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About Vestige

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    Path of Radiance

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  1. Slugs, eh? A niche item to be sure, but the revelation hardly fazed him. Cassandra on the other hand seemed disgusted, and promptly quit the table at her earlier convenience. Not very surprising to him, that. She liked to pretend she had become tough and rugged, but at the end of the day she was born and raised as royalty. Even if she never quite fit the mold, a couple weeks in the wild lands weren't going to change that. That was precisely why he couldn't help but raise an eyebrow when Sylvia quickly followed Cass' lead and excused herself with a bowl untended to. The woman spoke as if she were born and raised in the Dank Codger, and yet she was going to pretend like she couldn't stomach some slugs? He placed another spoonful in his mouth. It was a curious thought, but the matter of Hiero's wayward stroll proved even more so. He held up a finger. "Sounds like you and yours have quite the problem there, Raum. Here's a thought. Why wait for 'one day' when we have today? I'm sure I'd be able to figure out the mystery of this lake if I were to take you with me for a quick swim," he mused, prodding the ghoulish man with a dark thought of his own.
  2. "Well, I suppose that's the end of it then." Alain shook his head and sighed, settling back down into his seat. In a surprising turn of events Astaroth had not only acknowledged his folly, but asked for forgiveness in the same breath. Truthfully, it had caught him off guard. But like Naiman had said, it would be best to dispel the tension as soon as possible. "I must say, I'm impressed. Not many men I know would acknowledge their faults so quickly, and so publicly," he said, praising the man. "I hope I can prove your trust in me will not have been a mistake. Just as we fear Malaphar's name, I'll make certain that the sorcerer will soon come to fear our names as well. The bastard has a lot of debts to pay, and I intend to collect," he concluded. There wasn't much else to say, was there? Cassandra had made her intentions clear, and it seemed as though everyone was in it for the long haul--for better or for worse. He just hoped he'd be able to make good on his promises.
  3. Alain looked at Cassandra incredulously, and let out an exasperated sigh as he listened to Astaroth's long list of complaints. Was he expecting someone to console him, or was he creating a scene just for the sake of it? Anyone else, and Alain may have felt some shred of pity--but Astaroth had proven time and again that he considered himself a cut above the rest. A cut above him at least. And now he was going to start crying to everyone on account of his own regret? Engel have mercy. It was just one thing after another. "Did Princess Cassandra knight you while I wasn't looking, or did you go and swear an oath of fealty in silence? Nobody forced you to be here. In fact, she specifically told you that if you needed to attend to your people, you were free to do so," he said. "And if you mean to blame circumstance, then I fail to see how we are any worse off than we were before," he added, looking to his peers. "I mean, am I in the wrong? Was it an error to enlist the aid of sorcerers against a sorcerer? Am I just not seeing my own folly? If there was a better option, someone, please explain it to me." He pushed his bowl aside and stood up to address the man directly. "You and yours have consistently doubted me, but you pick up one dusty book and suddenly you take it as Engel's commandments? And do you really think you're the only one here with things to think about? Naimanzuunnadintsetseg and Uuliinyagaantsetseg have to contend with the fact that they're the only surviving members of their clan. Cassandra has to worry about her entire Kingdom and the people therein. And all those people sitting over there," he said, pointing to the cultists, "also have to contend with their own grievances," he said. "And do you really think I'm just sitting around doing nothing when it comes to dealing with Malaphar? I know better than anyone here what we're dealing with. So don't start crying to me about what is or isn't possible," he scoffed. "I don't actually care whether you eat or not. But if you think we're dallying around here for the fun of it, you're damn wrong. But since it's come to this anyway, does anyone else have any grievances they wish to air out?" he asked, his attention focused squarely upon Naiman.
  4. "Try not to be too picky or you'll end up looking like Elder Dumah. All the bones and none of the wisdom," Alain called out--not exactly keen on ushering Astaroth back to the table but still amused enough to offer the chieftain some parting words. Though he was looking less like a chieftain and more like a petulant child, sulking in the corner as he was. And I'm sure he wonders what he ever did to earn Cassandra's ire. Alain shook his head and sighed. "It can't be that bad, right? I don't know about this water situation, but if Kelbara and Raum are still alive..." He shrugged his shoulders and took a bite for the team, giving himself a moment to thoroughly chew and make his initial assessment. Bad indeed... It had certainly been a few years since he'd had anything so poorly made. But his memories of those long agonizing night spent sleeping on an empty stomach were not easily forgotten either. He wasn't going to betray himself by turning his nose up at something he once would have savored. "Well... it's edible. I think. Though I suppose it couldn't hurt to add a touch of Sebastian's flair to the dish next time," he said, giving the steward a knowing look. "Or a couple touches even," he added with a laugh, taking another bite. Food was food after all. Though at least he could look forward to the next meal being just a little bit better.
  5. "I understand." He nodded, feeling somewhat sympathetic towards both her bewilderment, and her apprehension. "But yes, that about sums it up I'd say. Good to see you've been paying attention," he said with a smile. He hadn't been expecting to have a pupil so soon after graduating, yet here he was--teaching the Princess of Wyke about the dangers of dark magic. At least she was taking his caution to heart. "Just know that there's a difference between thinking you know something, and actually knowing it. The true test is in your application, not your understanding. Unfortunately, that's a hill you'll have to climb alone," he admitted. He couldn't cast her spells for her, after all. But with what she'd been taught already, along with his guidance--he was sure she'd come into form rather quickly. Even Sebastian seemed to agree on that front. "Your praise is well received Sebastian, but I'll have you know that none of my talents are gifts from Belial--or anyone else for that matter. I'll tell you one thing, Belial wasn't there whispering in my ear during my nights of studying, and he definitely wasn't with me during my examinations. Even Engel can attest to that," he said, letting out a quiet snort. "But in any case, I suppose I shall be taking my leave now. Much as I appreciate the extended invitation, I have some business to attend to. Time permitting, we can continue your lessons tomorrow afternoon. I ought to check if the rest of our friends are still alive as well. Never know what these crazy cultists are capable of after all," he said, holding back a hearty laugh as he bid Cassandra and co. a final wave before disappearing into the darkness.
  6. Alain let out a muted chuckle. He hadn't been expecting Sebastian to pitch in with such sincere curiosity. It was a welcome change from the pointed accusations he'd since been receiving from Astaroth and Naiman, that much he had to admit. "An excellent set of questions. As one might expect from the astute steward. Unfortunately, I can only answer with conjecture and my best guesses. There isn't much literature on the subject written by sane scholars. Or scholars at all, really." He frowned. "Honestly, it's a shame Kelbara didn't join us. I would have loved to hear her opinions on the matter--but I digress." He shook his head apologetically. "As I mentioned earlier, the catalyst for dark magic stems from one's connection to Belial. The higher one's attunement to that force, the easier it becomes to cast dark magic. Granted, I wouldn't say it's a qualification--you're still using mana as the primary sustaining force after all. But if you were to read the incantations found in most dark magic tomes, there are a lot of references made to Belial by name. I'd almost go so far as to say that the lines are structured more as invocations instead," he explained. "The two are similar in so far as every invocation is an incantation, but not every incantation is an invocation. Generally you only see the latter with cursed and holy magic for obvious reasons. This is the reason that natural magic is the defacto branch of magic when it comes to scholarly pursuits. It doesn't rely on any outside forces which makes the magic more systematic and quantifiable." "Here, let me show you what I mean," he added, bringing their attention to his own shadow. Without warning he threw his hand up into the air and a fiendish arm lurched up out of the ground to meet it, stopping just before reaching his neck. There it remained frozen, save for the wisps of magical energy burning off of its surface. The spell was almost identical to the one he'd cast earlier, save for the speed with which it manifested itself and the quantity of apparitions present. "Something I've noticed is that manifestations of dark magic have a proclivity to display some sort of sentience. At its most basic level, I would liken the behavior to that of a plant that extends itself towards sources of light. A subtle effect that is only noticeable after an extended period of time. On the other end you get things like this," he said, lightly brushing the shadowy apparition with the tips of his finger. With the same abruptness with which it appeared, the hand recoiled from his touch and fell to the floor. There it began to aimlessly claw at the earth. Like a blind man looking for a lost coin. "See how it animates itself? Fairly unsettling wouldn't you say?" he asked with a laugh. "You might be inclined to believe that I'm the reason for this behavior but I assure you that is not the case. I suspect the reason for this is primarily due to the invocations made to Belial. Because Belial acts as an intermediary, some of his aspects manifest themselves and get reflected in the magic itself. What this means for casting is that it is more important is this case to impose your will upon the magic such that it supersedes these aspects of Belial." "I told you before that Belial requires sacrifice, yes? Well without exerting proper control, you'll quickly find that your own magic finds you yourself as a suitable sacrifice and will drag you to whereabouts unknown. You can only imagine the amount of mages who suffered an ill-begotten fate for the magic to end up categorized as "cursed" and abandoned shortly thereafter." He grimaced. "In your case Cassandra, for now, I would focus on simplistic applications. Like the spell you saw Kelbara use earlier. To that end, Balor will work the same way a fire spell might but in this case you don't have to worry so about about adhering to strict properties. Just know that the form you allow the magic to take dictates the degree of influence Belial will have."
  7. Alain nodded, pleasantly surprised with the progress Cass had been making despite everything that had been happening. "That's not bad at all. Dark magic feels a bit different compared to elemental magic, but it shares the same fundamentals at least," he said. "I''ll fill you in on some basic theory, and then we can work on that," he said, pointing to the page of Balor in Cass' hand. It was probably best to take things one step at a time. If there was anything that shouldn't be rushed, it was magic. "To begin, there are three known branches of magic: holy, cursed, and natural. Some people refer to it as light, dark, and anima but it's all the same really. The last one is the only one that is actively taught in scholastic institutions. Natural magic is colloquially referred to as elemental magic or anima magic, due to the process by which it operates. That being the imitation of the natural elements and their subsequent derived phenomena," he said, revealing something of a smile as the words of his old professors started coming back to him. "Now, the act of casting magic is something of a two part process. The first part consists of channeling magical energy, or mana, through your body. Think of it like feeding fuel to a fire. Do note that the body can only handle so much mana at any given point. The fatigue you feel when casting magic is a direct result of this action. If you try to exceed your limit with bigger or more complex spells, you'll kill yourself," he admitted. "You've had some experience using staves, so I suspect this wont be a problem but do keep it in mind." "The second part is what I like to call property assignment. This is where elemental magic will vastly differ from curative magic. Normally, mana is indistinguishable from the air we breathe. In order to give mana its form, you must assign it with multiple properties so that it can assume physical form. Generally speaking, these properties must adhere to the natural equivalent. If you try to deviate from the natural order, you're going to have a bad time," he said. "In the case of a fire spell, you must assign it shape, size, and heat--just to name a few thing. Usually this step is tied together with the incantations in a tome. Most of the low-ranking tomes are standardized in terms of their incantations--meaning a tome from Wyke will read much in the same way a tome from Whitwar will. The incantations act as a guideline for what you need to do, and how much mana you need to do it. It's all about being efficient," he said. "I think that's everything I need you to know," he said, pulling out Balor. "Any questions so far?"
  8. "The Earl of Edion?" You can't be serious. Who could have thought that Wyke's chief arcane scribe was a Belialist. And a Belialist trying to claim the crown no less. Not that it was worth anything with the Deiran occupation in force. But still, he couldn't help but feel troubled by his lack of foresight. He too had seen a vision through Morgan's eyes, yet he hadn't been able to piece the deeper meaning together. But if Morgan was a Belialist, was he really supposed to believe one of those jesters Claire had been dealing with had been a Belialist too? The mere thought was ludicrous, but all the signs pointed towards it. He let out a tired sigh. Just what was going on in the world? "That is worrisome news indeed, but we'll deal with them when the time comes. We still have a greater foe to dismantle," he said. To that end, it seemed Cass was done toeing around the subject. She wanted to learn dark magic, and she wanted it done quickly. Fine by me. To have a princess as a pupil wasn't too shabby for a boy born of rags. "Generally speaking, the catalyst for dark magic resides in one's affinity towards it. I see that Belial has taken quite the liking to you, so you shouldn't have any trouble in that regard. You'll soon find that dark magic comes more easily to you than other other form of magic you've used thus far," he said. "That being said, it still shares similar fundamentals with elemental magic so we'll have to work on that as well. But if you're willing to learn now, I see no reason to delay," he said.
  9. "It's nothing to worry too much about, the moment will pass soon enough," Alain said, trying to alleviate some of Graham's concerns. With the tensions between Kelbara and Naiman somewhat settled, the room fell under an ominous trance as the occupants waited with hushed breaths for Cass' spiritual return. And as he had predicted, following a few terse minutes, Cassandra's vision had come to pass and her mind had returned to the present--though her amiable demeanor had seemingly been lost along the way. "If that is your wish," he replied, taking his place behind Kelbara. Her rage aside, whatever sort of vision she'd been faced with had seemingly set in motion the manifestation of Cass' convictions. At least he could be pleased about that. He turned to face the rest of his companions who were no doubt somewhat puzzled by the recent developments. "It looks like we'll be staying here a while longer. I suggest you all take this opportunity to recuperate and get to know the locals. Just be mindful of where you wander," he warned.
  10. "I... see, thank you for the insight Elder," Alain mumbled, biting his lip as he stepped back to bear witness to the myriad of other elders that had previously been hidden in the shadows. Dumah alone was enough of a shock, but the rest of the elders had turned the chamber into quite the ghastly scene. It was no wonder that the cultists had had such a difficult time propagating across the empty plains of Magonsaete. All the most powerful people were sitting around withering away into husks. What use were truths without the means to apply them? He took one final look at the tome before once again stowing it away. No amount of enticement from the demon would lead him to choose a life of living death, that much he could assure himself of--but...perhaps the foreign tome merited further scrutiny. Both Ethel and Dumah seemed to hold it in high regard, but neither had given him the means to unlock it's mysteries. It was an unfortunate thing, but it was his task to complete for better or for worse. But just as he began to ponder, his musings were cut short by Hiero's abrupt advance and subsequent threat of violence. He'd barely had enough time to react before he could grasp what was going on. Has he gone mad?! "Hey, stop! What--" he paused. "Are you doing..." Keeling over in agony as it were. Hiero's bout of madness was put to a quick stop by the maiden of the hour. Kelbara had made her appearance with impeccable timing, striking Hiero down before he'd had the chance to follow through with his attack. Though, shocking as Hiero's bout of lunacy was, Naiman's defense of him trounced it twice over. Was she really trying to create a scene over Hiero? The very same Hiero who, just moments ago, was about to strike a withered old man completely unprovoked--in the middle of negotiations no less. What, did she hold some sort of camaraderie with the man because he too expressed his lack of belief as she had? Unbelievable. He held respect for Naiman's feats as a warrior, but his opinion of her mental facilities was surely starting to wane. He placed a hand on her shoulder, trying to reason with her despite her flaring temper and his own incredulity. Kelbara's words clearly belied her intent, but the last thing they needed was for her to change her mind and rise to the challenge. "I should expect Kelbara here has a duty to the Elder much in the same way Uuliinyagaantsetseg has towards you, or Sebastian has towards Graham and Cassandra. I imagine she assumed the worst, and acted accordingly. It's unfortunate, but let us not pretend as thought his intentions were pure. Let it serve as a lesson to him not to act rashly when being housed as a guest."
  11. Dumah's proposition, while agreeable with his own goals, didn't exactly fill him with confidence. On the one hand the elder clearly declared their impending failure, and on the other hand he also believed a single person would be enough to aid them in their task? He wanted to voice his concern but Cassandra's overly eager optimism forced him to stay his tongue. He would judge Kelbara's capabilities once she had arrived. Perhaps the Elder would prove him wrong once more. "No, I imagine he'll wait for us. Because that's the kind of person that he is," Alain muttered. But his arrogance will be his demise. Cassandra's thinking was on the right track. Whatever the cause behind his power, Malaphar had shown a moment of vulnerability. If he bled like man, he could die like man. But while they waited for this Kelbara woman to make her appearance, there was one other matter Alain wished to attend to before the Elder retreated into his self-absorbed meditation. He reached into his robes, and pulled out a tome that had scarce seen the light of day since he'd acquired it. 'The Origin of Belial' though he could never have known it. The lengthy volume had already given him much trouble to decipher. At some choice hours he would be able to discern it's contents with some effort, but on most days the language remained altogether foreign. It was a puzzling matter, but if he could be certain of one thing it was that it reeked of Belial's influence. "Elder Dumah, if you can spare me a few more breaths, there was something I was hoping one with your knowledge could answer for me," Alain said, walking up to the man and holding the text open for him to see. "It is written in a language that is altogether unknown to me, yet with due time the words begin to unravel themselves, slowly but surely," he admitted. "What, pray tell, is it that I'm holding?"
  12. Empire: Holy Rebirth

    So I'll lay this out real quick for you. 1. A quick google search leads me to conclude that the time-frame for most empires does not last "thousands of years" just because the stars aligned for that length of time. I recognize that you can do whatever the hell you want in fiction, but you better have a damn good reason for an empire lasting that long. The Roman Empire lasted ~1500 years. The Ottoman Empire lasted ~600. Your opening line sucks. As a reader, my first question is: how did this empire last for thousands of years? Your response is: it just did. Who were the rulers? Who were the founders? How did the nation start? What about what the world USED to be like before it got dominated by Team Rocket? You don't get to conquer the world without making some enemies. What sorts of wars were fought during this period of thousands of years? What methods did the empire employ to subjugate the entire damn world? 2. Okay, so you're telling me this empire that has lasted thousands of years and dominated the globe was brought down because the "Nameless Emperor" died of influenza and his corrupt son-in-law took over? What about his actual children? What happened to them? What about the Emperor's knights? They just chilled while literally Hitler decided to start mucking things up? (Additionally, this Emperor doesn't even have a name--much like your empire.) 3. And again, I'm surprised it took thousands of years for this empire to turn shitty, but I digress. Here you make the point "there was nothing they could do to revolt" : "but all it took was one moment for that to change". So which is it? Can the people revolt or not? I'm out of things to quote now. Your setting and plot hook amounts to a whopping paragraph of description and detail. And that's being generous. Suppose I want to make a character. What sort of background can I write with the given information? I can't write anything. I don't know anything about the territories within the empire. I don't know anything about the cultures. I know nothing about the geography. We don't even get a time period. Stone age, bronze age, iron...? Is there magic here? How does that operate? What about other common fantasy tropes? Dragons? Elves? Monsters? Is this even fantasy to begin with? I could go on and on really. You need to create a world that is engaging. Edit: I see you've already made some adjustments in the interim, but I'll leave this here for posterity.
  13. Alain had thought he'd tempered his expectations well enough, and yet he still managed to find himself deflating upon every corner they turned--all culminating in a final exasperated sigh as they approached what appeared to be the main hall. Had these people not been told of their coming by 'Lord' Belial himself? And despite that, the best they had managed to dig up was a ghoul who fancied himself a jester, and a corpse that had all but forgotten to stop breathing? This was the welcoming they offered to a Princess who stood before the door of acceptance? "Astonishing, simply astonishing," he gasped, taking in the full view of the hall. Not that there was much to take in to begin with. He was told there would be elders plural, and yet only Dumah was seated before them. Perhaps the hall was more a cemetery, and the remaining elders had long since been laid to rest? He looked between Duham and Raum, quietly lamenting his very own existence. I'm to fight Malaphar with this? He would be better served joining the remaining elders in the great beyond before Malaphar had a chance to burn him to cinders. He let out another sigh as Dumah began to speak, but slowly he found his exasperated disappointment giving way to begrudging acknowledgement. Perhaps his companions had failed to notice, but for all his faults the elder possessed a cognizance that was not wholly mortal. It was impossible for Dumah to have known his past without Belial's aid. He would know. He had experienced the same manner of revelations himself. Though it irked him that the man would speak of his previous life so openly in front of the very people he would have hoped to hide it from. But the point was soon forgotten once Cassandra began to speak. As he listened, he couldn't help but smile. For just a few moments she commanded the air with an authority that even she herself may have never known she had. Still she paled in comparison to Ethel, yet just days ago she was wrought with fantasies of life as a village maiden. And now she spoke of reforming a kingdom and killing a man who sought power to rival the lords of light and dark. A bold turn of character if ever he'd seen one. "It is as Cassandra says. As it so happens, the Malaphar you speak of is the very man that stands at the epicenter of this all. You have my condolences for the fate of your son. I myself have borne witness to the horrors of his realm," he revealed, a dark expression washing over him. Even now the sorcerer was likely seated upon his throne, plotting and planning. "My heart holds many desires Elder Dumah, but in this moment I desire the end to the man known as Malaphar."
  14. Alain returned Sebastian's question with a snort. "It appears that Belial doesn't care much for appearances. Quite noble I should say. Equality for both the prince and the pauper. Though I'm afraid her Majesty's court demands a bit of a higher standard, so I wont be changing my attire anytime soon." He dragged his fingers along the earthen walls, chaffing away any of the dirt he'd picked up along the way. The place was every-bit as dark, dingy, and morose as he could have imagined. Granted, it sure beat Malaphar's world, but when it came to their tour-guide, well... Raum was every bit as shaky, hollow, and eerie as the grounds upon which he presided. Perhaps it was wrong to judge so early, but it was no surprise now that these cultists held the reputation that they did. To Alain's knowledge, this man marked the third Belialist he'd met--and between him, the old man, and Constance, they didn't really stray too far from the mark. They were all unhinged in one way or the other. Was it the the madness of Belial, or the stupor of old age? He couldn't know for sure, but an unsettling shudder crawled through his body all the same. Either would prove their own kind of damnation... "In any event let us be hasty Raum. I've traveled a great deal already, and I'm eager to meet these so called brothers and sisters of mine," he said. He began to usher the man forward but stopped to spare a glance back towards Naiman. Her proverb had been lost on him, but he could tell her interest had been piqued even if she dared not to admit it. He offered her a wry smile and beckoned her forward. Where had her haughty disinterest wandered off to, he wondered? "It seems you've made a good impression on her Raum, I'm impressed." Eccentric though the man was, they, like Belial, couldn't afford to give much credence to appearances, at least for now. They were in desperate need of powerful allies--hopefully the elders would provide. "The rest of you are free to remain here if you like, though I imagine staring at dirt walls and floors can only captivate for so long."
  15. "Hm? Did I what? You must be imagining things Cassandra," Alain remarked coolly, the faintest hint of a smile forming on his lips. She'd heard him no doubt--the demon who whispers in the hearts of all men. But for Alain, such words came as mere assurance rather than grand revelation. It wasn't that he trusted the demon, as Belial's words seemed to imply--rather he trusted the demon's desires. Even for all his power, he was an entity cast out--maligned by all and his followers marred just the same. It was a laughable state of affairs and surely even he sought some form of change? "Indeed, it seems the path has been laid out to us. Soon perhaps, the truth of my words will be brought to light," he said, his eyes shining with wicked delight.