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 Post subject: [Age of Darkness] Finale
PostPosted: Thu Dec 25, 2014 3:22 am 
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The rumors had been quiet at first, whispered down from the Watchers of the Wastes, that looked out across the world from the highest pinnacle of the Grand Fortress, those men and women who for whatever reason chose to gaze into the abyss of the night and bring back rumors of what they had seen.



The rumor filtered through the Terrace of the Prophets where the wise dwelt, half-way up the mighty castle. It had passed among the Warrens, those winding passages and cozy chambers where the masses of humanity’s millions rested and feasted, huddling around what lights and warmth they could create. And, in little time, it reached the deeps below, where the green-gray food vines that nurtured those huddled masses were grown by the light of ancient crystals.



That was where Larasa Farleth was when it had found her, eagerly listening for the whispers of the outside world that most of the remainder of humanity would not willingly lay eyes upon. The whisper was simple, a change in the darkness of the world, as points of light thought constant faded away. The stars were going out.



Larasa was alone after receiving the news. She gazed across the field, to where others worked barely visible in the distance and the lights of the powerstones, and found herself imagining those lights winking out as well. She wished that she had been able to take on the oaths of the Watchers of the Wastes, that her talents with water and stone and flame had not led her to spend her days tilling soil and tending vines and stoking furnaces. She wished that she could see the stars fading before they were all gone.



And then, the thought occurred that she did not have to stay in the depths, among the vines. Had she not walked in the Terrace of the Prophets and in her early youth looked out from the Wailing Halls where the night wind blew onto the wastes of Taramir? Had she not been a single, hasty and mortared wall apart from that world she so craved to lay her eyes upon? And could the vines and furnaces not last some hours without her constant tending?



Without a word to her compatriots, Larasa began her ascent. In olden times, it was said that the Terrace of the Prophets had possessed ten thousand balconies, with railings of gold and silver for the glory of long-forgotten princesses, and if she could find her way to one of those places, it would afford her at least a glance at the sky, without facing the memories that waited for her in the Wailing Halls or disturbing the sworn brothers and sisters of the Watchers of the Wastes in their duties.



Soon, the light of the powerstones vanished behind her, and the pinpricks of torches and fires of lamps ahead as she went through the Warrens. The stone was as cold as the welcomes of the warrens-dwellers. Those people clung close to one another in small families, their backs to the rest of the world, whispering quietly and not looking up from where they hunched protectively over light and food.



Stairs led ever further up into the Grand Fortress, where the rooms were open and cavernous, the silence echoing from stone wall to stone wall. This was the Terrace of the Prophets, where the wizened elders that directed all of the remains of Humanity within the Grand Fortress dwelt and reigned from. A silent, lonely place as the elders were by in large silent and lonely people, contemplating mysteries that Larasa felt she would not have a head for even when she became wizened as an elder herself. On this level, after several hours climbing from the vinebeds, Larasa made her way towards the closest wall of the Fortress, which was the Northern wall, looking out towards the Plains of Despair.



Along the trek, she rested briefly, and then continued, refreshed when she reached the massive stones that marked the farthest extent of the Fortress. Here, she found a place where smaller stones had been more recently laid, and pressed her hands against those rocks, looser than the ancient, megalithic construction of the Fortress itself. She felt the heart of the stone, no different than the deep roots of the earth below, the hearts of mountains that might have been, and with that strength, she pushed, and the rocks yielded. The makeshift patch to the Grand Fortress then yielded, flowing away and revealing the disused balcony.



From that vantage point of soot covered marble with its low rail of tarnished silver, Larasa Farleth looked over the vast expanse of the world. All she could see was all there was to see -- the glow of the crumbling mountains between where the black earth stopped and the ashen clouds they spewed into the sky began. Above her, the blackness was pierced by only a few points of faint light.



That settled it... The Watchers of the Wastes were not mistaken, nor the rumor-mongers selling falsehoods in the warrens. It wasn't clouds or the smoke of fires; those might cover half the sky, or even all of it, but they would not leave a few scattered open spaces left. The stars really were going out.



A cold, sulfuric wind blew in from the north, and Larasa reflexively turned away from it, back towards the breach she had made in the walls of the Grand Fortress. It wasn't much of a hole, she told herself, just an opening where her elders had bricked up the way to the balcony from the Terrace of the Prophets when the Darkness had become too much for them to gaze upon in every waking moment. Still, she should seal it back up before going back to her duties.



Somehow, the thought of going back inside made Larasa feel sick. Why? It was her life, tending the vines that grew by the ancient wizard-lamps and stoking the eternal flames with her magic. She had lived that life since she had been a child, and now her elders said she was almost old enough to be considered a woman.



None of that seemed to matter any more. The stars were going out, another piece in an ancient mystery that wouldn't be solved within the walls of the Grand Fortress. More than anything, Larasa wanted answers, and in wanting them so fiercely, a mad thought struck her. She reached out to the breach, and battered bricks and mortar assembled behind her, sealing the way.



The sun had gone out in the youth of Larasa's great grandfather's great grandfather, and since then no one had gone beyond the wards of the Grand Fortress and returned to tell the tale. Her people were sealed inside. The artificial mountain was home to millions, though perhaps half as many as it had been built for. It was also their prison, and their tomb. Larasa was going to leave it.



In the seeming invincibility of youth, she told herself that she would be the first to dare the Domain of Darkness, and come back to the Grand Fortress as a hero, with answers to their questions and their problems. She put one foot on the ancient railing of the balcony, and looked over. It was a mile to the ground, at least, where the pinprick light of the ceremonial torches at the gate of the Grand Fortress burned. Larasa realized it would be wise to open the wall again, provision herself, and leave through that same lower gate that others used to look out upon the world and keep up the seeming of their knowledge of it.



Larasa jumped.



As she fell through the blackness, she conjured wings of wind, stretching out half a dozen arm spans to each side of her, allowing her to glide towards that foreboding, sulfur wind. As she fed power into the enchantment, they became great wings of flame, a sight for any elder who happened to be watching the sky for vanishing stars that at least one person dared to live.



~~~


"The Waning of the Sun began in the year 1432 by the calendar of the then-mighty Imperium of Vox. The Last Dawn passed in what is recorded as Year of Light 17,413 -- the Vox did not survive to see what would have been 2118 by their calendar. It is impossible to know how many years have passed since the last Year of Light, for in the panic that surrounded its coming, very few records were made. I suspect that it was between one hundred fifty and two hundred years before the present. I also suspect that any attempt to divine it more precisely will shortly become an exercise in futility as our last natural means of understanding time, the Stars, are vanishing from the sky."



Morgan was in training to be the last Lorekeeper of Voor. Who, what, or where Voor was supposed to be had been, in a fit of irony, lost from the preserved records of its lorekeepers. As such, it was his duty to peer through telescopes and scrying glasses and record what he saw in endless books that no one would ever read.



His elderly mentor, the man Morgan regarded as an uncle yet knew to have kidnapped him from his family cradle, was no longer fit to restore the wards over the crumbling 'university', nor to walk the long distance from the observatory tower to the Hall of Records to the Chamber of Ebon Mirrors as was required to make and record a Lorekeeper's observations. He hadn't even the strength to feel fussed when Morgan told him about the stars vanishing from the sky.



Or perhaps he just didn't care. Indifference, after all, was what he touted as the highest virtue of a Lorekeeper of Voor. Never interfering with the matters of the world, simply watching them and recording the unbiased truth... that was supposed to be the Lorekeeper's path. Even as the order had dwindled to such small numbers that they had become unable to sustain themselves, resorting to using scrying and teleportation to steal children to replenish their ranks, they maintained their absolute isolation from the world. Now there were only two, and Morgan's mentor was not long for the world.



Morgan sighed at his log of the Vanishing of the Stars. Impartial recording of the slow death of the world was nonsense. Every word, even the shape of his handwriting, reflected his anger at his place. Still, what else could he do but continue his vigil? He finished recording the constellations that had vanished, which by now was most of them, and then picked up his candle and made his way to the Chamber of Ebon Mirrors, to take watch over the last populations of the world.



There were thousands of mirrors, each attuned to scry upon a specific site, almost all of them reflecting only the blackness that remained when life had passed. The largest, twenty feet tall, showed the Grand Fortress that held most of the world's remaining intelligent life. A few dozen remained attuned to the other populations that were still alive, decaying villages each unknown to the others.



One of those lesser mirrors had changed, and Morgan recorded the change in his log. He could have written much, but after his disgraceful paragraph in the Observatory, he tried to force himself into the dispassionate observer his mentor desired.



"The village has been destroyed. Ashes smolder in the darkness. Severed body parts and mangled corpses are observed. No obvious post-mortem damage, indicating that the destruction was not predatory in nature. The destroyer was not observed. To the best of the knowledge of the Lorekeepers, the elven race is now extinct."



A point of light appeared in the corner of Morgan's eye, as bright as his own tiny candle. He turned to face it, the massive mirror that reflected the Grand Fortress. Without a doubt, there was movement, a point of fire descending from the heights of the Fortress, streaking towards the north. Immediately, he began to work spellcraft, getting as close a view of the firelight as he could. It was still frustratingly far away, the great scrying mirror incapable of approaching its target near enough to reveal detail. But the outline, the general shape was made known to him, and Morgan made a new and exciting record. He sketched what he saw furiously, and though his words held the valued dispassion, he felt nothing of the sort when he wrote them:



"A human has departed the Grand Fortress on wings of fire."



~~~


Larasa had traveled north for her full glide, and three sleeps thereafter before she could no longer make out even the faintest light from the Grand Fortress behind her. She was now utterly within the Domain of Darkness, the wreckage of the world that had been lost to the people of the Fortress when the Last Dawn passed. The crimson, volcanic glow of the crumbling mountains was the only natural light in the world around her, as the last star their smoke clouds did not obscure had winked out before Larasa's very eyes. It was a far off light, and didn't really provide any relief from the darkness that was immediately around her.



The Earth out here in the darkness felt sick, too. It had been growing sicker all the time, and she suspected it was sick back in the Grand Fortress too. The whole world was... mourning the stars? Or were the stars just another sign of something greater and more terrible yet to come?



One thing was certain; Larasa was not alone in the darkness. Sometimes, giant shapes moved, revealed against the background glow of volcanism, titanic things that Larasa hoped were merely the products of her imagination, for if they were real... it was best not to think about it. The Watchers of the Wastes had sometimes spoken of such things, but only in the most hushed of tones.



Smaller horrors had set upon her. Larasa did not know if firelight attracted the monsters, misshapen black things with shockingly human-like eyes that scratched and howled when they came, or if it scared them off, but at the very least fire did seem ultimately capable of protecting her, and when she set down to sleep she conjured a ring of it about herself, a pale imitation of the holy wards that protected the Grand Fortress.



At least those hideous black creatures tasted good enough well-roasted that Larasa's hunger was staved off. Thirst was more difficult to solve, as it required dealing with the pained and sickened stone beneath her feet. There was water down there, no doubt part of the same underground waterways that provided safe drink to the Grand Fortress, but of all the elements of creation, Water was the one that Larasa was least comfortable with. Still, whether by calling it upwards or forcing the stone to squeeze it through a fissure, Larasa was afforded at least enough drink to survive.



Many times, Larasa had considered returning. Surely, she would be hailed as a hero if she simply came back from beyond the wards at all, and certainly bearing trophies of her victories over the Things in the Dark. She would be the first human to have ever dared the eternal night and won. Her name would be remembered forever in a place of greater honor than the Watchers of the Wastes, for she would be a Walker of the Wastes instead.



And yet... Something still called to her, farther out there in the dark. Perhaps it was the Giant Shapes, the gods of these hideous black things that assailed her in the night. Larasa hoped that it wasn't that, some lure to her death, but rather a true and honest hope, that she might find something more worthy of bringing back to the Grand Fortress than the filed teeth of the hideous night hunters and vague words of monstrous gods silhouetted against the volcanic glow of the northwest horizon.



And so Larasa pressed on, ever into the northern dark.



~~~


Morgan omitted the apparition of the Wings of Flame from his report to his mentor in that set of rounds. On the third set after, he was recounting the vanishing, before his very eyes, of the last of the stars when the murmuring of the old man ceased. Morgan approached after calling for his mentor several times, and checked the aged man over. He had no breath, no pulse... he had passed away listening to another cycle's reports of the world, reclining in his chair amidst the powerstone-fed gardens as he always seemed to be.



Morgan buried him there, where his old bones might feed the vines that had, in life, fed him. Irony was not the prerogative of a Lorekeeper of Voor, but Morgan was the very last Lorekeeper there would ever be, he had decided, and so he felt no need to shackle himself to what had come before. If there were to be no more Lorekeepers, what had the lore been kept for? For Voor, a term that had no meaning and no relevance? No, Morgan decided, it had been kept for him. Here, at the end of all things, a Lorekeeper would interfere.



Morgan packed the few possessions he considered valuable, along with food and maps and candles that he could have light without burning magic he might need to shield himself against the assault of the terrible creatures that dwelt in the darkness. The most common were lithe, black Nightstalkers that had once been humans, their ancestors surrendering their minds and magic to devilish ways in the last Years of Light. They did not need to eat, though they were flesh and bone, but they constantly hungered, especially for the blood of their close relatives, humanity.



Other horrors no doubt dwelt out there, where there was no light. Demons? Almost certainly, but Morgan dreaded darker things that past Lorekeepers had recorded seeing after the passage of the Last Dawn, unfathomable and titanic. Most wrote the sightings off as clouds of smoke in cruel shapes, though one of the former keepers had gone mad and clawed out his eyes trying to make sense of them



Even so, Morgan was determined to go out into that dark and barren world. Alone of all its inhabitants, he might know its secrets. Perhaps, combined with whatever knowledge awaited beyond the sight of his scrying glasses and ancient tomes, there would be some hope for it.



As he prepared to leave, he considered his course, and in so doing remembered the figure with wings of flame, gliding north from the Grand Fortress that sustained the last millions of the world. At least one other soul had had the same idea as he, to venture out into the world. He examined his maps and charted a course. North from the Grand Fortress would take a body through the chimney fields of the Scar Lands or over the still-festering morass of the Sea of Rot, either way leading to the burning coal-fields and ruined cities of the Plains of Despair.



From his own position, the Plains of Despair were south, the easiest route through Stalker’s Fell, or if he did not want to dare great populations of the damned, over the broken ground of the Boiling Pools. It was a mad hope, to find that other soul out in the world. The odds were that whoever it was had been killed by something upon landing, and at the very least would not make it to the Plains of Despair.



All the same, the Plains of Despair might hold some secrets for him among the ruins of long-lost Tolkas. And furthermore, that road would take him eventually to the Grand Fortress where humanity’s last millions held sway.



It was worth a try.



~~~


Larasa had lost count of the sleeps that she had passed in the outer world by the time she stood amidst thin towers of stone that belched black smoke up into the blacker sky. The earth below her feet was dying – not just the ashen ground the chimneys coated with their soot, but the whole, deeper world. The life-giving mana she had always felt was waning every day. Fortunately, the mana that let her call fire and command stone remained, but even that she feared was starting to fade away into nothingness.



A world could survive without light, but without its own mana? Larasa doubted that such a thing was possible, and had quickened her pace since sensing it. Now, her quest had a purpose. She had to find a way to restore the mana of the world, however long it took and however hard it was. She had shaped a crude dagger from obsidian and bone, and now used it to fight off the creeping things and man-like stalkers when possible, practicing for the day she no longer had fire to save her.



That day wouldn’t come.



With a massive shudder, the earth buckled beneath Larasa’s feet. Cries followed, impossibly titanic and impossibly far howls of rage and victory alike. The giant shadows, the gods of the forever-night! They were calling to each other, to everything!



The ground heaved again. Chimneys shattered, and the entire world shook. The droning, howling cries continued, only to be drowned out by the sound of shattering stone. Larasa tried to shield herself, but there was nothing to the land, no mana she could reach. In one calamitous moment, the last of it had spilled like water from a shattered pitcher. This was the end.



~~~


Morgan told himself he should have taking the path of the Boiling Pools. For what should have been two full sleeps now, Morgan had been forced to stay awake, pressing on towards the Plains of Despair and hoping that numberless dark things would lose interest before he lost the last of this strength. Personally, he was drained almost fully, but the powerstone he had salvaged from the vine garden was, for the moment, enough to sustain his circle of protection against the assault.



It was not enough to sustain his hope that he would not, sooner or later, die beneath the filed fangs of the nightstalkers that had caught his scent. The powerstone shed faint, white light that cast the black things in sharp relief. Their claws were bestial, their gangly bodies demonic, but the eyes that stared back at him from the darkness, testing the strength of the circle, were all too human.



At first, Morgan thought the quaking he felt was just his exhaustion, but then the creatures stopped their hissing and baying as well, looking up and around in a panicked fashion. Wind picked up over the Stalker’s Fell, and they scattered. Morgan knew better than to take solace in that fact. It meant something worse was coming.



Then he heard it, a hideous droning echoing from all directions. He told himself it was the wind, a wind vaster and more terrible than any the world had known in all the Years of Light and Darkness, but part of him could not shake the stories of the mountainous titans wandering the world after the Last Dawn, and he could not stop himself from imagining the sound to be their voices, raised in a chorus of damnation.



With a violent crack, the shaking intensified. In the powerstone’s light, Morgan could see rifts growing in the ground. The fiery mountains on the southern horizon were truly crumbling, their red light brightening for a moment before being extinguished as they tumbled down into the earth, or perhaps into nothing.



It All Ends


The ground Morgan was standing on gave way, and he fell too. The light of the powerstone faded… no, there was simply nothing left for it to reflect off of. Stark, unreasoning terror and despair filled his mind, tumbling downward in emptiness. As his dread mounted, crushing and near absolute, something else appeared on the edge of his consciousness, another, straining to reach him. He reached back and caught it. Somehow, the darkness of the fall had itself faded, and with it the apprehension.



He landed on a field of grass, brightly illuminated by stars and a great golden-red glow on one horizon. No open field like that, vibrant and growing, had existed since the Waning had become severe. They had all withered and died…



He noticed he was holding someone’s hand. He looked, and saw a girl perhaps a little younger than he looking back at him.



“Well, hello.” She said, voice hoarse, then made a small laugh. “I’m Larasa.”



“Morgan.” He replied. “It’s good to meet you.”



In this strange place, vibrant and alive after the end of all things, nothing made him happier than no longer being alone. A moment later, the horizon exploded into light. Not all the words in all the tomes of all the former Lorekeepers had done justice to the Dawn.



Those That 'Walk Away From Taramir


"Before The Dawn" (the story that came with these spoilers) is part of the Magic: Expanded Multiverse project just a few doors down from YMTC. If you like creating planes and characters, you should check it out. And I'm leaving this off with a little mood music, the sort of thing I'd listen to while writing Taramir stuff...


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The Coalition/Phyrexian War Game Rises Again


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 25, 2014 10:29 am 
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*claps*

Adding this to the NGA Constructed plugin.

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The format of YMtC and the Expanded Multiverse.
YMtC: My Deck of Many Things | NGA Masters | 2 | 3 | Roses of Paliano | Duel Decks: War of the Wheel | Jakkard: Wild Cards | From Maral's Vault | Taramir: The Dark Tide
Solphos: Solphos | Fool's Gold | Planeswalker's Guide | The Guiding Light | The Weight of a Soul
Game design: Pokémon Tales | Fleets of Ossia: War Machines | Hunter Killer | Red Jackie's Run


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