Pilgrimage Of The Blademaster

Setting his feet onto the cold stone brick, Marcus cursed his old age. When he was younger this sort of trek would have been nothing to him. Now, he questions whether he truly had the physical acuity to endure the entire pilgrimage he was being commanded to take.

Biting wind blew at his face, lessened only by the cotton scarf he’d wrapped around his head for warmth. His tunic and chain mail were insulated with an elastic material that contoured to his skin. A small crystal glowed red amidst the tiny flakes of snow that amassed so quickly they blotted out the valley beyond the mountain ridge.

Though this was not his first time ascending a mountain ruin, it was his first time doing so at the behest of a voice in his head. A brick path led him winding up and around the cliff face. Small walkways that would normally be slippery were no challenge to the spikes on his boots.

“Why on earth did you do this once, let alone multiple times?!”

An image of a brown man clad in ornate golden royal armor appeared in his minds eye. Followed by a tan woman with eyes that shone with ferocity. Lastly, the image of a brutish pale man smirking. That was Aric.

If you’re going to harness my power, I need to know that you’re capable of handling it. This pilgrimage was designed to test your wits, your endurance, and your tenacity. Strength and brutality may have been Aric’s benefits, but you’re much more well rounded. I like knowing you’re willing to play my game to prove you’re capable of my presence.

Shaking his head, Marcus couldn’t believe it for a second. Marcus had met the Blademaster when he was just thirteen in Aric’s tomb. There’s no way he would keep this pilgrimage until now for no reason.

“I call bullshit. I peaked out my body long ago. I feel like you would’a had me do this rigmarole then unless you needed something on the other end of it. What’s your angle?”

A moment passed in silence as the image of Aric disappeared. Marcus knew he very well could be working towards losing what little bit of control he had over this wretched demon inside his head.

This is what I like about you Marcus. You refuse to play the victim when you have any say in the matter.

A force gripped Marcus’ mind like never before. He knew this supposed partnership would end in possession eventually. He just didn’t know when. Or what to do when it happened. He kept walking the trail the same as he had been without missing a beat. The Blademaster knew how to mimic him perfectly.

But let me make it very clear to you: You don’t have a say in the matter. At all. I play along with you living your life because I’ve had many lives. Why not give you your free will and see what you can do with it?

He felt the otherworldly grip on his mind loosen and he was his own man again. Clenching his fists, he punched the wall next to him and shouted at the top of his lungs.

“I WILL NOT BE YOUR TOY!”

His voice echoed and boomed with magical energy, sending a concussive shock wave that could be heard for miles around.

Are you mad?! You could-

Marcus wouldn’t allow him to finish.

“Start an avalanche? Yeah. They’d never find my body. Which means your royal pawn is no more and where would your agenda be then, eh?”

Moving his feet forward, he heard the rumbling of snow falling above him. An avalanche had indeed been triggered.

What now, boy?

Chuckling to himself, Marcus motioned to the wall next to him and drew a door with his hand. Glowing red, an outline appeared and the rocky cliff side was replaced with a stone door. Turning the handle, Marcus walked nonchalantly inside an open room carved cleanly from the rock inside the mountain. In the middle of the room lay a glowing white quartz to illuminate the freshly formed shelter.

“Wait it out in relative safety. Play nice, boyo. Don’t think I don’t know you have a reason to be here.”

Marcus felt a pang of anger. He had successfully shown the Blademaster they were on a relatively even playing field. For now.

Land of the Ley-Lines: The Echo Frequency

Kim loved the smell of libraries. Books always reminded him of easier times. At least when reading didn't come with strange consequences. Texts laid on the table were open in various places, lit from the dim white light of the large crystal chandelier in the middle of the five story library. Kim was studying on the second level near volumes of encyclopedias filled with studies on Ley-Line energies and how attunement effects the level of efficacy in spells.

Off to his left a group of students walked by dressed in plain black robes. One girl in particular stood out with gold embroidering of a raven on the front. Long black hair flowed behind her head like a silk waterfall. Something about this girl intrigued Kim. Pulling on the ley-energy around him lightly, he enhanced his sense of hearing to eavesdrop on their conversation.

“This is really risky guys. We have no idea how a ritual like that could effect the Ley-Network.”

The guys all chuckled uncomfortably except for one. A loud mouth young man with a buzzed haircut and a smell of hubris Kim didn't need to enhance his senses to pick up.

“Yet what if it's successful? We would be stars of the academy!”

The girl crossed her arms and cocked an eyebrow. Kim went and sat back at his table of books, pretending to be oblivious to the group.

“Or we could shut down the ley-grid for the entire city for months to come. Is that worth it for notoriety?”

The man laughed and patted her lightly on the arm.

“Absolutely! What do I care? My family's got entire storage rooms full of charged crystals. It wouldn't really effect me much at all!”

Sighing and putting her face in her palm, she shook her head.

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Land of the Ley-Lines - Lessons from a Sellsword

The smell of burning hickory and meat clashed with the clean moisture of the river. An army of invisible crickets and frogs sang an unending quiet song as Marcus sat on a rocky outcropping near a river. A simple looking wooden bow slung behind him resting on stone.

Rustling of leaves betrayed the movement of a rather large man trying desperately to push through the brush. Cursing under his breath, he finally broke through the line of pines and ruffage that lay a handful of meters from the river's edge.

“Bloody fine place you picked to relax. Food's ready ya emo bastard.”

Marcus turned only his head towards Carney. The slow whisper of water flowing made it easier to deal with looking at an enemy who became a friend within a matter of hours.

“Not sure if I'm hungry.”

Carney brushed his hand over his bald head and gave a disapproving snort. Stepping down with ease from the wooded outcropping, he found it hard to get a proper foothold on the loose rocks being nearly eight feet tall. The fact that he was wearing a simple sleeveless tunic and shorts didn't help his trek through the woods, and his sandals are betraying him on uneven ground. Not the sharpest sword in the barracks, but not someone you want to underestimate either.

“Don't give me that crap boyo. Ye haven't eaten since the border skirmish. That was three days ago.”

Carney managed to slowly make his way over to wobble on a stone just behind Marcus.

“Carney, I've got bigger things on my mind. I'm not worried about nourishment. I'm worried about leaving a border completely unde-”

Carney shouted with such force it caused the crickets and frogs to still in fear. Marcus was more shocked at the interruption.

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Land of the Ley-Lines - Kim's Corruption

Kim sat in the oak chair he had relished so many nights reading in front of a fire. A small layer of sand spilled through beneath the rustic wooden door, as candle light flickered beneath the ornate obsidian interior. It had been days since the torrent of sand had stranded everyone in the city in their homes.

Holding a bottle of gin he had been saving for a special occasion, he scratched at the armrest in deep thought. Mumbled words burst forth as his eyes darted back and forth. A book sat in his lap, brown with golden binding. There was no name to the strange scripture he had stumbled on in his library.

For years Kim had been a book collector, spending his time crossing the expanse of the Tyrianian Empire for the rarest volumes he could find. This one he had stumbled upon from a traveling adventurer who sought to pawn it after finding it in a lost tomb.

“How could it be? Just from reading it? That's... no... Not really. Can't believe that at all.”

Mumbling continued as Kim's mind raced with strange visions of distant past lives. An eery silence had fallen over his humble abode. All he could think about was the words he had read out of boredom. It didn't take long for him to finish the entire volume. At first he didn't know really what it was talking about. There were diagrams and charts.

Pictures of human anatomy, brain structure, and even speculation on how the nervous system interacts with Ley-Line energy. There were ideas Kim had never thought of before. Musings on life and death, and how you can't have one without the other. Much of the book was incredibly intriguing philosophically. Yet there was one detail that bothered him.

Something Kim couldn't shake about the last page. He had word of power within words, but nothing like this. Opening the book again, he slowly opened it to the last page.

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