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 Post subject: Understanding Magic
 Post Posted: Tue Nov 19, 2013 9:02 am 

Joined: Tue Feb 21, 2006 1:33 pm
Posts: 126
Resigned from leadership but not retired from service to the various caster guilds of the Emerald Hills, Larin still occasionally stuck his nose into the business of the various guildmaster’s affairs. Most recently he had been taken to task for obtaining certain confidential materials and supplies held secret by the Bard and Wizard guilds respectively as part of continuing his hobby of attempting to cross combine spell principles. Sure, Larin “technically” didn’t have access to the books and materials he had “liberated”. Of course, it could easily be considered mad to attempt to combine the raw power and effectiveness of the Doomsday spell with the control properties of the Legend spell, but only because the current administration lacked proper vision. When he got the power flow problem under control the result would be the better part of a nation held in thrall as they were forced to listen to his recital of “Ewen McFadden: Saracen of the Year- A biography by Sir Kenta.” His calculations indicated that he would be able to get through at least five chapters before the members of the guard or guild that were either immune to the effects or shielded would be able to get to him to disrupt his joke. Perhaps even seven chapters if he stayed on the move and worse still memorized the material. No there were some things you just couldn’t bring yourself to do even in the name of a practical joke.

It was, unfortunately, on hold for now though. The guilds couldn’t figure out what he had been up to, but they were smart enough to know they should probably put a stop it. Traditionally the guilds would suspend or even exile a member for such a breach of protocol. However, in those traditional cases, the offender also wouldn’t have had intimate knowledge of the security procedures of the guild. Neither would the offender have played a major hand in how those protections has been forged and security procedures mandated. No one really wanted to lose Larin’s expertise and abilities, but at the same time discipline had to be maintained.

So here he was. Larin Moonstar, guest lecturer to the Emerald Hills Collegium of the Arcane. Under guard no less. Guards that were entirely too serious and stubbornly were not falling for the usual tricks that would distracted them for even a little while. They were ensuring that he stayed at his given task and gave absolutely no chance to vary too far from it. Once he bent himself to teaching the guildmaster’s no doubt hoped he would be too busy to continue to undertake in whatever mischief might cross his mind next. Even Larin had to admit the idea wasn’t without merit. What with idle hands being the plaything of chaos after all.

It had been some time since he had last entered the grounds of the College. While each of the guilds maintained a very different method of training, certain fundamentals were universal within the magical sciences. Years ago it was decided that a single centralized curriculum was more efficient then duplication of efforts and more importantly costs. Basic energy channeling, spell preparation, and various forms of defense were taught to all with the ability to cast without distinction as to the path they were going to proceed to later. Some of the older elements of the kingdom grumbled at the time about tradition and guild secrets, but over the years the effectiveness of the model had proven itself and eventually led to the expansion of the College to become the major institute it was today.

With Larin’s various experiences behind him, it was decided he should explain to the young recruits how to identify and deal with non-traditional magical threats (of which the Emerald Hills encountered fairly often) as well as magical defensive techniques. Considering his crime that led to his assignment here would have defined him as one of these “non-traditional magical threats,” he found this to be mildly amusing. Larin was reasonably certain he could get out of this “punishment” should he choose to call in a favor or three, but for now at least it might make for an interesting diversion.

“ Dear Gods, I don’t think I was ever this young…” Larin thought as he walked along the halls of the Collegium towards the lecture hall to meet his first grouping of students. The youngsters still had the fresh look of experiencing it all for the first time. Ideas were fresh, new, and often wrong. They still had that spark that sometimes was faded and hard to find in the battle hardened folk he usually spent his time with. It was uplifting to see that many people who though naïve to the reality of the world still held that dream of making a difference.

Larin turned the corner of the hallway leading to where he was scheduled to lecture and was surprised to find a mass of people attempting to push their way into the room. “Excuse me, please,” Larin said to the student in the back of the group attempting to gain position with the generous use of elbows towards his fellow.

“Not going to happen, buddy. It’s standing room only and not much of that. So unless you got here 3 hours early like some people you aren’t getting in. You’ll just have to listen from out here like the rest of us,” the student informed Larin without turning around.

“Why is that?” Larin asked.

“Guy that is teaching the class is a former guildmaster and was lead wizard for the Justicars. Learning defensive magic from a guy that actually fought in the wars compared to the broken down rejects we normally get is a no-brainer. Too bad I’m not going to be able to ask him how he retrieved Sir Delphos from the prison dimension Seal banished him to…” the student replied.

“It wasn’t just me actually. Forest, Draeven, and I linked together by aligning together a teleport spell matrix and then pulled him out with a modification of the summon spirit spell. Sure it worked, but not exactly something I would want to put someone through if it wasn’t absolutely necessary. Delphos was sore for a week and had a nervous tick from the strain for about a month. It could have been worse though. He didn’t get turned inside out like we worried he might have…”

The student froze mid-explaination and grabbed one of the students in front of him. “Sam, please tell me that the guy behind me isn’t Larin Moonstar because I think I may have elbowed him in the last 5 minutes.” The person that was presumably Sam first looked annoyed at being asked then attempted, unsuccessfully, to pull away and mold himself into the doorway in a futile effort of distancing himself from his cohort.

Larin chuckled. “Don’t worry about it. However should you elbow me a path to the front I would be grateful… and if you accidentally get a better position in the room then its win/win isn’t is?”

The student grinned and started elbowing his way forward. His progress was slow until he began to bellow to “make way for his Grace,” or “Clear the path for Sir Larin.” “That is one powerful set of lungs on that kid,” Larin thought as he pressed though the crowd behind the young man, “I’ll have to look in on him and see if he is a bard. Maybe a stint in the guard with some training in heraldry is in his future…”

Two weeks later, Larin found himself still working on the young minds hoping to change their notions of what existed in the Emerald Hills to the grim reality they would actually face. While this work was somewhat rewarding and occasionally fueled his research driven mind with new approaches to old problems, the majority of the time he faced naïve ideals and ideas that were outdated ate best and prosecutable for negligence in the future.

“Do you remember the 5th battle of the Borderland’s during the war with the Celestial Kingdom in reign XXVII sir?” a young Bardic student asked.

“Mostly, yes.” Larin responded.

“Your squad of Justicars…” the student continued.

“It was Sir Logan’s squad of Justicars actually. I was part of the magic support for that unit at the time though.” Larin corrected.

“Oh, right… but the group fought a holding action against the CK army in a small pass to the south of the Borderlands right?” the student asked.

“Yes we did. One of those nasty seriously outnumbered situations but we needed to get the Queen out of the area to prevent her capture. Not something I would like to ever do again. What is your question?” Larin stated.

“Well that is listed as the first time you had a command and I wanted to know how you became the unit commander and how you lead the group out of the situation.” the would be Bard asked as his eyes lit up in something way too close to hero worship for Larin’s liking. Better to instill a sense of reality in this kid and the others in the room now then have them learn the lesson the hard way in the field.

“How did I become the unit commander? It’s simple really. The CK forces dispelled one of the force walls we put up to limit access to our flanks and while it was being recast they barraged our left flank with arrows, lightning bolts, and fireballs.” Larin explained ”Logan was already down at that point along with about a third of our unit and the attack wiped out another 20-25% of our forces. Most of the officers were down or wounded. I was nominally in command simply by being the highest ranking person still capable of giving orders. I think I gave exactly one. I was in the middle of ordering everyone to fall back into the pass and trying to get the healers and paladins to start picking elements of our group back up again when the CK was able to dispel the rest of the fixed enchantments holding them back and swarmed and started to over run our position. We fought back hard but by then the CK was able to move in a squadron of the Chosen who overran us and was able to take the pass. ”

“But your group was able to hold them off long enough for the Queen to link up with the rest of the EH forces?” the Bardic student asked.

“So I am told yes.” Larin stated.

“How many of your unit were you able to disengage with?” one student broke in.

“Did you hound the Chosen all the way back to the main army?” another asked.

“No, we didn’t harry the Chosen force. Primarily this is because we didn’t survive the assault.” Larin explained.

“So you were the only one that made it out?” someone asked.

“Nope, I mean our unit was completely wiped out while performing the holding action.” Larin stated.

“So between that battle for the Borderlands and the Battle of Bifost four months later you were…” a student interjected.

“Dead… I spent the majority of that time as a moldering corpse. I woke up in a field hospital south of the Borderlands about 3 months and some change later. Probably would have been back in action sooner but it took that long for the EH to retake that area in the fighting.” Larin said calmly.

“So the points where there are gaps in your service history you were…”

“Most likely dead? That’s probably a fair assumption. Once in a while, I would get captured. Hit by a stun spell or subdued. It happens to the best of us. Then they spend some time torturing information out of you until you die. Every kingdom’s army has a different preferred method of torture too. Burning Lands prefers fire… hot pokers and the like or just dehydration until you talk because the heat’s boiled your brain. Neverwinter tends to use water. They cut you in the CK and they crush you in the Wetlands. It kind of takes some of the fear out of it when you know what to expect actually. If they don’t have all the information they need, or think you have more, they attempt to raise you and start all over again. If not then they return your remains, or bury you, or burn you. Coming back from being cremated is awful. Everything smells like barbeque for at least a month. I used to really like barbeque too…” Larin’s stare became somewhat far off as his statement trailed off.

A student spoke pulling Larin’s thoughts back to the present, “Do they just kill you when they realize you aren’t going to give them any information?”

“What do you mean?” Larin stated looking confused.

“After they torture you and you die a few times do they stop resurrecting you?” the student clarified.

“Of course not. Why would they stop?” Larin continued still confused.

“Well when they get to the point they realize you won’t give up any information isn’t it pointless to keep going?” Another student attempted to point out.

“Of course not. Everyone breaks eventually.” Larin clarified, “When you are fighting the torture you know it’s just another type of holding action. Eventually you tell them everything, you just try and make your information as outdated as you can and spread in as many lies as you can to muddy the water. In the end though, they know what they want to know.”

“You’ve given information to the enemy in wartime? That’s treason!” A student blurted out.

Larin darkened visibly.

“I’m going to give you some free advice kid. Don’t ever fucking say that to anyone ever again.” Larin held up his hand and started ticking off names on his fingers. “Sir Logan- captured in the Tri-Kingdom war. Sir Forest- captured during the Saracen uprising. Sir Everlast- captured during one of the Spring Campaigns against the CK. Sir Nevron- captured in one of the early battles as we broke from the Burning Lands. What do you do? Assume everything they know is compromised and work on getting them back. Then you never bring up what happened to them or what they might have given up. They’ll tell you if it’s still important. What you don’t do… What you NEVER do… is call their honor or loyalty to the Hills as anything other than total and absolute.”

A healer trainee held up his hand tentatively and questioned, “If you and those knights have been captured and killed before, why didn’t they just sever your spirits to keep you from coming back?”

“Sever spirit, like most of the spells you learn here are tactical in nature, not strategic. They affect a specific target for a specific period of time. Like everything else their duration is power limited and is only disruptive as long as the magic is supported and maintained. Additionally, sever spirit only works as effectively as it does when a person’s essence is undergoing the feedback from death trama. Whatever term you want to use for a person’s essence… a soul, a psyche, a spirit… is a rather resilient thing. Death trama doesn’t keep it down for long if the will to exist is still strong.” Larin explained.

“So if it doesn’t keep someone from coming back, what use is it?” A young wizard enquired.

Larin raised an eyebrow as he looked at the young man. “The level of tactics training they give here has obviously declined from the days I studied here or even when I helped with the modification of the curriculum. Do you have any idea how long five minutes is in battlefield terms? It’s a freakin’ lifetime. Preventing an enemy squad from picking up its fallen members can easily be the difference between success and defeat. Why don’t we drive home this point? Essay on my desk by end of week on how the use of the Sever Spirit spell would have changed the outcome of the 3rd Campaign of the Banner Wars between the Nighthawks and the combined forces of the Green Dragons and the Justicars.”

“Uh… were you in that battle sir?” The wizard questioned.

“Yes, so I will know if you are bullshitting me.” Larin responded.

“Did you die in that battle too sir?” A druid trainee asked.

“None of your business…” Larin stated.

“Sir? Is there a way to make sure a spirit cannot return to the world?” One of the healer trainees asked.

“The soul has to lose the will to return. Death trama is like any physical wound. It leaves a scar on the spirit. Some are more damaging than others. The resiliency of the will isn’t something easily measured. There are newbies we assumed wouldn’t survive that went on to come back time and again from the fray to fight again. Others we expected to last forever faded fast and never returned. They never fought to return from the other realm, and are lost for now.”

“For now sir?”

“It is always for now. Sometimes years can go by after a death before the spirit is ready to return. Sometimes it is never ready. Most of the major companies have their own saying for when a person’s spirit isn’t willing to return at the moment. The Justicar’s refer to it as “being on detached assignment”. Crawling Chaos call it “taking a hiatus”. When a Corsair discusses someone, “sailing on the outer pickets,” that is what they are talking about. Leaving and returning to the world can be a difficult journey in the best of times and with the presence of the lingering portal activities in the Hills the return journey is a bit different then it is elsewhere.” Larin responded.

“In what way sir? What do the portals have to do with spirit resurrections? They’re closed…” A bardic trainee queried.

“In the material plane they are closed. That is why certain things are no longer spewing forth the creatures of madness we have fought over the last few years. However that isn’t completely true in the spiritual plane. Rather than a trip to Nirvana when they pass people in the Emerald Hills can have their essences pulled into one of the portals that are still open on the spiritual plane. Normally a resurrection coaxes the spirit from Nirvana to return to existence here. When the soul gets pulled into the various realms on the other end of the portals they are tormented by the various creatures there that can attack the spirit as well as the flesh and blood. A resurrect in this case is fought by the creatures holding the spirit rending it further as the soul is pulled back into this world. Damage of this time can further weaken the will to return and instead give in not return. When that happens the spirit energy disperses and dies until the persons will heals to the point where they want to return again. Sometimes that happens, sometimes it doesn’t. That doesn’t always happen. Some simply endure and take the damage since they cannot fight back in their state as a spirit. Others are left alone as their spirits become more like that which is found inside the portals.”

“They become monsters? Spirit monsters like Wraiths or Banshees?” a bard inquired.

“Sometimes… Anger and hate are definitely an affinity they understand. Enough scars on the soul and a strong enough fire of hate will likely have the others looking for more pure targets to feast on. The more common one is madness. Easy to develop under the circumstances and those that dine on the energy of the spirit apparently hate the taste of crazy.” Larin responded.

“Luckily there aren’t too many people like that though.” A healer trainee interjected.

Larin looked slightly confused. “What would make you say that?”

“Well if it happened very often it would be obvious wouldn’t it? We would see the people that had gone mad.” The healer observed.

“Really now? I believe that we determined back when we first discovered the issue that there was a 10% chance that when one died, a person would end up being pulled into someplace other than Nirvana. When the portals were fully open, anyone using magic in the Hills was affected by their influence and was driven closer and closer to madness with each spell cast. Madness is an interesting thing. It manifests itself differently in different people. Sir Nevron occasionally kisses men to congratulate them. Sir Everlast claims to be from a place called Buttercup, and he becomes violent when anyone tells him the place doesn’t exist. Sir Rayel “sneaks” up on people because he thinks he is invisible when he wears a kilt. I don’t have time to list the numerous examples of mental illness in Sir Forest that people just assume is him being funny. The list goes on and on.”

The classroom fell into stunned silence as Larin went through his tirade. After a few seconds a wizard in the back rose and asked, “Sir… Are you telling us that some of the pillars of armed forces and government here in the Emerald Hills are… are…”

“Stark raving mad? Why yes… That is exactly what I am saying.” Larin responded.

“How do you hold off the madness when you die and are pulled into the other realms?” a healer cautiously queried.

Larin cocked his head to the side and smiled creepily at the healer who has asked the question. “I was at ground zero when the disaster was at its peak. I was in the Justicar squad that discovered the portals, and I was on the team that worked out the link between the portal madness and magic. I also was one of the casters that helped close the portals and channeled large amounts of energy to do so. I was mad long before I fell into the portals on the spiritual plane for the first time. How do I hold the madness at bay?! Why would I do that? Like most of the others I embraced it and wrapped myself in it like a cloak. I have made the madness my own and it is a part of me like any other limb or organ. No… I have little to fear in the other realms anymore, if anything there attempted to eat me I’m sure the crazy would destroy any flavor they would enjoy.”

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