Bardass! Quest 12 – An Ancient Hymn

Sometimes the chapters I think are the best end up being the worst, and vice versa.  I happen to think this is one of my best works, so… We’ll see.

Quest 12 – An Ancient Hymn

Surprise Attack!
Avery’s [Sixth Sense] activates!  Damage is normalized!
Gargantuan Gorilla attacks!
Avery received 157 HP damages!
Coleen goes into a trance and begins casting!
Gargantuan Gorilla attacks!
Avery launches an [Initiative Strike] with [Tri-Loader!]
Triggered 1 time!
Gargantuan Gorilla received 259 HP damages!
Gargantuan Gorilla’s attack is interrupted!
Arco used [Tackle]!
Gargantuan Gorilla received 78 HP damages!
Brier begins playing Bewitching Ballad!
Gargantuan Gorilla’s attention turns to Brier!
Gargantuan Gorilla attacks!
Surprise Attack!
Coleen activates [Fireball Barrage]!
Attacks 5 times!
Gargantuan Gorilla received 498 HP damages!
Gargantuan Gorilla received 517 HP damages!
Gargantuan Gorilla is no longer surprised!
Gargantuan Gorilla received 309 HP damages!
Gargantuan Gorilla received 312 HP damages!
Gargantuan Gorilla evades with [Gargantuan Leap]!
Brier’s [Obsidian Lute] deflects the spell!
Surprise Attack!
Gargantuan Gorilla received 525 HP damages!
Avery’s [Analytical Eye] activates!  Critical rate is greatly increased!
Avery attacks with [Tri-Loader!]
Triggered 2 times!
Critical Hit!
Gargantuan Gorilla received 520 HP damages!
Critical Hit!
Gargantuan Gorilla received 517 HP damages!
Gargantuan Gorilla is dead!

Brier’s party is victorious!

Brier receives 1899 XP!
Arco receives 1899 XP!
Coleen receives 1899 XP!
Avery receives 1899 XP!

Gargantuan Gorilla is divided into:
9x R. Gorilla Leather
12x R. Gorilla Meat
1x Monkey Paw

Burden is too high!  Leftover materials moved to the [Cart].

Avery: I told you it would come in handy.
Brier: We have way more than we need.  I hope we get to that village soon so we can pawn some of this stuff off.
Avery: According to the map, we should only be a couple of hours away.
Coleen: Well then, should we get going or should we eat first?  I don’t mind either way… what do you guys think?
Avery: Eating sounds good.
Brier: Let’s keep going.
Arco: Kaa!
Coleen: Um…?
???: Get back here!
Coleen: Now what was that?
Brier: Sounds like a sign to me.  Let’s go!

The party ran to the source of the yelling and found a young man sprawled over on the ground.

Coleen: Well, this sure looks familiar.
Brier: Looks like he’s coming to.
Young Man: D…damn you….  AHH!

The man hurriedly pushed himself up to his feet and reached to his side.

Young Man: My sword….  You ruffians!  Return my sword to me at once!
Coleen: No one pilfered your sword.
Brier: Actually, someone almost assuredly pilfered your sword.  It just wasn’t one of us.
Young Man: You’re… not one of them?
Avery: One of who?
Ketil: Forgive me.  My name is Ketil.  I come from a small forest village not far from here.  I was returning with some antiques my master wanted me to retrieve in Rhea, when I was suddenly attacked by some brigands.  Normally I would have dispatched them myself, but I was outnumbered.  They stole my entire inventory.  If I don’t get them back, my master will… oh, I don’t know how he’s going to take it…
Brier: Damn, that sucks.  Well, good luck with that.
Coleen: We’ll be happy to help.
Brier: Oh, come on!
Avery: He’s likely from the same village we’re looking for.  We can afford some time to help him.
Brier: I’ll be expecting compensation.
Ketil: Oh, naturally!  Those items are priceless.  I will of course reward you handsomely if they are retrieved safely.
Brier: So, bonus if the goods aren’t damaged.  Got it.  Let’s find these guys fast, before they realize they only picked up old junk!  Brigands aren’t interested unless they’re shiny!

Quest: Retrieve the Stolen Antiques!
–Rhean Forest West–

Recommended Level: 21

Party leader: Brier

Brier [Bard] lv. 27
Title: Dark Bard
Familiar: Arco [Winged Iguana] lv. 12

Coleen [Mage] lv. 31
Title: Seeker of Shadows

Avery [Alchemist] lv. 45
Title: Blood Brother

Objectives:
*Locate the brigands and take the stolen antiques they stole!
*Bonus: No harm comes to the antiques

Brier: Okay Arco, think you can sniff out their tracks?
Coleen: So Arco’s a bloodhound now too?
Arco: Kao?
Brier: No, that was just wishful thinking.
Avery: Allow me.

Avery performed a [Scan]!

Footsteps were revealed!

Avery: That’s a start.
Ketil: Yes, that must be their footsteps.  I came from the opposite direction, and these are still fresh.  There must have been a dozen of them, the cowards.
Avery: It’ll take too long to find them this way, though.
Brier: That’s all I need.

Brier begins playing [Phantom Verse]!

Coleen: Phantom Verse?
Brier: It produces a phantom image of a person’s actions in the same area, but it requires a physical link to work.  Hopefully, these footsteps are enough.

Shadowy images of two men sprinting and carrying a wrapped bundle appeared before the party.

Ketil: Only two?
Brier: Let’s follow.

The phantoms led the party to a stream, following it to a path concealed by tall grass.

Brigand 1: This is all he had?  What a load of junk!
Brigand 2: The sword we took from him must be worth more than all of this put together.
Brier: Oh good, we’re just in time.
Coleen: You sure know a lot about the brigand mindset.
Brigand 2: We’re not alone.
Brigand 1: Seriously?  You hired these three just to get your junk back?
Brigand 2: Must be worth more than we thought.
Avery: Is it worth your lives.  I’ve got my Tri-Loader aimed at your throats.
Brigand 1: Try what now?

Avery pulled the triggers, letting loose an arrow into each of the brigands’ necks.

Avery: I’d say we’re done here.
Brier: How anti-climactic.
Ketil: You’re very good.
Coleen: If only you could have seen me in action.
Brier: So what’s the big deal about these antiques?  If they’re so important why aren’t they even clean?
Ketil: They’re all ancient relics, and I dare not attempt to restore them with my skills.  That’s why I was to bring them as-is to the master.
Brier: Oh, it can’t be that hard.  I mean, take a look at this mirror.  Just give it a good rubbing and-AHHH!!

The bard had suddenly disappeared.

Coleen: Brier!  What happened?
Ketil: I probably should have warned him about some of the magic powers these artifacts may possess.  If anyone can help, it’s the master.  We should hurry to the village.
Arco: Kao!

In an expansive white void, the bard stands confused about his new surroundings.

Brier: This is certainly different.  There’s… nothing here.  Well, except for this mirror.
Mirror Brier: Correction.  This IS a mirror.
Brier: Ah, well that makes sense.  I suppose I’ve been sucked into the mirror.  And who are you?  You can’t be a Doppelganger… not unless the same person can have more than one.
Mirror Brier: I’m not a Doppelganger.  I’m a mirror vision of yourself.  I AM you.
Brier: So what next?  We fight to see which one is the real one, and the victor goes free?
Mirror Brier: No.  As I said, I’m not a Doppelganger.  Your battle with me has not yet begin.
Brier: I say it has!  Kabong!

Brier swung his lute at his mirror image, shattering it.

Brier: Not so tough, are you?
Mirror Brier: I agree.
Brier: What?!

Brier jumped away, startled at his mirror image appearing behind him.

Mirror Brier: How fragile you are.
Brier: Hey, I know I’m weak, but I’m not THAT weak.
Mirror Brier: Also true.  Know this: you can shatter a mirror, but you can’t change the image it reflects.
Brier: Is that a riddle?  Some kind of clue to defeating you?
Mirror Brier: Maybe.  What difference would it make?  Our battle has yet to begin.
Brier: I hate you.

Ketil led Coleen and Avery to the hidden village, where Ketil’s master, Fahren, chastised him.

Fahren: I don’t care if you were ambushed by a thousand men!  You were to never let those relics out of your possession!  I would rather you destroy them than have them enter the hands of another!
Ketil: P-please, have mercy on me, master!
Coleen: Your name is Fahren, correct?  Our friend was looking for you, but it seems he disappeared thanks to this mirror.
Fahren: This is the Mirror of Fannyld.  Not much is known, but one song says that it has the power to manifest the dark truths in one’s soul.  And, to overcome this truth would unlock a hidden power.  I intended to use it on myself.
Avery: So what do we do?  Do we just wait for him to conquer this “truth?”
Fahren: I would advise against it.  No one has ever survived the trial of the mirror.  It’s best if we free him now.  There is an old, forgotten hymn that may free him.  It’s been a few years since I last sang, so forgive me if I’m rusty.

The now middle-aged bard sang a a hymn in an old and forgotten language.  Its words reverberated into the mirror realm, where the two bards listened.

Mirror Brier: It begins now.
Brier: First strike wins!

Brier swung his lute once more, this time hitting only air.  He was now alone in this world, but in the place of his twin was a vision of the outside world, and of his twin conversing with his party.

Brier: That liar!  He did exactly what he said he wouldn’t!

Coleen: He did it!  Brier’s back!
Avery: Fahren, you can stop singing now.

But the old one kept singing his hymn.

Mirror Brier: Leave him alone.  He’s in a trance.  He won’t stop until the song is done.
Ketil: I suppose it wouldn’t do him any harm to finish singing.
Coleen: Didn’t you have something to ask this guy?  He’s the one we came here for.
Mirror Brier: No need.  I already have everything I need.

Screams from outside Fahren’s house broke their conversation.  Ketil and Arco stayed with Fahren while Coleen and Avery ran out to find the village had been surrounded.

Brigand Leader: Two of our men were found dead not far from here.  We followed the tracks over here.  You flush out the ones who did them in and we promise to spare half the village!
Avery: If you want the one who killed those two…
Mirror Brier: You’re out of luck.  Dead men have no desires.  Torrent of Daggers!

Hundreds of black daggers materialized in the sky and fell unto the brigands, killing them all.

Coleen: That was an incredibly high level spell…  and you didn’t even make an incantation!
Avery: Who are you, and what have you done with Brier?
Mirror Brier: You may call me Brier, and I have done nothing to the one you’re referring to.  But I can’t say the same for you!
Avery: Coleen, he’s hostile.
Coleen: Well, obviously!  Oh flame, with my grasp, form a blade to-
Mirror Brier: Flame Cutter!

An arc of fire shot out of Brier’s arm and flew into Coleen.

Coleen: AAARGH!
Avery: Coleen!
Mirror Brier: I’m honestly surprised you survived that.
Coleen: You… you cast the same spell I was… before I even finished!
Mirror Brier: Stating the obvious.
Coleen: I see.  Brier said his ability to cast spells was sealed away.  So is this the “true” him then?  He was a mage before Duvall cursed him?
Mirror Brier: Among other things.
Coleen: But Brier would never attack his own friends…
Mirror Brier: You don’t know that.
Coleen: . . .
Mirror Brier: The Brier you know is a bard.  I am a mage.  One more skilled than you are, I’m sure.  Go ahead, test me again.
Coleen: I do like a proper challenge.  Spirits of ice, hear my call and rain-
Mirror Brier: Icicle Storm!

Shards of ice fell from the sky towards Coleen, who canceled her casting and started running to avoid her own spell.

Coleen: Oh wind, I beseech thee!  Surround my body and protect me from my enemy!  Gale Shield!
Mirror Brier: Not fair, using support magic.  Looks like it’s my turn.  Tell me if you know this one!  Spirits of flame, I command you!  Rend all before me asunder!
Avery: That doesn’t sound good to me…

Avery shot two arrows at Brier’s throat, but he noticed the attack and ducked out of the way in time, then turned to his new target.

Mirror Brier: I hate being interrupted.  Wingbeat of Arcane Wyvern!

A sudden burst of wind knocked Avery away and into a wall, knocking him out.  At that same moment, a fireball flew into Brier’s face, causing him to stumble.

Mirror Brier: Ooh, good one!
Coleen: Thanks, Avery.  You gave me enough time to store some spells.
Mirror Brier: Delayed spells?  Good trick.  You might entertain me a while longer.
Coleen: Let’s continue our game.  Spirits of earth, hear my call!  Form a spear to pierce-
Mirror Brier: Stone Missile!

A spear of stone erupted from the ground and flew straight for Coleen’s heart.

Coleen: Ice Mirror!

Coleen activated a delayed spell that deflected the stone spear back to its caster.

Mirror Brier: Not fast enough!
Coleen:  -he who opposes me!  Stone Missile!

Brier leapt to avoid his deflected spell, only to be struck in the leg by Coleen’s own spell.

Mirror Brier: Ha!  That was very good!  You surprise me again!
Coleen: I’ll ask you once more.  Where is Brier?
Mirror Brier: If you want him, you’ll have to kill me.
Coleen: Don’t tempt me.
Mirror Brier: Do it if you can.  I won’t stop you.  But of course, I don’t think you can.
Coleen: I have you kneeling in front of me, and you don’t think I can kill you?
Mirror Brier: You’re far too young to be capable.
Coleen: I’ll show you, then!  I was saving this one for Balken, but you asked for it!

Coleen begins casting a spell of Cataclysm!

Coleen: Spirits of water, your master commands thee!
Mirror Brier: Where in Rym did you learn that spell?
Coleen: Drench this land with unceasing torrents!
Avery: You get what you asked for, “Brier.”
Mirror Brier: Idiot!  You’ll die along with everyone else in this village!
Avery: That can’t… Coleen, is that true?!
Coleen: Submerge everything until nothing remains!
Avery: Coleen!  Damn, she’s in a trance!
Mirror Brier: I am “truth.”  I said I wouldn’t stop her.  But you can.
Avery: I have one bolt ready…  But…
Coleen: Let thy fury spare nothing.  I command the Cataclysm of Water upon thee!
Avery?: Let this blood be my sacrifice!  Let Silence fall upon thee!

A hex of silence was placed on Coleen as she mouthed the final words of her incantation.

Coleen: ….?  ….!
Avery?: You should have fired.
Mirror Brier: I agree.  Then she wouldn’t have been left helpless against my next attack.

Suddenly, the words of Fahren’s hymn rang throughout the village.

Avery: Fahren?  I can hear him from here…?
Coleen: But… that’s a second voice, isn’t it?  Oh, I can speak again!

At the same time Fahren was singing the ancient hymn, Brier sang the same hymn from within the mirror world.

Mirror Brier: Better finish this quickly.  Chaotic Flame!

Black flames erupted from Mirror Brier’s palms and plowed through the air towards Coleen.  Fortunately Brier, the bard, appeared in front of her and used his Obsidian Lute to deflect the spell.

Coleen: Brier?  Is that you?
Brier: You were willing to destroy an entire village just to kill him?
Coleen: Sorry, I… I don’t know what came over me.
Brier: Don’t be.  That was probably the best chance you had to win by yourself.  But we’ve got things covered now.

Brier begins playing Anthem of Djala, 1st Movement!
Party’s morale is at 120%!
Coleen begins casting a spell!
Avery throws a [Fire Bomb]!
Mirror Brier receives 110 HP damages!
Mirror Brier unleashes Stone Pillar!
Brier dodges the attack!
Anthem of Djala’s effects begin to subside!
Brier begins playing Song of Shadows!
Brier’s party is hidden from sight!
Mirror Brier unleashes Fan of Flames!
The spell hits nothing!
Surprise Attack!
Arco uses Venom Bite!
Mirror Brier receives 169 HP damages!
Mirror Brier is poisoned!
Arco is no longer concealed!
Mirror Brier attacks!
Surprise Attack!
Avery launches an [Initiative Strike] with [Tri-Loader]
Triggered 1 time!
Critical Hit!
Mirror Brier receives 410 HP damages!
Mirror Brier loses 110 HP from venom!
Surprise Attack!
Coleen unleashes Wingbeat of Arcane Wyvern!
Mirror Brier receives 510 HP damages!
Mirror Brier is knocked back!
Coleen is no longer concealed!
Delayed Spell!
Coleen unleashes Crystal Spire!
Mirror Brier receives 709 HP damages!
Mirror Brier is bleeding!
Delayed Spell!
Coleen unleashes Crystal Spire!
Mirror Brier receives 715 HP damages!
Delayed Spell!
Coleen unleashes Sunburst!
Mirror Brier receives 1045 HP damages!
Mirror Brier is knocked down!
Surprise Attack!
Brier uses El Kabong!
Mirror Brier receives 369 HP damages!
Mirror Brier shatters!

Brier’s party is victorious!

Brier: Dead already?  How disappointing.
Coleen: Hey, you don’t have that much HP.
Brier: No, I don’t.  I have a feeling that copy was just waiting for the right time to lose.
Fahren: So, it finally happened.  Someone has completed the trial of the mirror.
Brier: And I’m sure you thought you would be the first.  Tough luck!
Fahren: Indeed.  This mirror is useless to me now.  Don’t think I’ll reward you.  You passing that trial is reward enough.
Brier: How is that a reward?  I didn’t even learn a new song.  Just that useless hymn that freed me from that mirror world.
Fahren: How unfortunate.  You learned so much and yet you don’t even know it.
Brier: No more freaking riddles!  You!  Teach me the song to summon golems like you taught that harlot Seci!
Fahren: Cecilia?  A harlot?  Now that’s depressing news.  But to answer your question, I didn’t teach her any songs that would be of use to you.
Brier: I dunno.  Golemancy sounds pretty useful.
Fahren: There are songs that have immediate effects, and there are songs that inspire.  I taught her songs to inspire, and those songs would only have worked with her.  I tried to comfort her with hymns during a time when she felt betrayed by the world.  She was inspired by those songs and wrote her own song to create a companion that would always be faithful to her.  You could learn the lyrics, but it’s her own desires that gives it power.  You cannot learn what she has.
Brier: Huh.  Inspiration, huh?  So if I want to get to that level, I have to write my own song.  Well, I sure didn’t write any songs thanks to that ordeal.
Fahren: You wouldn’t have escaped that world just by repeating the forgotten words I sang.  You didn’t even know what they meant.  But it was your interpretation of those words that gave you the power to escape.  That was the point of the mirror’s trial.  If you use the same inspiration you felt at that moment, you can learn to write your own song.
Brier: So that’s it, huh?
Avery: So, what was it that inspired you?
Coleen: It must be something good to inspire someone like you.
Brier: Hmmm… Feh.  I can’t remember.
Coleen: Liar.  Don’t be embarrassed.
Brier: I’m saying I can’t remember!  This whole trip has been a waste!  Fahren, give me something I can actually use!
Fahren: Sigh… Well, I can give you a copy of an old hymnbook.  But I promise you, with that attitude, you’ll gain nothing from it.
Brier: I’ll be the judge of that.

Received Fahren’s Hymnbook!

Quest End!

Coleen: So… what now?  I suppose we can stay the night here, then…
Brier: Oh, that’s right.  Now that I’ve met Fahren, your services with me have ended.
Coleen: Yeah.
Brier: But since you’re free, maybe you wouldn’t mind sticking with us.  Avery and I are headed to Harl.
Coleen: Well, that depends.  I’m heading to Lorath.  If you don’t mind making a small detour, I suppose I could consider.
Brier: You have to be insane to want to go to Lorath.  That’s Duvall’s kingdom now.
Coleen: So that’s a no?
Brier: . . . No, Lorath’s fine with me.  How about you, Avery?
Avery: I’ve no love for Lorath.  But if you two are going…
Coleen: Then it’s settled.  You two accompany me to Lorath, and I’ll go with you to Harl.  It feels nice, doesn’t it?  Keeping this team together?
Brier: Heh.  All we need is a melee specialist and there would be no stopping us.
Avery: Perhaps fate will provide on our journey.  I should attend to getting us a room and a place to store the cart.  Excuse me.

Avery walked off to find lodgings, leaving Brier and Coleen alone.

Brier: So, you learned a Spell of Cataclysm, did you?
Coleen: To defeat Balken when I find him.
Brier: But that spell would have killed you, too.
Coleen: That’s the idea.  I don’t think I have much to live for after Balken’s dead, anyway.
Brier: Well, then… I hope you never find him.
Coleen: …So do I.

Next time, on Bardass!  Deep in the western Rhean forest lies a fallen kingdom, long hidden from the rest of the world.  Even before Balken razed it with the Cataclysm of Fire, it was a dead land, forever scarred by an ancient battle between gods.  Brier’s party must traverse these dead lands to find Lorath.  What will they find there in Quest 13 – Scar’s Tear?

 

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