Paper and Dice

Gaming from an author's point of view, and fiction from a gamer's point of view.

Paths, pt 4

Friday, May 30, 2008 - 3:33 PM

Bound, the magician glared defiantly at Sargon, who looked back at the man impassively.

“You have no power left,” said Sargon, matter-of-factly, and leaned forward to rest his elbows on his powerful knees. “You fought us. But you work magic, and so we are offering you this chance to join us, and become free.”

The magician gave him a mirthless grin. “You are all utterly insane,” the magician said with great certainty.

Sargon dropped his brows a notch and sighed. He was a Lightbringer, and this was something he hated about his duties. Chained to their by-rote incantations and their books, the outlander magicians were always too attached to the tyranny of their arcane science, and never wanted to give it up.

“Be reasonable, as we are,” Sargon offered, but the magician was ignoring him now. Sargon continued anyway, keeping his low voice reasonable and mild. “We respect that you know magic, and can use it. But you must see that these limitations you put on yourself are not only controlling your magic, they are constricting who you are. You are caging yourself.”

“And this is your answer? You send ... that... to attack me in my sleep!”

The magician jerked his head towards Trammel's slender, wiry form. The addict was absently rubbing the magician's formerly enchanted ring against his pale cheek, keeping half a heavy-lidded eye on the prisoner.

“That's just strategy. He could have killed you, but he didn't, did he? He just stole your power so we could more easily talk to you.”

“Very diplomatic of you,” spat the magician in reply. “What did you do to him to make him that way?”

Sargon paused. This was not a question he'd been asked before, but he expected there would be many more, in time. “He was born that way. There are many like him, and they serve the Bethorans just as all Bethorans do.”

“Born? You see, that's what your skybending gets you! You ruin the land around you, and then your own children!”

Sargon frowned a bit. “There's no need to be insulting. There's nothing wrong with Trammel. I've trusted him as a comrade in arms since we were both young men.”

The magicians only reply was a sardonic chuckle, and a shake of the head.

Sargon folded his burly arms and cocked an eyebrow. He did not want to kill the man, but they couldn't very well let him go as he was. Their Skyhammer, Nariste, was working a great divination, and he could not ask her for guidance.

He glanced over at their Heretic, Avara, who was some distance away sorting the piles of loot they'd gathered from the small border fort. Ever attentive, she looked up abruptly, like a wolf scenting prey, and he signaled her closer.

Like Sargon, Avara was a warrior. Both had the swarthy complexions, dark hair and golden eyes typical of the Bethoran pure-blooded, but her long-limbed body was far taller than his, all sinew and muscle. Avara was the same without as she was within, stripped of all but purpose.

“What do we do,” he asked her in Flametongue. “He will not see reason, and I dare not disturb Nariste.”

She turned her thin lips into a frown, and replied in kind. “We have time yet. He may come to understand what we bring to his people. It will be two days yet until we move further north.”
He nodded, and was about to reply when the magician spoke up.

“Trying to decide what to do with me? I warn you, savages, I am a member of the Greenstone Tower! If I am killed, my brethren will seek you out and destroy you, and by the God of Ceria- “

“THERE IS NO GOD BUT MAN!!” howled Avara, and smashed the magician in the face with her gauntleted fist.

Sargon was not fast enough to stop what happened, though he'd tried as soon as the magician invoked a deity. He stood up and gave Avara a bland look.

“...Avara, this is not going to help,” he growled.

“I claim Heretic's right,” said Avara immediately. “He blasphemed against Humanity.”

“But he was a magician, he could have joined us.”

“He WAS a magician. But he swore by a false god. And that makes him a slave.”

A reedy sigh interrupted them, followed by Trammel's soft, mellifluous voice. “And you have made him dead. Problem resolved.”

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Excerpt: The Hand of Bethor

Saturday, April 19, 2008 - 1:07 PM

“Most years, they stay in the wilderness. We see their witchlights and the violet flames in the distance. It is not well to enter that land, because of the work they do... some years, they come out and bring their work against us. They shout of freedom and power, but we have seen what they are. They are all mad.”
Herennya, Matriarch of the Hhanash iron druids

“The Church of Bethor is insidious beyond measure. Somehow, though they are all mad, many choose to join them. Their numbers swell when they skulk in our cities. Soon after, the battle is joined, and the Church of Bethor attempts to enslave all those who do not join their blasphemy. They hold great power, but it is power which destroys their own as well as others.”
From the roster of Blasphemous Cults, in the High Temple of Kesr.

“Bethorans aren't mad in the way most people think. They see the world differently, maybe, but they're very rational. At least, the leaders are. Look past the insane cultists, look past their zealotry, and you'll notice... they're smart. They plan, they plan far ahead, and they're good at improvising when things don't go well for them. It's easy to say they're just madmen, but the Bethorans have been in the world for over five hundred years. Clearly, they know what they're doing... whatever that is.”
From the personal journals of Wallace Rievenfeld

Viewed as insane cultists with an obsession for stealing enchanted items, the Bethorans are actually a sophisticated and ancient society who views magic as an essential form of expression. Though splinters of the organization have secretly lodged in cities far from their homeland, most still consider the Bethorans as backwards-minded fanatics who have little to no order at all.

The Bethorans are actually two connected groups. Bethoran purebloods are those born Bethoran, usually raised in their magic-tainted homeland. Adopted Bethorans are outsiders who have been accepted into Bethoran culture. These groups work in conjunction to further the goals of the Bethoran whole, although many adopted Bethorans are not sane enough to understand the bigger picture, and are used as a barrier to those investigating the truth of the Bethoran movement.

The Vision of Bethor

Skybending was the first magical technique known to humans. In this method, the magician becomes a funnel for raw magical power, and attempts to shape it with his will as it explodes out of him. Though this process is capable of incredible creation, it is also inherently dangerous, and prolonged skybending in a given area can create various forms of magical pollution. As such, skybending in the current age is completely forbidden in nearly all civilizations.

Humans learned the fundaments of modern magic from the High Elves. The elves presented a cleaner, more efficient wizardry, allowing a reliable technique that did not corrupt the surroundings. Most humans jumped at the chance to learn, but there are rare exceptions mentioned in history. One such name was Bethor Chainmaker.

Bethor was a very successful skybender and warrior, chieftain to a large nomadic clan in what are now the wilds of Amboq. Accounts of the day state that he refused the elven teachings, calling them subtle tyrants who were attempting to control and subjugate humanity by restricting their power. He claimed they feared human ascension, though he did say it was a justifiable fear, for he believed humans are mighty.

Bethor's philosophy was that magic is the purest expression of the human will, and therefore, any attempt to codify or constrain or restrict magic is an attempt to restrain and limit human potential. He believed that magic is for all, and should be used in all situations.

In response to the quickly spreading elven influence, Bethor's clan absorbed several other large clans in the territory, and began to teach skybending to anyone with the fortitude to use it, as a prelude to waging open war. Accounts differ wildly on the events of Bethor's war, but it is true that he drove the elves away from his people, using massive magical assaults that claimed the lives of many of his own people as well as the enemy. The arcane fallout from these magical assaults would be the the foundation for the bizarre and erratic magical influences that blanket the Amboq, influences which would increase further from generations of skybending.

It is uncertain what happened to Bethor himself. It is assumed that any further records of Bethor's life are somewhere in the Amboq, if not destroyed. After the war, his people fortified their homeland and presumably retreated to develop the foundations of modern Bethoran culture. Would-be invaders avoided the Amboq, afraid of the seething magic that had racked the land, and the Bethorans did not leave the Amboq for several generations. The true history of the Bethorans remains unknown, and few historians are willing to brave the Amboq for further records..

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