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Friday, March 23, 2012

3.1.7.5. Strife in the Ice - Part 3

Sheena Mekh'ta the Corsair
As depicted in this tentative image

As the hunters are all gathering in the rune room in the ice chambers, they are amazed to see so beautiful a place. Everything is covered with ice – the walls, the floor, even the ceiling. The temperature drops, and the air the hunters breathe becomes steam-like. Ellephar begins to shiver and says, ‘D-uh, ‘tis gettin’ chilly in here, innit?’

‘Yeah,’ says Baxter. ‘Too bad we don’t bring our mantles with us.’

Suddenly a lizardman says, ‘Hey, guyssss, let’s check out the next room. I bet it’ll be colder in theressss!’ It seems he likes the cold temperature, being cold-blooded himself.

Orlevant tries to stop the hunters from going into the ice chambers without a clue, shouting, ‘Wait! Don’t go in just yet! Hear us out first, for your own safety! We’ve deciphered the runes and it said we must beware of “what lies behind lies”! Something’s bound to meddle with our minds!’

‘That’s why we go now to find out what that is,’ says Paliades.

Ignoring Orlevant’s protest, Paliades immediately goes into the next room, followed by a large group of hunters. Robert, Carolyn and Andreas decide to stay behind, waiting until Iris has completed figuring out the meaning of the riddle from her fellow elves’ translation.

Iris is surprised that Robert and his party still wait for her when they should’ve followed Paliades. ‘Lo, why are you still here?’

Andreas says, ‘Because you are still our guide, and our friend.’

Robert adds, ‘Yeah. We’ll never forget what you did for Chris, saving his life, and we need you now and always. We must stick together ‘till the end.’

Carolyn also adds, ‘You gave this to me, this token of our friendship.’

She points at the necklace that hangs around her neck.

‘I don’t know why, but since then I frequently find myself in right places, right times, with right solutions. That’s why I cherish this necklace very much; a greatest gift a friend ever gave to me.’

Iris laughs. ‘Ah, you do have a knack of clever ideas; you don’t need a necklace for it. But yes, I enchanted the necklace. The wearer will always have good luck and safe from mortal harm no matter how perilous the situation is. But it does have its drawbacks: If the wearer suffers illness or injury, it will take longer to heal even if you take it off after it happened, and you’ll need extra help before all is lost.’

‘Ah, you’re such a good friend indeed,’ says Andreas. ‘By the way, what is the meaning of the riddle?’

‘What lies behind lies… not in one’s eyes… there are many interpretations of it, but as I concluded, it means there will be illusions just ahead, there’s no escaping them, so keep your concentration, and don’t get killed. Er… guys, thank you for trusting us,’ says Iris.

‘In that case,’ Andreas says, pointing his Gloria Vadis healing staff at his comrades, ‘We shall need extra protection. Omnigalatr!

Andreas casts Mass Protect, creating a force field that covers Iris, Carolyn, Robert, himself and several hunters and elves in the area, grants them extra protection against physical and elemental attacks on their bodies for twelve hours. It takes a godlike physical and elemental attack to completely breach this force field.

‘Gee, thanks,’ says a protected hunter.

‘That’s okay,’ says Andreas. ‘Now, shall we? Remember, we have only twelve hours before this layer wears off.’

The rest of the hunters and elves follow Andreas to the next room. This time they see a huge room, with huge ice stalagmites and stalactites scattering everywhere, and lots of ice slabs that looks like giant mirrors, big enough for an ogre or Cyclops to see his own full-body reflection. The room is filled with a thin mist that adds to the cold temperature within.

Andreas tries to analyze this situation, saying, ‘Hmmm… this room is huge, and the mist prevents us to see the exit. Maybe we should split up and try…’

Robert cuts in. He sounds a little bit emotional. ‘No, don’t split up. We must stay together from now on. Chris is lost, remember? We can’t afford to leave any more of our friends behind again!’

Andreas shrugs, saying, ‘Aye, all right then. Lead away, lad.’

Robert says loudly, ‘Follow me, my friends! The rest of you,’ turning to the rest of the group, ‘you may follow us or go anywhere you like. Now move! For Vadis!’

Robert goes left, followed by his friends and the rest of the group, although some hunters split up to go to wherever they think is the right way.

As they move further in, Robert’s group finds that the fog is getting thicker and thicker. Realizing something’s wrong, Robert immediately yells to warn the others. ‘Stay with me! Don’t get separated! It’s a trap!’

But there’s no answer. Robert turns to find that no one’s there. Oh, no! This is happening again!

But then, an answer comes. Judging from the voice, it’s not from a human, but a faint ‘chi, chi!’ sound. Robert instantly turns and embraces Carolyn’s pet, Chiel the micha.

‘Thank goodness you’re with me. Now stay on my shoulder, Chiel, and don’t fly away, no matter what!’ says Robert. Chiel perches on Robert’s shoulder.

Now I have to find the others, Robert thinks. But I must be careful. These mirrors are here for a reason. ‘What lies behind lies’.

Suddenly, Robert sees someone’s reflection in the mirror, in the fog. He draws his kiliji quickly, saying, ‘Who’s there? Show yourself!’ But that someone charges on Robert fiercely. An enemy! Robert swings his kiliji backwards, blocks the attack and moves back. The orc also pauses for a moment there, staggering from the impact of their weapons. Robert can see his attacker clearly now, but he is shocked to see that he is the orc who raided Arkvale and killed Robert’s best friend, Laetitia, the same orc whom he killed when he was ten years old.

Robert is totally confused. ‘No! It can’t be! I-I killed you! I-I-must-kill-you-again!!!!’

Robert’s eyes are bloodshot. He seems to have lost his mind, as though he is under a spell. He attacks the orc fiercely, causing Chiel to fall from Robert’s shoulder, and barely manages to keep itself aloft by flapping its tiny wings. Chiel looks at Robert, but it only lets out an angry ‘Chi-chi-chi!!!’ and doesn’t attack either Robert or the orc.

Apparently, whatever meddling Robert’s mind doesn’t affect Chiel at all, being a magical light-enforced creature. Chiel is confused that Robert ignored its calls. It decides to go to Robert’s side before he goes out of sight.

Meanwhile, Robert successfully lands a Three Point Chain Slash on his opponent, and in retaliation, the orc inflicted a minor graze on Robert’s arm. Robert grunts. It seems that his orc grunt is very tough, as though a martial arts grandmaster. He is using double scimitars as weapons, and only gets away with minor wounds.

Chiel ‘chi-chi’-s Robert continually, tries to get him back to his senses in vain. Then, Chiel’s body and eyes begins to glow brightly. Then it emits a beam upon Robert and the orc. Robert’s eyes slowly and gradually turn to normal. He begins to see the orc with a clearer mind. Apparently the orc’s eyes are bloodshot too, but the change is not on his eyes, but his entire body too.

And instead of an orc, Robert now sees a woman with tanned skin and wearing only a breastplate and a dancing skirt. There are wounds from the Three Point Chain Slash and a few more minor slash wounds on her. Robert is shocked.

‘Sheena? What the… Did I fight you just now?’

Sheena is more shocked than Robert, as though just waking up from a trance.

‘You… you’re not Kyflynn? Where did he run? Bloody rob…’ She turns to chase ‘Kyflynn’ in her mind when Robert stops her.

‘Wait – wait! I didn’t see anyone here, just you and me, and… Chiel! Chiel, where is it?’

Robert turns around, and his face collides with Chiel who has stopped its action and flies to Robert’s side. Robert is flabbergasted. ‘Oh, Chiel! It’s good to see you! Did you cast that ray?’

Chiel somewhat understands what Robert is saying, and nods playfully. Robert hugs Chiel like a little girl hugging her precious doll, and with a calm face he says, ‘Thank you. I don’t know what I would do without you.’

Sheena sneers at Robert, saying, ‘You really fond of that animal, don’t you? Looks like we were in some kind of spell here, and your pet there cast Dispel Magic on us to prevent us from killing each other. But you’re a bounty hunter and you’re reputed on hunting down bandits and criminals like me. If given a different situation, I’d like to continue our fight.’

‘I’m looking forward to it. But for now, here, take this healing potion. I’m sorry that I attacked you just now. I thought you were someone else.’

But Sheena refuses it, saying, ‘I brought my own potion, thanks but no thanks. I take nothing from a hunter like you.’

‘But you did take something from us, Sheena.’

‘Huh? What’s that?’

‘The Greaves of Eil’Thanath, from Grad. My friend Andreas was banished from Grad and separated from his family because you stole it and our friendship with the dwarves was shattered.’

Sheena laughs and holds her scimitars firmly as though is ready to counter Robert’s attack, saying, ‘Hahaha! Well, the dwarf’s fate is no concern of mine. In fact he should be thankful, because almost all of my victims always end up dead. So, what will you do now? Fight me for it?’

Robert shakes his head. ‘No, Sheena. I’m just asking you to return the greaves to Andreas, so he can reunite with his family. I’ll buy it from you if I have to. So, do you have it, Sheena? Because I don’t see you wearing it”. Robert points at Sheena’s feet that are covered with her own greaves, and no way the mythril greaves can be hidden behind it.

‘I don’t think you can afford to buy the greaves. I’d like to sell it to you, but I don’t have it. We have lost it to Kyflynn, Desmond and Agustina. They ambushed us and killed my entire gang, leaving only me, Baxter and Ellephar alive. You might want to ask them for it.’

Robert thinks, Hmm, Sheena told the truth. No wonder Father Andreas acted strangely when I got clobbered by a rock golem back there. He knows Kyflynn has it, but if we all try to get it from him now, we will fail utterly, and it’ll jeopardize our mission and our lives! So Father Andreas might’ve let Kyflynn wear it for a while because the greaves are very vital for a speed-demon assassin like him! I’ll deal with it later, but for now I must release the others from the spell, with Chiel’s help.

Robert nods and tells Sheena, ‘Don’t worry, I’m not here to arrest or kill you. We’re on a mission for the Trinity, right? Come with us under Chiel’s protection so we won’t be jinxed again, and we’ll release the others as well.’

‘Reasonable enough. All right, then.’

Robert and Sheena walk closely together to prevent being separated by the mist, and Chiel perches on Robert’s shoulder, emitting beam from its eyes through the mist. Robert utilizes his Eagle’s Eye precision-sight ability and he soon sees two women fighting against each other. They’re Iris and Carolyn with their bloodshot eyes, chanting spell after spell, shooting lightning bolts and razor winds against each other.

Robert quickly yells, ‘Chiel, stop them now!’

Chiel glows again, casting Dispel Magic beam on Carolyn and Iris, turning their bloodshot eyes and addled minds to normal again. The two women collapse on the floor, confused.

‘Wh… what am I doing here?’

‘Did I fight you?’

It seems they didn’t need an illusion to know they are enemies – rivals to be exact. Iris says, ‘We were deluded! The last thing I remember was, I was looking into this mirror and saw Carolyn there too, and then I was lost, completely! Eshmyr!’

Iris gathers her energy and casts Wind Slash to destroy the mirror, but the spell only leaves many deep scratches on it.

‘It’s no use…,’ says Iris. ‘Carol, use your fire!’

Pyroagnios!’

Carolyn casts Fireblast, and she keeps the fire flowing from her magic trident, Esthagar, and the ice begins to melt. Seconds later, Carolyn stops casting. At last the mirror melts down.

‘That’s enough. I’ve wasted too much energy just to melt this one. I bet there are a lot more here. I say we find another solution.’

‘Here,’ says Iris. ‘Drink this spirit potion. It’ll replenish your magic and elemental energy.’

‘Thanks, Iris. I’m sorry I harbored much hatred on you because of our rivalry,’ says Carolyn, receiving the potion and drinks it carefully.

‘Me too, Carol. From now on, we’ll always work together. After this is over, I’d like to join your hunting party.’

Robert says, ‘You’re welcome to join us anytime. But anyway, we must get going, we have to save the others and find the exit.’

Suddenly Iris says, ‘Wait! Gather up, everyone. Okay… Omninervatr!’


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