Author Topic: [MTG] The Mending of Alara  (Read 23094 times)

RaikouRider

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Re: [MTG] The Mending of Alara
« Reply #30 on: February 14, 2009, 09:20:49 AM »
--------------

CHAPTER 3-2: Ace, Bloodhunter

Music Track: Run! //Nobuo Uematsu
Album: Final Fantasy IX OST


Eron jumped out of bed, and he and Josh got dressed and packed up quickly. After exiting the tent in haste, they were terrified at the sight of the crimson destroyer spreading white-hot flames over the settlement. They evacuated with the remainder of the humans, trying to stay out of its sight. Just as they had passed the dragon, it turned to raze the tent that they had gotten out of. A minute later, and they'd have been dead.

Josh pointed out a hiding place to the west of the site. There was an alcove the three of them could duck into. Once he made sure all three were out of sight, he poked his head above the upper surface, where he got a good look at the raging, destructive, reptilian behemoth. Its scales were red as lava, and its claws were sharper than those of the strongest bird of prey. It spouted more flames into the air as a show of its power to anyone who watched the tents burn down and smelled the rancid odor of burning human flesh.

Shalin was, to put it bluntly, mortified. Though she had seen firestokers produce large blazes, it had always been used to honor Gargantuans. Not once was it used for destruction like that. She only became more scared when she saw a goblin get back up after a stream of fire grazed its back, charring its skin black. It scurried up a nearby hill to the highest ground within a quarter mile. The dragon looped around and belched another stream of fire. The godtoucher closed her eyes and covered her face when the goblin jumped. The dragon altered its flight angle slightly, causing the goblin to jump directly into its mouth. "How cruel," Eron sighed as the red creature's serrated teeth cut the goblin into pieces small enough to safely swallow.

(Silence Music Track)

After ten more minutes of circling the area, the terror of the skies finally flew away in search of a better meal. "It's gone," Josh comforted them.

"Is it really?" Shalin shivered in fear. "Is it really gone?"

"Yes," the knight patted his friend on the back softly. She opened her eyes, now seeing the horror the dragon left in its wake. Human, viashino, and goblin bodies were barely identifiable from the amount of skin that had disintegrated from the intensity of the flames. The seven tents that were in the area just the afternoon before were no more than small piles of smoldering ash.

Music Track: Despair //Dennis Martin
Album: The Legend of Dragoon OST


"This is horrible!" she sobbed. "I...I don't know what to say..."

"It seems to be the way of life around here...eat or be eaten. It's a fundamental of nature taken to the ultimate extreme."

"Hey!" Eron shouted. "I heard someone groaning up there. Someone may have survived! Let's at least have a look!" Josh ran to the destruction site alongside Eron, and Shalin trudged there, lost in sorrow over seeing a couple dozen people die cruel deaths.

"The groaning is coming from over there!" Josh pointed toward a heavily bleeding young man. His skin was badly burned, but mostly intact. Eron knelt down and said a prayer to Asha before chanting a healing spell. "Shalin, we need your help!" he reiterated before kneeling as well to assist Eron. "His eyes are closed...he could be unconscious!" Small bursts of healing light appeared around the most severely burned areas, but he was bleeding in so many places that it appeared to do little good.

Putting her sorrow aside, Shalin walked toward the teenage boy. Through the holes in his clothing, she could see he was at least as muscular as the guards that greeted her yesterday. She knelt down with her two friends. "Fill this creature with vim and vigor! Nourish!" the Nayan cried.

With their three efforts combined, the burned skin began to turn back to normal, and the strong young man's eyes began to open. "What feels so good..." he moaned, still in pain from the damage below his skin's surface.


Music Track: Primal Rave //David Wise
Album: Donkey Kong Country 2 OST


"He's alive..." Shalin breathed a sigh of relief. "He's alive!" She fell right onto Eron and hugged him. "He's alive!!"

"What is this feeling?" the blood-soaked male asked, his vision blurred and his head spinning. "I've never felt anything like this before...but my pain is going away."

"We heard you moaning, and it sounded like you were in pain," Eron replied. "So we healed you." The confused Jundian didn't respond. "We saved your life."

His vision slowly became clearer. "I've never seen clothes like those before...are you human?"

"Of course we're human!" Josh answered. "What else did you think we were?" The recovering teen grunted and raised his fist.

"Don't mind him," Eron comforted him. "Yes, we are human."

"You're the scrawniest-looking humans I've ever seen! I'd make a meal out of you if I was feeling better, and you should know that if you've lived this long. But...why did you save me?"

"Because you were a person in need of medical attention. It's only human nature to sympathize and care for people in need."

"No one has even paid attention to me after a hard battle; I have always had to find something to cover my wounds with. You are the first people I have ever met that have cared for someone yourself. I've seen humans play dead as a way to lure a meal in. It's not uncommon." He took a deep breath, then got on his hands and knees. About fifteen seconds later, he slowly stood up.

"Can you walk now?" Shalin asked.

"Yes, I can." He scoured the area for a weapon, finding a viashino kikkach, a club with the teeth of gharials and dinosaurs at the business end. It was functional, but very short--the end of its handle had burned away in the blaze. "What are your names?"

"I'm Shalin, a godtoucher from Naya. These people are Josh and Eron, and they are from Bant."

"My name is Ace, and I'm a warrior of the Rip Clan. I have never heard of Naya or Bant. Are they somewhere in Jund?"

"No. Naya is to the west of the mountain range west of here, and Bant is to the north of Naya."

"That's impossible, because there are tar pits are to the west of those mountains! I've gone there several times myself!"

"You may find this hard to believe," she continued, "but Alara changed a little over two weeks ago. It's how we got here. When Josh and Eron told me, I couldn't believe it, either. Long story short, this place you call Jund is one of five worlds that were originally one. Over a thousand years ago, Alara split into five worlds. Bant and Naya are two of the others. Until I went over the Mountains of the Cloud Pride yesterday, I didn't believe in the Mending either. But the moment I crossed over from Naya to Jund, it was clear that the worlds became one again. Tell me, Ace, have you noticed any unusual activity in the past two weeks?"

"Let's start with the dragon attack. I don't remember much about the attack itself--"

"Which is to be expected," Josh interrupted. "You blacked out and looked like you were going to die. Look, blood is still dripping from your clothes."

"As I was saying," Ace ignored the knight, "dragon attacks aren't rare here. However, there was no reason for it to attack that settlement...at least not without any warning at all. Furthermore, navigating the tar pits to the east of the Bloodhall has been just about impossible of late. There are creatures there we haven't seen before, and they're threatening our way of life. Without sangrite crystals, we cannot survive especially dangerous situations."

"This is exactly what's been happening in Naya," Shalin said, "and I assume it's been happening in Bant as well. Things we haven't seen the likes of before have been appearing, and wildlife always seems to be on edge. These two almost got ran over by one of my own beasts."

"The sudden escalation of the war, and the sudden aggression of the Jhessian navy..." Josh added, pondering various hypotheses. "And all of this happened in the time frame of the last ten to fourteen days. This doesn't sound right. Ace's tribe's problems, the Gargantuans going wild, and the aggression of the Jhessians..." he repeated. "It can't be coincidence. I'm finding it hard to believe also, but if I'm putting the pieces together, this is happening in the two worlds we haven't been to, as well. If we keep looking, we'll find the root of Alara's problem, and solve it."

Ace stepped in front of the three of them. "If what you say is true, then our way of life is in danger." He sighed, then paused. "I'm going with you."

"What?" Eron said, surprised. "You want to come with us?"

"Like Josh said, the only way we're going to get to the bottom of this is if we stop whatever is causing this at the source. Besides, I've never had anyone look after me before. Like the dragons of Jund have shown me before, teamwork is the way to go."

"Welcome to the group, Ace!" Shalin cheered.

"Besides, four is better than three, right?" Eron, Josh, and Shalin chuckled in agreement.



--------------

« Last Edit: March 15, 2009, 04:59:22 PM by RaikouRider »
A mere ten days after the Mending, a young knight of Valeron and a young ranger of Eos made a discovery that would change Alara forever.

Thanks to Spiderboy4 of High~Light Studios!

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Re: [MTG] The Mending of Alara
« Reply #31 on: February 14, 2009, 11:33:15 AM »
Cool! A new, beefy party member. Nice job.

When the darkness of the Abyss threatens the world, the Phoenix will rise amidst a whirlwind of fire and light.

Whisperer: Sometimes there is a very good reason to fear the dark.


YiazmatSlayer

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Re: [MTG] The Mending of Alara
« Reply #32 on: February 14, 2009, 09:43:08 PM »
I do rather like this.  ;D


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RaikouRider

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Re: [MTG] The Mending of Alara
« Reply #33 on: February 17, 2009, 05:28:41 AM »

CHAPTER 3-3: The Bloodhall


Music Track: Secret of the Arid Sands //Hiroki Kikuta
Album: Secret of Mana OSV



"It may be huge, but at least the Rip isn't a river of lava," Shalin said, sweating profusely from the intense heat of Jund's volcanic hotbed as she kept pace with the group walking eastward. "At least we were able to go around it."

"When traveling long distances, any hunter needs to know the location of every fault on Jund," the barbaric warrior answered her. "Shalin, how do you fight? You don't have a kikkach or any other thing to defend yourself with. What if you get attacked by viashino again?"

"Ace, I'm just waiting for the right moment. It's a kind of magic that's way above your head."

"I know about magic! I can even cast a few spells!"

"Not magic like this. You'll understand why when I show you."

"I tell you what...I'll demonstrate it for you the next time we run into something appropriate. It's a magic that uses nature's own beasts against itself."

"Like Rakka Mar, the great shaman? She can summon fire elementals at will."

"...Kind of. But I'm not restricted to fire elementals. You'll see."

"I hate to break up this enlightening conversation," Eron interrupted, "but where is our next destination?"

"It's actually in sight," Ace replied. "We're heading through the Worldheart Mountains and past the Bloodhall. On the other side of the mountains are the tar pits. It's going to get a little more dangerous from there, which is why I'm a little worried about Shalin. She says she can fight, though I don't believe her."

"If you don't believe her," Josh said, "then believe me. She's saved our lives at least once."

"Anyway, I'll tell you all you need to know about the Worldheart Mountains, since you've never been there. They're home to the largest deposits of sangrite in all of Jund."

"What is sangrite?" Shalin asked.

"Sangrite is Jund's raw mana in the form of a crystal. When cracked, the person who cracked it experiences an immense rush of power for a short time. I've cracked several small crystals open myself, so I know what it's like. Shamans use them for particularly powerful spells as well. The deposits are well-guarded though; elementals and the occasional dragon comb the area, making it difficult to get back out with the sangrite intact."

"So it's much like casting Berserk on someone?"

"Yes. Before that dragon attack, I was learning how to cast that. Maybe you can finish teaching me. But cracking sangrite produces a much larger effect than that spell. The deposits lie near the top of the tallest mountain in the range, which is an active volcano. Thankfully, that's not where we're heading. In the mountain we're heading is the Bloodhall, located near a human settlement inside the mountain. It's safe from the viashino and most of the other nasties that roam Jund, but hunting is also difficult for them. The Bloodhall is an important gathering site for us, because it's where the Life Hunt begins."

"I heard that term yesterday," Josh replied. "What exactly is the Life Hunt?"

"It's a ritual performed every eight years. The Vision Speaker, Rakka Mar, summons the most proficient hunters from all over Jund to the Bloodhall, where they ascend Mount Worldheart to kill a dragon. No one usually comes back alive. I was selected to go on the next one, which would have been in just a couple of weeks. But given how much more aggressive everything has become recently, I feel that something had to change. We were fighting the wrong enemy, so I was looking for someone who thought differently. That's when I found you guys."

"So that's your motive for joining us."

"With our way of life in danger, something had to change. I didn't know what, so I figured the best way would be to try things until I found something that worked. Well, here we are." The mouth of the Bloodhall Cave beckoned. The cave was torch-lit, so Ace didn't have to worry about carrying a light source.


Music Track: Magmoor Caverns //Kenji Yamamoto
Album: Metroid Prime OST



"Hey, these function just like the ones in the Sacellum!" Shalin noticed.

"Because this cave is traversed so often, someone thought to put a more permanent light source in here." A quarter mile in, a large, red ooze stretching its four pseudopods to the corners of the tunnel blocked the way. "God *Bleep* it...has it been corrupted by the tar fiends?" He raised his hands into the air, and his entire body glowed with a red aura. "Engulf this fiend in a ring of fire! Blaze!" the warrior shouted. A line of flames began coming from the palm of his right hand, then he waved it to trap the strange creature in a circle of fire. It had little effect. "Can you--wha?"

Ace noticed Shalin on the ground, her hands folded. She let out a cry, then a jungle panorama appeared on the north cave wall. A lion stepped out of it, then the portal closed. The feline snarled, then flashed its sharp teeth at the red slime. She patted the cat's head gently, then it charged the creature with amazing speed. It sliced two of the pseudopods open with its claws, and the foe could not hold itself up on the remaining two. It fell to the ground, where Shalin's companion stomped and clawed it into oblivion. "Was that...?" Josh gasped.

"What the hell did you just do?!" Ace drew his weapon as the lion approached him, letting out a low growl. It circled him once at very close range, but refused to attack. "...Why isn't it trying to eat me? I've seen things like this attack before; they don't get this close to people!"

"This is the magic I was telling you about before. Watch." Shalin whistled, and the lion walked back toward her. After looking to see how high the ceiling was, she lifted one leg over her summoned cat. It didn't even make a sound while she mounted. "See? He won't harm us."

"I...I d-d-don't know what to say," Ace stuttered. "This breaks every rule of life around here. How do you...how do you...?"

"I'll tell you the short version. The tribe I come from can cast a unique spell. It takes a long time to cast, but it calms an aggravated monster down and sends it back to its natural habitat. Then I can project an image of that habitat on any vertical surface, and the creature I saved comes through the image and is totally under my control. There is a problem with it...or perhaps a limitation. If the monster is strong enough, it can resist the spell. So to capture stronger monsters in this way, I unfortunately have to soften them up by fighting them first. With enough luck, I can control just about anything I want." It boggled Ace's mind even further. "Don't think about it now, just accept it. The more time you spend with me, the better you'll understand. Anyhow, lead the way."

Ace led the group to a four-way intersection. "North of here leads up Mount Worldheart, but that's not our destination. The world's largest deposit of sangrite, as well as some other goodies worth grabbing are up there, but we shouldn't waste time. To the south is a hidden human settlement, and below that is the Bloodhall. Only shamans and people who have survived Life Hunts know about the place. It's a safehold from the many viashino thrashes prowling around on the surface. If you're tired, we can stop there to rest before going to the tar pits, which are to the east of here."

"Being interrupted by the dragon attack last night," Eron started, "I vote we head down to rest. You said a lot of shamans live down there?"

"That's right, Eron."

"Maybe Shalin can learn something from them. Either way, I vote we stop there to rest for at least a couple of hours. I could barely see it through the volcanic clouds, but the sun was only a couple of hours into the sky. We can rest without worrying about it being dark where the tar pits are. If we travel there during the dark, I doubt we'll be able to see anything."

"Also, I think we should get Shalin a weapon, just in case."

"I told you before," Shalin raised her voice, "I don't need a weapon! I'm sitting on the back of the closest thing I'll ever get to one!"

"Alright, I trust you. But we're at least going to stop to rest." Shalin dismounted, then projected a return portal for her mount to return to.

--------------

After a few hours of rest, the four left the underground human settlement, which was nearly empry for the time being. Everyone was probably out hunting. The structures looked a little more permanent than tents but not by much. The people living there were still ready to evacuate in case of an energency. Ace guided the team back upstairs to the four-way intersection. "Do you plan on going to the top of Mount Worldheart in the future, Ace?" Josh asked.

"As I said before, there are very dangerous things up there, and there is a powerful dragon that makes its nest at the top. You don't climb the mountain without a very good reason. We should head east for the time being, to our destination." Through a straight corridor about half the length of the one they first came through was a maze of stalagmites and stalactites. It was a simple task, as they could see around the natural pillars obstructing their way. Right when they passed the narrow corridor to the next chamber, they saw a set of stalagmites blocking the east exit to the mountain cave. A black liquid was dripping from the center of the medium-side cave hollow.

The moment they looked up to check what it was, another set of stalagmites rose out of the ground between the maze and their current position, sealing them in. "*Bleep*, we're trapped!" Josh shouted. "What is that thing?"

"It's a tar elemental!" Ace replied. "This is something I didn't want to run into!"



--------------

A mere ten days after the Mending, a young knight of Valeron and a young ranger of Eos made a discovery that would change Alara forever.

Thanks to Spiderboy4 of High~Light Studios!

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Re: [MTG] The Mending of Alara
« Reply #34 on: February 17, 2009, 11:47:47 AM »
I'm absolutely loving it. No problems as far as I can see.

When the darkness of the Abyss threatens the world, the Phoenix will rise amidst a whirlwind of fire and light.

Whisperer: Sometimes there is a very good reason to fear the dark.


RaikouRider

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Re: [MTG] The Mending of Alara
« Reply #35 on: February 19, 2009, 06:28:25 PM »

CHAPTER 3-4: Corruption

Music Track: Boss Battle //Hitoshi Sakimoto
Album: Final Fantasy XII OST



The animated blob of toxic tar dropped to the cavern floor, splashing all four of the wanderers with poisonous, hard-to-remove black waste. Ace's obsidian-studded sword bounced right off the fiend when he slashed at it. "What the hell's going on?!" he shouted. "This isn't an ordinary tar elemental!"

Josh sliced at the black elemental, but merely displaced its liquid frame. "My sword doesn't work, either! Shalin, try your magic!"

Ace and Shalin knelt to the ground, holding hands. "Fill the skies with rage! Branching Bolt!" they cried in unison. Red and green bolts of electricity flew from both pairs of hands toward the fiend. Sparks erupted all over its body due to the high percentage of liquids it was comprised of. The resulting electrolysis decomposed some of that liquid, causing the creature to steadily shrink in size.

"This tactic appears to be effective," Eron cheered. "Keep it up!"

"Look out, Josh!" Ace shouted, standing back up as the tar fiend formed a toxic wave ready to crash to the floor. The Jundian charged at his friend to push him out of the way, but not fast enough--they both became engulfed by the poisonous ooze. Shalin launched another lightning-based attack at it after the foe reformed, its victims covered in black.

Ace stood back up almost immediately, but Josh had to reach for the strength just to get back up to his knees. "O Healing Power, soothe this wounded soul! Life Burst!" the knight cried as he folded his hands. Ten seconds later, nothing. Twenty seconds later, still nothing. He recited the incantation a second time. Ten seconds later, nothing. Twenty seconds later, still nothing. His hands weren't even glowing white. "Why doesn't my spell work?!"

"That's why I was trying to push you out of the way! Coming into contact with Jund's toxic tar makes it difficult to cast magic!" The muscled warrior slashed at the foe with his weapon again, and cut off a piece of the foe's toxic coat--the repeated lightning attacks electrolyzed enough water away to harden it to the point where it became malleable! "It worked! Josh, start hacking away!"

"Right, Ace!" Being covered in thick goop encumbered Josh's movements, but he was still able to land consecutive blows on the strange creature. It seemed to shrug each one off, but at least it was doing something now.

Shalin sidestepped out of the way of a fist of tar, the failed attack leaving a dent in the cavern floor. Eron rushed to the other side of the room to cover for her while she charged more electricity. After she landed her fourth lightning bolt, Eron assumed a stance of prayer. "Smite evildoers with the punishment they deserve! Chastise!" A column of light rose from Eron's feet at a 45-degree angle, in the direction of the black elemental. The light pierced through its tar coating, causing it to sound a roar of agony and shrink in size significantly.

The east chamber of the cave shook with the fiend's roar, and magical spires of black energy pierced through the floor, one by one. One of them lifted Shalin into the air, puncturing the right side of her chest. Strangely, she didn't bleed from it at all, nor did she groan much getting back up. All that seemed to bother her was the hard landing.

Eron aimed another beam of light toward the foe, having to stand closer to avoid having the beam sail over its target. The remainder of the creature's body exploded, sending the ranger flying into the north cave wall and toxic goop in all directions. "Eron!!" Shalin shouted, her voice getting weaker from poison seeping into her body.
 
(Silence Music Track)

With the defeat of the tar fiend, the remnants of its body slowly dissipated, the black slime covering the cave walls and four victors slowly disappearing. But it was too late--the poison from Jund's tar pits had already begun to take effect. Shalin and Eron put their healing magic together to relieve the party's wounds, but it did not relieve their dizziness from the poison.

The stalagmites sealing them inside the room receded. Despite being weary from battle, Ace led the group to the east end of the cave. "The tar pits of Jund should be this way," he guided them, breathing heavily afterward. All of them were. From the cave exit, it looked like the tar pits Ace had known his entire life. Once he had led everyone outside of the cave, he couldn't believe his eyes.


Music Track: Dead City //Dennis Martin
Album: Legend of Dragoon OST



"The tar pits are supposed to be here," Ace snapped, his face showing a frightful scowl. The sky was still covered in dark clouds, but they definitely weren't coming from volcanoes. There weren't any breaks in the cloud cover, either; the sky was filled with black, grey, and dark violet. Both varieties of lightning flashed periodically, making Shalin and the Bantians flinch, as they had never seen natural lightning before. "I see tar pits, but the sky has never been this dark. What the hell happened?"

"I wish I knew," Josh replied, surveying the desolate place. The terrain was black--not even a single blade of grass grew. The entire landscape looked devoid of life. The tar pits bubbled and the panorama of storm clouds moved on, but the rest of the place looked like it was in suspended animation. "The whole place is a wasteland. The air isn't clean at all, either." He paused. "I see what looks like a ruined castle in the distance, so someone had to have lived here at some point. How anyone could survive in conditions like these, I have no clue. For starters, where would they get their food and water from?"

"Behind you, Josh!" Ace cried. The body of a festering human rose up behind the Knight of the Reliquary rose from out of the earth, and it began walking toward him, arms outstretched as if in a trance. The Jundian slashed with his blade, cleaving its arms off. It collapsed seconds later.

"What was that thing?" Josh asked.

"It's the same thing that happened to Syeena!" Shalin sobbed. "Here, too?!"

"But more importantly, why is it still alive?"

"It shouldn't be--nobody, human or elf, had--" Her sentence was cut short by her own scream, when the arms Ace just cut off begun strangling her. The same thing had risen out of the ground for a second attack.

"But I just killed it!" Ace carefully aimed a fireball at the assailant's back, causing it to release its grip on Shalin. This time, he cut it into around fifteen pieces. "There. Now it's definitely dead. But I've never ran into anything I've had to kill twice. Shalin, did you notice anything unusual about it? Magic isn't my specialty."

"Matter of fact, I did. I haven't a clue what exactly was keeping it alive...but it definitely was some form of magic. Come to think of it, I wouldn't even call that thing alive. But it isn't dead either. Not alive, but not dead..."

"I don't understand it either; I just accept that it's true. It happened before my eyes, so it's got to be true."

"Something powerful is preventing things from dying here, but I can't put...a...finger..." Her sudden onset of coughing prevented her from finishing her sentence.

"Are you okay?"

"The tar elemental's poison, and this air..." Eron mumbled.

"What? Speak up, Eron!" Ace commanded.

"She's probably still got that poison in her, and the poor air quality here is amplifying its effect. Plus, maybe some of the shamans and warriors in that village we slept in last night could give us some advice on how to travel there. For now, I strongly recommend we turn back."

"I agree. Let's at least get her to a safe place. Then, hopefully, you and Josh will be able to heal her."

"I hope so, too; she's not in very good shape, and we can't afford to lose her."

--------------


Music Track: Magmoor Caverns //Kenji Yamamoto
Album: Metroid Prime OST



"Ungh..." Shalin groaned before opening her eyes. "How...did I get here?"

"Her eyes are open and her speech is normal," Josh smiled. "That's a good sign."

"Josh, what happened?"

"After Ace lit that zombie on fire, you passed out. I don't know how long you were unconscious for, but we took you back to the human village below Mount Worldheart; it was the closest place we could take you. How are you feeling?"

"A little weak, but I think I can keep going with you. Just let me know when you're ready, and we'll head back to the tar pits," Shalin answered with a smile.

"We've decided we're going to wait another day before going on. The tar elemental's poison will wear off by tomorrow morning. Dravin, a shaman here, told us. We're going to ask him if anyone he knows has been to the tar pits within the last two weeks."

"But one of us has to stay here and watch Shalin," Eron pointed out. "If no one's around to take care of her, and she gets worse..."

"If you're that worried about her, you can stay behind. Ace and I will meet with the shamans. We're all going to get rest after the meeting regardless."

"Alright. She's in my capable hands, Josh."




A mere ten days after the Mending, a young knight of Valeron and a young ranger of Eos made a discovery that would change Alara forever.

Thanks to Spiderboy4 of High~Light Studios!

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Re: [MTG] The Mending of Alara
« Reply #36 on: February 19, 2009, 06:41:34 PM »
Good job. Great fight. No complaints. Thumps up!

When the darkness of the Abyss threatens the world, the Phoenix will rise amidst a whirlwind of fire and light.

Whisperer: Sometimes there is a very good reason to fear the dark.


RaikouRider

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Re: [MTG] The Mending of Alara
« Reply #37 on: February 22, 2009, 07:22:44 AM »

CHAPTER 4-1: The Grixis Deadlands

Music Track: Magmoor Caverns //Kenji Yamamoto
Album: Metroid Prime OST



The Bloodhall, beneath the village, was the place of meeting. It certainly wasn't a comfortable place to do so, but it was sacred to humans. Magma bubbled around thirty-five feet below the stage in the center of the chamber, which was presumably part of an altar. Three of Jund's great shamans stood on the altar, with half a dozen other people, Ace and Josh among them, ready to listen.

"Ace has brought foreigners to aid us in reclaiming Jund from the zombies to the east of the mountain," the female spellcaster in the center of the room started. "Would you please introduce him?"

"Actually, Rakka, there are four of us. This is Josh. Eron and Shalin are still at the inn; Shalin was poisoned to near death by tar elemental's poison and the toxic air that's come over the tar pits."

"And she survived this?" Rakka Mar replied. "Incredible..."

"Yes, it's a miracle she's alive. These people have magic we've never seen the likes of before...magic capable of healing wounds and magic capable of blinding enemies with intense light. Again, it's a kind of light we've never seen before. They were able to defeat a particularly vicious tar elemental by themselves."

"Then they will be valuable in investigating the problems causing the tar pits to expand westward. We've been losing our water sources to whatever has been causing this problem, and our very way of life is in danger."

"We would appreciate any information you can give us about the land to the east of the mountain," Josh chimed in. "Even if you aren't sending us there with a group, the four of us would go there on our own anyway. Our homelands have been affected too, and we have reason to believe all these calamities are linked."

"Alright, I'll tell you everything I know," the Vision Speaker replied. The land east of here is called Grixis, and as far as we know, all of its inhabitants are undead. Yes, undead."

"What does it mean to be undead?" Josh asked.

"Remember what happened to Syeena?" Ace reminded him. "That's probably what Rakka is talking about. Her skin was almost entirely black when we found her."

"It's the same condition, and we've called it zombification. It starts with the skin becoming soft like a sponge, then it turns black and starts foaming up. It ends with the death of the individual, but the ones infected with it on Grixis seem to have a resistance to the condition. The condition also has some benefits, like being able to recover from normally fatal wounds."

"We've had an encounter with one of those already," Josh replied. "After I cut its arm off, it came right back up and almost killed Shalin. That's part of the reason why she got so badly poisoned."

"The inhabitants of Grixis use zombification to extend their lives, but I wouldn't call that condition 'life.' Many of our scouts never came back, but the few that did brought back some valuable information. There are remnants of cities: one to the north and two to the east, and we have evidence to believe that people are trying to live there. I feel that I speak for everyone on Jund when I say that you are the only ones we can rely on to investigate the matter further. We can't keep throwing people away."

"Can you tell us anything else?"

"I only know two more things on the matter. First, zombification has affected creatures besides humans. You really have to be prepared for anything. Second, we believe the ruined city on the mountain to the north is where the source of the trouble is. I'm not 100% on that, but I'm fairly certain that's where you should go first."

"Alright, thanks for the advice."

"I wish you a successful mission," Rakka replied as she signaled for everyone to leave. Once everyone left the room, she started rubbing her hands against each other slowly. "I'll send them right into your hands," she smirked. "Sedris, you're a genius."

--------------

The next morning, Shalin was the first one out of bed, though all four awoke within a few minutes of each other. "So, what did you learn?" Eron asked Josh as all four of them gathered their equipment.

"Quite a bit. I'll explain it as we head back to Grixis. That's the name of where we were." The group finished packing up and headed back to the first level of Mount Worldheart, going east. "Everything there, including that thing that attacked you, suffers from a condition called zombification. It's what Syeena had."

"Then how did they attack us?" Shalin asked. "Syeena died from it!"

"The zombies, as I'm going to call them, either have a resistance to the condition, or cast spells on themselves to grant such a resistance. Either way, you have to chop them into a million pieces or they'll just come back. Burning enough of their skin away also makes it impossible for them to come back."

"Do we have a particular destination in mind?" Shalin asked as they entered the chamber with the maze of stalagmites.

"There are three major ruined cities Rakka mentioned; Unx to the north, Sedraxis to the east, and Kederekt to the southeast. We're going to the north one, and it's on high ground. Hopefully we can get a better look at the area from there. Also, watch your back; zombies can come out of the ground with no warning."


Music Track: Dead City //Dennis Martin
Album: Legend of Dragoon OST



"How about we ride there?" Shalin suggested. "I have creatures available to me besides the thoctar and lion from before."

"It'll make us a bigger target, but I think it's worth risking. That thing's no leotau, so it can probably only carry one of us. We don't want to overburden them. The thoctar can probably cover me and either you or Ace. We need one more."

Once they reached the east exit to the Grixis mainland, Shalin knelt down and began praying. Three Nayan panoramas appeared on the side of the crag: two of a jungle, and one of a fairly large plain. Out of the jungle ones came the Gargantuan that saved their lives while running away from elves. Out of the other jungle one came the lion that Shalin had charmed in the Sacellum. Out of the last one shot a yellow creature so fast, the summoner was the only one able to recognize what it was before it turned around and stood next to her. "That thing's faster than a grohm leotau!" Eron gasped.

"What in blazes is that?" Josh asked, more fascinated than shocked by the black-spotted yellow feline.

"It's a Nayan cheetah, the fastest four-legged predator in all of Alara." The cat's slender, streamlined frame was indicative of its speed. It was around four feet tall. "They're found on the west side of the Valley of the Ancients, but getting over there with the way things are now is nearly impossible."

"It looks a little small," Eron noted aloud. Shalin raised her left leg over the black-spotted feline's back, the fragile-looking cat not flinching or showing any other sign of weakness as she mounted it. Her legs hung just a few inches off the ground. "It's definitely small. Are you sure it can handle this?"

"It's not--"

"More importantly, your legs are hanging really low to the ground. If it runs on an incline, you could end up being blown right off from touching the ground."

"I've done this before, and I've actually been blown off once...but for a different reason. This thing is so fast that you have to practically lay down on it just to avoid falling off. That means that when we're moving, my legs aren't so close to the ground. Trust me, I know what I'm doing." Ace and Josh climbed up the Gargantuan's back, and Eron hopped onto the lion, drawing his bow. Shalin leaned low on her feline mount's back, and they were off with great speed.

The dark wasteland flew by. The thoctar blasted forward at nearly full speed, making Josh and Ace hold on for their lives, trampling zombified humans and other undead in the process. Eron's lion tore others to bits, and a few arrows from his bow took out any skeletal bird flying close enough to be a threat. Two zombie warriors rose from the ground in front of Shalin, ready to slice at her as her mount rapidly approached. She leaned her body to the right, and the cheetah weaved around the warriors with enough agility to send any inexperienced rider flying. "How does she hold on to something like that?" Josh was dumbfounded.

"I've said it twice now," Shalin replied. "I've done this before!" Though the undead outnumbered them, they were no match for the raw strength of the beasts of Naya. It reminded her of escaping from the elves that chased her from her home just a few days ago.

"I see a mountain a couple miles to the north of here," Ace pointed out, "and there's a cave entrance at its base. That looks like our destination. It shouldn't take terribly--Wait!" he shouted as the Nayan cheetah sped northward in a wild sprint, its legs moving almost impossibly fast. Eron and Ace had to accelerate their mounts just to keep the godtoucher in sight.

Shalin dismounted the yellow cat and let it rest back in the woods of Naya, patting it lightly on the head as thanks for getting her there safely. She did the same with the other two beasts as they arrived quite a bit of time afterward. "On the other end of this trail should be the ruins of Unx," Josh said. "Though we've lost the zombies for now, we still need to be careful."

"Of course," the ranger replied.



--------------

A mere ten days after the Mending, a young knight of Valeron and a young ranger of Eos made a discovery that would change Alara forever.

Thanks to Spiderboy4 of High~Light Studios!

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Re: [MTG] The Mending of Alara
« Reply #38 on: February 22, 2009, 03:52:23 PM »
Leading them astray... how evil of you. Can't wait for more! :D

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Re: [MTG] The Mending of Alara
« Reply #39 on: February 25, 2009, 03:17:50 AM »
--------------


CHAPTER 4-2: View From a Necropolis

"Well, that was uneventful," Eron smiled as he led the party out of the mountain cave. Once he reached the top of the hill, he gasped when he saw the ruined city.

Music Track: The Rat's Chamber //Jeremy Soule
Album: Secret of Evermore

Apologies for no link, but no one has uploaded Secret of Evermore's game rip to Youtube. Therefore I cannot provide a link.


"This place, and that castle..." Josh pondered aloud. "Their designs are identical to those of similar structures back in Bant. But that's...impossible..." his voice trailed off.

"What?" Eron asked.

"...It's nothing."

Pitfalls and debris obstructed the main street to the castle, making it impossible to get there. They were greeted by a pair of zombified humans, quickly vaporized by Ace's erupting columns of fire. Turning a corner, the party was greeted with a second attack--an array of lightning bolts. Ace on his knees, the rest of the party charged at the thin-framed mage, weapons drawn. "Stop!" he shouted. "I mistook you for a zombie!" He was even more taken aback to see Josh and Eron, their sigils gleaming in what little light there was. "There are still Vithians here?" The Bantians gasped at the name.

"You know something we don't about this place," Shalin said. "You don't have any reason to hide things from us."

"Spill it," Ace added.

"Can we take this some place a little safer?" the Vithian mage asked. "There's an abandoned barracks to the northeast of here, and it's still in one piece, for the most part."

"That's not a bad idea, but someone should still keep watch for zombies."

"I was about to suggest that--they'll literally drain the life out of you if you let them."

--------------

All of the paint on the walls had washed away, their color now a very dark gray. The interior of the building was full of mist, and the air was just as stagnant as outside. Several of the interior walls had collapsed, but the structure itself wasn't in immediate danger of collapsing At least the threat of a zombie attack was low. "Josh, you owe us an explanation," Shalin repeated, her arms crossed as she sat on one of only two stable benches left.

"Alright. I'll tell you what I know," Josh replied. "I'm still surprised how bad this place turned out to be, though. Directly across the sea from Valeron used to be a land just as rich and cultivated as Bant. It was called Vithia. It had a very similar setup to Bant: very chivalrous combat, peace-loving humans, similar wildlife, and similar lifestyles. This is all ancient history; in fact, Vithia ceased to exist shortly after the Sundering."

"Ceased to exist?" the spellcaster asked. "This is Vithia! You're here right now!"

"This is not the Vithia your ancestors knew. The only difference between Bant and Vithia was that the kings had to suppress necromancers. Bant originally had a few, but they numbered far more in Vithia. When the Sundering tore Alara apart, Bant was cut off from red and black mana, making necromancy impossible. The legend of Vithia, according to the Knights of the Reliquary, never really told in great detail what happened to Vithia post-Sundering. However, I can make an educated guess, given what I've seen traveling Bant."

"Alright," everyone else in the room said. "We're listening."

"Through our travels, we've encountered lands that were devoid of blue and black mana, lands devoid of white and blue, and lands devoid of black and red. These lands are Naya, Jund, and Bant, respectively. This leaves two lands. One of them lacked red or green mana, and I doubt it's where we are now. Otherwise, life energy would not be in short supply. Because green and white are the colors of life, I would assume that this land lacked them."

"This also explains why so few shamans came back from across the mountain," Ace added. "The zombies were literally sucking their life dry."

"Precisely, and that's why I've been stressing that we need to be so careful around here."

"But what happened to the angels?" Eron asked. "Wouldn't they have stopped the necromancers from taking over?"

"Angels can't cast any of their spells without white mana, so they probably became rather helpless and died out. Like in Bant, they must have relied so heavily on protective spells. Being unable to cast them, the necromancers just ran right over everything. I imagine that humans are now a minority here."

"They are, and they've been steadily decreasing in number up until about two weeks ago," the Vithian added.

"That doesn't surprise me. With the worlds back together, the zombies have found new sources of life energy to feed on. It won't take long before they infest the entire world. Do you have any information on the cause of all of this nonsense?"

"All I have is a history. When the world was torn apart, Vithia, now called Grixis, was cut off from green and white mana, as you've explained. The greatest of the Vithian kings, and the ruler at the time of the Sundering, was Sedris. Though he was for the most part a just ruler, he started making underhanded deals with necromancers about a year before the Sundering. After that, he saw that his kingdom as he knew it would die out due to the lack of green and white mana. A demon granted him eternal life in exchange for his kingdom, but that eternal life was really lich-dom. He has become an undead, ruthless king, and most of the zombies in the Sedraxis area are under his control. Ever since the worlds came back together, he has been sending zombies westward in search in new forms of life energy, or vis."

"Rakka Mar back in Jund mentioned Sedraxis," Ace said. "She also said there was a large civilization there. Where exactly is it from here?"

"If you're looking for the Necropolis of Sedraxis and Sedris' Keep, you came from the opposite direction. Sedraxis is far to the south of here."

"She said she was sure that the problem was coming from here! That bitch!" the warrior from Jund cursed. "She led us completely on the wrong path! Is she somehow working for Sedris?!"

"There's no way to know that now," Eron replied, "but at least we're on the right track again."

"This fully explains why the world's been experiencing these strange problems," Josh deduced. "It's not natural; Sedris probably has moles in position all over Alara, and they're causing these things to happen. The sudden outbreak of an unknown disease in Naya was due to a zombified Gargantuan. The expanding tar pits in Jund was due to a zombie-pressured tar field. And even the burning of the Sun-Dappled Court...that was indirectly caused by the zombified Gargantuan. There are evil forces working behind the scenes all over the world, and the only way we're going to return the world to the way it was is to confront Sedris, learn where all these moles are, and rout them."

"You're going to confront Sedris?" the mage asked.

"If it's to save Alara, then we have no choice."

"It is true that once Sedris disappears from existence, his zombie forces will disappear with him, and Vithia will be able to restore itself to the kingdom it once was. However, Sedris and his troops have been absorbing the vis of the living for over a thousand years, each meal augmenting both his evil power and his thirst for greater power. You may be powerful to be able to wander Grixis alive, but Sedris is like a demigod around here. His power is so frightening that, when we are in his presence, he could end our lives at any moment he chooses. And when the number of the dead grow, so does his army."

"He is terrorizing his people, and that is not how people should be treated. Plus, if we don't do anything, the entire world will die."

"So you're truly bent on this, are you? I'll say one thing...you four certainly have guts. You're a ray of hope in this dark world. I wish you luck!"

"Thank you," Shalin replied. Josh began leading the team out of the abandoned building.

"Wait!" the Vithian shouted. "The Necropolis at Unx is one of the highest points in Grixis. If you head north to the ruined arena, there's a hilltop you can see almost all of the area in. You can see almost all the way to Kederekt, and you'll definitely be able to see Sedraxis."

"Thanks again," the godtoucher replied, walking behind everyone else for her own safety.

The trip to the arena was relatively uneventful. There were more zombie ambushes here and there, but they were all defeated easily thanks to Shalin's and Ace's fireball-throwing skills. After about a twenty-minute walk, they had arrived at the battleground, which was built right into the ground. "It isn't even a proper arena," Josh criticized. And was he ever right. There was a large hole in the center of the fighting area, lava bubbling below. "What a nice place for an arena, right in the mouth of a volcano."

"I think I see where we're supposed to look from," Eron said, pointing through an alleyway to the east of the arena. Just as the Vithian said, not far east from the ruined battleground was a cliff overlooking the mountain. The sky was filled with dark clouds and bolts of lightning as far as the eye could see, and there was not a speck of green anywhere for the miles and miles they could see. Far to the southeast was a tall castle surrounded by the ruins of the most prosperous town in all of Vithia.

"Looks like the capital city," Josh added. "Let's move!"



--------------

« Last Edit: February 25, 2009, 04:09:46 AM by RaikouRider »
A mere ten days after the Mending, a young knight of Valeron and a young ranger of Eos made a discovery that would change Alara forever.

Thanks to Spiderboy4 of High~Light Studios!

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Re: [MTG] The Mending of Alara
« Reply #40 on: February 25, 2009, 08:58:52 PM »
The plot is coming together. Excellent piece Raikou, I look forward to further confrontations.

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Re: [MTG] The Mending of Alara
« Reply #41 on: February 26, 2009, 08:17:32 PM »

CHAPTER 4-3: Sedris, the Traitor King


Music Track: Dead City //Dennis Martin
Album: Legend of Dragoon OST



"You can't even tell it's morning," Eron said, looking up to the lightning-filled sky as Josh led his friends out of the mountain cave and back to Grixis' surface level.

"I didn't sleep well last night," Josh yawned. "But who could in this place?"

"At least back home, you were guaranteed not to be eaten while asleep," Ace added. "Here, you can't even sleep without thinking about making it to the next day."

"Remember what that guy and I said? This place wasn't like this all the time. And we can change it. All we have to do is remove Sedris from power." He turned to Shalin. "Did you recover your mana overnight?"

"Not completely," Shalin answered, "but enough."

"Then I suggest we ride to Sedraxis. It's faster and safer than walking, especially around here. Is that a problem with you?"

"I'm sure you understand the amount of mana it takes to summon creatures such as these. I'd rather save it for the inevitable fight, because I know Sedris won't come peacefully."

"Odds are we're going to need them anyway, plus it's much safer getting there. Remember, there's no guarantee we will be able to save all of our mana for the battle with him. And I believe I speak for all of us when I say that."

"I see now. Alright, we'll go with your plan." The Nayan knelt to the ground, calling her three beasts out of Naya, through the aether, and finally, to the party's location.

"And please try to keep pace with us this time, Shalin!" Eron chided her as he climbed onto the lion's back. Ace and Josh commandeered the thoctar, leaving Shalin with her swift cheetah. Shalin had to restrain her own excitement to avoid speeding ahead of them like last time. Eron had to blast a few of the undead birds, the kathari, out of the sky, but the tusks of the thoctar annihilated most of the foes that rose out of the ground. With a beast like that on their side, Sedris' undead foot soldiers stood little chance.

--------------

Music Track: The Rat's Chamber //Jeremy Soule
Album: Secret of Evermore

Apologies for no link, but no one has uploaded Secret of Evermore's game rip to Youtube. Therefore I cannot provide a link.


After a ride across much of Grixis, they had reached their destination: the necropolis of Sedraxis. It overlooked the eastern sands of the lifeless region, grime from the sludge-filled continental shelf covering the beaches in the distance. The smell of rotting flesh pervaded the air once more, but that smell was much more profound. After all, it was the largest city in Grixis.

At least the main streets were somewhat maintained, and most of its denizens seemed to mind their own business. Still, the party did its best to stay out of sight. Specters and their drake mounts patrolled overhead, while zombies, lethemancers, and the occasional lich roamed the streets below. Avoiding confrontation was made more difficult due to the presence of the Nayan beasts, but such encounters would have been nightmarish without them.

As the party passed close to the town square, Ace heard the sound of a whip cracking. By the time he saw the lethemancer and his drake steed, it let loose a debilitating spell. Ace drew his weapon and started flailing it about mindlessly, grazing over a weak point in Josh's armor. "What the...?" the knight winced.

"Purify this crippled body and mind!" Shalin cried. "Refresh!" Ace's pupils dilated for a split second, then he came to his senses.

"Where am I...?" the barbaric warrior said, dizzy.

The drake flew directly above Ace, ready to divebomb into him. But Eron was one step ahead; the lion he rode backed up slowly as the rider folded his hands as if he was praying. "Smite evildoers with the punishment they deserve! Chastise!" When he finished casting the spell, the specter and drake disintegrated, eaten by the Bant ranger's holy light.

It took time, but Ace slowly came back to his senses fully. At last able to focus, he and Josh walked alongside the Nayan Gargantuan instead. Their right hands on their sword hilts, they were prepared for any ambush the undead would throw at them. The Bant knight couldn't stop thinking about how cruel Sedris was to let his kingdom degenerate to such a necrotic level.

Once they were able to see the castle, Josh couldn't believe his eyes: there was a row of eight zombies armed with thoroughly corroded swords. In front of them were two mounted zombie warriors wielding lances in condition similar to the swords. "What?!" he gasped aloud. "But that's impossible..."

"What is it, Josh?" Shalin asked.

"It doesn't make sense for there to be leotau here, even though they may be no more than animated corpses. They're supposed to be native to only the Inner Three nations of Bant. How would they get them across the sea, with the two coastline nations always at war?"

"I don't get it, either," Eron replied, "but they're here. And they're in our way. So what's our plan? We obviously can't take them all."

"I could make a mess for them," Ace suggested, "and we could run past in the confusion."

"What kind of a mess are you thinking?"

"Light them on fire, what else?"

"It's as good a plan as we've got," Josh agreed with Ace. "A little daring...but not bad." Shalin and Eron dismounted, they too now alongside her feline friends. "So what's the signal?"

"As soon as I fire my spell off, we go for it." The Jund native cupped his hands and began murmuring. Eron loaded his bow with an arrow, ready to fire at any foe that moved. "Roast in a bed of flames! Sizzle!" Ace shouted. Flames erupted through the bridge the sizable undead force stood on. The two undead knights charged toward Ace, and the rest of the party became surrounded by reinforcements. The moment the flames died down, the zombies raised their weapons into the air.

Just as they were about to plunge them into the four wanderers, the castle gate opened, and a tall figure stepped onto the bridge. All the zombies surrounding them left and bowed down out of respect. "All hail Sedris!" they cried in unison. He held a powerful axe almost his own height, the business end studded with dragon's fangs.


Music Track: Catastrophe //Nobuo Uematsu
Album: Final Fantasy VI OSV


"So, we have guests," the armored, undead warrior greeted Josh's group. "A knight of Valeron...it's been well over a thousand years since I've seen one of those." His armor was designed similarly to Josh's, but was so corroded that it appeared red instead of green and white. Instead of having sigils engraved into his equipment, it was studded with the skulls and other bones of his victims. His stare instilled fear into the hearts of the weak-minded.

"How could you treat your people this way?" Josh asked. "They did so much for you, and this is how you returned the favor?"

"I only killed those who opposed me. They didn't like how I was running Grixis, and they became my undead slaves. The vis of Grixis runs dry, and we need new sources of it to maintain our power. The last few sources here elude us, and we would have died out in a few more years otherwise. But the five worlds of Alara have become one again. There are whole new lands abundant with vis, all for our harvesting. Our people prosper!"

"You call this prosperity?" Eron argued. "People here struggle just to make it to the next day."

"The very people that we've been trying to squeeze dry for years, you mean. The insurgents. Once we squeeze the living humans out, Grixis will be in a state of equilibrium. It will be in a state of eternal life!"

"This isn't life!" Shalin cried. "This is not life! You make the dead do your bidding when all they want to do is rest in peace...you have no respect for life!"

"Without a constant influx of vis to support it, this land will disappear. And when this land disappears, the Maelstrom will rage once more due to the resulting mana imbalance. All of Alara will be consumed. You see, our existence is necessary to Alara's survival."

"But if you feed on the rest of the world's life energy, Alara's going to die out anyway!" Ace shouted. "Life energy cycles from producer to predator to scavenger, and back to the beginning again! It's the natural cycle of life, and the world will become inhospitable if that cycle is broken!"

"You think exactly like those who call themselves Vithians; they share your philosophy and behave much like you do. But you are strong to come here. I'll give you one chance. If you join me, I promise high positions for all of you, and I promise I will make the zombification process as painless as possible. You can continue to the afterlife as pain-free as possible."

"I believe I speak for every living thing in Bant--no, all of Alara, when I refuse to accept your conditions," Josh stepped forward, pointing his weapon at Sedris. The rest of the party followed. "Alara will relive her former glory days, and you're not part of them!"

"You have thrown my chance away," Sedris growled. "The logic of the living fails to make sense. Perhaps you just need a little convincing!" Josh hopped back to avoid being axed. "Become enveloped in a living hell! Dark Banishing!" A shadowy ball of black mana flew toward the Bant knight. He hit the bridge as fast as he could, the blast passing over him--right into the face of Shalin's thoctar. She shrieked in fear, recalling her beast into the aether before it suffocated completely.

"Shalin!" Eron cried.

"Such terrible power!" the godtoucher sobbed, recalling her other two felines to save them from a similar fate.

"Consider that a warning shot," Sedris shouted. "That was just a small fraction of my power. Surrender, or you'll see a much more powerful spell aimed at your heads!"

"Perhaps it's time to consider a retreat," Josh suggested.


Music Track: Night of Fate //Yoko Shimomura
Album: Kingdom Hearts OST


"Not a bad idea!" Ace shouted back, running back the way he came into the city. The others followed him almost immediately. Eron ran slightly slower, his hands folded in an effort to cast a spell that would slow their pursuers down.

"Get them!" Sedris shouted, the near-skinless leotau giving chase. "Bring them back here alive!"

"What are you doing, Eron!" Josh asked in an urgent tone. "They're going to catch us if we don't hurry!"

"Smite evildoers with the punishment they deserve! Chastise!" the ranger cried. Piercing beams of light engulfed the leotau chasing them, sending the riders flying. The light disintegrated undead flesh on contact, the felines becoming no more than piles of bones. By the time the light dissipated, all they could hear were echoes of Sedris' screaming. They could still see zombies chasing them, but they were so far back that it would take time to catch up.

"Let's see if we can lose them in the alleys," Ace suggested.

"No," Josh rebuked. "If we're spotted in here again, we're good as dead." The ruined city seemed to go on forever, the party slowing down due to fatigue. The west gate was nowhere in sight, and Sedris' undead army came closer every passing second. "Is there anything any of you can do to slow them down?" the Bantian panted.

"I can try to create a wall of fire behind us, but I'm not sure how effective it will be; I was pretty tapped from the one that I thought was going to get us into the castle."

"It's our last shot to lose them! Do it!"

"Alright." Ace breathed heavily before clasping his hands together. "Rise, fires of the earth! Pyroclasm!" Four columns of fire rose behind the fleeing explorers, which ended up putting more distance between them and the zombies. The party was slowing down as well, now reduced to a fast walk from being even more tired.

"There's the exit!" Shalin breathed a sigh of relief. The four of them reached deep to summon one more burst of energy now that the goal was in sight. It took a heroic effort for them just to continue running. After what seemed like an eternity, they finally reached the other side of the city walls.

(Silence Music Track)

Eron peeked back into town, but couldn't see any undead. "I think we lost them."

"But what do we do now?" Shalin asked. "The world's slowly dying!"

"I think I have an idea," Josh said. "But we need to retrace our steps all the way back to Bant. Since we're going to need to stop for rest several times anyway, I suggest we check in with all the people we've met, to give status reports and to see if they have any words of advice. Plus, it'll be a good opportunity for you and Ace to see the world."




A mere ten days after the Mending, a young knight of Valeron and a young ranger of Eos made a discovery that would change Alara forever.

Thanks to Spiderboy4 of High~Light Studios!

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Re: [MTG] The Mending of Alara
« Reply #42 on: March 02, 2009, 08:06:53 AM »
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CHAPTER 5-1: The Hero Competition

After reporting their findings back to Rakka Mar, Ace led the group back across Jund's treacherous terrain, and was key in avoiding multiple ambushes from viashino thrashes. He even scolded Shalin once for a failed attempt to Evangelize a poison-spitting lizard.

Once they had made it over the mountain, Ace couldn't believe how overgrown Naya was; it was just as Shalin described. Trees grew taller than vegetation the Jundian had ever seen in his life, and some of the bigger Gargantuans made dragons seem small by comparison. About halfway between the godspeaker's palace and the northern matca stadium, Shalin was finally able to demonstrate her unique power: with the help of Josh and Eron, she was able to charm a second Gargantuan and recall it into the aether, as Ace had seen many times during their travels through Grixis. She called it back out and healed its wounds as best as a single Nourish spell would let her.

Ace was taken aback. The dinosaur-like beast refused to harm her despite attemping to gore her with its sharp, large horn just minutes before. It stood a little shorter than the thoctar, but it was much longer. Even its tail was longer than Ace was tall. After walking around it numerous times, she recalled it into the aether a second time.

When they returned to the village of Nakai, they discovered they were just in time to watch a matca tournament. The brutal wrestling matches fascinated Ace. How he wished he could have participated, seeing how close he would have to get his opponent to death before the judges called match points. Eron closed his eyes when two contenders wore spiky armor, blood dripping all over the arena floor as they rolled on and off each other.

After the intense matches, the party met with Aisha and the other skilled drumhunters from the village, and discussed their findings all the way into the night. Many fascinating insights were shared, and the Nayans became better equipped to deal with another infestation should it arise, but they, too, knew nothing about the final, untrodden land of Alara.

Two entire weeks had passed since Sedris' undead army drove the party out of Grixis. With only one land left to gather information from, Shalin and Josh led the party north, the knight remembering the road he took from Bant well.

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Music Track: "Danger Abounds" //Yasuhiro Kawasaki
Album: Illusion of Gaia OSV


"Well, that was a dud," the Nayan sighed. "Every day we come up with blanks, Sedris' army marches further westward. I wouldn't be surprised if they've already infested Jund. That place is in enough turmoil as it is."

"You've seen how strong we are," Ace reassured her. "They can handle it."

"I'm more worried about what the fate of the world we haven't touched is," Josh changed the subject. "But I have an idea how we can find out. It's a long shot, but it's the best way I can think of."

"And what would that be?" Eron asked.

"The royalty of Eos and Akrasa co-manage the Knights of the Reliquary, and they're a huge order. If we can get back into the castle, we should be able to learn more of this last land."

"How the hell are you going to do that? We're renegades. We got axed from our jobs, remember? We're not welcome in that castle anymore!"

"I am completely aware of that."

"Don't tell me you plan to sneak into the castle?!"

"If it comes to that, than we will. If we don't do anything, Alara is definitely going to die."

"Sometimes, Josh, I wonder if your head is screwed on straight."

"It's our best shot, but hopefully it won't have to come to something this drastic."

"It's a daring plan...but it's not bad."

"I think we've left Naya," Shalin said as the texture of the trees began changing.

"I think we have, too," Josh agreed. "Valeron is just past these woods."

--------------

Music Track: World of Balance //Nobuo Uematsu
Album: Final Fantasy VI OST


"It's still hard getting used to seeing that hole in the sky in a city like this," Josh sighed, pointing to the void that used to be the Sun-Dappled Court. What a relief it was to be able to see the sun and a blue sky again.

"I had no idea there was a place like this in the world," Ace said. "I'd get bored to death here. Nothing to hunt."

"At least you wouldn't have to worry about running out of food," Shalin replied. "There's so much farmland here I don't know where they'd store all the food."

Cities from all over Valeron pitched in to help rebuild the Sun-Dappled Court, but it would take weeks just to rebuild the natural structure. To regrow the trees even to a shadow of what they were would take a generation or more. Shalin felt sorry on the inside because her people were responsible for the fire.

After a few minutes of reminiscing, Josh and the group wandered northward, an inn catching his eye. He walked inside, and sure enough, there was plenty of vacancy. Eron and the Knight of the Reliquary purchased lodging for four for one night, the ranger holding onto the key. Immediately after, Josh led the party to the north border station of town, where he had left his leotau in a nearby stable. The stewards had kept their promise all this time--the majestic cat was still in top shape, ready to continue assisting Josh scour Bant for clues into Alara's past. "Poor thing, having to wear all that heavy armor!" Shalin scolded Josh out of empathy for the leotau.

"Not here," the knight replied. "I'll explain everything to you guys. Let's get about half a mile out of town first."

"Alright."

The walk seemed to go by slowly for Josh. He had gotten along so well with Shalin, but yelling at him was understandable. She had seen Gargantuans being used for agricultural purposed before, towing heavy plows. This was much the same concept, but for a different application. The twelve minutes of walking seemed like an eternity to him. "Alright, start talking," Shalin crossed her arms as they stopped at the appropriate distance away from town.

"The leotau are semi-intelligent, so they wear metal armor out of their own free will. Just as you use Gargantuans to do your bidding in battle, we use the leotau. I know you're upset about this, but you have to understand...it's the same thing you do."

Shalin held back yelling a second time when she gave her friend's words thought. "I...see. But if Bant is so peaceful, like you've said, why would you need war beasts?"

"Bant is almost always at peace, yes, but war breaks out every once in a while. It's usually settled with arena combat, and death in battle is rare. Most fighting is for honor and status."

"Speaking of fighting," Eron interrupted, "I saw a poster advertising the annual Hero Competition. It's taking place at the Seaside Arena in northwest Akrasa."

"Oh, right. It is that time of year, isn't it? I enjoy watching those events so much, though usually the one with the most sigils wins."

"However, something caught my eye when I was reading the details. There's always a unique prize for the winner of the competition every year. In addition to the usual Sigil of Champion's Valor, the winner also gets to spend a week with the Blessed; in other words, treated as a member of the royal family of his home nation. In your case, Josh, if you were to win, you'd spend a week inside the temple gardens of Castle Valeron."

"That's quite a prize package."

Eron scowled at Josh. "You just missed my point of bringing this whole issue up."

"What?" Josh answered innocently.

"Ugh! You're so dense! This is a great chance to get back into Castle Eos!"

"Are you telling me to enter the competition? Many of the knights who enter these competitions have at least a dozen sigils! I only have four!"

"Not just you, Josh. We're all going to enter. All four of us."

"They won't allow Shalin and Ace into the competition. They're foreigners, and Bant is in enough turmoil from foreigners as it is."

"The Hero Competition is a holy event, and the angels have traditionally allowed anyone to compete. Even if they are Unbeholden. Besides, this is the first Hero Competition since the Mending. They don't have a precedent to deal with foreigners. They'll let us enter. Plus, if we win, we'll be on good terms with the king again."

"Alright. It's the best shot we have. I'll play along and enter." Everyone else nodded in agreement.

"One more thing, Josh," Shalin said.

"Yes, Shalin?" he replied.

"If we're entering the Hero Competition, we're going to need to get every edge we can. Since you can control your leotau, I'd like to share the concepts behind summon magic with you."

"I've never used it before...you think you can teach me on such short notice?"

"If you can forge a bond with a wild creature, you're fully capable of learning summon magic. Eron, Ace, you two pay attention to this as well; you never know when it might come in handy."

"Alright, I will," Ace replied. Eron shook his head in disgust, but listened nonetheless.

"Alright, I'll get started," the Nayan teacher began her lesson. "When you draw mana to cast spells, normally you have to make a panorama of the land you draw mana from, correct?"

"Yes," Josh answered. "That's the very basis behind magic."

"Well, summon magic is similar. However, instead of projecting your field of magic directly beneath you, project your field of magic where you want the creature you're summoning to appear. If it's a flying one, you can conjure the rift in the aether just about anywhere. If it's a land creature, you're going to have to find some sort of wall, cliff, or steep incline to support your creature while it moves through the magical gate. Here, I'll try to demonstrate slowly enough that you can see what's going on."

Conveniently, the group wasn't too far off from an abandoned watchtower. Shalin knelt down and folded her hands. As she concentrated on the spell, a panorama of the Nayan jungle floor materialized on one face of the tower. The godtoucher's thoctar companion walked out of the aetheric gate slowly, the gate closing a few seconds after the Gargantuan's tail had completely entered Valeron's territory. She projected another gate on the same face, with the same panorama. It returned back to the Nayan jungle through the rift.

Ace was in awe seeing how the magic worked in slow motion. "Wow, Shalin..."

"It's actually pretty simple once you understand how to manipulate mana this way. Just project your mana away from yourself and you should be able to pull it off easily. Josh, think of the natural habitat of your leotau, and try to send it back there." He conjured the field of magic below him, then slowly moved it to the face of the tower. "That's a start. Now, connect it to the leotau's habitat." A panorama of the Topan savannah appeared where Josh projected magic, and the leotau walked into it. Once the feline was completely through, he closed the rift. "That's it, Josh. Now, just do the reverse to bring it back, at a time it's convenient for you."

"It's that simple?" Josh said, giddy on the inside that he learned summoning arts so easily.

"Furthermore, if you can tame other creatures, you can recall them into the aether the same way, and call them forth when you are in need. This should give you an edge in the competition."

"Thanks, Shalin!" At that, the four of them headed back into town, the sun low in the western sky. Eron led them back to their room at the inn, and they went to sleep early that night.

--------------

Eager to leave the next morning, Shalin had already readied her cheetah, lion, and thoctar for travel; Josh demonstrated his prowess with his newfound summon magic to call his leotau out. For the first time, the four would be able to travel independently of each other, and Ace rode the Gargantuan solo. Though the thoctar was among the most fleet-of-foot of Gargantuans, it was still the slowest of the mounts they utilized to make travel to Akrasa faster. After all, they needed to cover most of Bant from north to south to get to their destination.

After three different pit stops at outposts and a few hours of travel, the group made it to the Seaside Arena. Next to the Seaside Palace of Akrasa, the arena and castle were built over a steep cliff, and thus, were very difficult to attack by land or sea. The strip of ocean overlooking the structures was a sight to behold, particularly during sunset. This palace and the scenery around it was the epitome of Bant's natural and artificial beauty.


Music Track: Colosso is Starting! //Motoi Sakuraba
Album: Golden Sun OST


Once they came within walking distance of the arena, Shalin and Ace learned just how popular this event was, and even the Bantians were taken aback at the turnout. It was packed full of spectators and contenders, despite there still being two days of open registration left. "I've never seen so many people gathered in one place," Ace said.

"People want a break from the war, so they watch Bant's finest in one-on-one combat," Eron replied. "Not to the death, of course. Never to the death. In over ninety percent of the fights around here, the most you'll see people wind up with is a single bad cut from a sword or a lot of bruises. And there are healers on standby in case something goes wrong. Safety first, as they say."

"Treatment of human life is far different here than back home. Viashino and dragons won't even think twice about killing a human, and we'll even kill each other if it means survival. These people would rather sacrifice themselves than kill another human. They're lucky to have grown up in a place like this. I wasn't."

"Well, shall we register for the Trials?" Josh asked as they began walking the stone-paved road to the registration booth.

"Trials?" Shalin asked. "I thought you said it was one-on-one combat!"

"Not always. Depending on the turnout, and there certainly will be Trials with the crowd they're getting this time, they have to thin the field down through the Trials. Each entrant is pitted against an enemy of relatively equal capability, usually a wild leotau or other wild creature with about the same amount of strength. Angels serve as judges, and after everyone finishes the Trials, the participants with the highest scores advance to the Finals. That's where the one-on-one combat takes place. With a normal turnout, they usually axe everyone outside the top 32. With today's turnout, though, they may have to cut to top 64. Who knows."

Upon reaching the booth, Eron grabbed four registration forms and distributed them among his fellow combatants. "If you need any help filling these out, Josh will help you. He's actually been in this kind of competition before."

"Twice, as a matter of fact."



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A mere ten days after the Mending, a young knight of Valeron and a young ranger of Eos made a discovery that would change Alara forever.

Thanks to Spiderboy4 of High~Light Studios!

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Re: [MTG] The Mending of Alara
« Reply #43 on: March 03, 2009, 02:07:52 AM »
*mutters to himself* Annoying cliffhanger... Great job with the writing though.

When the darkness of the Abyss threatens the world, the Phoenix will rise amidst a whirlwind of fire and light.

Whisperer: Sometimes there is a very good reason to fear the dark.


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Re: [MTG] The Mending of Alara
« Reply #44 on: March 05, 2009, 06:41:10 PM »

CHAPTER 5-2: Unorthodox Combat


Music Track: Tournament Theme 1 //Nintendo
Album: Super Smash Bros. Brawl OST


The turnout for the Trials was unprecedented, at a record 146 combatants hoped to find a place in the Finals. Shalin's indirect style of combat confused the wild beasts used to test the fighters' mettle during the Trials, and Ace's was nothing more than merciless brutality, leaving the beasts inches from death before letting them recover. During and after the Jundian's Trials, the crowd booed loudly, and there was much murmuring among the other combatants waiting for their Trials to begin.

Four days later, the pairings for the first round of the Finals were assembled and posted. Josh and Eron noticed something unusual--Rafiq of the Many was not present in the bracket at all. They thought about the possibility of him just having an off day and missing the cut, but it was more likely that he had another commitment, given the dozens upon dozens of sigils engraved into his armor. Besides his friends' names and his own, he recognized only one other name: Rose, one of the knight's commanding officers from the defense of Port Valeron. Thankfully, she wasn't paired with him or any of his friends in this round.

All four of them had made it into the Finals. In order to get the critical message to a ruling family, just one of them had to survive five rounds of intense yet chivalrous, ritualized combat. The four angels flying overhead started calling out names of paired combatants at the end of each battle, signaling they were next to participate. The field contained a wide variety of races and skill sets. There were four aven, four rhoxes, twenty-three humans, and one elf in the field. Their combat styles were even more diverse: there were those practiced in mounted combat, those who were skilled with bow and arrow, those rooted in the arcane, those skilled with the sword or lance, and even those who brute-forced their enemies with iron fists.

Shalin had an easy first round--her opponent was a seventeen-year-old knight from Akrasa still being trained in Halcou's more advanced arts. Additionally, never being trained to fight against Naya's beasts put him at further disadvantage. Seeing how he would react when she summoned a lion, she jumped onto its back and simply ran circles around the knight-in-training. The bulky, armor-clad leotau was nowhere near agile enough to land a hit or get its rider in position to. He dismounted, thinking he'd be able to attack more effectively if he and his mount attacked separately. Shalin had to pull hard to the left, aborting her charge to avoid getting cleaved in half, but the knight could not avoid a second mounted overrun. She received a large sum of points for the feat, and her opponent couldn't close the gap. Leotau were more adept to charging in the field, but even in an arena designed for jousting, they weren't as maneuverable as their clawed relatives.

Ace's opponent was a skilled swordsman, also from Akrasa, but this was his first Hero Competition. When he saw his opponent, he said a prayer to Asha for his safety, but it didn't seem to help. As soon as the angel leaped skyward to signal the start of the battle, Ace charged with seemingly superhuman speed, his crudely-made, obsidian-studded sword drawn. The Jund warrior leaped into the air, trying to force through his foe's armor. He raised his shield to block the attack, but there was so much force behind it that he was thrown off balance. By the time he had recovered, Ace rolled behind him, then performed a leaping, upward slice to his unprotected back. Before he could even recover, the barbaric fighter lifted him from behind, then slammed him into the wall repeatedly. Ace's hands and his opponent's back were covered with blood. The crowd booed when Ace dropped his opponent onto the arena floor, the rookie conscious but fighting for his life. When time was called, a pair of balmgivers escorted the limping Bantian out of the coliseum. Ace raised his arms in triumph, but all he received from the crowd was booing.

Eron's first opponent was a familiar face from the Sun-Dappled Court--one of the guards he had saved during the panic of the Firestokers' attack there. The two greeted each other before taking their positions. At the start of the battle, Eron dropped to his knees as though he were praying, and a blue wolf ran through the aetheric tunnel he created, temporarily linking the forests of Valeron to the arena. The ranger kept his distance, letting his wolf get the job done from melee range. After a few arrows bounced off the steward's armor, Eron knelt in prayer again. His foe ran up to him to try to land a blow during the incantation, but the wolf delayed his charge just enough for the spell to go off. A column of intense light singed the armored guardian of Valeron. From there, he played defensively, trading blows until the clock ran out with him having the higher point total.

Three of the four having advanced to the second round, the party regrouped in the stands in between matches, trying to pick up on their opponents' fighting styles.

--------------


Music Track: Colosso is Starting! //Motoi Sakuraba
Album: Golden Sun OST


"Congrats, Ace!" Shalin hugged the battle-scarred warrior.

"You too," Ace replied, less enthusiastic. "Frankly, the guy was pathetic. I have no idea how he made it past the Trials. They throw some strong stuff at you."

"The angels said this is the first time foreigners participated in the tournament, right? They probably don't know how to fight people from Jund." She turned to Josh, who was sitting on her other side. "How'd your match go?"

"Haven't fought it yet," he answered. "I'm going to be up against an aven squire of Akrasa. Thanks to you, Shalin, I have magic capable of dealing with them. Normally, fighting aven is a problem because I can't normally reach them with leotau and sword. It wouldn't be a problem for Eron because he can shoot at them."

"We'll certainly be cheering for you," she smiled as the next match between two rhox monks began. The thick-skinned rhino people swung their morning stars at each other, trading blows repeatedly. They fought in such a similar style that Eron wondered if they had grown up in the same monastery. They traded blows so often that the point totals quickly ramped into the four digits, yet they were never more than thirty points apart. With the match winding down, Eron said that last thought aloud.

"You're probably right," Josh replied. "They're wearing similar clothes, as well. If that's not a tell that they're going to the same school, I don't know what is." The match had to go to overtime before the angels were able to crown a winner. The Knight of the Reliquary turned to Ace. "I saw your match. Overdoing it a bit, weren't you?"

"I did what was necessary to win," he sternly answered. "I could easily have killed that man, but this was for sport, so I left him alive."

"Not by much!"

"I just wanted to make sure he wouldn't have any energy left to fight back." This made Josh have second thoughts about whether letting Ace into the competition was a good idea. After four more matches, the angel finally called Josh and his aven enemy into the battle zone. "Cheer for me!"

"We will!" they replied in unison.

Once the knight and aven had reached the arena floor, they shook hands before an angel descended between them. They took their starting positions on opposite ends of the stadium. Once she finished the countdown from three, she leaped skyward to judge the battle, and the clock began counting down from seven minutes.

Music Track: Normal Battle //Nobuo Uematsu
Album: Final Fantasy X OST


Rather than immediately firing a spell, Josh fought this aven as he would normally: wait for it to dive in for an attack, get out of the way, then retaliate. The winged soldier took to the sky, then dove toward Josh, just as expected. A split second before Josh was ready to counterattack, he threw his spear at the knight, knocking the armored competitor to the ground. "So you want to play hard ball, huh..." he groaned as he got back up, the aven picking his weapon up again.

The knight folded his his hands together as the aven began flying again. As the bird soldier began his dive, Josh stood up, his arms outstretched upward. "I call on the winds to shear like blades! Howling Gale!" The crowd was stunned as magically-generated winds circled the aven, causing him to dizzily crash to the ground. He followed up with a slash across the bird's left wing and legs just as the foe was getting up.

Most aven would take an early lead, then take evasive action to run the clock out. Not used to being behind by so much, this one had to be more aggressive than he was comfortable with. Josh kept a close eye on his foe's flight path, leading it into another magically-created whirlwind. Even with over two minutes left in the match, the aven was too far behind to think about coming back, and threw in the towel. The crowd roared for Josh's victory, and many Jhessian gamblers were disgruntled at the upset he pulled.

--------------


Music Track: Tournament Theme 1 //Nintendo
Album: Super Smash Bros. Brawl OST


The match results kept coming in, a first-time rookie upsetting an Akrasan aven that had made the quarterfinal round of the Finals four years running. People who bet on the rookie were paid 22 for 1. Both rhox mystics in the fourth bracket won their first round matches. That would make one of the second-round matches in that bracket between them--watching the spells go back and forth would certainly be a crowdpleaser.

Once all the match results were in, Josh checked the list. He saw that Rose made it through to the second round. He also noticed pairings for the second round had already been processed, and were posted all over the coliseum exterior and in the lobby. Rose had been paired against the last remaining rhox monk in the field, which would be a challenging opponent for her. His own second round opponent was another aven. He was with Rose in the third bracket. If they both got through the next round, they'd be quarterfinal opponents.

As he peered toward the other side of the bracket, he saw another crowdpleasing match and a test of Shalin's skill. She would be up against another spellcaster--a young wizard from Eos. With no other matches of note to him in the first bracket, he peered down toward the second bracket, then stopped when he saw the match at the very bottom of it. "Guys, I think you need to see this," he moaned, waving for his comrades to come toward the notices.

"Oh no!" Eron exclaimed when he saw the pairings. Ace started crying, then let loose a loud scream. Both of them were in disbelief at the pairings for the second bracket. When Shalin saw the boards, she shed a tear with the Jundian. Entrant number four, Ace, and entrant number two, Eron, were paired for the second round.




A mere ten days after the Mending, a young knight of Valeron and a young ranger of Eos made a discovery that would change Alara forever.

Thanks to Spiderboy4 of High~Light Studios!