The Awakening - Act II. Part 1. Kai Schober The EM Team “Look, if you listen to me and stick close and keep your mouth shut we’re not going to have any problems. And now that you’ve gotten us this far, I’m taking the lead.” Callie grumbled quietly to her guide as they crept silently through the metallic passageways and past numerous sentries. She wiped a hand across her brow and brushed her blonde bangs from her face. “We just need to make sure we don’t get spotted”. As they passed near one of the far walls of the mapped area, Balthan the guide found his attention caught by a long rusted wreck of machinery and slagged walls. Just as he was about to comment he felt himself run into the back of the archaeologist in front of him who turned and glared at him. “Watch where you’re going.” She hissed fiercely under her breath. She gestured for Balthan to turn around and began to remove some special equipment from his pack, tools that were not fashioned by human hands. With the tools in hand, she began to dismantle the mounting of one of the peculiar glowing wall panels, and removing a large console nearby with multicolored buttons. She spoke excitedly and quietly while she did so. “This will be the find of the century, you know. It’ll be put in the Vesper museum with our names on it and they’ll never forget us.” With a snipping noise she managed to disconnect the last strut holding the console in place, and she tucked the tools back into the guides pack. She removed the strange panel first and broke the wires going to it and tucked it into the guides pack. Grasping the console, she tugged and pulled, but she couldn’t seem to remove it. She changed the way she grasped at it, and felt the strangely colored shapes on the front give way slightly, before she managed to rip the console away from the final bolt holding it in place. As it came away the structure seemed to pulse around them, energy flowing through conduits in the structure as she hurriedly tucked the console away. “Let’s get out of here while we’ve still got the chance.” A vicious tremor began to run through the structure, strong enough that she felt herself shift from side to side. “Time to go”, Callie said as she removed two of the recall scrolls from the pack, handing one to the guide and waiting for him to go. As Balthan vanished from sight, a red robed mage rounded the corner and began to chant words of power, and as she cast the words of power to recall she felt a blinding pain as her body teleported, and then there was blackness. Harlann adjusted the scratchy robes that disguised her true identity as she left the city of Lakeshire and made her way through one of the shimmering blue portals. Despite her familiarity with their magical nature she always felt a tingle of trepidation at utilizing the portals, but soon found herself back at the white marble building that ensconced the gate that served the shrine of Compassion. Disguised as one of the meer’s mages, she found that many of the more irritating creatures such as the ratmen gave her a wide berth. She’d gone against the Shirron’s wishes to visit the Meer, but she’d managed to gather important information, and she was certain that the Shirron would forgive her when she presented this new revelation to him. She quickly went over in her mind what she would say as she made her way to the mountain passage that led through to the castle that the Jukan’s had been using as a fortress for some time. The nightmares and visions that had been plaguing their kind were not universal, but they were shared by the Meer; The Meer did not have an explanation for the phenomena nor was it an attempt by them to attack the Jukans; And perhaps most importantly of all, none of the gargoyles of Ver Lor Reg nor any of the gypsies in their encampments reported similar things. As she passed through the mountainside passage she felt a vicious tremor run through the tunnel and a shaking of the ground that caused her sense of balance to momentarily dizzy her. Bursting through into the sunlight, she could feel the immense power that was being channeled due to the way it raised her hackles. No Jukan mage could be the source of this kind of power, so it must be an attack. “Evacuate, brethren! This is an attack!” The startled guards turned at what sounded like a Jukan voice, but squared themselves off with her on sight of her Meer outfit. She quickly took a breath and centered herself in the Art of the Way, and charged forward with her staff held at one side. She had no time to argue with them, and instead feinted left before fluidly slipping past the guard on the right and sending him crashing to the ground with a well placed strike to the back of his knee. She planted the staff into the ground hard and vaulted midway up the castle’s wall, scaling it quickly as her own people’s arrows glanced off the walls around her. The entire castle was shaking as she managed to reach the apex. Tumbling and diving, she narrowly evaded one of the mechanical Juggernaut’s charges by planting her iron sheathed staff between herself and it’s mighty drill and spinning past it, breaking through to one of the back corner stairwells. As one of the red robed controllers fled past her, she saw him stop and begin to unleash a spell, but she’d already made it to the other side of the room and dove down a set of stairs, rolling and coming up on her feet at the bottom. Her body groaned in protest from the impact of the stairs but she refused to let it break her concentration. Her Shirron was mere seconds away and she ran for the door even as the whole structure suddenly seemed to leap a few feet to one side. She flung open the door just as a berserk juggernaut crashed through a wall in front of her and out into the sunlight. She rushed past it and jerked on the handle of the door to the Shirron’s chambers and stepped through as a lightning fast arm reached out and grabbed her by the throat, lifting her high above the ground. She attempted to choke out a warning but could not past the iron grip of the towering Juka in front of her, until she managed to remove her cowl, and the Shirron let her fall to the ground. “I hope you can explain this, Waymaster Harlann. A massive magical attack by the Meer just as you return from a spying expedition I refused to authorize?” “Shirron, we must evacuate. This is not an attack by the Meer, and they are suffering the same as we are, but we must flee!” “A Shirron of the Juka does not flee from any foe!” “The Juka need their leader. Forgive me, Great Mother.” With that, Waymaster Harlann twirled forward, bringing her staff around feinting towards her leader with it, before dropping and sweeping his legs. As the massive Jukan hit the ground a fresh tremor arose and she leveled a devastating blow of her staff to his temple, before throwing her staff aside. With the Shirron unconscious, she managed to get him on her back and stagger her way out through the hole that the juggernaut had left. As she did so she heard a loud twang of a bowstring as her right leg gave out from underneath her. Glancing down she could see the shaft of the arrow sticking out of her calf, but she rose to her feet again as the ground began to give way and the shouts from the fortress redoubled. Blasts of magic from Jukan mages and arrows peppered the area around her, until she felt her vision flash white from the effects of a mind blast spell. She focused herself in the Way once more and pushed her screaming muscles as hard as she could, managing to get outside of where she could feel the center of the magic before her leg surrendered to the wound and she fell gracelessly to the ground. As she felt blackness creeping into the edges of her vision, a hundred or more screams rose up at once from the castle behind her and then suddenly were no more. She could still feel the ground shaking and she drew on every reserve of energy she could muster, forcing herself to push farther, her vision blurring and swaying as she did, and the weight of her Shirron pulling harder with each passing moment. She felt the terrain changing beneath her feet, as grass gave way to dirt, and dirt to sand. She could feel the Shirron’s heavy breathing even as everything seemed to be falling apart around her. A cacophonic noise unlike anything she’d ever heard ripped through the air and sent a cloud of debris and smoke raining throughout the area as she stumbled to her knees amidst a set of grand pillars in the desert. “Great Mother save us…” she whispered as rocks and pieces of the castle rained down into the desert around her before she mercifully succumbed to the encroaching darkness.