Cademia was burning. Even from where she was, Moonshadow could see the smoke rising from the city, dimming the pre-dawn light even further. The sight was shocking, giving sudden credibility to the rumors she had heard at Pnyx.
She had arrived there barely a day previously, returning from her homeworld, to find the mages in a state of unrest that was quite unlike the usual atmosphere. Apparently, both Alaric and Magpie had suddenly fallen ill, and some of the most prominent house leaders and mages, including Headmaster Lindus, were traveling to Land King Hall to help. The remaining instructors had been doing their best to keep the students calm, yet they couldn't quite quell the whispered tales of gruesome murders and invading armies. It had seemed ridiculous at the time - where would the invaders come from? Cythera was an island nation and it seemed unlikely that any army could approach unnoticed across the oceans. As for the tales of murders, even if they were not exaggerated, she had been confident that her friends would be able to deal with any trouble that arose. Even though it wasn't what she had returned to Cythera for, she'd decided to head to Land King Hall herself, to offer her own healing abilities, and then to find her companions.
But now, watching the columns of smoke rising from the biggest city of Cythera, she wasn't sure of her decision anymore. At the least, she felt like she had an obligation to find out more and lend assistance if she could.
As Moonshadow approached Cademia, she could see that her initial assessment of the situation had at least been partially wrong: though smoke was still rising from the southern part of the city, it seemed like whichever fire had caused it had been put out. She had a hope that the fire had been caused by nothing more than an accident, yet as she circled around the city, she noticed that the Judge's Castle also seemed to have taken some damage - damage that did not look as though it was caused by a fire. Worried, she completed her circle around the city and finally landed near the southeastern road into Cademia, transforming back into her elven form. The first thing I need is information , she thought. Her stomach growled, choosing that moment to remind her she hadn't eaten since shortly after arriving at Pnyx. And food…
Despite the early hour, she managed to find a stall at the market that sold food. As she ate, she listened to the stallkeeper talk in hushed tones to another older man.
"I'm telling you, this city is going downhill! First that… THING... at the Judge's Castle, then the explosion… this can't be good."
"I'm sure that group of heroes will deal with the trouble," the other man opined.
"Like they dealt with the trouble in Kosha?" the stallkeeper inquired scornfully.
"We don't know anything's wrong in Kosha," the older man said.
"We don't know anything's right in Kosha! These so-called heroes -"
"Are doing their best to keep all of us safe! You should be more grateful."
"Excuse me," Moonshadow interrupted before the two men could argue further. "These heroes… could you tell me where I can find them?"
"Huh…I think they're staying at the inn," the older man replied.
"Thank you," Moonshadow replied, inclining her head towards the men and turning to leave.
She went around the burned part of Cademia on her way to the Two Tailed Rat, and when she arrived she was told by the harried-looking innkeeper that the group she was looking for had left not too long ago. This is typical.
"Can you tell me where they went?" She asked.
"Not sure exactly… but I think one of 'em mentioned talking to the Judge. Might wanna try there."
She approached the Judge's Castle slowly, wondering at the destruction - the southern part of the wall that had once surrounded the keep was destroyed, and she could see that part of the building behind it was ruined as well. The stallkeeper seemed to think the damage had been caused by a single creature, yet how… and something else was strange about the scene. She stared for a few seconds, frowning, trying to put her finger on it, then it occurred to her. Where are the guards? This much ruin, surely there should be people around, even at this time of day. Yet the place seemed deserted. She walked along the ruined wall until she reached what remained of the gate. The fountains were gone, yet strangely the hall behind them seemed undamaged, the great doors closed. Still nobody was visible.
As she regarded the scene before her, she became aware of sounds. She frowned, tilting her head - fighting? Yet the sound seemed faint, as if coming from far away; she doubted a human would have heard it. She stepped carefully up to the doors, focusing on the sounds, trying to figure out where they were coming from. Somewhere inside? She reached out a hand to gingerly push against the door, intending to open it just a crack - and paused as her fingers slid right through it. An illusion? But why? For a moment, she debated just stepping through, but common sense prevailed. If her friends were inside they might need help, yet stepping right into what might be a trap was not the best way to go about it. She climbed over what remained of the right fountain, peering carefully through the window, and gasped at what she saw. Guards, more than should have been present in all of Cademia, were fighting - no, attacking another group of people. Most of them looked unfamiliar, yet she quickly recognized a few faces. Selax and Wizard were surrounded, fighting back to back, a few steps away from where another man she thought looked familiar was trying to hold off three guards at once, bleeding badly from a wound in his side. Yet not all the guards seemed to be fighting - some were standing, looking blank, others seemed to be merely going through the motions.
What is going on here? she wondered, worried and more than a bit confused. She did not want to hurt the guards, yet one thing was clear - she could not let them hurt her former companions. Determinedly, she stepped away from the window and through the door that wasn't really there. She skirted around the edge of the room, making her way closer to the fighting adventurers, grateful the guards were too engaged in the fight to pay much attention, until a guard appeared right in front of her. She'd almost stepped through him before noticing him, and her eyes widened in understanding. Another illusion! She reached forwards, infusing her hands with a touch of magic, dispelling the illusory guard, then turned to survey the room. She did not need to fight anyone - if she could just destroy the ones that were not real, the others would stand a much better chance.
This post has been edited by Moonshadow : 13 January 2011 - 06:49 PM