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 A Land of Trials

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PostSubject: A Land of Trials   Mon Nov 09, 2015 8:34 pm

The humid air was unbearably still as night began to fall over the forested swamp that covered most of northern Illinara.  An aged shack stood amongst the many ancient trees and a figure stood silhouetted in its doorway.  Long grey robes that had been worn with time hung from the figure’s shoulders and her long silvery-grey hair was pulled back into a low-kept ponytail.  Her golden eyes searched the slowly deepening murk of the swamp.  Her feline ears shifted now and again in search of sound too silent to be heard, yet not even the insects wished to make their presence known.  It was rarely so calm at dusk, as though the swamp held its breath as it waited for something to occur.
 
That “something” came in the form a single spark of electricity that appeared over a muddy shelf not far away.  She watched as more sparks began to gather, hesitant to look away, but fearing for her life at the same time.  The feline woman reached over to the small table next to the door and took hold of her belt of potions then pulled it on around her waist.  The heavy bottles clinked against each other with every movement she made, but she felt better knowing she had some form of protection.
 
The localized lightning storm began to grow in intensity, and with it came a fierce wind that caused small waves on the swamp’s still murky waters.  She watched as it grew into a swirling vortex that was turned upon its side.  It soon spilled three figures out onto the muddy shelf of land it had appeared over.  Then, as suddenly as the vortex had appeared, it closed and the lightning dissipated with nary a clap of thunder.  At the same time, however, the sun finally dipped below the horizon and the swamp began to come alive.  Lights began to flicker in the distance and the moans of creatures she wanted nothing to do with began to waft through the air.
 
She rubbed her eyes in disbelief at what she had just born witness to then took a step forward but stopped in her tracks.  They were potentially dangerous, yes, but if she left them where they lay, the swamp would surely be the end of them.  The feline woman made a decision then and there that she would assist them, so she left the safety of her home and stepped from the wooden deck that surrounded her home onto the soft mud.  She felt herself sink into it, but she’d made her choice, so she pushed forward.  Each step she took placed more distance between herself and the safety of her home.
 
When she was finally upon the strange travelers, two humans and a creature she couldn’t identify, she knew there was little time.  She knelt and began to shake them gently.  She knew the mud was soft and likely wouldn’t have broken, sprained, or even bruised anything.
“Please wake up,” she urged in common.  Her shaking grew more vigorous the longer she waited next to them.  She had a few potions to fight off assailants, but not enough to protect three people and… what she could only presume was a pet.

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PostSubject: Re: A Land of Trials   Fri Nov 13, 2015 10:46 pm

The only one of the three strangers to respond was the boy. He was slow to open his eyes at first and his usually unkempt chestnut-colored hair and school uniform were now soaked by the muddy water, but that was of little concern. Once he had realized that he was now laying in a swamp the boy sprang as upright as he could into a seated position. 

Beside him was a girl dressed in a similar uniform and appeared to be the same age as him, but with fawn-colored hair that had previously been neatly pulled back with an oversized bow. The boy had been clinging to her tightly even when unconscious in an effort to protect her, but now he quickly propped her up against his shoulder to keep her head out of the swamp.

The sound of a small splash then drew his attention over his shoulder where the small tawny creature that had appeared along with the two had also begun to stir. Whatever this "pet" was, it resembled a miniature lion cub with oversized ears. It's tiny body sank waste-deep upon standing, but a pair of wings on its back allowed it to rise up out of the swamp with some effort and join the boy. 

It was the animal's gaze was that redirected the boy's attention once again to finally noticed the robed figure crouched before him. He gave a slight start at the sight of her, but after a brief stare he spoke. 

"...Who are you?" he asked reluctantly.

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PostSubject: Re: A Land of Trials   Sat Nov 14, 2015 8:06 pm

“There will be time for introductions later, we are in grave danger here,” the feline woman responded.  She rose to her feet and cast her sharp-eyed gaze around them.  The relative safety of her home was a scant twelve paces away over soft mud flats.  The machka turned and looked at the trio of travelers then gestured to her home.  “We will be safe there, please, rise if you can, and do not lag behind,” she instructed.  The silvery-haired machka began to walk toward her home at a slow, creeping pace, allowing the travelers to follow her.
 
The nearby moan of a zombie told her that danger lurked closer than she’d previously thought.  Her fingers detached a potion from her belt that glowed internally with dim silvery-blue light and held it by the loop of twine around its neck.  The moan came again, louder and closer.  Her entire body tensed and her sharp ears flicked and turned until they settled upon the source of the noise; it was behind them!  The machka spun and threw the potion as hard as she could.  The round-bottomed flask sailed past the boy’s head and smashed against the undead creature’s head.  The zombie groaned and flailed as cleansing flames engulfed its body.  After all of the creature’s rotted flesh and bone was burned away, all the remained was its ragged clothing, which floated atop the murky water.
 
The machka cursed in her native tongue then turned and continued to lead the way to her home.  Although lights flickered in the distance, nothing dangerous impeded their trip.  Once inside, she closed and barred the door then grabbed a colourless potion from a nearby shelf.  She yanked the cork from it with her teeth and spat it into a ceramic jar that contained other corks.  She doused herself in it and all the mud, dirt, and water on her clothing and fur was gone.  She set the empty bottle aside and grabbed another off the shelf.  “I do apologize for doing this,” she said.  She yanked the cork from it and did the same thing to the boy followed by the girl, and finally their pet.  Her guests clean, she gestured to her bed.  “Please, have a seat,” she said.
 
The interior of the machka’s home had a small single bed in it pushed against one wall and a single chair that sat next to a work table overpopulated by glass bottles and various stoppers for them.  In the middle of her floor, over a fire pit, was a large cauldron.  The walls were the most interesting part of her home by far; shelves covered nearly every inch of the walls and they were populated by various things contained in jars, flasks, and bottles.  The contents ranged from dried herbs to body parts preserved in fluids that seemed to glow a little bit.  Lighting inside the structure was accomplished by way of amber light crystals that hung in glass lanterns.
 
“Now that we are safe, I know you have many questions for me and I will try my best to answer them,” the machka explained.  She grabbed her chair and carried it over to her bed then seated herself upon it.  “With regard to your question from before, my name is Liona, though I am often called The Swamp Witch.  I feel it is fair that you trade me your names as I have given you mine,” she said.

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PostSubject: Re: A Land of Trials   Mon Nov 16, 2015 10:07 pm

Upon entering, the boy began to glance from side to side around woman's home. He tried not to gawk, but there was still no hiding the look of disbelief at what he was seeing. Even if the use of magic was something the boy had grown up around, a witch who lived in a swamp and used a cauldron was still something that only existed in fairy tales in his mind. Thankfully, Liona didn't seem to be the kind of wicked witch that was often associated with those stories... even if her home did look it...

At being invited to sit the boy carefully placed the still unconscious girl he had been carrying across the chair and remained standing aside it. He didn't want to impose on Liona any further by taking her bed from her and he was still to uneasy from all that had happened to sit yet, anyway. Hopefully his friend would wake up soon and they would be able to leave.

When asked his name the boy hesitated and gave an uneasy glace to the 'pet' that had taken a seat atop the backboard of the chair. Somehow, the tiny creature didn't seem as unsettled by the witch's home as he was. It had instead been watching Lion was a look of stern fascination and gave him a nod of reassurance. After nodding back, the boy finally spoke spoke.

"I am Syaoran Li and this is Sakura," he said reluctantly, giving a slight gesture of his hand to indicate the girl in the chair.

"And I Keroberos," the toy-like creature introduced himself with a bob of its own head. If There was no need to hide the fact that he could speak from someone like Liona. She had already seen him move on his own and if she was the witch she claimed to be seeing an animal speak shouldn't come as a shock.

"Thank you for letting us into your home, but what exactly is this place and what was that creature outside?" Syaoran asked as he recalled the image of the burning corpse. Such a monster was something else that shouldn't have been possible. Attempting to bring the dead back to life, even with magic, was taboo for just such results. He was glad that Sakura hadn't been awake to see it.

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PostSubject: Re: A Land of Trials   Tue Nov 24, 2015 2:48 am

“I’ve not met anyone with names such as yours before… do you hail from the Far Lands?”  Liona asked.  She turned and looked them over carefully.  “You certainly don’t appear to of Alza descent, but I’ve only heard stories of them,” she explained.  The machka moved through her home and gathered various materials, which found their way onto her work table.  She had various herbs and some oils; she even took some of the liquid from a jar that contained a preserved heart.  It began to beat a few moments later to replenish the liquid.
 
Liona worked in silence for a few long moments, filling a square flask with various things.  She stoppered it with a cork then left it to its own devices.  “The “creature” as you called it that attacked us was a zombie.  This swamp was the site of a battle long ago and the undead continue to fight their battle but will also attack any living creatures they cross paths with,” she explained.
 
As time passed, the contents of the flask underwent a reaction and changed from a seemingly random collection of materials into a potion that appeared of made of liquefied gold.  She picked it up and handed it to the boy who had called himself Syaoran.  “Have Sakura drink this,” she instructed.  “I know you have little reason to trust me, but I am an apothecary, I create potions to save the lives of people who seek me out,” she added.
 
The feline woman crossed back to her work table and seated herself.  “This place, where are now, is called the Great Swamp and covers most of northern Illinara.  Illinara is the continent upon which we stand.  Far to the east there is a place called Far Lands, a friend of mine speaks of it from time to time.  To the north is a placed called the Cold Lands; traders who pass by on the trade road between Aurora and Forlorn Peak speak of the folk from the Cold Lands as if they were another species altogether,” she explained.  She allowed a pause for the boy and his small companion to digest the information.
 
“I have questions as well, child,” Liona began.  “Where do you and your companions hail from?  I’ve not met a creature such as Keroberos before and I have lived a very long time in this swamp,” she said.  A blue light flickered in the window then something rattled the glass before it faded away completely.  “You’ll get used to that, the spirits who inhabit this swamp seek to lure living creatures to their death,” she explained.

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PostSubject: Re: A Land of Trials   Sat Nov 28, 2015 11:00 pm

"Uh..." was all Syaoran could manage in an awkward stutter. He leaned back slightly as Liona leaned in for a closer examine his face. He continued to glanced repeatedly over at the witch with morbid curiosity once she had moved on and began to work, but he had once again found it hard not to stare. 

The boy had no idea what most of the ingredients she was using were, but he could guess based on the few things he could identify. Syaoran's face blanched slightly once he saw the final component and upon being handed the bottle he hesitated. After the way Liona had helped them already it was less of a matter of trust and more the matter of having seen what had gone into the cure... 

Nevertheless, Syaoran reluctantly accepted the potion and knelt to prop Sakura against his body. He tilted her head back slightly to help her swallow and unstopped the cork before he began to carefully pour the liquid down her throat in small doses. At least there didn't seem to be any unpleasant odor, but he was still slightly grateful that she was unconscious for this process. Hopefully she wouldn't be able to taste it in her current state.

"I had a feeling that you practiced medicinal magic; It's a rare skill where we come from. Even my first master, Clow Reed, was only able to master very basic healing remedies", Keroberos remarked with a nod of appreciation.

A small scowl appeared on Syaoran's face as he listened. The swamp outside had already been an unfamiliar sight, but he didn't recognize any of the landmarks Liona had mentioned. Once he had finished giving Sakua all of the potion he looked back up at Liona to speak.

"We're from a country called 'Japan.' There are a some swamps there, but they're nothing like this..." he began before the rapping at the window briefly drew his attention away. The sound caused Sakura to stir slightly, but her eyes wouldn't open yet. Syaoran scowled again.

"Please, if there are more of those dangerous zombies are spirits out there then we need to get home as soon as possible. Do you think there is any way that you can help us?"

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PostSubject: Re: A Land of Trials   Tue Dec 22, 2015 6:56 pm

Liona listened to Syaoran's words and dipped her head in understanding.  "Displacement magic is a bit... awkward shall we say.  I imagine there are those in Illinara who know of it... powerful dark elves I'd imagine... Gloom the Forgotten... my dear friend Arka... but meeting with people like them is difficult at best," she explained.  There was a long pause before she spoke again.  "I fear you are stuck here for a while, child.  My "magic," as Keroberos terms it, is limited to potions and poultices, so I am of little useful help with displacement magic," the machka explained.

She rose from her seat and crossed the room to gently check the unconscious girl.  Her fingers delicately touched at the girl's neck to check her pulse and delicately touched at her forehead in search of a fever.  "Everything appears to be normal, I am sure she will stir in due time," the swamp witch finally said.  She crossed back to her chair and settled into it.  "In any case, I cannot, in good conscience, allow you to leave my home until the morning sun rises.  The spirits would lead you astray and I've no doubt in my mind the undead would help themselves to fresh meat," she explained.

Thumping came from the front door, which drew a heavy sigh from Liona.  "Please excuse me," she said.  She grabbed a round-bottomed flask that glowed with internal silvery-blue light and pushed open a nearby window.  The machka woman slipped out and made her way around the deck that surrounded her home and spied upon the one-armed zombie that beat its stub of a right arm against the door.  It moaned out and threw itself against the door.  She rolled her eyes and charged toward it, swinging the flask like a club.  It shattered against the zombie's exposed skull and drenched it in the contents.  It moaned out loudly and flailed as it body burst into white flames.  The cleansing flames burned away its body and soon all that remained were the tattered rags it had been dressed in.  Liona returned to the interior of her home and barred the door.  "You'll get used to that as well.  Sometimes they lose interest and leave, other times they cause problems," she explained.

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PostSubject: Re: A Land of Trials   Wed Dec 30, 2015 10:16 pm

Syaoran bit down on his lip to surpress a groan. He already had suspected that finding a way home wouldn't be easy, but Liona had now confirmed that the journey might be eaven harder than he had feared.

His expression softened as the witch proceeded to assess Sakura's condition and he gave a nod of affirmation. The potion had done its job and Sakura had arealy shown signs of waking because of it. Syaoran was confident she would be awake by morning, but what he wasn't sure of was how he would explain their situation to her.

The pounding against the side of the house suddenly resumed and Sakura began to toss slightly once again at the noise. Syaoran to utterd a second soft groan of annoyance as his face melted back into its previous scowl. He carefully shifted Sakura's body into a position where she could lay comfortably across the chair before he turned to aproach Liona.

"If it's not too much trouble, I have a favor to ask," Syaoran began.

"Those spirits and zombies out there might be gone in the morning, but if we are going to be stuck here for a while I am going to need a weapon of some kind. I normally use a sword, but it's not here with me now. I'm afraid that my martial arts skills won't be of much use against the kind of opponents we might be facing out there and I only know a bit of offensive magic. Sakura's powers are must stronger then mine by now I'm sure, but I don't want her to have to fight against those things..." he continued before he was cut off by the plush-like guardian.

"Hey, don't forget about me! When the sun comes up I'll be able to transform. Once I am able use my full power it'll be no problem for me to protect both Sakura and a weak kid like you," Keroberos boasted, earning another groan from Syaoran before he quickly turned back to Liona.

"Listen, you said that a battle took place in this swamp a long time ago, right? If those zombies used to be soldiers of some kind than do you think any of them left behind any armor or weapons that I could use?"

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PostSubject: Re: A Land of Trials   Wed Jan 13, 2016 3:16 pm

Liona looked up at him.  "I am sure we could recover weapons from the swamp but I doubt they would be in usable condition," she explained.  The machka paused for a moment and considered.  "On the other hand, a blunted sword can still break bones even if it cannot cut flesh," the silver-haired feline added.  She rose from her seat and looked out the window.  "For now, Syaoran, it would be wise for us to sleep.  You and your companion may take the bed, I've spent many a night on the floor so do not worry about me," she said.  As if to force her point, she settled onto the floor near her work table and leaned back against the wall with her robe pulled around herself.  She waved a hand and the amber light crystals dimmed but did not go out.  "Spirits seek darkness and shelter, so I cannot put them out completely," she explained.  She drew her legs up and leaned forward, wrapping her arms around her knees as a pillow.  Throughout the night spirits flickered in the windows the groans, shrieks, and wails of the undead could be heard near and far as they continued their centuries long struggle for the piece of the forgotten territory.

As the morning sun rose the swamp's undead inhabitants settled back into the soft mud and the spirits settled into their dark daytime dwellings.  Liona stirred slowly and groaned soft as she woke.  The machka rose to her feet and stretched her arms over her head as she stood on her toes.  "I'm getting too old to sleep on the floor..." she muttered to herself.  A wave of her hands forced the light crystals to full brightness before the silver-haired machka removed the bar from her door and stepped outside.  She knelt near the edge of the boat dock that extended from the back of her home and watched the water with her sharp eyes.  After a few long moments of patience, her hands shot forward into the water and she grabbed hold of a large cat fish (even she saw the irony) and hauled it up onto the dock.  She used her knife to prepare it before she carried the fillets she cut from it back inside and tossed the remaining inedible pieces back into the water to be picked over by scavengers.

She filled the large cauldron in the middle of her shack with water and threw the fish in with an assortment of vegetables and spices and began to make a fish stew for everyone to eat as breakfast.  Were she alone, she would have fried to a crisp but with three extra mouths to feed she needed to prepare something that could feed more than just herself.  When it was almost done Liona approached the trio and gently shook them awake.  "Breakfast is almost ready, please wake up," she cooed.

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PostSubject: Re: A Land of Trials   Sat Jan 30, 2016 10:35 pm

"Breakfast?" Kero repeated eagerly. The promise of food was enough for the tiny guardian to sit straight up with no further provocation needed. He left his spot at the corner of the pillow Sakura had been using and followed Liona back into the kitchen to assess the meal she was preparing.

When Syaoran sat up a moment later he had to look around again to remember where he was until he saw Liona. He fully remembered the swamp and the witch from the previous night, but after falling asleep so quickly he had almost hoped that it had been a dream. It wasn't until the sheets beside him began to move that Syaoran realized that this also meant he had spent the night in the same bed as Sakura, having been too tired to object. His face to turned a bright shade of red when this lead him to compare how they must have looked to a married couple. 

"..Syaoran?" Sakura mumbled as he quickly scrambled out of the bed and to his feet before she noticed. 

"What... what is this place where are we?"

"I'm not really not sure how to explain it, but were some place called 'Illinara'... I don't know exactly how we got here, but it sounds like we might be stuck here for a while..." the boy began reluctantly before he turned his head over his shoulder toward the witch, who was still tending to her stew with Kero hovering over her shoulder.

"This house belongs to that woman; her name is Liona. She's the one who found us and she's been helping us ever since Kero and I woke up with you in the swamp outside last night," he explained.

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PostSubject: Re: A Land of Trials   Sun Jan 31, 2016 7:17 pm

Liona served the small creature called Kero a portion that could have served a normal-sized person, but she knew magical creatures tended to have huge appetites.  She served portions for Syaoran and Sakura next, sure to include several large fish pieces for each of them, then served herself.  "There is more if you want seconds," she said.  The machka sat in the chair from her work table and began to eat quietly.  It was, in her opinion, quite tasty; it had the right combination of herbs and spices to compliment the catfish and enhance its flavour.  She watched as the girl, Sakura, stirred and seemed just as alarmed as Syaoran had been... she supposed it was fair though, to go to sleep in a familiar place only to wake up in an unfamiliar one.

"Sakura, I welcome you to my humble home, I am Liona, the swamp witch," she greeted with a smile.  Her tail flicked before she stood up.  The machka woman stretched her arms up over her head and stood on her toes after she set her empty bowl on her work table then scratched her side a bit.  "After breakfast we can go out into the swamp and see if we can scare up some weapons for you two on our way to the trade road.  Once there you can either head southward into the rest of Illinara or head north to the port of Forlorn Peak," she explained.  She turned to the window and looked out over the swamp then up at the dark clouds that had begun to gather.  "I fear it's going to be a wet trip..." she sighed.

The silver-haired machka grabbed her belt of potions and looped it over her shoulder and across her torso.  The heavy bottles clinked against each other every time she moved.  She began to rifle through a box of things on a shelf for a few moments before she turned up two fist-sized glittering stones that were deep blue in colour.  "This is called magicite, it's a stone made entirely out of crystallized magic.  Each kind of magicite has special inherent properties, and this kind, made of crystallized water magic, should help you two stay dry during your trip," she explained as she handed it to Sakura and Syaoran.  "I must warn you, however, magicite is extremely unstable if its structure is compromised... in other words, it explodes.  I would recommend you do your best to keep it from harm.  Most travellers wrap their magicite in scraps of cloth or handkerchiefs to protect them and I'd recommend you do the same.  You wouldn't want a simple trip and fall to turn into a life-threatening injury," she concluded.

"If you've finished eating, we can go to the trade road.  I cannot actually leave the swamp, but I can guide you to the road so you can find your own way," Liona explained.

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PostSubject: Re: A Land of Trials   Sat Feb 06, 2016 10:44 pm

Sakura smiled politely when Liona introduced herself and gave a nod to show her gratitude as the witch welcomed her. Somehow, Liona's feline features didn't seem as strange to her as they had to Syaoran. Perhaps it was simply because she had worn similar accesories on many occasions with the costumes her friend Tomoyo made for her, but these were all just props whereas Liona's ears and tail were very much real.

Sakura and Syaoran both said a 'thank you' as the feline woman offered them each a bowl of stew. Kero added his own thanks, but by this time he was already nearly half way through his meal. All three finished eating in due time and waited patiently as Liona finished preparing the last of her arsenal of potions. 

Upon being given their own supply of magicite, Sakura and Syaoran were careful to heed her instructions regarding its volatile nature. Syaoran was lucky enough to have at least had a handkerchief in his pocket while Sakura removed the sash from her uniform to contain the magic stone. Kero was too small to carry a magicite stone for himself, but he would still be able to keep himself drya by tucking himself in Sakura's pocket and keeping in contact with the stone there.

"We don't want to be any more of a bother to you then we already have, Miss Liona," Sakura told her, earning a nod of agreement from Syaoran.

"You've already gave us a safe place to sped the night and fed us; however far you can take us will be just fine. You don't have to worry about finding a weapon for Sakura either, I'm the only one who will need one."

"I'm afraid I'm not a very strong fighter. I've never really used a real sword or anything like that, but I have magic I can use if I have to... but is the swamp outside really that dangerous?" Sakura asked reluctantly.

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PostSubject: Re: A Land of Trials   Sun Feb 07, 2016 2:16 am

"The swamp was a battlefield in a former lifetime, Sakura.  The creatures that inhabit it at night are the soldiers who died here for their cause.  The old grudges they hold against each other play out night after night and will continue to do so until a victor finally emerges," Liona explained.  She turned and walked toward her door.  "Part of the reason I chose to make my home here is so I can have their protection at night... such as it is.  I'm fully aware of the inherent dangers of my chosen home, but I developed a cleansing potion I can brew to allow me to release them from this world," the machka added.  She pulled the door open and stepped out onto the deck that surrounded her home.  "It's more or less safe during the day, save for the predatory animals and the bounty hunters, but at night I wouldn't wish what happens out here upon even my worst enemies," she concluded.

The silver-haired machka began to lead the way from her home, speaking of the many medicinal uses of the plants along the trail and indicated which ones were poisonous.  The few weapons they did happen across on the trail were far too rusted to be of any use to anyone at all, even if they'd been taken to a proper smith.  About halfway between Liona's home and the trade road it began to rain.  It was a slow, soaking rain that caused the machka woman to sigh.  "The trip home is going to be quite muddy..." she mumbled.

Upon reaching the trade road, she stopped and looked up at down it, from north to south.  "I recommend that you follow the trade road southward, Forlorn Peak to the north is nothing but a trading port and won't afford you any information or even mages really.  Be mindful of the people you come across, not all of them will be as kind as I.  Bandits frequent the trade road to the south, so watch your step," she said.  "I truly hope you find your way home, Illinara is not a place for the faint of heart," Liona said.  She turned away from them and began to walk back into the swamp.  "Farewell you three!  Take great care in what plants you intend to eat!"  she called.

-----

Several miles down the road to the south, a lone, dark-haired woman stopped in her tracks when she came upon a young man with unkempt, scruffy blond hair dressed in green and gray traveller's garb.  He knelt near a horse that was hunkered down on its belly and appeared to be sick.  He looked up from his mount's side when he heard her approach then slowly rose to his feet and hurried her side.
"Thank goodness you happened by, miss, my poor horse, Helphas is sick and needs medicine," he said.  His blue eyes shifted between her and the animal.
The woman looked past him at the horse, watching as its ear flicked and it huffed.  She stepped past him and approached the animal to check it.  The young man swallowed and reached into his green cloak as he followed her.  The dark-haired woman knelt checked the animal's pulse and listened to its breathing before she helped it to its feet.

"Your horse is not sick, you've trained it lay down and appear to be," she said.  When she turned toward him, her red eyes settled onto him and the large knife he'd drawn while her back was turned.
"Make this easy on yourself, miss, give us all your belongings and no one will have to be hurt," the young man said.
"Us?"  she asked softly.  Her pointed ears flicked and she looked around as another 13 men appeared from the heavy brush that surrounded them.  "I see..." she said.
"Hand it over now!"  he ordered.
The dark-haired woman slowly drew a heavy dagger with an unusual blade that narrowed toward the hilt and had a squared-off tip from its sheath then spun it in her hand in a show of dexterity.  "You'll have to take it from me," she said.  Her cold, red eyes settled upon the young man.  He looked around nervously at his companions.
"Kill her!"  he shouted.

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PostSubject: Re: A Land of Trials   Tue Feb 16, 2016 11:25 pm

"We will! Thank you again for everything, Miss Liona!" Sakura called back with a wave as she, Syaoran and Kero said their own farewells.

The group would heed the swamp witch's advice and and keep to the southern trade route until they came to the nearest town where they would ask for further direction, but it would still be a long road ahead. Rain wouldn't make the trip any easier, either. Thankfully, the magicite stones Liona had given the two travels were doing their job to keep the trio dry as they went along, but the weather was the least of their worries.

In truth, Sayoran had hoped that Liona would have been able to accomapny them at least to the nearest town, if now for Sakura's sake alone. He knew fully well the need to exercise caution caution around strangers, even if they weren't in a strange new land, but he feared that she might be more trusting. 

It was just as concerning was that Syaoran still hadn't yet managed to find a usable weapon. He could most likely handle bandits or any other unsavory humans they might encounter in hand-to-hand combat, but he was more concerned about the swamp's supernatural dangers. If it grew dark before he could find a sword or reach a town Sakura might be forced to fight by herself.

Eventually, the mostly smooth path the trio had been following rolled up into a rather sizable hill. The now muddy ground made it a difficult climb, but once they had reached the top they could see a group of people at the bottom of the other side.

"Do you think they're from a town somewhere nearby?" Sakura asked. Kero poked his head out from her pocket to make his own assessment, but before she could get any closer Syaoran stuck his arm out in a warning.

"Hold on, something's not right..." he told her in a hushed tone. He quickly pulled her to the side among a group of leafy trees where they hopefully wouldn't be noticed as he monitored the woman and her assailants. Under normal circumstances he would have tried to help the woman immediately when outnumbered 13-to-1, but something told him she was no ordinary woman.

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PostSubject: Re: A Land of Trials   Wed Feb 17, 2016 3:51 am

The men converged upon the dark-haired woman, each of them brandishing a small sword or dagger.  She immediately become animated and parried the first slash in a shower of sparks.  The bandit’s blade stopped, she lashed out with a powerful kick that knocked him off his feet.  Her heavy knife found purchase in the next man who attacked her, decapitating him.  As his headless corpse toppled to the ground, the other men screamed insults and curses at her.  Another man attacked her, only to lose an arm before her knife bit into his chest and cut through his heart.  With his corpse still in her grasp, she used it as a shield and blocked an attack that would have injured her badly.
 
She kicked the corpse away and spun, her blade riding along the edge of one man's sword.  Her strike knocked it from his hand when it slammed against the cross-guard and sent it clattering away.  She killed him with a powerful uppercut from her free hand broke his neck and knocked him to the ground.  Three men down, the others began to grow more cautious in their attacks.  Each time they closed on her, the dark-haired woman managed to kill someone.  Her arms and hands were spattered with blood and she even had some on her face.
 
After a short pause to study each man individually, she dashed forward and jumped and into the air before she came down on one man, her blade sunken to its hilt in the middle of his chest.  She felt the bite of pain in her left arm but she ignored it and wrenched her heavy knife free before she rose to her feet.  Eight men were left out of the original 13.
 
She exhaled slowly to push the pain from her mind before she sheathed her knife and pulled a folding compound bow from inside the quiver that hung across her lower back.  She calmly lifter her bow with an arrow notched to it and began to shoot.  Each arrow she loosed found its mark with deadly accuracy and soon the only man that remained was the scruffy, blond-haired thief who'd started the entire mess.
 
"How... how is it possible?!  We had you outnumbered!"  he shouted.  The blond-haired bandit raised his own bow, a simple short bow, with trembling hands, an arrow notched to its string.
"You lack discipline, you attacked like a pack of wild dogs, not like soldiers," the woman said.  Her long, pointed ears twitched before released her arrow and it thudded home in his chest.  When his body went limp, the dead bandit’s arrow flew through the air and grazed her cheek.  She folded her bow shut and rubbed the cut on her face with the back of her gloved hand then checked the cut on her arm; it wasn't too deep but it needed to be wrapped and kept clean.  The dark-haired woman went through the bodies and used a burgundy handkerchief she found to bind her wound before she began to go through the corpses and take any money and jewels they had.  A few had valuable things like cut gemstones and gold pieces, but the others mostly had a few copper pieces.
 
The dark-haired woman’s ears twitched when the crunch of gravel signaled someone’s approach.  The pair of children didn't look like any kind of threat, so she continued to check the bodies thoroughly.  She was in search of items that were hidden under their clothing and armour.  "Not too common to see children on this road," she commented.  "So you're either lost and need direction or you're these bandits' last hit," the dark-haired woman added.  She looked at the pair and tilted her head to one side.  "You won't get answers if you don't ask questions," she said.  She brushed her wet hair out of her face and tucked it behind her long, pointed ears before she began to work again.

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PostSubject: Re: A Land of Trials   Mon Feb 22, 2016 9:40 pm

Sakura and Syaoran had been too stunned to speak at first. Syaoran had suspected that the woman was stronger than she appeared, but to be able to take down thirteen men in mere minutes single handed was inhuman. However, given that the three had already met with a swamp witch with the features of a cat, it was entirely possible that this woman wasn't exactly human either.

On the other hand, Sakura's shock was from horror. As soon as the woman had begun cutting into her assailants she had closed her eyes and buried her face in the back of Syaoran's shoulder. It still hadn't spared her the sight of the blood that remained in the aftermath, however. She remained crouched behind Syaoran as the two slowly approached the woman after having been spotted. 

Meanwhile, Kero remained still and silent within Sakura's pocket even though his head and abdomen still stuck out. Liona may have been accepting of him, but she was a practitioner of magic and even she had said she had never seen anything like him in Illinara so there was no telling how this new woman might react to him being able to speak. There was no need to expose himself any further if she hadn't seen him moving on his own already, but he would still intervene if there was a need.

Sakura flinched at the woman's glance when she turned to address the two and even Syaoran hesitated briefly before he finally managed to speak.

"Y-yes, we are lost," he explained.

"We're not from around here and we aren't even sure how exactly we got to Illinara, but we're trying to find our way to the nearest town so we can try to find a way back home."

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PostSubject: Re: A Land of Trials   Mon Feb 22, 2016 11:50 pm

The woman dug through the corpses a few moments longer before she stood up to address the pair properly.  She was soaked from head to toe but didn't seem bothered by it.  Her ruby red eyes settled onto the pair and regarded them silently for a few long moments before she spoke.  "Dawn is the closest city but it's a mining town; no one there but caravan mercenaries, miners, merchants, and thieves."  Her eyes stayed locked on the boy's for a few long moments before they moved over his unusual clothing, searching him carefully for any kind of defenses.  "I'm headed to Union myself, but if I get a contract in Dawn it is possible that I may head to Aurora instead," she explained.  “If what you say is true, that is your best bet to find someone to assist you other than travelling to Alzakam or U’rune,” she added.
 
Her cold eyes trailed back to the boy's again, lingering as she seemed to look past his eyes and into his soul.  "I know that look... that look of determination that's seated deep in your eyes; you seek to protect your companion," she said.  The dark-haired woman knelt again before she stripped the armour from a corpse that had been beheaded.  It was in good condition and made from metal strips that had been bonded to leather with rivets.  She threw it that the boy's feet.  "If you wish to protect her, you'll need that," she said.  She picked up a nearby short sword that was in reasonable condition and tossed it at his feet as well.  It bounced and clattered across the packed gravel road before it came to a stop.
 
She knelt and pulled one of the cloaks from another corpse that she'd shot in the back.  The dark-haired woman dislodged the arrow and checked the tip before she pushed it back into her quiver.  “Waste not, want not,” she said quietly.  The cloak didn't have too much blood on it and it wasn't too waterlogged so she pulled it free and draped it around her shoulders then fastened the clasp.  She took the thief's curved knife, scabbard and all, and tossed it at the girl's feet.  "Even the innocent need knives," she explained.  She threw a couple more cloaks at them that weren't too dirty from the fight then brushed her wet hair out of her face again and tucked it behind her long, pointed ears.
 
She rose to her feet and regarded the pair for another long moment before her eyes moved past the boy and settled onto the girl.  "You do not like death, yet you know it is a part of life,” she began.  “These men?  They wished to kill me for my belongings; they made a poor decision," she said.  Where most warriors would have gloated over their victory, her voice was even and monotone as she spoke.  Her red eyes were cold and her face was expressionless.  "You may travel with me if you wish.  However, as you're not paying for my services, any fights you start are up to you to sort out," the dark-haired woman said.  She turned and looked up at the sky for a moment then down the road.  "About five days on foot," the woman said.  Her eyes moved skyward again.  "More if the rain persists," she finally said.

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PostSubject: Re: A Land of Trials   Sun Feb 28, 2016 10:51 pm

Sakura nodded reluctantly at the woman's words. There was no questioning that the group of men had intended to rob the woman and were even prepared to kill her in the process. She had been right to defend herself, yet by killing and then robbing her attackers she was no better than them.

But unlike them, Sakura could also tell she had taken no joy in the deed. It was obvious the woman could have just as easily subdued the men long enough to have escaped, but a group like them would have merely gone on to rob someone else and if she hadn't taken their belongings someone else most likely would...

Syaoran briefly showed his own reluctance in accepting the stolen armor and sword. The armor was a bit large on him and using an unfamiliar sword wasn't ideal, but it would have to do. He needed a means of protecting Sakura and himself and tt least this way the thieves’ weapons could be put to better use.

Sakura was slower to accept the small blade that had been offered to her. She was still lucky enough to have her key and cards with her and would much rather use her magic if she were ever faced with any danger, but there was no telling if they would even work in this word. She picked up the knife and fastened it at her waist. With luck, she wouldn't need it...not that she would know how to use it if she ever did...

Syanran nodded in consent at the woman's condition in assisting the two. "We understand, thank you. My name is Sayoran and this is Sakura."

"We'll try not to cause any trouble for you," Sakura said with her own nod in gratitude.

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PostSubject: Re: A Land of Trials   Tue Mar 01, 2016 2:38 pm

The dark-haired woman listened as the boy introduced them and the girl spoke as though she were grovelling to someone.  She turned and settled her cold red eyes on them, regarding them silently for a moment before she spoke.  "Kai'tok," she said.  Her cold, terse introduction completed, Kai'tok turned away and began to follow the road southward in the rain.  Despite the fact the cloak she'd pilfered had a hood, she didn't pull it up, leaving her long, dark hair wet and matted against her head.  Her long, pointed ears flicked and twitched now and again as they searched the forest around them for signs of danger.
 
The gravel road was wet and a little muddy, but nothing like the ill-kept trail through the swamp had been.  Kai'tok tended to favour one side of the road and avoided the large puddles at the side.  She slowed to a stop when a trade caravan approached them and stuck her thumb out.  The caravan came to a stop and the lead guard approached her slowly on horseback.
 
"Why are you travelling with human children, elf?"  he demanded.
She looked over her shoulder at Syaoran and Sakura then turned her cold gaze back to the guard.  "Happenstance," she replied.
The guard raised an eyebrow then shrugged visibly.  "Do you need a lift?"  he questioned.
"Where are you headed?"  Kai'tok asked.
"We're going to Forlorn Peak, you?"  he responded.
"Dawn, then Union; they are headed to Aurora," she explained.
"Good luck, but remain wary; these roads are heavy with bandits.  There's a new group that's been going around killing travelers for their things instead of just robbing them," he said.
Kai'tok shook head before she spoke.  "They are dead; their bodies are just up the road."
"Did you save these children from them?"  the guard asked.
She shook her head a second time.  "No, these two came from the north, probably Forlorn Peak.  They came upon me after I killed the bandits," she explained.
"Mercenary..." he growled.  He looked over his shoulder.  "Onward!"  he barked.  The caravan began to move and soon left Kai'tok and the children alone in the rain.  The dark-haired woman began to follow the road quietly, exchanging no words with her charges.
 
The encounter with the caravan behind them, Kai'tok led the way down the road until the light began to fade.  She stopped and looked around in the deepening gloom before she knelt at the side of the road and began to search through the grass carefully.  It took her a few minutes, but she soon found what she was in search of then led the way off the road into the heavy, wet brush.  A short, soggy hike later, they were outside what appeared to be a huge bramble patch, but Kai'tok crouched down and moved inside a small, thorny passage.
 
The small tunnel she'd crawled into led into a smallish shelter with a couple of cots and a fire pit in the middle.  Off to one side there was a shelf with a collection of baskets and covered ceramic urns stacked upon it.  There was just enough room for Kai'tok to stand up without hunching over.  She rose to her feet, then squeezed out her hair so it was more manageable before she took her cloak off and did the same, hanging it to dry from the ceiling.  A winding spiral led out the top but no water came in through it.  She wiped her hands on her shirt then pulled a flint and tinder from a pouch on her belt and used it to start a fire that she fed with dry logs that had been stacked in the shelter.
 
"Normally I'd travel at night, but you humans require sleep," she said.  She began to go through the baskets and urns one by one, finding nuts, dried berries, and dried plant matter.  "Rangers must have been here recently..." she said to herself.  She opened a ceramic urn that was larger than the rest and reached inside to find dried meat.  She pulled out a few pieces for herself then offered it to Syaoran.  "Don't take more than you need," she instructed.  Kai’tok settled onto one of the cots and began to eat quietly, using her teeth to tear off strips of the dried meat before she chewed.  In the fire's flickering orange light, it was plain to see that her canine teeth were slightly abnormal in size, protruding further than the rest and obviously pointed.  Her red eyes seemed to mostly linger on the fire as she ate and she didn’t speak.

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PostSubject: Re: A Land of Trials   Mon Mar 07, 2016 10:50 pm

With the magicite stones Leona had given them still in hand, Sakura and Syaoran hadn't needed to worry about the rain soaking their hair and clothes the way it had the elven woman's, but the cloaks she had given them would still provide some much needed warmth in the damp conditions while Kero remained safely tucked within the warmth of Sakura's pocket. The weather didn't seem to bother Kai'tok at all, though. Sakura and Syaoran had needed put their hoods up once the temperature had begun to sink with the sun, but she had continued to leave hers down. No doubt it was because she, like Leona, was fully acclimated to the swamp and it's surrounding forest.

Both children listened silently Kai'tok addressed the passing caravan. She seemed to know their captain, though they didn't seem to approve of the way she had disposed of the band of thieves any more than Sakura had. Unfortunately, it didn't sound as though they would be of much help to the travelers, either.

As the inevitable night drew closer Syaoran began to glace about in his own heightened caution. Even after almost an entire day of traveling they still weren't completely out of the forest and the dangers of the swamp surely weren't behind them, either. Syaoran grew even more wary when Kai'tok veered off of the path and into bush. He continued to follow, but made sure to keep Sakura just behind him.

Navigating the narrow path through the prickly thorns was difficult while wearing long cloaks.The tiny brambles seemed to grab at every inch of loose material until they eventually succeeded in pulling down but Sakura and Syaoran's hoods. It would be impossible to get through without at least a few scratches, but Syaoran did his best to lift as many of the branches as he could for Sakura until they finally reached the shelter.

Upon entering, the two guests followed their host's example by also wringing what excess water they could from their own cloaks before they hung them beside Kai'tok's. Syaoran gestured for Sakura to take the remaining available cot while he took a seat on the matted grass that served as the floor. Syaoran was careful to take only a modest portion of the preserved meat, as instructed. 

"Thank you," He said before he proceeded to break the portion into two pieces and made sure to give Sakura the larger piece while she discreetly broke off a portion for Kero then gave her own thanks with a small smile at the gesture. Perhaps the elven woman wasn't quite as cold as she had appeared at first.

"What exactly is this place, Miss Kai'tok?" Sakura asked as she took a more thorough look about the hut. It appeared too small to be someone's home, but with more than one bed it was clear that she wasn't the only one to use it even though she seemed to travel alone.

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PostSubject: Re: A Land of Trials   Tue Mar 08, 2016 10:35 pm

"Just Kai'tok," she corrected.  She paused to consume more of her meal.  "This shelter belongs to the Rangers, a group much like the elven Scouts further south,” she explained.  Her teeth locked onto a particularly tough piece of meat and she wrestled with it for a few moments like a wild animal before she finally tore a piece off and chewed it.  “They normally work to clear the roads of bandits and other threats to travellers... as you can tell, however, they do not perform their task well," the dark-haired woman said.
 
She took another bite of her food, chewed, and swallowed before she spoke again.  "They've littered the roads with many shelters such as this for travellers to weather storms or nights in safely as a way to fulfill their task,” she paused again to take another bite.  “They usually sweep through every few days to keep them stocked with supplies. The last few shelters I visited were fairly picked over; we got lucky this time," Kai'tok explained.  She finished her meal then folded her arms across her chest and leaned back against the shelter's wall while she thought.
 
She lowered her cold red eyes fell from the ceiling to meet with the children once more, lingering on Syaoran before she moved to Sakura.  "You don't seem to be much of a fighter, Sakura.  Are you a mage then?"  she asked.  Although she was an elf, Kai'tok actually knew little in the way of magic; the only spell she did know was one that most archers tended to learn early on called Hawk Sight that could be used to see for long distances.  Archers that took it up as a career tended to have more advanced spells that allowed them to enchant their arrows.  Her question posed to Sakura, her gaze shifted to Syaoran.  "What about you?  Do you know any magic to enchant your blade?"  she asked.  Being born of magically inclined races, Kai'tok could almost always sense magic when it was around her, but if the children before her were magical in any way, she couldn't tell… perhaps it was because they weren't of Illinara and therefore didn't line up with the magical norms she was used to.
 
"Our next stop is about a day's walk from here.  It is not a place I would normally stop because it’s run by humans, but I don’t see you two keeping pace with me if we don’t,” she explained.  The inns along the coastal trade road didn’t often cater to non-humans, viewing them as poor beggars or thieves (which they often were.)  They instead existed and make money off the rich trade caravans that passed through with considerable regularity.  Given that Kai’tok was a non-human, she tended not only to avoid staying at inns altogether, but often travelled at night to make extra distance.  Tasked with guarding the children, however, she had to change her habits.

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PostSubject: Re: A Land of Trials   Tue Mar 15, 2016 9:36 pm

"A mage?" Sakura repeated as she pondered the question for a moment. It was a term she had never associated with the magic she possessed as Master of the Clow. It wasn't exactly an incorrect term, but she still wasn't sure exactly what it might mean to be a mage in Illinara.  

"Yes, you could say that..." she said before she reached into one of her pockets to explain. When Sakura pulled her hand out again she held in her palm a stack of pale pink cards. There were fifty three cards total in the deck. The back of each one was studded with a gold star in each corner on a darker pink boarder which framed a magic circle that had a larger gold star as its base in between a sun and crescent moon.

Sakura turned over the top card in order to show Kai'tok what the front looked like. The card was labeled as The Windy and the image on the card depicted a shapely woman with with long, flowing hair and a wing-like crest on her forehead as well as a set of larger, feathery wings on her back. In addition, Windy also had pointed elven ears that looked similar to Kai'tok's. Below the image, Sakura's name was hand written across the across the bottom of the card as proof of ownership.

"These are my Sakura Cards. Each one of them contains a different spirit that I am able to call upon and they will lend me their strength. All of the cardspirits have their own power, but not all of them are for combat," Sakura explained.

"They weren't always Sakura Cards, though," Syaoran continued.

"They used to be known as the Clow Cards and they were originally created by one of my ancestors, Clow Reed. I could use my blade to harness the power of the cards back then, too. I'm not able to anymore now that Sakura is their new master but, I still have my own talismans that I can use with my sword."

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PostSubject: Re: A Land of Trials   Sat Mar 19, 2016 10:24 pm

"That ability labels you as a summoner in this world, Sakura," Kai'tok began.  She changed position, leaning forward so she could get a better look at the child's cards.  They looked to be made from stiff paper instead of sheets of crystal.  "In Illinara, summoners command creatures from a particular element by way of a spell book or some other talisman, like your cards.  Some, more bestial, summoners simply allow their magic to take hold of their bodies to fight alongside the creatures they summon," she explained.  The half-elf sat back before she spoke again.  "Summoners who use talismans like yours are a rare sight indeed... the magics they used died out long ago and haven't resurfaced often except in dark elven hands."
 
Her cold gaze moved to Syaoran.  "Your brand of magic is more typical here; humans or elves learn spells they can attune themselves to before they use their weapons to give it direction," Kai'tok explained.
 
The half-elf sat up straight and cleared her throat in preparation for a long speech.  "Magic is divided into three main types here, summoners, elementalism, and arcanists," she began.  "Magic can come in many different forms within each type, but someone who uses magic will typically stick to their chosen type.  Obviously there are grand exceptions to the rules, but for the most part those three are what will typically be encountered," the dark-haired woman explained.  She reached into her quiver and pulled several arrows with coloured fletching that were tipped with carved pieces of transparent, coloured crystal.  "Magicite is magic in its raw state.  In the correct hands it can be carved into blades or arrowheads that have destructive effects on whatever they strike in combat," she continued.
 
She picked out an arrow with a red tip that seemed to flicker in the fire's light.  "Fire magicite is among the most destructive; this particular arrow unleashes a devastating inferno upon striking its target.  Even if the victim isn't killed in the initial explosion from the magicite itself, their death is almost assured in the fireball that follows," she explained.  She tucked it back into the bundle in her hand and picked out two different arrows, one with a smoky, dark tip that reflected no light whatsoever and one with a perfectly transparent crystal that shimmered with rainbows when the fire's light struck it.  "Dark and holy magicite; when turned into arrow heads, these are easily the most destructive ones in my arsenal.  Dark magicite sucks in everything around it when its energies are released.  A few moments later, the void collapses on itself and detonates… it's rare that anything survives.  Holy magicite, on the other hand, will not harm the Goddess's creatures.  I use these against the undying horrors in the swamps or against Gloom the Forgotten's minions.  It unleashes holy energies that simply burns away anything unholy," Kai'tok explained.  She tucked her arrows back into her quiver.
 
"I've gotten off-topic," she said.  "So, summoners use their magic to summon creatures to fight for them or they use their magic to augment themselves through the creatures they summon," she summarized.  "Elementalists, as their name implies, use elemental magic to perform various tasks; from little things like cooking and cleaning to big things like fighting or even summoning elemental creatures," Kai'tok explained.  "An elemental creature is a manifestation of magic with animal intelligence.  It can be things like molten spiders that weave webs of flaming death or simple earth golems that use brute force to smash their way through things."  She paused for a moment to gather her thoughts.  "Finally, there are arcanists.  They use ancient spells from tomes that require magic circles and a lengthy charge-up to cast.  Skilled arcanists can "short-charge" their spells by using their own magic to assist with the charging process, but it's a dangerous act that can be fatal.  I've personally seen an arcanist attempt to short-charge a spell only to die because the magic circle consumed all their magic plus their soul," Kai'tok said.
 
"Elemenatism is easily the most wide-spread by far; nearly every race uses it in some capacity or another.  Very old elves, some machka, and some Alza use arcane magic.  As far as I know, only dark elves use real summoning to any degree though," she concluded.  Her throat was sore from speaking so much in one sitting, so she took a drink from her water skin then quietly leaned back in her seat.  "It's rather difficult to kill mages, they often have shielding spells, but using magicite-tipped arrows can level the playing field so to speak," she added.

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PostSubject: Re: A Land of Trials   Thu Mar 31, 2016 9:06 pm

Sakura gave a nod to show that she had been listening as she tried to take in everything the elven woman had said. It was a lot of new information for Sakura who had only known of the existence of magic for a few years, but she was still able to follow almost all of Kai'tok's explanation. The Summoning Magic she described did indeed sound like Sakura's contract as Master of the Clow, but she had never thought of the spirits she was bonded to as mere creatures she commanded. Rather, each card was more like a friend or a partner to her.

Kero listened with great interest from his position within Sakura's pocket as Kai'tok continued to explain the other different forms of Magic that existed in this unfamiliar world. Each one seemed to parallel a type of Magic from their own word, but with notable differences. Even the different elemental properties Magicite could take on paralleled the abilities of some of Sakura's cards.

"Does that mean that everyone in this world is able to use magic of some kind?" Sakura asked and Syaoran gave a nod of interest at the question.

"To most people in our world, magic is a myth. For those who do have it, it's a rare trait that usually has to be passed down in family lines," Sayoran explained. "In some rare cases, though, there are people in non-magical families who are born with limited magical abilities that are either mistaken for genius or labeled as paranormal phenomenons."

"I'm still not even completely sure how I'm able to use magic, myself..." Sakura admitted.

"You said that dark elves were the only ones to use magic similar to Sakura's in this world, right?" Syaoran continued. "But the spirits that Sakura is contracted to could hardly be considered 'dark' and she would never use them for dark magic, so what kind of spirits to the summers here use?" he uttered a soft groan of concern for fear that Sakura might be labeled as something dark if she ever needed to use her magic in from of other people.

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PostSubject: Re: A Land of Trials   Sun Apr 03, 2016 7:53 pm

The half-elf nodded in response to the question.  “Given sufficient training, anyone in Illinara can learn to use magic.  Some races, like elves and machka, are naturally disposed to it, but even someone like you could learn, Sakura,” she confirmed.  “I never bothered because possessing magic and being a mercenary don’t mix well… you become a liability since some raiders have null crystals,” Kai’tok added.  She canted her head to one side, which caused it to make a loud popping sound.  “A null crystal is a magical paradox; it nullifies all magic in a given area.  The only exceptions to its influence are Void magic and magicite, both of which play by their own rules,” she explained.  Her gaze lowered to the fire before she spoke again.  “Void magic is an exceptionally rare form of magic used by equally rare creatures called Void demons.  I don’t know much beyond that; there’s a limit to what you can pick up in taverns.  From what I’ve heard though, they’re terrible creatures that can’t die and can kill anything in Illinara, even immortals and angels.  Dunno how much truth there is to that though,” Kai’tok said.
 
She leaned forward and rested her chin on her folded hands.  “You’re taking “dark elves” too literally; good and evil is a person to person thing, not a racial thing.  I’m half dark elf and I’m not what you’d call evil,” she explained.  “They’re called dark elves because of something that happened in the past they haven’t been able to shake.  Modern dark elves are extremely territorial though.”  She paused for a moment and her ear flicked.  “That reminds me, you’d do well to stay away from U’rune if you can; you humans would be killed on sight and your little pet would be kept as a magical curiosity,” she explained.
 
Her cold red eyes settled onto the small tan creature that lingered in Sakura’s pocket.  “I assumed it wasn’t anything special until I saw it move during my explanation of the magicks here in Illinara.  You’re welcome to your secrets though,” Kai’tok said.  With that out of the way, Kai’tok shifted the topic of the conversation.
 
“Your question, Syaoran, interests me; what do you mean by “spirits?”  Summoners in Illinara summon creatures from another plane of existence that’s connected with Illinara called The Other Place and bind them to themselves via magical contract.  It could be the duration of a battle or an entire lifetime, depending on the summoner’s needs.  On top of that, once a summoner calls upon a creature, their soul is inexorably bound to the creature they summoned; in other words, if one dies, both die.  As a general rule, it’s typically easier to kill a summoner than it is to kill whatever creature was summoned by them,” she explained.  The half elf turned her head onto its side and suppressed a yawn.
 
“Haven’t had to sleep in a while… but I think I will tonight,” she yawned.  Her red eyes moved to the pair of children.  “Get some sleep, we have a full day of travel tomorrow,” Kai’tok instructed.  She got up and added some wood to the fire so it could burn through the night then settled onto the cot she’d been sitting on and rolled onto her side so her back was to the fire.  She fell asleep almost instantly… not that it was a particularly restful slumber.
 
Some time passed before Kai’tok awoke soaked in sweat and shook her head.  The half-elf glanced over at the children and assumed them to be asleep as she made her way back outside into the pouring rain to clear her head.  She stopped just outside the entrance to the shelter, feeling the rain soak her long, dark hair and exhaled softly as the coldness trailed over her body.  “Now I remember why I don’t sleep much,” she muttered quietly.  Kai’tok seated herself in the wet grass and watched the dark forest with her sharp eyes.

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A Land of Trials

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