The Red Hand

The Birth of Molok

Seeing Ananrath in anguish over Ananth’s body, Tangou approached her husband.

My noble liege, it is good that you have dispersed our enemies so. The loss of our son is painful, but, in your wisdom, justified. I fear however that we may also lose our daughter and this price is too great for me to pay. Is there nothing you could do?

Ba’al Damun considered his wife’s words and had to admit that although he had been willing to pay the price for this victory, he had not considered the cost to the other members of his family. Although it was within his right, it was not entirely just.

My love, your words have touched me; I will speak with Azael.

And speak he did. The negociations lasted three days and three nights. Azael was cold and uninterested in any treasures or temptations and, despite all his cunning, on the fourth morning, Ba’al Damun was ready to fold, but a thought struck him. Instead of bargaining for Ananth’s life he tricked Azael into a game of chance and took from him his dark mantle.

Uncloaked, Azael’s composure changed.

YOU THINK YOURSELF CUNNING, BUT, ON THIS DAY, IT IS YOU WHO HAVE LOST. I WILL LEAVE YOU YOUR SON, BUT YOU SHALL WEAR MY MANTLE AND ITS TERRIBLE WEIGHT UNTIL THE DEBT IS REPAID.

Ba’al Damun returned and sat on his thrown, now cold and distant.

What news Ba’al? asked Tangou.

I have struck a deal with Azael, or should I say he has struck one with me. We may keep our son’s soul, but the accounts must be balanced. Until such a time, I shall take the name Molok. For now, bring to me our high priests…

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Visit to Bithia and Amon Thash
First mission with the Mewling Quims

My first task with the Mewling Quims was tolerable and as expected.  The group aren’t bad companions.  When he applies himself, Nasah cleaned up nice, I’ll have to give him a few tips on how to properly ajust “” and was a good companion.  Hasdrubal was a little distracted du to the nature of the strained relationship with his father and still he was a decent traveling companion. 

We gated to the plains outside the city as expected.  There, shortly after, we were disturbed by a pack of dire hyenas when its prey had the indecency to cross our paths.  I directed us to a defensible position and proceeded to see how the Mewling Quims would handle the situation.  As anticipated, Hasdrubal fearlessly took a lead position in our defense, Nasah readied his bow and prepared to bolster our line of defence by summoning some monstrous allies (a commendable line of reasoning) and Samir cast some illusion that was adequate enough to fool some wild animals and scare them away.

A much too brief encounter to provide adequate tactical information, further observation is required. With Samir around, a certainty to be provided. 

We then travel to the city of Bithia without further interruptions.  The Mewling Quims custom mode of travel leaves much to be desired, something I shall rectify tomorrow.  Once at the city gates, as expected the guard questions us question us and they all looked at me as if they have never entered a city.  A natural inclination due to my presence I’m certain, so it was my duty to step forward and gain us entry into the city.  True be told, with Samir present it was a better that I handle the matter then for us to be mistaken for vagrants or bandits.  It also gave me the occasion to secure adequate logging for the evening.

From the innkeeper I learnt the location of the Trading House which we decide to visit the following day. We settled in for supper in the main dining room. I enjoyed a surprising good evening. The entrée was a delicious tartare of beautifully aged beef with dots of black garlic mayo, crunchy hazelnuts, crisp celery, and fried shallots. Chef Peter Orr has a strong background in Nahm(Savane) cuisine, and that sensitivity to balancing flavors and textures has dramatically improved this traditional French dish. My plate of farm-raised pork garnished with crumbled boudin noir and crowned with a bite of pork crackling. A smattering of silky soft gnocchi and porcini mushrooms completed this earthy, sensual dish that had me finishing it to the last bites. Followed by a dish of lobster with earthy boudin noir and tart wild strawberries provided a mind-bending and delicious jolt. The beverage pairings were brilliant, leaning heavily toward local natural wines but without the ill-chosen funk I often encounter elsewhere. The pistachio sablé with cherries, pistachios, and cherry pit ice cream. It’s a wonderful treat to finish with something so skillfully balanced and so worked.

At first, I approached a small gaudy couple festoon in gems, only discovered that they were a “nouveau rich” without interest, conversation or taste.  I continued to circulate though the room and meet an interesting gentleman, a Captian Itamis.  We discussed spirits, trade and the possibilities of opening of new markets here in Bithia.

The next morning, we made our way to the trading house.  Blindly questioning the workers at the trading warehouse provided us with good fortune as we discover that Amon Thresh is alive and present in the city. He lived in a Villa further up. 

We approached the villa and when enquiring for a meeting with Amon Thresh, discovered that he had a daughter that had died and that he did not have a son.  We withdrew to the Inn.  Hasdrubal sent a little to Amon Thesh requesting a meeting in a public park later in the date.  Samir reappeared with a simulacrum of Hasdrubal that he could control.  The simulacrum met with the man-at-arms of Thesh in the park with near Samir while the remainder of us enjoyed a light rose on a terrace overlooking the park.  The simulacrum and Thesh representatives exchange a few words and Samir screwed something up as they both promptly drew their swords and hacked the simulacrum.

Somewhat disconcerted by the response, we returned to the Inn.  There Hasdrubal shared with us some of his past and how he escaped and that the consequences for his family were to be sentence to death.  Later we received a letter from Amon Thresh, inviting us to his manor for a face to face meeting.  After the meeting in the park, my companions were somewhat skittish, so I let them to the meetings knowing that we are form the Coldspire.

Once admitted promptly into Amon Thresh presents, we exchange a few words where I inform him that Hasdrubal is protected by the Coldspire Academe.  He foolishly ignores us and concentrates on Hasdrubal.  I permit this family drama to occur as this is an important link from his past that holding him back and needs to be exorcised.  Father and son exchange fiery words and neither is willing to relent. This escalates to blows and Amon guards try to interfere.  We easily distract them, Hasdrubal overcomes his father and gets the guards to stand aside. Amon draws a hidden dagger and stabs his son.  Nothing very dangerous for the likes of the mighty Hasdrubal except than the daggers is poisoned and lays him low.  I realise that this act is ended and it’s time to exit this stage.  I call the group together and teleport us back to the Inn, there I bring us back to the Academy, except Hasdrubal’s state worsens, we are out of time and still far from assistance.  Although ill prepared, I apply my great skill, a generous amount of Cognac “Cuvee Léonie1885” and manage to counter the poison and save his life.   We then drag Hasdrubal to Orfee’s room for recovery.  (I really must memories a mount spell tomorrow.)

And this brings us to a close for the night.

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Convalescences

- BAMBAMBAM -

The sudden loud noise startled the Kitsune.

- BAMBAMBAM -

The Samsaran reached across the table and touched the soft red fur of her hand reassuringly.

“It’s okay,” said Orphée. “I’ll go see what they want”.

- BAMBAMBAM -

The muffled clamor from outside intensified. Orphée zipped out of the study room to go answer her main door.

- BAMBAMBAM - crrriek-

The Kitsune couldn’t make out what they were saying. There were three of four voices intermingling, speaking one over an another in cacophony… and they were getting closer! Kitsune went fox, and joined the one red and one silver fox that had been sitting quietly at her feet. Hackles up, the three hid under a corner table in a pile of teeth and tails.

Orphée entered the room first, gesturing in direction of the sofa to those following her. Four unlikely guests entered: a large man with olive skin that was being held up by three other mages of smaller stature: a effeminate elf and a nobleman under his right arm, and a roguish man of dashing good looks under his left arm. The large man was in a bad way, He was foaming at the mouth and had difficulty breathing. He couldn’t support himself straight and the three other men buckled under his weight has they carried him forward. The noble didn’t seem very pleased at this physical exertion was visibly relieved when they laid the large man down on the sofa. While the others were shouting back and forth about what happened to the large man, the noble dusted himself and walked out.

Things eventually quieted down. The elf and the rogue eventually left. Orphée knelt quietly at the table and the three foxes skittered out. The Kitsune returned to herself and followed.

Orphée told the Kitsune that the large man’s name was Hasdrubal. He and the others that had brought him here were her friends. Hasdrubal had been poisoned and had nearly died. His life was no longer in danger but he would would be in their care during his convalescence.


Hasdrubal had not retrieved consciousness. He still had a fever and to keep his temperature down, Orphée maintained a damp washcloth on his brow. His condition necessitated that someone be in the room to monitor his vital signs, but otherwise they could go about their business. Orphée resumed her teachings. and while she focused on wizardly spellcasting, she also used the opportunity to talk about the life at the academy. What to do and not to do. She talked about her friends. Nasah Tora the elf who hoped to ‘fix’ death, Samir Goldentongue the resourceful prankster, Rhea Amelia Namtab the Oracle of Dreams and finally Hasdrubal.

“Hasdrubal was a gladiator before the Academy sought him.”

“What is a gladiator?” Kitsune asked.

“A slave that fights for the entertainment of others,” replied Orphée. “Different trades, but he was a slave like you. The Academy allowed him to flourish, and so you will.”

The warrior, still knocked-out cold, was slightly wincing. Maybe from pain, maybe from a nightmare. “That doesn’t look like he’s flourishing.” Kitsune’s head cocked sideways in earnest contemplation.

Orphée laughed. “But here at the Academy he made the friends that you saw, and they saved him from this predicament. And he and I became friends, and now we are nursing him back to health. Having friends, growing strong together, that is flourishing.”

“You are his pack. His skulk. When he goes to earth, he goes with you and to you,” said Kitsune with understanding. “Will we go to earth together, will we join your friends?” Kit looked at the large man and the kind blue lady.

“In time perhaps. I do believe serendipity has made all of our path cross.” said the Samsaran, smiling.

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The Blue Lady and the Fox
(who freaks out like a ferret on crack - or a pre-Popsicle racoon)

And there there was no more pain.

Kitsune woke. Her eyes fluttered, lashes in fur. She saw a blue lady.
And she realized she was not tied, chained, or bolted down in any way.

She tried to run.

Her legs betrayed her, after days of bedrest, and she flopped heavily onto her forearms, missing a bloodied nose thanks to her reflexes. She scrambled, all fours, looking for a spot, a hole, a way out. The Blue Lady was saying words. Words in common. She found a pair of table legs. She went fox, and skittered beneath, all claws and teeth and fur bristled high.

The Blue Lady reached out gently, calmly, and Kit flailed, snarled, snapped, and backed her tail into the corner.

The Blue lady sat, legs crossed. She smiled. She did not seem angry or … what… a little bit of… bacon? Kit blinked. The meaty, fatty, delicious aroma tantalized her foxy nose. She relaxed her snarl a little. Maybe not all of her teeth needed to show… The Blue Lady tossed the bacon under the side table. Kit leaned forward, keeping her ears forward, listening for movement. She licked out at the meat. It smelled good. It tasted safe. She checked it for poison quickly. It was fine. Okay. She ate it. Very fine.

The Blue lady placed a second piece of bacon about 4 inches from the edge of the end table.

It lay there. Tempting Kit.
She wiggled a little. Closer. It smelled good. She checked it for poison quickly.
She moved until her nose twitched out in the fresh air of the room. Her wide golden eyes looked at the Blue Lady, sitting, smiling.
There was something else.
But first, the bacon. Kit snarfed it down. Then retreated so just the edge of her nose was visible, her keen eyes watching the Blue Lady.
There was SOMEONE else.
Vixen!

Lying in the Blue Lady’s lap, Little Red Vixen was smiling at Kit. Kit bolted from under the end table and Vixen met her. The two of them rolled and licked and groomed each other, zipping back and forth, circling the Blue Lady.
… She’s safe … Vixen thought to Kit.
… I missed you! She’s safe? Is there more Bacon? … Kit thought back.

After several minutes of play, where the Blue Lady sat cross legged among the frolicking foxes saying nothing, Kit darted behind the bed and went Human.

She was still wearing the night dress, but she realised she had none of her other possessions.

“Vixen says you’re safe,” Kit spoke to the Blue Lady in common.

“I am safe. And so are you,” she held her perfect smile and got to her feet.

“Did Vixen find you?” Kit looked around the room, touching things, lifting things, sniffing them, opening drawers.

“No,” the Blue Lady’s perfectly calm face flinched. Kit saw it, sideways like, without looking, and pretended to not have seen.

“Did you fix me?” Kit touched the thick pile of the carpet beside the bed, the dark wood of the bed frame.

“Yes,” the Blue Lady replied cautiously. “You should be quite well now.”

Realising something, Kit stopped. Looked at the lady. Looked at the bed. “I have no money to pay you. Should I pay you with service?” She moved to remove her night dress and return to the bed.

The Blue Lady moved quickly for a Blue Human. What was she? Maybe a Blue Elf? Before Kit managed to unbutton anything, the Blue Lady said, “My sweet dear one, you do not need to do THAT ever again. You are free. You are at the Coldspire Academy and are going to be trained as a mage.”

Kit understood these words. She had even heard of the Coldspire in whispers before. She didn’t understand the why of these words, but the words and the what she understood. She looked into the woman’s face and replied,

“Blue Lady, I do not want a spell book. They are a lot of trouble.”

“My name is Orphée,” the Blue Lady, Orphée smiled as if Kit spoke a riddle that she had already solved. “And I think we can work with that.”

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Samir's adventure log : Damsel in distress (or was it the scribes?)

What. In. The. Nine. HELLS was that???
I mean, I’ve been known to act in weird ways after a night of drinking, but THAT one REALLY out there!
I spent a whole day getting into all sorts of trouble, thanks to that damned Theofyr… I have to admit though… nice one, my arrogant friend! Ha!
This nightmarish day wasn’t a complete failure on my part though, for while I was in the midst of an “episode” at the library, my groggy mind caught some information that could be VITAL to Hasdy’s limerence (ha!) towards his sister.
Yes, something about a passage in a ledger of some sort concerning dear ol’ daddy-o and a town called Bithia where, I assume, he has business dealings there. Time to round up the crew and get to save a presumably purrty damsel in distress!
Let’s start with Orfée.


Well, that was rude! Orfée won’t even come to this little adventure of ours! Said she’s “busy”… then closed her door in my face while I was trying to sneak a peek. Well, no matter! Samir is a resourceful chap and his curiosity shall be satiated henceforth!


Ok, all I saw was Orfée walking down her quarters out of sight and saying “Now, where were we…?”
THAT kind of activity and no invitation extended to Samir!?? How rude! I live for these kinds of hobbies!
…well, not anymore I guess, but it’s a technicality I will address later on. Rude, Orfée, RUDE! Phhha!


Next stop: Mavrikos!


Ok, apparently, our resident zealot was found hanged in his quarters with a hand down his pants and a slice of lemon in his hand. Always the “virtuous”…


While coming back from another disappointing refusal-for-help, this time from Rhea (stuck apprenticing to Baba Yaga the Hag), I was accosted by Vikkard’s lady, asking that I go meet the Conjuration Headmaster (the one whose quarters I made a mess in. Oh boy… here it comes…). This will not be pleasant!


Well, slap my ass and call me Althea! I survived! Walk through it like a breeze! The old funny-speaking scribe wasn’t even angry at me! Turns out that, when they were busy realigning some doodads I screwed around with, they found out they had miscalculated something or other and Rasputin got somehow involved in this story, but at that point I wasn’t really listening. HOWEVER, that sneaky little (powerful!) man got me in the end: he forced none other than my arch-nemesis, Theofyr! Now he’s to tag along our little group in order to “observe” our shenanigans. I’m in hell!


Hasdy is in his rooms (for a change! Ha!), but seems apprehensive of my presence at his door. A fear of last day’s “adventure”, perhaps? Surely not! I’m the one who will have to answer to very powerful scribes in the not-so-distant future. Regardless, I quickly bring him up to date about my find, but ask him and Nasah to go double-check, just to make sure there are no more details that could help us locate his old man. Me…? I’ll stay away from the head librarian for a few days/months/years/lifetimes…


After a little help from that arrogant fop, we are ready to go! And off to Bithia we go!
Well… near the city anyways. At least Orfée and the zealot aren’t there to lose a full day arguing about what is a delta and where is north, so there’s that.
We arrive a few leagues out of the city walls and set out towards it. After a while, we start hearing hideous laughter sounds coming from the high grass. Sure enough, we eventually see six giant hyenas that are stalking us, ready for a quick and easy meal. They are still far enough away that we can choose a defensible terrain and wait for them to attack. Me? Well, I assume my true form, getting rid of my puny shell to spread my gigantic, majestic wings. So the hyenas changed their minds and ran away in search of an easier prey. Ha! Illusions, is there anything you CAN’T do (shut up, Hasdy!)?
The higher powers must like me, that’s for sure!


So we arrive at an inn and we pass ourselves off as merchants, scouting for possible future deals. Due to my humble attire, Theofyr quickly sets my role as a servant, that bastard. No matter, I can play the part real well… all you have to do is to keep your pinky up all the time and shape your lips like a rooster’s asshole. Easy-peasy!


Ok, we investigated and came up with a plan of staying in character as much as possible and then we pull the Academy card, saying we are investigating a possible magic user within Hasdrubal’s father’s family and we would like details about the whereabouts of his daughter.


For some reason, the scribes seems to have forgotten about our plan, because we did not use it and we kept trying to stay in character and we ended up with failure. We ended up showing our hand, revealing Hasdrubal’s identity and finally, we invited the dad to a sit-down in a public place on the next day.


What? The scribes are actually planning on meeting the dad that, for all purposes, should be dead because of his son’s action, was an asshole to begin with AND from our information gathering, we came to know NOT to double-cross his house, or else? Surely they jest! Surely! ….surely…
Well, good ol’ Samir will take care of this! You just watch me!


Ok, so first, I buy a lamb and go kill it in a dark alley. THEN, I learn that killing a lamb make a LOT of noise. THEN? Well, I learn that the city guards can be bought off in order to erase this small mistake of mine.
Now the fun part starts! So first, I change the lamb into a perfect copy of Hasdrubal, THEN, I animate that bad boy, but with enhancements. THEN? Well, then I have a NAKED Hasdrubal in an alley, waiting on my command. A quick change and he now wears my pauper’s robes. Problem solved! Just gotta remember to change him before the meeting (hint: I will forget, damnit!).
We now have a great replica of Hasdrubal and are ready to meet his father. And should we fall into an ambush, the ambushers would soon become the ambushes! It’s FOOL PROOF!


Damned Galph and his spurious details-giving about spells! Surely that chap does not intend for me to do the research on things I purchase for my adventure!?? The gall, I say! The GALL!!!
So two problems occurred at this point with my plan. First, how was I supposed to know that I could ONLY make the puppet speak and not listen? When I saw 2 guards from Hamilcar’s house approaching the decoy and speak to it, I could not make out what they were saying, so I made the puppet tell them to wait and come over here (where I was within earshot, disguised as a beggar). The funny faces they made when the puppet spoke surprised me quite a bit. Did they see through the treachery that quick???


…well… turns out that I should have bribed a town official to have a cadaver instead of sculpt-sculpting a lamb. Do you know why? Well, Galph (again!) forgot to tell me that the sculpt corpse spell only plays with the appearance of the corpse but did not change its attributes, such as… its voice. Ever heard of a lamb that got its voice box modified to be able to speak the common tongue of Men, but that’ it? Well, now I know…


It wasn’t a complete disaster though, for when the decoy confirmed his “true” identity, the guards proceeded to kill him on the spot, under the very nose of the city guards, who did nothing!
Glad to not have started a fight that time, eh!??
Oh… it’s also when I saw the guards leave with my pauper’s robes that I remembered to remove them before this meeting. That one’s on me, Galph. I got you, brother.


Not much else to say other than when we went back to the inn, a messenger brought a summons from the old man himself and the scribes decided to enter the compound (you know, the place filled with guards under daddy’s employ? (sigh)). It quickly turned ugly between Daddy and Son, Daddy told Hasdy his sister was dead, Hasdy didn’t believe it, Daddy stabbed Hasdy with a poisoned dagger, Hasdy was about to die, Theofyr teleported us to the inn, then to the Academy, Hasdy was saved (barely! What’s with that guy’s streak of bad luck lately?), and we are now back to square one. We’ll need more scribes when we go back, that’s for sure!

To be continued…

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Making Amends
Some wrongs do make a right!

Samir was jotting down what he remembered of his little accident so that he could pro-actively fix some of it. Never a good idea to let someone else come up with your punishment.

Wolann Carrow and Therin Skarlag would be particularly difficult, but, for the moment, he was focusing on the librarian. Honestly, he didn’t even know what he was thinking when he went in there. Thankfully, the librarian knew him enough to keep watch on him. Some might even say that the mistrust he had instilled in the old wizard had prevented him from making more trouble. He wasn’t sure he could sell that, but he sure would try…

… Back to the matter at hand. He had been looking at some reports from Sekunta and thought he had found something. Something about some petty merchant… What was his name again? Hamilion, no, Hamilcar! Hamilcar Thesh! That was it! But why?

Ananrath’s panties! Of course!

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Fates
Meanwhile in Wolann Carrow laboratory…
Meanwhile in Wolann Carrow laboratory…

Hmmm, what a mess on my link analysis. My dots, my strings…. Samir will pay dearly to have disturbed the my Work. The counsil will be most

A few hours of work later…
It’s broken, what did that INCOMPETENT DO!!! SAMIR will rue the day he was born. His fate shall terrorize all for a 1000 years. His tongue will be cut out, he will be bound tight in wrappings, and placed inside a tomb that will keep him alive. Carnivorous beetles were poured onto his body, which will feed on his body and soul over many years. His tomb will be buried from that day forward, none will know his name…

Hmmm what is this…

Many hours later…
[sound of book closing] Well, well Pisces… in ascendance… the twinkling constellation may change is misfortune and bring about that which we seek. It’s an elegant adjustment and would bring all in in balance. He’ll certainly think it’s the torment of the ages….

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Foxy Lady
A New Player Has Joined the Party

Cursed Harkenon.

Lyrion had never loved the man. His predilections were even more repulsive than the mage himself, but, at least, he had, up to now, had the decency to keep it private.

The halfling still couldn’t figure out why Harkenon had chosen to share his little secret with him. It was well known that he had no objection to the pleasures of the flesh and an impressive breath of experience, but he drew the line mental slavery… Without free will, there was no chase, no thrill of negotiations and no person.

Regardless of the man’s motivation – and Lyrion was starting to think it was probably his very disgust that titillated the slug – now he, Lyrion, was also burdened with the knowledge.

Novices were Academy resources and if it was discovered that he had kept one to himself, leashed with an old Sinzhen collar no less, the whole school would be embarrassed.

Once, he had gotten this through Harkonen’s thick, meaty skull, the man at least had enough sense to agree to a plan of action. If they could civilize the girl and have her reach the second circle of magic without anyone figuring it out, they could have her accepted as a gifted student.

The soft sound of slippered feet broke his train of thought. He looked up and smiled.

“Ah, just the lovely azure princess I was looking for!”

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En Passant

-Now, we go over from start again, yes?
Master Broju was clearly unhappy with the young wizards’ debriefing.
-You get to Chino. You have many boats, yes? You follow tracks of robut to hill fort. Under hill iz complex, many fights, yes?
Every questionning “yes” was punctuated by a flash of his enchanted eye.
-In final room, you find king killer rabbit and Rasputin. Stasia’s Rasputin, yes? Earth Rasputin, yes?
He was now standing and obviously expecting an answer, looking at each of them in turn.
-Yes, sir, Hasdrubal answered before the pause became too long.
He glanced at Anastasia, sitting by a window embroidering, and sat down.
-Two Rasputins?
-Yes, sir.
-One flee and other kills hosts, yes?
-Yes.
-How does Rasputin find broken world? How at same time? This displeases me.
With an exasperated wave of his hands and a short arcane formula, the conjuror, returned the apprentices to the Academy’s Hall of Doors.

The tiefling spoke another incantation and the low marble table was replaced by a stand with multiple chess boards arranged on arms at different levels, each apparently midgame. Anastasia put down her embroidery and joined him. She moved pieces on some of the boards.
-That was rude, love.
-Hmph.
-You can’t expect novices, or even young masters, to handle a grandmaster on their own, especially when no one even knew he was playing.
-Ah, at least, now we know, yes?
-Yes.
With a click he toppled one of Anastasia’s kings.
-Oh, clever.
-Spaseeba. Now there is new game, yes?
He touched the board of the now-finished game and closed his eyes. The board stretched and reformed to accommodate three sides. One side had marble and gold pieces shaped like Academy wizards. Anastasia recognized Vikkard and herself as king and queen. The other pieces were members of the cabal and a few other friends. A pawn was missing.
She recognized the king on the second side, carved out of the darkest obsidian, a tall, caped, skeletal figure holding an hourglass in its hand: Death; the pieces surrounding him variations on the theme.
Rasputin stood as the third and final king. The figurine seemed oddly organic. She swore something was slowly writhing under its surface and she could occasionally see tentacle tips peeking out from the bottom of its robe. The pieces that formed his entourage were nothing more than shapeless greenish blobs with one exception. In lieu of one peon stood a young woman in the style of the first pieces, her marble slowly seeping ooze that disappeared as it reached the board.
-Who is this one?
-Old apprentice.
-I see.
-Hmph.
-This game will not be easy.
-Da.
-You wouldn’t want to lose more pieces.
-Oh, now you are clever. Fine… Fine… Please be bringing my apologies to our young friends. Oh, and also, be warning them that they seem to have brought back some of the broken world’s energy with them. I do not exactly know what it is, but I think it is harmless, yes? Now, please let me reflect. We must plan move.
Anastasia nodded and walked towards the nearest exit. She turned at the last minute and looked at the wizard.
-You know dear, I think I know a way to balance the board…
He looked up from the board and smiled at her.

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Gods don't settle for less

Some students never forgive the circumstance of their enrollment or the warped and brutal morality of the way the Coldspire Academy deliver its teaching. These individuals quickly learn to keeps any resentment or rebellious thoughts to themselves as those that don’t do not get to harbor these feelings or draw breath for very long.

This brutality, which may appear gratuitous and unwarranted, does serve a purpose. Students that survive first take pride in that they did. This pride grows over time, sometimes despite them, as the students continues to succeed where so many have failed. In time, this pride flourish into a sense of their own exceptionalism. They eventually see themselves as gods amongst men, above all considerations of faith, race or nationality.

As the Academy intended.

The Academy was more than about forming the next generation wizards. It was also, and perhaps foremost, a place of research. Wizards of the various arcane schools sought to further advance their respective fields. New spells deemed fit to stand the test of time are added to the Great Scroll, a magical artefact acting as the repository of all arcane magic spells known. Each new inscription brings renown to the author but also prestige to the associated arcane school. This created an highly competitive environment fraught with infighting and politicking, where the wizards constantly vie for power and influence. A select few, selected for their arcane potential and certain temperamental disposition, serve as vanguard to their arcane schools research thrust: the Sin Mages.

While the concept of wizard specializations along the classically recognized schools of magic dates back to the dim recesses of time, Sin Magic was a more recent development, dating back to the Academy’s founding. It is said that is was around that time that the discovery was made that each school of magic but divination was opposed by two specific ’’prime’’ opposition schools and that by excising “impurities” introduced by these particular schools, wizards could enhanced their mastery over their chosen arcane specialties.

Sin magic practice varies greatly, mirroring the particular inclinations of practitioners of the different school. Sin Mage Evokers gather in a private ‘fight club’ while Sin Mage abjurer convey in a secret society whose proceedings was more akin to a cult than a fraternal organisation. As for the debaucheries attributed to the Sin Magic enchanters… well the less said, the better… All Sin Mages chapters had one thing in common however, they kept a low profile therefore an aura of mystery surrounded their practices.

===

A sooty piece of blackish rock, a Philosopher’s Stone, adorned the podium. It was the only dull element in the otherwise bright and showy room. The auditorium was a mirror image of a archetypal Academy’s classroom but with each material altered to a precious material. Stone to gold, wool to silk, glass to crystal… Gold was the prevalent element, being the main component in the floors, walls and ceiling. It was laced in details, great and small from glass to give it a cherry tint to the fine gold thread woven into the fabric of tapestries. To the aesthetically minded, the over abundance of gold gave the site a gaudy appearance. To the Sin Mages here gathered however, its artistic merit was of no concerns. The venue was a statement.

Standing at the podium was Althea, wrapping up her speech to this year freshmen.

«There are two kinds of progress: the methodical experimentation and categorisation which gradually extend the boundaries of knowledge, and the revolutionary leap of genius which redefines and transcends those boundaries. Acknowledging our debt to the former, we yearn, nonetheless, for the latter.

I am very honoured to introduce this year’s elected speaker, which has persistently embodied this pursuit of excellence. A new adherent of the fourth circle of magic, he successfully defended two new spells proposal for addition to the Great Scroll. Ladies and gentlemen, Hasdrubal Thesh

The crowded applauded warmly as Hasdrubal made his way to the podium. On the way, the pupil briefly crossed path with his mentor. Hasdrubal secretly hoping to catch her give him a word of encouragement, but she walked pass him silent without giving him as much at a glance.

Hasdrubal took place at the podium, outwardly projecting confidence but still a bit feeling of apprehension at this first attempt at public speaking.

«Some vices miss what is right because they are deficient, others because they are excessive, in feelings or in actions.

While the slothful conjurer is at the mercy of whoever he conscript, the transmuters is the true master of his destiny for he wield the power to improve himself to meet the challenges of any obstacles.

What wrathful evoker sunders we can mend with a mere flick of the hand.

The gluttonous necromancer may hunger for the mysteries of life and death, but we transmuters do not limit ourselves to such a narrow purview. We seek to unlock the mystery of Creation itself.

The envious abjurer may yet try to stifle our efforts, they are impotent of greatness by their very nature. They are doomed to live in our shadows.

The love the lustful enchanter rouses is but a forgery. You may be still be neophyte in the field of alteration, but in time you will come to appreciate that with mastery of form comes mastery of desire.

What the prideful illusionist fakes, we can easily generate. Make the old, new and the new, old. Assume the form of the elf, the beast, the dragon. If these mountebank so desperately wish for disguises, they should abandon their teachers and take on the study of our ways!»

The crowd laughed in approval of the dig. Hasdrubal paused for the attendance to quiet down before continuing:

«The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarify, cuts through and captures the essence of evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms, greed for life, for money, for love, for knowledge, has marked the upwards surge of civilization since the beginning of time.

And Greed, you mark my words, will prove Lyria’s salvation and usher a new age of enlightenment. Thank you.»

The crowd roared with applauses. Hasdrubal tilted his head slightly to catch his mentor’s reaction from the corner of his eye. She returned him a single nod of approval, a faint smile of satisfaction on her lips.

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