Sunday, 08.04.841 TE
The group quietly discusses their options, with Rhea and Valeria rather convinced that killing the guards at the door would be the safest option, while Revas firmly tells them that he wants to go north.
“We can’t just ignore them,” Rhea says. “They’ll be at our backs.”
Sargis shrugs. “We can take them.” He does a little stabbing motion and leans against the nearby wall while the women and Revas bicker.
Trying to explain himself without knowing what exactly is happening to Hope is hard, Revas finds. He stays quiet for a moment and lets Rhea’s arguments wash over him. Valeria, as usual pretty observant when it comes to her companions’ emotions, realises that there is something Revas will not say. “Why do you want to go north so badly?”
“There’s something there,” Revas says vaguely. “I feel like I need to go there.”
Valeria takes a moment to digest this, while Rhea is already worried and peppering Revas with questions as to how he knows and what exactly it is that he is feeling.
“Let’s go north, then,” Valeria says, taking a step towards the double doors, Sargis already next to her, ready to go. Hesitantly, and a concerned look on her face, Rhea follows, with Revas all but rushing towards the door.
To the south, the banging only gets louder. A monstrous roar can be heard from behind the door, and one of the guards holding it takes a surprised step back, clearly afraid. The man next to him pulls him back towards the door while yelling at him in Tevene.
Sargis pushes open the double doors and reveals an opulent throne room. Six pillars reinforce the ceiling of this room, which is filled with a gentle light, giving it an almost ethereal glow. A massive red lyrium infested being stands at the centre of the room, blocking their view onto Magistra Lutatia. The lyrium growth on its body is so immense that it can hardly be called human anymore: massive crystals sprout from its shoulders, arms, and legs, and one of its hands has morphed into a claw of frightening dimensions.
Moments after the group has entered the room, Magistra Lutatia shows up behind the red lyrium behemoth, looking down at the gang from a dais at the back of the room. In this light, the Heartbreaker Gang can make out the details of her appearance for the first time. The magistra’s hair is of a silvery blonde, elegantly framing her face while complimenting the bright magenta of her eyes.
Dressed in an expensive looking black robe, Magistra Lutatia almost looks like the spitting image of what one might consider an evil magister, Sargis thinks to himself. He might have said something to that extent out loud, but he really cannot be sure at this point. The magistra’s multi-layered robe is lined with bright golden seams and stitchings, some of them so detailed they could almost be drawings. It almost looks like this outfit was chosen to go with the staff Magistra Lutatia is wielding, ivory-coloured and decorated with golden carvings, the top of it covered by a delicate looking rose formed out of gold.
Next to the magistra stands a mirror with a beautifully carved frame. It is large, taller than most men, and the surface of it is glowing gently, emitting a blue light so bright it is almost entirely white, though several cracks can be seen, even from afar.
Hiding between pillars and red lyrium clusters are more of the already uncomfortably familiar corrupted beings the group has fought previously, their sharp claws at the ready as they quietly slip from one place to the next in a weirdly fidgety manner.
“You will not defeat me,” Magistra Lutatia says, her voice firm. “My behemoth will keep you at bay and crush you to death.” There is clearly more the magistra wants to say, but the heroes do not give her the time, instead, they launch an attack at the enemies closest to them. Blades strike corrupted skin, metal strikes metal, arrows fly towards their targets, and in the midst of it all, Magistra Lutatia’s icy spells fill the throne room with an uncomfortable chill.
Sargis does his best to take the behemoth’s strong blows in his companions’ stead, and while the Shield of the Lion is as sturdy as they come, he feels the blows reverberate inside his body and almost rattling his bones. A well-timed use of his shield—or Roary, as he calls it—sends several of the corrupted beings surrounding the group to the ground and disorients them long enough for the Heartbreakers to rally again.
Nearby, but too far away to benefit from Sargis’ protection, Valeria is fighting her own little battle. Just moments ago, Magistra Lutatia cast a virulent walking bomb on Valeria, who is now swaying slightly, fending off the blows coming her way with a pained expression and heavy arms. The blood inside of her feels like it is boiling, the blood vessels full to bursting and seemingly about to explode. It is all Valeria can do to stay focused on the task at hand and defy the magistra until her last breath.
Revas, as usual slightly in a bind because of the limited amount of free spaces he can move to, quickly finds out that staying near the red lyrium opponents attacking him with their sharp crystal growths is not a good idea. Deep cuts penetrate his leather armour and leave painful gashes in his skin.
A glance around the battlefield leaves Valeria in more of a panic as she tries to push back a red lyrium warrior whose crystalised arm scrapes across the metal of her sword with an ear piercing screech. With a quick shove and an awkward backpedal she rushes to Revas’ aid and slashes at the nearest red lyrium warrior to gain their ire and give Revas a chance to escape to a safe distance. Despite the bleeding, the haggard breathing, blinking away the sweat and the blood, the avvar warrior refuses to back down when another’s life is on the line, even if it’s to her own detriment at times.
Finally, Sargis strikes the killing blow on the behemoth, sinking his sword Aamor Fin deep into a portion of flesh that isn’t covered by red lyrium growths. The behemoth’s heavy body strikes the ground with a loud reverberating ring, and plenty of crystal shards break off and fly across the stone floor, creating a wave of tinkling sounds. Almost in slow-motion Sargis watches the little pieces cover the floor, and just when he is about to point out his kill with pride, he notices that the shards on the floor are bouncing up and down, up and down. He furrows his brow and looks around to see whether anyone else notices it, but Valeria is fending off two of the smaller red lyrium beings, and Revas is hiding behind Rhea, who’s striking at the magistra futilely, her sword kept at bay by a barrier of sorts.
Still somewhat flummoxed, Sargis is about to attack the nearest corrupted being, when the door to the south opens and a creature of massive proportions enters the room, almost ripping one side of the door off the hinges. The thing is about as ugly as they come, Sargis thinks when he recognises the typical traits of a giant, but covered and corrupted by red lyrium. Red crystals sprout from its shoulders and arms, and a couple smaller ones are sticking out of its ribs, making it look like its organs are growing on the outside. Sargis looks up at the at least six yard tall being and doesn’t think about it for very long before he charges towards the giant, shield at the ready.
The giant’s arrival has also caught the other heartbreakers’ attention. Both Rhea and Revas look back towards the door, their eyes going wide when they see the red lyrium corrupted being. The distraction allows Magistra Lutatia to get a safe distance away from them and conjure a blizzard where they are standing, surrounding them with howling winds so cold they penetrate any exposed skin in mere seconds. Vision is limited in this icy hellscape, and it takes the two members of the Heartbreaker Gang a moment to orient themselves again.
Feeling the telltale signs of heavy footfalls, Valeria looks up briefly to see the same red lyrium giant as it gets closer and closer, eyes unfocused but fury palpable. She tightens her grip on Ashrune to stop the shaking she feels start in her hands as a sense of dread washes over her. The battle is nowhere near won just yet, but this colossal being making its way in makes the task seem that much more uncertain as blood drips onto the floor and the pain from battle radiates through Valeria’s mind and body. Still, she refuses to go down without a fight, and tries to throw herself more into the fight at hand rather than focus on the details of this terrifying scenario.
Together, the heartbreakers do their best to take down the giant, whose blows decimate anything that comes into its path. The Shield of the Lion is dented, Sargis knows, but he trusts his shield completely, and so takes several of the giant’s blows that are meant for those next to him. The impact leaves him shaky every time, but knowing that just one forceful blow from the red lyrium giant would likely down someone like Revas fills Sargis with determination. One well-placed stab after the other seems to slowly exhaust the giant. A cluster of Revas’ arrows is stuck in the giant’s neck, and deep gashes cover the giant’s legs where Valeria’s sword has found soft flesh, but the beast is still very much standing, not a wobble in sight. Realising that this is a fight of attrition, Sargis positions himself opposite Valeria, and they attack the giant from two sides, while Revas peppers its neck with one arrow after the other.
At the other end of the throne room, Rhea is keeping Magistra Lutatia busy, which is a painful endeavour that sends her flying more than once. By this point she has landed on her ass more times than she cares to admit, and it does not help her general disdain for the woman in front of her. At least she knows that the magistra is close to desperate at this point. Her spells are still frequent, but more and more Magistra Lutatia relies on defensive ones, which leads Rhea to assume that she is either running out of mana or energy.
When the red lyrium giant starts to wobble, Valeria calls out Sargis as the shield warrior takes a step towards it. She asks if he has it but there’s little reply other than a grim smirk from Sargis as he surges forward to take it on. Nodding to herself, Valeria turns her focus elsewhere as the battle continues to rage and blood mixes with shards of crystal on the dark stone floor. The flash of ice and pale green magic catches her eye while surveying the battlefield with tunnel vision. She races up the platform, joining Rhea in the fight against Magistra Lutatia as she tries to ensure the magistra’s capture for Lady Affraic and for justice for those harmed by this cruel mage’s heinous acts while in power.
Finally, just as Revas shoots two arrows at the giant’s eye in quick succession, Sargis spots the signs of a wobble he has been waiting for. A stab, a slash, and the giant falls to its knees, just barely keeping itself upright with a massive fist. Now its throat is just close enough to vertically-challenged Sargis so he can sink Aamor Fin deep into it, bathing himself in blood. A wave of euphoria washes over him as he watches the light leave the giant’s eyes, and he looks over at Revas and gives him a thumbs up.
“That’s a fight worth mentioning,” Sargis laughs as he rushes past Revas and towards Rhea and Valeria, who have the magistra cornered.
After dodging and mentally resisting Magistra Lutatia’s spells for most of the fight, Rhea finally makes it close enough to the angry mage to knock her out with a well-placed pommel strike—a decision not easily made, as Rhea would have rather struck the woman down permanently to remove the threat once and for all.
Work to check over Magistra Lutatia begins with haste as the gang worriedly checks her over for any items or materials that might end up providing a speedy escape for her despite her unconsciousness, but after finding what few items she has there’s a moment of silence as the room finally calms and they gather themselves for a moment. Valeria and Rhea look to one another, both on opposite sides of the crime and punishment of Magistra Lutatia. Rhea, frustrated and angry at the vile and cruel portrayal of her people at the hands of this mad magistra, wishes to see her executed there and then. Valeria on the other hand, bound by the ties of responsibility and fealty to Lady Affraic, knows that the chain of command requires her to speak to her first before attempting to pass judgment on her and her crimes. They eye each other, trying to will the other to see their way of thinking, but eventually they look away and focus on their tasks as they angrily deal with their thoughts on the situation and that most of it is out of their hands at this point.
Annoyed and somewhat angry because the magistra is still alive, Rhea takes a few moments to herself, wandering around the large throne room, and avoiding the red lyrium formations blocking her path at every step. Both Sargis and Valeria clean their weapons and quietly discuss their options, while Revas is standing nearby, completely focused on the eluvian.
A soft sigh, just short of a sob, echoes in Revas’ chest. Not one of his own, not a sorrow that clings to his heart and soul, but to that of his often quiet companion Hope. Their connection is a metaphysical entanglement of soul and spirit, a connection that has kept Revas alive and moving through the many obstacles life has thrown at him since his escape from the besieged Jader. The feeling beating through Revas’ chest is another reminder of their bond, one forged through not the best of circumstances but one that led to moments of power, happiness, and even Hope’s namesake.
This feeling persists as Revas approaches the eluvian, seeing himself past the myriad of cracks that mar the mirrored surface. In this moment, as he faces himself in the reflection, he notes the cuts and bruises, the blood and the weariness in his eyes that goes beyond physical tiredness. When last he faced such an eluvian it had been at a time when he had proven himself to his people as well as to his own sense of self doubt. After a difficult trial facing shades and a small giant, Revas had stood before an eluvian and touched the surface. In doing so he changed his life from there on out, his life ended and started simultaneously in that moment. And at this memory, Hope beckons for Revas to do so again. Not to lose an eye or to gain another spirit companion, but to release Hope back to the Fade as their connection is severed and they stand as two separate entities again. A sacrifice for happiness, for freedom, and for hope. One done with a glad heart filled with a certain kind of sadness Revas himself finds hard to name.
It takes Revas a moment to gather his thoughts on this matter. Sure, he had wanted to be freed from this soul-bound connection. To not have a potentially life long companion sharing his body and stepping out from time to time in sometimes the most dire of circumstances. But to end the bond entirely leaves a hollow feeling in his heart. He needs to be his own person, to feel free to move and act as he wishes. To accept the often fickle whims of fate rather than rely on a spiritual passenger to bail him out of the troubles he often finds himself in. But such a companion grows on you after a time, and the hollow pangs grow as Hope acknowledges the feeling they share as well. Hope asks for their release, but knows that their time spent with Revas has changed them just as much as Hope brought change to Revas’ life. And here in this place filled with death and destruction, Hope seeks to move on for Revas but to leave at a time when their namesake can once again take the place they have made for themselves within Revas’ heart.
Shy of tearful, Revas is quiet and careful as he reaches out towards the eluvian, alerting the others to his movements as the gang comes to stand beside him just as they had the first time. The eluvian glows gently when it is approached, and Revas feels a tug in his chest. Hope slips from his chest and starts to shimmer, almost as if they are being pulled towards the eluvian. Slowly, Hope approaches it, and the flickering gets more intense the closer the spirit gets. The eluvian itself seems to react to Hope’s advance, and Revas can see some of the cracks filling in. When Hope turns around, the look on their face is sad. Then Hope signs.
“I know you are afraid of me. You want to be free again in the knowledge that your body is your own. That your mind is your own. I offer you freedom.”
Hope steps even closer to the eluvian, and small tendrils of energy seem to be flowing from them towards the eluvian.
“Sacrifice me. I don’t belong with you, and you don’t want me here. Let me be free.”
Hope motions for Revas to step closer, and urges him towards the eluvian.
“Touch it and prepare to fight back. It will not be pleasant, but afterwards both of us will be free.”
When Revas touches the eluvian, a searing pain shoots through his body, all the way to his heart.
At the same time, a barrage of images shoots through Revas’ mind, seemingly trapping him in place. Stars shine brightly in his vision, aligning into ever more complicated patterns. Eventually, they stop moving. At the centre of it all, Revas can see the moon in various different stages.
The four outer rings hold eight symbols each.
Hope’s voice rings in Revas’ head.
“It all began with the moon…” Hope says, with the hint of a smile as the words fade into nothing.
When Revas solves the puzzle, he focuses back on his surroundings, and watches as Hope disintegrates and is fully consumed by the eluvian.
The eluvian’s surface has now fully restored itself, and it glimmers like water
Falling forward, a momentum he hasn’t quite prepared himself for, ends up sending Revas into the eluvian. Soothing like water yet clouded with flickers of light and shimmers of forgotten dreams, Revas finds himself passing through and into another place quite different from his other forays into one. Symbols, strange and whose meaning is lost on him, are etched into the rock around him. He blinks to try to understand, turning back towards the way he came as his curiosity begs but his mind holds onto the practical line of thought.
Before he can question what all is going on, an arm moves through the strange water-like surface, waving about as if to find something to touch or hold onto. As he pushes his way through, Revas finds Sargis coming to stand at his side, whistling softly as if the passage into this place didn’t faze him in the slightest. Though Revas no longer has Hope to rely on, here were his friends who had been with him every step of the way. It was they that he could come to lean on when times were tough, and at that thought a sad sort of smile shines through his moment of confusion and melancholy as they look out away from the mirror and towards whatever this place might have in store for them.
Sunday, 08.04.841 TE
When Revas and Sargis exit the eluvian on the other side, they find themselves in a large, circular area, reminiscent of the inside of a crater or volcano. Far, far up above them, they can see the sky, which is nothing more than a circular shape of blue in the distance; massive, sheer walls surround them, and it looks like there is no way up.
When looking around the large area, spanning easily two or three hundred yards, Revas soon finds that they are not alone. Large winged beings relax on the rocky floor, sit atop rock ledges, or fly high above them. Some of the beasts look at them with keen interest.
The eluvian behind them seems to be part of the crater’s wall, and there are several alcoves next to it, which hold various items made of leather, some of them looking like saddles or bridles.
Glancing between the saddles and the griffons, it doesn’t take long for an idea to pop into both their heads, though Sargis is the first to say it out loud. “Let’s ride them.”
Revas is quick to agree that they should at least try, it’s not every day you get a chance like this after all.
Sargis is first to approach one of the beasts, a large brown one whose feathers change to a deep crimson on its head and legs. He walks near it, tossing a portion of his rations towards it to lure it closer. It takes a little time and a lot of rations, but eventually Sargis is able to touch the griffon, running his hand along soft feathers. Then, with his trademark grin towards Revas, he leads the griffon towards one of the alcoves.
Seeing Sargis’ success, Revas takes a deep breath and spots a smaller griffon, with a white head that darkens to a golden ochre color towards the body, eyeing him curiously a little distance away with warm brown eyes. Revas approaches it carefully, speaking softly to it while taking a page out of Sargis’ book and tossing some food towards it. Eventually Revas is also able to get close enough to touch the griffon, continuing the soft Elvhen words and the griffon seems to relax.
Saddling the two creatures takes some thinking and a little trial and effort but soon enough both griffons are properly saddled and bridled up. Revas and Sargis share an excited smile as they climb on their respective mounts and before they know it, they are off the ground and flying towards the clouds at rather alarming speed, the griffons wasting no time testing their new riders.
If saddling the griffons was a bit of a learning curve, it has nothing on actually riding one. All too well aware of how far away the ground is, both Sargis and Revas do their best to learn how to work with these beasts and fortunately for them, it doesn’t take too long before they are flying in the air at a bit more calm pace.
They take a moment to take in where they are, though neither of them recognise the land below them, before reluctantly deciding to head back towards ground and the eluvian that brought them here.
Approaching the eluvian, Revas is about to hop off his griffon when Sargis shakes his head with a big grin.
“No, no, let’s ride in. It’ll be great!”
Sunday, 08.04.841 TE
Meanwhile outside, Valeria and Rhea look to one another with uncertainty as they glance between the eluvian and the unconscious captive before them. They have taken every precaution they can with such a wily and dangerous mage, but just being in her presence sends a shiver up both of their spines. A woman of blood and pain, who drew from them their very life essence and threatened to take away from them all they held dear. Now reduced to a bruised and bloodied figure, helpless in unconsciousness but no less a threat to them and theirs. And at a time like this, when trouble could come knocking at any moment, Revas and Sargis disappear into an unknown eluvian to face gods know what.
The air is tinged with anxiety and worry, a moment of common thought between the two warriors as they wait impatiently for Revas and Sargis to return. But what they see next takes them by surprise as a beak appears through the mirrored surface first before out rides Revas and Sargis on beautiful griffons, the likes the two women have never seen before. The look of triumph and camaraderie is plain on Revas and Sargis’ faces, and the griffons look nervous but listen to the commands of their riders fine enough to impress the two women.
There’s a conspiratorial glance between Valeria and Rhea, the pang of envy taking over their senses after such a harrowing ordeal in Jainen castle has been dealt with. They are quick with their words, giving requests to Sargis and Revas to guard their captive and watch over her closely before they hurry into the eluvian themselves and throw caution to the wind. For why hang about on hearts filled with sorrow and pain, when the thrill of adventure calls to them before their energy is gone and the time for reflection is upon them…