We All Wear Masks

Chapter 2: First Sight

Text format

"Out-of-character/ out-of gameout-of game ("<span style=\"font-weight: 400;\">Out-game : Things that happens outside the story space, to explain it or is coming from the player not the character.<\/span>") speech"

In-character/ in-gamein-game ("<span style=\"font-weight: 400;\">In-game : Things that happens inside the story space of the game. Related to what the character can live\/ sense.<\/span>") speech

Action and description in this format is what the in-game characters does. Action and description in this format is what is actually done by the character out-of-game.

Music accompaniment

To play during reading : Sean and Dean Kiner - Postulate 5

Lorena McKennitt - The Mask and Mirror - The Mystics Dream

A strange gathering, we have. And after the last speaker, we made our way in-game walking through a tree covered trail, acting as a portal to a new world. On the other side, we must be in-game.

Our gathering arrived at a small village on our way to our city in the trees. My sister Terra, my guide into these new lands explained that it was the village of Bran, the economical spearhead of the Realm. Amicable with us, scholars of Leinel, but still a wretched hive of thieves, merchant and mercenary. Ever fighting among themselves for who would lead and under what rule. Order and Law? Chaos and Freedom? No one knew, and it changed every moon, for better or for worse.

The torch lights lined our way, through the small gathering into a wider trail to the main plain. There the dragon was slain a year ago. His carcass had been moved away long ago but the dread that this plain brought could be felt. A fellow Leineler who was listening in our conversation pointed out that this plain was the site of many important events in the history of the realms, including rituals and demonic activities. That's why us, Leinel as Guardians of Knowledge and Benevolence, installed ourselves near it to keep an eye. We were, with Bran, the nearest to the battle plain. He presented himself as Feren Talin, a Novice Priest of Dana, Goddess of Nature and Healing, of Change and Cycles.

The guy wore a green-tinted tunic, with tones of yellow and brown. It felt a bit mish-mashed, but it was coherent with the character he was. He had pointy ears like an elf, but blue markings on his face. I wasn't sure what he was.

"And what race are you sir?" I asked.

He crossed his arms over his chest, making the out-of-game gesture.

"I am a half-elf, you should know that in-game as your elf character." He answered before uncrossing his arms.

"The darkness must be hiding my features, I am a half-sun elf, an orphan left at Dana's Sanctuary before I was even old enough to remember." He added.

“Ho I see now, sorry for that” I apologized.

We arrived at a small dwelling, essentially a farmhouse along the road with a fire pit next to it. Further along on all other direction, it became a birch forest with a thick underbrush. It was the tavern of the village, owned by a jolly guy, a human. It clearly showed he did a lot of manual labour by his shape, but nothing defined.

“Welcome home all. Anyone want an ale? A free one for the new folks.” He boisterously announces at our arrival.

“Thanks, Sir de la Tour, but I think we should move hastily to our ritual place for a town meeting. I have grave news to tell you all. Could you tell the other citizens who are already here to join us? I will continue with the current group.” Ariathan informed.

“No problem, my Liege.” The human bartender answered, leaving by a trail at the back of the building, towards part unknown with a candle lantern.

We continued our way along the road. Feren pointed out at some point a small trail on the road towards the realm’s Library. We would visit it afterward. I was really enjoying the interest and care Feren showed toward me, compared to Terra walking next to Ariathan, discussing with him and leading the way.

We arrived at a crossroad, where on the left there was a big white archway leading down a slope into the trees. Ariathan stopped and waited for everyone to arrive before informing where we were.

“This is the physical crossroad of our lands, this is the middle. Through this way, you will reach the elven city of Mylanis, an old and ancient city. An old ritual prevents any blood to be shed within its border for war."

He crossed his arms to pause the scene.

“It is too dangerous to fight in that slope, so if you are provoke to fight, you must come here and resolve it. You can’t refuse it.” He resumed the scene.

“To the right, it leads to our fort and in case of an assault and we must stand our ground. It is defensible, but not for long. Behind me to the right there is a way looping back to the Manor near Bran and to the left is where we are going.” And we continued our way, further along to the left. It was becoming less a road and more a hidden trail. A few steps further, with the tree branches covering the starlit sky, we finally arrived at a hidden fire pit, clearly set up for a ritual with multiple candles and white markings on the ground. We placed ourselves in a circle, some people coming up from the nearby hillside, probably from the tree-city down there. When no more arrived, Ariathan spoke up.

“Welcome to Leinel, welcome to our holy site. We shall start by doing a small cleansing ritual to purify ourselves of our travels.” He took candles of different colours and gave them to specific persons, including Terra, Feren and Elladan. They took a step forward and positioned themselves around the white markings. Clearly, it wasn’t their first time doing this. They each lit their candles in turn and started incanting: "Ad fides Circulus Benedictum Pellere Bene Malum Dissolution Locus pacis placidus Terhar." They repeated it in unison three times.

Then Ariathan shouted, “Tchak!!”

“Detection and repulsion of Evil, all players who are of evil alignment, you must move back 10 steps and fall to the ground. Moreover, if you have bad intentions, like you are here because you are spying or intend to betray us, you also step back. TCHAK!TCHAK! ("<\/span><\/em><span style=\"font-weight: 400;\">The equivalent to crossing the arms over the chest to signify a out-of game moment. In the case of the Shout it is usually linked to spellcasting and combat.<\/span><em><span style=\"font-weight: 400;\">")

Of the around 30 we were now, 5 stepped back and fell over.

Before they could stand up, the militia of the city, about 8 persons, had drawn their weapons and were menacing to the traitors. Seeing what was happening I followed defending Leinel.

“Begone from here now and never come back or you shall be slain without mercy.” Ariathan declared. All of them slowly stood and left at a fast pace. 4 of the militiamen followed them to ensure they complied. The incanter stepped back to their previous place and everyone sat down. Ariathan stood and started a small prayer.

“May Odiar, God of the sun elves, magic and knowledge protects and guides us all.”

Then Feren stood “O Dana, Mother goddess of nature, may you give us the means to protect life.”

Then one of the militia stood “Glory to Herran, proud tactician, may your counsel lead us to victory.”

Then a brown tunic wearing guy, quite shabby looking stood “May Kukumak, God of Wisdom guides us to the wise choice.”

Finally, a young one (probably 14 years old at max) was elbowed by Elladan to stand. With a hesitant voice, full of nervousness, clearly his first time, he spoke. “O Sif, merciful healer, protects us from harm and bring us back from the dead.” Then he sat back down, proud and mortified as well of what he just had done. Elladan gave him a reassuring hug.

Ariathan took the stage again.

“With these prayers, I now would like to start our meeting. Following the death of Rasham the Dragon, there have been unexplained occurrences. Events that would suggest something is at work to undermine the current peace. It may be the doing of the Baronies of Cornnack or Araus, but it is too subtle to be their style. We must keep our eyes open and if you see anything suspicious, inform me or any of the city officials. In any case, something else that we know is that following the Dragon’s death, his treasure is now available to be obtained. There were treasures and dangers kept there. We aren’t the only one after it and if it came in the hands of anyone of the other Baronies, it wouldn’t augur well for us. But I do have some information that the others don’t. Following some research in the Library, I found that Rasham’s treasure wasn’t not only protected by Rasham himself, but also by a Soul or Spirit Guardian bound to the treasure. And so, the treasure, where ever it is, isn’t an easy picking. We will need to find it and find more information on that guardian to defeat it. Considering where the last battle occurred, I would suggest that the treasure location must be near the plain or near Bran. It doesn’t seem it is near Cornnack and certainly not in Araus. Tonight, since it is a night without a moon, it would be quite futile to search. But during the day tomorrow, it would be easy.”

“On another subject, considering the new members, the officers of the city are myself, Ariathan, Baron and master enchanter; Elladan Talin, second and the mystic and arcane councillor; then there is Soldar Norretarn, the Librarian; Nepharion Finwë Naos, our Ranger leader; finally, there is Caius Decimus Degrasus, our Militia Leader. They are the ones to help you.” Ariathan pointed to each person.

Soldar I hadn’t spotted before but by the light of the candles, he wore a dark green kimono and hakama with a beige shirt. He had elven ears showing over his black hair tied into a manbun. But his face was full of makeup looking like he was undead, really creepy. And his angular jaw and tall figure added to the effect. Nepharion was a relatively small younger guy, maybe a year or two older than me. The easiest description was that he looked like Frodo from the Lord of the Ring films with curly dark blonde hair but with pointy ears. He was wearing a dark green/ brown cape, clasped by a silver leaf closure. Underneath, he wore a green or brown shirt, adjusted and looking custom-made. His sword was an elven blade, one-sided blade with a curved shape. I could see why he could hide easily and spy. Finally, Caius Decimus was of a totally different style, a human, average high, quite a bit older, wearing a laminated armour, a metal helmet, a towering rectangular shield and a classic longsword. Clearly inspired by the Romans or the Bizantine. Underneath the armour, he wore red and brown clothing. Clearly a warrior and heavy infantry.

“Now I think we should go back to the tavern to get to know each other and not be found by any others,” Ariathan said to adjourn the meeting.

On the way back to the tavern, Feren, accosted me.

“Do you want me to show you the Library Aether?” Feren asked, sounding a bit giddy. I was surprised he remembered my character’s name.  We diverged from the way on the trail. Someone had added a lamp at the entrance point. The trail was short but bordered by heavy foliage, hiding well the building. It was a tree house built next to a steep slope with a narrow wooden bridge linking the two. After the darkness of the trail, it seems like a light beacon floating in the air, light by a multitude of candles. Inside, Soldar was already sitting on a meditation cushion next to a writing table. On it was multiple pages of scripts and text in unknown languages. I picked up one and tried deciphering anything in meaning. I was totally stumped by it. Along the walls were stacks of books, full of unknown knowledge.

“What brings you here? We just met, but you are?” Soldar said looking at me.

“I am Aether Liadon, new to these lands.” I fidgeted a little but I needed to ask. “Sorry sir, but what race are you?” I braced myself for the answer. Soldar smiled a little, like a warm teacher seeing a good opportunity to teach.

“Good question. I am a Niftelien. We are Sun Elves that chose to go live in the World of the Dead to ensure that those that get there are those that have accomplished their destiny and then ferry them to where they should be, either back to the Mortal Plane, or to their true faith’s domain. I am here on the Mortal Plane because my destiny indicated that I was needed here. I bide my eternal time until it reveals itself.” He answered. On those words, we heard shouts and battle cries from the tavern. Feren and I looked at each other. I didn’t know what to do.

“You can’t stay here, for this is a neutral sanctuary for all the resident of the Realms and it sure seems like a conflict between two baronies,” Soldar said.

“Then we should hurry and help Leinel,” Feren said taking his sword in hand. I did the same and we hurried back on the trail toward the tavern.

At the moment we arrived at the crossroad near the Tavern, it was more a massacre, than a fight. Black skinned elves and humans were mowing through the Leinel’s ranks. At this point, only Ariathan, Terra, Sir de la Tour and Caius were still standing. Both de la Tour and Caius with large shields protecting the two magic casters behind them. It was too dark to see much definition of the enemy, but they clearly seemed threatening. Spells were cast and countered, sword and shielded clashed. Feren was about to leap into the fray, when I held him by the collar to restrain him. Then under my breath.

“Why would you go in there, it is a massacre and we are too weak to make a difference.”

“I know, but I prefer to die fighting for what is good than live with their death on my conscience,” Feren responded.

But before we could do anything else, an enemy ambushed us and backstabbed us. I instantly dropped dead.

While lying dead on the ground I observed what followed. Feren, survived the attack and retreated toward the last bastion of Leineler. De la Tour was now dead, having lost his shield he couldn’t protect anymore. Ariathan and Terra gave their lives dearly, but somehow, the enemy didn’t drop under their spells even though they sounded impressive with big numbers of damage. Feren tried to heal them to keep them going, but he wasn’t fast enough for what was happening. They all died finally when two enemy spellcasters cast a seemingly strong area of effect spell that dropped them all. Only Caius stood alone, but surrounded, his last stand enduring. Then, the enemies fanned out and looted every single one of us of all our magical items, upgraded armour and money. I only had a few money coins has my starting character pack but they were already gone.

Then I saw it, our driver for Terra and me, Valinor, was with the enemy and took Terra’s corpse with them, well in fact, he told Sophie that he was taking her and she stood and walked by them. And she was whisked away. There was a spring to her steps that felt out of place. I would need to understand why.

After all the Moon Elves left, all the dead stayed on the ground, a few were talking among themselves since they were near, but I was too far and didn’t move. I looked at the starry sky, really beautiful. Finally, after ten minutes, everyone stood and went into the woods to respawn. We were reminded in the rules briefing that we must forget the fifteen minutes before our death, so not the create a vengeance spiral. All the Leineler regrouped at the tavern.

“What just happened?” a young human asked.

“I don’t know but from past experience, we all died and were brought back to life by this land. Check your equipment to see if you lost anything.” Caius answered.

We all knew why we died and that we were all looted, but we played along pretending ignorance. It was really weird to have those two trains of thought. But on that note, I realized the time and decided to call it a night.

“Well, with this, I will bid you all goodnight and I will rejoin you in the morning,” I told my fellow citizens.

“I will follow you on that,” Feren added.

We were walking back along the way we took in. We were clearly alone, and the night was, at least from our point of view, ended. We were still in-game territory, but Feren, changed tone and started asking me questions. There was an insecurity, a fragility in his posture, that wasn’t there when he was in character. A geekiness that made him quite endearing.

“So, what’s your name? I am Thierry.”

“I am Mathieu. Where are you from?”

“I am from Sherbrooke, you?”

“I am from Laval. In what grade are you?”

“I will be in secondary 5secondary 5 ("Secondary 5 is equivalent to Grade 11 in the US schooling system. But it is the last year of secondary education.") next year, you?”


Thierry’s gazed looked away, a heavy silence falling between us. I couldn’t stand it, so I continued.

“For how long have you been coming here?”

“This is my second year, third event. Who brought you here?”

“Sophie,” I said. A confused look on his face.  “Hum, Terra.” A light clicked in his head, with recognition. “I know her from school.”

With our small talk, we arrived at the camping site. We bid each other goodnight, both happy to have met a new fast friend, hopefully.

I prepared myself for sleep, got down to my underwear since it was really hot for a night and as soon as I touched my pillow I was out like a flame.