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Working in the Deep

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Mirikon

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« on: <04-01-12/0955:42> »
What the drek am I doing here?

Not for the first time, the elf found himself pondering that question. He wasn’t an archanoarchaeologist. He wasn’t particularly gifted at speaking with spirits. He didn’t know the first thing about hunting through caves. He was a combat mage, not a scientist or a shaman. He certainly wasn’t an explorer. Iceblade sighed.

It had seemed like a simple run at the start. Babysit a few scientists on a run down to the Deep Lacuna. If they were regular scientists, he’d have turned them down. He’d heard the stories. Anyone who’d been through LA since the Fall had heard them. The Lacuna was bad news.

But these eggheads were different than the others. The DIMR had the magical chops to make an expedition like this happen, and have a reasonable chance of not ending tragically. Plus, there was a certain female elf on the expedition that he wanted a chance to get better acquainted with. Now that he thought about it, all the people on the expedition were elves.

The reports of an ancient city down in the deeps had apparently been right on target. He’d never seen ruins like this. And the place was old, much older than anything in North America had a right to be. At first the tunnels had been flooded by the polluted waters from the ocean, but as they approached the city, the waters had gone down, and they’d been able to proceed on foot. The walls here glowed with magic, literally. The writing was strange. He knew Sperethiel, the elven tongue, and while the characters used here were similar, almost identical, the dialect made no sense to him. It was a far older form of the language. He could only get the basest syntax from it. The DIMR delegation, however, had apparently come across the language before, and were able to read it, with some difficulty.

From what little he could read, the writing was a history of some kind. Something about a great Enemy, that drove these people underground. Most of the words made no sense, but apparently the inhabitants had spent countless years underground, hiding from their enemy. And then the wards had failed. What had the defenders gone through in those final days, knowing that their enemy was at the gates, and about to break through?

As they explored deeper, they came across artifacts, laying where their inhabitants had dropped them. When he shifted his eyes to the astral, Iceblade saw that some of them glowed softly, like an unbound focus waiting for someone to claim it. Reaching out, he picked up a curved scimitar that had been discarded next to a rock stained with long-dried blood. Holding the blade in one hand, he observed it carefully. Its make was unlike anything he’d seen before, with fine-wrought oricalchum inlaid in a lightning bolt pattern upon the blade.

“Yes, you see the power in it, don’t you?”

Iceblade jumped at the sound of a laughing voice out of nowhere. Whirling around, the blade in his hand burst into sparks of lightning, running up and down the blade. In front of him was an elf, but not one of the expedition. He was dressed in outlandish clothes, and in the dim light Iceblade could see what looked like a clown’s makeup. The elf, too, held a blade in his hand, newer than the one Iceblade wielded, but still very old. But what struck him most was the elf’s laugh. It was not a happy laugh, but that of one who knew that he was the joke everyone else was (or should have been) laughing at.

He was about to speak, to ask the strange elf what was going on, when he heard a roar, and the sound of screams. Sprinting past the elf without another thought, Iceblade ran towards the screams. Shark smelled blood in the water. It was good that he was here.

Just around the corner, a battle was being fought. This was some sort of town square, and now it was being lit by the reports of automatic weapons and the light of spells. In the middle of the square, a massive thing was moving, like shadows darker than the mere darkness that surrounded you when the lights went out. Looking at it was difficult, unbearable. Somehow, Iceblade knew that if he ever did manage to look the thing straight in the eyes, he’d go completely insane.

Paying no more heed to the painted elf, Iceblade threw himself into the fight. He didn’t know what this thing was, or why it was here, but he heard Shark clearly. Shark did not know fear. Shark knew only that there was blood in the water, and it sought to end that suffering. As he rushed the nameless horror that stood over the broken body of one of the expedition already, blood dripping from that horrible maw, Iceblade’s sword burst into bright purple lightning, lighting the room with a terrible glow that reflected in the inky black eyes of Shark’s visage over his face.

Ducking down under the creature’s outstretched hand, Iceblade sprung up, using the momentum to slash across the thing’s belly. It was a blow that would have shown a troll the color of its innards, but he could feel that the thing was barely scratched. More deadly to it by far was the power of the sword, lightning flowing through the blade, striking the creature like a thunderbolt. He also felt the power flow out of him, like when he was casting a spell. Not knowing, or (for the moment) caring, how this was possible, he called out to the others, diving in and attacking yet again. The strange elf was beside him again, and he was no longer laughing, but there was a look of pure hatred upon his painted face now.

Time to go to work.
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Deepeyes

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« Reply #1 on: <04-02-12/1327:13> »
Where's the rest of it?!?!? You can't end a chapter like that!! STOP TEASING!!! :P

Mirikon

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« Reply #2 on: <04-02-12/1851:50> »
Heh, I'll post the next part when it is written.
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« Reply #3 on: <04-03-12/0416:34> »
go harly go harly  ;D
yes i'm red and it's not blood, and no i'm no comy i'm just red, so are you going for that pis' or going away!!!

Aria

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« Reply #4 on: <04-03-12/0854:47> »
Great stuff :) +1
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Mirikon

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« Reply #5 on: <04-05-12/1602:10> »
Since a part 2 was requested, here you go. ;)

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

He could feel the weariness growing. Mana flowed through him, sustaining the spells that protected him, and allowed him to move with all the speed of a samurai walking the razor’s edge. But the repeated spells took their toll on him, even though so far he’d managed to avoid catching more than a glancing blow. Beside him, breathing hard as well, the strange elf was also still fighting. The rest of the expedition had either been overcome with drain, or had taken refuge when it became clear that their weapons were of no use here. Only Iceblade and the unknown elf were left fighting the creature. But they were winning. At least, he thought they were. The creature’s blows were coming slower now, its attacks less focused.

Circling around the horror in their midst, Iceblade and the elf weaved a dance of death, darting in, feinting, striking, evading, each blow and counter timed to open a chance for the other to attack, or to draw the creature’s attention as the other sprang back after the latest strike. They fought with different styles, but there was no question that this elf was a master of the blade, better than he was. Two blademasters fighting together against the same foe, weaving their attacks as one, it was a thing of beauty to behold. Once, as he slipped out of the path of the creature’s blow, he saw a few of the expedition looking on from their hiding, the glint of the pale light against cybereyes showing that this fight would be recorded, and he had his simrig running. What would he think of this fight later, when the smell of blood in the water wasn’t driving him to the attack? If there was a later, that is.

Finally, the creature lost all its fighting discipline, and charged headlong at the strange elf. Iceblade, not missing a beat, leapt upon the creature’s back, his blade embedding itself in the horror’s flesh between its massive shoulders. The creature reared back, howling in pain, and that moment of distraction was all the strange elf needed. In a flash so fast that he could barely see it, the elf was at the horror’s throat, and his blade cut true, slashing the creature’s gullet. Leaping backwards off the creature’s back, Iceblade watched as its black blood sprayed both him and the other elf in its death throes.

There was a moment’s silence as he flicked the blood off his blade with a sweep of the wrist, before offering a form of salute with the blade to the elf. In Sperethiel, he said, “They call me Iceblade. Now, perhaps you’ll tell me who you are? And what the flaming drek was THAT?”

The laugh was back on the elf’s face now, and he returned the salute. Also in Sperethiel, he said, “You may call me the Laughing Man, if you please, or perhaps Harlequin. You’re not like those others.” He jerked his head towards where the rest of the expedition was emerging from hiding. “You saw the Enemy, and still you charged ahead. Why?”

“There was blood in the water. How could anyone who follows the Shark turn away?” To a mundane, the response would have been a poor one, perhaps, but anyone who knew about magic, as this elf clearly did, would know that one did not simply pick a totem to follow. As with traditions, the totem a spellcaster followed was a reflection of their psyche, of the way they saw magic, and the world. To someone who knew about magic, that was all the explanation required.

The elf laughed, and for the first time it didn’t seem like a pitiful joke. “Ah, then it was well you were here guarding the Wordsmyth’s expedition. Well, have you read the Scribe’s words on the cycles of the world? Do you know of the Fourth World, the last age of magic?”

Iceblade nodded slowly. “I’ve heard it discussed, of course. When Prince Ehran was named to the council, his works became popular reading amongst the nobility, especially those who had the Talent. Then this city is some remnant of the Fourth World.” It was not a question. The evidence was obvious, especially given Harlequin’s words. “And it was sealed off, somewhere, perhaps in a pocket of astral space, until now. What of the creature, then? Some other remnant of the fourth world? Some horror that haunted the deep places? There was an old story of a civilization that lived underground, but dug too deeply and awoke a nameless fear, but that was the dwarves. The writing here looks elven, though very old.”

Harlequin smiled at that. “Not just a fighter, hmm? Well, this creature was one of the Enemy that drove the people of this city to live underground while they ravaged the surface during the high mana times. It seems that this one was able to breach the wards placed around the city, and was trapped when the city faded out of the physical.”

Iceblade smirked slightly as he looked at the elf. “The way you speak of it, it is as though you were there, to see these things firsthand. You certainly had the look of one who knew this Enemy personally. You weren’t simply sightseeing in the Lacuna. You expected something like this to be down here. That is what had been disrupting the spirits sent down by the University ritual teams.”

“You must take me for an ancient, to say that I’m so old. Didn’t you learn in school that elves only live a few centuries?”

“I also learned that magic has a way of telling everything we thought we knew to go to hell, when it feels like it. Don’t worry, Elder, I won’t spread secrets. But if you were hoping to keep your presence a secret, then I think you’re already too late, since the entire fight was recorded, from several sources. But the ‘Wordsmyth’ as you call him, won’t hear of your presence from me, unless he asks directly.” Iceblade offered Harlequin a bow, of the formal sort used in the courts of Tir Tairngir.

Harlequin laughed out loud at that. “Oh ho! You’ll win no favors with the Scribe treating me with such reverence, I assure you. But now, enough of such matters. The others approach.”

Iceblade looked up to see the others approaching, nervous to be so close to the slain creature, and the two warriors who stood over their fallen foe. Reaching down to the creature’s maw, Iceblade cut out two of the creature’s fangs, and offered one to Harlequin. “Twice I’ve had a hand in felling a powerful creature before now, and each time I took a trophy.” He pulled from beneath his shirt a rough necklace, little more than a leather thong tied behind his neck. But hanging from that thong were two fangs of great size. Dragon fangs. “I think this one will go between them. What say you?”

Harlequin squinted at Iceblade for a moment, and to the combat mage’s practiced eye, he could tell that the elf had shifted his vision to the astral for a moment, and he did the same. Though the creature was dead, the fading aura from the tooth was inky black, and seemed to roil with malice, even as it stayed completely still. Looking up at Harlequin, he took the offered fang, which roiled like its twin.

“When it has been properly cleansed, it would make for a fine trophy, yes. But I wouldn’t make a focus of it, as you have that first fang on your necklace, until it was thoroughly cleansed of the taint. It would do more harm than good. It may offer power, but such power can corrupt the user, even a careful one.” Iceblade nodded. So, the creature was dangerous, even in death.

“Then what of this sword? I have not seen its like in the Sixth World.”

“Once upon a time, Mages needed to hide their use of the Talent from Enemies who would undo their work. Items like that were one way they filtered spells to keep from drawing attention. And yes, it did allow them to use a spell they had not personally learned, if the item was enchanted with a foreign spell.” That revelation, drew the attention of the researchers away from the monster they’d just faced, as Harlequin had no doubt intended it to. As the researchers went to work trying to find more of the artifacts to study, Harlequin moved close, and whispered, “Keep it well, Iceblade. A blade that has slain a Horror is a rare thing, in this or any age. There once were those who sought to bring the light to combat the Horrors. Perhaps one day you’ll find yourself among them, hmm?” And with a shimmer of light, the elf was gone, leaving Iceblade alone in the town square.
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shrike

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« Reply #6 on: <04-06-12/0733:15> »
I like this story, but I think you are just a bit off on Harleaquinn's personality. In the adventures he is in (Harlequin and Harlequin's back) he seems more mercurial and antagonistic to me. Just my two nuyen. Still, two thumbs up.
Imar heron. Imar raen. Imar semeraerth. Imar milessaratish. Miriat tela li? Thiesat tekio tore li?

Mirikon

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« Reply #7 on: <04-06-12/1230:24> »
Well, I'll admit that I don't have much experience writing other people's characters. But remember that in those two adventures, one Harlequin was pulling off a job of revenge, and the other he'd been tapped by Fate (kicked in the ass, more like) to go and stop the Enemy from building their bridge, and given a group of people Fate also chose (and he hadn't) to try and do it with. So yeah, that'd put anyone in a bad mood.
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« Reply #8 on: <04-06-12/1559:20> »
Null perspiration, chummer. Just some constructive criticism.
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Deepeyes

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« Reply #9 on: <04-10-12/1325:17> »
Very nice!! I think you got Harlequin's persona pretty dead on: just the right amount of cynism, goodwill, badassery, etc. Good job!!