It was a cold, blistery night, in late march. Metamor Keep creaked ever so slightly in the fierce winds of early spring blustered through the valley. Richardson listened half-heartedly to the Laon telling a widely exaggerated tale of one of his adventures as he looked out upon the valley.
"So then Richardson here shows up asking which end was supposed to go into the key. Meanwhile I'm sitting there busy shooting as fast as I can, trying to save our hides. So I yell at 'em-" Laon finally got too far off the truth for Richardson's tastes.
"Laon, you know and I know that that never happened. As a matter of fact, I believe you were the one panicing while I was the one shooting, mainly because I couldn't fit down in that hole, and I really, REALLY hate spiders." Richardson smiled at his conpanion's hiding his face in shame. "Maybe you should stop telling the stories..."
"Then what are we supposed to do then? This isn't exactly a night to be out and about, especially down to that bar down by the keep walls." Nathan shivered at a fresh gust of wind, able to feel the wind cutting coldly straight to his bones even with a solid 3 feet of wall between him and the outside, He had a few bad experiences with nights like this one, and they would stick with him for the rest of his now youthful life. The curses from a few years back he had to thank for his renewed youth.
"Well, then you had better have a tale for us. I know you have at least one in there somewhere. With the long career in adventuring you've had, you've got to have at least one good one." Akalia gave a annoyed look at the man who had raised her for most of her life. Where he had rescued or brought him from he still wouldn't tell, citing her not being ready for the past's tales.
"Hmm, perhaps it is time I told of my home, and you past, since you're so inisistent." Nathan gave her a scouring look, then sat back and enjoyed the rather surprised look on his longtime protegee. "Don't worry, the time is right. Besides, I think you could apply something from it to today's events..."
Halion, the kid Richardson had adopted when he had shown up, grinned at the possibility of hearing some of Nathan's past life, as he had been looking up to him even more than Richardson since he had arrived. "All right! Come on, hurry up, I want to hear this!"
"Okay, kid. Never know, you might get something out of this too." Nathan tried to get the tone of a story-teller, and began weaving his tale. "It was way, way back. Back when I had just turned 20, and far to the south, beyond the southren continent..."
Gulf of Ancients, 657 CR, Frigate Reliant
"Feels good to finally be on the way home." Nathan could smell some of the strange fruits that abounded on his island home. It had been nearly 10 years since his father took him to the gem of the north, Metamor Keep.
"Aye, it's a good thing for homecomings, but how do you know that that map you gave me to get through the rocks around here is accurrate? It's been ten years!" Captain Alverez, the ship's master glanced to the waters before the bow, still more nervous than a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.
"Captain, it led me and my father out, it will still lead in. The only areas that change around here are around the three peaks, and still our pass is clear. I know my homeland. Just follow the map, and try not to dent the hull. We should be out of here soon, I just need to do one or two things with the elder, and I can leave." Nathan turned to face his long-time friend. "besides, considering we've known each other for almost 9 years now, do you really think I would endanger you? I know exactly what I'm doing." He glanced back to the sea, and could just barely make out Aruba peak beginning to rise over the horizion.
"That's what I'm worried about Nathan, when you say you know exactly what you're doing, usually that means I'm about to get into serious trouble." Alverez chuckled at the fact, and went back to worrying about his ship. It had been retired from the Whales fleet for several years, but he loved it just the same.
"Hey, captain, mind telling us where it is we're heading, we're right in the middle of the deadliest place in the southren hemisphere!" Ralion Sanchez, Alverez's first officer was getting far more than worried about where they were, but then, he worried a lot, it was his job.
"We may be in the waters of death, but we head to life. We're going to
Kep Salu, supposedly the last place the very creators of this world ever were.
And it is Nathan's home." Alverez unrolled the map he had been given, checking
to make sure the ship was still on course.
"Yes, home..." Nathan had a strange smile on his face as he continued to watch his homeland rise from the sea, by now he could see Gahni and Tutra peaks popping up over the horizon. Only 50 more leagues to go before he was home. He didn't look forward to what was ahead, but he was going to make the best of it.
"Wait a minute, Alverez was that old guy that used to visit you!"
"Yeah, Akalia, he was. I haven't seen him, in almost..." Nathan had a look of nostalgia and long lost times on his face. "15, 16 years I believe. We used to be as thick as you, Richardson and Laon. Haven't seen Ralion in longer. Almost 19 years in fact. Last time I saw him, you were 4, I think...."
Halion had a strange look on his face. A look of near shock. "Ralion... Ralion Sanchez. You knew my grandfather?"
That brought the room to a screeching halt for a minute. "I guess so... Maybe it's destiny that you ended up with us, but now I know you will be getting something out of this..."
Gulf of Ancients, 657 CR, Frigate Reliant
Nathan looked up, and up at the towering, TOWERING peaks of Gahni and Tutra, which framed the canyonway to the harbor. "Take a look, Rayan canyon, the only way through the reefs to the harbor."
"I've got to admit, you've got a nice, if somewhat dangerous home. How high are those volcanos?" Alverez stood beside him, looking ahead. "Full speed ahead, men. Almost through this." The crew jumped into action, bringing out the sweeps the ship had recently been refitted with, and making the best progress possible ahead. "Why haven't they blocked this canyon yet?"
"They flow out the other way, the way the peaks are angled. Lava and other such volcanic debries can't climb hills, so they flow harmlessly into reef-filled areas. Actually, I'm not exactly sure how this canyon was formed, the old legends were not too clear on it. One or two say it was pennace for our ancestors for being too bold, and reaching too far beyond what they should have, many say it was something else." Nathan had a bit of contempt in his voice for the other option he hinted at.
"Really, what is the other story?" Alverez checked over the updated supply list, checking to see what they would need to stock up on.
"I might tell it to you later." Nathan looked to the sides of the canyon, unnaturally smooth, at least on the upper half. The lower half looked like something had ground into it besides the waves of the sea. A strange pair of slowly sloping grooves marked the border between the smooth and the ground sections.
"Wow... what happened here, I've never seen a cliff look like this before!" Alverez stared at the cliffs, wonder shown on his face as the ship was thrown into shadow by the eclipsing of the sun by Gahni. The ship plunged into near darkness, all the talk quieted to a minimum.
"An ancient stupidity." Nathan quit talking then, and looked forward, to the wedge of blue sky ahead framed by the imposing cliffs. Alverez could see somethng had him introspective, so he decided to quit before the situation blew up in his face.
"Captain, I don't like this, we could hit rocks at any moment." Ralion startled Captain Alverez, who realized quickly that he had fallen into a morass of thoughts himself. "Honestly, Captain, I know you've known this guy for a long time, but are you this willing to kill yourself over something that isn't nessacary?"
"Yes, you whining idiot! This may very well determine Nathan's very life. Don't ask me what it is, he refuses to tell me, but he wouldn't have been insistent enough to get me through here a first time unless it was life-deciding. So quit it and go back to keeping the crew together!" Alverez could feel his normally patient temper flaring into full burn, and he didn't like the feeling.
"Quit arguing, you two, this will be over in less than an hour, and we should hopefully be out to see by tomorrow, barring some horrible incident that keeps us here for a month." Nathan's voice interjected a calmness into the situation that managed to break up the impending arguement. "Besides, it's a nice tropical island, full of women and friendly service, nice beaches, and plenty of good food. Who can argue with niceties like that?"
The crew chuckled a bit at that as the ship slowly made it's way down the channel. Unfortunately, Nathan's luck had brought about a change in the local powers...
Somewhere on the slopes of Aruba
"Stop it! She has the child!" The villagers ran after the kidnapper, trying to save the future mother of one of the hopes of the world.
The being turned to face it's pursuers, and frowned at the crowd. She couldn't afford to have them find her lair, her master would not be pleased that one of his servants had been driven from the task set. Things had to move on schedule, and if they couldn't keep the plan going,their total control of everything was simply going to get derailed. She raised her near clawlike hands, and twitched the very essence of the universe, tearing apart the mountainside above the villagers, sending them rolling back down the mountain.
"Do not disturb one of the Aliz." The babe in her arms twitched at the sound of her voice. She smiled, knowing full well that the babe would one day call her master...
As an artifical dusk fell as the sun became hidden behind Aruba's peak, the Aliz turned back to the peak, and disappeared into the darkness.
"Sir, you can see the small dock complex over there. Most of the berths are filled with small fishing boats, but there appear to be a few berths left open for visitors." Ralion pointed out the dock to his captain, who smiled at the sight.
"Well, feels good to have someplace to stay at the end of a nasty journey like this, doesn't it guys!?" Alverez got a rousing "Yeah!" from the crew, who were just as eager to rest as he was, but Nathan had a very disturbed look on his face. Alverez pushed his way over to his compainion. "What is it?"
"The fleet shouldn't be parked like this, it is always doing something, even if it's patroling for scavengers. The council doesn't want to waste ships at all, it always uses everything avalible to the best possible ends. Something horrible is going on, here." Nathan had a note of fear in his voice, a fear of something that was definately beyond Alverez's comprehension. "I hope it's not what I think it is. Because if it is, then the old legends have returned, and the world is in a serious prediciment."
"That bad? Hmm, could be worse." Alverez signaled the helmsman to ease the ship into the first avalible berth.
"It doesn't get any worse than this. If it's what I think it is, than the world is now on a razor,and any wobble at all will spell domination by the forces of darkness, or complete destruction. This is something bad, very, very, ultimate bad. Anything we have done in our past is nothing compared to this." Nathan ran over to the gang-plank, ready to jump off the ship and onto the dock at the first opportunity.
"Old prophesy bad?" Alverez asked it jokingly, not expecting the response he got.
"Worse." Nathan jumped over onto the dock, and began jogging down it.
"So what are we supposed to do for now?" Ralion shouted over to Nathan, who was already a good ways down the dock.
"be ready for me coming back tonight." Nathan shouted back, fear in his voice.
"This is definately not good." Alverez and Ralion turned to face each other, startled by the near perfect reverb of the two of them talking in unison. It was a scary day when they both agreed something was horribly wrong.
Aruba village, dusk
"We must stop them, once and for all, mons!" The assembled crowd cheered at the sentiment, knowing that bad days had come.
"But we don't know anything about dem! Many of the old stories telling about how to stop them are gone! I don' want to go to my death!" The crowd mumbled at the man's point, realizing that this is a fight they couldn't win, yet.
Nathan already pretty much knew what was going on. This was something the elders had warned of for a long, long time. it was drilled into his head, and he knew what he had to do. The librarys of metamor had more of the old tales than they thought, if they knew where to look. He decided it was time for him to step in. "And if I told you I had found a few weaknesses in the old texts of Metamor Keep?"
The crowd turned to stare at him, his voice marking him instantly. "Yes, I've come home, just in time, I hope."
The crowd cheered for a moment, as Nathan moved down into it and towards the council of elders. The 5 old wizened men gave him a scathing look, but said nothing. Not until he was directly before him. "Telzic Richson, you have been away from the island far too long. It is clear in your manner, your voice, and in your haughty attitude in facing the Aliz. It will be your undoing."
"I could not help my being so far from the island, because of my father, but, as you well know, few things are coincidence. I believe I was forced to leave for a purpose." Nathan didn't really want to tell his past, but with what was going down, he had no choice.
The ship had been quiet for the past hour. The normally rambunctious crew had been silenced by the eireeness of the empty docks. Captain Alverez was getting concered for his long-time friend, and had been watching the path he had taken since he had left, looking for any sign of Nathan. He was about ready to go after him personally when he finally saw a figure carrying a latern returning. "Well, he made it back, I think. I hope..."
The crew watched anxiously as Nathan plodded his way back to the ship, coming to a stop at the gangplank. He looked up, to Alverez and Ralion. "We're needed."
"So, basicly what you're saying is that you gave them even more time to damage the child, ect, ect, right?"
"There was nothing much I could do at night, That's when they're truely dangerous. The Aliz are creatures of the night, servants of the darkness. Plus, somebody who has been on a boat for the past month needs at least a day of rest, or else they are in seriously poor fighting condition. Not to mention the little problem of just plain being unable to see what you're doing at night." Nathan was a little surprised at their lack of general tactical sense, but not too surprised. They were ametuers. A little less experienced than he was at that adventure, but still, they should hae had an injection of at least a little common sense by their ages.
"He's got a slight point..." Laon at least, despite his overbearing ways, could see a bit of sense.
"See. Anyway, things are kinda hectic with an Aliz no matter what time of the day it is.
Dawn, Frigate Reliant
The dawn broke on a scene of dispair across the island. The inhabitants knew the end was near unless a miracle could be performed. Only in the council village was there hope. On the reliant, the scene was diffrent. The crew was rushing back and forth to get supplies ready for the assault on the most likely location of the Aliz by Nathan, Alverez, and Ralion.
"So let's get this straight, they can harness pure darkness, right? So, any shadow, any bit of black at all, they can use to their advantage?" Ralion's normal parinoia was going into overtime with this threat. "so, in other words, we're pretty much dead, right?"
"Nope, that's what this is for." Alverez held up a small metal ball, which was covered in runes. "No darkness with this in the room. At least once activated. Should nullify their power for the most part. I hope." Alverez stuck the ball in his pack, ready to pull it out again when needed.
"Unless there are a bunch of pillars in the room, we should be fine. If there are pillars, then you can kiss your rear good-bye." Nathan slung his pack onto his back, and turned to his companions, and cutting off any objections. "Let's move, you two."
The team slowly walked down the gangplank, knowing that they might not return from what was ahead, even with knowing how their enemy fought asssisting them. "If you guys get into my personal stash, or damage the ship while we're gone, I'll personally strip the hide off of every single one of you, and make a big rug for the ship!"
Nathan chuckled at his friend's violent warning, knowing it probably wouldn't be so. The crew knew far better than to cross him, having seen a few examples of his handiwork from times of annoyance. "A little overdoing it, don't you think?" he whispered to his friend as the trio made their way to the road.
"With those louts, nope, not one bit." Ralion shot back quietly. "I still say I should have stayed behind."
"Coward." Alverez grumped as they began heading up the path to the mountain.
"And proud of it. Keeps me alive." Ralion retorted. Nathan figured he had better step in quick, or else he would hear the two arguing the whole way, and it would blow his cover.
"Enough. You're bugging me, and you're going to give us away. Stop talking, and walk faster." Nathan pulled ahead of the two and increased his pace. It was going to be a long, long hike/climb.
The trio turned to admiring the local wildlife, since Ralion and Alverez knew if they talked to each other even once they were likely to get knocked upside the head with something, most likely something not pleasant. Alverez was looking ahead to a strange tree, that had almost no branches except for at it's very top, when he spotted something. Something strange. "Did you guys see that?"
"WHAT?!" Nathan's nerves snapped. He had been getting the occassional question every 10 minutes or so, and was finally sick of playing tour-guide. But, what he caught a glimpse of immediately returned his spirits. "Wow... that's one of the... local fox spirits. One hasn't been spotted in nearly 100 years. Supposedly, they walked among us when our ancestors where banished here, and our two kinds supposedly intermingled. Then again, actually, one was spotted about 10 years back. But, if one is open enough to show itself to us, that's probably a good sign for our success."
Nathan got going again, knowing that he had to do this. Not to mention he was still getting over his last encounter with one of the spirits. That time he had nearly lost his soul...
Pelon watched from the shadows as Nathan got his group moving again. She could tell what he had been through in the past 10 years, it made his body glow in mage sight like one of the old lighthouses that once dotted the shores of the island. She could tell he was going to need help ahead, and decided to keep close. It was her current assignment's daughter that had been stolen, after all. While she couldn't do much physically, due to her being banned from having a physical body, she could definately hold down the aliz's powers. She sighed, wondering how she had gotten to the point of having to do guardian work. She used to be the head of their operations in the area, and many of the people on the island had her blood in their distant past. She noticed they had gotten out of sight from her while she had been musing, and she jumped ahead of them.
The rest of the trip to the mountain's foot stayed in silence, except for occasional shouts of spotting Pelon. With every sighting, Nathan grew more nervous, despite his claiming that the spirit was good luck. Ralion and Alverez knew he must have had a bad experience with one in his past, but they had no clue of it's magnitude. They were about 100 islands away from coming close to knowing how bad it had been. The group reached the foot rather uneventfully, despite the sightings, which was when they spotted another piece of the puzzle of the island.
"Hey, what's that building way off to the south? It sort of resembles the Keep." Alverez pointed in it's direction.
Nathan turned his head down again, knowing exactly what it was. "That is the dreaded Sula Fort, overlooking the Crater of the Fallen. It is home to the fox spirits of this land. None may enter, except after prophesy is fullfiled, and the spirits walk among us again. I entered it, and I paid a heavy price. Any questions?"
"Yeah, a lot of them I'm going to save for later." Ralion replied, knowing that it was best not to bug Nathan at a time like this, now at least.
"Good, break's up. Let's move." Nathan picked up his pack, and got moving again. The next part of the journey would be a terrifying climb up a near sheer cliff to a lost back entrance to the lair of the Aliz. At least, lost to the Aliz, anyway. Or so it was hoped. The islanders had been keeping an eye on it for as long as anyone could remember, and no-one could ever remember activity around it.
The climb was tense, with Ralion and Alverez whining at every problem, and every concern. They had a few near catastrophes, but it was what they found waiting for them at the top that surprised Nathan.
One of the local fox spirits waited for them, a look of anxiety on her face. "About time you made it up here. I've been waiting for you." Nathan froze with fear, gripping the rocks white nuckled. The last time one of the spirits had even bothered to talk with him, it had been to try and use him to replace it's own lost body.
"Nathan, why did you sto-" Alverez got over the top of the ledge, to see the spirit as well. "Oh... Ralion get up here, and help Nathan up. He's going to be a bit busy panicing for a few moments from the look on his face." Alverez slung himself over the top of the ledge, and began to help pull Ralion up.
Pelon sighed, knowing it was going to take a bit of time to get past Nathan's fear of her. "Don't worry about him, I'll take care of getting him up, and I've got to talk with him." Pelon wanted to help him up badly, but their was nothing she could do. Not since she wasn't allowed a physical body. Then, something hit her. A glimpse of her and Nathan, one day, in some distant land, helping each other in a fate she found hard to believe. From the look on Nathan's face, it was clear he had gotten the vision too. Nathan reached up, and pulled himself up. "See, that wasn't so tramatic, was it?"
"Don't push your luck, whoever you are. Even if we have some kind of a future together, whatever it may be." Nathan reached over, and helped pull Ralion up. Both Ralion and Alverez were confused, having not caught into the vision.
"Did we just miss something majorly important? Or are we just going nuts?" Ralion asked, leaving Pelon doubled over laughing, and Nathan with a bemused look on his face.
"I'd say a little bit of both." The trio turned to a cave on the ledge, wondering what lay ahead. "Well, no turning back now. Come on."
"Wait, I came along to help." Pelon's voice stopped Nathan, and he looked about ready to completely loose it. He had just barely come out of first seeing her with his sanity intact, but already the old memories were coming back. "I know what you went through as a child, so I won't even come close, but you don't really stand a fighting chance without me, and I am willing to help. I can keep the Aliz's powers down. At least to the point where you can fight it without being killed. "
"Well, I don't have a clue what we're doing, so I don't see why we can't get a little more help." Alverez's talk barely held Nathan together again, and he turned to face the group.
"Well, I guess we need the help.... You can come along..."
"Wow. Talk about getting complicated. What was it that had you so worried?" Richardson nudged Akalia, only to find her stiff as a board. "And what's the matter with her?"
"Oh, just a detail hitting home. For your information, one of the spirits had gone insane, and had been attempting to hijack my body. That was why I had to come to metamor the very first time, and why I was even going on this crazy quest. And I'm not sure, but I think that the spirits might have a power that they have not made public. I'll tell you of it one day..." Nathan's tone had Akalia shivering for some reason, and it was lucky no-one had a clue why, other than herself, and Nathan.
Kinda hitting way too close to home for my... wait. This is that... vision... Pelon quieted down in her mind, the facts hitting home. oh... this isn't good.
yeah, no kidding. Mind telling me what all happened? Akalia was still shaking from the glimpse of the present seen in the story, it hitting way too close for her comfort.
"So, is this Pelon character anywhere near here right now, or is that still to come?" Laon had hit the problem right on the head, and Akalia was sweating ice, just about.
"Trust me," Nathan said with a very obvious smirk, "you would know if she is around. She has a rather... unique way with things... and her entrustees."
Akalia was definately about ready to absolutely freak out at Nathan's words, but she managed to keep her voice level enough to keep from betraying the truth of Nathan's statements. "Can we get on with the story, now?"
Lair of the Aliz, noon
The group snuck their way through the outer defenses of the Aliz. The lair was a strange place, with things only Pelon had seen before. The silence was filled with strange noises, and the hallways semi-lit upon their movement. "Man, these guys have a wierd place, man..." Ralion was about ready to run screaming back for the ship, freaked out by the nature of the place.
"The central chamber should be around her soon. Be ready. And just to let you know, this place is well over 20,000 years old. Much like our own home, except more claustraphobic, and dark," Pelon wispered. She checked the local map, getting their bearings. "Around the bend. Ready?"
"As much as one can be." Nathan replied harshly, his katana's at the ready. The strange anti-magic runes upon them began to glow for one of the first non-test times ever, they had been spotted. "MOVE!"
The group jumped around the corner, Alverez activating the light-ball, streaming light around the room. On a throne near the back sat the first Aliz most of them had seen. One with whom Pelon was more than slightly familiar with. The one who had stolen the child, and held it still, waiting for her master. "So, Pelon, we meet again. It has been a long, long time, and at last I shall be avenged."
"It ends here." The entire room began to light from above, drowing out the shadows that remained, and blotting out the creature's last powers. "You will pay dearly. My compainions will see to it, as will I." Enegries began to crackle around Pelon, around them both.
"So it does end." The creature sat the child down in the seat, and stood up, growing it's claws to needle-like daggers. Nathan began to circle her, preparing for the assault. It came quickly, a spinning whirlwind of blades, of both of them giving their all. The Aliz stumbled back, somewhat dazed, and Nathan tumbled to the ground, slashes all across them. With identical screams of fury, Alverez and Ralion charged at the Aliz, and Pelon opened fire with all the energy she could. It was a titantic struggle, even more so as Nathan came back to his senses and joined once again. They chased each other around the room, back and forth, trying to corner the foul creature. Alverez was the first down, with his leg punctured repeatedly by a stab. Ralion went next, screaming in pain with his arm slashed dozens of times. It was down to Nathan and Pelon, when assistance finally arrived. A dozen of the fox-spirits popped into being.
"WHOA!" Nathan ducked and rolled out of the way while Pelon popped into the next room over as they blasted the being with enough force to level a city block. The room filled with a bright flash, and searing heat. A harsh wind came into being, and died. When he could see again, all Nathan saw was the child upon the throne the Aliz had been sitting upon, it transported to the jungles, along with himself, Ralion, and Alverez. "That was, almost deadly..."
"Yeah. You see..." Alverez began, wincing as he leaned up. "This is why I usually don't go on adventures with you."
They all snapped their heads as the peak of Aruba detonated, blowing outwards in all directions, and showing the area with debriees. Aruba village sat under the glow of a small mage shield. "Well, that should banish the Aliz from Kep Salu, at least for now... the game's over. I'll go get help." Nathan staggered to his feet, feeling the pain of the battle, and turned to the village, to get help, as ash began to rain down, and rocks in the distance.
"So, basicly, things got wrapped up pretty quick. I'm not sure what Pelon did after that, other than when she guarded the child after that. Aruba village took a while to repair because the inital blast knocked down a good deal of huts. I spent the next two weeks weasling my way out of having to stay on the island, citing my need to hunt down the ALiz. After that incident, a few of the fox spirits began appearing in town, and they have once again been taking up a major guardianship role, both on the island, and abroad. I wouldn't be surprised if Akalia or Richardson gets a visit from one someday." Nathan laughed at the inside joke, knowing already that that was the case.
"Yeah, uh. sure. How did Ralion and Alverez turn out?" Akalia pulled at her collar as discreetly as possible, trying not to make her nervousness noticeable.
"They recovered in a few months, but we were gone as soon as I could get away. We had a bunch of adventures after that, and it turned out that that Aliz hadn't been killed at all, but that's another tale, one of your parents...." Nathan bowed his head at that, in rememberance of the horrible events of 10 years before. "But, now you know one of the reasons for my eternal vigilance. The Aliz hate all of the civilizations that walk the earth, and they could strike again, like they did so long ago... "
"Any other warnings?" Richardson asked, having one more reason for his new missions to protect the peace.
"If you see Pelon, ask her about the history of Kep Salu, it is the one thing that I need to know..." Nathan turned, and walked out of the room at that, leaving Akalia wondering, and the rest puzzled....