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Thread: The Archeage Time Line

  1. #471
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    During the End of the World Concert

    Each day I would awaken and begin to construct lavish buildings in preparation for the Evolution of our world. Everyone had headed to the End of the World Concert, but I was dead tired. During the day I would be instructed to move vast quantities of materials from one location to another for organization. By the time night had fallen I would be exhausted. I knew I was captive because the shadows that came at nightfall.

    The darkness was denser in the corner of my room. A pair of eyes looked back at me, incandescent and ethereal, staring from the head of a person-shaped silhouette. A shadow among moonlight. This was surely not part of my training was it?

    I was immobile. It wasn't a lack of will, I couldn't move, as though I was pinioned by some imperceptible force. My blanket had slipped down, leaving my shoulders bare against my bed. The eyes never blinked.

    At last the figure moved, slowly and steadily toward me, crouched and creeping low to the ground. For a moment it moved like a Firran, so low that as it reached the foot of my bed, it was hidden. Without its gaze fixed on me, some sense of movement returned to my limbs, but before I could do more than take a shallow, gasping breath, a shadowy talon-fingered hand lifted over the edge and seized the fabric of my blanket. The Harani cotton slithered against my skin as it was drawn further down, exposing more of me to the cold night air.

    Since everyone had headed to the concert I knew there would be no one here to help me.

    Perhaps it was just a normal person using stealth. But there was something unusual about this shadow. It carried the horse head insignia of the dragon archer.

    The shadow rose over me, seeming to grow in size as it did. I was unable to move or make a sound as it loomed ever closer. In the distance i could hear the music playing from the concert.

    Whispers in my mind began to rise. “Obsidian...” until they overtook the sounds of the concert, and then my own thoughts.

    The figure lowered, its featureless face coming close to mine. There was a sound like inhalation, and I felt as though my breath was being drawn from my body. The sensation was somehow silvery, so cold that it chilled me to my fingertips.

    Thoughts and needs rushed into my mind. I knew I had to craft dark obsidian objects for the lord. Every time I thought of something else my mind would come back to obsidian. I tried to think of the shadow in front of me, but my thoughts quickly went back to crafting.

    Then it changed. He changed. The unearthly light of his eyes softened and dimmed, the shadow shape fell away like mist. In its place was a manifestation of such awe that the frigid terror in my chest transmuted into wonder...

  2. #472
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    After the Concert - Girl talk in a Tree house with Honey Mead

    "It's like that every time." I told my friend the next day, "Always in a different part of the room, always the same shadow shape and the same glowing eyes." I took a shaky breath, my hands on either side of my Bubble Tea. "If I don't wake up, I never see the shadow, just the man. Sometimes he looks different. it shifts sometimes. But he's always wonderful, and I always...I forget any reason to fight after he changes." I took a long sip, feeling raw and weary with nerves. "I don't know what to do."

    My friend, across the table from me, drank her Honey Mead with a troubled look. We were sitting at a table on the Celt Tree House in Rokhala Mountains, very near the river where the lord's fishermen worked. Above us, the sky shifted between sunlight and clouds in a lazy, changing dance between the towering fellowships in the distance.

    "Every night?" she asked.

    I shook my head. "No. At first it was only every now and then, and sometimes it's just the shadow, and the...dream." The dream of the world becoming merged. A dream of obsidian no longer being created. The age of Hiram and Erenor.


    I nodded. "But sometimes, it's just the eyes and the dark outline in the hallway or at the foot of my bed. One night, it was like it was on the ceiling."

    I took a deep breath. That night had been the worst. Hours of paralysis, and the eyes staring at me the entire time while the thing lurked like a spider in the high corner of my room.

    It was her lunch hour, so my friend wore her "Dawnsdrop" clothing, a flowery hat, a tight royal red corset, flowing black skirt, and fishnet stockings, but she was playing with her bracers which were adorned with the a cross charm as I spoke. She had a pale, heart shaped face and jet black hair styled into a partial up do.

    "How long has this been going on?" she asked.

    "Ever since I arrived," I said. My eyes felt watery. "I would think I'm just going insane, but the signs of it are always still there in the morning. When it makes me craft obsidian, or makes me regrade something until it breaks..."

    She looked startled. "Regrades something?"

    My laugh was hollow and mirthless. "I'm doing my part to keep the fabric and tailoring professions thriving."

    "That's a lot of gold," she said, and looked down. I felt strangely guilty. She had a protective nature, and casual references to unpleasant things she couldn't change happening to her friends bordered on cruel. Even so, her expression remained pensive. "Speaking of which," she said slowly, "Did you go to a cleric with this? Or a Templar, or a Soulsong or even a Hierophant?"

    I shifted in my seat, uncomfortable, "Yes, to a Cleric but I went to a Gypsy first, and I didn't tell either of them everything."

    "Have you told me everything?" she asked.

    "The broad strokes. I'm not hiding anything, exactly, but..."

    "Hey!" She said, still toying with her bracer adornments. "I understand why you went to the Gypsy first. I know you haven't always had a lot of faith in my...builds. Most people don't. But if you want me to figure out what this thing is and try to help, you need to tell me everything."

    I hesitated, feeling myself blush. "When he changes, or when it's a dream and I never see the shadow, it's...It's often like fantasies I've had. Like it's plucked straight from my own imagination." I took another sip, not meeting her eyes. "Hence why I first thought this might just be some complex delusion I've come up with on my own."

    "And why you didn't mention everything to the Gypsy," Skye murmured.

    "No. I couldn't really bring myself to tell them that. I was also vague about when I...How it reminded me of being on a full set of buffs."

    "During the... submission... to do whatever is asked?" She asked.

    "Yes," I said, massaging my left wrist. "It's just like I remember it. The waves of euphoria and relief. Exactly like it was after a successful regrade."

    "Does it make you want more?" she asked, watching me closely.

    "No. Yes." I ran a hand through my hair, and watched the color turn fiery in the sunlight. "Sort of. I never stopped wanting more, but no, it doesn't make me want to go rob a guild, or steal from my friends. But it does make part of me hope for the dreams, or whatever they are." I laughed shortly, "Or it would, if it wasn't usually so terrifying."

    I leaned back in my chair, relishing the safe warmth of the sunlight. "I mean it, it's not just how scary it looks. When I can feel it approaching, unable to move...I wouldn't wish that feeling of helplessness on my worst enemy."

    She shuddered, finished her Honey Mead and started on some Jujube juice as though bracing herself to continue. "On the subject of how it looks, you said you made a sketch."

    I nodded, and drew my large messenger bag onto my lap, lifting out a binder full of my work.

    "Is all of that new?" she asked, watching me flip through the plastic inserts that held my pieces.

    "Yes. Since this began, I've barely had a single day where I wasn't able to get lost in at least a sketch or two, and I've finished four paintings in the last two weeks."

    I drew out a piece without giving it more than a glance and handed it to her. "Admittedly, some of my work has gotten darker in the process," I added wryly.

    I knew the sketch by heart, even if I avoided looking at it after it was completed. I had done in entirely in charcoal, with a dozen different degrees of shading. The eyes were the only thing left white in the image, and the effect was very nearly as disturbing as the real thing.

    Even so, I hadn't anticipated her reaction. She went pale as she studied the sketch, as though by the same dark entrancement that held me in thrall every night. And when she lifted her eyes at last, she took a sharp, shallow breath, her eyes straying to a point over my shoulder.

    Something in her eyes made me feel cold, distressed and half-panicked. "What is it?" I whispered.

    Her gaze cut back to mine. She took a deep, steadying breath. "It's a spirit," she said, with an expression that was braced for disbelief. "A night demon." she shook her head. "Sometimes they call them incubi or succubi and they might more accurately be labeled storm spirits. The lore is full of confused etymology and strange gender disparities. This one has maintained its physical power through a set of red dragon plate..."

    I was past the point of disbelief. "What does it want?"

    "It might want to feed on your life force, your creative or positive energy," She replied. "Or it might want to grow its family."

    "Its family?"

    "It could be, or it could be a form of possession, a way to experience the pleasures of our world without having to let go of its power over that world. I'd suggest staying over at my place, but this isn't a question of where."

    I nearly asked how she could be so sure, but I felt too numb, and very much like I didn't want to know.

    Instead, I asked, "Is there something we can do?"

    After a moment's hesitation, She nodded. "There's something we can try."

  3. #473
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    A Spell to Stop the Shadows

    For days and nights I crafted obsidian items unable to control myself. The shadow in my mind instructed me to do it and I had to follow its orders. Other people from different worlds has begun showing up on the streets, their eyes filled with darkness and they could be seen huddling near crafting stations. My neighbors said they were once normal people who had gazed upon an archer in red plate who appeared in hero hall and fell under his spell.

    My friend has been staying with me, she was gathering components and preparing something in center of my crafting room. I had just finished another chest full of obsidian items when I heard her speak.

    "That should do it," she said, scrutinizing her work with her chalk in hand. My mind drew back to what she said earlier. That there might be hope to free myself from this dark command.

    I looked down at her. She had took off her Dawnsdrop armor to keep it from getting dirty and she was on her knees. She had finished drawing a design on the the center of the floor, it was surrounded by candles and jagged pieces of black obsidian, I was trying not to imagine what my mother would say if she could see me. I glanced at the obsidian and back at her.

    I resisted the impulse to ask her if she was sure this would work.

    We were in the center of an empty crafting room. Or, what would have been an empty crafting room were it not covered with chests filled to the brim with obsidian items.

    "This is a banishing ward," She said, and she handed me the charcoal sketch, tightly rolled, and a length of black, silk ribbon.

    "Alright," she said, circling me. "This is a spell for cleansing the space. It won't free you from influence entirely, but it should keep the shadow from entering your area. I need you to wrap the ribbon around the sketch, and repeat after me. As you do, imagine the figure in the dark, and picture it dissolving in your mind."

    She lit a stick of white leaves, and continued to pace around me as she recited words from memory.

    "Smoke of air, and fire, and earth, cleanse and clear this home and hearth. Drive away all harm and fear; only good may enter here."

    I repeated it faithfully, feeling remarkably silly and trying not to think about how my mother or the gypsy would react to this, my attempting to banish my own fears and nightmares with burning leaves and a nursery rhyme. All the same, I did as she said. I pictured it in my mind. Dissolving. Crumbling away...

    After it was done, I did feel better; safer, though also strangely emptier than before. As though I had been at the center of a storm for so long that I felt a pang of loss at the absence of thunder.

    By the time she left, the housing district was sparkling in the distance, and it didn't feel like it was possible for shadows to come to life or for nightmares to turn real.

    "Let me know if anything happens," she said, slipping back into her radiant Dawnsdrop gear.

    "I will," I promised. "But hopefully I won't."

    I lost myself for hours, trying to distract myself from even the thought of the shadows. Instead, I filled my mind with nothing but the thoughts of Conviction – Thunderwing becoming one, and the pleasure of the breeze dancing through the window, pausing only to close all of my curtains when it grew very dark.

    When my eyelids finally grew heavy, I washed quickly and tiredly, and adjusted the lighting in my crafting room. I had resorted to a keeping a light in every room, and I made sure every one of the stayed on. Even if my night time visitor was truly gone, I suspected that I would never quite stop thinking of them.

    When I fell into bed, my table lamp still glowing gently beside me and the crinkly cotton of my coverlet warm around my body, I feel into a deep, untroubled sleep.

  4. #474
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    World Shattered - On To KADUM

    A dull, steady pounding woke me. After a moment of drowsy confusion, I started into alertness, feeling as though ice water had flooded my veins. The pounding was coming from outside of my room. I rose from the bed, my muscles lethargic with dread, and approached my door.

    My entry was darker than it should be, the nightlight flickering desperately. All the lights, in fact, were flickering rhythm with the vibration of the pounding, which was clearly coming from my door. The raw force of it shook the wood and rattled the hinges.

    I whispered my friend.

    I glanced at the time. 3:00 am. No wonder she wasn't answering.

    A third whisper.

    She finally responded

    "What happened?"

    "It's here. It's banging on the door—."

    That was when everything exploded.

    Glass shattered everywhere, from the lamp beside me to every night light. I covered my face with a scream as sparks burst in blinding flashes from every corner, and dimmed, and left me in darkness.

    Total, utter darkness.

    I glanced at my weapon, but there was nothing to see. The glow from my weapon was gone, and the surface cracked when I touched it. Even the glow of my shield was lost to the darkness.

    I looked back, my breaths shallow with panic. It took me several moments to realize what I was seeing, for my eyes to adjust to the utter blackness around me.

    The figure stood there, barely discernible in the gloom.

    A fraction of an instant passed in which I wondered at the lack of his glowing eyes and moved to slam the door shut between us. The eyes flared into sight, not white this time, but red. They enthralled me instantly, freezing me in place. The voice that filled my mind was laden with quiet rage.

    How dare you? It asked.

    He rushed at me like a sudden wind. My feet left the floor, and I was thrust against the wall behind me. A hand like steel closed around my throat.

    The person before me was half the prince of my dreams and half the monster of my nightmares.

    His eyes were still red. His talon-fingered hands around my neck and wrist was like fire. Beneath the perfection of his chest, his body was half shaped and contorted by darkness. It was as though there was a black, twisting storm cloud where his legs ought to be.

    HOW DARE YOU? The voice demanded in a thunderous growl. After everything I've done for you!

    I gasped, desperate tears gathering in my eyes. "Please, please leave me alone!"

    NO! THIS WORLD WILL BE SHATTERED YOU WILL COME TO KADUM It roared, a raging furnace in my mind. He tightened his hand on my neck, locking my gaze with his. You lie to yourself! Your spell failed because you failed to wish me gone. Banish me and you banish the inspiration I provide. You need me."

    His red eyes narrowed, the burning heat of his grip eased, but in its place I felt a new sense of pressure, pinning me against the wall as though gravity had shifted for me alone. He let my wrist go, and it fell against the wall.

    You need me. Say it. He waved two fingers in the air, a slow, ruthless spell. It felt like the tendrils of his darkness seeped into every corner of my being, filling me, possessing me.

    "I need you!" I said, so terrified in the face of his rage, of the impossible height he held me at, that I learned for his more quiet dominance. I touched his chest, which was as beautiful as it had ever been. "Please. Please, I need you. I'm sorry."

    He let me fall, but gently. I dropped to my knees with a quiet thud.

    He lowered after me, a graceful, elegant descent, and his feet touched the ground in front of me.

    "Please," I said, "I'll be good." There was a sweetness to the shadows, underneath all the wonderful scents I associated with him. I look at the darkness with an intoxicated fixation, and I might have continued doing so forever while he watched me with eyes shifting in darkness, but after a little while, his hand claimed my wrist and lifted me up to him. I felt a faint surge of the opiate rush under my skin. The grace of his forgiveness, filling me with relief.

    His eyes had changed. They were the color of amethysts, and I was falling into their violet depths, even as my body rose with him, away from the wall and out the building into the moonlight sky.

    With that the world below me crumbled and we were traveling toward Kadum...

  5. #475
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    Anniversary of the Celts

    It was an unusually warm night for it being October, and of course a very big party night for any of the Celts around for miles. This time of year, among other things, put Kadum on the map, making October a month for mischief and destruction. With that thought in mind, the healer shivered even though warm breezes swept through the remaining foliage, as she pulled on the final layer of her gear. Her favorite time of year, for sure, especially for raiding. She hurried along, The dragon archer was due any minute, and they would ride off into the sunset to the biggest bash of the year. Also to celebrate their anniversary of being together.

    The east had two powerful factions that had been trying to work together. One had been from Conviction and the other from Thunderwing. There had been a meeting around the time of the land rush, where they gathered and spoke about leadership and raiding. The healer hoped that they could work together.

    Breaking from her daydream, she could hear the rumble of his vehicle, as it roared down the winding road just ahead, beckoning for her to feel the vibrations. He pulled up to her, wearing his red suit of plate armor, and waved to greet her as she hopped on in.

    The sun was falling deep into the horizon, creating a firey orange glow and casting shadows that danced among the treetops. The long dirt road underneath them felt endless as they made their way to the middle of the public armor shop in Rokhala Mountains. There was also a public potion shop adjacent to it. It was still a great place for a bunch of tough trouble makers to get wild and crazy without being noticed.

    The healer and dragon archer pulled up alongside the row of other vehicles and hopped out. Loud music was bumping rhythmically as they opened the door and walked into the loud smoke filled interior of the armor shop.

    Somebody shoved an ice cold drink in both of their hands and the dragon archer was swept away by a rowdy bunch of men, leaving her to sit at all alone. "Nice night, huh?" she asked nervously to nobody in particular. She looked around, taking in the unnerving sights and sounds and chugged the rest of her drink. The bartender replied "Sure is, ma'am. Ready for another one?" She nodded and chugged the next cold drink, she was not really in the mood to drink, but it felt necessary. She was more in the mood to dance, she thought to herself, but that wasn't happening tonight.

    Having realized she hasn't seen the dragon archer for almost an hour, she got up to try to locate him. Making her way around the crowded armor shop, she noticed other women showing off their costumes, laughing, spilling their drinks, couples cuddling, and groups trading items. Luckily, she found him among the rowdy bunch who stole him away, chanting his name like heathens as he shot five arrows through five separate apples on the ledge of the window. Surely his new record.

    The healer ran up to him and gave him a piece of her mind, "You know you are really pathetic! Grow up. You're not supposed to shoot in the house!" She screamed at his red helmet which covered his face and stomped off. His boys let him go and he caught up to her. He grabbed her arm, spinning her around to face him. "Can't you just let me be?" She spoke under her breath, "I wish you wouldn't.." With that, she pushed her way back through the crowd and sat at the bar once again, tears welled up in her eyes. But after three drinks and a few karaoke songs later, she bounced off the stool and out the door.

    She checked for the vehicle, but he must have desummoned it without her noticing. "Guess I'll just walk then." She kicked a pile of loose gravel and continued on. She had no clue where she was going, all she knew was she wanted to get far away from the criminal mastermind and his lowlife acquaintances.

    By now it was almost midnight. Halloween was just a week away. She wasn't superstitious by any means, but walking around in the woods in the black of night, clueless as to where she was, certainly didn't meet any high expectations, unless of course there was a pirate. She laughed at her own absurd thoughts. Pirates. Ha! Not likely.

    In the distance she heard the faint sound of thunder. A storm wasn't out of the question, but it was a constant rumble, one that got louder and louder. "No, it can't be" she said out loud. Within seconds a familiar figure pulled up beside her. He said nothing, just looked straight ahead. Not being able to see his expression underneath the helmet, she gave in and swung a leg up and over the door and hoped in.

    Feeling safe, leaning against his strong red armor, she squeezed him tighter, sensing a spike of warmth and tingling that ran the length of her spine. She had to admit, she was a little frightened walking alone, defenseless. No DPS. No tanks. No buffs. No way to ward off any wandering pirates. Maybe it was the rush of adrenaline that was making her feel excited. Or maybe it was just being with him.

    She reached her hand around to hold him, she was yearning for him more than ever. Even more than five minutes ago. It's the one thing they never fought about. He knew how to make her happy, better than any man or woman ever could. He knows exactly the way she likes to fight in raids. Fighting at the edge first. Teasing. Taunting. Then venturing deeper into the enemy as he shot arrows at select targets.

    The vehicle geared down and slowed to a halt in a nearby zone, it was the middle of the night. She hopped off and bent forward to stretch the tension out of her legs, when suddenly she felt his gauntlet gently caress her. She let out a soft sigh and straightened up. She had been painfully been waiting for this all day.

    She found the zipper to her jacket and enthusiastically pulled it down until it opened completely and fell off her shoulders. His hands slid up massaging her. He wrapped his hand around her messy hair and pulled her head and neck toward him. With eyes full of longing she said in her best voice, "Baby it's so hot that you're doing this with your helmet on. You are so amazing. I'm sorry I got so mad at you, but this is hot!" It must of been part of his plan the entire night.

    He gained speed and energy the more he massaged her, every caress, every plea for him to continue. She pleaded again, "Baby keep going, please don't stop. You feel so good. I'll make it up to you, I promise!"

    This will be the last time he would hear her begging. He wanted to keep her quiet. He reached a hand around to her mouth, not that anybody would hear if she screams anyway. It was just a distraction as he continued. He allowed himself to lose control, he deserved it and there was nothing gentle about how he was massaging her now. Like a wild animal that was caged up and teased for years, relentless and unforgiving. Like a bully getting his revenge. Releasing pain and rage. From back in the forest she could hear twigs snap and footsteps approaching.

    "Stop! Stop what is this!? You are hurting me!" She yelled and clawed at him but he held her down, pinning her to the table with her cheek against the splintered rotting wood. He continued, smacking her occasionally, smirking as her flesh succumbed to his abuse. This was something from another world.

    He pulled her hair once again until her screams turned to whimpers. "Heal me properly or you won't live to see tomorrow." She saw a shadow swirling around his plate armor then felt the shadows seeping out, hitting her tongue and sliding down her throat. This taste was not familiar.

    She looked up at the red monster standing before her, "Are you okay?" No reply. "Hey I'm asking you a question? Hey! What is your problem!?" Still nothing. "I can't see you with that damn helmet on!" She ripped the helmet off of him and let out an ear piercing scream that echoed beyond the walls of whatever forest they were deep into.

    Underneath the helmet was nothing. He didn't have a head.

    The creature pulled out a weapon, maybe a bow. With one fast motion he shot an arrow past the healer and between the eyes of a pirate with the precision of a master archer and quickly chopped off it's head. He watched the head roll off its shoulders and onto the ground, blood gushing from the gaping neck. He gathered up the head, another one for his collection, and attached to himself the helmet of the dragon archer and rode off in search of his next victim.

  6. #476
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    The Dark Shadows - Chapter 1 (First Encounter)

    "You want to order a Jujube, some ribs, or are you going to just sit there all night?"

    The female bartender's abrupt outburst snapped the healer from her trance.

    "Oh! Yeah, sorry. I'll have a Nui's Nova, please."

    The bartender gave her a curious look. "You came to this event to sit at the bar alone, stare at people, and order healing potions? Not the usual thing attractive girls do here on a content night."

    Attractive? She never thought of herself as attractive. The bartender wasn't the first to think so, however, whether she knew it or not. She had silky smooth dark hair, a gorgeous body, and a beautiful face. Okay, maybe she was attractive, but was it too obvious that she had been spending all her time observing the jam packed floor?

    "I have to be at a raid in a few hours. Can't go in hammered, can I?"

    The bartender smiled, nodding in agreement. She turned to fetch her a Nui's Nova.

    Unknown to her, the healer was already at work. A member of Nobody, she was investigating a recent series of disappearances of knights, all of whom were described to have plate armor covering head to toe. Their disappearances were believed to be linked to a long running underground organization with hubs in major cities across Haranya, Nuia and even Auroria. She traced the missing knight's last known locations to an area to the north of Karkasse Ridgelands.

    The coordinator of the event, a woman in a player nation, a well known wealthy group with a reputation for dirty business. Unfortunately for the healer, as well as the rest of the Nobody guild, her wealth provided her with a wall of adventures so thick no individual or guild would dare attempt to break through without ironclad evidence. The cleric knew if she were to make something stick, she'd have to catch her in the act.

    The bartender returned with her ice cold Nui'a Nova and left to tend to others at the bar. She took a sip as she focused on the event filled with people laughing, dancing, and having a great night.

    All of which she hadn't experienced in a very long time.

    Above was a balcony reserved for Guild officers and leaders. Among them, leaning over the rail, was none other than the woman from the player nation, scrutinizing people in an all-too-similar fashion to the healer. She was certain they were both searching for the same target, albeit for very different reasons.

    There were plenty of men at the event, though most of them didn't stand out as knight material like the vanished men. All seemed to be accompanied by someone, usually a woman, probably their significant other or soon-to-be one night stand.

    Then she saw him.

    A knight of stunning appearance strode through the middle of the crowded event. His vibrant red plate shimmered in the lights while he carried a shadow black-as-night that swayed with his every movement. His majestic dragon plate covered him completely, and also managed to show off the magnificent curves of his body. The front of the plate was deep to display his well-endowed body in all its glory. His legs, long and powerful, descended to a pair of unapologetic spiked plate boots. How he was able to move in those boots was a mystery to the healer, but he did so with both grace and elegance.

    He was a stud.

    She found it strange he was alone. He appeared to have no one accompanying him at the event. Odder still, no one seemed to be paying any attention to him at all. It was as if he was all by himself, walking inside an invisible bubble to the catchy beat of the bard pounding into everyone's ears.

    For a brief moment, while lost in awe of this man, he turned and it felt like he made contact with her. She was mesmerized by his grace and strength. However, she swore she saw the dark pupils of his eyes turn bright ruby red and then back to a lovely shade of brown. Just an illusion or refection of the lights through the plate helm, she thought.

    In a feeble attempt to hide her obvious staring, she looked away, up toward the woman in a player nation, who must have noticed the man in the powerful red plate as well. She motioned for one of her dark runners and told him something while pointing in the man's direction. She watched as the dark runner made his way through the crowd to him. The man in red plate accompanied the dark runner back through the crowd and up the woman above. She greeted him and they disappeared from her view.

    This was it. This was her chance. She would wait for the knight to come back, and if he didn't, she would rush up the stairs to find her.

    "I better be right about this."

  7. #477
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    The Dark Shadows - Chapter 2 (The VIP room)

    The door shut behind them as the woman led the man wearing steamy red plate into a tastily elegant private room above the event. A luxurious-looking couch faced a painting of a Daru holding bags of gold in each hand on the wall opposite of the door. Another wall held a fully stocked bar including an Auroria chest filled with potions and a tall marble table beside two bar stools. The back wall, if you can call it a wall, was a giant crystal panel giving a sweeping view of the north side of Karkasse Ridgelands. The area pulsed like a living creature outside the window.

    She turned her back to the knight and approached the bar. "Can I offer you a drink?" she called over her shoulder. She pulled one of her finest potions from the chest and splashed its contents into two small crystal glasses. One glass already contained an inconspicuous powder, colorless and odorless, that quickly dissolved, leaving no trace.

    When she turned around her eyes widened. Both glasses escaped her grasp, shattering on the marble floor at her feet. The man stared at her with a naughty smile. His armor had disappeared from sight.

    She beheld the body of a chiseled model: his proud strong chest; muscular biceps, a flat flawless stomach, shallow navel above pristine; and a wickedly sexy smile that could sway the minds of queens and concubine.

    "This one will fetch the highest dollar yet," she thought. No reason she couldn't have a little fun beforehand, though.

    "I think we'll skip the drinks for now," She said, stepping over the mess of glass on the floor. She couldn't care less about cleaning up. The Firran maid could tend to that later.

    She approached him slowly. He walked to the couch. She caught up to him, her hands wrapping around him, pulling him toward her.

    She aimed her mouth toward his. Their eyes locked onto one another as they leaned forward. Her mind was blown by the sensations of his explosive kiss. Never had she felt this much energy, this much excitement, from just a kiss! Then his cologne's scent hit her nose like a late spring breeze, ever so fresh, clean and masculine. She was completely lost in his embrace, his hands on each of her cheeks, exploring her mouth with his agile tongue. She felt a rush deep within her. Her body strained against the fabric of her armor.

    "You're too dressed for this occasion, darling".

    Hearing his words for the first time was like listening to the songs of angels. She removed her hands from his waist, almost involuntarily, to unbutton herself. For a wealthy business woman, she had quite the well-kept body. She made quick work of her armor.

    "Still too dressed."

    She took off the rest of her gear. Only the jewelry remained.

    "Close enough."

    He wrapped a hand around the back of her neck, pulling her to his mouth once more. His other hand began to massage her. She felt his hand glide up and down like silk sheets blowing in the wind while they kissed.

    Her senses were completely overwhelmed. His body: flawless. His voice: mesmerizing. His smell: intoxicating. His taste: delicious. His touch: absolutely addicting.

    Her knees began to buckle from the pleasure of the man's skillful movements. He pushed her down on the couch before she had the chance to fall over.

    The man gracefully squatted to the floor. He perched before her and admired her. Grabbing her, he pulled in close. The nerve endings in her body responded like electric shocks as he kissed. Then with a sexy grin, he caressed her more.

    Mesmerized by his ability, she let out a sigh of complete contentment. Her mind began to swell as he worked with rapid, yet smooth momentum. He suddenly stopped, her body burning up.

    How did he know she liked that so much?

    Oh! Too much!

    Her spine tingled through her entire body. Biting her lip, her body felt an electric shock. He didn't even flinch as she did."

    "Mmm, that energy."

    He stood and stared down at her.

    "I hope you have more for me."

    She gasped heavily, like she had just run a marathon. She looked down at herself. Her body was burning up. No way was she missing this opportunity.

    "There's plenty more where that came from," she said, her ego running rampant.

    He smiled devilishly and rose above her. Her body twitched yet again, preparing for the blissful pleasure she was about to receive.

    The heat wasn't the only thing she noticed. There were dark marks over his skin that she didn't notice before who stretched from his shoulder blades to his mid back.

    "Do you like it?" he asked with a burning hot voice.

    She reached out to touch his back, her fingers outlining the outer edges of the darkness. It felt different than the rest of his skin, like leather. It was so odd, it didn't feel like...

    Her mind was quickly diverted when he moved, sending waves of pleasure through her entire body. Of all the knights she met before sending them to be auctioned off, none compared to this.

    She was paralyzed -- not that she wanted to move.

    The knight stood and placed a hand on each of her shoulders. She emitted a soft sigh.

    "Did you really think putting powder in my drink would be able to subdue me?"

    Wait. How did he know?

    Her higher mental functions shut down. All she could think about was how spectacular he was. Clearly there wasn't enough blood in her body to make her brain work.

    She looked up at his face and saw the dark lines stretch like shadows extending over his body. Her eyes widened in shock and horror as the darkness covered his skin. She tried to move but her body would not respond. She realized she was no longer in control of her own body.

    "Wha- What are you doing to me?!" she yelled.

    "Pleasuring you, sweetie," he replied. A trail of shadows had extending back toward the other end of the room. The red knight appeared at the end of the trail, and he was still fully covered in the red armor. The creature upon her was but a shadow.

    She tried again to gain control of her body but failed miserably.

    "I can't move!"

    The shadow placed a finger on her lips while the red knight said, "Shhh. Don't fight. It will all be over soon."

    The man's eyes turn a vibrant red underneath his helmet. Her face became white with terror as she watched the shadow before her pin her in place as the red knight approached.

    This wasn't real. This can't be real!

    "Oh it is very real" he spoke in a dark chilling voice, stepping closer to the shadow creature that pinned her. "How ironic is it that after all those men you sold off to the highest bidder, that your end would come at the hands of one you thought you'd be able to sell?"

    "How could he possibly know about that?" was the single thought racing through her brain along with the rising sense of dread.

    "You're no man. You're a monster!"

    Laughing, he leaned forward. "Oh, how right you are," he whispered in her ear.

    She felt her labor pool drain, and then her mana pool.

    "Yes! Release yourself. Give in to your need, and fill me with your soul!"

    She was on the edge, past the point of no return. Her heart was beating out of her chest and her lungs felt on fire. The shadows wrapped around her with such force that it shattered her mind -- and with it, all her life energy. The shadow creature on top of her held her in place as her soul was sucked into the red knight.

    *****

    It had been too long. The time to act was now.

    The healer got up from the bar and marched towards the stairs leading to the room where the woman took the red knight.

    "Miss. Miss! You can't go up there!" the dark runner insisted, grabbing her arm.

    She quickly pulled out her guild insignia from under her coat. "I stand for Nobody, step aside!"

    She marched up the stairs to the only private room.

    "This is Nobody! Open this door! Now!"

    There was no answer. The door was locked.

    "Do you have a key for this door?" she asked the dark runner who immediately shook his head.

    She grabbed her club in one hand and shield in the other. She cast mirror light, and gave the door a hearty kick, and then another, until it flew open. She dashed inside with her weapon at the ready.

    "Put your hands in... what the?!"

    She saw the knight she was looking for, with a huge shadow like creature extending from a dark beam out of his hand. The shadow creature was on top of what looked like a shriveled up corpse. The red knight's glowing red eyes glared at her, sending a chill down her spine.

    "A pure soul," he whispered.

    The man dashed toward the back wall made of crystal. The healer fired a holy bolt before he jumped through the glass to the ground below.

    She ran to the ledge and looked down. There was no body. No one could have survived much less walked away from a fall like that. Did he... fly away?

    "What did I just witness?"

  8. #478
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    The Dark Shadows - Chapter 3 (Confronting the Alliance)

    The healer was miserably devoid of emotion the next morning when she gave her full report to her allies.

    "I know what I saw," she said through clenched teeth. She desperately tried to defend her position after last night's events.

    "This is a complete drama fest, " One of the guild officers roared. The healer was on the receiving end of a thorough chew out. "We have the dead body of a prime suspect in a chain of knight disappearances that looks like she's been dead for decades! And all you've got is that a red knight was in the room with her, who then jumped out the window when you showed up? Is that your sorry excuse for a story?"

    "Yes sir," the healer replied, sticking to her word. She failed to mention the huge black shadow creature, the dark beam connecting it to the red knight, or the red glowing eyes. No reason to make her allies think she was more crazy than they already did.

    The council of allies became quiet as they sat back down in their padded chairs. It appeared they were discussing the matters within their respective guilds. After a moment, the guild officer lowered his voice to a less strident level. "Listen. You're a good healer, one of the best. But I can't help but think you haven't been thinking clearly."

    She rolled her eyes in frustration, knowing the turn this conversation was about to take. "This has nothing to do with my past, sir. I've been through endless therapy and countless raid evaluations. The oracle said my mind is fine and I've been cleared to be a healer in raids."

    "I'm fully aware of that," One of the guild officers said "I can't begin to imagine what you've been through. I'm just hoping that your frustration with what happened to your man hasn't carried over into your duties."

    "They haven't," She assured him.

    "Good. Regardless -- I want to give you a few days off raids, to clear your mind and start fresh."

    "That won't be necessary, sir."

    "That is what the alliance has decided! You are by no means to continue to investigate the knight disappearances until a meeting next week, understood?"

    She straightened. "Yes, sir."

    "Before you go, see if the necromancer has turned up anything with the body. I need at least something to feed the nation and discord before they go spewing this as an act of purpling."

    The alliance members began to speak about other topics. She recognized the sign of dismissal.

    She shut the door behind her and took a deep sigh. That wasn't so bad, all things considered. It could have been worse. At least she wasn't banned from attending raids on the east forever.

    She made her way down to the mansion where the necromancer worked. She replayed the previous night's events over and over in her head. She knew she wasn't crazy, but if she told anyone exactly what she saw, she knew she would be removed from the alliance, possibly for good.

    She passed by a tank in full hiram plate, the front liner assigned to investigate what happened to her man. The tank had full HP gear and was spending her oh-so-valuable time shooting wads of paper into a distant trash can. She sometimes scored. Of all the people they could have assigned to that case, they picked an HP tank. An HP TANK! She was pretty sure the tank was a spy. However, there was nothing she could do about that, not with her connections.

    She arrived at the necromancer's mansion. She entered the examination room of the dead woman from last night. The fizzy white haired necromancer was busy examining the shriveled body.

    "Please tell me you have something," She said, greeting the skeletal, middle-aged Firran necromancer draped in a worn ritual coat.

    He turned towards the healer and adjusted his glasses. "All my years as a necromancer and I've never seen anything like this. Come here, take a look."

    She approached the body, or rather what somewhat resembled a body. The corpse was dried-out as if buried for millennia. But the clothes piled on a steel table beside the body were the same ones she saw the woman wear last night, without so much as a stain on them

    "Now, look at this," the necromancer pointed.

    He lifted a scalpel and punctured the corpse's arm. A fine red powder spilled from the opening, like he had poked into a bag of rusty sand.

    "What is that?" she asked.

    "That is blood, my friend. Extremely dehydrated blood."

    "What could possibly do that?"

    "That certainly is the ten thousand gold question of the day, now isn't it? For blood to turn to a powder like this would take a sizable heat source or be freeze dried. The outside of the body would start to burn at such a temperature -- but as you can see, no burns."

    The necromancer turned to the healer. "You say there was a red knight in the room when you busted in?"

    "That's right. So?"

    "Was he hot?" The man snickered.

    "I didn't have time to assess that, you troll."

    He laughed. "Okay, okay. But here's something else interesting."

    He pulled the sheet off of the dead woman's head to reveal her face.

    "Notice anything?"

    It was obvious, even to the healer. The woman may have been dead, but she had a enormous grin.

    "Why are you showing me this?" she asked.

    "I have a hypothesis," the necromancer said. "The only time a dead woman has a face like this is if she was extremely excited the moment she died. Whatever this mystery knight of yours did to her, they where having a good time. A hot good time, it looks like." He grinned at his own joke.

    "Makes sense," she thought. She did see the shadow on top of that woman when she entered the room.

    "Let me know if you figure out anything else. The alliance told me to to avoid raiding for a few days."

    He shook his head. "I think you're fine. We've known each other since forever. After what happened to your man, no one would be able to handle it well."

    She smiled. "Thanks."

  9. #479
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    The Dark Shadows - Chapter 4 (Meeting face to face)

    The healer came home after sunset. She put her loot away. The room lay in shadow; only a small candle above the sink provided light. She opened her storage chest and grabbed a Nuia Nova. Maybe she could relax.

    She had just popped the potion and taken a swig when she noticed the unusual chill in her home. This wasn't the first time she had thought to send a ticket to support in, but the temperature outside wasn't all that cold before she came in.

    She stepped toward the fireplace, and then stopped suddenly. A foreign scent tickled her nose. She recognized that smell, but it shouldn't be in her home... a late spring breeze, ever so fresh, clean and masculine. It was the same odor in the room where she found the body. Her mind stirred uneasily.

    She looked around her untidy quarters. Screenshots from nation chat and evidence lay messily on every available surface. Nothing seemed out of place or missing. The windows appeared to be shut tight -- that was a relief. She glanced into the pitch-black room and saw two small red lights in the corner. It all clicked in her brain at once.

    She wasn't alone.

    She quickly drew her club weapon and aimed at the lights, preparing to cast holy bolt.

    "Who's there?"

    The two beady lights began to move towards her. The sound of plate boots could be heard against the hardwood floor. A manly figure stepped from the shadows wearing a red plate set of armor.

    "Is that how you greet all your guests? By pointing a weapon at them?"

    It was him. The knight from the other night. The one that killed that woman. And now he had come for her.

    She walked backwards into the light of the room, her weapon still pointed at him.

    "Guests are people I invite into my home," She retorted.

    "There's no need to be snide," the archer said, and extended his arm. In a flash, her weapon flew from her hands and into his.

    "This wouldn't do you much good anyway."

    She realized the attacks from her holy bolt did nothing the night before. Her heart raced in fear, her adrenaline coursing through her veins. She was defenseless and unsure of what the creature wanted with her.

    "What are you?" The healer asked, her voice trembling.

    The man stepped up to her, standing in the light.

    "Have a seat."

    The man twitched his armored index finger slightly. One of the chairs slid from under the table on its own and stopped at her side. She reluctantly sat. He scooted onto the table in front of her, leaning forward slightly.

    Her vision involuntarily wandered from his red-hot plate boots to the toned legs covered in red armor – the plate the same as he had worn the night before. His upper armor showed off the size of his chest.

    "Some call me a dragon archer, others a criminal mastermind, and I am an Incubus. You should feel honored. I don't just tell anyone."

    "Why tell me then?"

    He tilted his ominous red helmet. "Well, most do not live long enough for introductions, so why bother?"

    She gave him a puzzled look. "So you're not here to kill me?"

    The red knight ran his metal plated fingers lightly through her dark hair. "I always did like the smart ones -- they get me so antsy," he chuckled.

    She couldn't help but stare as he leaned forward showing off his powerful arms.. The same ones that would shoot out arrows from his deadly bow. She felt herself becoming mesmerized.

    "S-s-so, what is an Incubus, exactly?" She asked, trying not to stutter.

    The archer in red plate sighed in disappointment. "Perhaps I spoke too soon." He leaned back again. "I am a type of demon, a unique demon who brings vast amounts of pleasure to weak-willed mortals." He leaned forward, resting his boot at the edge of her chair and putting his powerful chest inches from her eyes. "And consumes their souls in the process."

    "A demon? A demon from beyond Auroria? You can't be serious."

    Dark shadows swirled out from his armor, the shadows turning into hot dancing figures before her eyes. "I'm very serious," he smiled coyly.

    She felt a shiver down her spine. This was not a dream and she was not going insane. He claimed to not want to kill her, but his advances suggested he did. She was uncertain and anxious about her fate by the end of tonight

    "What do you want with me, then?"

    The shadows returned to the archer's armor, disappearing inside his plate. He slid fluidly off the table and walked around it to the wall covered in photos, nation chat, and evidence. Everything piled throughout her home was related to a single case. He plucked a photo from the wall and stared at it intently.

    "It's a shame what happened to your poor man. You came home from a night of boring work to find his body bound to your bed where he had been taken advantage of, killed, and banished to the void. Why, just that morning, he proposed to you."

    She felt her blood boil as he retold those hideous events.

    "How did you know all that? No one knew of the proposal but me!"

    He turned to her. "I can read minds. I knew everything about you the moment your eyes met mine last night. Your name, your past, every secret and every desire you ever had."

    The healer was mortified. She felt violated of her privacy, her most intimate thoughts.

    "But I digress. Let's get to the point, shall we?"

    The archer glided back around the table. He sat on her lap and wrapped his strong arms around her. She tried to hide her feelings, and then realized it was an exercise in futility if he could read minds.

    "You see, I care about only one thing: survival. For centuries, I've been able to exist among you morals, feeding every now and then, all because I remain otherwise unknown. Your barging in on me last night before I could dispose of that poor woman's body has resulted in my being in nation chat. This is quite an inconvenience for me because there are certain entities that would, to put it lightly, put my head on a pike if they found me."

    Sounds like these 'entities' would be good to befriend, and soon.

    The dragon archer heard her mind working. He was slightly amused, and not at all worried.

    "I'm assuming you want me to fix this somehow." she said

    He chuckled. "You catch on quick."

    "How?"

    "How about we make a deal? I could very easily skip town to dine elsewhere but I rather like it here. This town is so full of fun and exciting things to do, so many corrupt souls to claim. But I dare not spend too much time outside my lair now. Scanning the minds of women until I find a corrupt soul for my exquisite tastes can be very time consuming. You, being part of the East alliance, should be able to bring me plenty of evil ones for my needs."

    "And if I refuse?"

    He chuckled again, "Then I will have to skip town, and that would make me very sad."

    That doesn't sound too bad. Better than being an accessory to murder.

    "On the other hand," He said, staring into her eyes, "if I were to skip town, you'd never find the person responsible for killing your man. You know this case has gone cold; no leads, no witnesses, and no chance you'll ever figure out what happened that night. It will forever be on your mind until you die an old woman in an insane asylum. Sounds like a fate worse than death to me."

    She thought about what he said. It was true -- the case was cold. She wracked her mind over her man's death every night before passing out at this very table. It tore at her every waking thought. She wanted justice, but at what cost? Could he actually help her?

    He climbed off her lap and walked toward the door. "You can take the night to think about it. Meet me at the bridge north of the mirage portal in Rokhala Mountains tomorrow at midnight with your decision. Don't make me come find you."

    He opened the door, and then turned back toward the healer "If you decide to try to disclose my existence to anyone, I will kill you, and not in a pleasant way."

    He held the palm of his gauntlet to his luscious helmet and blew her a kiss. A shadow mist floated through the air and landed on her lips. The mist felt exactly like a man's lips and bore the taste of that sweet aroma. Her body responded instantly -- and then the sensation quickly dissipated.

    He waved to her and vanished into the night.

  10. #480
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    The Dark Shadows - Chapter 5 (Congregation of Enlightened Pirates)

    Fatigued and restless, the healer's frustration reached its limit. She had been up all night, trying desperately to find some clue she had overlooked in her man's murder.

    "There has to be something I missed"

    She had gone over all the discord discussions and nation chat a million times. This time, however, she had more incentive than ever to solve the mystery. If she could somehow figure out who might have killed her man, and do so before midnight, she could simply decline the Incubus' offer, and he would go away. Rather, she hoped he would stick to his word and disappear. She looked at the clock: 3:46 p.m. There wasn't much time before midnight.

    The sudden knock on her door startled the healer. Who could that be? Hopefully not the dragon archer, though he had already proved to be the type not to knock.

    Looking through the peephole, she saw someone she didn't recognize. A woman about her age with dark hair, wearing a dark dress. The prayer beads dangling from her neck hinted at her calling. A priest maybe?

    She cautiously opened the door just a few inches. "Yes? Can I help you?"

    "Good day, miss. I'm looking for a healer in the Nobody guild. Is she around?"

    "Who wants to know?" she asked suspiciously.

    "I'm sorry, where are my manners? I am with the Congregation of Enlightened Pirates."

    "Sorry, but I'm not looking for faith today," She said coldly as she started to shut the door.

    "Wait! Please, Miss! I think I have some information about the recent murder."

    Curious, she opened the door and invited the woman inside. The pirate priest looked around and beheld a mixed mess of documents and gruesome discord chat logs. She fingered her prayer beads and mumbled something under her breath. The gruesome nature of the logs would unnerve anyone -- anyone except the healer from Nobody, who had unintentionally made it her home decor.

    The priest looked at a picture hanging on the wall of the healer and her man. "Is he the one these chat logs are about?"

    "Not that it's any of your business, but yes," she said sternly. "I thought you had information for me?"

    The priest shifted her focus back to the healer. "Right. The discord east chat claimed you saw a woman in the room with the victim. Did you notice anything odd about him? For instance, did he have symbols of dark figures on his armor?"

    Those were not symbols. Those were actual shadow creatures. However, the similarities were entirely too coincidental. Did this pirate know about the archer in red plate, and what he actually was?

    "Sorry, but I didn't see any symbols. Why do you ask?"

    The pirate priest turned to her. "The day of the murder, a man came into my place for confession. He mentioned that he was about to do something horrible but never said what exactly. As he left, I noticed he had symbols with dark figures on his armor. I thought maybe there was some kind of connection."

    All those years listening to lies in nation chat had refined the healer's ability to detect a liar down to a fine art. This pirate was hiding something, and she wasn't a very good liar. She saw figures on the knight's armor? That would mean he would have to have entered Growlgate unharmed. Who would show up to the pirate island like that? Not to mention, who would confess to something before actually doing it? It seemed too far-fetched for her taste.

    Her suspicions were further heightened by a small cross-shaped scar on the side of the pirate's neck. She wouldn't have noticed it if her dress hadn't shifted while looking around the room. No kind of accident leaves such a mark on one's skin. It had to have been done on purpose.

    Nonetheless, this priest must know something about the red dragon archer. Was she one of the 'entities' that the Incubus archer mentioned he was trying to avoid? She thought for a brief moment about disclosing what really happened. But then she also thought about what the Incubus said before he left. He would kill her if she said anything, and with his ability to read minds, there would be no hiding it. Best to play safe for now.

    "Doesn't sound like a connection to me. He could have been about to rob someone for all you know. Sorry, but I think you've wasted your time."

    The pirate exhaled a deep sigh. "Perhaps. But some greater purpose has sent me to you this day, so it isn't a total loss. I know a great burden must weigh heavy on your heart, miss. Such burdens tend to lead women to do things they wouldn't normally do. The path to darkness is paved with good intentions, and desperation leads to the first step."

    It was as if the pirate could see right through her facade. Maybe she wasn't the only one with a lie detector.

    "I appreciate you coming by, Mother, but I have work to finish organizing my storage chests. If you find out anything else, don't hesitate to stop by."

    "Sorry I couldn't have been more helpful." The pirate reached into her pocket and fished out her discord ID. "If you are ever in need of my services, you can reach me here."

    The pirate handed the healer the ID and walked out the door. Before the healer shut the door, the pirate turned back toward her. "Remember my words. They may save your soul someday."

    The healer from Nobody twitched a quick nod and closed the door. She looked at the clock again: 4:27 p.m. Time passed much faster than she liked.

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