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jameson (ST)

Adventure! RPG: Dark Tidings - Dreams of Shadow and Light

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Mia:

You find yourself in a boat floating down a river that is black and cold as death. You recognize it from the one time before you had seen it, the River Styx. On the right you see nothing, the river simply ends in an impenetrable void of darkness, as though staring into eternity and finding it empty. To the left you see the living world, vibrant and vital. Turning you see Charon behind you slowly guiding the boat down the river. “The darkness, it provides power if you wish to seize it.” Pushing back its cowl you see that the being is not Charon. It is a being completely devoid of features. Black with ill defined edges it is like a personification of the void. It holds out it’s hand and in it is a piece of obsidian, “Take it and the power and knowledge is yours.”

Mia puts on her best you-kidding-me expression. "I wasn't born yesterday, buster. Nothing's free. What's the catch?"

The obsidian shard seems to float on his outstretched hand. "Catch? You seek truth do you not? You see to uncover that which is secret and bring it to light? What catch is there to your every action as you are now? This will only serve to lay bare those secrets to you and give you the power to uncover truth. Take it, seize what you have sought. Or do not and the truth will elude you."

"See, all you had to do was be honest and I'd have listened. Yeah, I chase stories like dogs chase cars. And everyone who gives up anything on a story does it for a reason. If they don't tell you - even after you ask - it's 'cause they don't want you to know. And the less they want me to know, the more suspicious I get of what they tell me."

Mia props her feet up and lights a cigarette. "I can find the truth just dandy on my own, slugger. So take a hike."

The edges of it's hand closed round the shard, enveloping it in nothingness as though it wasn't there. With a horrid scream the form winks out of existence leaving you alone on the River Styx.

****

In her guest room at the Abel manor Mia awoke suddenly from the dream, a disconcerting feeling washed over her momentarily before going away. The room is dark and the manor quiet. The clock on the wall shows that it is only three am. Reluctantly Mia lies down and returns to sleep.

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Marion:

You stand in a field of verdant green broken only by the white granite headstones of the dead interred beneath the earth. In front of you a fresh grave lies open the casket slowly descends into the hole. Panicking you look to the tombstone and fine it reads, Marion Abel, Beloved Daughter and Sister. As you stare into your own grave and watch your casket get lowered into it you find yourself unwilling to accept your death. You squeeze your eyes shut as though you can will away the scene. When you open them again you are in the library preparing a ritual. Ben asks if you are certain that you can perform the ritual and though you are doubtful and worried that you do not have the skill or energy you simply nod assent as you begin to perform the ritual. As it reaches its apex you find that you do in fact lack the power and skill needed. The energy contained in the ritual explodes outward and strikes you down, killing you instantly.

You return to the graveyard and see for the first time than Ben’s grave is next to yours, his casket already lowered and the gravediggers are beginning to throw dirt down onto the casket. Once again you attempt to will away the vision and once again you return to the library. The Grimoire is laid out in front of you once more.

Ben holds out the shard of obsidian, “Do you want this? Power beyond your own, knowledge long forgotten? The keys to controlling the universe? Take it and it will all be yours.”

Haunted by the visions she's been shown, Marion lifts her hand to reach out...but stops herself. She eyes Ben narrowly. He was always the voice of caution, the voice of reason. But didn't that mean what he was saying now was rational?

"If it's so wonderful," she says slowly, feeling out her own misgivings, "Then why are you offering it freely? Nothing of value comes without a price."

She looks at the Grimoire ruefully.

"I have paid for this...and I will continue to pay. I'll never be safe, or know real peace while I possess it. I knew going in what the consequences would be. What the dangers would be. I may be...incautious sometimes, but I'm not a fool."

Her eyes flick back to 'Ben.' "So explain to me...what is the price for this power you offer? Would I possess it, or would it possess me?"

In the blink of an eye Ben is replaced by the silhouette of a man. Within his outline there exists nothing, as though a man shaped portal to the deepest void of space. The obsidian shard seems to float on his outstretched hand. "Price? What price is there to those who seek out and claim what is theirs? You seek power and knowledge, those are their own price. The price of being the one who hold the power, who knows that which is not. Take it, seize what you have sought. Or do not and watch as others take what you desired."

"I seek," Marion says slowly, again as much to herself as to the shape, "to earn power and knowledge. There's a subtle, but all-important distinction. I don't want your strings on this...but no, it's not just that. It's not just power and knowledge I seek, it's wisdom. Power and knowledge mean nothing without the wisdom to know how to use them, and when."

"What are you, really? Why are you hiding behind images of my family, and now this? Tell me your name, or show me your true face. Perhaps then we'll talk more."

The edges of it's hand closed round the shard, enveloping it in nothingness as though it wasn't there. "Would that you had taken this token your questions would have been answered. Perhaps you will be granted a second chance, perhaps not."

The form winks out of existence and you are returned to the graveyard. This time you are trapped within your own coffin as the sound of dirt raining down upon it fills your ears. You scream but no one can hear you. Alone in the dark the only sound is your ragged breath and the soil piling up on your grave.

****

In her room at the Abel manor Marion writhed in torment in her sleep until she sat bolt upright awakened from the horrific nightmare. The room is dark and the manor quiet. The clock on the wall shows that it is only three am. Reluctantly Marion lies down and returns to sleep.

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Ben:

You sit in the library, in front of you a tablet of stone inscribed with symbols, words of a language so old and so dead that you cannot figure it out, cannot translate it or even determine structure or alphabet. Scattered about you is every book on languages that the Guardian could locate. Dozens of books, each less useful than the one before it, encircle you. None of them providing even a hint as to the culture that created this language, none of them capable of even giving you the barest hint of it’s translation or meaning. You have spent days, weeks, even months tracking down every last possible clue talking to every last possible expert and yet still you cannot crack this language. The Gaurdian approaches, There are no more books master, but I did find this. He holds out the obsidian shard. It can teach you, it can give you the knowledge you seek and more. You know that it speaks the truth, you know that you need only take the shard and that it can teach you the secrets of this language and many others.

Ben looks at the shard. It seems so easy, so simple now. "Thankyou Guardian," Ben says, "Your assistance is invaluable." Ben takes the shard and places it on his tongue. The crystal around his neck glows brightly.

As the shard dissolves onto your tongue you feel the knowledge pass into your mind and power into your body. The rune-like language is suddenly clear to you as though you've know it all your life. You flip through the books looking at cuniform, and orther archaic languages that you either never knew before or had only minimal knowlede of an dfind that that you can read them fluently. It is like the Tower of Bable were inside your head.

*****

In his room at Abel manor Ben sleeps soundly unaware as he speaks in tounges long forgotten and others unknown to mankind.

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Janos:

You stand on a plain of rock and packed earth. Behind you the Rakozi ancestral home burns and the sounds of screaming fills your ears. You look forward and see nothing, an abyss of pure blackness, desolate and complete. You find yourself holding the Sword of Mars in your hand, the hilt gripped tightly. The blade glows with an eldritch flame that seems to push back the darkness as it creeps over the fields of the dead. You look to your left and see a young man, his features remarkably similar to your own and yet distinctly different. You know he is your son and yet you cannot recall how you know this. To your left is a string of other men; you father, Attila the Hun, and dozens or perhaps hundreds more. You know that each and every one has held and used the Sword and been empowered by it.

Your son asks you, “Will you lead the charge?”

"Blood and Honor," Janos whispers. "It's all we have left."

He looks to his son.

"Stick close to me and pick this," indicating the sword,"up when I fall."

The fear comes and goes, replaced by a chilled nothingness. Its like an old friend he knows from so many battles, this empty quiet. Time to go to war once more.

He holds the sword aloft and makes a chopping gesture forward as he screams, "ROHAM!" <Hungarian for Charge>

As you speak you see that each of the men before you and your son after you each carry a copy of the sword. As you yell out the charge command the swords all burst into light, empowered by hundreds of the greatest men to ever live. You, your forefathers, and your unborn son rush toward the darkness your blades slicing into it as though something tangible. An inhuman bellow tears through the air ...

... and you awake screaming and covered in sweat. The Sword of Mars is in your hand and it's blade still glows faintly pushing back the darkness. You replace the blade in its scabbard still unsure how you drew it in your sleep and calm yourself so that you can return to sleep. As you do a knock at the door breaks the dark silence. "Sir, are you alright? Do you need anything?" The door opens revealing the shape of a man outlined by the light from the hall.

"Its nothing, Stephan. Nothing."

Still, Janos keeps the sword in his grip. He needs to talk to Catori or Marion about the dream. This one was too real. He wishes it could be Amarra, but that doesn't seem possible.

"Stephan, what time is it? I may need to make a few calls and be about for breakfast."

The door opens fully and despite the light now coming past the figure you cannot make out any features. That is when you realize that it has none, it is not more than a silhouette containing a void of darkness. It offers its hand, in it the obsidian shard, "Take it, and learn of your family's fate. Find you sister, find your brother."

He damns himself for hesitating. He damns himself for the loneliness he feels and for the loss of his sister. There is a void in his life and he wants it filled.

Will the other ever help him? Will it ever be his chance to make things right with the world and bring Amarra home? He had doubt.

His brother too? This is too much. Were is he going to find the strength?

The sword feels warm and alive in his grasp and he realizes something that his father said.

Men make justice. It is not handed to them.

He holds out the sword in a threatening gesture, not strong enough to lash out, not strong enough to fully refuse what is offered. He is enough of a man to not reach for it though.

"I know you lie," he says feebly. "Whatever you give has too great a cost and you will not profit from my weakness, I swear. Begone and leave me my dreams and my family."

In a stronger voice he finishes,

"I don't need you. I will succeed on my own."

As soon as you raise the sword it bursts into light as it had in the dream and the shadow recoils. "You will regret this, I will flay your family and suck the marrow from their bones!" Without realizing that you are doing it you spring up and out of bed. Forward towards the creature you bound as the Sword of Mars, as though guiding your hand instead of the other way around, sweeps out and arc of blazing light through the being. An explosion of light and dark and an howl of pain ...

*****

And you awake. At first confused, you quickly remember that you are sleeping in one of the Abel's many guest rooms. You realize that you are covered in sweat despite the cold. Beside you the Sword glows visibly in its scabbard for a second before fading out leaving you in darkness again. Exhausted you collapse back into the bed. Within moments you are asleep again, the only thing you dream of is the sword and it's owners, past and future.

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Catori:

The plains. Amber waves of grain and grass stretch out in every direction beneath a sky as blue as any you can remember. The wind blows and ripples the grasses blowing through your hair. Above a great eagle soars; you know it is your father, your spirit guardian. A sound behind you alerts you that you are not alone. You turn and find a man as black as midnight, only an outline containing nothing but endless darkness. He extends his hand, “Would you take the power to save your people? To return to the world to the way it was?”

Your father swoops down from the sky and attacks the man. He tears chunks of darkness from the man’s body and each turns into a tiny piece of obsidian when it strikes the ground. You father cries out, "Be strong daughter!"

Catori moves to help her father and attack the being. She trusts him and knows that the darkness is just a tempting spirit. Maybe even her own subconscious mind trying to take advantage of the situation. But she'll fight it, no matter what.

You attack the man, you knife cuts through him but always the darkness closes up behind the blade. You try to grapple with the creature but it evades you easily as slippery as the shadow it seems made of. Your father transforms into a powerful warrior, his headdress showing him chief and his young features and physique showing him in his prime before you were born. He raises a great stone axe and grapples with the shadow with his free hand.

He brings the axe down and smashes the man into thirteen pieces. which turn to obsidian as they hit the ground. Breathing heavily he slumps returning to the old man you knew before he died. "It is not defeated so easily. You must destroy it's heart!"

*****

In the Abel Manor Catori awakens from the dream her father's words echoing in her ears. A shiver runs down her spine.

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Archibald:

You walk down a long corridor. Beside you find a man as black as midnight walks with you. He appears as only an outline containing nothing but endless darkness. After a while you come to the end of the hall a door stands before you. The being opens the door and you see two people inside. The woman holds a baby in her arms and both look down with love upon the child. You know not how but you are certain that those are your parents and that the child is you as a newborn. The being turns to you as it closes the door. In its hand is a wedge of obsidian. “Take it. Take it and you will learn of your past, of your parents and their fate.”

"Wait, don't close the door. Mom, Dad!" Arch shouts out. Turning to the man in black, Arch is completely bewilderd. Inside his head he is a wreck. His thoughts are confused, if he takes the stone his answer's to where his parents are lie before him, if not his search will continue.

After what seems like a eternity, Arch speaks to the man in black. "You offer is great indeed, give me the stone, for I do desire the knowledge of my parent's fate."

You take the stone and immediately power and knowledge flood into you. You mind leaps from you body and you race backwards in time and space. You see your parents, young and full of life as they leave the hospital. A nurse waves to them and says, "Such a beautiful boy you have Mr. and Mrs. Logakis, take care and drive safe." You watch as they leave, getting into a coach drawn by a wagon. Time moves forward a year and you see your mother holding you as your father drives their beat up horse drawn wagon. You watch as they go to an orphanage and give you up for adoption.

"I wish we didn't have to give him away," your mother says to your father.

"I know dear but we cannot afford to raise him, this is for the best, he will be adopted by people who can care for him better than we can. It will turn out alright."

You rush back into you body. You have seen the faces of your parents, you have learned your family name, and you know now why you were given up for adoption. You look at the stone, such a simple thing has given you so much.

*****

In a guest room at the Able Manor Archibald rolls over in his sleep, a tear running down his face.

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Daphne:

You find yourself on the fire blasted plains of hell. Looking down on yourself you find that you are naked and that your body is covered in wounds. That you do not feel them, or the heat of hellfire, makes you realize that you are dead. You look again and see that your flesh is translucent; through your own body you can see the ground. Behind you deep laughter starts and you turn finding a great daemon holding the shining missing fragment of your soul in its hand. You know now that you are irrevocably damned. There is little chance that you will even gain the barter needed to buy back your soul now that you are dead.

From behind you a voice whispers into your ear, “Would you be a slave for the rest of your life? Give in to the night, take up the heart of darkness and you can free yourself from this pitiful creature.”

Daphne whimpered, looking up at the daemon holding the piece of her soul. "Help me," she whimpered to the whispering voice. "Tell me!"

"Here, you need only take it, and the power to slay your enemies will be yours." Daphne turns and finds a man, or rather the silhouette of a man for within there is nothing, not sense of anything but an absence of everything. He extends his hand and floating on the nothingness is a shard of obsidian that is vaguely familiar. "Take it ..."

Daphne had a moment of doubt, but she was a selfish creature, and it only took a glance back at the daemon to convince her to take the shard. Marion might be angry, but she'd forgive her. She always had before.

Daphne grabbed the shard and immediately felt power course through her body suffusing her with dark power. As the power coursed through he so did knowledge, she saw her mother kill herself, saw the events that unfolded in hell which lead to the destruction of her mother's shade. With a thought shadowy armor formed over her body with gauntlets ending in wicked claws as weapons. Turning the daemon howled as it watched the shining fragment of soul in its hand become shot through with black veins that eventually swallowed up the light.

Daphne shot forward, claws extended before her and leapt at the daemon. Claws of pure darkness sliced through infernal flesh and bone spattering the armored figure in ichor. The creature tried to fight back but its blows slid off the shadow cloaked form as though it was not there. In moment it was over, the daemon reduced to little more than gibblets of flesh that quickly burst into flame, giving off a foul smelling oily smoke. Daphne bent and picked up the piece of her soul long lost and smiled.

****

At the Able Manor Daphne rolled over and curled into a ball, pulling the blankets closer over her, a smile on her face as she slept. Nearby Spot whined in his sleep.

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