Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The challenges and possibilities of meta-spells for healers

Just for clarity: I define meta-spells as spells that don't do anything themselves, but instead enhance other spells. Technically, all buff spells such as Flametongue totem are meta-spells, but since they can have 100% uptime, they don't really really affect your playstyle at all... well, as long as you remember to buff up. This article only discusses meta-spells for healers.

Many on-use trinkets work like meta-spells. Take Ephmeral Snowflake.

Types of meta-spells

I'm going to divide meta-spells into three categories.

The first category includes activated spells, talents or items with a cooldown. Example: Inner Focus.

The second category include talents (generally) that grant a limited duration effect when casting certain spells. Example: Borrowed Time.

The third category include passive procs, generally from items. Often has an internal cooldown of 45 sec or stacks up multiple times. Example: Binding Stone stacks up a buff, while Althor's Abacus is a proc with a 45 sec internal cooldown.

Meta-spells by class

All healers have meta-spells. Even if I've played all four healer classes at 80, I easily forget some spells. Here's those I remember.

Shamans have
  • Nature's Swiftness: Many use this simply as another heal in their repertoire combined with Greater Healing Wave.
  • Spiritwalker's Grace: Cast spells while moving. Doesn't improve theoretical output.
  • Unleash Elements, the Earthliving Weapon version. Increases the next heal by 20%. It has so short cooldown it's doubtful whether it belongs here.
  • Bloodlust (or Heroism): Also rather special, as it has a very long duration and cooldown for such a spell.
  • They also used to have Tidal Force, but I can't find it in the current talent tree. Perhaps it was removed in 4.0.

Druids have one spell: Nature's Swiftness. I don't know about anyone else. Okay, if you really want to count it: Barskin.

Priests have Archangel, though it's rather special in the way it works since it requires you to cast Smite before this has any effect.

Discipline priests also have Inner Focus, as mentioned above, and Power Infusion. Complete with cool graphics. Holy priests have their signature spell, Chakra, which changes how certain other spells work. However, it can have 100% uptime, so you don't want to save it for any purpose.

Paladins have several meta-spells that can be combined together.
They also have a rather special meta-spell, DIvine Plea, which reduces all healing done by 50%.

In addition, all classes can have on-use trinkets. Lifeblood, the granted ability from Herbalism, activates a 20-sec internal cooldown with on-use trinkets.

The challenge with meta-spells

Meta-spells can be very powerful. They can significantly improve the throughput of your spells. However, they can also be completely wasted. You may activate your meta-spells only to discover that there were no need for them, and waste the CD. Worse, you may wait for the perfect opportunity to use, only to forget to use it when you really really need it.

To be the best healer you can be, you need to remember to use your full repertoire of spells, including meta-spells.

A big challenge of meta-spells is finding out how you want to combine them. My paladin has herbalism, and so always has access to Lifeblood. That gives me 4 on-use meta-spells. I can use them separately, and I can combine them.

Combining them all gives me +20% healing, +20% haste, +20% crit, +480 haste, and my next 5 heals are duplicated and also splashes to nearby targets. That at least doubles my throughput, possibly triples it. Phew.

However, if you don't count Valithria Dreamwalker, it is rather likely that stacking so much healing at once will result in a lot of overhealing. So it's probably better to not spend everything at the same time.

I still need to figure out how to best combine my cooldowns. Add to that they have different cooldowns, so macroing two abilities with different cooldowns means that I'll either wait for both to come off cooldown before using them, wasting one of them, or spend them separately after the first time. Which isn't necessarily such a bad idea.

With that said, I love the feeling I get when I blow all my cooldowns (often while having Concentration Aura and Aura Mastery or Divine Shield up) while healing left and right in a hectic battleground fight.

I've also had much fun actually being able to kill something as a healer. All the paladin cooldowns except Guardian of Ancient Kings work on Exorcism too. Yay! I can kill stuff! ... and I call myself a healer.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Essences chapter 6: Native

It was early evening when Din arrived town. She had had a clear plan about returning to town, but not what she was going to do once she arrived.

At least she could finally get a decent bath. With a bit of luck, she'd even be able to wash of the stench of sweat without resorting to a shovel. It felt about that dense now.

She made her way to the same place Din and Rob had rented a room earlier. The rent was fairly cheap, and it was a decent in more than one way. For a start, there was a landlady and not a landlord, which felt a bit comforting right now. Din still had some money left, enough that she had no reason to worry immediately.

Like earlier, she attracted a lot of stares. She tried as best she can to avoid meeting any eyes, walking as fast as her tired feet would carry her while looking mostly down. It really bothered her. She wondered if it felt like that for other woman all the time, or if there were something special about her. She really wished they'd just ignore her like they had mostly done when she was still a boy.

The landlady was thankfully home, and opened the door quickly. She looked middle-aged and fairly plump, but nice as long as you didn't test her patience. Right now, she looked a bit puzzled at Din.

"Yes? What can I do for you, girl?" she asked, her tone indicating that she really wasn't sure what to make of her.

"I'm in need of a room for a few days," Din asked.

The landlady looked slightly more puzzled. Had Din said anything wrong? Was she somehow suspicious?

"Yes, that can be arranged," the landlady replied, "How many rooms do you require?"

Now it was Din's turn to be a bit puzzled. "Only one. For me."

"Oh," the landlady said, "I'm sorry. I just assumed you were a maid from your dress and your lack of accent."

Din hadn't thought about that. Most natives spoke with at least a bit of accent.

The landlady led the way inside. "No luggage, dear?" Din shook her head. "Perhaps you've run away from your master, hmm?" the landlady inquired. She caught that Din looked a bit scared. "No need to worry, dear. I'm not going to tell anyone. In fact, if you don't want me to, I won't even say you're here if they ask."

"T-that won't be necessary. No one will come asking for me," Din stuttered in reply.

"No? That's a rather sad fate, having no one miss you," the landlady said as she handed Din the key. "Second floor, first room on your right."

The room was simple, and fine. It was next to the room where Din and Rob had lived until recently. She could stay here for a bit, until she figured out what she would do. Or until her money ran dry.

She wondered what her family thought. Rob was going to tell them that Din wanted to stick around some more in town, but that story wouldn't hold up forever. She was fond of her family, but that didn't mean she wanted to return home, live with her family and eventually get married away.

It was time to get the bath she had thought of for quite some time now. In order to do that, she had to fetch a bathtub, get water from the well, heat it up in the common room below, and carry everything up. The landlady commented how she was happy that Din found herself comfortable in the middle of the second bucket of water. It dawned to Din that it might have been a better idea to ask first. She didn't want the landlady to get suspicious. Well, more suspicious.

Finally, the bath was ready. Din undressed fairly fast, making sure not to breathe in with her nose, and lowered herself into the tub. However, the tub wasn't big enough to cover everything, and so she had a very good look at her breasts above the water.

She had both dreaded and looked forward to this. Dreaded because she now had to find out more about her new body, and she was still uncomfortable about it. Looked forward to because it turned her on a bit. That, in turn, brought even more mixed feelings.

When she emerged from the water a good while later, she had learned quite a bit. For a start, she was very sensitive several places. Second, she had no experience at this. Finally, it had been so many strange feelings that she didn't know where to start.

Sleep came fast. She had been hungry, but not enough to prevent her from easily falling asleep.

She saw herself. Or, another version of herself. The priestess. She was clad in a kind of dress so thin you could see the silhouette of her body through it. She was leading a man to a tent. Judging from the scars and the muscles, the man was a warrior. He was also recently wounded, the bandage around his head was fresh with blood. He was wearing nothing but something that resembled a pair of pants.

As soon as the "door" was closed, the priestess started kissing the warrior. He reacted with almost animal instinct, kissing her back and holding her tight. If Din could close her eyes, she would've done so. However, even closing her eyes wouldn't help, she could somehow feel the warrior's aggressive kissing on her lips, his strong hand fondling her butt, and his warm and hard body against hers. Not to mention the very hard thing about crotch-height.

The kissing didn't last very long, because the warrior was far too impatient. Soon he was kissing her neck. His other hand reached down, between her legs...

She darted up to a sitting position in her bed. Momentarily confused, it took her several moments to figure out where she was. The dream had felt so real. She felt really strange between her legs. Wet, too. She touched her lips and her neck where the warrior had bitten her. She couldn't feel anything there right now, but the memory was still vivid and alive.

It took some time before the mix of panic and arousal settled down. She tried to think rationally about what had happened, but it was hard. Tendrils of panic and ... something else kept creeping into her thoughts.

After a few minutes, her thought started to swim. She gave up trying to make sense of it. Whatever had happened and possibly still was happening wouldn't be any easier to handle if she was lacking sleep as well.


note: The title 'Essences' is just a working title. I have a feeling it'll stick, but I reserve the possibility to change it.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Heard between Cielstrasza and Alextrasza

Alextrasza: Cielstraza, can you come over here for a moment?

Cielstrasza: Of course, Life-Binder.

Alextrasza: What just happened?

Cielstrasza: A blood elf flew in. He was very eager to get our tabard and champion for our cause. Then he left.

Alextrasza: Yes, I noticed he jumped down. So why is there a blood elf corpse with our tabard on the ground by the temple now?

Cielstrasza: I'm not sure, Life-Binder. He appeared to be unconcerned about the height when he jumped off. He seemed to cast a spell, which as far as I can tell, rendered him immune to all damage.

Alextrasza: That still does not explain why there is a corpse there.

Cielstrasza: I don't know myself. He said something about 'oh no, they've reduced the duration!' as he fell.

Alextrasza: ...

Alextrasza: I'm starting to doubt whether out our tabard to all these mortals really aid our cause.


If you didn't get it, I fell to my death because Divine Shield now lasts 8 seconds rather than 12. The first thing after I bought and equipped the Wyrmrest Accord tabard. I just imagined the conversation in my head as I flew back (at snail speed) to my corpse.

What to write? Decisions, decisions

Since the last post, I haven't been writing much at all on my (now no longer) NaNoWriMo story. It's just as far from balance as writing all the time at the expense of everything else.

My original plan was to publish my NaNoWriMo story here in November, and go back to my "regular schedule". Now, I'm not sure what to do.

Who am I writing for?

A good question to start with.

Originally, I intended to write for myself, mostly. To have something to look back to. However, I'd also like other people to read what I write. I've got a lot of stuff on my mind I want to share. Recently, I've also wanted to write about non-WoW-related stuff. Okay, I have done that before, but at a very minor scale.

I don't have any clue how many read this blog. I know how many official followers I have, but I've got a heapload of blogs in my own reader, and I'm only officially following one of them.

WTB votes plz

I'm adding a poll to my blog for a while. Hopefully some people will vote on it. You can vote for multiple alternatives. If you feel I'm lacking any alternative, please post in a comment here. It closes at the end of November.

On an almost unrelated note...

There's also another reason why the writing is slow. I was recently recommended I should read a comic called Gunnerkrigg Court by a friend. It was completely awesome, and I'll be following all updates at it.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

NaNoWriMo status and thoughts

My wife complained a bit about how long the chapters have been so far. I'm making a test with shorter chapters. Perhaps that makes them more easily readable.

Apart from that, I'm lagging far behind the expected writing speed. An average of 1666 words a day means that even a single day skipped will result in a good amount more words on the remaining days.

Two evenings ago, I had an argument with my wife. She felt I was focusing too much on the writing at the expense of family life. I have only about 1 to 1 1/2 hour time during the evening after my daughter has gone to bed, and I need some time to land right before heading to bed. So writing one evening means sacrificing all social life.

I've decided that spending time with my wife is often more important than writing for NaNoWriMo. However, I'm also glad that I finally got started with my story. So I'll keep writing, but I won't be sad for not meeting the deadline. The real downside, however, is that without the deadline, I'm more likely to skip writing in favor of doing other relaxing stuff.

I need to reach a balance. I want to write, but I don't want to write so much I burn myself out and start hating it. I also want to play WoW and do other stuff, but not at the expense of everything else.

With all that said, I've got a lot of the story planned in my notebook. If I write long chapters, about 3 to 5 more chapters. If I write short, obviously a lot more. It's fairly easy for me to come up with more ideas for the story. All my sessions as a GM probably helps, but I had a pretty wild fantasy as a kid too. I could sit for hours with my Middle-Age "Knight" Lego and roleplay with myself. Needless to say, it included quite a lot heroic stuff.

NaNoWriMo Chapter 5: Returning

It took them another two days to reach civilization. Or at least, the outlying farms. The trip was uneventful, or "refreshingly boring," as Rob put it.

The only events were Din's dreams. She recalled only bits of it in the morning, but seemed to remember the blue woman each time. She never explained much, and Din wasn't sure what to make of it. As long as Din and Rob talked, Din didn't think much about it, but it certainly bothered her when she was alone and couldn't help think. And then it was the presence that always seemed to bother her. One way to put together two and two gave birth to the theory that it was the blue woman who was watching him all the time. The thought scared Din, and she couldn't quite dismiss it either.

On the first farm they came across, Rob had asked Din to wait in a fair distance while he bought some food. Din agreed to that, figuring that all the blood on her clothes probably wouldn't attract a good reaction.

He returned with more than enough for a good meal, even eggs. He also brought an old dress belonging to a former maid. Din was a bit baffled, but accepted the dress. She figured that wearing a dress would be preferable to walking around in the blood-stained clothes any more than she had to.

She changed behind a tree, with Rob sitting like a statue facing the other direction. Her nose reminded her how much she needed a bath. However, she didn't feel very keen on finding out just how freezing the water was. She was glad Rob had gotten a pair of long wool socks as well, the air and wind made it quite chilly.

It felt really weird to be wearing a dress. Rob seemed to think that it was a bit strange sight as well. "Wow... it looks ... really good on you. It's just... strange seeing you in a dress and knowing it's you, Din," he commented. Din felt herself blush slightly at the comment.

Reaching the farms also meant that they were splitting up soon. Din wanted Rob to join her back to town, but Rob had been adamant about going home. He had, in fact, tried to pursue Din to return to her own farm and convince her parents with Rob's help. However, Din hadn't been very positive about that idea. There was also something else bothering her. She had something she needed to do, but she couldn't really describe what it was.

They said their farewells when they were still out of eyesight of Din's farm. She felt a bit sad by it, even after Rob assured her he'd come visit her in town once his leg had gotten better. For a moment, she felt it would be natural to hug him goodbye, but discarded the thought.

It felt strange to walk all alone. As she was getting closer to the town, there were more people around too. She felt she got some strange stares, and wondered what could be the reason. Okay, she could think of several reasons, but she didn't know exactly why they looked at her that way.

It wasn't a very long walk from her farm to town. Her family used to go there to purchase what they couldn't produce themselves. She remembered when he, as a young boy, was allowed to go with her father to town. In particular, she recalled seeing an essence-user for the first time in town. A man that looked like a giant to the young Din had walked past while carrying several timbers on his shoulder, engulfed in a red flame as he walked past them. The sight had been forever burned itself into Din's memory.

When Din and Rob had left their homes, they'd found themselves a room in town. They had planned it for quite some time prior to leaving home. Din had an older brother who would inherit the farm, so their parents agreed it would be a good idea to live for himself for a bit. Rob had just wanted to try something different for a while, and while his father hadn't agreed, at least he hadn't prevented him from doing it.

They had originally planned to find work and earn money for themselves. They had gotten work too, but perhaps not as adventurous as they had hoped for. Cleaning the stables was neither very exciting nor very well-paid. Besides, Din felt he had spent enough time cleaning stables at home, even if they only had a single horse.

So when the offer came up for to join the adventurers to the crypt, they had been far too eager to accept it. Din wondered how they would have ended up if they'd rejected the offer. Somehow, she didn't really regret it, despite all that had happened. While she wasn't comfortable with all the changes, at least she had some of the adventure she'd always dreamed of now. And she was fairly certain it wasn't over yet.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Oooh, pretty colors

My wife complained about how hard it was to read white text on a black background.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

NaNoWriMo Chapter 4: Visions

Blue. As far as the eye could see. It wasn't the same blue everywhere. One place was light blue as the morning sky. Another shared the dark blue of the dusk sky. Yet another was solid blue a rich man's cloak. The color gradually changed from one point to another, so subtlety that there were no borders to be seen.

Din looked down to realize that she was standing on something that reminded of water, yet it carried her weight. She didn't know why, but she felt quite comfortable. Somehow, she knew she was safe here, wherever here was. It didn't seem like a very important question right now.

Something appeared in front of her. Actually, it looked like it had been there all the time, but it took some time for the eye to discern what it was from the background. It was a woman. Her features looked like the priestess in the other dream, but this woman was all various shades of blue. She didn't share the same blue color as the background, yet she was somehow very hard to notice. Once Din had spotted her, though, she was easy to see.

For some reason, Din got the feeling that she was really powerful. She seemed to have a good reason for her confident smile. When she spoke, it felt like the words appeared in Din's mind. There were no voice. Or rather, it was Din's own voice, speaking words in her mind like thoughts popping up.

"Your name is Faith, like the avatars before you," the words said. That was all. Din wanted to ask something, but never got the chance. She felt herself being gently pulled away. The woman and the blue background become one, and became smaller and smaller.

Din awoke. She was freezing slightly. It took her a few moments of confusion to figure out where she was. It was early morning, with the cold, clear air of fall. The ground was all covered with rime. The fire had gone out. Din sat up, and spotted Rob. It looked like he had fallen asleep while guarding, and now sat leaning against the cave wall by the opening. She felt sorry for him. He had been so tired last night, yet he had tried to stay awake all night.

Din got up and stretched. She felt much better today. Still a bit stiff muscles, but far better than yesterday. Her head felt clear and sharp. Her body still felt weird, but at least it seemed to obey her. Moving a bit helped her feel warmer, too.

She picked up the cloak she'd been lying on for several days and put it around the sleeping Rob. He was lacking color on his nose and ears, and looked like he was freezing as well. She immediately went to work getting the fire running again. The embers had gone cold, so she'd have to start a new using flint and steel. Fortunately, Rob had stacked up a lot of firewood yesterday.

After some attempts, she managed to get the thinnest bark burning. She slowly fed the fire with increasingly bitter twigs until she dared to put on a more solid stick.

All the while working the fire, she couldn't shake the feeling that someone was watching her. She glanced around several times, even into the cave. However, she couldn't see anyone. The cave was fairly swallow, and with the morning light she was fairly certain nothing could be hiding from her sight.

Once the fire was burning good, she looked for some food. Her search quickly yielded success. In a pouch on the ground next to the fire she found the rest of the rabbit Rob had caught yesterday. It looked like he had saved about half for her. Rob obviously had more talent as a trapper than as a cook. It was unevenly cooked and burnt in several places, but tasted absolutely wonderful. It felt like it was the best rabbit she had ever eaten, but she knew that her hunger might be tampering with her perception.

She considered saving something for Rob as well, but her stomach protested so loudly she decided against it. The water tasted good as well. She noticed that the waterskin was almost empty now, they had to find more water soon.

After the meal, she felt the need to go again. She went into the same place as yesterday, walking slowly to make sure there really weren't anything in there. 'My mind is playing tricks on me,' she told herself, trying to dismiss the feeling of the presence. Not quite successful, though.

It was easier than yesterday. For a start, she wasn't so stiff. She also knew what to do, and was more prepared for the strange feelings when she wiped herself. It was a lot colder than yesterday, making her finish as fast as possible so she could pull on her clothes again. At some point, she knew she needed to find out more about how it looked and felt down there, but this really wasn't a good time.

It occurred to Din that she never had had the chance to experience sex before she got turned into a girl. The thought of sex from a female point of view caused all manner of strange thoughts to fight for her attention, and she felt her face quickly growing hot with embarrassment. The opinion that it was a disgusting thought won, and she tried to think of something else.

It took a good while for Rob to wake up. Din risked exploring the immediate area around the cave while gathering a bit more firewood. Most animals left humans alone, but there was always the risk that there was an essence-beast around here. She tried to look for Rob's traps, but had no clue where to look. Rob's father was a trapper. Din's was a farmer. In the end, she returned with just the wood.

Rob looked quite disoriented when he awoke. He wasn't very happy about falling asleep during the night without intending it. Din brought up the point that he had been awake for more than a day and a night already, which helped his pride somewhat.

They left about an hour later, after some food and Rob checking his traps. He had successfully caught another rabbit, which they brought for the next meal. They had quite some ground to cover. The trip from the town to the crypt had taken almost a full day, and now they had to take it much slower due to Rob's leg. Besides, last time they had waded right through the wilderness like they owned it, or at least were not afraid of the real owner. This time, they were cautious, as they certainly didn't want to catch the attention of any animals around there.

Din had wondered at first why they adventurers didn't have horses. He had later understood Will was really scared of horses for some reasons, and he'd been the closest thing they'd had to a leader. Besides, he'd argued, if they spent money on horses, they'd most likely find them dead by predators by the time they returned from the crypts. Right now, Din would've given a lot to have a horse, for Rob's sake.

While traveling, they spoke together about almost everything. Din told Rob what little he recalled from his dreams, which mostly summed up to "a strange blue woman" from the night's sleep and lots of fighting from the dreams before that. Rob agreed that the dreams were strange, but could offer no other insight.

They also talked about a lot other stuff. Stuff they used to talk about before they'd left home. Din felt a bit strange discussing girls, and Rob looked downright uncomfortable, so they stayed away from that topic.

They talked about essence-beasts instead. After all, they could run into one at any point during the travel. Once when Rob had joined his father hunting, he had seen the Yellow Stag. It was commonly known in the area. It had first showed up when Din and Rob were only children. The name had come from its antlers. When it showed itself to humans, it displayed supernaturally big antlers which glowed yellow. It had also been spotted with more normal antlers, which made it reasonable to believe it had an yellow essence. It also seemed reasonably intelligent. If it showed up to humans, it was meant as a warning. It did not attack as long as the humans left the area, but had killed those that chose to ignore the warning. Everything considered, it was not one of the worst essence-beasts to meet, as long as you were prepared to turn around.

There were also the Red Bison. It was always seen with the rest of its kin, but were easy to spot. It was significantly larger than others of his kind. It was said that it once demolished an entire caravan because they insisted on moving towards the bisons. Fortunately, they weren't going to run into it on their way back to town, it belonged with the other bisons farther west.

The Red Bison and Yellow Stag were among the most powerful known essence-beasts in the area. Since essence-beasts were one of the biggest dangers to settlers, the local authorities quickly put out rewards to the dangerous ones. The Red Bison in particular had a huge reward on its head, but had already bested dozens of bounty hunters. Most others were put down fairly quickly.

There were also a lot of harmless essence-beasts. They talked about the Blue Squirrel which lived close to Din's home farm. It was quite fascinating to watch it gather nuts. It moved almost faster than the eyes could follow, leaving a blue streak in its wake, while moving from tree to tree. However, it was just as bad at remembering where it had hid its nuts as your average squirrel, so you could often find piles of nuts dug in the ground or stoved in trees in the nearby forest.

They moved as fast as Rob's leg allowed, which weren't very fast. In addition, he needed breaks now and then, adding to the duration of the trip. While they saw a lot of wildlife, fortunately none of them seemed to bother them. They found some berries, but they proved be very sour since it was so late in the year. Fortunately, some of the mushrooms were still edible, and Din knew which ones were safe to eat. They also got their waterskins filled.

When they found a place to camp for the night, Din was very tired. She felt less enduring than she was used to as a boy, but that might also be because her muscles still were a bit stiff. After Rob set up some traps and Din built a fire, they talked about what they'd do when they got back. Rob told Din he had decided to return to his father. He was quite satisfied to escape with his life. If he saved up some money for a healer, he might be able to walk again without limping.

Din didn't know what to do, except find some more fitting clothes and have a bath. She wasn't sure she'd be able to convince her parents that it was still Din inside the native girl, and even if she did, she wasn't sure that returning to the farm was what she wanted. Despite having been much closer to death than Rob was, she felt she ought to do something more than just settle down on a farm.

"I don't know if you've thought about it, but you might run into some prejudices now," Rob told her. "I mean, now that you're a native girl. Native, that is. Well, there might be someone who has something against girls too, but ..." he continued, stumbling in his own words and blushing more by the moment. "Relax, Rob," Din broke off her friend, "It'll be okay, somehow." They talked no more about it.

That night, Din had another strange dream. Possibly more than one, but she could only recall one afterwards. She found herself in the same blue "room" as last time. It gave her the same sense of safety like last time. Perhaps because she expected it, she spotted the blue woman immediately. She held something up, offering it to Din. It looked like a dagger, identical to the one the priestess had wielded in Din's first dream.

Din hesitated. The blue woman offered the knife again. "It belongs to you now," said words spoken in her mind. Din took the knife from the blue woman's hand. It felt a bit cold to touch, but was somehow very comfortable in her hand.

The blue woman seemed pleased. She turned around and pointed. "Behold. Our enemies," she heard. A little spot in the distance turned red, which quickly grew bigger. Soon everything around them were red. The feeling of safety was all gone, replaced by a sense of danger which sent shivers down Din's spine. It felt somehow burning hot, like it tried to sear Din from all directions at once. Like the blue earlier, the red had different shades, but the shades were much more frequently switching colors, like waves.

Some distance away, a man appeared. Like the blue woman, it felt like he had been standing there all the time, but that it took time to discern him from the background, somehow. He was different colors of red, fairly tall and with very wide shoulders. Like the blue woman, he looked immensely powerful, but also far more dangerous. Perhaps because the blue woman seemed to consider Din an ally or something. It seemed like he hadn't noticed them, and Din hoped he kept that up.

The blue woman turned to a different direction and pointed. A yellow spot expanded to engulf the entire room. It felt dangerous here as well, but in a different way. Din lacked the words to describe it, but the room felt "sharp", like it threatened to cut or puncture her at any moment. Unlike the other two "rooms", Din could easily spot the borders between the different yellow colors.

She spotted a yellow man, though it was harder to know for sure it was a man. He was very tall and also quite thin. His features looked sharp and perfect, like a statue. Only his lack of any obvious breasts gave Din the impression it was a male, otherwise it could just as well have been a female. His face, in particular, could just as well belong to a woman. Like the red man, he didn't notice them.

The blue woman took the two of them back to the blue room. The safety here was very welcome after feeling all that danger. The woman seemed to understand that Din had been afraid. "You are not yet prepared. But soon..." the words in her head formed. With that, the woman and the blue room faded away.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

NaNoWriMo Chapter 3: Changes

At first it was just a background noise. Constant and soft. As Din gradually grew more awake, he recognized the noise. The sound of soft rain.

He opened his eyes. The light was soft, like morning or evening. He was staring straight at rock. Lots of rock, some meters away from his face.

He closed his eyes again. His body ached all over, and his head felt like lead. The weight lightened as sleep lost its grip on him, but it was still too strong to resist for nothing less than a life-threatening reason.

Dreams. He had had some extremely vivid dreams. He couldn't recall everything, but he distinctly remembered a native woman.

There was something about violence too. Much more than he was used to. In his ordinary dreams, there could be violence such as when he was the hero, blazing with the fiery flame of the red essence, and fighting against bandits attacking the village. But there were never so much blood. The memory of his dreams slipped further away as he neared a state that could be called awake.

He opened his eyes again. Tilting his head, he noticed the treetops bathed in a stream of soft rain. Some leaves had already fell off, but most of them remained, creating a beautiful picture of the colors of the fall. Din had always liked Fall.

Tilting his head further revealed the still warm coals of a campfire. He recognized the place. It was the cave they had camped the night before entering the crypts. Mist had found the natural cave. Not very deep, but enough to provide cover. No need to sleep in the open unless you had to.

Mist. He was the only one of the adventurers who had been friendly to the four of them. He had shared a tale and food with them. The other three adventurers had been about as polite to them as they'd been to cattle. And now he was dead.


Din should've be dead too. He recalled lying on the floor in a pool of his own blood, freezing as unconsciousness dragged him under, unable to breathe as his chest seemed to have stopped obeying him.

He felt strange sensations and pain from his entire body. Not pain as when he'd hurt himself, but the pain in his muscles after a full day working the fields. Make that two. However, pain was usually a good hint that he was alive. He was fairly certain dead people didn't feel any pain.

He seemed to be able to breathe now, somehow. Ignoring the protests from his body, he raised his arm and put it on his chest. It felt strange. There was something weird there. Din pulled his head up and looked down.

Shock hit him like an anvil. Now he was definitely wide awake. And possibly crazy. He almost leap up into a sitting position and looked down.

He was still wearing the same clothes as earlier. They were full of dust and some dirt, completely stained with blood and drenched in sweat. Okay, he could live with that. But they were as fitting as a fat man's on a starving beggar. That was scary, but not too bad either.

He poked his own chest, confirming what he had felt earlier. There were something there. Not only something, but a woman's breast. Boobs. Tits. Din and Rob had spent quite some time watching women, and that had been one of the favorite parts to look at when they didn't notice you were looking.

They neither felt nor looked very big, though. Not like the daughter on the next farm, who were really endowed with an enormous size. On the other hand, it was a bit hard for Din to measure. It wasn't like he was used to seeing them from this angle.

There were something else strange, too. More than one thing. He just realized he didn't recognize his hand. It looked smaller, and had a different skin color than he was used to. Darker, but not like the tan you got when working outdoors during summer.

He recognized that color from somewhere. The native woman from his dreams.

Din realized he was hyperventilating. He was probably in a state of panic, he remembered seeing that on a little girl that watched her mother getting run over by a horse. He put his hand over his mouth, and tried to relax. Panic wasn't getting him anywhere. On the other hand, if he actually had gone crazy, panic would possibly not be such a bad idea for dealing with the situation.

He closed his eyes again, and tried to recall the images from his dream. A memory rose in his mind, a scene where a woman walked up to a statue, touched it, and somehow turned into that girl. He couldn't recall touching any statue himself, but he had somehow ended up like that woman. It seemed like the only reasonable explanation he could come up with, even if it was lacking.

'Okay,' he told himself, 'so I'm a girl now.' Given the choice, he very much preferred to be a girl over being dead. With a bit of luck, it was even reversible.

If it wasn't reversible, or until he could get it reversed, it would take some time getting used to. If he was hoping to ever getting used to it, he 'd have to start with thinking of himself as ... herself. A 'she'. It felt incredibly weird.

He ... She relaxed a bit more. As she felt the wave of stress fade back, the wave of fatigue he had suppressed in her panic came back with a vengeance. Her muscles felt really sore. It made sense, in a way, after undergoing such a transformation.

Taking it slow, she examined the rest of her body. She had expected to find nothing between her legs, but it was still rather rather unnerving to actually feel it with her hand. There were all kinds of strange sensations she wasn't used to from her body when she touched herself down there. She withdrew her hand.

Putting her hands on her head, she could feel that her hair was different. It had a different ... feel, somehow. It was no longer than he was used to, but fell in a different way. Touching her face, she wished she had a mirror. On the other hand, perhaps it was better not to expose herself to too much shock at a time.

She returned her hands to her breast. They were surprisingly stiff, and felt rather sore. Just as he was squeezing them, he heard a voice. "Good to see you awake."

He recognized Rob. Instantly blushing, Din pulled her hands away from her chest. Rob seemed to be a bit uncomfortable as well. Rob dropped a small bundle of firewood on the ground. He kept holding one piece, as if wielding a weapon in one hand. His other arm was busy leaning on a make-shift crutch.

"... Din? Is it still you in there?" her friend asked.

"Ye... " she started her reply, but stopped as soon as she heard her own voice. Okay, she should have expected that. A female body, a female voice. "Y-yes," she tried again, "I think so. I still have memories from before the crypt, at least."

Rob seemed to relax a bit more. He sat down, very carefully, and put down his weapon. However, Din noticed that he laid it much closer to his hand than what was strictly necessary. He wanted it within reach. He was a bit frightened, or at least careful, and trying not to show it.

He looked tired, and his clothes were far from clean. In fact, they were even more covered in mud than his own. The black field under his eyes suggested he had been sleeping very little.

Rob unfastened a rabbit from his belt. "I've had some luck with my traps," he smiled. The notion of food instantly caused Din's stomach to complain about the lack of food lately.

Rob seemed to have figured that out on his own. "It'll take some time to get the rabbit finished, but I've got some roots cooked here." He dug into the earth next to the campfire and pulled out several thick roots with his knife. "I baked them in the warmth from the campfire. Careful, still hot," he told Din as he handed them over. He also produced a waterskin to him.

Rob just sat and watched Din as she started digging in with great appetite. Din was aware of this, but didn't mind. After all, he'd have good reason to be suspicious on her. For all he knew, she could be possessed by a demon or something. For all she knew, too.

"I must admit I wasn't too sure, but I believe it's you now," Rob said, breaking the silence between them. "You still eat like there's you had a pack of wolves on your heels," he chuckled. Din couldn't help but smile herself too. One of her, or perhaps his, less graceful properties suddenly came in handy.

"How are you feeling?" Rob asked. Din could hear from his voice that he was genuinely worried about her. "Like a bull has been using all my muscles to pull a cart for a week," she replied. She had meant for it to be a funny, but Rob didn't seem very entertained by it.

"No, I mean, how are you feeling now that you're a ... a ... woman?" he asked. Din wondered by he had such trouble saying it. He could think of several reasons, but decided to leave it for now.

"I'm glad to be alive," Din replied, "If it means I have to live as a woman for a while, I can deal with that. I hope. Even more than that, I hope it's reversible, somehow."

They sat silent for a moment. After a few moments, Din noticed that Rob was about to ask another question. She broke in before he had the chance. "Tell me what you saw back there, Rob."

Rob looked down and started building up a new fire. "I'm not sure. I assume you mean after Brick caught fire? I saw him pick you up, and then when he was about to finish you off, something strange happened to him. He looked like he quickly turned into a statue of ice, and he certainly wasn't expecting that."

"However, after he 'shattered', the real weird thing happened. You started floating into the air in a sort of blue cloud, and ... changed, somehow. Transformed. I don't know how to describe it, I've never seen it before. But when it was done, the blue cloud dissipated, leaving the ... your current form slowly floating down to the ground. And then you laid completely still."

Din felt a bit sorry for her friend. Okay, she was the one that had changed, but he looked so uncomfortable about this that she almost wanted him to stop talking. Almost.

"I wasn't sure you were still alive. Heck, I wasn't sure the girl was you. But I crawled over to the girl, and she was breathing slowly, like she was asleep. You. I ... must admit I hadn't thought about the girl as you until now. If it somehow weren't you, I was afraid you'd attack me or something, and if I thought about the girl as you I was afraid I wouldn't be able to fight back."

Rob proceeded to tell how he had struggled to get back out with Din. He had hardly been able to stand at all, and carrying Din while staggering proved to be an impossible plan. In his attempt, though, he had noticed that Din seemed to weigh much less now than he did as a boy. It made sense since he now was both shorter and thinner, but it didn't make sense where all the weight had gone. Din could only shrug in response.

Eventually, Rob found a solution. He tied a rope around girl-Din and lay her on his cloak. He'd then crawl or limp, depending on whether he had a wall to lean on, and stop every few meters to pull Din to him and then move on. He had been worried that she'd get hurt by the rope or if there were some sharp stones on the floor, but couldn't think of any better plan.

On his way out, Rob had been very careful to walk the exact same route as they got in. Mist had disabled a few traps on their way in, and Rob wasn't very keen on finding out if Mist had missed some. He succeeded in not setting off any trap. However, once when he had pulled Din up to him, he heard a click, and a sword-like item appeared from a wall to cut thin air where a waist normally would've been on a standing person. After that, Rob had to take several minutes to recover from the shock of having been near killed if he had stepped on another stone.

It had taken him several hours to reach the entrance to the crypts again. He didn't know how many, but it was already evening. He had been dead tired, and had risked a rest before moving on. However, he had fallen asleep without intending it.

When he woke up, it was night. He had been afraid that Din had frozen to death on the cold floor, but she looked alive. More than that, it had looked like she was dreaming fiercely. The sounds escaping from her lips had suggested it was not a good dream. Rob hadn't known whether it was a better idea to wake her up or leave her like that. In the end, he had waited until she fell into deep sleep again. Rob had figured that it was a better idea to stay where they were until morning, but he hadn't dared to fall asleep again.

The next morning, he had crawled out to some nearby trees and cut himself a makeshift crutch. It had taken him more than an hour, but it was a big help. With the help of his crutch, he had managed to carry Din to the cave where they'd camped. He had spent the rest of the day looking for food, setting up traps, and recover a bit. Occasionally, Din had moved slightly in his dreams before falling asleep again. Rob had risked some sleep during the day, figuring they were less likely to be attacked by animals during the sunlight hours. He had sat guard all night, with a campfire and a ready torch as his only weapon.

And now, finally, Din had woken up, after about two and a half days of sleep.

Din put down the inedible parts of root and picked up the waterskin. The only sounds were her drinking , Rob blowing on the embers to get the fire burning again and the constant tickle of rain. She put down the skin and stared out into the increasingly darker evening.

"Thanks, Rob. I owe you my life," she said after a while. Rob looked up from the embers. He smiled at her. "And I owe you mine," he replied.

They sat in silence for a long time while Rob got the fire running again and put on more sticks.

Din suddenly became aware of a pressure in his lower region. "I have to take a piss," he said, absentmindedly. Instantly, a lot of thoughts fought for his attention. 'How do you pee as a girl?', 'Now I have to see what's down there' and 'I don't want Rob to see me,' were the most prominent among them.

Rob also looked like he suddenly had a lot of thoughts. "Erm," he started, "ehm... you could do it further in in the cave," he told her and turned towards the entrance, "I won't look, I promise," he told her. She believed him. Though they had used to take any chances they got at peeking at woman, Din knew how much Rob hated facing stuff that he found embarrassing, and this obviously fell into that category.

Din got to his feet, still aching. "Hey, my arm's fine now," she suddenly realized, looking at it while turning it back and forth. Then she recalled the reason she had gotten to his feet. She walked with stiff movements further into the cave.

Now came the difficult part. 'relax,' she told herself, 'this is nothing scary, half of the world do this every day.' It was true, but it didn't mean it helped her a lot. However, she had some experience. She recalled helping his little sister take off her clothes to pie when she had been younger.

Din peeked at the cave entrance, confirming that Rob was sitting like a statue looking in the other direction. Even if he turned around, he would hardly be able to see anything in here in the dimness of the cave. Din pulled down her trousers, and was immediately greeted by a strong smell of sweat. It smelled fairly bad on the outside, but horribly inside. She wanted a bath, if the opportunity arose.

Sitting down, she looked at herself. Just looking at it sent a lot of strange sensations through her body. A part of her was slightly turned on by this, but most of her mind was freaked out. She looked up, realizing she wasn't making this any easier for herself.

She tried to relax again, close her eyes and breathe slowly. The muscles felt a bit different than she was used to as a man, but close enough that she managed to relax the correct ones. A thin sound of water hitting the hard ground greeted her ears, accompanied by a feeling of relief.

However, she wasn't sure what to do when she was done. She remembered her mother telling her little sister to wipe herself. Din had no clue what she was wiping it with. And it wasn't like she could shake it to remove the remaining drops.

She ended up wiping herself with her left hand. It felt incredibly strange, so she finished it as quickly as possible. Afterwards, she wiped her hand on the ground. She was fairly certain that wasn't the best way to do it, but couldn't figure out any better given the circumstances.

Din returned to the fire. Rob still sat with his back towards her, even if she was sure he heard her approaching again. "You can turn around now," she told him.

He did so, hesitatingly, as if he was half-expecting her to be naked. When she proved not to be, he relaxed a bit more. He watched her while she stiffly lie down on the cloak again.

"Remember how we used to pretend we had essences?" he asked her, trying to lighten the situation a bit. She nodded, smiling. "We didn't play it like this, though," he said, sighing. "No," she shook her head, and then tried to suppress a yawn. Despite only being awake for a short while, she was already sleepy. Perhaps from the exhaustion after her transformation, she wasn't sure.

She closed her eyes. Rob looked at her in silence. "Say... do you have an essence now?" he asked her after a while.

Din opened her eyes again. "I honestly don't know," she replied in a sleepy voice. "If I have, I don't how to use it. If I can somehow feel it, I guess I've got too many other unfamiliar feelings to sort out that single one at the moment."

"Perhaps we should try to find an essence user and have him tell you how to find out," Rob suggested. Din just nodded and closed her eyes again. She felt a bit bad cheating his already tired friend for more sleep, but didn't really feel like she had a choice. Either she slept now, or she'd just fall unconscious very soon anyway.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

NaNoWriMo Chapter 2: Patience

Din watched a woman making a speech. He couldn't catch any words, but from the fire in her eyes, the dagger in her hand and her encouraging voice he understood she was edging people to war. She had the same, slightly darker skin color as the natives of this land, and raven-black hair that fell wild down to her shoulders. Her clothes reminded him of the ritual clothes of the priests, complete with a sign in front that looked like somehow religious.

He slowly became aware of the surroundings too. She was standing on top of a staircase of some kind, seemingly made of stone. The sun shone behind her. Looking around him, Din noticed a lot of people dressed for war. Like her, they looked like the natives of this land, and carried mostly bows and spears. It looked like the speech was working, the people were so fired up they looked ready to kill whatever she pointed at.

The woman walked down to the people and lead the way, with everyone trailing after. Din found himself following as well.

Suddenly they had arrived at a forest. Rather, they were standing at the edge of a forest, looking at the plains. It was evening now. A lot of tents of some kind made up a small village. With a howl, the woman charged the tents, and all the warriors followed, both men and women. The woman didn't run, she somehow just skipped the space between the group and the tents, leaving only a blue streak of light lingering in the air where she had moved. An elderly man fell down to his knees with his arms clutching his throat. The woman stood behind him, with her bloody dagger in hand. Then she was somewhere else, leaving only the blue streak behind.

The warriors reached the tents and started killing as well. Now the group in the tents were making a valiant defense too, but they were sorely unprepared for the assault. After what felt like a very short amount of time, all the locals were dead. Men, women and children. The priestess-like woman stood in the middle of the group, edging them even further.

Once again, time seemed to pass. It was another battle. They were fighting on a mountainside, with some primitive-looking houses in the background. The priestess was once more leading the battle. However, this time they were facing a much more even enemy. The other group seemed to be organizing their defense, and had the advantage of the higher grounds. Still, the woman darted from man to man and stuck her knife at chests, throats, eyes... vital points.

Suddenly, a very visible man appeared. He was practically looming over the others of his tribe, with a frame even bigger than Brick's. He looked like he was burning with a red flame, but the fire wasn't harming him. He charged several warriors of the priestess' group, with a kind of hammer risen into the air. When he struck, he literally sent three men flying, and already before landing they were far beyond any hope of surviving.

The priestess appeared behind him and stuck her knife. However, she seemed unable to puncture the man's skin, despite him being naked from the waist and up. He turned to strike at her, but she was already gone. They clashed together a few times, and she managed to inflict minor wounds on him. However, she couldn't stop his charge as he slaughtered her warriors. Changing plan, she slaughtered the man's warriors instead.

Then there were only the two of them alive, and they fought. After what felt like an eternity it looked like they were running dry of whatever fueled them. Din seemed able to finally follow her movements with his eyes rather than her darting faster than he could follow, and the man no longer half-demolished mountains with each missed strike. His resistance to attacks seemed lowered to more ordinary human level.

Finally, he managed to get in a good hit. She fell to the ground, with her head turned in a very unnatural direction, her neck broken. The man stood over her, blood seeping from dozens of wounds. He staggered and fell, and did not rise again.

The scene changed. Din looked at a group of men and women clad in the same ritual clothes as the priestess had been. They seemed to have reached a decision. One young woman from the group broke away from the others and walked up the stairs to the place the woman had descended from. At the top, on an altar, was a statue that looked identical to the dead priestess. It seemed to glow blue.

The young woman touched it. She started floating up in the air, and a blue smoke-like substance engulfed her. Something was happening to her, but Din couldn't figure out what it was. The glow subsided and she fell to the ground. Two other priest-like people went up to her and helped her rise to her feet. Somehow, she now looked like an identical twin to the priestess Din had seen gotten killed earlier, except a lot more exhausted.

The scenes started flowing faster. Most included fighting. Lots of them included killing. Some included the priestess, or at least one of her twins, getting killed.

Din also spotted the huge man that died earlier again. There were also a few other notable figures, in particular a fairly tall and very thin man who seemed to have a yellow shadow. He threw some yellow, glowing items that pierced through several of the priestess warriors. For a moment, Din saw the conclusion of the fight with the man dead before the priestess, but somehow he showed up later in another scene.

The last scene was of the priestess dying yet again. Somehow he expected to see a new woman being transformed into her twin yet again, but it just stopped there. He somehow got the feeling that someone was very angry about this. Not a searing hot type of rage, but a cool, controlled fury of someone who will wait as long as necessary to get what she or he wants. And for some reason, Din felt it was more likely that it was a "she".

NaNoWriMo: a word about age

I'm not American, and I don't really know the American aging system well. I'd just like to let any sensitive minds reading this know that the story is not very Disney'ish. Probably some 13ish limit, but I'll label it 18-something so hopefully no one can come and bite me afterwards.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Wanted: Webcomic drawer. Alive.

The story I'm publishing is an idea I've thought of for a loooong time. It's really a manuscript for a webcomic. However, I can't draw for the life of mine, so I've just had it lying around for some time.

If you happen to be (or know a) drawer of moderate skill, let me know. I'd love to see my story published.

I'll also have you know that I'm hoping that said drawer also will be a co-writer in the sense that we can discuss the story and shape it together. With that said, it's okay for me with just a writer, I have people I can discuss the story with already too. It's just something different from discussing it generally and discussing it because you're actually getting it published.

I'd also like to link a webcomic I recently found: Ninmu Nanmu. I really enjoy it. I even asked the author to draw for me, but he was far too busy to do that, especially since he already had a webcomic and a story he wanted to tell.

I'm also lacking a title for my story so far. I figure it's not really important to have one yet, though.

NaNoWriMo Chapter 1: Avatar

'I'm not afraid,' Din thought to himself. He knew that he was lying to himself. His swallow breaths, the goose bumps on his skin, the shiver down his spine. 'Okay, so I'm a bit scared,' he resigned.

It wasn't only him. He could see that Rob wasn't feeling much better, despite his attempts to hide it. Din could spot it easily, after knowing Rob for so many years. The other two volunteers behind them was also looking a bit bleak.

Somehow, it made him slightly more comfortable knowing that he wasn't the only scared one. He was starting to doubt that this was such a good idea anyway, but it wasn't an option to back out now. The adventurers had seemed so... confident when they asked for volunteers to join them on their trip to the crypt. It had seemed like such a good offer; you took some minor risk and had a good opportunity to get your own essence. Rob and Din had spoken so much what they'd do if they had essences of their own, and now that an offer came up...

... Except the offer hadn't been minor risk. The offer had been to take a good amount of risk. Would it be worth it? Doubts were starting to fill his mind, but they were already far into the crypts. And going back now and risk triggering any traps they'd missed earlier seemed like an even worse deal: You'd still risk death, just without any chance of getting an essence.

Thankfully, they weren't alone in there. The adventurers seemed to know what they were doing. In particular Mist, the agile one. He had already saved Din's life once, by pulling him back when he was about to step on a trapdoor. Without him, they'd probably be long dead already.

Din kept watching Mist, trying to learn how he was working to traps. It wasn't very hard, as he was following only a few steps behind him, with the other three volunteers trailing right behind him. The other half of the party were the rest of the adventurers. They obviously had no need to take more risk than necessary, and that was probably why they'd survived as long as they had.

The tunnel they were walking in stopped abruptly in a door. Mist held up his hand to let the others know that he wanted some space to work. He slowly moved closer, practically crawling, checking every stone along the way. Behind him, Din could hear the other two volunteers whisper amongst themselves. He had heard their names, but failed to catch them. Their whispers were too soft for him to catch any words.

"What's taking you so long?" one of the adventurers in the back row called out. It was the big one, Brick. Din was fairly certain that he was a red essence user, just judging from his massive frame and his nickname. Mist seemed to be ignoring this as he pushed and prodded the door. "I'm sure you could do it much better," one of the other adventurers replied. Din was pretty it came from the one called Will.

"Yeah, just watch," Brick replied. He waded past the four volunteers up to the door. Mist took the hint and moved away from the door. Far away, too. The four volunteers got the point as well, backed around the corner. Still, they were far too fascinated not to watch Brick working his magic.

The big adventurer tried the handle of the door once, with no success. "Here's how you open a locked door," he exclaimed. The red essence flames began to dance around his body. Din knew they weren't real flames, just a sort of display that came with essence usage. He had seen it several times before, though not as powerful as these. Perhaps the lack of light except their torches made it more visible as well.

Brick readied himself, pulling his arm behind. His fist was already read with his essence. With a fierce roar, he launched a punch at the door... through the door. Despite being made of stone, the door shattered in several pieces, sending small bits of stone flying in several directions.

The four volunteers stood practically frozen for several more moments, completely fascinated by Brick's strength. The big adventurer just pushed the remaining pieces of stone out of the doorframe and walked through it. "Much more effective, right?" he asked to the others, without expecting any answer.

He walked a few steps into the next room before stopping. "Your turn again, Mist," he called, obviously a bit impatient. Mist moved swiftly up to Brick, and stood next to him, just taking in the room. "Come on, now, you guys too," the last adventurer called behind the volunteers. Din hadn't gotten his name yet. They did as they were told, and walked into the room, stopping right behind the two in front.

The room they had entered was a bit different from the rest of the crypt they'd seen so far. For a start, the air wasn't stale here. The sound of running water was a welcome change from the silence they'd encountered so far.

The room was rectangular, with the entrance point on a short wall. On their left hand was an altar of sorts, with a big, circular plate of some kind of metal full of inscriptions on the wall behind it. On each side of the alter a big pillar loomed, all the way up to the ceiling. It looked like it had been very well intricately carved, too. Most of the wall on the right hand was simply missing, leaving an open view to the underground river beneath them. Perhaps because of the water, this was the first room in which they'd seen vegetation. Vines crept up the wall above the opening to the underground river.

They could see the exit on the other side of the room, but for some reason there were a lot of half-decayed skeletons littered on the floor all the way up to it. 'Correction, probably for some bad reason,' Din thought to himself. "Well, this looks like a trap if I've ever seen one," Mist said out loudly.

"If you say so. In that case, time for you to make yourself useful," Will spoke behind them. Din felt his blood freeze into ice. The thought of walking into a trap was not a merry one. "No need for that, I can..." Mist tried to interrupt, but Will waved him off. "It'd take you far too long to move through the entire room. And, after all, they are getting a share of the loot, why shouldn't they work for it too?"

"Yes, move it," Brick chimed in and pushed them forward. A quick glance at Rob revealed that he was feeling as extatic about this as Din was. One of the other volunteers looked at Brick, obviously frightened. Brick, in return, just cracked his knuckles, replying in a silent way that this wasn't open for negotiation. "Stand apart with about an arm's width between each of you and walk towards the other door," Will commanded them, "and be careful where you step," he added, with a chuckle from Brick.

Din looked down at the floor. He had noticed that Mist always seemed to be walking with the weight on his back leg, and always stopping if there were anything unusual about the stones on the floor. He walked slowly forward, trying each stone before putting weight on it. "Will you look at that," Brick said, "seems like you've gotten yourself an apprentice, Mist." Din ignored him, and kept moving forward. Despite moving slow, he seemed to be deciding the pace for all of them, as noone dared move past the others. He carefully stepped over any skeletons on his way. Some of them seemed to have some equipment still lying around, but most of it had decayed over time.

"There's something strange about this room," Mist said, "Why would they leave a wall open to the river?" "Bah, they probably threw their dead into it or something," Brick replied, attempting to end the conversation as soon as possible. "And then there's the skeletons. I'm fairly certain that the door was sealed," Mist went on, overlooking Brick's reply.

Din couldn't help but follow that thought further. What could've killed these guys? They'd obviously been here for quite some time. He tried to shake the thought away for now, focusing on the floor. It was looking good so far. Wait, one of the rocks there looked strange. It was further elevated then at the rest. Just as he was about to shout out a warning, Rob stepped on it. They heard a loud click, and the sounds of some mechanism being triggered under the floor. They all stopped dead in their tracks, listening.

Suddenly, the room was filled with the sounds of bones grinding against each other. The skeletons, despite being obviously dead and even half-decayed, were rising to their feet, and they weren't looking friendly.

"Heads up," Will called out. With a bang, the first of them were crushed into dust by Brick's mighty strike. "Good, I was starting to get bored," he replied, already in the middle of attacking the next one as well. The other three adventurers quickly faced the skeletons, sending them flying left and right.

Unfortunately, it wasn't fast enough to help the four volunteers who were now surrounded. The skeletons moved slow, but there were too many of them to keep in view, and they weren't waiting for their turns. Din felt the adrenaline rush into his veins. All he had to do was survive long enough for the adventurers to take care of them. His sling wasn't of much use here. One of the skeletons lounged at him. He dodged low, and then kicked the skeleton's leg, causing it to fall. Fortunately, they seemed to lack in balance. He saw another strike at him, and brought his arm up to cover his head. However, the skeleton never connected as Rob body tackled him. Unfortunately, he wasn't fast enough on his legs, and felt another skeleton drive his arm, lacking a hand, into his leg.

All between the dodging, Din couldn't shake the thought that there was something else going on. Why was there still ticking under the floor? He turned as he heard a click behind the altar. The big, round plate. He turned to the other wall. The river.

Two thoughts connected, just as he dodged another swipe. "Rob! The veins!" he shouted. He ran towards the open wall, and leapt at the veins over it. Rob had still not gotten to his feet when the big plate suddenly opened wide, revealing tons of water from beneath it. The water poured into the room with massive force, catching everything and pushing it into the river. Din saw Rob being washed away by the river and reached for his friend. He felt a massive tug at his arm as Rob caught his arm. A sharp pain shot through his arms, and only the adrenaline in his veins kept him from loosing his grip with the other arm. Rob managed to get a grip himself right before Din would have had to let go of them both.

He noticed that Mist was holding on to a vein as well. Will seemed to fly for a moment, and landed on the veins, holding on to them. He glanced over at the other side of the room and saw Brick, holding on to the alter with all his strength, a massive red essence flame engulfing him.

The water quickly subsided, leaving only a tiny stream left. All of the skeletons had been washed away, as had the last of the adventurers and the other two volunteers. "Rob, help," Din called out. Rob nodded. Din let go of his grip, and felt himself being pushed by Rob away from the river under him. He landed on his feet and immediately tripped on the slippery surface, crashing with his shoulder first into the ground. A groan of pain escaped his lips. He heard Rob land right behind him, slightly more elegant than himself, despite his wounded leg. As the adrenaline faded, the arm Din had used to catch Rob started to radiate strong pain.

As he rose to his feet, he heard Mist and Will talking. "Ah, that unlucky moron," Will said. "He wouldn'tve liked you calling him that," Mist replied, "... but it doesn't matter much now. I'm also sorry for the youngsters who died that way." "Ah, forget them," Brick broke in, "the strongest survive, that's the way it works."

"Now, let's get moving," Brick said, turning to Din and Rob. Din's arm hung useless, and Rob was unable to get to walk. "Lead the way," Brick commanded Rin.

"No." Din stated sharply. "No?" Brick echoed, surprised at Din's sudden defiance. "I'm not leaving my friend alone here." Din explained.

Brick glared at Din. Red essence flames started engulfing his body. Din could hear a part of him screaming in fear, but tried to shut it out as long as he could. "Brick," Mist broke in, "no need for this. If he doesn't want to come, he can stay here, and he gets no share of any essences we find."

Brick kept glancing at Din for a few more moments before turning away. The red essence flames faded again. "Yes, you can stay here and rot for all I care." He walked over to the exit and pushed the door through the hinges without bothering to check for traps. Mist sighed. "We'll pick you up on our way out," he told Rob and Din before following the barbarian. Will nodded goodbye and walked after the other two.


As soon as the adventurers left, Din and Rob worked together to bandage Rob's leg. Din could only use one of his arms. Fortunately for him, his right. The wound in Rob's leg didn't bleed too much, but seemed to have done quite a lot of harm anyway. Rob was unable to stand on it, he had no strength at all in it.

Din let Rob examine his arm. "It looks like it is pulled out of the socket," he declared. "I don't know how to put it back in, and it'll probably hurt like hell, too." Din commented that it already hurt, although not like hell yet.

Sitting against the altar, they broke out some food and relaxed. There was nothing much else to do, except wait for the adventurers to come back.


Meanwhile, the three remaining adventurers passed a few more traps and reached the inner chamber. It was quite large and tall, considering it was dug out from the stone. At the center, on the top of a lot of stairs, an altar resided with a figure on top of it. It was a small statue of a female figure. Even from the entrance, they could see the glow of a blue essence. It looked like blue smoke, vaporizing from the statue. It was also very strong, considering it was only from an inanimate object.

They knew that if the essence was strong enough, the first one to touch the statue would absorb it. They hadn't really discussed the possibility that such a strong essence would be down here. Now that they were here, it seemed reasonable that they'd discuss who would get the essence, to the greatest effect of the group.

At least, that seemed reasonable to Will and Mist. To Brick it seemed more reasonable that whoever got it first would get it. With an essence-infused leap, he was already a good way up the stairs.

Will immediately understood what was happening, and pursued the big man. He literally flew up, trying to catch up with Brick. Mist was left with only his legs as an option to get up the stairs quickly, and both of them had quite a lead on him.

Brick reached the top first. He heard Will shout "Wait!" from behind him, but completely ignored. Will was just landing beside him as Brick touched the statue. As the other two watched, a blue-red flickering engulfed him, so fiery and wild that it was almost blinding to watch. He seemed to experience some inner struggle for a few moments, then the aura settled down a bit more.

Will was about to open his mouth to speak when he suddenly felt a sharp pain in his neck. Suddenly, his point of view changed, and it took a few moments to realize that he was watching his own decapitated body sinking together from his head falling down the stairs. He also spotted Mist sprinting out the door they entered by. Brick's strike had been so swift and hard that he hadn't even spotted it. That was also one of his last thoughts.


Din and Rob heard sounds of struggle, and tried to figure out what was happening. Din stood up, looking down the hallway the other had left through. He spotted Mist as he rounded the corner. The alarmed look on Mist's face immediately warned Din that something was very wrong. Just a moment later, another figure appeared, with a streak of blue-red fiery smoke following his speedy movements. In mere moments, it struck Mist into the ground so hard that Din could hear the crack of bones clearly from his position. Only then the figure stopped enough that Din could recognize it. It was Brick, but the look in his eyes was one of a true madman. It was the eyes of a man who will not only kill everything in his way, but also kill just for the sake of killing.

As he loomed over Mist's body, Din quickly understood that he'd suffer the same fate in a moment. Rob too. He had to do something quickly, and there was no way he could outrun the abomination. Even if he could, he wasn't going to leave Rob alone if he could help it.

Thinking quickly, he turned the bag of sling stones in his belt upside down, letting them all fall out. "Hey, weakling," he called out, almost unable to believe that he was actually taunting Brick rather than hiding. As Din had predicted, the barbarian easily bit the bait. "Who are you calling weak? I'll show you,"

The red-blue glowing Brick closed the distance between them in just a second. Fortunately for Din, he was too far lost to look down. Unfortunately for Din, he had no time to dodge. As the big figure of the tripping barbarian practically flew through the air, he also knocked down Din. He felt an intense pain in his chest. 'Probably a broken rib,' he thought to himself, 'or several.' he added after feeling an explosion of pain as he attempted to breathe.

However, he had no time to hesitate. Brick was already getting to his feet again. "Take t--that," Din called as he threw an object at Brick. The barbarian just waved the object away before it hit him. However, even if the flask was crushed and pushed away, the oil in it mostly kept travelling in the same direction, splashing over the barbarian. He looked confused for a moment, then turned to face the puny human again, even more enraged than before.

Din had used the opportunity to dart behind one of the pillars. Brick charged it. He wasn't going to play around at all. In particular, he wasn't going to get around the pillar. With a red essence-infused punch, he struck right through it with his fist.

Just as he did so, a spark escaped from Din's dagger. He had been holding it against the pillar in anticipation of the attack, and the impact of the stone being pushed against the metal had generated sparks. For a moment, it seemed time stood still as the barbarian realized what was going to happen. Then he was engulfed in a flame, this time a real, hot flame, as the oil he was soaked in caught fire.

Din, on the other hand, was flung against the wall behind the pillar. The impact from the stone pillar had sent him flying, and he felt himself crashing against the back wall like a rag doll. He fell together in a heap, unable to move from his wounds. His conscious was fading in the sea of agony.

He was violently jerked back to the living as Brick picked him up. The barbarian was badly burnt, and a few traces of the oil was still burning on his skin. He readied his fist to deliver a punch so hard that it would utterly crush Din into pieces. Just as he sent his fist flying, he found himself unable to move. He felt something strange from his lower body. Looking down, he could not make any sense of it. It looked like his body was quickly turning into ice.

Din was dropped as the ice reached the upper body. The now ice statue of Brick fell forward, lacking any possibility to keep the balance. It crashed into the floor in a thousand small pieces, with the legs hitting Din.

Once again, Din felt himself fading into unconsciousness. This time, however, it was with a smile. At least Rob would survive.

However, as he was dying, Din saw a vision. A blue woman appeared in his sights. She looked naked, but somehow it didn't seem very important to Din at the moment. Despite him lying on the side, she was standing upright in his view.

"Do you want to live?" he heard a female voice in his head ask. With his lung punctured, he was not even able to answer her vocally. Still, he thought 'yes' in response.

Somehow, the woman caught it even so. "Then you shall be my Avatar," he heard her say.

Suddenly, his body was somehow picked up into the air. It was as if it had stopped obeying gravity, as it hung in mid-air. He also noticed a blue glow around him. Then the strangest of sensations hit him, it felt as if he was pulled, tugged and pushed in every direction at once. It wasn't painful, it was ... beyond what his senses could express.

However, he couldn't miss the pain subsiding. In fact, it disappeared completely. In its wake, a growing feeling of exhaustion appeared. It felt as if he had been pushed harder than he had ever done, twice.

After what seemed to him like several minutes, the strange feelings from his body subsided, and he felt himself once more falling to the ground. He felt himself falling into deep sleep from the exhaustion. It felt different than the dying he had just witnessed first-hand. He caught sight of Rob as he fell asleep, and his last thoughts were 'why are you looking so strangely at me?'

Monday, November 1, 2010

Ding 80 nr 6 and NaNoWriMo

I dinged 80 with my paladin Tirvin yesterday, and hit 450 Alchemy soon after. I have a lot of stuff I could write about it, but I've decided to make an attempt at NaNoWriMo. I suspect the demands for writing far exceeds what I can do, but I'll still take a shot at it.

My November posts will all be my story, not the usual WoW-related stuff. The story itself is not WoW-related at all.