It’s time for fifth Break Chapter! I’ve been putting more and more effort into these, it seems. I kind of want to completely redo Kruseid’s Break Chapter, but to be honest there just isn’t much there to flesh out. He respects his father, respects duty, believes in the legacy of Astoria, and mostly went emo after the Sakarlands were attacked. If I did add anything to that Break Chapter, I guess it would be the party’s quest to retrieve the three sacred artifacts from Wynn.
If you get confused about Raven’s characterization, I’ve done my job maybe.
I kinda wanted to do this one last. It would’ve made so much more sense to do Arbel’s Break Chapter at this point. But I had the order written out on my outline already, so… yeah. In case you’re wondering, Break 6 is Arbel and Break 7 is Duvall. There are two more Break Chapters after that, however…
Break 5 – Raven the Unseen
Upper and Lower Rym are separated by the straits of Wilder, the former valley kingdom. Ages ago, the Cataclysm of Water submerged Wilder and tore Rym into two. 1000 years later, a second Calamity befell lower Rym. The Cataclysm of Fire scorched lower Rym into barren desert. Aria, which floated on a deep lake, descended into darkness, surrounded by high cliffs and desert.
Lower Rym became nearly uninhabitable – that is, until an oasis was discovered east of Aria. Rieve Elan, “The Miracle of Life,” was established there.
As miraculous as it may be, it was still an isolated desert city. For years, their only contact was with the people of Aria, who refused to leave their home, clutching to the hope that Aria would rise once more. There was little to be gained in merchanting, and farm land was scarce. Their only hope was to re-establish trade with upper Rym, past Wilder. This was how the settling of Yuga started.
It would take decades before the site at Yuga would be discovered. In that time, pioneers would suffer from the hazards of the desert, and most of them would end their lives in hopeless desperation. The first wave of naive dreamers died out and made way for the plunderers and survivors who followed and dominated lower Rym. Despite this shift in values, they too were dreamers. The craftiest and strongest of the lot banded together and took over the settlement of Rieve Elan, establishing it as Rym’s newest kingdom. The king of Rieve Elan was one who had the ambition to rule, the strength to take the crown, and the wisdom to keep it. Thus began a long history of skilled kings, and the assassins waiting in the shadows to become next in line.
Raven was born prince of one of Rieve Elan’s mightiest rulers, King Rashid. Rashid had an unearthly awareness of who his enemies were and boasted that anyone after his life had best face him in the open, as it was impossible to find him off guard.
As a child, Raven would play a game, disguising himself as any multitude of people or objects. He was promised he would become king of Rieve Elan if he ever took the crown from his father’s head. Raven’s disguises would become craftier and craftier, until no one could tell it was him. None except Rashid, who would always see through Raven’s guise and tap him twice on the head.
Outside of this diversion, Raven also studied and trained. There was no doubt that he would become the next king, even if he would have to battle for the crown.
When Balken conquered upper Rym and established his kingdom in Aria, Rashid was not the least bit worried. Rieve Elan had always kept close ties with Aria, and they had done nothing to incur Balken’s wrath. However, people thought that not to strike Balken down and take over the rest of Balken’s domain (that is, all of Rym) was a sign of weakness. For the first time since he took the crown, Rashid had to fight off scores of would-be assassins.
Raven did not share his father’s complacency with Balken.
Kruseid: It’s stupid how hot it is here…
Roegen: Burning… Danger!
Roegen let loose an arrow just past Kruseid’s head. It was caught by a figure standing behind him. This person was shrouded mostly in canvas-colored, loose robes. Just enough of his face was exposed to notice that he had dark brown skin. He introduced himself as Raven, the prince if Rieve Elan.
Kruseid: You’re really the prince of Rieve Elan? I should believe that why?
Raven: You want to defeat Balken, don’t you? Charging directly into Aria is suicide. You have no choice but to believe me if you wish success.
Roegen: So, what do you possibly gain from this?
Raven: I answer with another question. What does Balken have to gain? Like all people from Aria, we expect his goal to be nothing less than the resurrection of the Floating Capital. Such a feat would be devastating to Rieve Elan. With Balken backing Aria, Rieve Elan would lose all our business. For a short while, our assassins will become high in demand for factions wishing to kill Balken, but that would be short-sighted. It would provide Balken a reason to invade and put an end to attacks on him. If Rieve Elan is to act, it must be in a single, first strike, and it must put an end to Balken.
Meuri: So, you’re only after Balken for economic reasons? But what makes you so sure Rieve Elan would suffer from Aria’s rise?
Raven: That is something I may reveal to you soon. But only if you accept my help. If you do not, then we shall never speak again.
Arbel: Hmph. So, what kind of help are you offering? If it’s an army or assassins, forget it. I can barely trust one of them. It’d be suicide to surround ourselves with their kind.
Raven: I am offering a path to the heart of Aria, where you can strike at him off-guard, undetected, and be successful even with your meager numbers.
Duvall: In that case, why not do it yourself?
Raven: There is a reason Rieve Elan does not expand its sphere of influence. We are not conquerors. Our people, even the strongest of us, are trained only in a specific skillset. As such, we share the same weaknesses. When the first assassin fails to kill Balken in one attack, the element of surprise is lost to the entire group. Without that, we cannot hope to succeed in a prolonged battle. We wear no armor to play to our strengths, but this means we can’t afford to suffer a single blow, especially from the Dark Lord. But you, Kruseid, carry strong Astorian Iron armor. You, Meuri, can create barriers. Chelsea, your beasts have honed instincts and are ferocious, as are yourself. Together you can attack from many angles. You, Roegen, can attack at range and have awareness of the entire battlefield. You, Arbel, can withstand blows that even armored knights cannot survive, and your strength is monstrous. And you, Duvall, have peerless knowledge of magics that only one other in the entirety of Rym can comprehend. Together, we can cover each other’s weaknesses. But even a well-rounded group cannot take on an entire army alone. That is why this group must rely on my tactic to succeed, and my tactic can only work with such a group. It is fate that you have come here to meet me, and it is why I have waited for you. So… will you accept my aid?
The six heroes looked at themselves and understood that what Raven said made sense. They needed him as much as he needed them. Their only other option was to raise an army, but that would take time, and an army is difficult to maneuver.
Indeed, only Raven’s plan could possibly bring about Balken’s defeat.
After the six became seven, Raven led the group to the oasis. It was, in fact, a giant lake fed by an underground water source.
Raven: We rely on this oasis to survive, and it is why we flourish even today. However, many have speculated for how long it can last. Recently, my father’s adviser, Horus, assigned a group to lead an expedition to find its source. What they discovered was an underground tunnel dug through one of the aquifers. Parts of this tunnel are buried, but we were able to determine it leads directly to Aria. It seems there are constructs designed to pump water directly into the valley.
Duvall: I see… so that’s how they created that “magic lake” it used to float on. How pompous that race was.
Roegen: Unsettling, coming from a Lorathian.
Duvall: Hmph. At least our constructs were created for practicality. The Arians used them to show off.
Meuri: If the tunnel were to be repaired, Aria might float again, couldn’t it?
Raven: If. However, I don’t think anyone left alive knows how those devices work. And even if they did, as prince of Rieve Elan, I wouldn’t allow it. If Aria rises, our oasis would dry up. It’s one kingdom or the other, and the people of Aria, or what remains of them, chose their path.
Kruseid: Still, when you put it that way, it sounds like Balken is only doing what’s best for his kingdom.
Raven: Such is the way of all conquerors. They always find a way to justify their ambitions.
Kruseid: And you? How do you justify what we’re about to do to Aria?
Raven: Everyone has a choice. The Arians could have chosen to leave their dark hole and join us in Rieve Elan. Balken was smart enough to realize he had to leave. I don’t know why someone of his skill would ever return. I believe all of us here are royalty in one way or another. You would all do well to remember that no matter what your intentions, to your enemy, you are a villain. Universal virtue is an illusion. It is the conqueror’s right to impose his will upon those weaker than him. Likewise, villainy is an illusion. No matter how much others will disapprove of your actions, you will always find people of like minds.
Meuri: Well, I must say it’s a change of pace to have someone so educated join our group.
Raven: If you say so. But don’t get the wrong idea. This is merely my “justification.”
The group followed Raven into the hidden tunnels. Arbel plowed through the areas were cave-ins occured, and Meuri used barriers as a precaution against further structural damage.
The heroes arrived in the heart of Aria – specifically, in a building known as the Labyrinth of the Gods, an abandoned shrine to gods long forgotten. Lying in wait was the general known as Lodi, the Trap Artist – as well as a handful of patrol guards and several dozen traps.
Kruseid: Tell me that statue didn’t just fire an arrow at us.
Roegen: Don’t worry. I’m pretty sure it’s just a trap. It’s not alive.
Lodi (voice): And to think, Ranka went on and on about how no one would ever show up here. She thought I was being paranoid. Well, who’s laughing now?
Chelsea: I hear no laughing.
Lodi: This labyrinth is like my own body. I know exactly where you are, what traps you’ve triggered, and which soldiers to direct. You may not be used to such a passive fight, but I find the utmost joy in them. Now, what move to make? Ah… Sea Urchin to the Land of the Dead!
With that, a squad of three spearman appeared from the hall to the left and charged at the heroes.
Arbel: Ha! Child’s play!
Arbel met force with force, but he triggered one of Lodi’s traps and fell through a pitfall in the floor. He barely managed to grip an edge and pull himself back up while Duvall cast a spell of illusion, making it appear to their attackers that the pitfall was further away than it really was.
Lodi: Not bad. But how about now? Shell formation!
The giant statues scattered around the labyrinth slid across the floor, blocking passageways and opening up new routes.
Meuri: Not good…
Raven: Roegen, it’s up to us to figure out which paths are safe and which are trapped.
Roegen: Already on it. But first, can I assume our goal is to reach higher ground?
Raven: Of course.
Roegen: The most direct path is likely the one with the most traps. However, in this case…
Roegen shot an arrow into the ceiling. It immediately broke apart, and a pile of rubble crashed down.
Roegen: I was hoping that pile would have been bigger. I have some rope we can use to take a shortcut into the next level, but we need some way to make sure it’s safe.
Chelsea: Sue and Rio not afraid. They fly and make sure.
The young dragon and sparrow flew up into the opening with the rope and returned after tying the rope down. Roegen tested the rope with a tug.
Raven: There might still be an ambush waiting. I’ll draw any fire out.
Raven leapt up through the hole in the ceiling and was immediately met with battle. The remaining heroes heard only grunts and the clashing of metal. Roegen climbed quickly to join the battle, but by the time he rose, the battle had ended. Lying on the floor was Raven, and standing above the body was a dark, shirtless man with long hair and a goatee. Roegen aimed at the stranger, who stood calmly with no desire to fight. The remaining heroes followed up the rope and stood in formation behind Roegen.
Roegen: Maybe we should use you as a guide through the rest of this maze.
Kruseid: Who’s that? Is it Lodi?
Mystery Man: Calm down. It seems we still have a way to go before we have to deal with him.
Roegen: Huh? That voice… Raven? But this guy…
Raven: Just a simple substitution technique. He got sliced by his own allies.
Meuri: So that’s what you really look like. You’re younger than I thought.
Raven: What, this? This is just a disguise.
Raven removed the hair from his chin, surprising the rest of his allies.
Raven: But if you like it, I’ll stick to using this disguise while I’m with you.
He placed his fake beard back on his chin.
Kruseid: N-no… We already know that beard’s fake…
Raven: But it really pulls the whole thing together. I need the beard.
Lodi: Impressive that you made it this far. How did you bypass all those… never mind. I promise you, this level won’t be as easy. Colossi to Land of the Deep!
Six giant statues suddenly stood and turned toward the heroes.
Kruseid: Living statues? Are they golems?
Duvall: Close. Lorathian magic. Fortunately, I can break the soul binding sigils placed on them quite easily.
With a wave of his wand, Duvall made the moving statues go silent and fall to the floor.
Lodi: Last time I rely on Caden for guards. Well, even if you can get past my living statues, you still won’t…
Roegen: There are no other traps on this floor. Quickly, to the stairs!
The heroes sprinted toward the other end of the room and up the stairs to the next level of the labyrinth.
Lodi: H-hey, how dare you call my bluff so nonchalantly! Well, you won’t get past this level, that’s for sure.
Raven: This looks like an arrow trap chamber.
Roegen: Well, that’s easy enough to bypass. Raven?
Raven: It’ll take just a minute.
Raven left the group and returned with two bodies in tow.
Roegen: The fatal flaw of any arrow trap room is that it eventually runs out of arrows.
Arbel skewered one of the corpses with one of his heavy lances and waved it inside the room. It was quickly shot at several times with arrows.
Arbel: Ha! So we just have to walk across slowly enough while emptying the trap’s reserves!
Raven: Not quite. Drop the bait.
Arbel dropped the body, triggering a panel on the floor. A large pointed pillar shot up from the ground and tore into the corpse before lowering back in place.
Arbel: I don’t think they’ll be running out of that.
Raven: Can we leave this up to you?
Arbel: Ha ha ha! You can indeed!
Once more, the corpse was dropped and the floor trap triggered. The spiked pillar shot up from the ground, and Arbel grabbed hold of it, ripping it out.
Arbel: No more trap. And…
Arbel then threw the spiked pillar into the wall, destroying another arrow trap. Following suit, Chelsea triggered the next floor trap and kicked its base, snapping the pillar. She threw the pillar at the opposite wall, destroying the next arrow trap. Their spare corpses were soon turned into an unusable pile of flash, but the two heroes used rubble to trigger the floor panels until they had torn a path to the stairs.
Lodi: Do you have any idea how much work I have to put into replacing the traps you destroyed? Of course you don’t. Well, that’s not going to be a problem in this level.
Finally, the group was face to face with Lodi. And Lodi. And yet more Lodis. His reflection was everywhere. In front, to the sides, above, below – everywhere.
Lodi: No more automatic traps. Just me, a room full of indestructible reflective crystals, some manually triggered traps, and my bow.
Kruseid: Well, this is tougher.
Raven: This is a trap.
Kruseid: Gee, you think?
Raven: No, I mean the game of attacking the real Lodi is a trap. Our goal isn’t to kill him. It’s to be free of this labyrinth.
Roegen: Although, I would like to shut his mouth once and for all.
Raven: As would I. The rest of you, focus on finding a way out.
Chelsea: Rio, go!
Chelsea’s pet blue dragon flew over the crystals, but was immediately fired upon by four arrows from four different sources. Rio fell back to the floor.
Meuri: She’ll be okay. Luckily, her scales are tough. Those arrows just shocked her. Nothing a pain relief spell can’t fix.
Roegen: Could have been four traps, or three traps and Lodi to cover his true location.
Kruseid: As long as Lodi’s alive, he’ll keep using his traps and prevent us from escaping.
Raven: Stick to the plan. I’ll keep him busy.
Raven leapt into the air and listened. As soon as he heard an arrow bolt shoot at him, he used a dagger to snap it in midairt. Three more arrows fired at him, however. He used his cloak to deflect them. He continued this act to draw fire to him. However, Lodi made sure to pay some attention to the other six. He could not ignore Raven, however, for doing so would give away his position. Meuri and Arbel shielded the others from some of the traps.
Meuri: Why haven’t we found the exit yet?
Roegen: The reflections are confusing us, and we’ve been avoiding some of the more dangerous paths.
Raven: I’ve got it! There are eight!
Raven: There are eight Lodis, but only four of them fire at a time!
Lodi: Kill him!
With that command, All eight Lodis fired at Raven, who was unable to protect himself from every arrow.
Kruseid: Damn it, how does that help us?
Roegen: I know the location of every one of them now.
The Lodis scattered, but that was enough for Roegen to tell which paths were the most heavily guarded. He led the others through the crystal maze.
Arbel: What? I thought this was the right way.
Roegen: There’s a trap there.
Meuri: Lodi said there weren’t any traps.
Roegen: He also said he was alone.
Kruseid: What do we do?
Roegen: I’ll trigger it. If I’m right, the exit shouldn’t be far from this point. Once I trigger it, run. I’ll try to kill any of the enemy that are in your direct path.
Roegen did as he said and triggered the trap. A snare caught his feet and pulled his body into the air. Not missing a step, Roegen turned his gaze ahead and waited for arrow fire. All eight Lodis fired. Roegen took this opportunity to aim and fire twice at the two guarding his allies’ path. The other arrows were cut in midair by throwing knives from Raven. Roegen quickly pulled a hunting knife out and threw it at the rope snare, sending him crashing into the floor.
Raven: Good job. Looks like they made it. Now it’s time we finished this.
Roegen: Six against two?
Raven: It should be a simple matter. We can’t afford for Lodi to pursue them from their rear.
According to legend, Raven led Lodi to one of his own snares, and Roegen fired the arrow that killed him. It was in fact one of Lodi’s on snares that did him in, but it was a snare that was disarmed and relocated by Raven, and Lodi was killed by three arrows: Roegen’s and two of Lodi’s fakes. The two remaining fake Lodis were immediately struck down by the two heroes, who stayed behind to clear the labyrinth and heal their wounds before the battle with Balken.
After the fated battle, the seven victors returned to Rieve Elan to celebrate as hosts of the royal family.
Kruseid: Hey, is this really alright? I thought your father didn’t have any quarrel with Balken.
Raven: He doesn’t care much either way. He didn’t have the strength to wage war on Aria, nor the will. But he never thought of him as an ally either. Speaking of my father, however, I have to report in. Shouldn’t take more than a few minutes. You continue enjoying yourselves.
Arbel: Aye, that we will! Bwahahaha!
Raven arrived into the court of his father by the side of the king’s brilliant adviser, Horus, and the king’s powerful bodyguard, Kish. In his father’s presence, Raven knelt, and his two escorts walked to the sides of the throne.
Rashid: I’ve heard of your excursion to Aria. You have accomplished something extraordinary, Prince.
Raven: I am grateful for your praise, my lord.
Rashid: However, I received no counsel of your plans. Had you ended in failure, the full wrath of Balken’s army would have descended on Rieve Elan.
Raven: Had you so little faith in your own blood?
Rashid: I do wonder if act on your ambitions without thinking of the consequences.
Raven: There is no consequence to ponder. Only death. As such… shall I expose to you my ambitions?
Horus: My lord!
Raven threw a knife at the throne, but it hit only the aged Horus, who fell to the ground. Incensed, Rashid stood up and brandished his blade. Kish acted sooner, charging at the prince, who could not react quickly enough to avoid and parried Kish’s blade as best he could. Raven was forced backward into a wall, where he bounced off and over his attacker, only to come face to face with his father. Again, he parried the blade in front of him, but another from behind him pierced through his back and came out the other side.
Rashid: So ends your ambition, my only heir.
Horus: So ends the ambition of a prince, yes!
From the throne flew out a rope, which looped around Rashid’s crown. Horus tugged it back and clasped the flying crown with his hand.
Horus: The most brilliant mind in Rieve Elan never was born Horus. Though he once was addressed as such, you may now call him King Raven.
Kish: Then who did I just kill?
Raven: I didn’t bother to mark his name. But he played his part well. So tell me, are you a man of your word, or does the crown have to be taken by force after all?
The former king sat next to the corpse with the image of his son and stroked its hair.
Rashid: Do what you like. Have this poor fool disguised as me and you may claim the throne. I’ll find some other office to live out the rest of my years.
And so the former king disappeared, never to be seen again. The other heroes were surprised by the sudden coup, never expecting it to occur so quickly without their notice. But Raven soon appeased them and reminded them that their own homelands would need leaders to guide them back to reconstruction.
Rieve Elan looked forward to a new age with the brilliant and bold Raven at its head.
However, almost immediately, Raven seemingly turned on his people. Taxes were raised and laws were enforced more strictly. Raven himself was rarely seen in public, and assassins tried unsuccessfully to depose him. The gap in classes widened.
Although merchants were taxed more, they also sold their goods at a higher price. As the poor became more desperate, they became fiercer fighters. Most of those that didn’t have the strength or skill to thrive in these two paths wasted away in the streets or in dungeons. Yet, no one noticed that this made the average Rieve Elanian richer or in higher demand than they ever were prior to Raven’s rule.
Some say power drove him mad. Some believe the real Raven was killed long ago, and an imposter took his place. Some suspect this was his plan all along. Whatever the case, Rieve Elan became a spiraling chaos with the imperceptible Raven at its center.
Title: The Unseen
1. Pale Crescents (Twin Reverse Blade Shotels)
Raven’s favorite weapons, these shotels are reinforced on the inside of the curve to make them extra durable for scaling walls. Their unique shape and unorthodox style makes them exceedingly difficult to avoid. The critical hit rate for these weapons is the highest possible.
2. Throwing knives
Two different types. Raven uses weighted knives to accurately impale from a distance or multiple smaller “shredders” to cover a wider area.
3. Twin daggers
A staple weapon of Rieve Elan assassins, these weapons are versatile and deadly. Raven switches to these weapons when in melee range or for utility, often trying to lull his enemies into a sense of familiarity with this style to open them up with the Pale Crescents.
In the next chapter of Bardass! With Avery posing as their master, Brier and Coleen travel along the slave trade route to Harl. The treacherous mountain pass still poses dangers from Harlian deserters, bandits, beasts, and the very elements themselves – and the slave collars prevent Coleen and Brier (well, mostly Coleen) from using their full strength! The path to Harl opens up in Quest 26 – Slave Bridge.