Old February 4, 2018, 12:16 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Weird Science (Vireylda)

Late Winter, Melora, Era XXV

In a small roadside inn, a week's travel south of Xania, Barthelme had a table all to himself. As usual.

One handy result of Usira's presence: it encouraged the locals to give him space. There was a dead zone of around ten feet in radius from the Mystic's table in one corner of the room, because that was the area in which Usira could be seen and heard most clearly. Five feet beyond that, and she was little more than a vaguely humanoid blur of scales and tails and claws as she moved. Five feet more, as far away as the door, and she was merely a ghostly smudge in the air accompanied by garbled whispers.

Granted, Usira's presence had drawn some dour looks from the innkeeper, but they were a hardy folk in the Arium wilds... and perhaps more importantly, Barthelme and the company he kept were well known in these lands. Certainly he could be excused for a few eccentricities. In any case, the innkeeper's regulars hadn't fled, and Barthelme's money was good. And so he remained. Meanwhile the few other customers of the inn huddled over their drinks and mostly ignored his presence.

"You really think there's a connection?"


Usira's primary eye was fixed with interest on the objects that Barthelme had laid out on the table before him: a thorned circlet of blackwood, and the thing(s)Has to be vague because that thread hasn't been signed off on yet.:p he had collected in Xania. He had set the objects a fair ways apart, but even so, Barthelme was watching them just as intently as was his Otherling companion. As though he expected the artifacts to suddenly leap across the table at one another.

"I think it's very possible, yes," Barthelme murmured. "Two Necromancy-fueled abominations, both striking in Arium? The same mind that created Ygg may have had a hand in Omak, as well."

"Except that Ygg was part Druidism, too, right? And the Omak critter didn't seem Druid-y at all."


"True. But is it really a coincidence that these events both occured in the same small geographic area... and only an era apart?"

"Yeah, and you don't believe in coincidences. I know."


"There is certainly a common thread, here. A powerful Necromancer... or band of Necromancers... based in the area? Or something... not of this world? The clearing where I completed Despoina was in Arium, too. And... she is partly composed of the Eye of Ygg. If some sort of... Entropy-based power... is leaking from that alternate plane, in which the Eye of Ygg was finally devoured... then perhaps..."

"Hmm."

"Hmm."
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Old February 4, 2018, 02:42 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Tired, was perhaps an understatement.

In truth, while she was on the road the necromancer didn't sleep very well. Disregarding the general paranoia with which she lived, the unknown was both enthralling and terrifying. Curiosity was what drove her existence, the need to understand the things around her consuming her waking mind.

Therefore the unknown meant new things to discover, to explore, to learn. Vireylda was an academic at her core after all. She lived between the moments of understanding between one subject and the next. By the realization of connections that no one else could see.

Scientific discovery went both ways, unfortunately.

Correlations and causation could mean good tidings or bad ones. The same burst of power that lifted the veil of discovery might also tear through the one of secrecy. Vireylda was a necromancer, and most of the time those were never welcomed.

So with every town she entered there was a chance she might have to fight her way out. That she might be discovered by those who were guided by fear. It led to a reluctance to use her magic, the one skill she had honed the most.

That knowledge weighed doubly heavy this night, as she fled from the town of Xania. Whatever heroics she might have performed there may have endeared her to the local populace, but for the nearby zealots of Aslangrad?

Her pace quickened as the knowledge of what would surely occur once word of a rogue necromancer reached the city. Visions of religious warriors arriving in the town refused to leave her. With the destruction of the abomination known as Omak, would come questions.

In the very quiet, primal part of her mind, something stirred. A keening wail as the realization of what she'd done slammed into her. Her instincts of self preservation screamed at her. Of her ignorance, of her hubris.

How she'd painted a giant target on her back.

Because obviously there are so many Esh'lahier necromancers wandering about!

The vaguely hysterical thought had spurred her flight. Her pace had been steady as she all but ran from the village. Not because of Xania itself, but the looming, oppressive shadow of Aslangrad behind it. She knew logically that the city wasn't sentient, but she could swear it was watching her.

So she'd fled, trying to put as much distance between it and her as possible.

Mercifully, the oppressive malevolence seemed to fade the further she got. To the point that Vireylda was almost herself when she wearily pushed the door to the tavern open.

As always she scanned the room. Trying to detect threats that might present themselves in the shadowed corners, and even worse, in the light of day. Blue eyes searched the darkness, and to her surprise? The darkness stared back.

Or, maybe that wasn't completely accurate.

In the corner of the room...something stared out. It was just an instant where she could see it, but it was enough. The necromancer instinctively tensed, but relaxed once the gaze passed her over

She went up to the innleep, and put some gold on the bar. That done she found her way into a table near the strange corner. Her back to the wall, Vireylda listened.

And frowned. She hadn't been trying to eavesdrop on the man and his conversation, but the word "Omak" snared her attention. Then once grabbed, it was dominated by the repetition of a single word. Necromancer.

She fought the surge of fear that threatened to hijack her limbs in flight, or flare her magic in fight. Instead she listened for a bit longer, before coming to the realization she had met this man before. It had been in passing, yes, but the knowledge lessened the stranglehold of panic that had gripped her.

This man had seen her as she approached the items fallen from the monsters flesh. Had to have seen her magic. To have felt the contaminating essence that had oozed of her that night. Proclaiming to all that she was a necromancer, and a moderately powerful one at that.

Yet, he had done nothing.

Confusion pricked at her mind. The opportunity had been there. The fatigue coming from her at that point physically palpable. Yet again, he had done nothing. Odd

That knowledge more than anything allowed her curiosity to spike. If her memory served, he had also suggested sequestering the trinkets away from those who might suffer from ill effects.

So as foolish as she felt in doing so, the black cloaked elf shifted her position, so she could address the stranger and his companion. Which, by the way, she had not observed until now. Excitement sped through her veins like wildfire. Whatever she was, Vireylda had never seen it before.

The prospect of knowledge spurred her forward.

"Forgive me for intruding, but I couldn't help but notice you keep mentioning "Omak". Would I be remiss to recall you were at Xania?"

She was careful to use her word choice carefully. If she was wrong it would be time for a swift exit.
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Old February 4, 2018, 07:09 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Disturbed from his thoughts, Barthelme glanced up from the things arrayed before him to meet the stranger's eyes.

Well, no, not quite a stranger. He had seen this woman before. Of all the adventurers that had come to Xania, she was the only one besides himself who had been curious enough to approach the fallen undead colossus. Beyond that, though, he knew little about her. Barthelme hadn't been there during the main battle to see her in action, and hadn't been able to focus on her terribly well afterwards, either, given the haze of Thought Essence contamination that had been afflicting him at the time of their meeting.

"Yes," he agreed, smiling mildly. "We met... briefly... on the battlefield."

"I was there, too!" Usira on the other hand fairly lunged across the table towards the elf, slapping her lower pair of hands on the table as she reared up on her tails. She lifted her other arms to peer at Vireylda from either side with the eyes set in each palms. The Otherling was grinning broadly, excited as always for someone to take notice of her. "You wouldn't have seen me, though, so don't go beating yourself up for forgetting me. I'm Usira, by the way! How's tricks?"

"Ordinarily, Usira exists... mm... outside the range of our physical senses. But as she says, she was there."

The half-elf bent forward himself, greeting the Necromancer with what amounted to a seated bow.

"Barthelme is my name," he said. "And you are...?"

"...A fellow Omak aficionado, apparently. Barthelme was just trying to figure out what was behind all that."


"Usira... company manners, please."

"Ooh, right, sorry. What did you say your name was?"
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Old February 4, 2018, 08:04 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Now that she was closer to them, Vireylda was certain that this was the same man. For a panicked instant she hadn’t seen the objects on the table, so enthralled with the being beside him. She catalogued the oddity in her mind, mentally running through her library of possibilities. Well to start, it’s most certainly a she. That much was obvious, now that she had taken a proper look. Despite the eccentrics’ that were about her person, it was irrefutably a woman.

Which made the following thoughts much easier. Vireylda certainly needed it, because many might say they were staring at an impossibility. Twin arms, two tails. Eyes on their hands? Her logical mind grasped the stone cold fact, and used it as a lifeline. The scientist yearned suddenly to question. To probe and experiment. None of these things would be proper or polite, of course.

So Vireylda told that portion of her mind to be silent. After all, if she could be friends with a three-tailed large chested elf with fox ears and a snake tongue, why couldn’t she meet a…well, whatever it was the snake woman identified as a race.

There was also a very real possibility that she’d just been staring for a likely impolite amount of time. With a valiant effort, she forced her words into the polite decorum she’d been taught as a child. They at least, didn’t require much thought. Vireylda was suddenly incredibly grateful to the patience of her parents that they had gone through with such teachings.

Admittedly, she hadn’t expected that. The elf had to keep herself from jumping back in surprise. She liked to consider herself a tolerant sort, but it wasn’t every day a snake woman lunged forward at you, after an acquaintanceship of less than five seconds.

The elf smiled genially. ”I don’t doubt that. I assure you I would not have forgotten had I see you.” Which was the understatement of the century, but she wasn’t going to go any further with that. Vireylda bowed her head to Usira, falling into the practiced motions of decorum she’d been taught so long ago. Straight back. Bowed leg…. She rose again, and spoke. “My name is Vireylda. A pleasure to meet both of you.” She was pleased that her voice betrayed none of her chaotic inner musings.

It should have stopped there, but the questions wouldn’t leave her alone. Picking at the gates that allowed them release on her tongue. She lost concentration for just a moment, noting that Barthelme conversed with the woman as if they were old friends. Which, now that she thought of it was probably the case considering the facts of the current situation.

Whatever the reason, she spoke. ”Forgive me, but did you say Usira exists outside the range of physical sense?” She blinked, noting that the woman was very much right there in front of her, and quickly amended her statement. ”…Erm, normally, that is.” She wanted to apologize for being rude, but it was already out there in the open.

Perhaps a different subject! Yes that would be grand.

She seized on an errant word, and ran with it. ”That’s fortunate, because I was wondering that myself. There were a good many wraiths that poured out from the monster, but with so much necromantic essence filling it, the creature should have been a chaotic mess, unable to move with any coordination. The bile within it’s stomach alone should have cauterized any kind of…” She trailed off, realizing she’d been babbling. In arcanic academia to make it worse.

You are just doing fabulous here, you know that?

Vireylda told herself to shut up, exasperation slowly rising.

”Erm, what I mean was I was wondering that as well. Things didn’t seem to be adding up.”
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Old February 5, 2018, 07:11 PM   #5 (permalink)
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If Vireylda was staring, certainly neither Usira nor Barthelme had taken offense. The blue snake creature preened under her gaze, primping at her hair with one hand while holding the clawed finger of another coyly to her lips. She spread her other two arms before her and gestured towards herself with a wave of her hands, as if to say, "That's right! Drink it in." And Barthelme? Well, he just stared at Vireylda as she stared at Usira, while very slowly tilting his head to one side.

"That's me!" Usira agreed. "Lovable and memorable."

"The pleasure is mutual, Miss Vireylda," Barthelme murmured.

Meanwhile Usira curtsied, her tails bending wildly beneath her, and aimed quadruple finger guns at the elf as she winked her primary eye.

"Right back atcha!"


And then Vireylda asked about seeing Usira. Barthelme smiled, pleased as always to discuss the matter. Most people never asked.

"Indeed," he said. "Usira is ordinarily quite imperceptible to most... because she is composed of pure Psionic Essence. Just as you cannot see a thought... so, too, with Usira. Technically speaking, what you see is merely a projection of her true self, which exists beyond the boundary of the material plane."

"If it helps, you can tell yourself I'm a Psion, almost, pretty much. Used to be lots of Mystics could summon my kind. Even give us semi-physical shells! Now, it's basically a lost art. Frankly, I got royally hosed when that Flux of the Arcane thing happened."

"Well, in fact I must beg to differ," Barthelme said with a shake of his head. "The term 'Psion' is... not entirely applicable to Usira. In any case, my own word for her kind is 'Otherling.' A catch-all term I apply to all denizens of the far planes... to differentiate them from residents of our own, material world."

"Really, though, your kind and mine isn't that different. I'm Psionic Essence and so are you. I just don't have one of those meat-puppet things like you do."

"A body, is what Usira means to say. Lacking that, she is invisible... but for the mind's eye. And here, within this small radius around me..." Barthelme gestured in a circle with the glowing head of his staff. "I have created an area in which the mind's eye is opened. Not far... but far enough for Usira to be seen."

"You're welcome!"


A change of topic. Barthelme and Usira exchanged a glance as Vireylda spoke of the undead colossus, perhaps reflecting on her apparent familiarity with the mechanics of creating undead constructs. Neither said a word about that, however, nor showed so much as a hint of distaste for the subject.

"Unfortunately," Barthelme said, "I did not have the opportunity to observe the monster up close."

"Barthelme was busy fighting some kind of Death Essence Otherling that showed up at the old church."


"A... wraith, you might say. Completely incorporeal, like Usira... and apparently composed of pure Entropic Essence... yet capable of speech, and commanding considerable powers of Necromancy. I initially took it as the creature Omak's puppeteer. Now... I am no longer as certain."

"The two were definitely connected, though. We're just not sure how."


"Perhaps we might compare notes on the subject. Or... better..."

From one of his pockets, Barthelme fetched his Serewood Crystal. Just a diamond dangling from a gold chain, with a strange rune etched onto each of its facets.

"With this device... I can capture my memories and replay them for you with perfect clarity. I can observe your memories as well, provided that you offer them willingly. Therefore I propose a trade, if you are amenable. If you will allow me to share your memories of your encounter with the monster... I will share with you my own memories of the Otherling which emerged from the crypts below Xania's old church."

"You'd be able to see and hear everything, exactly as if you were there."
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Old February 5, 2018, 07:49 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Drink it in she did. Though not for the reason Usira might have suspected. Analyzing, studying, cataloguing. She did all of those things within the long gaze, and it was only manners that kept her from continuing on with her thought process.

Speaking of thought processes…

The elf’s eyebrow quirked in interest. That was. New. If she was to be frank she’d never heard of that before. Essences, yes, but manifestations of it on this kind of scale? The idea led to aspects of arcana that she hadn’t thought possible. Yet here was the antithesis of that idea, sitting right in front of her. It made Vireylda wonder about other possible applications.

Apparently, the term was apt.

As it was though, Vireylda’s academic mind was too tired to try and pursue the train of thought further. Her exhaustion was already apparent with the incoherent babble spilling from her lips. The plumb the depths of the material plane and what may lay beyond it? She’d probably end up on the floor, and not in the good way. As it was, she simply smiled. ”When a better moment is possible, I would certainly like to know more about that. I know little about Psionic essence, but I have always had an interest in arcanic mechanics.”

And there, she did notice that. They didn’t seem to flinch when she rambled on, speaking in scientific terms of necromancy that people would generally not know off hand. She hadn’t intended on going on such a tangent, but there did seem to be an aspect of positivity to it. Vireylda found it interesting how one could learn, even from their mistakes.

Ah, well that could be a downer. Vireylda searched her memory, and did note that she hadn’t seen Barthelme before the encounter over the monsters remains. He could be lying to her, but she’d also remembered that he’d been exuding…something, when she’d seen him last. The elf could remember the voices that suddenly whispered in her head as she’d come closer to him. The same ones that faded away as she’d left. Subtly she’d tried and circle back to test the theory, but there wasn’t anything else that might have caused such a thing, so the point was moot.

Besides, the elf knew about what happened when you used too much magic.

The mention of the wraith did grab her attention. [B”Are you sure it was purely essence? Might it have been some sort of construct, as Omak was?”[/B] But no, she disregarded that even as it left her mouth. Constructs were void of intelligence, generally. There wouldn’t have been any speaking. [B]”Nevermind, it wouldn't have been able to speak. How odd.”[/B}

Well, that was just something then, wasn’t it?


The necromancer forcibly calmed herself.

”That sounds incredibly useful. I wouldn’t mind comparing notes. Tell me, am I able to pick which memories you see? I don’t generally like people roaming around in my head, you understand. I’ve only just met you, and while you and Usira seem like very pleasant people, I would prefer the images to be filtered, if possible. Less possibility for discomfort, and embarrassment you see.”

The prospect of scientific discovery knawed at her, and the necromancer ached to try and follow the idea. Whatever this crystal was, it intrigued her.

Still, caution had kept her alive thus far. Best not to abandon it.
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Old February 6, 2018, 10:08 PM   #7 (permalink)
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"Of course," Barthelme agreed. "I am always pleased to discuss my theories regarding the Otherlings and their place in the multiverse. It is... my life's work."

"Yeah, he'll talk your ear off, lady."
Usira sank back on her tails, propping her lower pairs of elbows on the table to rest her chin in her cupped hands. "So... you wanna sit down, or what?"

"Indeed... you are welcome to join us, if you like."

Barthelme gestured to the empty seat across from him. If Vireylda was more comfortable standing, though, he certainly wouldn't insist.

"I scanned the Otherling with a fairly powerful Sentinel net," the Mystic said, "and detected a formless being apparently composed entirely of Entropy Essence. That is to say... it manifested through what I recognized as Necromancy. At first I took it for a Necromancer under the influence of... of what I believe is known as a Grim Shift spell. I soon discovered, however, that it possessed no material presence... at all. It could not be physically interacted with. And so... as I said... 'Otherling' is my best analysis."

"Some Otherlings have the power to reach into the physical world and feth stuff up. Mostly by taking on physical form somehow, but sometimes even without. This is the first one of that kind we met, though, that actually bothered to speak to us. Not that it was a very enlightening conversation, I guess."

"Mmm... Despoina spoke to us, too..."

"Oh, right! I guess I forgot about Jerky McJerkface over there."


The Otherling tossed a slight sneer at the staff in Barthelme's hand, which he now cradled almost protectively.

"Have some respect, Usira," the Mystic told her coolly. "She sacrificed herself for my sake, in the end."

"Oh, suuuuure, sorry. But I only knew her back when she was still being the world's biggest bitch to us."

"Usira and the Otherling who eventually became Despoina... have something of a troubled history," Barthelme explained to the elf. "But, that is neither here nor there."

"Or is it? Because Eye of Ygg, remember?"


"Hmm... perhaps. But that is a discussion we should table until the immediate matter of Omak is resolved."

For now there was the matter of memories and the Serewood Crystal to consider.

"Quite useful, yes," Barthelme murmured. "And... yes... you can pick exactly which memories you wish to share with me. In fact... the crystal works no other way."

"You flesh-body people are so squeamish about who all goes in your heads."

"That said, Usira understands... as do I. We all have our secrets. And so... to prove my sincerity... allow me to offer you a small taste."

Barthelme held the crystal to his temple, his eyes going distant. Then he extended the device toward Vireylda, still holding tightly to one end of the chain. If she chose to touch it, the elf would see and hear exactly what Barthelme had seen and heard in the crypts of the old church outside Xania, in the moment the Death Otherling had arrived.
Quote:
He heard growls and other grisly sounds echoing above him, suggesting that something was definitely happening. But it was his network of Sentinel that pinged a formless entity manifesting through Necromancy. Like ink seeping out of the crypt’s shadow, the Mystic watched as something bled into existence. The ghoul seemed to regard him for an instant before Barthelme heard the hiss of acid eating through his patients’ restraints.

”Go”, whispered the wraith. ”Kill.”
Had Vireylda ever been tapped into a Sentinel net before? It was possible, of course, if some Mystic had ever done such a thing for her. If not, well, that would certainly be a novel experience. But through it she would sense mostly just the Otherling and the bonds of the monster's victims being tampered with, because that was what Barthelme's attention had been focused on at the particular moment he was sharing. And not, say, an Invisible Sylaphormes looming right over his shoulder.

That was the way of the Serewood Crystal. Barthelme had never yet had it reveal a memory its user didn't want to be revealed.

Which was good, because he had his own secrets... Sylaphormes herself being high among them.

"And, that's how it was when the Otherling showed up! Your turn now, right? Whatcha got for us?"


"Simply concentrate on that which you wish to reveal."
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Old February 7, 2018, 01:35 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Interesting, might she have possibly found another academic? People didn’t generally want to talk about why certain magics worked, simply that they did. Unfortunately, blind assumption was never enough for the elf. Perhaps it stemmed from some personal need of control, but she preferred knowing how things worked down to the smallest detail, if possible.

She sat down with them at their table, after only a slight deliberation. Really these people didn’t see so bad, and a seat was much better than standing on her sore feet. It had been a very long day full of walking, and it was better for all involved if she wasn’t standing for a while.

A mystic then? Vireylda was vaguely familiar with the terms the man was using, but as she’d never had first had knowledge of a mystic in action, found herself somewhat at a loss. From what she recalled from her studies it was a general linking of thoughts, examining the surroundings and the beings within it.
Ah, now that she could understand, and frowned at the implications. The only things she knew that were formed from pure entropic essence were Fiends, and if someone had managed to allow such a thing free reign on the material plane it was grim tidings indeed.

”Unfortunately, Grim Shift links the caster and the wraith form. While they are currently wraith like, you can still tell that they have a material form. If the creature was simply pure entropic essence then that is far less likely.”

She spilled off the information like it was second hand knowledge, but Vireylda wondered personally how Barthelme knew the inner workings of a necromantic spell, when knowledge of the art in general was restricted.

The elf was silent in regards to Barthelme’s conversation with Usira, listening to the two of them banter back and forth.

Even so, she was grateful for the interlude. It allowed her to consider what she was going to show Barthelme. The moment the abomination erupted out of the ground seemed apt, but also when it was destroyed. The flood of wraiths, dark spirits and otherwise unpleasant things that spilled forth from the monster’s carcass would probably be of just as much interest to him as it still was to her.

Vireylda looked at the chain with suspicion, but curiosity won out over caution. She took the end of it, and had to keep from gasping.
To be so confined with one sphere for her entire life, it suddenly seemed so sad. While she was focused on the wraith-like creature forming out of the void, most of her attention was enraptured with the Sentinel net. It was like a spiderweb of different thoughts, people. All whispering in her head and trailing webs of intellect through her head.

Then the entity spoke, and she was snapped back to attention. Malevolence seethed from the thing’s voice, and Vireylda was almost positive now.
She came back to herself, blinking as the memory finished.


”I may be wrong, but I’m thinking that what you saw was a Fiend.” She looked at the crystal, envisioning what she wanted him to experience. ”If you know about the Grim Shift spell, then probably are aware that the level underneath the one required to cast it allows a being of Chaos to be brought into the material world, through what is known as an Essence Shell. A formless entity, depending on the caster level or efficiency of the spell.”
That said, he’d shown her something in good faith, it would be unkind to not reciprocate. She brought the crystal to her temple.

The elf thought back on the moment the monster had first appeared, sucking up undead as it moved, repairing the damage that had been done to it. She did not concentrate on the necromancy she’d been channeling the moment before.

That done, she handed it back to Barthelme. ”You seem to be of the academic sort, what are your thoughts on the matter?”
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Old February 7, 2018, 07:16 PM   #9 (permalink)
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"Indeed," Barthelme said. "It is my understanding that if it had been a Necromancer, my physical attack should have damaged its immaterial seeming."

"That it didn't was the final proof that it definitely wasn't from Telath."


Barthelme's expression remained neutral, but he marked Vireylda's initial reluctance to take hold of the Serewood Crystal. Such a curious, skittish woman. Hesitant to trust in the crystal's power. Hesitant even to sit down. And yet, by all appearances she had not been afraid of Usira. Many people were. Some hid it by doing their best to ignore her, and some indulged in over the top histrionics at the mere sight of her. Yet this elf had regarded her with avid curiosity. Not many other ever had. Indeed, Barthelme could count them on one hand.

"It seems very possible that the creature in question was a Fiend summoned by a Necromancer," Barthelme agreed. "However... I think it is also possible that it was summoned by no one... and yet found its own way into the material plane. Many Otherlings do."

"Really, a Fiend is just a more specific sort of Otherling. Like 'Elemental' or 'Ghost.' Of course if it was summoned through Necromancy, whoever did it would have to be pretty strong. Its power chewed right through Barthelme's Nullification field in practically no time."


Barthelme's expression was often difficult to read, and usually by design. Long decades of practice and any number of unfortunate incidents had lead him to develop an impressive poker face, even when he was witnessing the world dissolve into a phantasmagoria before him. While watching the vision Vireylda had offered through the crystal, though, Barthelme allowed himself a slight, hard smile of satisfaction. He had so wanted to see the abomination up close, and now he finally had. More grist for the Nightmare mill.

"In my opinion," he said, "given the great size and complexity of the construct... and the sheer numbers of allied undead... Omak's creator must have been an Archmage Necromancer... or an Otherling with power at least equivalent to one. With that in mind... I would like to show you a little more of the apparition I encountered in the tomb. It spoke of Omak, you see..."

Specifically, Barthelme wished to share the moment it had attacked Kaillin, a memory which consisted mostly of his witnessing the woman collapse before him, and hearing the Otherling vow to drink her strength and feed her blood to Omak. He further shared the moment he broadcast the creature's image to Diamea and Kaillin, and the latter was then able to apparently banish the being with her Thaumaturgy. That would be about the same moment in which Barthelme had heard Omak itself being exploded somewhere in the background.

"As far as I can judge... the Otherling's disappearance and Omak's destruction occurred simultaneously. Might one have been contingent on the other?"

"It seems like either the 'Fiend' was the culprit, or some Archmage Necromancer did it. Either way, though, it seems likely as not the mastermind is still out there. Especially considering the whole 'Ygg, the Demon Tree' thing just last era, which was also here in Arium."


"Surely there cannot be many Archmage Necromancers releasing colossal abominations to feed upon the people of Arium. Still... Ygg seemed to be at least partly Druidic in nature... whereas Omak showed no such qualities."

"Unless there was some Druid-style destruction magic mixed up in it, too. Rot and whatever, helping the Necromancy along. Would there really be an Archmage Necromancer and an Archmage Necromancer/Druid Hedgemage both striking in Arium within a single era of each other?"

"It's possible, I suppose... but it seems unlikely. Which is why I wonder if there is some other cause for these events... beyond the veil."
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Old February 10, 2018, 07:59 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Vireylda nodded. ”Correct, unless it’s a special case with some kind of magical protection, then yes you should have. Grim Shift only allows a wraith form, but the wraith can still be damaged. More importantly, if it’s damaged by a mortal wound the caster will instantly shift back into their original, vulnerable, form.” Knowledge slid from her lips easily, as if she was reading a book. Normally something like this was followed by a surge of embarrassment. No one wanted to hear academic babble. At the best of times it would sound boring, and the worst one might think she was pompous.

Again, we speak of these ‘otherlings’.” In her pursuit of knowledge, Vireylda had never come across something like this before. Frankly, if she had not glimpsed the snake woman sitting in the booth next to Barthelme, she would probably have written him off as mad. Though in retrospect, most of the thigns she did could be conceivably considered mad, and she got by just fine. Insanity was just how you looked at it, it seemed.

Sitting down, it was odd to be looking across at the woman. Everything about her screamed strange, and foreign.Snakes had one tail, and this woman had two. Eyes went on faces, not hands. There was just a way of things, and she was dismayed to notice that she was ever so slightly perturbed about that. Then again, Vireylda doubted Barthelme had people react like this to his companions often, so it probably wasn’t so bad after all.

True, it was curiosity that made her scan Usira’s form. Eyes went on faces, and snakes had two tails yes, but it was the why that made her wonder. The elf yearned to study this woman, to delve into the particulars of what she was. What kind of being was indistinguishable to sight normally, yet so tied to a person, a mystic even, that they could appear thus? Vireylda hadn’t missed the hazy fog that surrounded Usira’s being when one was standing further away. She’d have missed it if not for her keen sense of observation.

A frown creased her features. ”I have to admit I’m not as familiar with Otherlings as you are. I do however, understand power. Whatever it was, fiend or no, it is undeniably powerful. The implications of that are unsettling. If it’s a fiend, then someone had to summon it, and if it isn’t, then there is an immensely strong necromancer in the area, bent on wreaking havoc.

The frown deepened. It was things like this that made her dream so difficult. In fact, Vireylda was beginning to wonder if she was mad in this attempt, when so much wanted to bash down the fragile hope she had. Suddenly her being with Barthelme and Usira seemed so much more dangerous. They were speaking of necromancers and the harm they could possibly do, and here she was treading dangerously close to revealing that she was, in fact, one of them.

The smile took her by surprise. The expression slight, and one of satisfaction. The motion itself wasn’t upsetting, but more the time when it appeared. She’d watched Bartheleme soak in her memory of the creature, and his response had been timed to that period. Maybe he’s just happy we killed it? The possibility was there, but for some reason Vireylda felt that wasn’t the case.

Really though, she was probably being overly paranoid.

An Archmage? Well, that would be an issue. She was herself moderately powerful at this point, but an Archmage Necromancer could do horrible things, if they wished to. The powers of her sphere could be so terribly destructive without restraint. Which, as Omak had shown, was the exact opposite.

The woman collapsed in the vision Barthelme showed her, and then the things declaration of intent. She shivered, cold washing through he body, down in her bones. ”That sounds like the intent of a Leeching spell, but could perhaps be some altered form of Vampiric Embrace.” Vireylda was only hopeful that her statements sounded more like ones from a studied academic than from experience. The elf leaned forward, moving her hands as she spoke. ”I don’t know if you are familiar with it, but Vampiric Embrace creates some kind of link between the caster and the target. Whatever damage that is done to the caster is instead transferred to the target. From what you’ve described, it could have been a warped version of that. One to transfer power from the wraith to Omak.”

In response to the statement of Ygg the demon tree, Vireylda cocked a brow. ”Forgive me, but I’m not familiar with that.” She carefully reached for the crystal again. This time Vireylda focused on the creature’s destruction. On the spirits and ghastly things that had fled from it’s corpse. On how the thing crumbled when the spirits were bereft of their prison. She gave Barthelme a look after he was done. ”As I said, I know nothing about this Ygg, so I could be wrong about this.” She leaned back, pulling down her hood and running a hand through her platinum blonde, short hair. The gesture was done without stiffness. Something natural that she didn’t think about. Indeed after it happened the elf stilled, as if realizing what was done. She finished, sighing like one who suddenly saw a very unpleasant future ahead of them.

”Whatever that abomination was, I highly doubt that there was anything druidic in it. An Archmage necromancer, or otherworldly creature is likely the culprit.” Anger simmered for a moment at the thought of the monster created by whoever was at fault. The destruction caused, the lives lost, how it was such a waste of resources.

Lastly, how it made her hope that much more tarnished.

She fervently hoped that it wasn’t an Archmage Necromancer, because her sudden plan to go and eradicate whatever was the underlying cause for all this, seemed that much far out of her reach.
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Old February 11, 2018, 01:43 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Barthelme shrugged off the matter of Vireylda's confessed lack of knowledge about Otherlings.

"Well... as I mentioned, the study of Otherlings is something of a specialty of mine. That's all."

"Like how Necromancy seems to be a specialty of yours."


"Yes... I've fought against Necromancers a number of times..."

"...And sometimes alongside them..."


"...And so I've studied their methodology, to degree... and witnessed the performance of any number of basic Necromantic spells. I am familiar, for example, with the Vampire's Embrace."

"From firsthand experience, actually! And not from the fun end of it, either."


"But I must admit... it never occurred to me that the Otherling from the crypt might have been attempting to empower Omak with a variant of that spell. That's quite clever. Compared to your own enviable knowledge of Necromancy, Miss Vireylda... I suppose I am little more than a dilettante on the subject."

"Wink, wink."
Yes, Usira actually said it, along with winking her primary eye.

Was that a "We totally know you're a Necromancer" wink? Or just a "Go, nerdy arcana academics!" kind of a wink? Well, considering that Barthelme had just admitted to sometimes traveling with Necromancers... and without even batting an eye... it probably didn't matter.

The look on Barthelme's face remained so neutral they might as well have been discussing her possible prowess as a pastry chef.

"I do wonder, though... exactly what the mind behind what happened at Xania was attempting to accomplish."

"Killing a whole bunch of people, to raise more undead, to kill more people?"


"Possibly. But why?"

"I dunno. Some Necromancers seem to like that kind of thing, is all I'm saying."

Well, the memory that Vireylda offered about Omak's fall seemed to hint at some possible answers.

"So many Otherlings contained inside the beast. In addition to absorbing the flesh of its victims, it appears to have been feeding on their Psionic Essence... their souls, you might say... as well. If it was using them as a power source, Omak's purpose might simply have been to continue its harvest as a means of continually increasing its own strength. The words of the Death Otherling also seemed to imply as much. I remain uncertain, however, as to what the end game was supposed to be."

"Yeah, giant Necromantic abominations have a pretty poor track record, when it comes to achieving anything other than terrorizing small villages."

"A prototype, then? A proof in concept for some other, more effective abomination to be released later on down the road..."

"Probably a whole bunch of little Omaks would have been more dangerous than one really big one. I mean, your basic undead horde is famous for going down pretty fast, too. But if they were self-replicating..."


"Speaking of which... Ygg. The Demon Tree. An abomination that also appeared in Arium, roughly one era ago. See for yourself..."

And Barthelme would share the memory of the information he had acquired through his inadvertent mental link with Ygg's odd non-brain. The relevant data he shared included its ability to sense and feed on blood, generate Necromantic-type 'fear' spells, and create 'children' in the form of pus-filled seeds, which would have spread throughout Arium if Ygg herself hadn't been chopped up and burned down by the adventurers and the local militias and such.

"Perhaps, given your superior knowledge on the subject, you can see a means by which Ygg could have been created through Necromancy alone. Given its apparent blend of living tree and Necromantic abomination, however... I'm sure you will understand why I supposed it to be partly Druidic in nature."

"But if it wasn't, then the two attacks in Arium pretty much have to have the same guy behind them. Even if it was... maybe he has a Druid buddy, I dunno."

Barthelme's eyes were on Vireylda's face, now. Just taking in what she looked like without the hood, in almost the same way that she herself had been studying Usira, before. Including even the staring... though in Barthelme's case his eyes slowly became slightly unfocused, as though he was looking right through her.

"I can think of possible one way to identify Omak's creator," he said. "With my powers, and with these fragments of Omak... I might be able to establish a... mental link... with the unknown perpetrator of the attack. If he or she still lives, that is... and if they have the sort of brain which is susceptible to my powers."

"Ooh, good thinking, Barthelme! If our guy is a Fiend or a lich or something though, all bets are off."

Yes, it might work. Not with his Mysticism, though, as Barthelme admittedly meant for his words to imply. With his powers as a Twisted. If Barthelme attached the ogre's eye and whatever else to his Dreamcatcher, he might be able to peer into the dreams or nightmare's of the abomination's creator.

If Omak's creator even did dream. If not, Barthelme would at least know they were dealing with something more otherworldly than just a Necromancer.
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Old February 13, 2018, 12:47 AM   #12 (permalink)
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In an instant, the excitement of academia shifted. The rush of euphoria that always accompanied discovery and learning sliding away from her, leaving the choking chill of dread in it’s place. Panic dripped into being within her stomach, small tendrils starting to wind it’s way through her being. They know! Her thoughts rebelled, trying to hijack her body and flee. She was outnumbered here. Vireylda didn’t know the extent of power Barthelme and Usira possessed, but the idea that she could take both at the same time was ludicrous.

The elf hurriedly skimmed through a mental book of her spells. Decay? No, too much attention. What about Impotence? Acid Sphere is out, Summon Undead needs too much material to cast. What about Venom? Perhaps Fright? Spell after spell flew through her mind, trying desperately to find an escape.

She’d just about decided upon one, when Usira’s comment threw off all the mental momentum gained. …Alongside them? The panic shifted, just a tad. Less concentrated than usual. Her thoughts of flight waylaid by one statement. The elf allowed herself a small hope. Was this one of those kinds of people? The looming fear that accompanied anything involving her discovery faded into the background.

Perhaps…

She refrained from biting her lower lip. It would be a gamble, and one that could cost her dearly should she misjudge. Logically she shouldn’t allow her guard to fall so easily, but the elf was quickly realizing there was a side of her that was so tired of hiding what she was. Of fearing discovery.

Determined, Vireylda opened her mouth, making the decision. ”I assure you, my expertise only comes from experience as well.” She frowned, before taking the plunge. ”To your other statement, the sphere is more malleable than people expect. Crafting certain spells only require it to be among the same theme. Vampiric Embrace requires stealing of life energy, causing damage.” She closed her eyes, no turning back now.

“If…if I were to craft such a spell, I would probably extend some portion of Impotence, to steal vitality. The Vampiric Embrace portion would provide the link. However, I don’t understand the healing shown by the creature at all. Necromancy can’t actually provide anything but temporary recovery.”

She was quiet for a time, pondering what he said in an effort to distract herself from her near admission. ”It is possible however that the spirits inside of it would have added an unknown component to the mix.”
That was a good question. It seemed like it made little sense. She said nothing on the matter, pondering it as Barthelme brought to voice her own thoughts without her actually doing so. She waited until he was done with his musings before adding her own.

”I personally believe it was some kind of test run. It’s the only reason I can imagine for the whole debacle. The resources lost to craft such a thing would be massive, and it would be foolish to cast aside a construct like that for an insignificant reason.”

She paused, eyes widening in a kind of realization. ”What if…what if the reason for the size of the creature, was because the amount of souls within it, the ones that provide it’s constant healing? What if they were too numerous to be contained in smaller constructs? Too powerful for anything other than a massive monster to be able to utilize their power?” Her tone had shifted now, from careful deliberation to sporadic intensity. Vireylda’s mind was racing, attempting to dissect the mystery before her.

Of course, there was a small part of her grappling with the decision to reveal herself. Yet even as she considered it, a small portion of her revolted. How can I ever hope to enact lasting change if I allow my fear of discovery to rule me? If she couldn’t be the example, then no one would ever follow her lead, and they would be right to do so.

Even as she considered it, the idea of the swarm of smaller constructs was percolating in her brain. Constructed flesh golems that healed themselves as they fought. Armies that only required so many soldiers, that took the losses of their enemy and not only dwindled their numbers, but actively grew it’s own army. The possibilities were incredibly lucrative, and she’d have to consider it in the future. Though hopefully without the blasphemous atrocity that Omak itself had been.

All other thoughts fled as the memory of Ygg, The Demon Tree washed over her. She felt herself mentally recoil at the primal, innate darkness that oozed from the thing. There was something…wrong about it. As if a natural part of the earth had been irreversibly corrupted, twisted into a mockery of it's former self. She knew her sphere could do such a thing, and one side of her wept for the loss.

The other one though, the side that wasn’t tethered by emotion or feelings, it was studying, analyzing, trying to understand. When it came Vireylda was talking slowly, as if not sure of the words coming from her lips. ”I don’t understand anything about Druidism, but I do know something of nature.” Her blue eyes focused on the pieces of Omak Barthelme held in front of him.

”Nature exists in cycles. Birth, Life, Death. The base meaning of mortal life is normally to breed. Create new life. From the smallest insects to the largest giant. It’s what comes natural.” She frowned, her features darkening. ”I feel somewhere along the line Ygg was corrupted. Perhaps Druidism was involved, but the natural urge to procreate was changed. The spirit of nature that may have resided in her twisted. Her spawn suddenly become toxic, instead of fruitful.” She shook her head, the frown deepening. ”Even to my knowledge. The how’s of this situation are a mystery to me.”

Finally, the last portion grabbed her attention. Vireylda didn’t know what powers Barthelme actually possessed, but if he knew a way to find the creator of the spell she would offer what aid she could. ”If I can be of help with that, perhaps with my knowledge of undead and entropic arcana, I’d like to do so.” Her mouth hardened into a fine line, a grim smile slowly forming from tight, thin, lips. ”I don’t know the reason as to why such a thing has occurred, but I assure you that if we find the perpetrator, they won’t have a very pleasant end.”

She looked away, eyes darting to the front of the tavern, as if looking at something only she could see. The specter of Aslangrad loomed in the distance, and she defiantly glared back at it, before turning again to Barthelme, suddenly calmer. ”Just because some may wish nothing but chaos, blasphemy and bloodshed, I like to think we aren’t all like that.” The direct admission was easier than she expected, and Vireylda only waited for the response.
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Old February 14, 2018, 08:35 PM   #13 (permalink)
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"Of course," Barthelme agreed, entirely deadpan.

"I am still winking, see? Wink!"


Barthelme knew fear. He was a Twisted, after all. So Vireylda's moment of panic had not escaped him. Still, he had not shifted, nor made any threatening move. If she had chosen to attack him just then, would he have been ready for it? Possibly! Any preparations he might have made, though, were entirely within his own head.

"I... am not sure 'healing' is the term I would use for repairing an undead construct."

"Since it was already undead to begin with, couldn't it just sort of patch the holes in itself by filling them in with more dead flesh? Like from those corpses it was absorbing?"

"Elementalism cannot be used for healing, either... but it might be used to summon more material in order to repair a stone wall... or, potentially, a stone golem, I imagine."

"Not that we really got to see whatever kind of healing it was doing up close."

"Yes... and you would know better than we would, I imagine... if what Usira describes is possible."

The half-elf nodded thoughtfully as Vireylda explained her theory about the size of the creature being necessary to contain its multitude of souls. In fact he could remember at least one occasion where the evidence seemed to corroborate the idea that a great many minds would need a truly massive construct in order to contain them.

"That seems... very plausible. An undead construct that must be so large, however... well. I would think that such a thing would have limited utility, except perhaps as the equivalent of siege equipment. As Usira says, undead abominations of such scale usually draw the attention of adventurers and the like very quickly."

"Then again, who knows? Maybe I was giving Omak too little credit. Probably its creator didn't expect to rile up so many big-time mages that quickly. If Omak had been able to absorb all of Xania, he might have become too strong to beat so easily."

"Yes, well... outside of questioning the construct's creator... I suppose we'll never know for sure what his or her exact reasoning might have been."

The elf's thoughts about Ygg drew another hard-to-read exchange of glances between Barthelme and Usira.

"Sometime,"
the Otherling said, "Barthelme's just gotta tell you what he thinks the base meaning of mortal life is."

"A topic for another time, perhaps," Barthelme said with a faint shrug. "I would certainly agree... Ygg was corrupted by some... otherworldly power. Whether arcana, or some unknown force from beyond the veil... I remain uncertain. The tree... or what remained of her, after Ygg's fall... did seem to have some connection to... well. A foreign plane. You can see a small glimpse of it, here... in Despoina."

And he pointed to the globe of swirling energy barely contained within the staff's bark 'cage,' where flashes of blue and purple seemed to chase each other in endless circles.

"Which is one reason why I wonder whether Omak truly ever had a mortal creator... or the apparent Fiend, a master... at all."

"If Omak did have a creator, Barthelme might be able to get a lead on him with his powers, like he said. But, you know, it'd take a ritual-type kind of thingie with sort of a long set up and all."

Which was, technically speaking, true. Though mostly only because Barthelme would need to sleep for however long it took to scan the dreams of Omak's creator for useful information... if such a person even really existed, and if they possessed a mind that was capable of dreaming.

"And even then, I might not be so fortunate as to be able to divine an exact location. But if I do discover anything useful... I shall be pleased to inform you of what I found. At that point, I might well need assistance in narrowing the search."

"Plus given the level of power we saw in Xania, this would probably be a bring-all-your-buddies kind of hunt, anyway."


When Vireylda looked away and then back to Barthelme, she would find him staring in the same direction she had just been looking a moment ago. Searching for whatever it was that she had seen. Even Usira had turned a couple of her palm-mounted eyes in that direction, though her primary eye remained fixed on the elf.

"Oh, sure,"
the Otherling said with a carless wave of one of her other hands. Just totally blase about it. "Takes all kinds, right?"

"In the Academia Arcanorum, in Aelyria Prime, the study of Necromancy is not forbidden." Barthelme gave another faint shrug. "They are scholars there... men and women of reason, and of learning. Like you, I suppose."

Offhanded or not, Barthelme meant it as a compliment. A sincere one, of course. Barthelme did not play the flattery-for-the-sake-of-flattery game. That would be a lie. And, yes, also as tacit assurance that he had no interest in running off and crying 'Necromancer' to the church or the Aslanites and whoever.

"Just between us, though... what was the appeal for you, anyway?"
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