The last day in character already. Wow. After getting the arcane mark of the Akata yesterday the ref told me to be in the make-up tent at 2 P.M. today, and I’m really all on edge what will happen after that.
As for Sasha, the mark has grown and now covers all of her scorch mark which already takes up quite some space. She feels hot-headed and even more eager to go into battle than usual.
The morning passes, somehow, probably with a few skirmishes (I’m writing this from memory, the day was too full of adventure to have any thoughts for the diary when I finally went to bed) and thoughts about how to use the treasure we found as well as what to do with the blasted ring.
Finally it’s not long to 2 P.M. and I stroll to the ref headquarters. They do a great paint job on me and seven others who received the mark as well. After the make-up we get briefed to start from some point our characters would have been at the time (obviously they wouldn’t be at the HQ getting made up) and then let them follow a strange but strong urge to go to a certain camp.
Sasha arrives at the camp of the Tivar Khar’assil, the Iron Swords, high jurisdiction of the Adamant parts of Mitraspera and home to some of the greatest heroes that emerged since the discovery of the continent, together with others that bear the mark, too.
Heron, one of the Tivar, finally tells the marked ones what is happening: They are cursed to turn into Akata lest the mark is removed. He himself carries another brand of the mark which first slowly but now faster and faster is burning him up from inside. The marked are to find enough of the Ratio currency to charge with the power of Ignis at Ignis’ shrine, to transfer the mark of Heron into another being before it kills him, to invoke a fire elemental to remove their own marks, that all of this as fast as possible. The problem is that there is only one shrine in the Mirrorworld left, and it has to be blessed to several elements during the course of the day, all resulting in different effects and rituals.
First things first, the marked have to find those spheres. One of the marked, an influential guy, boasts that he’s able to provide three of the spheres right now, but that’s not enough. Sasha turns on her heel, without saying anything, and strictly walks back to the Vodgodian camp.
There, the ring has just been stolen by two rogues of the Ratio (one of them played by Scoundrel, coincidentally). The treasure, however, remains, and rather unwillingly Genya (who found it in the first place) hands over the pouch to Sasha who takes off again. At the camp of the Tivar she meets Lisja, one of the Vodgodians, and gives her a handful of the spheres, so the finding of the treasure will not have been in vain for the group. She then proceeds by turning to Heron who’s in deep conversation with important-looking people at the time. She shoves his dialogue partner aside, shoving the pouch filled with energy spheres into his hands, onto his chest.
“Here.”He looks confused.
“What is that?”
Heron, and also his player, looks baffled. Opens the small linen bag. Looks into it. Looks into Sasha’s, and my, face. A grin creeps up to the players face, driving him out of character for a moment, and I grin back. He runs over to his fellow Tivar Khar’assil, showing them the small heap of spheres, still not believing it. When he comes back, we’re both in character again.
“But they are empty. We need to fill them with Ignis’ power”, he says, looking torn up again.
“How do we do that?”
Sasha isn’t one for many words (obviously contrary to me).
And thus, Sasha and a group of adventurers from the middle of Mitraspera (played by incredibly nice French people) who have another marked one among them take off to fill the spheres with their belief in Ignis, the eternal flame.
The contraption the team thought up for this blessing of the beads was simple yet brilliant: It looked like a stone stela with a hole in it, to throw the bead into. While the player did that, a ref threw in another spray-painted pearl – the colour depended on the element the shrine in which the stela stood was blessed to at the moment – into a pipe in the back of the stela. The normal brass bead landed in the ref’s hand through one tube, and the painted bead came all through another tube into a small basin at the foot of the whole thing. And we did that. Over. Twenty. Times.
The party returns to the Tivar Khar’assil, handing over the spheres. A few minutes later all of the marked and the Tivar go out to battle, to defend the last shrine (or none of the marked would leave the Mirrorworld as humans), to kill the first servant of the Herald (who had killed the Lona people last year) and to put and end to the whole affair.
The marked stand in line with the Tivar and Ignis’ Beloved Child (it’s a title), facing an endless sea of Ratio and Black Ice forces. They attack whenever the first servant comes in sight, recklessly, without regard for their own life. The only order is “don’t get caught and try not to get yourself killed”. Sasha goes in, unarmored, her weapon the staff she made out of a branch when she first came to Mitraspera in exile, after they had broken her academy staff as part of the punishment. She manages to hit the servant, but herself is struck by the glaives of the Black Ice, and settlers drag her from the space between the front lines.
She’s brought back to life by Heron who invokes the powers of Ignis herself, and goes back to the line again without a second thought. She witnesses another marked, Aya, whose acquaintance she just made in front of the Tivar’s camp, getting caught by the Herald and discharged by a Ratio soldier, not without screams of rage and pain. She’s brought down again, and brought in again by another mage who stands in Ignis’ favour, handed one of the spheres charged with the flame, to go on. When she goes in this third time, she’s not even wounded, but slips on the straw that prevents the battle ground from becoming a swamp. As she rises, she looks into a face she already knows. Big yellow eyes. Pointy teeth. Strange forehead. The Herald doesn’t even have to hurt her, she just slips into Sasha’s mind, making her go with another Ratio soldier, cursing her blood in the process, but the spellslinger doesn’t notice.
The soldier pushes her to the ground where two other marked already lie: Aya, the fierce warrior woman, and another guy she doesn’t exactly know, but she sees his mark and knows, the three of them only have themselves. Aya and the other warrior take Sasha’s hands, “stay awake”, they whisper.
The three marked murmur encouragements to each other until the surrounding watchmen of the Ratio – masked, and armed with naginata, forcibly pull them apart. They make sure none of their prisoners can reach into their pockets or move their hands anyway, to hinder them from working any magic.
The marked lie behind the enemy lines, without any way of knowing how the battle is going, the battle that started as a mere skirmish but now has thousands of participants – Aya’s warrior tribe, the soldier’s army of the West – Sasha knows the sign, the five-coloured star -, and also the Vodgodians.
After what seems like eternity, the Ratio people order their prisoners to get up, and bring them before the Herald again.
As players we get talked to by a ref before the next thing happens, as our characters’ lives will be at stake, and severely so. We’re all perfectly fine with it, because if any of our characters die today, at least it will be an epic death.
The Herald brings the three marked to the front line and makes all settlers go silent with a single gesture.
“You get your people back!”, she proclaims, “But there is one condition.”
“Either these three people die by your hands within the next two hours, or the whole Akata population in Mitraspera will perish.”
Silence, again, as the three marked stumble back to the settlers’ front line.
Then, noise strikes up again. Sasha is surrounded by Vodgodians, but there is no time to talk, she has to get back together with the other two, not being just the marked anymore. They’ve got a new name now, now they are the cursed.
Reunited they try to convince the Tivar Khar’assil that time is of the essence.
But first, they’ll have to transfer Heron’s mark. And for that, the shrine, which is blessed to Magica, will have to be blessed to Ignis first.
Which takes time.
They do it, all of the marked, including the cursed, chanting, screaming, roaring for the flames to come. The ritual takes place, upsetting in its intensity for Heron and the new vessel of the mark.
Then, nothing happens for a while. The Beloved Child, one of Heron’s companions, kneels beside him, him who almost looks dead. The cursed try to gain the attention of someone, the only one actually noticing being the new vessel. And the only thing she’ll tell them is that their marks, the cursed marks used to make the connection to the Akata of Mitraspera, are mere copies that won’t work with the curse.
“What does it matter?”, the cursed ask.
“We have to get rid of the marks, we have to break the curse, or we will either die or turn into Akata ourselves!”
“What’s bad about being an Akata?”, the vessel asks. She’s already one of them, gained all memory of a whole people in a few minutes while the marked carry their “mere copy” – something none of them wants to hear -, for more than a day by now.
“I’ll just kill the first servant”, the vessel says, proudly.
“Then do so”, Sasha snarls at her, angrily because no-one listens, no-one understands.
“I will do so”, the vessel responds, looking haughtily down at the spellslinger and into the faces of the other cursed.
Sasha looses her temper at the vessel’s arrogance over the matter.
“What are you waiting for, then? Go! Kill her! Get yourself killed in the process, but GO!, for Ignis’ sake!”
And then, Sasha turns around, because nothing is happening, and the shrine has been re-blessed to Magica for another ritual, a ritual without a literal deadline, and no-one will listen.
Aya sits with her people, and Sasha sits down next to the soldier of the Western army, a huge guy with surprisingly kind eyes for someone who’s got the flame of Ignis burning inside him, but his mark isn’t as far developed as Sasha’s, too.
“What’s your name?”, she asks, her head on her knees.
“Rikkard”, he says, and Sasha stretches out her hand, scaly and red.
There’s not time left for formalities. There’ no time left for anything.
“I thought I might as well ask, after we’ve been though the imprisonment and”, she gestures towards the shrine, “all of this.”
He smiles a little, and Sasha smiles a little, too. It feels weird, she hasn’t done this in ages, or at least it feels like it.
With a sigh, they both lean back to the fallen crystal spire of the shrine. There have been five shrines when they got here, each with at least four spires, and now there’s only one of the spires left in the whole area. The chances to save anything – settlers or Akata – are close to nothing.
Nobody knows how much time has passed since the threat made by the Herald – Rikkard and Aya and Sasha have tried to urge the Tivar, the priests and priestesses of Ignis, anyone, to hurry up, and finally, finally they are told to get up.
The shrine is still blessed to Magica, but time is of the essence and thus the children of the elements decide to gently guide Magica out of the circle while pushing Ignis in right after that.
The believers of Magica form a circle, the believers of Ignis and with them the cursed form a circle around that, and the ritual begins.
The first chant hasn’t been finished yet as the cold, ice-cold grasp of death befalls the hearts of the cursed, and with them the flames of Ignis they carry in them. Without a word but with terrified faces they sink to the ground, first Aya, then Rikkard, then Sasha. Nobody seems to notice at first. When they open their eyes again not much later, though, there are many faces around them, but they only seek for two others respectively. Crouched they huddle together, reaching for each other’s hands, crying, screaming silently. A man in an expensive robe kneels over Sasha, shaking her, screaming to her that she has to live, live, damn it!, but she is alive all right, and there’s something fundamentally wrong with that. She screams back at him to shut the fuck up!, again and again until he lets her be. She crawls over to Rikkard and Aya, the latter one lying on the ground, unmoved face but shaking, the former crying just like Sasha, and the wraps her arms around them. She’s not good with people, but this is different.
After a while, she looks up, her lashes wet with tear of pain and anger and more pain, the pain of thousands of creatures dying at once, all inside her head and the heads of the other cursed, too much for three people to bear entirely.
And then she sees the vessel staring at her, blankly, mouthing a slightly irritated “But that’s not possible, you’re not the originals.”
And then looses it.
Screams, roars at the top of her hurting lungs, that the vessel doesn’t understand anything, that she should shut up, that the death of three would have been better than the death of thousands, even though it would have meant to agree with the Forsaken’s conditions for once, that the Adamant belief cost too many lives there.
She lashes out against the Beloved Child, against Heron and the vessel, blaming them for doing nothing, for not listening. Wulfric of Greifenhag, ally to her people, tries to calm her down, but she just screams at him, desperate, while trying to get away, to get to a place where she can find peace if there is something like that left somewhere inside her soul, anyway. She pushes him out of the way, violently, but his second-in-command strikes her down with a well-placed hit. Moments later she is revived by a healer nearby who didn’t notice the course of events and why she had been brought down, so she can rage on, against everything and everyone, until one of the Greifenhag mages puts her to sleep with a spell.
Sasha wakes up for just a few seconds as the second-in-command and the mage carry her through the gates of the Western camp to the great hall of Greifenhag. She catches the sight of a familiar face just for a moment, somewhere opposite the gate, before her eyes fall shut again. They lay her down on a few bales of straw and then are ordered to leave her alone. While she wakes and before she opens her eyes again, the hears Wulfric’s voice.
“Leave them be, they’re somehow inseparable right now. Leave them, I said.”
Sasha feels her hand being taken by a hand far bigger than hers, and when she can see properly again she recognises the figure on the bales opposite from hers as Rikkard, the same face she saw through the veil of the spell a few minutes ago.
People from the camp bring them food and hot tea, and it helps, if just a little, but the whole time they just sit there and stare at each other, the spellslinger and the soldier, holding on to each other’s hands from time to time, whispering, “they don’t understand. Nobody understands.”
After a while Wulfric joins them, explaining that he had Sasha knocked out for her own good – she was cussing and screaming at too many important people at once.
“What difference does it make?”, she asks, numbly.
“Would you rather have us to have sacrificed the three of you?”
“What is the death of three against the death of thousands?”
Wulfric orders one of his men to alert the Vodgodians that their Elanite is at least alive.
“Should we take you home?”
Sasha stares at him.
Rikkard looks startled and as if he wants to say something, but Wulfric curbs his words.
“Some time – not now – I’ll tell you a few things about Vodgodians and their mages”, he says to the soldier.
“So you would rather have died?”
He turns back to Sasha and repeats his question.
“Yes”, the spellslinger says, “what difference is there in one life? Nobody mourns an Elanite, and they would have gone on without me just as well.”
“The other two, they would have been mourned by their people”, Wulfric says, an argument Sasha has nothing to put against. She shrugs, there’s nothing to add.
“And there is at least one person who would have mourned your death, too.”
Sasha raises her eyes and they meet Rikkard’s. They keep them locked while Wulfric talks on, that now that he got to know her, the soldier would have been in grave mourning if anything should happen to the spellslinger. As if to confirm the words of the warlord, Rikkard takes Sasha’s hand again.
And Wulfric gets up, and leaves.
Later, after the two cursed ones have found their third again, surrounded by her tribe, and have sworn that between the three of them there’ll ever be a bond no-one else will ever understand, and that they’ll keep the flame burning, they will not rest until the Akata are avenged, not only with the Ratio that killed them but also the Adamant that stood and did nothing, the characters just sit down, with a jug of cider, and try to drink the sorrows away. And with the sound of their mugs clinking together, we’ll have the curtain fall for now, and we’ll patiently wait for their next adventure.
_ _ _ _ _
I had a great and very immersive time, met lots of wonderful new people, was knee-deep in plot for two days and am looking forward to next year SO much. I can hardly wait!
Thanks to everyone who made this week so very special. Thanks to Genya for driving on both Sundays, thanks to Aya and Rikkard for the amazingly emotional play during and after the Akata plot, thanks to the LiveAdventure team for making everything possible, thanks to the Tivar Khar’assil for being stubborn, proud and strict in-game, it must be hard sometimes playing such polarizing characters, thanks to Pixie for going nuts when she recognised me, thanks to Meara, Ofenkatze, Chiya and Ravna for the community meetup, thanks to Joe for great conversations and cider, thanks to all the vendors in the retinue for the great food, thanks to the refs I had interaction with during my plots, I know you’ve got a really tough job there, thanks to everyone I got to meet, thanks to the Vodgodians, and, last but not least, thanks to you because you read my nerdy ramblings. I hope you had a great week yourselves. ♥