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Round Robin 1.3: The Saga Continues Again

Marcus rolled his eyes. "I don't know. For that matter, how do I know I can trust you? Maybe she left you here to trick me. Ever thought of that?"


"The point is," he continued evenly, "both of us are in a heap of midden and we can keep on not trusting each other, or we can work together and maybe live through this. If it helps, I give you my word as a Guardian."

Guardian... Daniel had heard the title before once. They were knights, or protectors, or.. something a long time ago. He'd heard they were killed off during the Great Schism or disbanded or... well, no one was sure.

Marcus looked at him. "Well?"


"Fair enough."

Daniel surveyed the prison once more for another option. Both he and Marcus had been stripped of their armor and anything remotely useful, even their shoes, leaving them little more than the shirts on their backs (and pants too thankfully). There were several objects around the room that Daniel could only assume were for torture as well, most involving ropes, pulleys, clamps, and possibly fire. The Iron Maiden seemed to be the only thing that might be sharp enough to-

"Daniel, is it?" Marcus asked, interrupting his thoughts.


"Know how to pick locks?"



"But I'd need a tool," Daniel added quickly.

"I know. Over here."

Daniel warily approached. Despite their circumstances, he couldn't bring himself to trust the man completely.

"Now," said Marcus as he turned his head, "I think my hair's still tied back so it should be in there."


"A lockpick."

"You hid a lockpick in your hair?"

Marcus gave a withering sigh. "Yes. Would you think to search there?"

"Well, no. But-

"Just check. We don't have much time."

Reluctantly, Daniel checked. Sure enough, there was a small sliver of steel hidden in the center of the gathered ponytail.

"I got it."


Daniel looked at the pick held in his bound hands. He could just try to unlock the door and leave the man to his fate. There was obviously nothing Marcus could do to stop him.

And somehow, he had a feeling that Marcus knew that too.

"...I give you my word as a Guardian."

Could that really mean something?

He tried to kill me.

Well, threatened to kill me.

And he set the crescent trap... or did he?

And he pushed me out of the way when Balthus...

And he's trusting me now.


Daniel crouched next to the table and began to awkwardly pick the lock on Marcus' right wrist with his bound hands. "What kind of Guardian carries around lockpicks?"

"One that had an interesting childhood," Marcus answered with the hint of a smile. "We weren't all born into our roles, lad."

"What were you doing here?"

"Waiting for Tiberius or his bastards. We knew the temptation of Balthus' treasure would bring one of them. That fool Tomas can't keep a secret to save his life."
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She sauntered through the crystalline passage with an air of confidence. Still clad in the red vestments and armor of the guard she killed, Robin strode forward with Tiberius following close behind. Humbled as he was by the young woman with the infamous spirit within, he still kept a few paces away.

Still, his own curiosity pushed him forward. Curiosity and greed. Like Marcus, he was supposed to be in Sarrs and yet like Marcus he came to Fortress Grosalka. Marcus was always an odd one and didn’t seem to fit in with the order. At times, he was too lax with his duties and at other times he was fiercely enthused by Olan’s decisions. But without orders or consent, he came to steal from Balthus’s horde.

Or did he? No. The bastard was waiting for me.

Confused by this unforseen revelation and his surroundings, the robed man felt trepidation. Never before has he seen this exotic form of architecture. Walls of quartz in pink, green and cloudy white surrounded them and gave off an eerie glow. As bright as the crystal walls that surrounded them, Tiberius did not notice the corridor’s end until they reached it.

He approached the woman as she stood her ground at the corridor’s end, apparently surveying her surroundings. Raising her hand with her palm towards the ceiling, a creaking began to sound. It was oddly musical and reminiscent, such as the sound of footsteps on loose ice on a frozen lake.

High above, the crystal ceiling began to separate and a glassy ladder began to lower before them. Stepping forward, Robin took hold of a rung before looking back. Tiberius watched in awe at what he just saw. It was as if the crystal walls themselves were alive. But they couldn’t be, could they?

She then proceeded up the ladder and disappeared from view. Cautiously, he took hold of the ladder and followed suit.
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[ Kalier passes ]

[ Update: Time limit increased to 48 hours. ]
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The rungs were mildly warm, much to his surprise, almost as if they had an energy flowing within their crystalline structure. However, the female vessel that held Bathus' spirit was already at the top, and he had no choice but to follow.

He found himself in another large crystal cavern. Light from his torch endlessly flickered off the many facets that surrounded him, making the walls feel even more alive than before.

"It is alive," said Bathus, as if reading his thoughts. "Or something close."

"Alive? How?"

"I do not know. I discovered the caverns many years ago, back when I was still mortal. I had hoped to glean the energy from these very crystals, but alas, my time was cut short before I had finished many experiments and the old entrances collapsed by self-righteous fools."

"Master Balthus, if I may ask..?"

"Yes, my seal contains crystal from these caverns. Very astute."

"I see."

"Do you? It is nothing. We have not reached my finest discovery yet. The true treasure of these caverns." Balthus paused. "Something troubles you Tiberius?"

"I was...merely thinking about Brother Marcus."

"You mean the spy?"

Spy? Tiberius paled. Marcus? Oh no.

"Oh come," Balthus sneered. "Tell me you've figured it out by now. Your Marcus has been a Guardian spy since he joined your ranks two years ago."

"Guardian...spy?" the old man stammered, "But Guardians.. I didn't think there were any left, and... and they're supposed to be noble!"

"Apparently not too noble to cheat. Come now Tiberius, I can see it in your head: haven't you ever wondered why he always insisted on going on assassination missions alone?"

"I thought he just enjoyed the kill! And he was thorough. The bodies were... never... found..." As the words left his lips, Tiberius winced. How could I have not seen it?

"Perhaps there were no bodies to be found, eh Tiberius. Don't worry, his mind is nearly as open to me as your is and he was easily played."

Balthus paused to chuckle. "For a moment, I even had him convinced that your Ordermaster Olan sent this pitiful girl and her yammering half-breed against him. And he has been useful as a distraction, despite his 'noble mission'. Now at the very least he will offer us some entertainment since he is no longer a threat. I understand the Necrordinators have new techniques that are quite painful and effective and I would love to try them on our spy. I wonder how long he'll last?

"As for the boy," Balthus-in-Robin continued, "even though I believe he should be killed immediately, I also believe loyalty should be rewarded. You may have him and do whatever you wish."

"Thank you. I am honored Lord Balthus."

It was then Balthus stopped so abruptly, Tiberius nearly bumped into him.

"My lord?"

"It's nothing," the girl said as she massaged her forehead. "A headache, nothing more. A very SMALL headache. It will not bother me further."
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Moving quickly from passage to passage were two odd figures. One figure, an elderly man clad in little. The other, an elf. Time was not on their side and they knew it. They rushed ill-prepared for what awaited them without even a piece of leather to slow a knife, or a staff to ward off guards.

As much as it pained Daniel, he had to trust Marcus. He heard of the Guardians but thought all were long gone. Now he was being led by one. He hoped he could reach Robin in time. He hoped he could bring her back.

“Do you have ANY idea where we’re going,” he demanded between breaths.

“Not a damn one, boy.” Marcus was as anxious as his young friend. Knowing the order’s intention forced him to go after the horde himself. The phantasmal chamber he put up should have stopped any from getting too close. He never expected the trap to have been dispelled so abruptly.

Stopping Balthus was his prime concern, but now there was Tiberius to contend with. He would have to be killed.

And of the girl...?
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As Robin struggled for dominance over her body, She tried to picture all the things important to her. Her parents, her sister, and even Daniel. She had to get control of herself, or everything she'd ever been would go up in smoke.

But Balthus was stronger than she was, and therein lay the problem. He wasn't going to give up her body without a fight. She might have to resort to trickery, if she ever wanted to be free of him. She just wasn't sure how she was going to do it, without alerting Balthus of her plan. He was better at concealing his thoughts, and she had no idea what he was really after.

What he was telling Tiberius was not really a lie, but there were underlying currents within the plan that Robin could almost see. If she could just get a clearer look...

Marcus grabbed Daniel by the arm. "Wait." He whispered frantically.

"What is it?" Daniel asked him.

"Something--" Marcus frowned. "I don't quite know. But I feel something strange. We'd better tread carefully, my young friend."
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Daniel nodded. He was getting bad feelings as well, but he'd blamed it on his own personal paranoia. Being stuck with Marcus hadn't helped either.

He hadn't told him much more about himself during their escape, only that he couldn't allow Balthus or Tiberius to get this "thing" they were after, which had been buried under the fortress for centuries, even before Balthus found it (whatever "it" was), and had only recently been unsealed.

"Some things should stay buried," he'd said. That didn't sound promising.

Ahead he could see a faint glow from somewhere beyond the next bend. As they approached, he started to get the ominous feeling he had back at the vault door, a sense of a presence of some kind.

But it was not the vault he found around the bend, but the scene of the explosive trap. The light poured in from the sparkling chamber beyond the hole in the wall.

The older man bent down and picked up a pair of bent reading glasses from the floor, the lenses miraculously intact. He studied them a moment, then carefully bent them back into shape before setting them back on his face.

"At least it's not a total loss," he shrugged and futilely scanned the room for anything else that might have been left behind.

"Are you going to kill Robin?"

The older man paused. "I don't want to, lad, believe me. But if there's no other choice..."

The half-elf turned away. "She won't let him beat her. Not Robin."

"I hope you're right, Daniel. I hope your right... Come on, we better keep moving."

With that, he ducked through the hole and into the crystal cavern.

Daniel followed close behind. The floor felt odd under his bare feet- smooth but fragmented and surprisingly warm - but he still felt a chill run through his spine. That feeling he'd had before was even stronger now, and he almost thought he could hear voices, hundreds of them softly whispering just out of the edge of hearing. There were no words, just constant moving sound.

"You all right?" Marcus asked.

"Fine," replied Daniel quickly. He wasn't going to let his nerves get the best of him now.

They hadn't gotten far when they saw a figure standing in the middle of the passage, blocking their way.

Daniel stared. He recognized him - it one of the guards Robin killed earlier, the one with the spear who still wore the blood-stained tabard that became his shroud. He was standing before them, pale and grim looking, bearing the spear he'd owned once before in life, his eyes clouded and his face set in an emotionless expression as he blocked any further progress.

Marcus must have recognized him too. He shook his head sadly. "Krieger..."

"I thought he was dead," whispered Daniel.

"He is," Marcus answered quietly. "This is only a puppet Balthus left behind, damn him. A little present to keep interlopers like us out."
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The hulk lumbered forward, swinging his massive arms at the duo. Daniel nimbly dodges out of the way as Marcus stumbles as a large paw swung overhead. Quickly twisting around on the stone floor, the Guardian watches as his old friend stamps his foot down next to his head.

Daniel runs forward and throws himself into what was Krieger from behind, knocking the brute aside. Kreiger stumbles forward and hits a wall before he turns around, his eyes now fixed on Daniel.

He’s slower, now. Not as bright.

Daniel tried to glance around the corridor, but as he of his surroundings he had to sidestep the brute that lumbered for him. The half-elf twisted his body around as Kreiger took another swing aimed at his skull. Slow as he now was, it was still possible that he could kill Daniel with one blow.
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The fact that Daniel and Marcus were weaponless didn't help matters any. Daniel wasn't sure how long they'd be able to avoid Krieger. The brute didn't seem to be running out of breath any time soon, and Daniel now had a stitch in his side. He thought that maybe he'd pulled something that last time he'd dodged.

Marcus was staggering to his feet, looking for any type of weapon. Unfortunately, there didn't seem to be one lying conveniently nearby. Not that he'd expected it, anyway. Still, one couldn't help but hope.

The only option appeared to be trickery. As one of the undead, Krieger's mind, if it worked at all, would be so slow that such a tactic just might work. Maybe...a desperate plan began to form in Marcus's mind, as he watched the his young companion struggling to avoid Krieger's deadly hands.

"Daniel!" Marcus called out. "Let him corner you!"

"What?!" Daniel gasped, sidestepping a downward blow.

"Just listen to me, you idiot!"

"Whatever you say!" Daniel said uncertainly. He definitely didn't want to be between a wall and a big, hairy body, that was for sure. Still, Marcus seemed to have some sort of plan. Daniel was rather short of one, so he would just have to follow the other man's orders. Even though he thought that Marcus had temporarily gone insane.

Dodging again, Daniel nearly had his head lopped off. His foot slipped on the floor, and he nearly lost his balance. If he wasn't careful, he'd never know what Marcus had planned. Not that it would matter to him at that point, anyway.
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He felt the walls press against his shoulders; there was no more room to back up and the dead man loomed over him. Now lacking space for a wide sweep of the spear, it raised the weapon high to bring it down for a killing blow...

But not before Marcus grabbed the shaft from behind and landed a kick to the back of Krieger's knee. The joint buckled and the dead man started to fall and as he did, Marcus twisted the spear from his grasp.

"Nice job Lad, now get away from him!"

Daniel didn't need to be told twice. He dove past the off-balance adversary and only skidded to a halt once he was a few yards away.

Krieger had gotten to his feet faster than the boy expected. His greying face still flat and emotionless as he strode towards Marcus. The Guardian whirled the spear around in a rapid arc and used it to attack Krieger's leg again. There was a sickening sound of impact and the joint failed completely, sending the dead man tumbling to the ground. Marcus didn't even pause but brought the weapon around again and drove it down on the fallen foe, then barely dodged out of the way of a flailing arm as Krieger's body struggled to its feet.

"Damn, this is useless."

The half-elf looked at him in surprise. "Useless?"

"That thing can't feel pain," answered Marcus. "Slashing it, stabbing it, that won't stop it. You have to break the bones or take off the head, and about all this spear is good for is maybe pinning it to the wall for a minute tops."

"What if we got around him?"

"He'd still follow... but he is slow. Worth a shot."

"I guess I'll distract him again."

"You sure?"

"Mm-hm. Remember, I'm younger and faster, old man."


Daniel was already moving forward, presenting a closer target. So far, Krieger had shown the imagination of a rock and as expected he lunged after Daniel with a kind of limping gait that told Marcus he'd done more damage to the knee than he'd initially thought. Thoroughly focused on the target in front of him, Krieger didn't notice the Guardian slip past.

Marcus paused to look back. "Come on Lad," he murmured, "you can do this."
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