I really did want to post this much earlier. Stuff got in the way. Mostly a mix of finals and Guild Wars 2. I really want to get the next two chapters out before the end of the year. We’ll see if that actually gets to happen.
Quest 17 – Spring in the Eternal Winter
Tundra Wolf x 3 appeared!
Coleen begins casting a spell!
Tundra Wolf pounces!
Avery launches an [Initiative Strike] with [Tri-Loader]!
Tundra Wolf receives 395 HP damages!
Tundra Wolf is interrupted!
Tundra Wolf is prowling!
Tundra Wolf is howling!
Brier begins playing [Drowning Sorrow]!
Enemy shouts and chants are negated!
Coleen unleashes [Stone Missile Volley]!
Tundra Wolf receives 442 HP damages!
Tundra Wolf falls!
Tundra Wolf receives 417 HP damages!
Tundra Wolf receives 464 HP damages!
Tundra Wolf falls!
Tundra Wolf pounces!
Unincanted spell! Coleen unleashes [Flame Cutter]!
Tundra Wolf receives 679 HP damages!
Tundra Wolf falls!
Brier’s party is victorious!
Brier receives 1980 XP!
Arco receives 1980 XP!
Coleen receives 1980 XP!
Avery receives 1980 XP!
Tundra Wolf x 3 is divided into:
Tundra Pelt x 3
Avery: I think we’ve got the hang of fighting these wolves.
Brier: Maybe, but there’s entirely too many of them.
Avery: But once we arrive in Croadin, we can sell all these pelts for a small fortune.
Coleen: Hardly. The people of Croadin regularly go out on hunting parties, and Tundra Wolves are the most common beasts in the region. At best, we’ll get enough to pay for a night at an inn.
Avery: Ah… Supply and demand, correct? Then, I suppose… if we had something from a far-away region…
Brier: All I have are two vials of Panacea, which I’m saving for a real emergency, and a jar of preserved Emberries.
Coleen: Emberry sauce sure sound good right about now… But there isn’t any good enough meat to use it on. But since they’re rare, we can get a lot of gold for them in Croadin.
Brier: No way.
Avery: Then what about the Panacea? If you give me one, I think I can duplicate the formula. Or perhaps improve upon it.
Brier: That’s a definite no. I know the ingredients that went into them. No way you can duplicate it with the stuff that grows around here.
Avery: Brier, I am an Alchemist. We don’t follow the strict conventions of the mundane food recipe. We break things down to a level some may feel incomprehensible.
Brier: I’m still not handing one over to you.
Avery: Very well.
Coleen: We’re starting to get a little overburdened by all the pelts we’re carrying. We can’t even use them to keep ourselves warm until we have them cleaned and dressed.
Brier: We can’t clean them with snow?
Coleen: No. We need a proper water source.
Brier: Then use water magic.
Coleen: That’s an even dumber idea than using snow. It makes more sense to use fire magic to melt snow than trying to use water magic to make water. We just don’t have the necessary tools. If I had that kind of control over water magic I’d give myself a hot shower. I’m freezing and icky.
Brier: Well, we’re not getting any closer to Croadin just fantasizing. I wonder how far we are from town, though.
Avery: From what I recall, the distance between the western edge of the Rhean Forest and the borders of Croadin is approximately 424 kilometers. Assuming we maintain a hiking rate of 5 kilometers per hour and twelve hours of travel time, after the distance already covered and assuming we are traveling in the correct direction, we should arrive in Croadin within four days.
Coleen: Ugh. Four more days of nothing but Snow Rabbit meat. And we’re running low on campfire wood.
Brier: What do you mean, “assuming we are traveling in the correct direction?”
Avery: The lack of landmarks makes it difficult where exactly we are. We are traveling in the general direction of Croadin, but one slight error in angle and we could end up passing the village and ending up in the Harlian Mountains.
Brier: Then I suppose we should find some landmarks. Arco!
Brier: You still can’t fly, but at least you can glide. Coleen, do you think you can give him a boost?
Coleen: Are you sure he’ll be okay?
Brier: Just release it at the right time.
Coleen: If you say so. Oh air, hear my call! Release thy power before all in thy presence upon my word!
The bard tossed his familiar into the air above Coleen.
Coleen: Pocket Blast!
A powerful burst of wind exploded from above Coleen, launching Arco to a tremendous height. The familiar tumbled in the air before finally regaining composure and spreading its wings. Slowly, it began circling around the sky, steadily spiraling back to the ground.
Brier: What’s the word?
Arco: Gaooo.. Guuu.
Brier: Which way?
Brier: He says he found something interesting. Let’s follow him.
Arco scuttled away, and Brier followed suit.
Avery: So, can they actually communicate with each other, or…
Coleen: Apparently so.
Avery: You never had a familiar of your own?
Coleen: I never needed one.
Brier: The sooner we get our bearings, the sooner we arrive in Croadin!
Coleen: He’s right.
Avery: On our way!
The three hurried to catch up with Arco. After half an hour of trudging through the snow, they started to see signs of the landmark they had been searching for.
Coleen: Is that… smoke? Maybe there’s a camp up ahead!
Avery: No. It’s not heavy enough. It’s steam.
Coleen: Steam? But that means…
The party doubled their efforts. Where Arco finally stopped and perched, seven steaming ponds, all bluer than the sky itself, were beheld by the weary travelers.
Coleen: Hot springs!
Brier: How’s that for a landmark?
Avery: Amazing… They’re not on any maps I’d studied, however. I wonder… do these have any healing properties?
Coleen: Does it matter? I can’t wait to take a dip!
Avery: Perhaps I should test to see if it’s safe first. We don’t want to submerge ourselves in poison.
Brier: No need. Arco can detect any form of poison and is immune to almost all of them. Go, my familiar! Test the waters!
Arco scrambled to the steaming pools and dove into each one. It took only seconds to venture into all seven of the hot springs and return to Brier.
Brier: Well, it seems the springs aren’t poisonous. But he’s saying only two of them have shallow shelves. The other five seem to go… really deep.
Coleen: Huh? How deep?
Brier: Deeper than 10 meters.
Avery: That’s pretty deep.
Coleen: Not exactly relaxing. More like a death trap. But, it can’t be helped. I’ll take one of the shallow springs. You two can share the other one.
Brier: Hey, we’re all comrades. There’s no reason to be shy!
Coleen: Who’s shy? I’m just telling you the way things are going to be. Do you have a problem with that?
Avery: I have no objections to the decision, though I do share Brier’s sentiment.
Coleen: Trust me, you really don’t.
All three of them were weary from the constant travel. For several days they didn’t allow themselves to even sleep in one place for very long. The discovery of the hot springs was a much-needed boon for them, even if it meant they would make less progress towards their arrival in Croadin.
The reaction to the healing springs was the same for all three. A sharp breath, followed by a settling shudder. The feeling of relief was as if each were released from shackles they had long been accustomed to.
Avery: I must say, this is quite refreshing. I’ll have to analyze the properties of this spring water thoroughly so that I might replicate it.
Brier: Uh huh.
Avery: It’s a shame Coleen wanted to be on her own. I would like to hear her thoughts on the effect of this water. Perhaps later.
Brier: Uh huh.
Avery: You’re being awfully quiet for a Bard, you know. But it’s good Coleen isn’t here. I’m sure we would both be too awkward to say a word then, right? Even though I agreed with your stance earlier, I’m sure that’s how it would have turned out.
Brier: You’ve got it backwards.
Avery: Oh? How so?
Brier: If Coleen were here, this would be a lot less awkward.
Avery: What makes you say that?
Brier: Just… shut up.
She had told the truth. It wasn’t shyness. Coleen wasn’t sure what would happen, so as a precaution she chose to bathe by herself.
The cold did not bother her. She couldn’t even feel it. When she first entered the water, she was relieved that she could feel its warmth. But that warmth slowly faded as well. She wasn’t sure if she turned the spring cold or if she simply couldn’t feel its warmth.
She recalled the words of Brier. Words she somehow remembered despite not being conscious at the time.
“It’ll get easier next time.”
She didn’t want there to be a next time. The cost of casting a Spell of Cataclysm was something she knew from the beginning.
Unable to become a Magic Knight, Coleen set out to take the power of the Cataclysm of Wind, but the Tome of Cataclysm that housed its power had gone missing. So she searched all over Rym for another Tome of Cataclysm: the Cataclysm of Water.
Of course, she had to read every word of the tome before it bestowed its power unto her. To do so was part of the contract. In exchange for taking complete mastery of the spirits of water and its full destructive power, her body would become the new Tome of Cataclysmic Water. This was the destiny of all who seek its power. With every new casting of Cataclysmic Magic, the caster’s body absorbs more magic energy. Eventually, the energies tear the body apart, once again becoming a cursed book. If the caster is killed before that happens, the power is directly passed to that person.
There is no other destiny.
The Path of Cataclysm must come to a violent end, however long it may last.
That was why she was certain Balken was still alive. If he had been killed, one of the Seven Heroes should have become the new Tome of Cataclysmic Fire. But shortly after Balken’s fall, the Seven Heroes fought several uprisings, the remnants of Balken’s army, and a host of ambitious men claiming to be the Dark Lord. Not once was the Cataclysm of Fire used in those battles, nor the Tome’s negative effects witnessed by anyone.
The Tome of Cataclysmic Fire was still active, and it was most certainly still Balken.
With her one and only casting of Cataclysm Magic, she would defeat Balken and end her own life, so as not to live with the curse of the Tome.
But in order to escape from Lorath, she had to abandon that plan. And she was now paying the cost of choosing to survive.
Coleen: I cast it once, and I start to lose myself. If I cast it a second time, will I still be human? What does that make Balken? How… could anyone live like this?
Not wanting to dwell on her fate any longer, lowered her head into the water and blanked her mind.
Avery: I know you don’t want me talking, but I must ask… is it getting warmer?
Brier: That’s distur- wait, I think you’re right. It’s starting to… GET OUT!
Avery and Brier jumped out of the spring and scrambled to their clothes. The spring rapidly came to a boil.
Avery: We nearly died!
Brier: This is no spring… C-Coleen!
Brier picked up his lute and ran to Coleen’s spring. The two didn’t see her at first, but soon spotted her curled up beneath the water surface.
Avery: The spring’s dangerous! Jump out!
Coleen gradually felt the increasing heat. The only way she could feel that warmth was if the spring were incredibly hot. She quickly surfaced and chanted a spell to construct a wall of ice beneath her.
Coleen: What’s going on?
A loud explosion interrupted Brier’s explanation, and the spring he and Avery were previously in burst up in a tower of boiling water.
Coleen: A… geyser? Oh crap…
Coleen’s spring erupted below her ice wall, and she began rapidly casting the Ice Wall spell to protect herself. For twenty seconds, she was suspended in the air above the tip of the tower of water. Finally, the eruption died down, and Coleen and her wall of ice returned to where the spring was. However, the ice wall lodged itself four meters below the surface.
Brier: That’s odd. Avery, check out the other spring.
Avery: Of course.
Coleen: I can get out of here… Brier, toss me my clothes. And my dagger.
Brier: Sure. Let’s see… Found your clothes. Now where could that dagger be? Hmm… hmm… hmm…
Coleen: Just toss them!
The bard bundled up Coleen’s clothing and dropped tossed them down the now-empty spring. Hurriedly, Colleen jumped into her shorts and cami, then examined her tunic for her dagger.
Coleen: Where is it?
Brier: Oh, silly me. Here it is.
Coleen: You have my dagger?
Avery: Brier, the other spring is completely empty. And it’s not shallow anymore. I don’t know how far it goes down.
Brier: Understood. Now, I know you’re not thinking of climbing up with this. Don’t tell me a skilled mage like yourself still needs a focus. That would just disappoint me.
Coleen: It’s not like that. I carved glyphs on the blade, and-
Brier: So you have. Let’s see… If I translate this correctly, it’s something like… “by my command, return-”
Coleen: Don’t activate it!
Brier: “-to your master,” am I corre-WAAAH!
Coleen’s dagger pulled Brier down the pit, with Avery tagging behind in an unsuccessful attempt to hold Brier back.
Brier: What was that?
Coleen: It’s a return glyph. It comes in handy at times.
Brier: How was a return glyph going to get you out of this hole?
Coleen: It wasn’t. I have three other glyphs carved into it. Now hand it over so I can-
Coleen was interrupted by a sudden jolt. The ice platform she created started to give way and was about to crumble.
Coleen: Not enough time!
Brier: Arco! Are you up for-
The ice wall shattered, and the four fell into the depths of the former spring.
Avery: If you might, I think the creation of another Ice Wall would be an appropriate!
Coleen: It’s not safe! But… Spirits of Air, hear my call! Protect us with your sheltering embrace! Windfall!
A rush of air swirled around the four, and their descent slowed. They felt themselves slow, but they couldn’t see how far they had fallen or how much longer they had.
Coleen: How can we have fallen this far? Where did all the water go?
Brier: I have an idea, but before that. Just what were you planning to do?
Coleen: A hidden glyph in my dagger. Unfortunately, I do need to depend on it to cast the high-level lightning spell that was going to get me out. It knocks me out for a day after using it, and I can only use it on myself.
Brier: You know, you could have just used Pocket Blast to get yourself out.
Coleen: I know that now. I thought my Ice Wall was holding back a fountain of boiling water. I didn’t want to risk shattering my Ice Wall.
Avery: Brier, do you care to share your thoughts on the sudden lack of water, or do you think we’ll be landing shortly?
Brier: Well, it’s nothing for me to keep secret. Obviously, a lot of water spilled out with that eruption, but not this much. And, if it didn’t drain away, which I doubt, it can only mean-
At last, the party landed, crashing into a pool of water.
Brier: Well, that sound at least means we’ve landed. And there’s still water.
Coleen: Yes, but it’s not that deep. It’s not much deeper than when it was a spring.
Avery: Indeed. Do you suppose this will break apart a second a time, or is this the true bottom?
Coleen: Well, the bottom looks solid enough.
Avery: Yes, it certainly does. But isn’t that odd? I didn’t think we could see so clearly this far underground.
Brier: We shouldn’t. There has to be a light somewhere around here…
Coleen: It’s so eerie… It’s like… there’s a light, but nothing is casting a shadow. I’ve seen something like this before…
Avery: This is even stranger…
Avery: There appears to be a passageway here. Just large enough to walk down.
Brier: Well. Should we go down it?
Coleen: I’d rather get out of here.
Brier: You want to use up your power traveling straight up with wind magic? While carrying both of us? Or maybe you plan on leaving us down here and saving yourself.
Coleen: I wouldn’t do something like that.
Brier: Then follow me down this passageway.
Coleen: What makes you think we’ll find a way out that way?
Brier: Just a feeling. This eerie light… there has to be a source. And whatever that source is… Well, there’s got to be some special power there. Even if it’s not a way out…
Avery: I’d say it’s worth investigating.
Brier: Exactly. So, you in?
Coleen: I guess I am curious.
Brier: Wonderful! Then off we go!
The four walked down the narrow passage. Rather than lead back to the surface, it seemed to lead them further down. Despite how closed off it was and how much deeper it went, the path was clear as day. The path seemed to get even clearer the further the four went.
Brier: You see? There’s definitely something down here.
Coleen: I think I remember where I’ve seen this phenomena before. It wasn’t that long ago.
Avery: Light that doesn’t cast a shadow and doesn’t appear to come from any single point?
Brier: This is about as far as we can walk. Look. The rest of the path is underwater.
Coleen: I can see it… It’s… incredibly blue. And clear.
Brier: It’s warm, too.
Avery: We have no idea how far it goes.
Brier: I’d love to, but I left my lute up on the surface.
Brier: Oh, behave. You can survive this just fine. It’s just unpleasant.
Brier: Okay, okay. When we get back though.
Arco dove into the water, and the remaining three waited in anticipation for his return. 20 seconds later, he rose once more.
Coleen: Back already?
Arco: Gao! Guuu!
Brier: Well, that’s a relief. It’s a narrow passage that connects to a larger body of water. But it doesn’t take long to surface. I’m going ahead. Follow if you want.
Avery: I’m intrigued myself. I hope we have some chance to dry our clothes when we surface.
Coleen: I hope I don’t regret this.
Arco returned to the water, followed by Brier, Avery, and Coleen. The four swam through the tunnel, emerging, as was promised, into a larger body of water. They quickly surfaced and scanned their new surroundings.
Brier: Everyone up?
Coleen: I’m fine.
Avery: I thought I was going to die!
Coleen: Come on, we weren’t down maybe 15 seconds.
Avery: I… have poor lung capacity. But if I learn something new from this, it’s well worth it.
Coleen: I see land. No reason to stay in the water.
It was a very brief swim to land. As soon as they were up, they wrung what clothes they could in an attempt to dry them off.
Brier: This won’t do. We’ll have to find a way to start a campfire.
Coleen: I’ll look around.
Coleen climbed up the closest hill while Brier and Avery continued tending to their own garments.
Coleen: Brier! Avery! Come see this!
Avery: I thought we were going to rest.
Brier: Maybe later. Come.
Avery and Brier climbed up the hill and stood by Coleen.
Brier: Now what’s this- oh my.
Coleen: Have you ever seen anything like this?
Avery: I believe I have. Well, not in person.
Brier: I think you and I have read the same book.
Before them was a vast land. Underground, but fully lit. Rows of small buildings spread out. And manifest above all of them was a grand and majestic palace. At its center was a single domed tower, and from its left, right, and front sides fanned two layers of towers of decreasing but uneven size. The entire surface of the palace was encrusted by earth and ice. Had the shape not been familiar to them, they might have been fooled into thinking the palace was a formation of stalagmites.
Coleen: It looks like a kingdom. Are there… I think I see people there as well.
Avery: It is a kingdom. Or was. Or… still is? Brier, that palace…
Brier: It is. If you think so, then I’m sure of it. The fallen palace of Croadin.
Coleen: Croadin? You mean… Old Croadin? The kingdom that was buried by the Cataclysm of Earth centuries ago?
Brier: The very same.
Next time, on Bardass! The party investigates what appears to be the remnants of Old Croadin and its inhabitants. How have they lived underground for so long and what other secrets await them? All will be revealed in Quest 18 – The Lightless Kingdom.