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|The Champion's Soul|
Skills[edit | edit source]
Lore[edit | edit source]
For centuries, tales of the phoenixes that supposedly lived in volcanic crags in the southern hemisphere spread across the northern seas, prompting magus and adventurer alike to rush headlong into the dangerous tropical jungles and desert wastes, in the hopes of capturing one for study or exploitation. Every expedition was a failure and for many, it simply pointed to the truth they all felt in their hearts: The mythical bird of fire, this so-called phoenix, was nothing but a legend - a lie grown too large in the telling of it to simply fade away and die as most lies will.
Those that served with or fought against the Pirate Queen, Elzir, knew better, of course. Elzir had raised her Phoenix from an egg and it seemed somehow connected to the tall ebony pirate queen. Never did she have to speak to the bird and yet it would know her will, raining fiery destruction down on anyone that would approach to close, or belching fire at anyone that dared displeased its master.
Before Elzir had acquired the Phoenix, she had never seen a pirate ship. As a younger woman, she was the defender of her village and a fearsome warrior, but the village began to expect much from Elzir and she grew restless, often leaving for days at a time, on "patrol," to escape their attentions.
On one such patrol, Elzir had discovered the tracks of a hunting party. They rode Valags, an unusual choice. Their wide scaly forms and wicked barbs were better suited to hot deserts and Elzir could think of no one who would bring such a beast this far south.
As the light of the moon sank into the tall grass, Elzir came across them. They were slavers. It was obvious now that that was what they were. They were a ragged lot, each wearing mismatched pieces of armor. They had arrayed their camp in a circle around a large fire, where they were busily drinking deeply from battered wooden drinking vessels, laughing cruelly as they made cruel jokes aimed at their latest haul.
Their Valags were chained to a large metal cage, easily fifteen feet to a side, that sat on carven wooden skids. The cage was overly full; though Elzir could not see the details from here, obscured as they were by the flickering fire, she counted no less than thirty silhouettes, slaves crammed together for a trip to, if they're lucky, a life of constant labor and servitude.
With steely determination evident in her dark eyes, Elzir stalked quietly through the grass, drawing closer. Though she was several days journey from her village, she knew in her heart that she could not let these slavers go. They had come dangerously close to her home and every moment they lived increased the chances that they would one day return and fill that cage, not with strangers, but with the faces of those she protected. She was keenly aware of the danger these slavers represented, but she was also blind to the truth.
Elzir encountered the slavers far from home; she had assumed this meant the danger she was stalking had not yet been as far as her village, but in truth she had caught them on the way back. She could not see it in the long shadows of the bonfire, but the slaver's cage was already filled with those few survivors of her village that had been spared as "product" when the slavers came.
She knew none of this as she stood low in the tall grass, her spear raised to throw. Instead she screamed a mighty roar of battle and let the spear fly, drawing the wickedly hooked Kralish dagger from her belt in the same practiced motion.
The battle was savage. The slavers leapt to the ready in amazing time. Elzir was a blur among them, dashing in to slash a tendon and hook an ankle, sweeping the now maimed slaver to the ground in a burst of embers as the fool rolled into the fire in his agony. She spun around, intent on bringing the Kralish knife into another foe, at the exposed joint of helm and breastplate in his armor and was rewarded with a rattling wheeze as the knife sunk home, severing muscle and artery to sink deep in the slaver's lung. He died in a froth of red, the bubbly blood of his lungs staining his armor and his mouth as he coughed his last breath.
On and on it went, each slaver inexorably meeting their fate, until Elzir stood face to face with the leader of these savages. With a start, Elzir realized she was a woman of the south, as dark as Elzir and with the same hooded eyes, but the slaver's eyes were starkly violet against the dancing firelight. Elzir wondered if the woman hadn't once been a slave herself. In the slaver's hands she held two curved, flared blades that Elzir had never seen before. Like her own Kralish dagger, the blades were swept back in a shallow curve to better deflect incoming attacks. Elzir knew the woman would have skill, to fight with such weapons.
In blades, the woman was every bit Elzir's equal, if not better. She used those wicked blades to build a wall of whirling steel that Elzir could do nothing to penetrate. Soon, a rhythm to the "fight" developed where Elzir would explode into attack after attack, only to grow weary and step back, instantly on the defensive as the slaver took up an attack of her own.
It seemed to take hours, and despair gripped Elzir as she began to realize that she was beaten. Her legs grew heavier and heavier, each pulse of battle harder to extricate herself from than the last, until finally, Elzir was battered to the ground, the flared tip of her enemy's blade leveled at her throat.
"You must be the one they were praying for." The slaver said, mockingly, as she thrust the point of her second blade towards the cage. In the pre-dawn light, Elzir could see the people in the cage for the first time and a wail of despair escaped her throat. They were women and children - the women and children of her village. In a flash, Elzir realized what had happened and saw how, in her selfish desire to be out from under their constant attention, she had left her village open to this attack.
She was put in the cage with the others and they were taken west for several days, the slave master leading the Valags alone. She never spoke, leaving the slaves to their misery. Finally, they came to a pirate port and taken to the docks, where the slave ships waited.
Among them was the Phoenix, not your usual slaver's galley. It was slung low to the water line, with a forward jutting mast adding sail to the more usual rigging of its main mast and a golden figurehead of a phoenix in flight on its prow. They were taken to this ship and escorted into its hull where each was chained to a bunk set into the hull.
No one spoke to them, other than to grunt and gesture for them to sit, or to warn them when they strayed too far away and the slack in their chains began to disappear. Elzir remained at her bed, but she kept a watchful eye about her, noting the relationships of the crew.
Her despair had boiled away as the ship got under way, to be replaced with a cold knot of rage that twisted at her, leaving nothing behind but a calculating malice for her captors and the fate to which she now found herself, literally, chained. She sat motionless on her bunk, but inwardly she smiled. She had already seen flaws in the comings and goings of the crew. They were too assured of their safety, too content to consider that the very chain they believed would keep them safe was nothing but a weapon in her hands. She sat on her bunk and she waited for her moment.
They spent several weeks at sea before it came, but the moment did come. The soft sounds of ocean waves were punctuated by a series of distant cracks, like a string of the firecrackers she had seen in Tal'il at last year's spring festival. At first she questioned what she had heard, not really understanding what it meant, but on the deck above, the sailors scurried and shouted. Suddenly the ship shook as the rain of incoming fire smashed against the hull and tossing several of the villagers off of their bunks and to the deck below. The ship was under attack!
Elzir was grateful to the ship's attackers, even as the deck lurched with wave after wave of merciless fire from the pursuing ship. One more fusillade of fire raked across the decks above, a lucky shot striking a cannon out of its blocks, so that it crashed through the deck above, tearing Elzir's chain from the wall as it crashed through the floor and splashed into the bilge below.
Grasping a two foot length of her chains in her hands, she yelled out to the staircase above, ""Water! There's water here! We're taking on water!"" and waited to see who would respond. She had eyed the crew and each kept one of the keys to the ships manacles hanging from their corded belts.
Immediately a lone crewman ran down the stairs to investigate the damage. He hadn't come a foot from the bottom stair before Elzir smashed the back of his head with the chain, knocking him out cold. She worked fast as he fell, removing the chain from his waist, undoing her manacles and throwing the keys to her fellows before taking the sailor's long knife in hand and heading to the deck above.
As she came up the stairs she was momentarily blinded by the hot, harsh tropical sun. When her eyes finally adjusted and she could see again, she saw that the deck was chaos. Most of the crew was dead and the enemy ship was bearing down, obviously intent on boarding. This ship was lost, a prize for whoever it was that captained that ship coming along side.
There on the command deck stood the slave master. She wore a long coat over her armor and a large impossibly beautiful jungle bird sat on her shoulder. It was at least two feet tall and a brilliant orange and red plumage extended that length another two feet. Its wings, though folded neatly away, must have spanned four to six feet when stretched for flight. Its feathers were iridescent, seeming to shift from red through orange to yellow and back again and creating the illusion of fire.
The deck lurched and as the bird flapped to keep its place, Elzir realized it wasn't an illusion; the air shimmered around the creature and even its amber eyes seemed to burn with a fire from within. It was a real phoenix, Elzir was sure of it. She tightened her grip on the sailor's knife and crept forward, still unnoticed in the chaos. She wondered what that beast would do when she reached the captain and slipped the blade between the folds of that coat, to puncture a kidney or separate the bones of the spine.
The boat lurched again and again as the small deck guns of the enemy ship fired cannonballs down on the deck to prevent the crew from interfering as the attackers threw lines and lashed the two ships together. The hull of the other ship was much taller than the Phoenix - a true warship flying the colors of the Island Empire.
The slave master raced to the rail, completely unaware that Elzir was creeping up the stairs to the command deck on the opposite side of the ship. She had bigger problems and Elzir thought the slaver preoccupied in dealing with the attempts to board her vessel, but again Elzir had underestimated her opponent. She lunged forward, the knife low in a stab to the taller woman's back, but the slave master spun around with preternatural speed, one of her twin blades already drawn. She deflected Elzir's stab with a blur of steel, sending the vibrations of the clank right through Elzir's wrist and making her drop the blade in pain.
The bird on the slaver's shoulder roared and sprayed a column of flame across the deck; Elzir could feel the heat of it as she rolled out of the way, coming back to her feet just to the side of the ship's wheel, putting its scant protection between her and that bird of fire. Behind the slaver, the attacking ship's lash work was done and it sidled into the side of the Phoenix with a crash, staggering the slave master and sending the phoenix to the skies.
Elzir knew this was her chance. She shot forward in two loping steps, springing into the air to bring the slave master to the ground, her captor's neck pinned to the deck in a crushing hold. Elzir watched as the slaver struggled for breath, thrashing wildly beneath her in useless panic. Elzir had her fast, it was simply a matter of time, and she watched the slaver's eyes intently. Above them, the phoenix cried mournfully.
Finally the slave master met Elzir's gaze and a shock of recognition passed through slaver's face. She saw herself there, her life strangling away, and she knew she had been wrong; Elzir was nothing like her. She was far more frightening, far more terrible in her resolute and righteous vengeance than the slave turned slave master had ever been in the worst throws of her corruption.
The slaver began to blue slowly and Elzir knew it would soon be over. She looked down at the slaver with no remorse and even less pity.
"Take in what light you can, master of slaves." The pulled her grip tighter.
"Al'falin nar'lakim kral" she said as the slaver died. It was a saying in the language of her people. It meant the stars will not shine for the fallen.
Above them, the phoenix screamed and for a brief moment a star was born just over Elzir's head as the bird exploded in fire. Amazingly, as the flame washed across Elzir's back, it did not burn. She felt, of all things, gratitude. It was as if, in ending the slaver's corrupt life, she had somehow freed something in the phoenix as well. Years later, she would learn that the phoenix had been bound to the slaver with dark magic, its own will subjugated to the callous slave master's whim rather than sharing their lives as familiars.
As the fire died, she moved to stand and saw the egg for the first time. It was a perfect shell, but it seemed to shimmer in shades of yellow, orange and red just beneath its surface. It's resemblance to the phoenix was unmistakable and she knew it was the creature's egg. She could feel the same sense of gratitude radiating from the shell and with a careful hand she cradled the egg, wondering how she would care for it until it hatched. It never occurred to Elzir to abandon the phoenix egg; she felt tied to it, now.
Shouts of alarm sounded from all around her and Elzir looked to the deck of the Phoenix. The fight was over; none of the slaver's crew remained, only the bloody and sweaty forms of sailors of the navy of the Island Empire. They rushed to surround her, their blades at the ready and she turned slowly, her hands forward in a sign of supplication. She knew the Island Empire didn't take slaves. They were free, if she could explain the fate that had befallen them.
The ring of sailors parted and a tall, amazingly young captain of the navy stepped forward. He looked at the body of the slaver on the deck and nodded in approval before offering his hand to the tall warrior woman.
"Captain Gyse" he said, ""How can the Empire be of assistance?""
They had all seen the fight; they had not raised their swords to attack - the tall ebony defender terrified them. It was an aspect of her character that would serve her well years later when she became the captain's executive officer, commanding the Gliding Eagle. It seemed a better name to her; besides she never knew if they meant her familiar or the ship, when they talked about the phoenix.
The crew knew better; they knew she wanted the ship expunged of any memories of its past life. The Eagle wasn't a slave ship now, it hunted them, and the only Phoenix here burned their slaver captains in a roar of fiery judgment.
Tips[edit | edit source]
Stay in the Mode - Phoenix Fire can't be used while Sky Fire is active and knowing that one of your abilities may not be available could mean the difference between knowing when to flee and when to stay and fight.
Sky Fire is your Help from on High - Sky Fire is a powerful defensive ability since the phoenix will react even if you cannot. This means that it's usually worth your time to invest the expenditure of mana to keep it active as often as possible.
Phoenix Fire Melts Faces - That said, it's also well worth putting your points and mana into Phoenix Fire and saving it for the coup de grace in a duel of dragon lords. The power of the phoenix's fire can't be overstated.
Bladebiter • Chillblade • Chronosphere • Cruel Barb • Death's Reach • Eir's Glory • Elder's Branch • Fracture Barrel • Gorefist • Hallowed Lantern • Hammer of Sul • Hyperion's Light • Phoenix Familiar • Rainmaker • Rising Soul • Rodar's Scepter • Skyburst • Slingsharp • Sparrowthorn • Sphere of Wudeng • Stormcaller • The Aegis • The Harvester • The Scintallion • Titan's Call • Truth's Charge • Ulfberht • Unity Mark • Vengeance • Veritas Scriptura • Voidstar • Waybinder