Bardass! Quest 13 – Scar’s Tear

More of a filler than I’m used to.  Part of me wants to make more fillers, though.  Make things more Pokemon-ey.

Quest 13 – Scar’s Tear

Rhean Viper x 3 appeared!
Shining Armadillo appeared!

Brier begins playing Soothing Lyric!
Rhean Viper cancels its battle stance!
Rhean Viper cancels its battle stance!
Coleen begins casting a spell!
Arco uses Poison Bite!
Shining Armadillo’s hide is too thick!
Avery throws a [Firecracker!]
Shining Armadillo’s attention has been diverted!
Coleen unleashes Pocket Blast!
Surprise Attack!
Rhean Viper receives 348 HP damages!
Rhean Viper is knocked back!
Surprise Attack!
Rhean Viper receives 357 HP damages!
Rhean Viper is knocked back!
Surprise Attack!
Shining Armadillo receives 138 HP damages!
Shining Armadillo is knocked back!
Arco uses Rolling Attack!
Rhean Viper receives 114 HP damages!
Rhean Viper is defeated!
Avery attacks with [Tri-Loader]!
Triggered 1 time!
Rhean Viper receives 154 HP damages!
Rhean Viper is defeated!
Brier begins playing Nocturne of Nightmares!
Shining Armadillo is under the song’s spell!
Coleen begins casting a spell!
Shining Armadillo is frightened!
Shining Armadillo curled into a ball to protect itself!
Avery reloads the [Tri-Loader]!
Arco stands ready!
Coleen unleashes Chilling Grip!
Shining Armadillo receives 201 HP damages!
Shining Armadillo is paralyzed!
Brier begins playing the Tangerine Song!
No effect!
Coleen attacks with [Crystal Dagger]!
Shining Armadillo receives 97 HP damages!
Shining Armadillo is defeated!

Brier’s party is victorious!

Brier receives 907 XP!
Brier leveled up!  
Arco receives 907 XP!
Arco leveled up!
Coleen receives 907 XP!
Avery receives 907 XP!

Rhean Viper x2 is divided into:
R. Snakeskin x2
R. Venom x1

Shining Armadillo is divided into:
Shining Shell Hide x1

Coleen: Have you guys noticed that the monsters we’re fighting keep getting smaller and smaller?
Avery: That’s to be expected the closer we get to Lorath.  Those are dead lands that can hardly support any life.  We’ll find only fast-moving scavengers there.  Tough meat, too.  We should stock up on the good stuff when we can.
Brier: Enough hoarding.  I say we put that stuff to good use.  Let’s set up camp and have some steaks.
Coleen: Agreed.
Arco: Kao!

The three built their camp, had their meal, and lounged around the fire, performing familiar routines to kill time before sleep.  Brier tuned his lute, which was the only maintenance he ever needed to do.  Avery tinkered with some pieces of scrap metal and Spirit Stones, slowly building a cache of magical weapons for use in an emergency.  And Coleen continued studying a magic tome left to her by her mentor Doreida prior to his death.

The three never interrupted each other at this time, as if bound by an unwritten law not to break this ritual.  Tonight, however, one spoke up.

Coleen: Avery, you know a lot about Lorath.  Tell me something.   If the Scar’s Tear is as desolate as you say it is, how did your people survive living there?
Avery: Don’t tell me you don’t know the answer to that by now.
Coleen: I just want to confirm something.
Avery: The Lorathians have the ability to drain the life energy around them to extend their own lifespan.  Doing this, they don’t even need to eat.  But my brother and I… Well, just myself, now… We stopped the practice, only using the technique to power hex costs, and not a thing more.  It was our belief that the soul absorb skill was responsible for the Scar’s Tear remaining deadlands.  But in my studies, I learned otherwise.
Coleen: The soul absorption couldn’t be responsible for the deadlands because they were already dead, correct?
Avery: That’s right.  Somehow, the Lorathians fed off not withering plant life, but the very soil of the Scar’s Tear.  I suppose that’s what you wanted to hear.
Coleen: It is.
Brier: That’s what we’re going to Lorath for?  So you can get a handful of dirt?
Coleen: Master Doreida told me that the source of the Lorathian’s power came from the very land of Lorath.  He said that an ancient battle was held there, and an immense explosion of magical energy forever scarred it.  But bleeding out from that scar is the remnant energy from that battle.  The explosion was so immense that magical power still seeps out from the very soul.  That’s why it’s called the Scar’s Tear.
Avery: I’ve heard similar stories.  But in Lorath, all we were taught to care about is what immediate gain can be drawn.  Origins are secondary.
Brier: I can do you one better.  That ancient battle was in fact a battle between gods.
Coleen: So, the bard finally tells a tale!  Play us some music to set the mood!
Brier: It’s not a song, and it’s not a fantasy.  As far as I’m concerned, it’s fact.  The spirits we call upon tol perform magic, and the very same spirits trapped in those Spirit Stones… they’re shards.  Fragments of the power of gods.  They once roamed the lands like us, until a two-faced goddess shirked her duty and caused an eternal war.  To end it at last, the remaining gods combined their powers and attacked.  The resulting explosion killed all of them, and scattered their power across the land as what we now call spirits.  I didn’t make the connection until now, but it sounds like the Scar’s Tear is the site of that battle.
Avery: Gods, eh?  What sort of beings were these gods?
Brier: I can’t say for certain.  But judging by the songs and celebrations in their name, they at least looked human.  It’s possible they existed even before we did.
Coleen: And because of the actions of one, they all perished?
Brier: Gods are eternal.  Even if they no longer walk the land, the “spirits” still remain, don’t they?  They’re a part of nature as much as the wind, the water, and the earth.  If you think of it that way, then what’s so different about the way the Lorathians once lived and the way we eat meat, plants, and water?
Avery: The difference is that Lorathians never returned what they took to the land.  All that magical energy was simply absorbed into their bodies to extend their lives, and they had no desire to die.  They only way that trapped energy could return for everyone to share and use was by having them die.
Coleen: You make it sound like what Balken did to Lorath was a good thing.
Brier: Let’s not get carried away, now.  For all we know, Balken simply saw them as a threat and decided to waste the entire kingdom without any knowledge of it all.
Coleen: Well, that is more likely.  I mean, I’m just now hearing about this story about gods and spirits.
Avery: At any rate, with only two Lorathians left alive, I’m sure the magical energies are slowly building up in the Scar’s Tear.  You may not be a Lorathian, but if there’s some way you can use the land to your advantage, now would be the time.
Brier: But how do you plan to use the power there anyway?  Like Avery said, you’re not a Lorathian.
Coleen: Enough story time for tonight.  Maybe next time.

The next day, Brier’s party noticed the forest getting increasingly sparse in plant life.  By nightfall, the thick tree cover had completely given way to thinning grassland, but not yet the deadlands that marked the Scar’s Tear.

Coleen unleashed Nymphet of Flame!
Black Aerie skillfully dodged!
Black Aerie uses Dive Swoop!
Critical Hit!
Avery received 244 HP damages!
Avery attacks with [Tri-Loader!]
Triggered 1 time!
Black Aerie skillfully dodged!
Brier begins playing Never Alone!
No effect!
Coleen begins casting a spell!
Arco tries, but he cannot fly!
:Avery reloads the [Tri-Loader!]
Black Aerie uses Dive Swoop!
Arco received 101 HP damages!
Arco glares menacingly!
Black Aerie pays it no heed!
Coleen stores a spell!
Coleen stands ready!
Avery stands ready!
Brier begins playing Cerna’s Ballad!
Foes’ senses are dulled!
Black Aerie uses Dive Swoop!
Delayed Spell!
Coleen unleashes Pocket Blast!
Black Aerie receives 233 HP damages!
Black Aerie is knocked back!
Black Aerie regains composure!
Avery attacks with [Tri-Loader!]
Triggered 3 times!
Black Aerie receives 409 HP damages!
Black Aerie is defeated!

Brier’s party is victorious!

Brier receives 401 XP!
Arco receives 401 XP!
Coleen receives 401 XP!
Avery receives 401 XP!

Black Aerie is divided into:

2x Black Aerie Drumstick
2x Black Aerie Breast
2x Black Aerie Wing
2x Black Aerie Thigh

Once more, camp was built.

Coleen: You were right.  This meat is pretty tough.
Brier: You can always give them to Arco.
Arco: Gao.
Coleen: It’s tough, but it’s not bad.
Avery: I’m sorry I wasn’t more help back there.  I’m afraid I’m no substitute for a real archer.
Brier: Can’t you build a crossbow with high accuracy?
Avery: Actually, now that you mention it, I did build a crossbow capable of launching a bolt 700 meters away with enough accuracy to hit a sparrow’s wing.  But it’s too heavy and unwieldy to use in actual battle.
Brier: What about a melee weapon?
Avery: I built a vibrating sword capable of cutting through any material.  But it was too powerful for me to wield, and if I brought it, I would be more likely to lose control of it and cut one of you down instead.
Brier: You scare me sometimes.
Avery: Coleen, I think it’s time you told us about how you plan to use the power of the Scar’s Tear.
Brier: Oh yeah.  Do tell!
Coleen: Oh, all right.  I suppose you would have to know sooner or later.  Reviewing the stories we’ve shared about the Scar’s Tear… A battle between gods resulted in an explosion of magical energy, scarring the land forever.  But the energies from that battle continued to seep through, and the Lorathians used this energy to extend their lives.  Sound about right?
Avery: As I understand it.
Brier: Makes sense so far.
Coleen: Now, why is the Scar’s Tear still so desolate?  It was damaged millenniums ago, but the magical energies should have brought it back to life.  And the Lorathians fed off that energy, not whatever plant life tried to go there.
Avery: The land was already dead.  There was nothing else for them to draw energy from.
Coleen: Master Doreida believed that something else lives beneath Lorath.  Something that drains the nutrients from the soil.
Brier: What, like a big plant?
Coleen: Exactly.  A giant tree living underground.
Avery: That seems…
Brier: Hard to believe.
Coleen: Even compared to a battle between gods?
Avery: Honestly?  Yes.
Coleen: When you lived in Lorath, did you ever see trees growing there?
Avery: No.  They were all dead.
Coleen: Don’t you see?  No plant life ever grew in Lorath.  What you thought were dead trees were actually the roots of the underground tree!
Avery: That…
Brier: I don’t know what to say.
Coleen: Master had a name for it.  And it’s a name I’m sure you’re familiar with as well.  He called it the “Dead Ash.”
Brier: Dead Ash?  But…
Avery: Dead Ashes are poison ashes that create Revenants.
Coleen: And what are ashes?  Burnt remains.  What were the Dead Ashes originally?
Brier: No one knows.  They’re a poison that adventurers often find deep in dungeons.
Coleen: Exactly.  It was Master’s theory that the branches of the Dead Ash, a giant ash tree growing underground, spread out all over Rym.  It’s incomprehensibly huge.  And its main roots can be found in Lorath.
Avery: I would think the Lorathians would have known if the trees around their own home were the source of Dead Ashes.
Coleen:  Like I said, those are the roots.  Dead Ashes are produced by the branches.
Brier: Hmm… So we’re talking about a tree that steals a huge amount of energy from the Scar’s Tear, and produces a powder that can instantly kill people and reanimated them as revenants.  If that’s true, what can you possibly gain from it?
Coleen: The roots drain the energy.  The branches expel poisonous powder.  But somewhere in between is a body with unfathomable energy.  Think about the magical energy that seeped through the Scar’s Tear and powered the Lorathians.  Now, think about how much more power there had to have been that it was absorbed and still left all that leftover energy.
Brier: And… you want to claim this energy for yourself?
Coleen: NO!  No living being could possibly claim all that energy!  To even attempt it would probably destroy your body in the process!
Avery: So… what, then?  You plan on harnessing some of this power for yourself, don’t you?
Coleen: By building a weapon!  Not by being suicidal!
Brier: All that power… and you want to build a staff?  I have to say, I’m disappointed.  Besides, I think girls that use daggers are sexier.  You should stick to daggers.
Coleen: I’m not doing this for your amusement.
Brier: If you ask me, it’s plenty amusing so far.  So, you craft a staff, then what?
Coleen: By using it as a catalyst, it could amplify my spells a thousand fold.
Avery: Or, the massive concentration of spiritual and magical energy could explode, wiping out all life in the area.
Coleen: That, too.  But that’s why I would only use it in emergencies,
Brier: You know, I don’t say this often, but I’d love to teach you some powerful spells that wouldn’t result in a suicidal explosion that stands a good chance of taking me with you.

The three slept in preparation of the final trek into the center of the Scar’s Tear.

But in the dead of night, the bard awoke, expecting to find an old comrade that may provide some insight.

Brier: I thought you might show up.
Caden: Why are you always drawn to the pretty ones that want to kill you?
Brier: It’s not like I go seeking them out.  But it”s kind of funny.  I ruined entire kingdoms, and those “Heroes” spared my life.  Who knew one girl’s family could drive her to this?
Caden: To what?  Becoming you?  Isn’t that how it all started?
Brier: Don’t pretend to know me.  We were never that close.
Caden: Perhaps not.  But you would be amazed the things you can learn in the Dead Ash.
Brier: What?  It exists?
Caden: Yes.  But I called it the Soul Sap.  Alliterative.  And double meaning.  It’s not just a living thing.  It’s a place.  A place where all wayward souls gather.  The tree feeds on everything, Balken.
Brier: And you were there?
Caden: I was.  It’s no wonder the souls I summoned to create Liches so easily become slaves.  The tree feeds off them until they lose themselves.  Even in the short time I was there, I lost a piece of myself.  Until I felt it, I considered not activating the hex I secretly placed on my brother.  Let him live his life in peace.  But once I became aware of the tree’s existence… I knew I had to become its master.
Brier: Can it be controlled?
Caden: I don’t know.  But I intend to find out.
Brier: I don’t think either of us were meant to.
Caden: If you knew what it was like, you wouldn’t care.
Brier: . . .
Caden: I don’t know if the tree is evil or if it’s a part of nature.  But if a tiger were to claw at your leg, how would you react?  A powerless man would run.  A powerful man would slaughter it for slighting him.  A skillful man would tame it.  Only a foolish man would pretend it wasn’t there.  I look forward to seeing the sort you are now.
Brier: You were never that skillful.
Caden: At least I’m not a fool.

The next day, the three finally entered the desolate lands of the Scar’s Tear.  The fact that there was no shelter from the elements was only secondary to the still air and the black clouds that never rained.  The earth was dry and cracked.  Beasts only came here to die or to feed on those foolish enough to wander out from the forest.

Coleen: Avery, which way is Lorath?
Avery: We’re only at the outside edge of the Scar’s Tear.
Brier: Deep inside the Scar’s Tear, there are no landmarks.  Even Balken’s army wandered for days, unable to find Lorath until Caden guided them in.
Avery: That was partially due to an illusion spell.  Of course, if the ward has been rebuilt, I should be immune to its power.  The spell also creates mirages, so be wary of anything that might look like a landmark.

Avery’s [Honed Hearing] detects a fast-moving mob approaching!
Coleen begins casting a spell!
Brier begins playing Anthem of Djala, 1st Movement!
Party’s Morale is at 120%!
Hyena appeared!
Hyena appeared!
Hyena appeared!
Coleen stores a spell!
Hyena pounces!
Arco dodges the attack!
Arco counterattacks with Paralysis Bite!
Hyena receives 121 HP damages!
Hyena is paralyzed!
Avery throws the [Sinking Potion]!
The ground has become unstable!
Coleen begins casting a spell!
Hyena is struggling!
Hyena is struggling!
Brier continues playing!
Brier’s song becomes Anthem of Djala, 2nd Movement!
Party’s Morale is at 145%!
Coleen performs a SimulCast!  [Flame Cutter] and [Flame Cutter] became [Blaze Razor]!
Critical Hit!
Hyena receives 1208 HP damages!
Hyena is defeated!
Critical Hit!
Hyena receives 1199 HP damages!
Hyena is defeated!
Critical Hit!
Hyena receives 1210 HP damages!
Hyena is defeated!

Brier’s party is victorious!

Brier receives 1200 XP!
Arco receives 1200 XP!
Coleen receives 1200 XP!
Coleen leveled up!
Avery receives 1200 XP!

Hyena x 3 is divided into:

Coleen: I don’t think Hyena meat would taste very good anyway.
Avery: Healthy ones are okay.  I wouldn’t touch these ones.
Brier: Are there a lot of these things here?
Avery: They’re common, but not plentiful.  Aside from enemies, be on the lookout for anything out of the ordinary.  It could be a mirage, and proof that the wards are rebuilt.

It wasn’t long before the party found something “out of the ordinary.”

Brier: This is pretty obvious.  A sign that says “this way to Lorath.”
Avery: It’s… not an illusion.
Coleen: So it’s real.  But is it telling the truth?
Avery: This far out from Lorath, it might as well be.

The party encountered signpost after signpost, none of them illusions, pointing them to the direction of Lorath, and each time, Avery assured them they were on the right path.

Brier: You don’t suppose Duvall put up all those signs?
Coleen: Mighty kind of him.
Brier: Perhaps it’s a trap.
Avery: If it’s a trap, then Lorath itself is a trap.  I can tell we’re getting closer.
Coleen: Lorath itself is a trap?
Brier: It sounds possible.

The party at last saw in the distance the once grand structures that marked the kingdom of Lorath.  As they drew closer, something seemed amiss.

Avery: This is Lorath… but why do I sense an illusion?
Brier: Am I hearing you right?
Coleen: So, there’s definitely an illusion… but this is definitely Lorath?
Avery: Yes… and yes.
Brier: If there’s an illusion, then it’s hiding something.
Coleen: Should we keep going?
Avery: I… Well, we came here to enter Lorath, so there’s no point in putting it off.  But… stay on guard.
Brier:  One illusion to counter another then.

Brier begins playing Song of Shadows!
The party is concealed!

Carefully, the adventurers marched forth until they were now at the foot of Lorath’s southern gate.

Apprehensively, they crossed its threshold simultaneously.  And also in unison was the mark of astonishment on their faces.  What they saw was not an empty fallen kingdom, but a bustling community acting as if nothing unnatural was occurring.

Brier: People?  Ordinary people?
Coleen: Are we actually seeing this?  Are they Lorathians?
Avery: No… They’re not pale enough.  Though they seem strangely familiar…  But it’s impossible!
Coleen: Lorath has been reborn?

Next time, on Bardass!  As the three explore New Lorath, their individual pursuits give way to questions about the true nature of the reborn kingdom.  Perhaps one of them uncover the truth in Quest 14 – The Spectre Kingdom.

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