Apocalypse IV: Chapters 7 & 8.5

Apocalypse III: Chapters 5 & 6

It did not take long for Keramis, Lianna and Lakai to regroup with Lynn, Raven, and Aurora. They were saddened to learn that Karaci had been killed, but the immediate concern were the search parties looking for them and the fact that Raven was still unconscious. His own Acora sight clouded by Aloquin’s psychic veil, Lynn told Lakai to look inside the half-elf and see what was wrong. Lakai went into a trance and braved Raven’s inner mind once more. He saw that Raven was bleeding lifeforce from astral wounds inflicted by Aloquin’s spell, and that the energy needed to close these wounds was being held back by the God of War who still possessed him.

There was no question about it: Raven had to be exorcized if he was to survive. Aurora gladly volunteered for the task and, with Raven’s semi-conscious consent, cast out the indignant Yugashii from his body. The ritual left Aurora incredibly fatigued, so she laid the half-elf down and curled up to sleep beside him. Troubled dreams invaded Raven’s sleep that night – of raging fires and screams of the dying, of Gaisa’s death and the bloodbath that followed. He sat up with a start and saw that his dreams had also awoken Lakai. Lakai warned him that the exorcism had unsettled a large chunk of painful memories, and he would have to be on guard because this left him vulnerable and unstable.

Everyone was glad to see Raven up and about, but more pressing matters of securing their livelihood was foremost on the company’s minds. They decided to keep moving in order to elude the search parties no doubt combing the forest for them. By day they crept through the underbrush, by night they slept in the treetops. But neither sleep nor waking brought Raven any peace, indeed he could not tell the two apart anymore. He wandered off alone to sort through the chaos that racked his soul. No sooner had he sat down upon a dry log that he saw familiar hazel eyes peeking out to watch him from behind a tree trunk. The woman flitted off between the tress, deeper into the woods, and he followed after through veils of mist.

He finally caught up with her in the center of a clearing, and she turned around, the spitting image of Gaisa herself. Raven was overjoyed to meet his old friend again, but that happiness was short lived, for she assailed him with such bitter and scornful words as to take him aback in shock. She told him he was a curse to his friends and a death sentence to any who crossed his path, an unwanted child whose own father wanted nothing to do with him, and a traitor who defiled her memory by running off with the next girl he saw. She told him that he brought nothing but pain and sorrow to the world, and did not deserve to live.

Even as she said it, the half-elf’s keen ears picked up the sound of a snapping rope behind him, and he dove out of the way of a swinging boulder that nevertheless managed to brutally graze the side of his head. Raven collapsed into the grass, and Gaisa’s form shriveled up into the shape of a diminutive trickster being hovering in mid air. A band of chattering tree dwellers tugged on ropes to pull up the pendulous boulder, while Beyati congratulated all on a job well done. His plan to fell Raven succeeded, but he was too afraid to check the body and left the half-elf for dead, prancing back to Kayintas to brag of his accomplishments to Aloquin.

The real raven Gaisa cawed frantically into Lynn’s ear and tugged on his clothes, leading him to the clearing. It didn’t take the Acora long to find Raven, and he quickly made his way back to their camp where Aurora treated the head wound. But even when the gash was sealed up, his body lay in an otherworldly coma once more. Aurora said there was nothing more they could do except wait and see if his soul decides to return from the Overworld. When the group reached the Open Field, Aurora told them that she could not cross the forest boundary, but would wish them good luck and never lose hope that they would come back and free the North Forest from Aloquin’s wicked grip.

Aloquin was sitting on his throne and watching his minions cleaning up Kayintas when Beyati barged through the cave entrance, breathlessly announcing that he had killed Raven. All heads turned to the orc in disbelief, yet even as he was recounting the fabricated tale, a being bearing the likeness of Raven boldly strode into Kayintas. Unlike Raven, however, this elf carried two serrated blades on his belt instead of a two-handed sword. His icy blue eyes ignited with crimson fire upon hearing Beyati’s boasting, and he slew the terrified orc on the spot. He then faced Aloquin and told him that he had come to ask how the wizard managed to capture the forest spirit, for he now needed her as bait to lure Raven back to his side.

Aloquin recognized this being to be none other than the legendary Yugashii, the Warrior Spirit himself. He instantly realized that the power he had sought from Raven actually stemmed from the god that had possessed him, and now this god was standing right across from him, asking for aid. And so an alliance was forged, whereby the Warrior Spirit agreed to lend Aloquin his power in exchange for the wizard’s assistance in his quest for vengeance. Aloquin contacted Onedia in the Forestside Kingdom and told her to set their plan into motion. She was to construct an astral citadel that would link Kayintas and the Forestside Castle, allowing their armies could move freely between the two strongholds. She built it with the bodies of tricksters in place of stone and plaster: a living castle – all-seeing and all-hearing.

Lynn, Keramis, Lianna, Lakai, and Elvina finally made it back to the Crystal Castle, taking turns carrying the unconscious Raven along the way. Queen Dinictis and King Jason welcomed them with open arms and gave them food, shelter, and asylum within the palace walls. Tired of feeling useless, Jason took this opportunity to ask Keramis to teach him to fight with a dagger, and the playful elf gladly obliged. Lynn, Lakai, and Elvina were grateful for the hospitality, but informed the Queen that they must continue their journey at the break of dawn. And so Keramis and Lianna stayed as North Forest refugees in the Crystal Castle, while Elvina took Lakai back to the faery capital Acrela, and Lynn took Raven to his East Forest home.

Apocalypse V: Guardian Nexus and Raven

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Revised: 12 May 2010 07:47:48 -0400 .