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Carpe Florem [Semi-Closed]

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[justify][Continued from [URL="http://http://www.valucre.com/showthread.php/15694-Cross-Pollination-Closed"]Cross-Pollination[/URL].]

At the Gaian Academy, deep beneath the Gaian temple to the right of the school's main entrance, hallowed catacombs stretch hundreds of meters below Ponkapoag Lake. A labyrinthine network of narrow hallways and cavernous sanctums, these catacombs are rarely visited, save by the Gaian priests charged with caring for the sacred bodies of their fallen brothers and sister in faith. Armed with satchels filled with bandages, gauze, and various ointments, a pair of priests will venture into the catacombs once every two weeks, paying careful attention to the "integrity" of their charges, patching up a ruptured epidermis here and taking care that dust and cobwebs do not gather too densely along the earthen corridors.

[legend=Academy Quest: Potion Commotion]The Mages Guild would like to remind everyone that flushing reagents down the drain is unwise. Please recycle with care. Because someone forgot this rule, the reagents recombined downstream and leaked into a section of catacomb. There are undead roaming about.[/legend]
When Monarche had first learned that pipe leakage could cause chemical reagents to flush into the Gaian catacombs, he'd made a mental note to explore possible avenues of entrance into the dark underbelly of the temple that wouldn't require him to walk headfirst into the very bastion of sacredness. He'd had enough experience with divine energies and holy light to last him several unlifetimes during his tenure in the Terran Research and Development laboratory, where he'd been subjected to saturations of supernal power in the name of science and societal progress, and had little desire to tempt the wrath of Gaia by seeking entrance to her sanctum by means of the front door. Since, by merit of their existence, such pipes would require the existence of service tunnels to allow them to be repaired (a task which, apparently, considering the current dilemma, the Academy was rather lax about performing), Monarche's search had been rewarded relatively quickly.

Entrances to the cistern were not exceptionally well-guarded, although one stone construct was assigned to each of the small entrances to the Academy grounds; Terrenus was a stickler for security, and since the Academy was the ideological flower that had bloomed from the blood-soaked continent, this paranoia had been extended even to this most supposedly innocent and free-spirited of locales.

Monarche slipped his hand into the back of the stone construct and simply flicked its figurative "off" switch. Pre-programmed slaves, the simple "Bouncers" could not hope to deal with the spontaneous thought and cunning of a hyper-rational being from the mere cognitive standpoint of the automaton.

The distance from the Graveyard to the front of the Academy had been one quickly traversed, and the heavy atmosphere that had surrounded the Unnatural youth and his new protege in the midst of the bonescape had given way to the more tranquil exterior of the Academy walls. Death, all-surrounding, had a way of corrupting the mind, drawing the psyche deep into its own spiraling coils; Monarche prepared to immerse himself once more into the halls of death, but, for now, his body reveled in momentary serenity.

With an arm deceptively strong for its emaciated appearance, Monarche removed the circular steel top from the entrance to the cistern, tossing it to the grass beside the entrance with a palpable thud, like a hammer hitting stomach flesh. With two careful steps, he poised himself on the ladder leading further down into the darkness, his eyes already shining like grey beacons to illuminate his path.

In the moonlight, he would seem like the strangest of creatures, a sentience of such myriad shades of grey as to appear nothing more than a sketch on a piece of paper, a carefully constructed outline: a blueprint for a machine that had yet to be built.

[b]"Sloppy, I admit,"[/b] he said, regarding the cylinder into which his form steadily sank. [b]"But our task requires a bit of . . . discretion."[/b]

He descended into the cistern.[/justify]

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[b]"You've tried grave-robbing,"[/b] he joked. [b]"But have you ever tried tomb-raiding?"[/b]

The dead man considered these words as his Unnatural creator deactivated the stone guardian. Though perhaps not his proudest of moments, D'eon thought, he [i]had[/i] forayed - against his better judgement - into the depths of a barrow. In life, he had found the experience unsettling; the spirits of the dead were a thing to be feared by the Tsingano, bribed and avoided.

In Unlife, the spirits of the dead crowded around him like the windspirites of life had- except the ebullient sprites had never so demanded his attention. The ghosts were like spiritual voids, and they beckoned D'eon's essence with such insistence that he felt parts of himself being sucked away, subsumed into the phantoms that surrounded him, unseen.

Without warning, his awareness fragmented. All at once, D'eon saw himself from eight different, conflicting angles- through eyes that saw through a filter of metaphysical. He was so hollow, so pale, so wan- and so struck through with black, pulsating malfeasance that it nearly obscured his features. He was frozen; though he knew he could move, the thought did not occur to him. Unsettled by this new experience, the black thing called D'eon gathered himself with a flexing of his will; spurned, the phantoms withdrew.

His psyche still throbbed with that unusual sensation, and the dim, cataloging piece of him became aware of new, faint, memories and experiences. They vanished like mirages as he reached for them, but the spiritual echo remained scorched onto his being- even as the ghosts fled, D'eon realized that he could sense them acutely.

[i]This,[/i] he mused, [i]was new.[/i]

He focused himself on his creator as the lid to the cistern thudded to the earth. He watched him descend in silence, and as his form vanished into the blackness, he crossed to the lid and hefted it with his newfound strength. Balancing it against the lip of the cistern, D'eon lowered himself down a few rungs, and slid it closed behind the Unnatural pair.

He followed Monarche down into the dark, still wondering what to make of his unique ability.

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Down, down into the swollen root system of the Academy, Monarche led his Unnatural compatriot. Once the cistern cover had been replaced over the narrow aperture leading into the service tunnels, Monarche's amplified eyes, casting a dull grey glow over his surroundings, would be the requisite light needed to travel in such darkness. For an ordinary human to operate in such conditions would be nigh impossible, but the ascendant senses of the Unnatural allowed it to understand its environment with more visual-tactile precision than the human brain, clouded by the smog of parallel processes.

He strode through the tunnels, his hands feeling along the walls, his pace rapid and uncompromising: a predator, yes, and one even the subterranean could not unsettle.

"Since, D'eon, you mentioned coming from another world," said Monarche. "It may be useful, at this juncture, to tell you a bit about this one."

"In the beginning, there was Gaia: the mother and the creator." They wove deeper into the labyrinth, the vaguely musical hum of pipes serenading them with the muffled notes of ur-industry. "And for many beings, the story proceeds no further. They accept Gaia as their divine mother, the beginning and whole of existence; they posit she has a son, named Odin Haze, King and Saint of Terrenus, the nation within whose boundaries you currently stand. It used to be, in this place, beings like you and I would be killed on sight. I use the word "killed" because their vocabulary cannot extend beyond a meager understanding of biological life and death, so it is not worth the effort to establish a syntactical integrity that would go unappreciated by most of those engaged in that sort of barbarism in the first place."

"The word that the 'Gaians,' as they call themselves, have for us is: Unnatural. I want you to let that sink in. It implies that they exist as part of a 'natural' order from which we have been excised: entirely removed. They lord this imagined superiority over us, and use it to justify all manner of tyranny." Monarche breathed the words through his teeth and, had he been alive, his chest might have heaved with a beleaguered anger. "And yet, from a biological standpoint, a Mother who is able to bear children without a Father would be the most Unnatural thought of all. . . . Consistency is not the Gaian's strong suit. As combatants, they can make fearsome, incomparably ruthless opponents; as cosmologists and intellectuals, however, they are woefully lacking."

"They simply can't think beyond their self-justifying anthropocentric – means human-centered – logic."

“No, no.” Monarche continued, the sound of his voice contained by the juxtaposition of pipes and sodden earth; he could almost feel the giant mass of Ponkapoag Lake on the other side of the soil. A three-foot drop. A quarter-circle turn. “In the beginning, there was Gaia, the mother: space, now called nature; but existence as we know it did not begin until she met Desolatus, the father: time.”

“And she did not bear only one son, no. She bore two sons; the first, the one Terrenus knows and loves, was named Odin Haze, an imperious son, but one who loved the “idea” he had of his mother more than he could ever love Gaia herself. The second, her favorite, the one that Terrenus abhors and rejects, was named Ziren Rhizae, who loved his mother and his father so much that his body swore never to leave them. Ziren, the first Unnatural and, therefore, our patriarch, was the one who made me into what I am today.”

The boy stopped, extending his left arm to the nearest wall, letting himself [i]flow[/i] into the earth just as he’d been taught at the Academy. With a crunching noise, the soil around his hand compacted in a spiral, outwards, creating a circular hole of approximately five feet in diameter in the structure of the service tunnel.

“The Gaians call Ziren the Desolater, but don’t know exactly what they mean when they say the word; they can’t comprehend that they are recognizing the Second Son, the one who most resembles Time, the father, and will bring its concentration – wrack, ruin – down upon their feeble civilization. Only in the absolution of destruction will the Terrans learn how to love and become whole.”

With a short hop, Monarche fell a meager eight feet to the floor of the Gaian catacombs, his stance already poised, his eyes still casting their grayish light across his surroundings. When he spoke again, his voice was hushed, barely more than a whisper.

“Time alone heals all wounds.” A moaning, distinctly undead, could be heard further down the corridor. “The Desolator is the true Saint.”

He began to walk toward the sounds.

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The darkness swallowed them, and in the fathomless black, D'eon felt something familiar. As he descended, he realized that he could [i]feel[/i] the walls of the shaft; his awareness spread about him like it did when the windsprites were with him. He knew, intuitively, that he was seeing the metaphysical- it was simply being filtered as a visual boost, adapted to the new body that he wore. The spirits were nearly suffocating with their demands now- cast free of their newly reanimated bodies, their formless anger battered at D'eon's psyche. Ethereal hands plucked at his clothes, slid chill fingers down his spine. It made it difficult to focus on what Monarche was saying.

Then, the Unnatural realized that he was climbing without any actual thought- delving deep into himself, he found another piece, a segmented part of his mind that controlled his physical actions. It was this realization that saved him. Another, stronger partition became a shield against the ghosts of the past, insulating him from their phantasmal fury.

Quiet sounds, all the more powerful for the silence that wrapped these tunnels, so rarely seen by human eyes, surrounded them as they padded silently forward. Distant water dripped, pipes creaked and groaned. D'eon trailed unfeeling fingers along the grime-slicked wall of the tunnel, either not noticing or not caring that the action stained his fingertips black. It seemed a small thing, compared to the sick stain of avarice that was his soul now.

The gypsy watched with curious yellow eyes as Monarche pressed his hand to the wall- those same eyes widened as the wall spiralled outwards, irising into a a portal.

Monarche dropped into the black; D'eon followed suit.

“Time alone heals all wounds.” A moaning, distinctly undead, could be heard further down the corridor. “The Desolator is the true Saint.”

Something that might have been a shiver passed through the thing that called itself D'eon. It was not a physical thing, no, but something beyond that. It was the collective shudder of the spirits of the dead that crowded around him; they knew their bodies, and as the Unnaturals grew closer to their lesser kin the phantoms whipped themselves into a fury. He was both Outsider and Unnatural, doubly divorced from this world- he was like them, they could sense it, and his power drew them inexorably. And they were tearing at him, ripping at his essence.

D'eon and Monarche rounded a corner- before them, the catacomb stretched into blackness, too wide and deep to be penetrated even by their supernatural senses. There was the impression of movement before them, in the dark, a great shifting, and shuffling. The groans bounced off the walls, echoing back and forth and filling the catacombs with sound. Anticipation thrilled through the gypsy- anticipation that was quickly smothered by dread as the proximity of their bodies drove the spirits mad.

They ripped into him, phantasmal claws and fangs tearing and rending his spiritual flesh, flaying what remained of his soul to the core.

D'eon cried out in the darkness, forced to his knees by the overwhelming might of their assault. He seemed a supplicant, his head bowed in transcendent agony as the ghosts fought and clawed, trying to subsume enough of his essence to become corporeal, to retake what was once theirs.

It was too much; even his prodigious new mind could not maintain its grip on him. D'eon's cry became a scream; his scream became a wail of profound might. He thrust stiff fingers into the stone floor before him- it gave beneath his strength, cracking and snapping as he drove his hands into the foundation of concrete, squeezed with unfeeling hands, squeezed until the concrete was ground to dust in the throes of his spiritual pain. His silhouette burst into malevolent luminescence, violet might crawling over his limbs like a squirming sheet of maggots. The energy itself was sick and strange, and where it was outlined against the darkness it seemed to tear into it, fuzzing reality. This power did not seem to absorb light, as Monarche's did- rather it shredded through it, surrounding D'eon with diseased power, a smoldering, corrupted ruin of an aura.

When he lost control, the soundless detonation of might shook him physically; the force of it nearly hurled him to the floor. Their ripping, their gluttonous feeding had stretched the gypsy too far, and his awareness fractured again- but this time he was one with the countless phantoms that surrounded he and Monarche, and he saw himself from too many impossible angles to count. Some of the spirits were so ancient, so long in the Aether that they had long forgot the boundaries of a mortal frame: these images were confusing, abrupt, painful.

He almost died then, so newly into Unlife, rent asunder by the pale shades of his cousins that lurched before him. He would have died, were it not for that same piece of him that he noticed moving him without his input- it was that piece that drew him back, part by part, filtering his essence from the raging voids that had attempted to consume him.

D'eon came to himself slowly, and in pieces. When he spoke, his voice was low, nearly as quiet as Monarche's when they had penetrated the tomb.

"The spirits... ghosts, I mean." His voice was weary- it would take him time to recover from the spiritual assault. The ghosts still raged, but that sick violet power seemed to keep them at bay, snapping and crackling over D'eon's form. "I can feel them. I think... I think I can control them."

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"It is honorable for the keepers of eternity to shepherd our transient brethren." Monarche placed a cool hand on D'eon's shoulder, an artificial gesture of comfort, meant only to rationally convey the pale king's support. With two swift steps, he moved beyond the gypsy, the luminescence shed by his eyes amplified by a magnitude of ten, casting a palpable glow on the undead aimlessly roaming the corridor in front of them. "Take these, for example; they know little of their basic plight beyond their fundamental dearth of spirit and an overabundance of appetite and reflex. If they smell living, pumping blood, they will pursue it until they have satiated what remains insatiable; their stomachs can never fill, physically, but their mind demands nourishment nonetheless, overrun by rampant hunger."

"In the case of ghosts, or spirits, as you called them, well, I'm sure you can tell that they hunger little for physicality, but want to feed off of the spirit; if they grow powerful enough, they may learn to supplant other spirits in other bodies. The creation of the "Unnatural," a word with which I mean eventually to do away, begins with this very simple idea; rather than implanting another spirit into a host body, one simply plants the same spirit, now passed through the trials and tribulations of death, into the very body from whence it has been so violently torn."

Monarche bent at the knees, lowering himself squarely on his haunches to place his right palm squarely against the floor of the catacombs. If he'd judged his positioning right, this would be a suitable site for his purposes. Though the floor of the catacombs, blessed as it was, seemed to wriggle and writhe beneath his grasp, all but resisting his efforts at manipulation, he was able to snare the wily earth with his metaphysical intent and sink his fingers into the tenuous soil until Scorpia's foremost point rested in the dirt. As in response to its opportune position, here, in the heart of a Gaian temple, the grooves on the bracer suddenly flared out, like golden gills from the smooth body of an emergent eel. Through these grooves poured the divine essence, opalescent, ribbon-like, that had coalesced to bless this hallowed tomb, but rather than merely being siphoned from the ground and then dissipating into formlessness after sufficient exposure to the stifled air, Scorpia chained the sacred essence to the material plane, corrupting the aesthetic weave of the beneficent magicks and slaving them to an unnatural impulse. Make no mistake; it was precisely because it was in the midst of a holy place that Scorpia could act as the corruptive engine it would soon become.

As the ground began to swamp with necrotic power, a veritable morass of nefarious energies cumulatively saturating the Gaian catacombs, Monarche would suddenly rise from his crouched position, drawing from the floor, with him, an ornate obelisk of approximately four feet in height, already etched with designs both arcane and obscure; seemingly made of the purest obsidian, it thrummed with desecratory power, calling to the dead here in this holiest of sanctums. A crack, like that of a glacier shedding its extremity into an ocean dark and vast, accompanied the rise of the obelisk, and a shockwave of decompressed maleficence rushed through the catacombs like a fell wind.

This, a solid Desecrator, would be the means for the corruption of the Gaian Temple.

Across all sections of the catacombs, suddenly, corpses began to stir to life; if a couple of reagents could cause a reaction among some of the undead, the amount that the Desecrator could raise in the crypt would exceed their number more than tenfold. Priests entombed wearing their holy symbols and Gaian robes, the bodies of the saintly and the devout, would rise equally at the call of the Desecrator. With a satisfied expression on his face, one rid of its essential mystery and full only of the purest sort of joy, Monarche turned to look at his creation, gesturing lovingly to the instrument he had so fortuitously plucked from the heart of the Temple.

"As they rise," he said. "Let their spirits find their way back; show them how we walk, how we speak and anger, how we move through the night like shades or wraiths."

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The resounding [i]crack[/i] of the Desecrator's birth elicited a flinch in the kneeling gypsy.

This was no remnant of his mortal shell, however. Rather, D'eon flinched when the buffeting waves of malfeasance struck his vulnerable core. Still weakened from the assault of the phantoms, the strength of the obelisk was like a sharp blow to the nose- but when the invisible wave of defiling power struck him, his soul began to mend. The same strength that flowed through the unfeeling limbs of the corpses that had begun to stir in the darkness [i]rampaged[/i] through him. It called him inexorably to his feet, and the scant feet between him and the pulsating stain of rot and corruption that he saw through the ragged shreds of his aura vanished without the sound of a single step.

He touched the obelisk reverently, and the resultant shock of puissance tore his mind to shreds.

To vibrant, living, self-aware shreds, charged with spiritual power- the focusing power of the obelisk gave D'eon more than enough strength to coalesce the rampaging spiritual energy into a cohesive force. An opalescent mist seemed to rise about him as he drew the spiritual force into himself- he inhaled the power, chest expanding and nostrils flaring as the mist suffused him. [i]How human,[/i] he thought, amused. The air itself grew shrouded by that mist, a shimmering grey expanse struck through with the faint impression of wispy bodies; of faces stretched and warped in torment, eyes and mouth awful black holes. The spiritual power began to swirl, to vortex into the Unnatural that stood with one arm outstretched, his head bowed.

Power raged through him, from the obelisk, so much power that D'eon was completely divorced from his physical form. His body was merely a tool, a convenient focus for the arduous task at hand. The [i]real[/i] D'eon, the spectre of a violent death, stepped free of the recomposed atoms of his dessicated corpse and let his awareness spread through the vortex of souls. It was nothing to grant them power now- they drank greedily from a well of unimaginable strength. The sheer force of malevolent will that was required to form this Desecrator here, in this hallowed place, began to suffuse everything- light began to fade, and soon the tomb was nearly black save for the luminescence of Monarche's eyes.

As before, each piece that the spirits took thrived within them. The vortex swirled, shuddering in silent ecstasy as the violent phantoms gorged themselves. As they did, the corrupted spirittongue awoke inside them, a connecting, guiding force. Slowly, and with great care, he drew the spirits into the vast gulf that was his metaphysical self; as he did this he spoke to them in a voice that was not a voice.

Remember, he bade them. Remember your selves, remember your forms and the strength of your limbs.

Remember, he commanded them. Remember your hate. Remember your anger. Remember your fear.

Avarice roiled in the souls of the damned- stained with that sick power, the assembled corpses groaned in concert. The faint traces of the souls that clung to the damned were as black ribbons to D'eon's metaphysical eyes. As he watched, as he whispered to his souls, they began to fade, to dissolved into the same spiritual mist that swirled through the catacombs.

Piece by piece, he guided them back, whispering sweetly in their ears of blood and pain to come; of warm flesh rent under tearing teeth, of gouts of blood and screeches of agony. He spun for them a tale of carnage and destruction, of beautiful, senseless horror to shake the lands of Terrenus to the core.

They went with rage, they went with glee. Some went with great sadness; these were perhaps the most frightening, because their sadness was born of a dark acceptance.

They mourned for the world they were to burn.

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[I]Remember.[/I]
[CENTER][I]It hurts.[/I]
[/CENTER]

Upon the freshly confected Puff Pastry Peak, an enormous milk-cream strudel that rivaled Terrenus' Dead Peaks in size, the Culinary Champion overlooked his dulce demesne. Below, where hot vanilla sauce oozed from slopes of sweet bread through the southwestern Walnut Weald, he could see his Squire Suppliant cracking gigantic shells open with his massive cast iron skillet. What a wonderful harvester! More than he could have ever imagined. When a distracting, opalescent cloud drifted by his head, he snatched it and took a bite without hesitation. Similarly colored mist filled his mouth with a sweetness he immediately recognized as sugarcane juice. A bizarrely chromatic gypsy tart floating at the top of the world! Who knew?

[I]Remember yourself.[/I][RIGHT]

[/RIGHT]
[CENTER][I]It hurts.[/I]
[/CENTER]

It was far too selfish to keep it all to himself, but he couldn't help devouring the succulent treat while his Squire Suppliant frolicked, walnuts in tow, across the adjacent Sugar Steppes. Eventually his appetizing apprentice, covered in golden treacle, hiked up Puff Pastry Peak and presented the Culinary Champion with one of the rarest ingredients in these luscious lands: the Can't Believe It's Not Butterfly. Its usefulness was monstrous! It was the monarch of meals! A pinch from the fragile creature eliminated all calories from any dessert. What a wonderful harvester! More than he could have ever imagined. The Culinary Champion gave his Squire Suppliant a pat on the head and ruffled his hair. When another distracting, opalescent cloud drifted by his head, he snatched it and they shared the delicious gypsy tart.

[I]Remember your forms and the strength of your limbs[/I].

[CENTER][I]It hurts.[/I]

[/CENTER]
Soon the sky was ensconced by colorful gypsy tarts. The Culinary Champion and his Squire Suppliant crawled and slipped across the slopes, unable to navigate the darkness, but their combined hunger could not be defeated. They ate their way to voracious victory, despite the clouds' palatable protestations as their teeth tore away yummy warmth amidst saccharine screeching and gouts of sugarcane juice. When they were finally alone on Puff Pastry Peak, the Culinary Champion, stomach bloated, sat on a raisin and watched the sun set. It was different today. Pale and yellow, flecked with emerald; it made him feel sick. Paralyzed by freakish food, he saw the diminutive shadow of his Squire Suppliant stretch before him. A cold hand rested on his shoulder, while the other offered him the Can't Believe It's Not Butterfly, thought lost. What a wonderful harvester! More than he could have ever imagined.

[I]Remember[/I].
[CENTER][I]It hurts.


[/I][/CENTER]
Caloric intake was at the root of his dietary distress. The coincidence of a cure might have been startling, but that was his Squire Suppliant, adventurer and academic. Shouldn't he be in school? There was yet more the Culinary Champion could teach his students; together, they would depart, but first he needed to consume the eating elixir he held. He pulled a wing from the Can't Believe It's Not Butterfly and handed the rest to his Squire Suppliant. The cold hand withdrew, as he brought the wonderful wing to his lips and paused to inhale its scent. Roasted marshmallow mixed with the scent of blood. His own blood. The taste of it filled his mouth as he tumbled down Puff Pastry Peak, dethroned, his lips scraping at ambrosial androconia—

[I]Remember your hate. Remember your anger. Remember your fear.[/I]
[CENTER]
[I]¡sʇɹnɥ ʇI
¡sʇɹnɥ ʇI
¡sʇɹnɥ ʇI
¡sʇɹnɥ ʇI
¡sʇɹnɥ ʇI[/I]

[/CENTER]
". . . more than I could have ever imagined." Avent wiped the tears from his face. He sat up within his philatory, unsealed during his nightmarish repose by way of his thrashing limbs. The casket was not unlike the many reliquaries in his tomb, each containing irreplaceable silverware and cooking instruments. He was, if nothing else, a relic himself. A broken relic that could still feel the cold hand of his Squire Suppliant, the wonderful harvester, Monarche Tempus, cease the thrumming of his artificial heart, and the following violation of his spirit by the Desolator. Surprisingly spry for a dead man, Avent swung his legs over the philatory and climbed out after the requisite six seconds of sulking. Before he was supposedly overcome with the desire for vengeance, he had to do a spot check.

He slipped a hand under his favorite shirt, bright red with a graphic of a thorny green circle on both sides; bold black font spelled out [I]A Perfect Spell Circle[/I] over a chest that was scarred far worse than Monarche's backstabbery could have done. The other side was the same, particularly around where the entry wound had been. It was clear he was fixed, but it wasn't by Julius Aldoid. Otherwise, he'd be smooth and flawless. It took him a few minutes to realize the clumsy, yet sturdy handiwork was from his hero, Odin Haze, praise his name, but he should've made Eustace Monroe do it. Maybe it was supposed to be a secret. Avent was the Saint's secret! He nearly swooned all the back to Puff Pastry Peak, but the cable plugged into his spine caused him to trip back to reality.

That's right. After unplugging himself from the cord that receded further underground, Avent wandered to the dining table in his crypt, glimpsed into a porcelain plate and watched his reflection transition from luminous cyan back to his pink haired, silver eyed self. He spent the better part of a minute trying to decide at what angles his bangs should jut out from under his black beanie, but then he remembered: his hate, his anger, his fear! Stupid Squire Suppliant. Time to show him what kind of truffle the patriarch of pastries could cause!

It was depressing that his room didn't have a kitchen. They would have to meet sans dinner. With an anxious wiggle of his toes, he scampered to the door, grasped its lever with both hands and pulled it open. His tomb, a secluded undercroft, was connected to the catacombs by spiraling staircase. Nearby there was an offertory box. It smelled like cake; an engraving read, [I]The Gaian Academy Chefs' Club. [/I]When he opened it, there were only crumbs. Had the rats stolen his cake? No, no, no! Avent licked his lips. He could conjure the taste of them all, a cake for every week, for two years, but he couldn't remember eating them. . . two years! His left eye twitched.

As he ascended the stairs, visions of Monarche sitting in his kitchen and flipping flapjacks pancaked his psyche. The closer he approached the spiritual gulf that slurped him from Puff Pastry Peak, the more apprehensive he felt. What if Monarche had fled and lived an exceptional unlife as a famous, rich, beloved gourmet? And weren't there more burning matters? What was with all the groaning? What was that gypsy tart?

When Avent reached the top, he paused at the door, fidgeted with the black strings of his pajama bottoms and, recalling as much rage as he could, burst through. . . Edited by desolate

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Had he been alive and subject to the forces of uncontrollable emotion and reflex, Monarche might have visibly rocked back on his heels from the whiplash of this moment. Avent Reicher. An element had slipped past the Unnatural's calculus, a loose marble fallen to the floor from his game of Cats-eye, bouncing jarringly against the hard ground as it sought the open door.

Already, the undead had begun to organize; a communication hierarchy established via the Desecrator grouped different "units" of the Unnatural battalion together and enabled the swift delivery of orders across broad samples of the population. Thus, although Monarche halted, the grotesque resurrection occurring around him continued to unfold, with the undead marching stiltedly down the corridors of the catacombs; here and there, some of them slunk, some of them lumbered, some of them seemed to wring their hands nervously, consulting their newly recovered memories with blank murmurs. Some wore the uniforms of the Gaian priesthood, brothers and sisters in a divine code to which Monarche would forever remain a stranger; some, instead, wore armors of plate and leather, moved with the customary gait of the career soldier or the anachronistic knight. Some wore the darker robes of the mage, entombed beneath the Gaian temple, perhaps, not because of their piety, but because to entomb them anywhere else seemed too risky a business to be profitable to the Terran state.

"D'eon," Monarche began, his lips only barely moving as he beheld the first man he had ever killed. "Execute as planned; you take the high road, I'll take the low."

What he meant was that D'eon was to occupy the Depot, where the Terran students would flock once they learned about the Unnatural assault on the Academy, while Monarche would, later, infiltrate the Indoor Training Grounds, where he knew the necessary inputs, as a senior, to release some truly horrifying level three monsters upon the Academy. A little bit of tinkering with the programming would render the program's safety features obsolete, at which point the Battle Blobs would be free to wreak havoc as they pleased across the campus. And then . . .

Back to the situation at hand. Monarche could barely contain his excitement; this was, truthfully, the closest he'd felt to [i]alive[/i] since he'd been turned. To see Avent Reicher, here, in the flesh, was a revelation, a reminder of a life the Unnatural had all but locked away. In some ways, it seemed, the pale king remained a child, as prone to a child's idealism as any other seventeen-year-old might have been. His left foot scuffed across the dirt floor, leading toward the tentative Reicher. Behind him, the Desecrator thrummed with a crackling fury, arcs of vermillion electricity coiling up and down its base.

"Avent," the boy said, his voice earnest and filled with no guile or deceit whatsoever. "It's . . . nice to see you like this."

The Squire Suppliant smiled, almost shyly, at the Culinary Champion, staccato corruption echoing through the catacombs like a periodic drumroll. Invigorated by the Desecrator, Monarche wondered whether he might be able to turn Reicher the way he had turned D'eon; although he had all but exhausted himself in his first attempt, the Desecrator had done wonders for his stamina and resolve.

"How've, um," he spoke, softly. "How've you been?"

The undead filed away in lines, some headed for the entrance of the Gaian Temple, some headed back toward the Service Tunnels; the groans of reawakening faded, replaced, instead, by an unsettling silence, an intentness of purpose and inevitability matched only by death itself.

[offtopic]Desecrator [Phase 1]: Animation and empowerment of the dead; though slaved to a foul purpose, the dead retain their memories and abilities from life, with the exception of holy/sacred prowess, which is incontrovertibly lost. Unnaturals on the field in the Academy receive bonuses to speed, strength, and fortification [Natural Armor: Leather; Bones: Iron]. [/offtopic] Edited by ruckus

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D'eon had withdrawn to the shadows of the catacombs the moment the door burst open. Unnatural reflexes combined with the natural, healthy cowardice of a drifter sent the gypsy skittering from the light of the Desecrator; his task was complete. The undead ranked around him, and as Monarche spoke in the darkness D'eon was already moving, a full contingent of three hundred Unnatural thralls in tow. He and his small army returned the way they came- D'eon stalked in the center of the host, mechanically flowing with the unit as the power that thrummed through him from contact with the Desecrator had subsumed his awareness. He guided them as a whole, not commanding, but urging and prodding, giving gentle direction to the kindling blaze that he and his creator had lit within the bowels of the Acadamy.

They gathered into a tight group as they reached the drop into the catacombs, and for a moment the troop was still save for a single figure, pushing forward from the center. D'eon broke through the front line, readjusting his focus to the single corporeal form that gazed up at the irised portal eight feet above him. Unnatural eyes, like points of hot yellow light in the inky blackness, traced the distance from ground to portal once; twice.

Then he lifted his arm, and gestured imperiously. Once more, the eerily still host of corpses seemed to shudder; once more a single figure pushed through from the center. The Unnatural that broke the front this time wore the black robes of a mage, his face wan, eyes distant. D'eon did not speak- he did not need to, he merely flexed his metaphysical will, imbued with the Desecrator, and the undead wizard raised both arms, a faint sheen of power coalescing along too-pale, slightly too-long fingers. As the newly ressurected spirit [i]flowed[/i] into the consecrated ground of the catacombs, it resisted briefly, a dying gasp as the sacred magics began to fail.

D'eon smiled grimly, and [i]pushed[/i] a gout of corruptive power into the mage. The corpse bucked, momentarily overwhelmed as the Desecrator's energy blasted through it like a wire. The concrete beneath the distant portal cracked, then shattered, and the earth surged up from beneath it, jutting upwards into a series of wide shelves- as the power overran the Unnatural mage, the portal itself widened, the displaced earth flowing into the shifting earth beneath the shelves, solidifying the foundation.

The nameless wizard collapsed, but he was swept up by the unfeeling arms of his fellows mere moments later as the host flowed through the wound in the earth like infected blood. The silent black tide of corruption and rot choked the service tunnels as they fell into a series of tight lines, four across and running the length of the tunnels as they made for the Depot with unerring single-mindedness. D'eon tapped into the collective memories of the new spirits as he slithered through the host in his phantasmal form, his body still mechanically moving in the center. These memories formed a map; the dead of The Academy, numerous as they were, knew the lay of the service tunnels intimately.

His spirits knew it, therefore the spectre that controlled them knew it with an intimacy that bordered on omnipresence. The infected blood surged through the arteries deep beneath the academy, their hunger and lust surged along with them, as if a great black, infected heart beat ominously beneath the academy; a parasitic thing that leaked puissance and pestilence, a corruption that struck unerringly for the Depot.

He was not the first through doors of the Depot- nor was he the second, or even the third. He filtered in midway, as his small army had already begun to spread through the halls. His awareness went with them as they began to assemble, but when he crossed into The Depot D'eon drew back into himself, flexing his limbs as he strode into the center of the antechamber. Planting half-gloved hands on his waist, the Unnatural Outsider swept his hot yellow gaze across the walls, the jaundiced light casting his face a sickly pale in the swallowing dark. He did not gesture this time; he merely called out in the midst of his observations, and six sturdy Unnaturals detached themselves silently from the main host to assemble around him. The rest of the host stood still, silent, the might of the Desecration thrumming through them, impelling them to cease.

Seven undead figures, however, lead by a pale young man with shaggy black hair, spread out through the halls; they moved through the nooks and crannies, and as they did they took every piece of armor and every weapon and every artifact, piece of jewelry, or conceivably useful object whatsoever. The six and D'eon simply slung them over shoulders, tucked into pockets, slid into belts. They secured the items any way they could- the growing weight was little impediment to the bodies that surged with unholy might. As the night deepened, and whatever progressed with Monarche and the intruder came to pass, D'eon and his squad looted the Depot, beginning the silent crippling of the Academy's defenses.

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The legions of the Undead amassed. These were radical deviants of the natural form, more of them than not capable of intelligent, coherent thought and this showed in their actions; in how they moved as one body with a thousand different parts, and how they organized and selected their offense. It was this, perhaps, that drove the notion that they were made somehow better, somehow superior, due to their perversion. That because their affliction carried with it strength and immortality, it did not carry decay, and sickness, and [I]sacrilege.[/I]

The Gaians were not foolish, and if they were then their Saint was not. The very majesty of Terrenus, though it could not be ascribed solely to one man, could nonetheless recognize in Odin Haze as the principal fountainhead from which the flourish of social reform and verdure of technological progress sprang.

The Gaian's war against the Unnatural menace was endless. Each man in the priesthood wore two faces. To the laity and the peaceful non-believers, they were but shepherds attending to their flock; to the Unnatural menace, they were righteous paladins, sacrosanct tools wielding, and wielded by, a power that was beyond their faculty as mere mortals. In this forever-battle the Gaian Priesthood had faced anything from the inconsequential footsoldier (the zombie, the walking skeleton) to the captains (the poltergeists, the ghastly ghouls) to the generals themselves (the ancient breeds of vampires, the noxious lich).

Knowing with more depth than even some of the accursed themselves the depths of their perversion it should come as no surprise that, inextricably threaded through the channels of faith binding one pious soul to another, there too was woven a natural suspicion and aversion against all things unholy.

The Gaians more frequently cremated their dead and made gems of their ashes, to be remembered forever more and to be worn by family, than interned their dead at once preventing benign and malignant resurrections. Not everyone opted for this route. More than the occasional family buried their patriarch beneath the house, to provide an anchor for their spirits so they may be conferred with, or to act as proper vessel should they ever need to be brought back to the realm of the living (at the hands and rituals of the priests). But those that were buried were often protected from the influence of necromancy while entombed, this precaution fueled by suspicions half-legitimate and half-superstitious.

Only because the catacombs were guarded at the head by a temple, and at the body by the Academy grounds, were the circumstances allowing for such abject horror as was current to unfold. This catacomb had become the prime destination for the vast majority of those dead and whole. Where could a body be safer than beneath a temple, surrounded by the faithful and those talented educators of the Academy?

Well, even the wise are sometimes foolish.

[CENTER]~~~~~~~~~~[/CENTER]

Monarche's first grievous error was in inheriting his father's arrogance and so little of his talent and skill. Or maybe his fault lay less in pride and more in temerity, that he should sweep the hand of un-life across the catacombs whole, in a rush to snatch victory from a great enemy, rather than selectively employ his dark powers.

The most righteous among the corpses, those whose inner light seemed so strong that it shone on the outside, failed completely in resurrection, turned to feckless ash and splinters of bone. The others, the priests and their kin, rose sure enough to the impulses fed to them by that dark Desecrator and flooded the Academy grounds along their nefarious brethren.

They were robbed. Of their voices. Of control of their bodies. Of the most critical memories, those incantations or prayers that might have freed them from the grip of this unholy vice, but what was not theirs to own could not be taken from them. The symbols upon the priests' robes acted in surreptitious machination. First, drawing from the host body the poisoned necromancy as if a pump, storing it within, then reaching farther out (5 ft.) and taking from their brethren as well.

In the moments before the explosion of raw necromantic energy enveloped the few among the many, rippling out in a terrific shockwave of light and sound that rent them to pieces (30 ft), the priest's eyes cleared of that malevolent expression and was overtaken by a look of serenity; of certain freedom from this foul play.

[CENTER]~~~~~~~~~~[/CENTER]

One, just one, of D'eon's faithful was too a puppet to Mother Gaia's will. He turned about face, stopping the procession while they were still in the Depot, and looked D'eon in the eye before swelling and bursting like a balloon. D'eon, and Monarche as well, were of an order higher than the filth they summoned from the depths of the earth but D'eon would not escape this reprisal unscathed.

Though the energy itself was useless against inorganic material, leaving the various weapons and items in the depot relatively unscathed, the force of their collective, successive explosion was strong enough to scatter the weapons throughout, some shattering the window as they escaped, others even perforating the walls.

Maybe the Gaians were not so foolish after all.

[offtopic]1. [roll0] <-- Number of zombies, out of 100, that explode. You can determine damage.
2. Shockwave does no damage to inorganic material (buildings, weapons), minimal damage to living organic material (people, plants) and maximum damage to undead or Unnatural 'life'.
3. The explosions cause the most outright damage to the Unnaturals but are loud and showy either way, effectively acting as a campus-wide alarm to alert Academy residents.[/offtopic] Edited by supernal

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An incredibly stifling sensation in the back of Shay's throat was what woke her. It was the feeling of bile slowly creeping its way up her esophagus. Her eyes snapped open, and as soon as they did she started to gag. Nearby, an obelisk rose just in time for the bile to evacuate itself with a violent spasm in her abdomen. There, on her knees with fever-burned face pressed to the repulsive coolness of the just off-white porcelain, Shay would slip back under a thin sheet of sleep. Occasionally, the smell of bile would rouse her unpleasantly from her fragile slumber, but she was never forced to repeat her previous indignity outside of a few additional gags.

When the world exploded, it hit her ears first with a resounding split that ruptured the union of her brain and reality. A shrill and constant peal claimed the immediate attention of her hands, causing them to cover her ears. Gradually, she could open her ardently closed eyes to a spinning room. Her stomach attempted to purge itself once more, but with nothing to offer, her muscles merely shriveled and re-expanded fruitlessly. Nausea subsided reluctantly to anxiety. Her clouded mind quickly became a power house for fear -- not only did it produce it, but in massive quantities, fully equipped with the ability and intent to distribute it to the rest of her body. Adrenaline populated her arteries zealously. Her legs extended with no resistance and lead her to the ajar window.

The only light was that of the bathroom, filtering dully across her small dorm room with its greatest effort. Her fingers trembled as her arm stretched towards the open air outside, curling and latching firmly onto the bottom of the window before sliding it upwards with a muffled whisper, as if it was warning her against her actions. Locking the window in place with an indistinct thud, Shay bent at her hips and extended her upper half outside arms first, placing her hands on the rough bark of a tree branch just within reach. Holding firmly to this endeavor, she lifted one knee to the windowsill and then the other, shakily starting to scale her way out onto the branch. Wrapping her legs around it, she inched across, scratching her uncovered legs and arms. By the time she was safely nestled against the trunk, her skin was newly textured with lacerations. Glancing towards the direction of the depot as she began to hear a low moaning, she just caught sight of an unkindness of ravens on the roof before they made their exit. Edited by circa.cipher
clarification necessary

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When the door to the catacombs slammed against the wall, it fell off its top hinge, and Avent froze; it swung back and smacked him in the face. There he was, his Squire Suppliant, a savage sight in scarlet light. He stayed still, pretended he was stunned by his own clumsy charge, pretended he could hide in the broken ingress from the vinegary verity of Monarche's monotone. His Squire Suppliant was so unlike the dapper, doe-eyed dumpling that demurely tugged at his shirt, reservedly requesting his recognition with, [I]Can I take the test too? I want to become the overmaster of all taste buds. [/I]The tragic dichotomy was bridged by Monarche's bashful greeting, and Avent croaked in response, all of his courage crumbling into cold—

Cold. It was too cold. Avent lifted his right hand and stared at it, expression blank. Underneath, he could feel the auryl slurry, his blood, a vicious vichyssoise of virulence, fester. Along with it, there was [I]that[/I] spiteful strength of a revenant, the one fate he had hoped to avoid. Thoughts of Samal, the headmaster when he was alive, managed to anchor him. There was still reason to hope. He grasped the door, held it ajar and sauntered into the hallway. It gently creaked back into place behind him. Warm. The closer he came to his Squire Suppliant, the warmer he felt. The voice of his succor, the gypsy tart whose name he had managed to catch, D'eon, urged him, [I]Remember, [/I]with each dirgelike suffusion from the Desecrator.

With his blood shouting and seething, he stopped halfway to Monarche, face half cloaked in shadow, and scrutinized him like a starving predator confronted with the opportunity to seize another carnivore. Except when he thought about it that way, all he wanted to do was run away and bake a cake. Avent smiled and swayed to the Desecrator. A red velvet cake with almond and coconut creme. He absently wondered if Monarche himself would make for a tasty treat? If not a wonderful harvester, maybe an incredible ingredient!

"I Can't Believe It's Not Butterfly," he murmured. The far away explosions of holy fire caused him to flinch; the noise of it twisted his innards and his scars suddenly ached. "I'm disappointed, my Squire Suppliant. You ain't a bite closer to bein' the overmaster of all taste buds. This is still [I]my[/I] Fiefdom of Food, so whaddya think you're doin' with that. . . is that a big hunk of rock sugar? Can I lick it?" Avent shook his head slowly, refusing to be overcome with culinary curiosity. "Explain yourself or you're fried!"

[hr][/hr]
In the courtyard and on the walls of the Academy, there stood monolithic mountains of military might. These [URL="http://img155.imageshack.us/img155/4051/terrasemtinels.png"]Terran Sentinels[/URL] were based on the standard exoskeleton design, but with autonomy in mind. Therefore, they suffered a reduction in complexity, being without soldiers to pilot them, but an increase in efficacy in one striking matter: smashing anything and everything that set them off into gory paste. Originally, the Academy had commissioned many more, but the government had denied the request and returned it with a stamp that simply read, [I]Overkill. [/I]Monarche had been lucky his surreptitious strike knocked one out of operation, but the remaining 19 were active, alerted by the explosions, and ready to fulfill the single-minded purpose of defending the faculty and students.

One sentinel, nearest to the supply store, turned and looked down at it from its perch atop the Academy wall. Its sensors discerned that there were, in fact, several Unnaturals infiltrating and no students currently within. Its protocols determined, given the number of Unnaturals, the cost of the supply store, the utility of the items within, the fact that the Unnaturals within rendered the price of the two prior objects worthless, and the potential danger to the students, that collateral damage was acceptable.

It didn't jump so much as fell onto the Depot. A large section of roof collapsed under it, owing to its great weight. Using its forearms and forelegs, little more than monumental stone spikes, it began the process of extermination while the other 18 initiated a more thorough [I]Detect Evil[/I] routine. Edited by desolate

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[legend=Unnatural Force Count]Previous Round: 1,002 Unnaturals [multifarious]
Losses: 84+162 = 246
Remaining Forces: 746 Unnaturals [372 berserkers/warriors, 327 Academy-trained mages, 23 alchemists, 21 technicians, 1 Spirit-tongue, 1 Dark Thaumaturge, 1 chef, 0 Gaians][/legend]
The eruption of holy fire - a trick only a Gaian would be underhanded enough to use - from which Monarche, himself, did not suffer, nonetheless splashed across his face in the form of a dismayed grimace, a cruel gash etched into the pale king's skin; the interruption had been unexpected, remarkably fatal to the thoughts of a flawless victory here, in the seat of Terran potential. A glowering soon overtook the expression, as though Monarche had become Baudelaire's "graveyard that the moon abhors," and the boy assumed a sullen attitude as he reconsidered the Culinary Champion. No time to be coy, no time to draw this out to its fullest poignancy, that exquisite moment of revelation and joy rivaled only by the initial taste of some morsel: a madeleine, perha-

No, no time for remembrance. The Desecrator crackled, its orange lightning arcing out like the arms of some formless caregiver, some absent father embracing his wayward son and holding him to a righteous path. Monarche was visibly invigorated, his skin radiating a maudlin essence that seemed to saturate the catacombs in every direction.

"Explain?" His voice took on the dimensions of the darkness within which he and Avent were currently swamped, merely a silhouette on a backdrop of the occasional orange and two barely visible charcoal eyes. If Monarche was this wisp, this flickering orange embraced on all sides by shadow, a candlewick, his speech was the smoke, wafting gently toward the dreamer as he drifted off to sleep. "What kind of an explanation would you like, Avent? I have cultivated the highest tastes: tastes and tinctures of the mind, distinctions of the spirit; I lost my desire to be a chef shortly after you died. The reason? Simple; I had no one to teach me, to guide me as you'd promised."

The voice would be like a snare wrapped around Avent's neck, pulling him gently, like a feral animal, toward the figurative cage of the Unnatural: not the petty masking employed by cowards like Samal Camael, but the real, unfettered Unnatural might that had inspired the fear of millions in Terrenus for no reason other than its existence.

"Your taste, as a sensation, will never again be accompanied by satiety. With enough time, even the most complex and delectable assortments of taste will bore your palate; if it is not now, then it will be later. Will you ask the Gaians to end your life? They would gladly do it, caring nothing for your safety or well-being; they would do it to preserve a fragile sense of the status quo they have imagined for themselves, a status quo which places them, and them alone, at the center of both creation and destruction.

"Why weren't you resurrected, Avent, my Culinary Champion?" The boy began to retreat into the shadows, placing the Desecrator between him and Avent, beckoning with a single digit for the ex-professor to follow him.

[offtopic]Androconium - A unique ability conferred to Monarche as the creator of an Unnatural persona; his words take on a truth value for the Unnatural "thrall" and, furthermore, induce loyalty, love, and further suggestibility in their intended (undead) recipient.

Will post later tonight detailing other movements of Unnaturals on campus.[/offtopic] Edited by ruckus
removed post-legend gap

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A clamor stirred within the Academy, a vast rustling of armors and robes; unholy fires shredded the Unnatural ranks, but where five Unnaturals fell, a pair of mages would split off from the group, performing a short ritual shared in the figurative Unnatural hive-mind, dispersed through the Desecrator's communicative hierarchy with consummate ease. For every five Unnaturals, now useless organic matter splattered about the Academy and service tunnels, had fallen, there rose one flesh golem, towering eight feet tall above the other ranks of the soldiers, with thick, corded arms that promised quick pulverization or dismemberment for any victim within arm's reach.

Like apes through the jungle, Monarche's (in absentia, of course) detachment of undead rampaged through the service tunnels toward their chosen objects, splitting in twain once a suitable fork in the "road" was reached; one group of Unnaturals headed for the Infirmary, home of some of the most advanced healing magitech in Terrenus, while the other headed toward the Indoor Training Grounds, where the group would apparently need to hack the training grounds' hardware rather than depending on quick access from the pale king (rather busy right now, you see). They moved with the speed of an incoming tsunami, their feet thudding against the dirt, the full weight of their undead bodies conveyed through the soil.

Above ground, the temple door creaked open, hanging, for a moment, in the total silence of desolation.

Then, a scream -as vile as any ever uttered by banshee, ghoul, or middle-aged housewife- cleaved through the desecrated atmosphere. A veritable flood of black accoutrements and white, sometimes quite embalmed, bodies began to pour through the doorways; some seemed bloated, others extraordinarily thin, almost skeletons, but they cascaded like an unceasing torrent of ichor from the lips of the exposed Temple, as though this embodiment of Gaia were spitting up bile and blood from an internal wound. They would not remained clumped together, instead spreading out across the grounds, trailing necrotic essence in their wake, thin lines of bile like a scrimshaw on the Academy's bones. Like fighter jets scrambling, or bees whirring from a disturbed hive, the Unnaturals began to sprint across the campus; the Sentinels, confronted with necrotic essence in such massive and concentrated amounts over such a large area, would likely become confused or, at the very least, disoriented by the results of their "Detect Evil" checks. Evil, as it were, spread everywhere across the campus; it would appear, to an automaton, that the Academy, itself, was evil.

Over the campus, groups of five mages began to assemble in pentagram formations, incantations rushing past their lips in canted murmurs. Warriors and berserkers rushed around the campus, trailing necrotic essence, hoping to instill fear into the Academy's very bones. Flesh golems, in various states of [de]composition, began to rush the sentinels, hurling their massive weight around the grounds with reckless abandon.

[legend=Unnatural Troop Movement Summary]216 troops move with D'eon readily at his disposal.
--[101 berserkers/warriors, 43 mages, 12 alchemists, 5 technicians, 1 Spirit-tongue, 16 flesh golems]
188 troops move without Monarche toward the Infirmary and Indoor Training Ground.
--[89 berserkers/warriors, 64 mages, 4 alchemists, 13 technicians, 12 flesh golems]
341 troops exit the Gaian Temple, led by a nefarious hooded Mage
--[182 berserkers/warriors, 220 mages, 7 alchemists, 3 technicians, 22 flesh golems]
1 Monarche
1 Avent Reicher[/legend]
[offtopic]Desecrator [Phase 2]: Unnaturals (and necrotically invigorated constructs) begin to leak a necrotic essence, both material and immaterial, onto the battleground; Detect Evil spells may malfunction due to overstimulation and a wide range of simultaneous and indistinct data. Increased speed, strength and fortification for Unnaturals [Natural Armor: Studded Leather; Bone: Steel][/offtopic]

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Chaflin would remember that night for the rest of his life. The night began like any other, the moon rising slowly, students dwindling as the light left the sky. On this night, and on so many others before it, Chaflin lay on a grassy knoll not far from the observatory, watching the starts return from their daily sleep. He breathed in the fresh air, letting the aromas from around the campus mingle with his senses. The quiet of the sleeping academy, coupled with the passage of clean, cool air and fading lights, helped him relax, gently pulling him towards the desire for sleep.

It all started just like any other night, just an evening where the pangs of homesickness collided with the everyday stressors of the academic lifestyle. When he felt this loneliness and anxiety, he returned to the one place that reminded of the most definitive moments of his schooling. The Observatory, where he discovered the vastness of this world, the even greater reaches of the heavens, and the people’s influence in all that ties it together. It had been a night where innocence was lost, characters grew, and long lasting bonds formed. Unknown to him at the time, this was destined to be another one of those nights.

Sunlight faded, and the moon rose high. Chaflin thought over earlier days, both here on the academy and back on the farms growing up. The memories rushed by in a flurry of images, passing with no particular order, each only lasting seconds at a time. As a young man, he felt that he already lived a long and full life, lacking the insight of a true lifetime lived, a blindness shared by most youths his age. Chaflin lay there, thinking about all he had already seen, feeling his eyelids grow heavy. He began to consider going back to the dormitories, feeling ready to get sleep for the night.

He only got as far as that consideration, when the silence of the night shattered before the roaring explosion of multiple sources, coming from the depot not too far away. The door and windows burst outward, as tools, supplies and human remains burst out like snowflakes falling during a blizzard. Chaflin heard the explosions, but could not identify their cause or source, because their place of detonation occurred far from his line of sight. What first gave a hint of the things to come was the smell. The faintly sour fragrance carried on the wind, growing stronger over the passage of mere seconds. By the time he sat up, the smell was so overpowering, he had to fight the urge to throw up.

His ears rang, and his stomach lurched in protest of the atrocious odors wafting on the winds. He struggled to stand up, the ringing and pounding in his ears left him disoriented and without his sense of balance. In order to keep from falling back down onto the knoll, he crawls on his hands and knees to the observatory itself, using the wall as a brace to get back on his feet again. He manages the task slowly, just getting back to standing up straight as his hearing begins to return to him. The ringing clears mostly, just in time to hear the crashing of something heavy breaking through the depot roof, though from his location, he sees none of this, and is unaware of what that crashing actually is.

[i]What on earth is going on? Did someone's science experiment go wrong?[/i]

The crashing of pieces of roof and body coalesce with the scraping of metal and shrieking of undead fury, sounds that Chaflin in his inexperience could not rightly identify. It certainly sounded peculiar to him, and the terrible smells that were coming from that direction made him leery. It occurs to him that there may be a fire, and that someone might be in need of help getting out of the building. Standing around certainly did nothing productive, and as a farmer's child, he knew better than to stand around doing nothing. When a neighbor was in need, you went without expectation of reward, because on any given day, they would do the same for you.

With that in mind, Chaflin starts stumbling around the observatory, moving towards the depot, trying to get the building within his sight. Though his ears have stopped with their ringing, his balance has not fully restored, and the terrible smells continue to make his stomach uneasy. Chaflin wonders what in the name of Gaia someone could have been working with, to produce smells that reminded him of the decayed bodies of several days gone cows, who snuck off into the deeper parts of the pasture, to lay down and die of unknown illnesses. These odors were the sort that he normally expected buzzards to attend.

That is when all the screaming began.

The very first cry to echo across the grounds was a shrill and inhuman sound, more akin to the folk tales of banshees than the cry of an actual person in despair. Chaflin found the sounds odd, and considering that they came from the temple, he wondered if his hearing played tricks on him, still recovering from the very recent explosion that took place just beyond the observatory. That scream, did not, end up being the only sound to punctuate further the end of an otherwise typical and quiet night. A crashing of wood and metal, stone and earth, followed by more yips and yells, the excited calls of predatory creatures in search of humans, ended any thought that he held about the sounds being only his imaginings. The first sounds were inhuman, but what followed those were clearly human, and were without a doubt, full of terror, and agony.

More screams echo in the night.

The new set occurred from somewhere much nearer, coming from just beyond the line of his vision. Chaflin felt sweat bead along his scalp and on the palms of his hands, goose bumps rippled across the flesh of his arms. His stomach clenches up, rumbling in protest as his bowels fill with water. His mouth feels dry and his bladder threatens to release its contents right where he stands. Chaflin finds himself at a set of crossroads- investigate the sources of the screaming, look into the recent bit of explosions, or relieve his body of all its waste products. With great trepidation, he runs towards the screaming.

What he saw would stay with him for a very long time.

The grounds bustled with activity, like a swarm of maggots crawling through the rotten flesh of a bloated corpse. Chaflin stared in disbelief as he watched a torrent of walking dead burst from the walls of their holy mother, ripping apart the few stragglers who remained on the campus despite the late hours. The dead have yet to notice him, and with that in mind, he takes a single step backward, and then another, slowly retreating from the onslaught of chaos and death evacuating the once hallowed grounds. Unaware of his nearby surroundings, too engrossed in the terrible events unfolding before his eyes, he misses the body lying strewn across the grass behind him, tripping over the unmoving body, landing on his backside. Chaflin lets out a yelp of fear as he falls to the ground, realizing the gaffe may cost him his chance to get away.

Fortunately, this body does not move, although those that do have taken note of his cries. He quickly scrambles to his feet, looking down at the body mostly out of focus on trying to avoid tripping over it again, seeing enough to recognize the body of a female classmate from his adventures class, a student whose name he never learned. She seemed nice enough, far from deserving of this terrible fate, a bloodied corpse turning yellow, even as the things that killed her moved on to other victims. What affected him most were her eyes, her pale blue eyes frozen in an expression of terror. She may have died quickly, but she did not die free of fears- she knew true terror, right up to her final seconds.

As Chaflin rose to his feet, he wiped his sweaty palms across his breeches, getting dirt on his hands in the process. The shambling dead only had just begun to notice him, turning their vacant stares towards the large young man, whom despite his lack of a living audience to see his fall, looked sheepish for it. That embarrassment quickly passes, replaced by a combination of fear, survival instincts, and residual anger brewing just below the surface. As he took a step back from the undead, he could only see the eyes of the young woman, the eyes frozen in terror. She would never look upon the world again, in fear or otherwise, for her sight was taken from her.

They took the light of the world away from an innocent young woman.

Chaflin breaks into a full sprint, running faster than he had to in years, running back towards the way he came. His thoughts ran even faster, trying to formulate some sort of intelligible plan that might get him through this, though his anxiousness made it hard to concentrate. Part of him wanted to hide, wait it out, and hope everything would be all right in the morning. Another piece of him, the part that more closely resembled his true nature, feared for the other students not yet harmed, and for those who might suffer in their sleep. The last piece, which tied to nothing in particular but the instincts of his body, wanted him to stop so he could puke.

He found that nature had a way of winning these sorts of bouts.

After taking a minute to experience the contents of his dinner for a second time, emptying himself of everything had to give and only producing bile after a dozen dry heaves, Chaflin manages to get a grip on his stomach and move away from the putridity he left on the grass. Fortunately, the undead who first ventured to the surface were those not yet enhanced, and in their slow movements, were slow to purse the quick young man, even despite his momentary lapse into nausea. Chaflin could see that they remained hundreds of yards behind, and while some seemed to pursue him, others started to wander in other directions, spreading out to cover the campus. He knew it was only a matter of time before they made it all over the grounds, attacking every one as they slept. He had to find a way to warn everyone.

Chaflin saw that he now stood not far from the supply depot, where the school stored the weapons in between training classes. It occurred to him that breaking into the building would violate half the rules of the academy, but in these dire circumstances, he thought that they would gladly make an exception for someone trying to arm themselves to defend their person and others from the oncoming horde of creatures. At least, hoped that would be the case, because he knew that in spite of the rules, he had to go against school policy on this one- the lives of others mattered far more than school rules. Only, while he mulled over this dilemma of ethics, he found that his situation relieved him of the weight of this decision, the depot already overrun with the dead come back to the living.

Chaflin could easily deduce that the noises he heard prior were coming from the depot, as a rather significant portion of the roof caved in, fighting tore the inside apart, and much of the contents from within lay splashed across the grounds surrounding the building. Intermixed with these supplies were parts of human bodies, some still twitching and moving, they still trying to do as their masters bade. Watching the appendages and hunks of flesh from previously rested bodies squirm atop of school supplies and gardening equipment made Chaflin want to vomit again, so he forced himself to look away, reminding himself to be vigilant of his surroundings. Managing to focus in spite of the smells and the fighting within the depot, Chaflin decides that entry at this time would be suicide, and instead searches among the littered supplies for anything of use. His efforts pay off, as he comes across a Blacksmith's hammer.

The hammer was good and solid, apparently blown out the window in the recent blast that disoriented Chaflin moments before. To his dismay, a foot also lay atop it, contracting, and undergoing multiple spasms, as it sprays black goo all around itself. Chaflin kicks the foot away, which he swears reacted to his contact, and takes the hammer. Not far from the hammer, he finds the lid to a barrel, with a handle on the top. Though it was a far cry from a decent shield, it would have to make due in this situation. With his meager arms, he runs for the dormitories, trying to get there before the dead have their way with the sleeping students.

Unbeknownst to him, he runs by the very tree where Shay now hid. Edited by Acies ab Vesania
All Revisions Made.

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