds that are not theirs by birth? And our Native Planets Citizens, do you welcome these Visitors with open arms? The ones who claim your home and land as their rightful own? And our Federation, can we depend on you for our safety, for the truth, for our past and present and future?

And if we cannot trust our lustrous leaders, who can we trust but ourselves?�

"The Affliction are behind these newsletters?� Xyler asked the wide-eyed boy. The clan was stirring up trouble everywhere. Life was chaotic enough with the Monsters. Now they had to go and throw politics and philosophies into the mix. Xyler suppressed a sigh.

The youngster shook his head and shrugged. â??I donâ??t know. They articles are never signed, never dated. Usually you do not see who hands them out, they are just there.â? He looked back over his shoulder to see if anyone was around. â??But today, two members of that clan were passing them out or throwing them on the streets. Stacks and stacks and stacks of them, just cool as you please.â?

A yellow blinking light flashed from LoPanâ??s UI, soon followed by a similar flashing light on Exp0â??s UI. Xylerâ??s UI, lacking the maintenance warning feature, did not activate. He grabbed the papers and, using his Astarot wings, flew up into the ceiling of the tower in which they sat just as a GM ran in and inspected the frozen statues on his friends.

The GM found nothing in their vicinity or in their inventories, which he rapidly checked. Satisfied, the woman nodded and rushed off with lightning speed to inspect the other frozen citizens of this city. His friends only looked up at him when she was out of sight.

The Hawker remained aloft until the yellow blinking light shut off and the frozen pair moved once more.

"That wasâ?¦interesting,â? remarked LoPan, stretching his arms and legs. â??They were faster that time. I wonder if they got caught the Affliction members?â?

"Somehow, I doubt it.� Xyler looked up at the sky. Showers of orange, pink, and yellow flyers rained down on the city below.
  • 1

#24 KingArthur

KingArthur

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Posted 24 July 2010 - 01:47 AM

21. Memories Gained

â??Lexy! Lexy!â? A splattering of giggles followed the call. Two small children appeared over the crest of the small hill, their heads barely topping the large gillyflowers that covered the field. â??We know youâ??re out here!â?

A soft wind blew across the field, ruffling the tiny brunette curls on the girlsâ?? heads. The petals and leaves of the flowers rustled in the wind, and it carried their voices across the open, snow covered field. â??Where are you, Lexy?â? More giggles.

â??Girls, here I am! Follow my voice - if you can!â? Lexy called, buried beneath the giant flowers that grew everywhere. The young woman giggled, her laughter joining in with those of her sisters. She peeked out between the fragrant petals and peered at the lavender sky. The suns were shining above, casting their pale yellow glows through the soft haze that blanketed their world.

â??Lexy! Come out, come out wherever you are!â? The sweet smell of the flowers permeated everything and brought with it the feeling of comfort, of home. Even the fog that had started to descend on the plains held no menace. No monsters stalked this misty fog, waiting to pounce on the unsuspecting girls.

Thatâ??s an odd thought, mused the young woman. What was there to be afraid of, ever, here? Why would I suddenly think that there was? Monsters did not exist in real life. Even the monsters of their fairytales were not all that horrible. She shrugged and dismissed the passing worry, her mind focused on hide-n-seek.

â??Lexy?â? It was eerie hearing the girlsâ?? voices, but not being able to see them through the heavy fog. It made them seem further away, out of reach - less real. Goosebumps prickled across Lexyâ??s arms. The girlsâ?? voices moved further away. â??Leexxxxyyyyy!!

A deeper voice joined in on the calls, familiar, but distinctly out of place. â??Lexy?â?

The woman stood, pushing the flowers aside. The new voice drew her towards it, enticing her with only a few syllables. She left the laughing voices further behind her, her game and sisters forgotten. â??Hello?â? she called quietly. The fog thickened, obscuring even the flowers that came up to her waist. â??Whoâ??s there?â?

â??Lexy? Are you here?â? The voice, laced with confusion and uncertainty, somehow warmed her heart. She smiled. A figure appeared some distance ahead, unrecognizable in the blinding light of the lavender haze. Even shadowed, she felt certain she knew this man who called out her name.

â??Iâ??m here!â? she answered, her voice high and excited. She ran towards the figure and stopped a few feet from the man that had materialized in her world. She took in his appearance, from the splattering of blonde hair that stuck out at odd angles on his head to his sad, blue eyes, down to his rustic attire.

Nothing about him seemed familiar. Her breath form spirals in the cold winter air. She shivered. â??Doâ?¦Do I know you?â?

The happiness and recognition that had begun to appear on the manâ??s face faded. He took a hesitant step forward, eyebrows drawn together in worry. â??You donâ??tâ?¦know who I am?â?

She shook her head. â??Thereâ??s something about you...â? she began. She stared into the manâ??s eyes, trying to find something familiar there. The soft, blue eyes enthralled her, but brought out no real memory. Her heart fought against the logic of her memories, trying to tell her something that she could not see with her eyes. It made her head ache. â??No. No, I donâ??t believe weâ??ve met before.â?

With an audible snap, the fog receded and brought everything into sharper focus again. The ache in Lexyâ??s head eased with the passing of the fog. Her tumbled thoughts evaporated. She smiled.
â??Are you visiting from Harahjju for the Winter festival?â? she queried, her head *^^*ed to one side. The wind picked up again, swirling softly around the pair. The manâ??s brow wrinkled in confusion and he, too, shook his head.

She placed a hand lightly on the strangerâ??s face. â??Is everything all right? You seemâ?¦sad.â?

â??There you are Lexy!!â? The small girl paused as she reached them, interrupting anything the man was about the say.

The other girl joined them and beamed up at the stranger. â??Hello, mister. Do you know my sister?â?

â??I do,â? he replied. The man shifted his gaze from the small girl to stare at her older sister. He ran one hand through Lexyâ??s hair, tucking the silky raven locks that fell almost to her waist behind one ear. He cupped the side of her face, much like she had so recently done. â??But I think sheâ??s forgotten me.â?

â??Thatâ??s not very nice,â? intoned one pig-tailed little girl, handing the stranger a small bud that resembled the overgrown ones that surrounded them.

â??Not nice at all to forget someone!â? replied the other girl. She pulled on the womanâ??s skirt, tugging it mercilessly. â??Youâ??d never forget us like that would you, Lexy?â?

The young woman looked at one heart shaped face to the next. The image blurred, distorted, but still their voices came. â??Youâ??ll remember us for ever and ever and ever??â? â??Right, Lexy?â?
The voices slipped further away, barely audible now. â??Lexy? Lexy where are you?â?

A single tear dripped down the young womanâ??s face as she turned to the man who stood next to her, the only thing left solid in the glowing purple world.
â??Xyler?â? Her tears came quicker now. â?? Xylerâ?¦How could I forget them?â?

Galexy woke from her dream, wiping away the tears that still streamed down her face. She laid there for a few minutes, reliving the dream. It was hard to distinguish what was a dream and what was a memory. It all felt very real, like a memory from long ago. But, sadly, dreams often felt real, too.

She tried to see every detail in the dream, draw out every nuance of the memories, and commit it all to memory. And as she categorized her dreams, new memories emerged. She remembered other games she played with her younger twin sisters, the clothing she had sewed for them, and the meals they ate together. The tastes, smells, and looks of exotic fruits and meats invaded these memories, but she could not recall their names. Neither could she recall the names of her sisters.

The lack of knowledge picked at the growing hole in her chest. The sense of loss was overpowering, more so because she could not pinpoint exactly all of what she had lost. Half awake and half asleep, the world felt alien and unreal. She needed to get outside and think.

Lexy sat up and pushed the piles of blankets off of her, careful not to wake the sleeping Mage in the adjacent bed. She slipped on her Dimple Shoes and wrapped a furry coat around herself. She eyed her pack, neatly organized by Dex the night before, and strapped that on as well. It was better to carry everything she needed at all times. Just in case. She stuck her wand into the sash around her waist and stepped outside of the tiny inn.

Soft white flurries fell in tiny waves from the sky. The whole Magical City of Eucar was blanketed with a fresh layer of snow. The busy city was quiet at this hour. No one roamed about. It felt safe, serene, at this hour.

Lexy crossed the empty business buildings and walked up the great arch incline to reach the second level of the city. The shop windows up there were dark, a thin layer of ice frosted the glass panes. The only source of light in the whole area came from the twinkling teleporter in the middle of the town square - the only one of its kind in existence.

True, other towns now had their own teleporters, accessible through the special IM tickets that were sold. But the magic wasnâ??t readily seen as it was with Eucarâ??s top level teleporter. Their other teleporter, like those built in every major city, was run by a bot named Idiosel. She was stationed in front of all the teleporters.

The Cleric sat a few feet from the foot of the glowing teleporter and gazed up at its beauty. How often had she wondered after her arrival at this foreign world about the magics of these teleportation devices? She used to dream that sheâ??d step into the teleporters one day and exit back home in her own world.

Those dreams had stopped fairly quickly. There was always something to do here, in this world. People to meet, schools to attend, battles to fight. But to forget her sisters for war? What sort of person was she, to let something like that happen?

Galexy took a deep breath, trying to calm her rattled nerves. The clean, crisp air of the city clashed with the vibrant smells of her memories and only served to depress her further.

â??Couldnâ??t sleep, Lexy?â? whispered Ellylovesess. The Mage, wrapped in a matching coat, settled into the snow next to her friend.

â??I had more dreams,â? replied the Cleric, face upturned to catch the drifting snowflakes. â??I have sisters, Elly. Little ones, somewhere.â?

The Mage drew up her knees, wrapping her arms tightly around them. After a few moments of silence, she responded. â??Iâ??ve been remembering things, too.â? She paused. â??Not about my family, really, but about the place I came from.â? Another pause, longer this time. â??There was water everywhere, Lexy. As far as the eye could see. I lived on a boat, I think. Except it wasnâ??t called that. It was huge. As big as any city here. Almost as big as Junon Polis, I think.â?

â??Were there a lot of people there?â?

â??Iâ?¦I donâ??t know. I believe so. There would have to be, wouldnâ??t there? Why else would they have such a large ship?â? Elly sighed. She struggled to remember more of her dreams, but nothing came. It frustrated her, knowing how close she was to remembering her past and yet not being able to reach it. â??I think I was a scientist there, too. I worked in the greenhouse, growing things and coming up with different mixtures for food and ship fuel or something. I think.â?

â??Do you regret remembering, Elly?â?

â??I regret forgetting more.â? Elly turned to her friend. â??Iâ??m glad our memories are coming back. I want so badly to remember everything. Maybe I have a family back there, too.â? She wiped a hand quickly across her face, surprised to find tears there. â??Sad time all around, huh?â?

Lexy scooted closer and wrapped an arm around the Mage. â??Each day we remember a little more. Each day we get a little closer to finding Xyler. Things will look up soon.â? She smiled shakily. â??They have to.â?

â??This is a touching moment.â?

Both girlsâ?? heads snapped up. Towering over them, weapons drawn, stood the Affliction Clanmember Esseff. As the Muses watched, the Hawker sheathed one weapon and proceeded to trace patterns into the snow with his left-handed blade. He made no move towards them.

â??Whatâ?¦What do you want??â? The girls darted glances around them. No footprints appeared in the snow nor were there any other people present in the courtyard. It appeared that the Hawker had either been there for a long time, cloaked and hidden, or had appeared out of thin air.

Esseff tilted his head to one side, his unblinking eyes boring into that of the Cleric. â??Why do you cry over things long gone?â? He stepped closer and knelt down, his face inches away from the girls. â??Over half-forgotten memories?â? He reached out with one gloved finger to wipe the tears from Galexyâ??s face before she could flinch away.

Ellyâ??s staff appeared instantly in her grasp. In the same heartbeat, the Mage launched herself from her sitting position towards the Hawker. He raised his blade to thwart her attack, but did not draw his second sword.

â??It was only a question,â? he asked as he slowly shifted his gaze to the Mage. He lowered his weapon. â??No need to get all touchy.â?

â??Stay away from us,â? demanded Lexy, bolting upright. She pulled her wand from the sash at her waist and pointed it at the Raider.

â??Elemental Strike!â? yelled Elly, staff aimed at the man. Instead of evading or fending off her attack, he took it full on. The lightning bolt flashed and struck, leaving the air full of the prickly aftermath.

He smiled, unfazed by the blow. Static sparks jumped from his uniform and made his hair stand on end. His eyes turned to Lexy as buff bubbles flew from her wand and flicked his head towards Elly. â??Feisty, isnâ??t she?â?

Scowling, Elly swung her staff in a wide, horizontal arc. It caught the Hawker mid-section and sent him flying backwards into the teleporter. It sucked him up and he promptly disappeared.

â??Howâ??s that for feisty?â? she murmured. The Mage grabbed Lexyâ??s hand. â??Letâ??s get out of here. Before he comes back.â?

â??That wasnâ??t very nice.â? Ess stood before them, blocking their path. He tilted his head to one side and unsheathed both of his weapons. â??I just wanted to talk.â?

Elly rushed towards him as he spoke, her staff already swinging in her string of melee attacks. The struck from above, from the sides, from every angle she could think of and, yet, each strike was quickly and easily fended off. Buff bubbles enveloped her, increasing the strength and speed of her attacks ? to no avail. Nothing connected.

But neither did the Hawker attack back. He smiled at Elly, his eyes never leaving her face even as he blocked her attacks. The magic spells she threw at him, he took. His clothing was alternatively smoldering at the edges or frozen stiff, depending on her method of attack.

Lexy recalled their last encounter, back at the Resort. They were all knocked unconscious almost instantly then. Even alone, the Affliction clanmember was proving to be a formidable opponent. He could easily crush them, if he so chose. It was becoming increasingly evident that he was toying with them, merely defending himself as he tired the Muses out.

They needed to escape. Fighting him was only going to get themselves hurt - or worse. Galexy eyed the transporter. It sucked the Hawker away once. Pushing him in again for them to escape was not going to work. He had reappeared too quickly. They would have to run through it instead.

The Hawker yawned. â??I tire of this.â? He caught Ellyâ??s staff in this next swing and pulled it towards him. Elly, refusing to let go, was pulled with it.

The Hawkerâ??s arms wrapped around her, pinning her own arms against her sides. The staff, between them, was useless at the current angle. The closeness of the stranger rattled Elly. He stood only inches taller than Elly, her eyes in line with his smiling lips.

â??â??Tis a shame we must part so soon,â? he murmured, holding Elly tighter in his stranglehold. He brushed his lips quickly across her forehead. â??Until we meet again.â? With one quick spin, he pushed the Mage into the bright portal that she had so recently thrown him.

He turned to face the stunned Cleric. â??Are we ready for that talk, now?â?

Lexy, shocked at the speed in which the man moved, raised her wand and shot off random spells at Ess. Nearly all of them missed. She wasnâ??t built for a fighter, didnâ??t know enough offensive spells to fight with. Goddess above, she barely had her Cleric spells all learned! Sheâ??d only just passed her Level 100 exam.

â??Though I do appreciate a good fireworks display,â? he begun, dodging the measly Cleric attacks. He eyed the pack strapped to the girlâ??s back. â??I do believe that you have something that belongs to me.â?

The Hawker stopped a scant foot in front of Lexy, who proceeded to physically attack him with her wand. He laughed as he plucked the pack from her shoulders and emptied it into the snow.

Instead of running like she ought to have done, Lexy continued her attack on the man, throwing some magic spells in now and again. He ignored her attacks and scooped up the scrolls that spilled out. â??Thanks,â? he said.

â??Those arenâ??t yours!â? Lexy yelled, panting. Sweat ran down her brow, despite the chill, and her arms ached from her useless attacks. She did not know what the scrolls held, only that Fayhter had given his life to protecting them. She would not let them go without a fight.

The Cleric swung her Crystal Wand with all her force. She caught the smiling enemy across one cheek. Blood spurted from the wound and ran down his face. The smile faltered on his face. â??Youâ??re as bothersome as that Hawker of yours,â? he said coldly, shoving her roughly away.

Stunned by announcement, Lexy stumbled and fell to the ground. â??What do you know of him?â? she asked, shakily.

â??Heâ??s asked a favor of me,â? he said cryptically. The scrolls disappeared into his inventory as he shrugged. â??Nowâ??s a good time as any.â?

â??What?â? Hope beat against her chest, warring against her logic. How would this man know Xyler, if it was Xyler that the man even spoke of? Why would Xyler ask a favor of someone soâ?¦wrong? Curisousity and hope won out. She pushed herself up to her knees, trying to stand up. â??What favor?â?

â??This.â? Two long blades swung down at her, sharp and fast. Lexy threw up both arms in an attempt to ward off the worst of the blow. Sheâ??d let her defenses down and now she was going to pay the price. Would Elly get back here in time to revive me? Before Iâ?¦die?

There was a loud crack, a dreadful jarring sensation in her arm, and she was thrown to the ground. Her right arm had taken the blunt of the attack. It hurt. Her entire arm felt like jelly, all the way up to her shoulder. She wasnâ??t sure if her hand was still attached to her arm.

â??Well..Gotta go.â?

Lexy looked up at the man as he winked out of existence. She could not tell if he used a teleporting scroll or if he was there, cloaked, and watching her. She hoped that it wasnâ??t the latter.

Slowly she pushed herself up using her left arm. She took a deep breath and glanced at her right arm, preparing for the worst. What she saw took the breath right out of her. Even preparing for the worst possible outcome, she never thought of this. First the scrolls and now thisâ?¦

â??Itâ??s goneâ?¦Itâ??s goneâ?¦â?

She clutched at her wrist, fingering the soft, blemish-free skin there. On the ground, next to her fallen Crystal Wand, laid the smoking, broken pieces of her User-Interface. She had never seen anyone in all of ROSE without one. Replacements did not exist. They were not necessary. UIs never broke. Ever.

Nothing she dreamt of could have been this bad.
  • 1

#25 KingArthur

KingArthur

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Posted 24 July 2010 - 01:47 AM

22. Another Theory

The wind rushed out from beneath his outspread wings as Xyler soared towards the Flying Vessel in the sky. Flyers continued to rain down on the city below from the ship as they flew over Junon Polis, thrown overboard by various, non-descript persons.

A woman stood on the ledge of the ship, leaning so far over the edge that she was practically ninety degrees with the rope she clung to. She waved a welcome to the Hawker with her free hand.

Xyler landed on the main deck, hooking his Glaciers to the attachment on his belt. He had expected some form of attack from the two perched on the side of the ship and was surprised that they had not questioned his arrival.

The male sat resting on the same ledge that the woman was perched on. One leg hung over the railing on the outside of the ship. The other leg rested on ledge itself and served as a perched for the manâ??s arm. He was peeling a small red apple with one of his long swords.

"Welcome aboard, stranger,â? Katinka said as she slinked up to the newly arrived Hawker. She eyed Esseff from the corner of her eye. He, in turn, ignored her. Her eyes darted to the bright flyer still hanging from his sash. â??Read some flyers recently, did you?â?

"These flyers,â? started Xyler, glancing at the two The Affliction members. â??What do they meanâ?¦What truth is there to these tales that you spread?â?

"You tell me, stranger,â? Katinka said, peering closely at Xyler. She tilted her head and ran a finger across his eyelids. He flinched away. â??Paid a visit to one of our lovely prisons lately?â?

"He was on Skaaj with the others crashers that day.â? Esseff popped an apple slice into his mouth, not bothering to look up. â??The Rookies took him to Eldeon before we arrived.â?

"I seeâ?¦â? Katinka narrowed her eyes. â??Then you know them, right? That annoying Mage and her Cleric friend? Ugh. Muses are more trouble than theyâ??re worth.â?

Xylerâ??s heart rate picked up at the casual mention of the other â??crashersâ? and, more specifically, the Cleric. The female Hawker used the present tense when she talked about them. That had to be a good thing. â??You wouldnâ??t happen to remember their names?â?

"How am I supposed to remember the names of all the people Iâ??ve ever fought?â? asked Katinka in exasperation. She tossed her head flippantly. â??Thatâ??s just a lot of wasted memory and brain cells.â?

"And you definitely donâ??t have many to spare,â? muttered Ess under his breath.

"What was that?� sneered the female Hawker.

"I said you may not recall the name of everyone youâ??ve attacked, but you remember everything about those that got away.â? Ess looked up, caught Katinkaâ??s eye, and smirked.

"UGH!â? She stamped her foot and mouthed a string of obscenities in Essâ??s direction. She turned her back on the male Hawker. Why bother with the old one when there was a new Hawker to entertain?

Xyler looked back and forth between the two. From their conversation it sounded as if that they did have a run in with Lexyâ?¦and that she had survived the encounter. Did this happen on Skaaj or the Forest of Wisdom? â??Then you do remember?â?

"What do I get in return for telling you?� drawled Katinka. She bit her lip and batted her lashes.

Xyler resisted the urge to roll his eyes and responded as best as he was able to. â??Uhhhâ?¦â?

"The Clericâ??s name was Galexy,â? interjected Ess. â??The Mageâ??s name was Ellylovesess.â? he emphasized the latter part of her name in amusement. In truth, he was rather intrigued by the name. â??The Dealer was Sonic or Ionic or something along those lines.â?

The female Hawker growled. â??Why did you tell him for?!â?

"Why not?â? Ess shrugged. â??Weâ??re all on the same side here.â?

"We are not on the same side,â? said Xyler, eyes narrowed. He was thankful for the news of Lexy, but it did not mean he was about to join up with The Affliction. â??You serve the Dark God. And I have never served him.â?

"I may work for the Dark God,â? corrected Esseff casually. â??But it is not he that I serve. You and I, Xyier, we serve the same God.â?

"What?!â? scoffed Katinka as she crossed her arms. â??You serve ARUA?!â?

"No,â? replied Xyler, his eyes on the other Raider in disbelief. â??We serve Junon.â?

Ess smiled. â??The God and Patron of adventure and mischief,â? he explained, adding on his own personifications onto the missing Godâ??s attributes. â??And what greater adventure is there than what my current lord is planning?â?

Xyler thought of all the chaos going on in the cities, the destruction of the Forest of Wisdom, and the hoards locked in the Sikiku Prisons. â??This is all a game to you?â?

"What is life but one game after another?â? Ess paused. â??This one just seems to have more serious ramifications than mostâ?¦But, of course, you already knew that.â?

Katinka ran her fingers through the soft downy feathers of Xylerâ??s wings before he glared at her. â??The cogs are turning, spinning, round and round in his head.â? She tapped on his temple with her pointer finger gently. His scowl deepened, but he did not shove her away like he wished to do.

She grasped his arm suddenly and stared at his altered User-Interface closely, turning it this way and that. She looked up at Ess. â??How much has he figured out?â?

"A lot,â? replied the man. â??Not all of it, but much more than anyone else has.â? The Affliction member nodded his head in approval.

Tired of their interchanges, Xyler pushed free of Katinka and backed away. â??What? You can read minds now?â?

The side of Esseffâ??s mouth quirked up in a quick smile. â??Something like that.â?

"Working with a God has its benefits,� added Katinka enigmatically. She inched closer to Xyler, who continued to ignore her as best as he could.

"What donâ??t I know?â? He said instead. He was tired of the conspiracy theories, tired of not knowing what was going on. It seemed that these two, because of who they worked for, knew what was going on. He wanted to know. The price for this story may be more than he can repayâ?¦but it would be well worth it, if the story proved to be true. â??What is it that I am missing?â?

"Since weâ??re becoming such good friends,â? started the male Hawker. â??Iâ??ll tell you.â?

-----

Two hours later and Xyler still could not believe the tales these two shared with him. â??Government conspiracies were one thing,â? he mumbled. â??Gods waging wars with one another is a whole other thing.â?

"Itâ??s hardly a wat,â? corrected Katinka, pulling the ribbon out of her dark emerald hair. â??How can it be when theyâ??ve all been asleep for the past hundred or more years?â?

"But Hebarnâ??s awake.â? Xyler cringed at the name, wondering if, by speaking the name aloud, he would be bring the God of Malice to him.

"Even he doesnâ??t know why that is.â? Katinka shrugged. Suddenly, she clasped both hands before her piously and pouted. She mimed out each sentence as she spoke. â??Poor, poor Arua. Being the only Goddess awake, watching over us all the while, must have been so boring! It was such an easy, simple thing to lure her into the trap my lord set out. And now sheâ??s sleeping with all the others.â?

"Funny how everyoneâ??s remembering all these things now that sheâ??s asleep.â? Ess tossed the apple core over the side of the boat and wiped his hands on a spare cloth, which he also tossed over the side.

"Fun coincidences of our newest game.� Katinka twirled around the deck as if it was her personal dancing space. Crewsmen and women jumped away to avoid a collision with the deranged woman.

"But sheâ??s waking up, you said? Who would steal the sleep spell scrolls?â? asked Xyler. Who would be able to, he thought silently. The tales these two told him, along with the flyers theyâ??ve passed around, shook his faith in Arua. They were very convincing, but criminal masterminds had to be. He remembered the destruction they left behind in the Forest of Wisdom. He tried forcing the memories further down in his thoughts, in case the pair could pull it from his mind.

Ess raised his arm, showing off his own UI. He pretended that he had not heard Xylerâ??s thoughts. Knowing that the Cleric and her friend was there that day in the Forest was important. He just couldnâ??t remember why at this point. No matter. Iâ??ll remember soon enough. â??Once she fully awakens again, all the memories the Visitorsâ?? have regained will be repressed once more.â? He paused. â??Not that it would affect us much, being born here. No memories were stolen from our childhood days.â?

"With their memories back, though, less Visitors are out there fighting off the Monsters,â? Katinka said. â??More and more armies for us to play with.â?

"These armies of Monstersâ?¦they all belong to Hebarn?â? Wondering if the story from Xylerâ??s childhood was true.

"He is not a creator.â? The man arched an eyebrow. â??Arua creates. Hebarn merely tapped into their alter-personalities and brought the darker side of her creations. It happened a long, long time ago. Theyâ??ve populated more land than he ever imagined, mostly because she could not bear to let them die.â? Katinka giggled. â??Theyâ??ve evolved a lot since his absenceâ?¦and became ever the more powerful through the Devil Pestâ??s influence.â? Ess pulled out another apple from his tunic and polished it.

"He means to change this time around,â? Katinka added. â??Heâ??s been so wronged in these tales the citizens tell. He doesnâ??t want to destroy Aruaâ??s creations, just guide them on a new path, Monsters and Visitors alike.â? She clutched her own gemed UI, its screen dark and deactivated. â??He loved these little toys of Arua.â?

â??Itâ??s hard to believe that the UIs are connected to Aruaâ??s magic, that it somehow controls the memories of the Visitorsâ?¦What affect does it have on those born to her planets?â?

The pair shrugged in response. â??Even Gods and Goddesses cannot control everything at all times. These machines help her monitor us, I suppose. Everyone has one, from the moment they are born or transferred here. Itâ??s not something most people question.â? Ess gestured to Xylerâ??s modified UI. â??Except you.â?

"It wasâ?¦a game,â? he replied. A game between Lexy and himself in an effort to sneak onto Eldeon. A game that turned out to be much more than either of them bargained for. Now they were trapped in a Godâ??s game and meddling with Gods never ended well.

"Ah�A game.�

The three Hawkers fell silent. The only sound came from the Flying Vessel itself and from Ruvenâ??s occasional shouts to his staff. The piloteer eyed the newcomer warily, but did his best to remain unseen and out of the way.

Xyler let all the new information sink in, reflecting on how this new data affected his previous knowledge and experiences over the last few days. Everything fit so well, so exactly, that there had to be something he was missing. It was just impossible to think of the Goddess Arua as the one that was wronging the Visitors of their worlds.

"Weâ??re talking about free will here,â? said Ess when the silence had gone on for long enough. â??The right to choose where to live, when to fight, what to remember. Arua has no right to decide for us, or for your little Visitor.â?

Xyler recalled the times he questioned Lexy about her past, her memories of her home world. It was against all etiquette, but he was curious. The folklore and legends about their Gods and their worlds were as important to her as his own memories. She loved all the stories he shared about his youth. It dealt with her new life here.

But she never seem to care that her own memories were gone, her past erased. Even when he repeatedly question her, she could not pull up a single memory. He thought about her now, out there somewhere with her friend from her training days. He remembered her stories about Elly, though he had never met the woman. He wondered if Lexyâ??s memories were coming back to her, like all the other Visitors. He wondered if she welcomed themâ?¦and if she would miss them when they were taken away again.

"These UIs,â? he said. â??They hold the spells that control the Visitorsâ?? memories, right? Does it work, with the UIs deactivated?â?

"I donâ??t know,â? said Ess. He tapped a finger on his chin in reflection. An old memory clicked into place, linking up with what he had pulled from Xylerâ??s thoughts earlier. The Muses were there in the Forest of Wisdom the day they were searching for the scrolls. It wasnâ??t a far leap to think that they may have gotten to it before he could have. A slow smile formed on his face. It couldnâ??t hurt to ask. Heâ??d have to have a little talk with those girls and the UIs th Hawker trio were discussing would be the best way to track them down. He swung both legs over the railing and faced Xyler. â??But I guess I can find out for you.â?

In one quick movement, Ess pushed himself off of the ledge and pulled a scroll from his inventory. â??Keep him occupied for a bit, Katinka.â? He flicked it open, read from the inscription, and was gone.

The female Hawker smiled and pulled her katars from her belt. â??Gladly.â?
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