Into the Darkest Depths we Go

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Michelle Montoya
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Into the Darkest Depths we Go

Post by Michelle Montoya » Thu May 23, 2019 5:29 pm

"Great attention gets paid to rainforests because of the diversity of life there. Diversity in the oceans is even greater." — Sylvia Earle, Oceanographer

May 20th, 2019
Tower of Water

“I ‘ope she be more friendly than that last Keeper.”

“Xanth was well enough, he wanted to be left alone and he left us alone.”

“If she be a landlubber dat canna swim Imma gonna be choked.”

“Shlllleep sssshllooop shlep shloap shleep shlipp shelp shell.”

“She won by challenge. That means she has some magical aptitude.”

The assorted denizens were in the bottommost chamber of the Tower. It had already begun to shift and change as soon as the key was handed over, although the changes were intermittent and sometimes slow - indicating she must sometimes be in a realm even further than Rhy’din. Those changes would accelerate the moment she came back to the Isle. Everyone was completely submerged in this room and the tower walls flowed up from the bottom of the sea-floor towards the more solid structure above the surface. It had a perfect underwater view of the surrounding bay and all the vibrant life. On rare occasions, you could even see Beroan swimming around lazily.

Floating around a game-board with conch’s and shells as pieces were Andrina - a pink-haired mermaid, Kohlos - a triton with a bit of a paunch belly, Sargasso - the old pirate captain who taught Keeper Bailey how to swim and Shlop a giant cuttlefish.

“So who are ye going to be sending this time Kohlos?”

“As a guide? I haven’t decided yet. Usually, I can sense through the key who will be the best fit, but she seems to spend so much time in this other … plane that I can’t get a good reading.”

“Arr. It’s-a bin three days! When d’ya think she’s comin’?”

The cuttlefish moved one of the empty shell pieces on the board and Andrina squealed “Ah! I’ve got ye now!”

“Shlup shlop.”

“I suspect we will see her soo- ah, speak of that, she must be in Rhy’din now.”

The other three, along with many other denizens, turned to face Kohloss - faces, gills, tentacles, slits for eyes filled with anticipation. The triton took his sharp spear and looked out into the swirling, bubbling mass. “Coci. You and I will go together and great this new Keeper.” From the mass of fins and suckers swam a red octopus with blue suction cups. Both eyes blinked once in acknowledgment before the two started swimming towards the circular wall.


“Shlop is right! What aboot our game Kohlos!?”

“She is coming Sargasso, besides, Andrina is clever enough to beat you both without me.”

With a playful wink the triton followed the coconut octopus into the wall and began swimming upward with the current towards the Tower proper.
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Michelle Montoya
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Sand to Sandstone

Post by Michelle Montoya » Tue May 28, 2019 9:12 am

"Every time we walk along a beach some ancient urge disturbs us so that we find ourselves shedding shoes and garments or scavenging among seaweed and whitened timbers like the homesick refugees of a long war." — Loren Eiseley, Writer

May 20th, 2019
Tower of Water

A gentle breeze lifted Michelle’s loose brown hair as she stepped onto Twilight Isle. The permanent sunset was always stunning, but it didn’t compare with the true twilight view from her windows in the manor. Streaks of red, orange and pink provided a colourful backdrop to the Tower of Water which rose sixty or more feet towards the sky out of the lagoon. Michelle didn’t remember what the Tower had looked like under Xanth’s stewardship but she immediately noticed the changes. It looked more… mountainous. A small smile appeared on her pale pink lips. The Tower knew her and knew what she loved. Feeling the need to remove her shoes she undid the straps of her boots and walked barefoot along the pristine beach, noticing the distinct lack of a wrack line, natural debris or other important features which provide a natural habitat for seaside creatures. Twilight Isle was truly a fabricated realm, and yet the Tower knew she preferred something a little more rustic.

The closer she got to the Tower the rockier the beach became. In fact, it gradually shifted from the pristine beach to a coastal sand dune and then to a rocky shoreline with tide-pools providing habitats for a diverse ecosystem. Intuitively she knew the tide was rising and that it would be a key feature of her stewardship. Ridges of shale and quartz rose out of the rocky beach and into the lagoon forming an imperfect, broken semi-circle around the Tower.

The Tower itself seemed to grow from the same rocky foundation covered in barnacles, seaweed, and a gallery of caves. The sedimentary rock gave way to white sandstone walls, simple but elegant architecture, and waterfalls that cascaded from the various arched windows.

Historically the Tower had been accessible by a pier which stretched out from the beach towards the arching double doors. As Michelle approached she noted there was no such pier anymore. Walking on the rough sandstone out towards the water she intuitively knew where a silt sandbar - visible and available only at low-tide - would be waiting for her. Despite the rising tide Michelle walked out and the water parted around her feet, allowing her access to the double doors curtained by a large waterfall. Instead of parting the curtain, she walked through, allowing herself to be drenched in its salty embrace.

The doors, originally made of coral, now reflected the diverse new ecosystem. Various forms of plants and kelp clung to the walls and doors at the rocky base of the tower, flourishing in the wet environment created by the roaring waterfall. Michelle retrieved the key from the pocket of her wetsuit and, with slight surprise, noted that it was no longer coral but rather sandstone with the same aquamarine stone in the centre. Her brown eyes scanned for a keyhole of some sort but found none. Feeling a little foolish she placed her hand on one of the doors - discernible only by a perfectly straight crack that rose roughly nine feet up from the basalt ground. The sudden sound of rushing water, more powerful than the waterfall behind her, made her duck briefly before she realized it was just an effect of the massive doors swinging outwards.

Standing before her in the open vestibule was a large octopus and a man with webbed feet.

((OOC: The changes to the Tower of Water are based off a beautiful and diverse ecosystem on the coast of Vancouver Island, specifically Botanical Beach. You can find more information here and here and here.))
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Michelle Montoya
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Eyes to See

Post by Michelle Montoya » Sun Jun 02, 2019 9:52 pm

May 29th, 2019
Tower of Water

Twilight Isle rarely, if ever, had a measure of time - but now the tides in the bay showed that time was not stagnant, even here. It was Wednesday afternoon and the water had been receding for a couple of hours, revealing a shoal of silt and sand between the tidal pools of the beach and the Tower of Water. Michelle, now almost perpetually wearing a wetsuit, sat on a large rock with her feet buried in the sand. She examined the key for a moment before tucking it back into the snug outer pocket. On the beach was a brand new sign made of sturdy driftwood indicating the times for low and high tide over the next month.

Thud, thud, thud. Stony steps that echoed across the dunes signaled Mallory’s approach, and soon after she came into view, sitting on the shoulder of a stone golem the size of a small house. In spite of Michelle’s message, it did not appear that she had brought her bag, her books, or any other items with her besides the clothes she wore -- denim shorts, a tank top, a swimsuit underneath, and flip flops she would not mind getting wet. She waved at Michelle, then climbed down the golem’s arm as he extended it to the beach.

“Hope I haven’t kept you waiting long,” she called out as she began making her way across the shoal towards the Keeper of Water and her Tower. “Things have been pretty hectic lately.”

Michelle waited until Mallory was close enough to preserve her voice from yelling. “I’ve only been sitting for a few minutes. I’ve spent the better part of the day meeting the various residents of the Tower and surrounding area. I hope I haven’t torn you away from anything too important?”

The witch shook her head. “I’ve been busy, but it’s okay. I’ve made time for this. Besides -- we made a deal.” She lifted her chin at her, then her expression broke into a grin as she continued sloshing along until she reached the Keeper’s perch.

The stone golem, meanwhile, busied itself chasing fiddler crabs up and down the beach.

A water elemental burbled up near Mallory and sprayed her lightly before diving back down. Michelle through her hands up in the air a bit. “I’m sorry. They are… mischevious. And I don’t have the heart to force them to act against their nature.”

Mallory stood there, sputtering a bit as wet hair hung over her horns and dripped into the water. It took her a moment to recover before she replied, with a good-natured grin, “I came prepared.” She tugged on an exposed part of her swimsuit. “I brought the books, but they’re... elsewhere. I’ll be able to call on them once we get settled.”

“That’s very practical of you. This place isn’t exactly… tame anymore.” As if to emphasize the point a surge of water swelled up and crashed against the Tower’s base. “I think it’s getting used to this whole tides and waves concept. I’ve always remembered the lagoon as being peaceful and calm.” Michelle shrugged, “I wonder what that says about me.” Once Mallory had closed the distance the Keeper of Water led the way through the drenching curtain waterfall to the large double doors at the base of the tower. With the key in her palm she pressed her hand to the doors which opened with the loud roaring of rushing water. Beyond the doors the floor of the vestibule was a soft silty sand and the inner walls resembled translucent sandstone rock. Upon closer inspection the walls held flowing water with sections alternating between upward and downward streams.

Mallory looked over at the new Keeper and told her directly, “It says that you’re a very interesting person, Michelle.” She looked around the watery chamber, let out a low whistle... and began pacing around the sandy floor. Eventually she found the largest patch of dry sand, and asked her, “Can we work here?”

“Well, I was actually thinking we could have a more permanent place. This is the entryway of sorts and the Tower, apparently, has a variety of studies and libraries. Or so Kohloss and Sargasso have told me. Unfortunately it has sealed a number of its doors, so I only have access to one.”

She opened her mouth to say something else, but quickly changed her words, “it’s quite large and very dry.” Michelle led the way through doors, up various sets of stairs and navigated the multitude of hallways - only stopping once or twice to ponder her directions - before settling on a large circular room at the top of the smallest tower. If not for her current fitness routine she would have been winded.

“Kohloss says the circular platforms we passed are like elevators, he calls them lifts, but I’ve been too nervous to try them yet. They are powered by water or steam, I can’t remember.”

“Well, I’m definitely trying one of them before our lessons are done,” Mallory said. She drew her left ring finger through the air in a half-circle, a sharp line, then another; her fingernail grew into a thin black claw that she used to pierce her palm. She tipped her hand one way as she murmured in Koine, fingertips twitching, and a spilling blood drop formed into a faceless crimson specter. Michelle observed quietly, standing near an open window where she could feel the gentle breeze and silently hoped she wouldn’t have to use her own blood.

Mallory tipped her hand the other way, and the next drop of blood summoned a stack of a dozen different spellbooks, all of them dropping into the specter’s waiting arms. She smiled at Michelle, her eyes eerily bright, seemingly unbothered by the wound, and asked her: “What would you like to learn?”

“I want to learn healing magic, but I also want to learn how to make and maintain portals. One of my first priorities is to create a semi-permanent portal from the Tower to my manor in Atrebla - one I can dismiss when I am no longer the Keeper. I also want to know how to maintain and evaluate the health of the portals throughout the valley.”

“Healing magic...” Mallory flexed her hand as she looked at Michelle thoughtfully. “Everything I can do to restore a body -- my own, or someone else’s -- comes with a price in blood. Is that something you’re willing to learn? There are other, and better, practitioners of healing magic.”

To her credit Michelle avoided looking overly squeamish. “I would prefer to avoid that particular technique. If you have recommendations for other practitioners of healing arts I will look into those.”

“Mist comes to mind. I don’t know how well you know him, but I can tell him that I vouch for you.” By this time, the wound in the witch’s hand had vanished, and as she relaxed her fingers, the blood dissipated into a little puff of steam. “Portal magic... that I can do. I’d call it a specialty. Have you ever seen magic before? The threads that form it -- the tears in reality that reshape the world around them?”

Michelle leaned against the tower walls and shook her head. “No. I have very rudimentary skills. I’m a bit of an impostor Keeper.” Her mouth curled in a wry grin. “Don’t let anyone know.”

Mallory chuckled at that, but shook her head. “You won it, fair and square. You clearly have the instincts to use what magic can provide -- you just have to work your way through the fundamentals. And I can guide you through them.” She paused to consider what this would involve, before deciding, “In the space of... thirty, perhaps forty hours, I can teach you two introductory spells that will help you understand the shape of magic, demonstrate teleportation magic, help you build a lasting portal, and teach you two advanced spells that will put you on the road to building portals of your own one day... without any assistance, even from these,” she added, tapping a fingertip against the Key of Earth.

“That sounds fantastic. I know your time is valuable, I promise I’m a good study and work hard. But if there’s anything more you need from me or to support your efforts with the school just let me know.”

“First things first. Show me what you use to cast,” Mallory said. She bit down on the edge of one finger and passed it slowly across her eyes, and her gaze turned blood-red with Sight.

Michelle walked over to the lone cupboard in the room and opened it revealing a rudimentary collection of books, focuses, and spell components. She selected a small crystal ball that fit easily into the palm of her hand or the pocket of a cloak and offered it to Mallory.

“I found this in my father’s old study, it’s what I’ve been using so far in the duels. There is a book with a series of sigils. When I hold the focus I can draw the sigils in the air, they appear blue, and from the sigil emanates the spell. Sometimes I can cast the spells without the sigil, but it takes more energy to do it that way. Outside of the dueling spells I can do basic things such as summon brief gusts of wind, conjure flames and put them out, or foretell the weather. I have found that with plants I can use my magic to encourage growth where it is needed and determine if something is poisonous or diseased. Perhaps the most advanced arts I know are creating a space of silence where no sound travels and removing diseases from plants, trees and flowers.”

Mallory examined the crystal ball while Michelle spoke, then offered it back to her. “Show me the weather,” she said, blood-colored eyes blinking slowly at her.

With the crystal ball in her left-hand Michelle uttered a single word “tempestatum” while marking out a blue sigil with her right hand. The ball glowed slightly and inside it showed a twilight sky with a few minor, fluffy clouds. “It’s always like that here.”

The witch tilted her horned head, and her eyes narrowed slowly. “...You’ve always had a special connection to the valley, haven’t you.” She opened her left hand and pulled at something initially unseen, until a curved and knobby blackthorn wand emerged, untouched by the blood it had seemingly passed through. “You might find this more to your liking... but keep your senses and your soul open when you’re in Atrebla. Something even better suited to your magic might call to you.” She held out the wand for her to take.

“Go on. Show me wind and fire.”

Michelle took the wand, handling it with the care. The wood felt smooth and familiar, not as cold as the crystal but warm and inviting. “Caeli.” She used the wand to summon a dancing breeze which lifted her brown locks before flowing over to Mallory then out the window. For her final demonstration she pulled out a candle from the cupboard, and with another simple word - ignium - a flame danced on the wick.

“How does that feel?” Mallory asked Michelle as she gave her another slow blink, assessing her closely.

“More natural. The wand feels more like an extension of… myself. Every other focus has always felt awkward, I thought that was just because I was so new at this.” Michelle picked up the crystal orb and held it in her other hand, comparing the two focuses. “Yes,” she set the orb back down in the cupboard, “the wand is much better.”

The witch nodded, considering for another moment... before deciding to move on from that particular subject for now. “Use the tip of the wand to draw a circle in the sand -- then an equilateral triangle -- then another, inverted.”

Michelle took the wand and followed Mallory’s instructions precisely, while the witch moved to opposite sides of the circle, drawing a symbol in each -- a heart, and a tree. Mallory knelt before the heart, and gestured for Michelle to do the same by tree, smiling as the Keeper settled in for her lessons.

“Let’s begin.”

* * * * *

Hours later, when Michelle could finally See the shape of magic through her own eyes, Mallory traced a symbol in the sand, hissed a word -- and the lines that connected them twisted and inverted. In a flash, the two Keepers traded places, each kneeling now where the other had been a moment before.

“Now you’ve seen, truly Seen how a portal can work. Next time, bring a sturdy branch from Atrebla. I’ll teach you how to draw a warding circle -- then I’ll build you a lasting doorway to your home.”

((Co-written with Mallory))
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Inner Vessel

Post by Michelle Montoya » Tue Jun 25, 2019 11:58 am

the ocean
can calm itself,
so can you.
are both
salt water
mixed with

― Nayyirah Waheed

June 25th, 2019
The Tower of Water

It was like sitting at the base of a large aquarium. Ocean life swam around the circular room, visible through the transparent walls. At least, she called them walls. It was really crystal clear water that gently flowed up and down the tower, a form of transportation for denizens such as Coci, Kohloss and Saragasso. Since spending more and more time in the tower over the past month she had started to notice changes. Not only had two more chambers revealed themselves to her but changes in her own person. The brown hair she enjoyed styling was now constantly damp and was often left hanging limp or pulled back in a pony-tail. She found herself drawn to the waterfalls of Atrebla, or to the lake in the valley and most often to this place below the water-line of the Tower. If she closed her eyes and focused on the feeling of the sand beneath her feet and the key in her fingers she could hear the life of the ocean. The call of a whale, the sound of a school of fish passing by, or the soft movement of a squid. Sometimes she could sit there for over an hour, just listening.

You’re an imposter.

Michelle squeezed her eyes tight and shook her head slightly. “I’m not.”

You are. How did you even make it here? Your magic is so simple and unrefined. Even the tower begrudges you access.

“That’s not true,” she whispered softly.

Your magic is weak and pitiful. Weak magic comes from weak will.

“I’m just learning. That’s okay, isn’t it?”

Still? After all these years? You’ll never be good enough.

Her eyes started to water and her heart beat slightly faster. “I’ve come through so much, I can do this.”

You’ve barely come through anything. It was Derrick who made the difference all those years. And now he’s gone.

“No, he’s at home.”

But not the same.

“That’s okay,” she sniffed, tears running down her cheeks. “He promised that things will work out.”

Him, comforting you, again? You’ve tried to be strong, but you aren’t. You’ve tried to learn to heal him, but you can’t. Accept your weakness.

Her next breath came in three, rapid short bursts as she used the hem of her cloak to dab at her face. “If I just, if I can just get to the Celestial Tower, maybe..”

It’s not the answer. Never has been. You know that. Even if you could win - which you won’t - it would never solve your problems.

Michelle sobbed and buried her head in her arms, tears and snot dripping onto the sandy floor between her knees.

It would be better if you just gave up now. You’ll never get stronger and you’ll never get better.

She trembled, feeling the ache that ran from her heart to her stomach. “You’re just tired. You’re just saying these things because you’re tired and need to sleep,” her voice softened “it’s all lies.”

Kohloss walked through one of the walls, and paused, listening to his Mistress' last words. “Keeper, who are you speaking with?”

Raising her head slightly, a sad, forlorn smile on her face Michelle simply said, “no one important.”
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Michelle Montoya
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Driven by the Sea

Post by Michelle Montoya » Thu Jun 27, 2019 3:01 am

"Wiping out is an under appreciated skill." - Laird Hamilton

The old triton sat down beside his Keeper, looking at the swirling waters and feeling the rhythms of tides and oceans across the planes. The sound of crashing waves on distant beaches filled the room as the Keeper fiddled with a bracelet in her hands, occasionally wiping away salt-water tears. The calluses on his hand brushed against her soft human flesh as he gently, with an unspoken request, implored a look at the trinket. She wordlessly handed him the golden accessory, allowing Kohlos to examine the aquamarine stone placed inside.

“Fitting.” His voice sounded like salt water washing onto a sandy beach. Had it always been like that? Gently she took it back and rubbed the stone, “how so?” The cool aquamarine reminded her of floating in the water and she often held the gift from Beltane in her hands.

“It’s the treasure of mermaids and lucky charm of sailors. But more importantly, it has the power to calm, soothe, cleanse, inspire truth…,” Kohlos paused a beat, “and fosters both trust and the ability to let go.”

A self-pitying pout formed on her face, “it doesn’t work for me.” Michelle stared at the stone, wondering if the Beltane Spirits had abandoned her, if the gift had worn off, or if she was just unworthy of those blessings in the first place. The spiral she had started down picked up in intensity like a swirling vortex funneling her to the bottom of the darkest parts of the ocean.

Kohlos fixed his green eyes on her, watching her sink deeper into her isolated pain and threw a proverbial life-line. “It’s just a stone, Keeper. Magic doesn’t really come from a rock, book, wand, or key.”

“Tell that to all the mages I know.” Yes, she was whining. Someone in her thirties could still whine couldn’t they? A part of her knew she was being petulant, like her own children when life seemed unfair - but the adult problems she faced really did seem unfair. And yet she knew others fared far worse than an ill spouse or feelings of incompetence.

Her newest friend, now a confidante, looked back out into the ocean surrounding them. “Water doesn’t come from a river, ocean, lake or underground aquifer. It’s all around you. In the air, the sky, in the plants that grow along the beach, and in the tears you cry. It moves through all things in a perfect, harmonious cycle. You can find it anywhere you look. And there are a multitude of ways to extract and use that water for either it’s life giving or powerfully destructive force.”

Michelle’s fingers traced in the sand while she listened to his salt-water voice, nodding slowly in agreement. “The water within me is in chaos Kohlos. Sometimes the ocean within me breaks through the barriers I’ve made and overflows in ways I can’t predict or control.”

A blue, callused hand reached over to take hers, holding it and the aquamarine stone with a small squeeze. “My Keeper, you were never meant to hold back an ocean, but to ride the waves.”

Michelle squeezed back a bit, chuckling, “I’m a terrible surfer.”

The triton tilted his head from side to side a bit, lips turned down slightly in faux consideration, “well, if Sargasso can teach Bailey to swim I’m sure we can at least give you the basics.”
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The Ocean

Post by Michelle Montoya » Thu Jun 27, 2019 11:30 pm

The Ocean has its silent caves,
Deep, quiet, and alone;
Though there be fury on the waves,
Beneath them there is none.

The awful spirits of the deep
Hold their communion there;
And there are those for whom we weep,
The young, the bright, the fair.

Calmly the wearied seamen rest
Beneath their own blue sea.
The ocean solitudes are blest,
For there is purity.

The earth has guilt, the earth has care,
Unquiet are its graves;
But peaceful sleep is ever there,
Beneath the dark blue waves.

- Nathaniel Hawthorne

June 27th
The Tower of Water

An archway of water appeared in the lower viewing aquarium, the swish of fabric heard by no one as Michelle stepped through the portal in the long, elegant black dress from her challenge. The blue makeup on her face was smudged from the two brief matches with the Archmage. Coci waved at her languidly with one of it’s tentacles as it flowed through the water walls. She raised a hand in weak response, holding the wand loosely in her other hand as she stared out into blue water. She wasn’t surprised by tonight's results, nor was she surprised by the torrent of self-deprecating and anxiety driven thoughts crashing around her brain like angry waves on a defenseless beach. Her bare feet smudged across the sand as she stepped closer to the boundary between tower and ocean, looking for a glimpse of Beroan.

The air around her ears moved with the lightest wind and she turned to see red messenger moths. Mallory’s voice carried in that tiniest of breezes,"Michelle, it's Mallory. Are you okay?"

Okay. What a … useless word. No, that was unkind. Her friend was asking. Michelle struggled to find the words which were both honest but dignified. “No. I'll pull it together for the Tower of Air."

There was a pause as the moths floated in the air near her face. “If you need anything, anything at all -- ask."

“The best way to stop being sad, is to find someone else who is worse off than you and help them.”

Michelle smiled weakly at the memory of her mother’s oft repeated advice. "Help Bailey. He needs it more than I do."

The moths disappeared up the circular shaft of the hydraulic lift Michelle had recently learned to use. With a wrestle in her heart she turned to look back out into the ocean. It didn’t take long for Kohlos to find her, he was dripping wet from the water of the lagoon and floated through the walls to stand nearby.

Without accusation or condescension he softly spoke the truth the two of them knew, “you gave up.”

She nodded slowly, her eyes finally finding Beroan’s scales in the water. “Not the first match, but yes, maybe the second. It was... amazing, and terrifying, to fight on Olympus.”

“Why did you give up?”

His words beat on her heart and mind like the pounding of a torrential storm. Or maybe that was just her own set of insecurities.

“Because I can’t surf the waves Kohlos. I get anxious, and sick to my stomach and it took all I could not to forfeit after that first match.” She turned to face this aged, supportive, kind yet firm Triton. “I can deal with troubled children, affairs of state, managing a business and even being brutally attacked after a respectful, honourable challenge. But being in a challenge? Everyday I wake up surprised that I even won this Tower from Xanth.”

The old, blue-skinned Triton looked down at the Keeper for a moment, weighing his thoughts carefully. “Don’t doubt yourself. It doesn’t become you. Undermining your accomplishments is a useless practice. And self-pity doesn’t fit a woman of your esteem either. You lost. Keepers and Archmages lose all the time. I have seen dozens of them win and lose towers. Failure is when you choose to give up because you have lost.”

Michelle swallowed her pride and retort before quietly admitting, “like I did tonight.”

“Yes.” The wrinkled face softened slightly. “We are honoured - I am honoured - to have you as our Keeper still. You will continue to learn, and we will continue to help you.”

((Mallory’s contribution used with permission.))
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The Trenches

Post by Michelle Montoya » Tue Oct 08, 2019 10:37 pm

“I honestly wish I could believe that things will end perfectly with one big bright happy ending. But these last few days have taught me that life isn't made up of shiny moments. Life is hard; it's gritty. One day you are filled with joy and the next, you are crawling through the muddy trenches with no inkling of when you might be able to climb your way back up again."
~Willow Mosby (Exposing ELE)

September 21st
The Tower of Water

The sand felt gritty under her feet. Two weeks ago it had been soft, but Michelle was quickly realizing the Tower changed in subtle ways to match her moods and state of mind. The book Gloria had given her was inside the water-proof satchel. The satchel itself belonged to the Tower and held more than looks implied. She walked across the vestibule to the large, rocky door on the far end. This room had opened up recently, after a break-through session with Mallory. It held tomes, tablets, books and parchments which helped further her study. The more Michelle reviewed the knowledge inside this small antechamber the more she was confident in asking Gren for help. Mallory’s experience was invaluable, but the approach was bloody. Gren's affinity for nature and his background as a ranger was hopefully more compatible, not to mention his own list of accomplishments on the Isle.

Michelle took out the book from her satchel, her Father's notes on water magic, and set it down on the reading table. Then she turned to the shelves and started to look through the manuscripts on healing magic - specifically searching for anything on genetic illness.

Over the next few hours, she poured over every resource in the library. Nothing. Nothing that Mist or Mallory didn’t already know, and nothing that would help her husband. She scoffed in displeasure - Derrick called it the Montoya grunt, he said only the women did it. Which was an easy enough claim since he had never met her father. Michelle rolled her neck from side to side, popping the tension away and leaving a burning sensation in her left shoulder. Just as she was about to do another search, Coci ‘walked’ into the room. The large coconut octopus blinked up at Michelle, beckoning.

“Very well, I could use a break.”

She followed the octopus to the circular platform near the centre of the vestibule. Beneath their feet and tentacles, intricate designs of coral and fish seemed to come to life as the hydraulic system dropped beneath the main entrance. Coci was normally very chatty but they seemed to be pensive for some unfathomable reason. The instruction to follow them was very clear, but despite Michelle’s gentle prodding, the cephalopod had nothing else to say.

When they passed the entrance to the Denizens Drowning - a name most residents gave their private lounge away from the Keeper - Michelle turned a curious eye to her companion. “I didn’t know the lift went this far down…” she turned to look at the clear walls, somewhat surprised at this deep, dark shaft beneath the lagoon surface. “I… where are we going?” Her stomach started to clench, her jaw began to tighten and the beat of her heart started racing towards some claustrophobic doom. When they finally stopped before a swirling, black-water door Michelle didn’t even question the idea of walking through it. Anything was better than this oppressive darkness.

((Vapor play with Mallory used with permission.))
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Michelle Montoya
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Post by Michelle Montoya » Fri Oct 11, 2019 8:15 pm

“My research continues to weave down interesting and long-forgotten paths. Night after night I find myself drawn into esoteric tomes, convinced, perhaps foolishly, that one will yield the kernel I need.” -Thelyron’s Diary*

September 21st
Tower of Water

Silence sealed the room like a stone slab over an ancient tomb. Michelle’s sudden gasp felt muffled in the small, vaulted chamber. The ink-black door behind her swirled slowly clockwise, but Coci stayed behind. She inhaled through her nose; and exhaled slowly through her mouth to calm her racing heart, and the anxiety building in her chest. After a few more slow, deep breaths, she took in her surroundings. Small purple orbs floated benignly along the walls, illuminating the circular chamber in an eerie glow. A clean, curved workbench on the far wall was meticulously organized. The walls served as bookshelves, with an archway nestled between two of them on her left. The flagstone floor felt cold under her bare feet.

“Xanth,” she whispered. She felt his aura in the air, the same way you smell someone’s lingering body odour.

Her first instinct was to turn back, the silly part of her which said her soul was in danger. The other more rational part, told her Coci led her here for a reason. With another soft, slow breath, she began walking around the room. The archway on her left swallowed the ambient purple light, a dark abyss leading somewhere terrifying. Across from the purple egress was an empty wall, which was strange considering the rest of the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. Perhaps, this was where Xanth hung his cloak? There was no hook.

The curved desk had a solid, black marble top affixed to sturdy wood supports. Neatly arranged in some fashion were: an old key, with broken teeth; a one-inch cube, each side painted a different colour; a leather-bound journal, written in an unfamiliar tongue; and a glass orb, with purple swirling smoke inside. An alchemy kit was kept separate from all the other trinkets. Michelle left the assorted drawers and cupboards for another day. Her sights fell on a collection of old, red books. The six manuals were titled “Book of the Immaculates” Volumes I-VI*. Intrigued, she pulled down the first volume and skimmed through it.

The first volume contained a detailed account of someone called The White Lady who saved a town from a fatal disease using a form of Blood Magic.

“Today, we Immaculates continue to promote universal balance and the sacrifice of lesser creatures for the good of all.”

Michelle was familiar with animal sacrifice, several cultures practiced it often, usually in a religious context. She pulled down the next volume.

“Once an initiate understands the Enlightened way, he or she is ready to begin receiving energy through blood. … The initiate is honored as an Immaculate - one cleansed by blood made holy by its transfer to a higher being.”

A sense of foreboding sat in her stomach as she reached for the next volume, skimming through it with terrifying anticipation.

“Once the Immaculate has practiced bringing energy to higher beings through the ritual, he or she begins to wonder: Can one Immaculate deserve the energy of another? One must tread light as a feather when considering this question. Some aspects of sacrifice are simple: The life of a chicken, a rabbit, a pig is worth less than that of a man - this much we know. A human has every right to the blood of that creature if that blood may heal or sustain him. Might it not follow, then, that a man can be chicken-like, rabbit-like, pig-like enough that a higher being deserves his blood?”

Michelle slammed the book shut, and put it away, leaving the other three untouched. She ran her tongue over her dry lips, looking around desperately for a drink of water. Despite the horrific trajectory of the books, she couldn’t help but wonder. Mallory used blood magic to heal others; might it not be possible for Michelle to sustain her husband with her blood force?

((Xanth referenced with player permission.))
*Books quoted from Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition
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Michelle Montoya
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The Darkening

Post by Michelle Montoya » Wed Nov 06, 2019 12:58 am

November 5th
Twilight Isle

For those that paid attention to such things, the lagoon surrounding the Tower of Water turned a few shades darker. And the residents of the Tower did indeed pay attention to such things.

“Kohloss, what’s happening?” Andrina, and a few others, had gathered in the Denizens Drowning to gaze into the waters.

“She is back,” he said somberly.

“Aye, shouln’t dat be a good thing? I mean, she’s da Keeper! It got’ta be a good thing, yar?” Sargasso slapped the old Triton on the back. “We spent all that effort tryin’ ta get ‘er back, no?”

The triton watched the shift of the tide, he felt the subtle drop in temperature. Even Beroan had woken from his slumber, gliding uneasily outside the submerged chamber the Denizens called home. “She has brought a Darkening with her.”

There was a nervous murmur behind the old, paunch-bellied leader as water elementals, fish, cephalopods, molluscs, sahuagin and merfolk spoke in rapid Aquan to one another. “Hear me!” Kohloss floated up above the crowd. “She is still our Keeper! Whatever she has brought with her, we have sworn an oath to whoever holds the stewardship of this Tower! We will abide. And when she returns, we will help her cast out the Darkness.”

Coci shouted back in Aquan, and the rest of the gathering nodded anxiously in agreement.

“If that should happen, Coci, then we will turn to the other Keepers and the Stewards of the Isle. We are not an Island unto ourselves, no matter how it looks from the outside.”
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