Episode 12: Trial of Sands
Traversal through the forest surrounding the desert of Scillion was fairly comfortable. A road had been built through the forest for merchants and travelers. As they reached the area where the sands met the trees Lumos stopped.
Lumos – “This is as far as I go. My dear friends, carry on. I will be meeting with the council to plan ahead for whatever Gerthran might try next.”
Laurel – “Be careful on the way back to Balancor. So far Gerthran has only sent his goons to harass people and steal some artifacts.”
Lumos – “Yes, I am afraid of what he will do next as he continues to gain power through those artifacts.”
Thistle – “Laurel will surely be able to match and exceed whatever he might come up with.”
Laurel – “I’m a little afraid of having to face him.”
Lumos – “You will be fine. Between the artifact’s ancient knowledge and your own natural skill he will not stand a chance. Now, it’s best you get going.”
Going their separate ways was a bit of a gamble. No one really knew the whereabouts of Gerthran, nor what his capabilities were. Regardless, Laurel and Thistle began to make their way through the desert. The sands made it difficult to traverse. The heat and dry air were also a cause for concern. Laurel brought small vials of water to use sporadically if needed. She feared she would have to use them all too early into the journey. Thankfully they picked a time when travel might be easier, just as the sun began to set on the horizon. The problem would now be that it would get incredibly cold, so Laurel needed to use that time wisely.
Night had fallen. Cold winds were sweeping in from the north. Laurel and Thistle continued their way towards the ruins of Scillion where the Grentis world portal is located. The great ancient city was once a great hub of trade and culture. Countless wars in the past eroded and eventually killed the city itself. Its people retreated to Grentis and, with the help of fire masters, ravaged the region around Scillion. This served to protect Grentis, few were truly prepared to travel through such a harsh environment. With no more time to waste Laurel decided it would be best to use anything in her power to hasten her pace. The Boots of Scillion equipped with the Emerald of Winds would once again be the solution she needed. Her running speed was incredible. At that movement rate she only needed to skim the sands lightly to move forward. The winds also helped carry her. In a few minutes she reached the ruins, though at the cost of some of her mana.
Laurel – “We did it! Oof.”
Thistle – “Are you sure you should’ve done that?”
Laurel – “It was the best way, I’m down to my last vial.”
Thistle – “Hey look, there’s the portal.
A short walk from the ruined entryway was the world portal to Grentis. As they approached it started activating. To their surprise, no one was there to tend to it. It was still very dark. Thistle used fire magic to light some torches that were placed on broken pillars. The light revealed a terrible scene. The spell master as well as the guards were dead.
Laurel – “This… what in the worlds happened here?”
Thistle – “Uh oh, this doesn’t look good. The agents of chaos have never been anything more than an annoyance, but this carnage…”
Laurel – “Hush Thistle, let’s hide over there.”
The portal became fully powered. An energy beam burst through and flew off into the sky. On the other side, the image of a small army could be seen. Slowly they began to cross into Entralia. The soldiers lined up waiting for someone else. Finally a man emerged and the portal closed behind him. He ordered his troops to move ahead while he spoke to his two closest people. Laurel recognized the robes, the two were the priests of chaos, Mikayla and Garan. Gerthran wore some of the artifacts that had been previously stolen along with a large amulet that hung from his neck.
Gerthran – “With the artifact we have acquired from Grentis we are almost done with our quest. Mikayla, I want you to begin the retrieval of the artifact in Zanathas.”
Mikayla – “What about the one still on Rallion?”
Gerthran – “Garan will take care of that.”
Garan – “Yes my lord.”
Mikayla – “I apologize again for my blunder, I should have known it was a fake.”
Gerthran – “You have not realized your full chaotic potential my dear. Cythia will not be as forgiving, keep that in mind. Right now I need…”
Gerthran stopped and looked directly at where Laurel was hiding.
Gerthran – “Come child, there is no need to fear me.”
Laurel did not respond. Gerthran used his magic to pull Laurel’s body from her hiding spot.
Mikayla – “You!”
Garan – “We meet again, what a coincidence.”
Laurel – “What did you do here? Was this your doing?”
Gerthran – “It was indeed, they were in my way. Tell me your name.”
Laurel – “I am Laurel, and I can’t let you get away with this.”
Thistle – “Yeah, you’re a monster for killing these people!”
Gerthran – “Ah, a wisp as well, I knew I sensed someone else.”
Mikayla – “I should kill you where you stand! Your interference cost me and Lord Gerthran our precious time!”
Gerthran – “Be calm for now Mikayla, little Laurel is already too late to stop me.”
Laurel – “What are you planning?”
Gerthran – “You should know by now, you helped to pave the way. Many of the artifacts you gathered released part of the energy of our mistress Cythia. For our world to fulfill its destiny, she must be freed.”
Laurel – “Lumos told me how she almost destroyed Entralia in the past. She cannot be unleashed!”
Garan – “There is no chaos within you, thus, you would not understand. This chaos is our true nature.”
Gerthran – “It seems you need a lesson in what our true nature can provide. Leave me.”
Mikayla – “But my lord…”
Gerthran – “Leave!”
Both Mikayla and Garan left to join the troops that had already begun their march through the desert. Gerthran and Laurel were going to face off. The once mysterious leader of the agents of chaos was here and ready to show his power.
Gerthran – “One last thing before the lesson begins. My supreme army of chaos will scour this land. We will not fail my mistress. Chaos will rule once again.”
Thistle – “That’s what you think!”
Thistle prepared to launch a fireball against Gerthran, but he anticipated the attack and blew Thistle away with his own magic. Chaotic energies swirled around him. His hands gathered this energy and focused it. Where the balance used each element in the most perfected form, the chaos was erratic. Laurel prepared herself and drew the ringblade.
Gerthran – “That little rusted thing will not help you, nor the artifacts you wear so proudly.”
Laurel launched the ringblade along with light energy spheres that exploded around Gerthran. Meanwhile he swatted away the ringblade with the energy on his fists, the weapon ended up embedding itself deeply into one of the nearby pillars. Laurel launched ice spears and flames, but Gerthran was able to capture them and absorb the energies. Shortly after a powerful burst of wind was shot from Laurel’s hands. Once again Gerthran knew exactly how to counter the spell, redirecting the winds and dispersing them.
Gerthran – “Enough! You are not worthy of those artifacts nor the power you possess. Time for this lesson to end!”
In a desperate attempt to attack Gerthran directly Laurel drew close and let loose a lightning bolt. The bolt hit Gerthran’s body on his left side, just beneath his ribs. This only served to anger him though. He repeated the body control spell he had used earlier and pushed Laurel away, then held her in the air. With Laurel helpless, he unleashed the chaotic energies he held in his hands and directed it all towards her. Laurel was assaulted by the energies. Small embers burned some parts of her arms. Bolts of energy paralyzed her body while small blades of ice cut at her legs. She began to lose consciousness before Gerthran released her.
Gerthran – “I trust that you have learned your lesson. I will let you live, but you better not interfere with my path again.”
Laurel couldn’t respond. The magical tethers to the elements were broken. Her artifacts had dulled, lost their luster and glow. In her mind it felt as if she was a helpless child once again, without the knowledge of spells or the training she had endured to learn balance magic.
Gerthran left Laurel on the floor near the Grentis world portal and began to walk toward the desert. The sun would soon rise, his figure faded in the distance. Thistle, trapped in a vortex of energy, was released from it and quickly flew down to the ruins.
Thistle – “Laurel? Laurel, please wake up! No, please, I can’t lose you too…”
The wisp had not noticed that her own energy had been distorted, she was hurt. Thistle’s own magical energies had been disrupted, but she could still use healing magic. She focused as much energy as she could and began the slow process. At the same time she cast a healing spell on herself that would help to stabilize her energies.
In Laurel’s mind a unique scene unfolded, once again. This time she stood in the middle of a cavern while a figure looked at her.
Mysterious figure – “Well, that could have gone way worse.”
Laurel – “This feels familiar.”
Mysterious figure – “Know that I’m here to help. Focus on my voice and these five orbs that float just in front of you.”
Laurel – “What are they?”
Mysterious figure – “They are the tethers that were broken earlier. You need to restore them and the balance some of these provided. If the chaos builds within you it will eventually destroy you.”
Laurel – “Ok, what do I do.”
Mysterious figure – “Think about your experiences so far and how you acquired the tethers in the first place. They will guide you to reestablishing the mana flow.”
The orbs that surrounded laurel began to glow slightly and a thread of energy linked with her body.
Mysterious figure – “Good, now you need to strengthen these bonds so that they are unbreakable. The items you gathered are still with you. Use their power to enhance these threads.”
The threads began to glow with greater brightness. The dark cavern became illuminated. Laurel could see the figure clearly. It was a young woman, but she did not recognize her.
Laurel – “Who are you?”
Mysterious figure – “Well done, remember to do this with the remaining artifacts. You must gather them all. As for who I am, I will tell you, in due time.”
Thistle was still using what little magic she could, when the world portal began to power up. The wisp refused to move regardless of what may come through. To her surprise a group of soldiers from Grentis emerged and a man, who moved closer to her.
Orlin – “Greetings wisp, I am Orlin, councilman of Grentis. Is your friend alright? I assume she encountered Gerthran?”
Thistle – “Yes, she did. We couldn’t fight him, he was too strong.”
Laurel opened her eyes and without hesitation cast a healing spell on herself while releasing fire mana to help Thistle.
Thistle – “Whoa, when did you learn to do that?”
Laurel – “Frankly, it’s a strange matter, but I feel I have a better link to the artifacts now. Magic and spells flow more easily. Orlin you said was your name?”
Orlin – “Yes, how are you feeling?”
Laurel – “I’ll be fine, Thistle? What about you?”
Thistle – “Thanks to the energy from the Ring of Flames I can stabilize my own wounds.”
Orlin – “To harm a wisp in such a way. Gerthran is a very dangerous individual. He caused quite a stir in Kalvar, our capital. Come, you should join me there.”
Orlin helped Laurel rise to her feet. She was still a bit unstable, but quickly regained her footing.
Laurel – Oh, I almost forgot, my name’s Laurel and this is Thistle.”
Orlin – “Ah, you must be Lumos’ companions, we were told you would come to Grentis. It is unfortunate that you coincided with Gerthran’s attack.”
Laurel – “We need to warn Zanathas and Jenehrtes.”
Orlin – “Indeed, that will be my first priority once we arrive at the council at Kalvar. Guards, four of you stay here while we select a new spell master to guard the portal. The rest of you please escort us back to Kalvar.”
The terrible confrontation with Gerthran only served to heighten Laurel’s fears, but in her defeat she found a way to strengthen her magic. Now Thistle and laurel must venture into the world of earth magic and search for any artifacts that may remain.