“You see Zap, you need to help Devra conjure a fold. All you are known for is the one little trick you played, why don’t you show her another one? She travelled here in one, you are going to have more visitors.”
Zap looked lost within his own hut, osmosis held off from damaging his legs which were within the shallow pond. He stood, a grog sitting on his shoulder. Devra sat on a branch which was uncomfortable but was all which let her legs dry. Zap raised a hand towards the branch, beckoning the branch downwards, it swung downwards as Devra glared at Zap. As her feet began to reach the dark water, Zap moved his index finger into a hook and the branch caught Devra’s hand. As Zap lowered his hand, the branch returned to its normal position, Devra climbing back into place.
“I see that you can do more then destroy one’s existence...”
Devra waited a moment, not wanting to anger Zap any further then he had been by her arrival.
“You’ve never taken a commission have you? Perhaps you should inquire to what this conjurer has to offer.”
Zap simply smirked towards Devra, watching with the corner of his eye as the water rose beneath her so that she was left within a pillar of water. Her frail body moved outwards from the pillar and as she inhaled, the pillar sank back to its normal level. Zap jumped up from his standing position and crossed his legs, sinking below the water. His grog floated in the water, staring up at Devra with its enormous eyes. Devra sat patiently, having braced for the acts of ridicule. When Zap emerged a few moments later, he came launching upwards and landed on the branch, the grog sitting on his shoulder again. The branch bounced like rubber as Zap looked downwards. Finally, when it had calmed to a gentle sway, Zap stared directly into Devra’s eyes.
“State a price.”
Devra returned the stare, not daring to blink. She felt her eyelids feel heavy however, and could no longer see as they were forced shut.
“State a price she says, what type of price will you state, Zap? A kilogram of behemoth blood? No less, no more?”
The grog leaped off Zap’s shoulder and kicked off of Devra, forcing her to stumble, she felt loss in the darkness. Once she struck the water however, her eyelids opened. She was not able to close them soon enough and found they stung with pain when she rose. Zap dived into the shallow water with an aerial flip, flattening as he landed in the water. He rose in a back float, the grog resting upon his stomach. Both were waiting.
“I can supply your price within a day.”
Devra responded immediately.
“Perhaps, but it can’t be from another plane, can it? You can feel the existence wavering.”
Zap continued staring at the ceiling, which was swelling into a whirl of rotten moss. Devra frowned.
“Why the blood there has no difference then it does here.”
Devra stared at Zap.
“You can sense it, but most don’t have the perception for such depth. However, Devra may easily fool others with it. But such actions anger most planes. Perhaps Devra will be forced to leave this plane, then how shall she punish Shade? Why Zap you wouldn’t dare think she fell for such simplicity of riddle, would you? Or perhaps you are right, and she believes the price you stated was the cost of a commission and not simply a price.”
Zap sat up in the water and stared at Devra with a child’s glee as the grog leaped upwards and found a resting place upon his bald head. While laughing at her, Devra felt the water around her freeze.
“What do you wish for, in exchange for your service?”
Devra tried to get out of the ice but the water rose around her, freezing as it came closer to her.
“If Devra wants you to zap Shade, Zap, perhaps she should find another mercenary. Perhaps Devra should speak with Market Mancers, like you do sometimes. Yes, that would be best.”
Zap stood, a swirl of light trailing around him. As he ran towards Devra, Devra felt the ice slide away from Zap and out of the hut, melting. When she looked towards the hut, it was gone.
Fier and Lyle stood within Darlz Spire. Fier had spoken with Nelson and enough had been spoken of to have Gratz agree to speak. Now they were waiting within the steam powered elevator, putting all the events in order. When the brass elevator stopped, weight lowered again to normal levels. Fier slid the door’s lock and slid opened it into the hall which led to Gratz’s office. The doors were open, Gratz staring across the short hall.
“Nelson told me there was some trouble. From the looks of it, we’re missing three of the five who were commissioned. But I can only assume what has happened, so explain it all to me.”
Gratz sat at the desk, waiting silently for the answer to his statement. Lyle looked towards Fier, who nodded.
“Bane has become a dark lich. He returned for a reason unknown to us. He came with a sickle of death and was clad in a dark robe which was potent with vibes of death. We went over how to react and faced him, only to have Slorm and I struggle to escape his superior mentalics. However, I was unable to save Slorm. Once I was safe, my mind left without trying to pull Slorm out. If I had stayed connected, we could of both lived. But that was then, and now Slorm has died and Zyx has been taken hostage by Bane. A note on that, Bane no longer is truly named Bane. I was unable to curse him because of this fact. We are also left to the conclusion that Bane has killed Narsh. We decided to report immediately, and to wait for further orders. However, I plan to return to XMancers to take further training in mentalics and curses. Fier may decide on his own.”
Lyle held a formal posture. With his posture came a formal tone. Gratz had a worried look upon his face. He took a large red marble and dropped it into a slot by his desk which was labelled Nelson. He dropped the marble into the slot, a small echo could be heard from it. It slowly lost volume as Fier and Lyle stared at a worried Gratz. The two sat in the two chairs.
“I suppose I should inform ANecro about the loss, then deal with promotions to replace Zyx and I suppose you’ll give a report to XMancers?”
Gratz stared at Lyle for the last part, drumming the desk with his fingers.
“And what will I be assigned now?”
Fier looked at Gratz, awaiting orders.
“Return to your previous task of training. Are there any promising pyromancers?”
Gratz turned his gaze towards Fier, he was now in a problem solving state, prepared to solve the problem to the best of his abilities.
“If you intend to rapidly train a pupil, Gratz, you will only ruin their potential. The arcane powers of pyromancy cannot be taught in a short span, one must master a skill before advancing. Their mind must adapt to every step and time must settle before they advance. Rapid teaching techniques have killed pupils. However, I noticed an eager pupil recently, her name is Nelzlyn. However, she has not been at Darlz Spire for long. If you allow me to finish a progress report, I may be able to predict how well she would withstand such teachings. However, I will have to also have time to study the curriculums in more detail, as well as receive her consent.”
Fier held eyes with Gratz as he spoke, allowing his belief that the idea would fail be evident.
“If I remember correctly, Nelzlyn was being taught by Bane prior to her acceptance to Darlz Spire. This may cause complications, however, I will give you time to make your decision. During that time, I will see if there are any mercenaries who we should perhaps recruit to deal with Bane. Perhaps this is one which may require O, though he is quite costly. Besides, he always demands extravagance. We may also setup a search party to track Bane and report on Zyx’s status.”
As Gratz speculated his options, the elevator began to give off a slight release of pressure and a whine could be heard throughout the room. As it locked into place and the lock was unlocked, Nelson opened the door with grace. He stepped out of the elevator and walked towards Gratz with the red marble in the right palm of his hand. When he reached the desk, he placed it in rack.
“I understand you have called for me. Of what service do you wish?”
Nelson stood patiently.
“I want you to have someone deliver a message to ANecro and inform them of Slorm’s death.”
Gratz leaned back into his stiff chair.
“Easily done. May I leave now?”
Nelson’s stiff posture softened.
“Of course, make haste. Please, all of you are dismissed.”
Gratz turned to a cabinet as the three others left, going through the folder of mercenaries. Bane was a dark lich, and so with his grown strength came a grown weakness. Held by the Dark Law, Gratz could easily send Demur Rumed. The exiled paladin had registered with Market Mancers as a mercenary and though his exile had left him weakened, he still was a valuable resource. Gratz took a hollow marble, a pen and a paper. Upon the paper he wrote;
Nelson; Hire a mercenary.
- Demur Rumed, exiled paladin.
- Pay 5X at front, 45X at kill.
- Have him meet me, I want to brief him.
He included the 5X with the note, placing it into the marble, dropping it down the pipe. He thought of the mercenaries which had kept the entice pay and simply had themselves taken off the registry, vanishing into the shadows to escape the wrath of Market Mancers. That had led to the system of slowly increasing front pay, the mercenary would never receive a single U until they had finally made a kill. That’s how front pay grew, through success. Demur had shown promise, and Gratz was sure that Demur was the correct choice for Bane.
Shade walked waist deep within Zol Marsh. Somewhere within the massive land of waste he was to find a chaosmancer. He had sensed a mind further away, and had been following it. And now he was half drenched with a grog who had a tumour on its left leg staring at him.
The marsh had once been founded as Zol by its founder, Reis Zol. However, Reis had cancelled the project when the summer brought disease and outweighed the benefits of selling grogs for fine cuisine.
He inquired further into the mind ahead, it didn’t seem as spontaneous as chaosmancers seem. It was also familiar, in a sense. He felt about further, and another mind seemed to appear within his perspective. Its frequency wavered about, and Shade found it difficult to follow. All he knew was that the new mind was Zap, the other an unknown.
‘Should we communicate?’
‘I’m unsure to what should be done, open a channel with Zap.’
An unorganized set of abstract data was sent to Shade, faster then he could easily compute.
‘What do you take it as?’
‘The chaosmancer is sending a mass of useless messages.’
The mass of useless messages was blocked and a simple feeling of calm sent. Zap responded with a blast of thought which destroyed the weak link. The other mind came to into the mass of thought, fleeing swiftly.
‘Who would this likely be?’
‘Perhaps Devra, or some mentalic trick Zap is playing.’
‘Why would Devra be here, what are the odds?’
‘Devra would have came here to speak with Zap once she sensed my revival. She has likely figured that Zap’s ability to erase one’s existence will defeat me. If she followed us in a seam, she would have been unable to strike us but able to brood over our more readable thoughts. Once she found us heading towards the Zol Marsh, she would have travelled so to gain Zap’s allegiance just as we came for him. Now is the time to kill her, she has weakened herself. However, I do not know how we will deal with Zap. If it is Zap, we can guess it is an attempt to confuse us. However, I sensed the mind to be of Devra.’
Shade’s mind reached after the small residue which linked to the unknown mind. If it was Zap, it would be a void of thought. If it was Devra, then they would be forced into chase. Within a thought, Devra could be sensed, weakened by her travels between planes. Her mind was too weak to detect their probing, though also too weak to be probed. Shade travelled nearer to the fatigued mind, shielding detection while tracking its every move. The focus required to remain undetected by Devra gradually increased, until Shade had to close his mind to remain invisible. After treading in the marsh for some time, Shade could see the figure of Devra. He slowed slightly and lowered himself into the marsh.
‘Should we attack?’
‘She is immune to necromancy. She went through many rituals so to lower my threat to her.’
Slowly moving towards Devra, Shade held his scythe in place. While he positioned his scythe for a single blow thoughts of anger fled his mind and alerted Devra. With a single motion, she turned to see him while sinking below the dark green of the water. Shade went to kick Devra, only to brush her face by the dense water which was between them. His legs were pulled down and he felt outward with his mind. It was shielded. Devra had always been skilled with mentalic walls, even when fatigued by planar walks. Shade sliced his scythe through the water, cutting through the water only to find he was too entangled to manoeuver the scythe. Shade grabbed the bar near the blade and pushed Devra away. Both lifted to breathe air. Shade sensed a mind of chaos drawing nearer. But without time to wonder of it, Devra laid a blow to his head. Shade regained balance by pulling himself with Devra’s withdrawing fist. As Devra pulled Shade for a moment, Shade moved his scythe into a support while striking Devra with his bony hand, forcing her down with it. Shade stepped away, evading an attack by Devra while positioning his scythe.
‘Withdraw the weapon.’
Shade stepped back, the thought had been so clear. He looked about, knowing it wasn’t Bane by the way it was formed.
‘To master chaos, one must organize it and themselves, this includes thought.’
Shade focused for a moment, transferring his anger towards Devra and the need to lay waste of her.
‘Within the marsh, only the marsh may kill. Withdraw weapon, Devra shall do the same.’
Shade held his scythe back, transferring the importance that Devra be held back.
When Devra came out of the water, she glared towards Shade, making a step towards him. Shade moved his scythe in front of her, barring an attack and forcing a stalemate.
The Exiled PaladinEdit
The exiled paladin stood in the elevator. Demur Rumed had left the Vigil Eye after much self reflexion. He had joined Market Mancer as an exile. His commission was a net of 50X. Demur wondered slightly what the actual commission was, though he knew that it was not to be questioned by custom. He sat back upon the wall of the elevator, exhaling as the elevator rose. As the elevator slowed, Demur undid the lock and slid open the door. He walked across the small corridor and entered the room, facing Gratz.
“Sit down Demur, I’d like to ask you some questions and explain the situation. The commission began when a troublesome necromancer by the name of Bane went through Regenerative Decay. Furthermore, Bane continued his blasphemy by changing his name with the transformation to a dark lich. He has 2 of the mercenaries thus far and we are quite certain of Zyx’s death, as reported by 3 survivors who were attacked by Bane. I have decided to commission you due to your knowledge of the topic. Therefore, before we continue, will you accept?”
Gratz leaned forward as he explained the dilemma.
“Certainly, if not for the pay then for the morals I am bound to.”
Demur listened intently to the report.
“Thank you, in that case, I will explain further that there is none left to aid you with this ordeal. However, I am willing to have the 45X I am holding from you used to recruit more at your expense. Fier, a council member, has begun evaluating a promising and eager pyromancer by the name of Nelzlyn. Lyle, a member of XMancers, has returned to his faction to study further. The most recent report on Bane includes both scythe and robe, enchanted to be of a lich’s proficiency. He is also powerful in the field of mentalics. Here is my question to you on the subject, what do you know of dark liches and any other topic which could be of use?”
Gratz looked at Demur in a common fashion. He knew that the assassination of Bane may have to be accepted as a failure. It would show Market Mancer’s limits and would not allow the case to be one which could raise Market Mancer’s reliability. Gratz refused to let that happen. He also was reluctant to replace Slorm, as he would have to give ANecro a discount while still paying the mercenary.
“Liches are of the darkest order. I will slay the undead with my teachings. If Bane has become a dark lich, I will have to pursue him with even more determination. Knowledge of the liches is hidden in the darkest shadows of necromancy, but knowledge of their exorcism is also confidential to the Vigil Eye, knowledge I have been entrusted with, even in exile. I will slay the lich.”
Zap in the MiddleEdit
Devra stood glaring at Shade. Zap stood between them.
“Their sparing was of less desirable sources, wouldn’t you agree?”
Zap was in conversation with himself, speculating what he should do.
“Why do you stop our battle, Zap?”
Shade was annoyed with the interruption, for he would have been able to defeat Devra in her fatigue.
“If any of them wish to fight, perhaps we should fight without weapons.”
Shade looked towards Zap, knowing he could overpower Devra.
“Are you saying that we may kill each other without weapons?”
Zap looked towards Shade in thought.
“If combat within the marsh is the lich’s plea, combat with you he will have. To combat the conjurer, they must leave this place.”
Devra looked at Shade, knowing she could not defeat him in her state.
“I will not leave this place of sanctuary until I may defeat you, Shade.”
Shade glared towards Devra.
“Zap, may I ask if our combat would include mancy?”
Zap treaded away from Shade while still facing the lich.
“Zap will zap any mancer who uses mancy, until then, battle shall be of fist.”
Shade moved towards Zap, grabbing the chaosmancer by the foot. Zap buckled, locking Shade’s arm beneath the marsh’s water while having another hand on Shade’s wrist. Shade countered by moving his locked arm deeper into the water, flipping Zap over his body with his other arm. His bony fingers wrapped around the chaosmancer’s throat while his other arm barred Zap’s chest. Shade was, however, attack by Devra who buckled his neck to force his face beneath the water’s surface. Shade release his arm which barred Zap’s chest and wrapped his arm around Devra’s back. Devra pulled Shade’s head back as she was dropped into the water. Zap buckled Shade’s arm which held Zap’s throat and pushed Shade down upon Devra.
“Enough, sacred is this marsh. Where should we continue this, Zap?”
Zap focused his mind, forcing the 3 foes along the planar seams.
Fier stood across a table from Nelzlyn, they were in the cafeteria of Darlz Spire. It was a nice room, not very large but large enough to feed. Fier ate his lunch of bread with dried oats and sage leaves. Nelzlyn had a lunch of bread with spiced cheese. He had looked over the small statistics she had accumulated while at Darlz Spire and decided to interview her on the subject of rapid teachings. He had already read through the curriculum. At maximum speed Fier could teach a valid pupil all his knowledge within a month, though a valid pupil would have to be of greater potential then any Fier could ponder of. The curriculum did however go past all which Fier knew into more arcane knowledge. Within the final chapters of the reference, the limits of current pyromancy hybrids were discussed with opening the seams of fire planes.
“I have been asked to use rapid teaching. If you agree to be such a pupil, we will have to go to the basement, for analysis.”
Fier held a slight tone which showed his lack of enthusiasm.
“Why of course, though may I inquire to your somberness?”
Nelzlyn put down her bread, chewing the pepper seeds which were embedded in the cheese.
“Pyromancy is a slow curriculum, the mind must adapt to it very carefully to reach its full potential. Rapid teaching has exhausted some to death. From what has been shown, your studies are progressing well with the resources we offer and the council members find you’re discussions about pyromancy to be indulging. Before we leave, may I inquire to any symptoms of weariness?”
Fier held his eyes in contact with Nelzlyn’s, making sure his points got across.
“I have mastered at twice the rate prescribed. Even then, I am sure I could learn faster, but I always make sure I have fully integrated the pyromancy and can manipulate it with ease while also testing hybrid techniques.”
Nelzlyn stared at Fier, nervous at the risks but eager to learn more. Fier nibbled at the bottom of his lip.
“Well then, I guess we are going to have to have you apply for rapid teaching. Remember, if at any time you regret your decision, you may abort the teachings. If you wish to learn, this will only ruin you in the face of pride.”
Demur sat in his small alcove. He was to wait at Darlz Spire until information of the whereabouts of Shade were found. He had chosen to use a mace, as it would crush the lich’s bones with its blunt strikes. He also had a longer, though much thinner, pole to parry his foe’s scythe. Market Mancers had sold him a charm which nullified necromancy along with an enchantment to his thin plate armour. He had done his research, he only had to wait now.