First Officer's Log, Stardate est. 2259.25
We have left the town and once again journeyed out into the desert, as the Order continues upon their quest. I am not exactly sure of the nature of their goals, though both Ms. Starshine and Mr. Greenhilt have suggested that it is something of an extremely delicate nature, and seem to have forbidden Mr. Elan from elaborating, though he assures me that they are of noble intent. I have remained dedicated to my studies, and reached the second level of spells, many of which are exceedingly useful; it is unfortunate that they will most likely not operate upon return to my own world.
There appear to be some difficulties between Ms. Starshine and Vaarsuvius that I have noted of late, which I fear may stem from the recent discussion which I had with Ms. Starshine. What is more, Ms. Starshine seems to have convinced the others that I may possibly form some sort of threat to them. I fear this will lead to a decrease in efficiency. It is an excellent example of how an overabundance of emotion can have severely negative effects, and why one should therefore endeavor to maintain better control of oneself.
Haley and Vaarsuvius had not been getting along well. They were still talking to each other, but their discussion tended towards terseness. Haley seemed constantly stressed, and Vaarsuvius had become moody. Roy found the whole thing frustrating and tiresome, but there was very little he could do about it, except try to keep Belkar away from the pair of them and hope that they got over it before it became an issue in combat.
This was not to be the case. They had barely left civilization when they encountered a rather obvious plot hook: a tribe of desert wanderers who called themselves the Raml Sa'b. Apparently, they had lost several tribe members in the desert, only one of whom had returned. Abdul, a spice merchant, was available for them to talk to, but the rest of the tribe members had little hope that the Order would be able to get anything sensible out of them. Roy sighed when they finished explaining their issues to him; now was really not a good time for them to lose focus. He gathered the rest of the Order for a party meeting. "What do you say, guys?"
Vaarsuvius, as was common, was the first to speak up. "I do not feel that it would be in our best interests to take time away from our current goal merely to offer assistance with an issue these people could easily avoid themselves by simply not visiting the area to which they have lost so many tribe members."
"That's… not really the point, V."
"The fact of the matter is that we are currently engaged in a mission far more vital to the fate of this planet – nay, this very universe – than the slight issues experienced by a band of nomadic desert dwellers. Would we not be doing them a greater service by preventing the destruction of not only their own small tribe, but that of the entire world?"
"I think we should help people!" interjected Elan.
"Yes, but is not that our goal overall, to offer aid to people? A far larger conglomerate of people, in fact? Should we not focus on the greater good in this issue, instead of allowing ourselves to be distracted by the trivial dealings we are faced with herein?"
"Ah dunno, V. Dinnae ye think 'tis a wee bit much for ye ta decide wha's the greater good here? Ah think it'd be wisest ta pray ta Thor over this matter."
"Seeing as how your deity is one generally associated with stratospheric altercations and drunken carousing, I fail to see how he would have any great expertise on the subject. Perhaps if one wished to consult him on topics such as the intoxicated casting of Weather Control he would be happy to oblige, but I doubt he would be inclined to indulge in a lengthy debate on man's morality and the nature of the greater good."
"Alright, that's enough of that," Roy said quickly, not wanting the meeting to devolve into a theological argument. "Haley? What's your opinion?"
"I think it's worth a look," Haley replied, to Roy's surprise. "Isn't Girard supposed to be some sort of cross-class illusionist ranger thing? It could be some kind of lead." She shot Vaarsuvius a look. "Besides, it's not like we get to decide who's more important. And," she added, knowing it would get Belkar on her side, "even if it isn't related to Girard, at least we'll get some extra experience points."
"Good point Haley. If that's a lead, it's definitely is worth checking out." Roy tried to give Vaarsuvius a friendly slap on the back, but the elf side-stepped him deftly. "Alright, gang, let's see if we can get anything out of this Abdul guy."
It did not seem likely. Abdul, the tribe's shaman explained, had wandered back to them in a daze, collapsing immediately. He had not roused since, but occasionally would mumble or moan in his sleep. After a few minutes, it seemed unlikely that he would say anything decipherable, and rather lucky if he said anything at all.
"If you would excuse me," said Spock, who had been watching the affair dispassionately, "perhaps I may offer some aid in that matter?"
"Yeah?" responded Roy, a little warily.
"I could perform a Vulcan mind meld upon him. This might enable us to communicate with more readily, especially if he is in a dream state."
"Alright, it's worth a shot. It's not going to hurt him or anything, is it?"
"I can assure you the process is perfectly harmless." He had started already, carefully feeling the man's face for the necessary pressure points. Vaarsuvius felt oddly envious. There was a slight stirring in the man's face, though he did not speak. Spock nodded to Roy, who shrugged a bit.
"Um… what can you tell us about what happened?"
"A mirage…" murmured the man, as if he was talking in his sleep. "Soldiers in mirror armor… They attacked us…"
"Is that it?"
"No… there was a cyclone… Inside was…" He started violently, thrashing about, still without seeming to wake. "I didn't mean to!" he cried. "It was a mistake, I swear! Please, no, I didn't mean to hurt her!"
"I believe that is enough," Spock said calmly. He moved his hands slightly, and the man's shouts ceased, as he collapsed back on the bed, still murmuring to himself. The rest of the group looked slightly uneasy.
"Well, it sounds like it could be Girard…" said Roy at last. "It'd take pretty powerful magic, and it sounds like it's a stationary effect. The whole mirage thing sounds like something an illusionist would do, right?"
"Simply because it is a strange occurrence which takes place in the same desert as the gate does not necessarily preclude it from being some other occurrence. We cannot chase down every legend in this entire area," said Vaarsuvius testily.
"Look, V, it's our best lead. We're investigating this whether you want to or not."
"I am sure that you will, Sir Greenhilt, and I shall accompany you without further complaint. Nevertheless, let the record show that I am not in favor of this decision, and I shall not take any responsibility for what results may come of this."
Roy rolled his eyes. "Whatever. Alright, team, I'll get the general coordinates, and then we're heading out."
As they approached the region where the cyclone was supposed to be found, there was little sign of a recent conflict. The only sign of life at all was a slight shimmering Haley spotted on the horizon. It seemed to be an ordinary mirage at first, but as they watched, it seemed to grow closer. It was growing closer, and as it approached, they realized it was no mere illusion but a swarm of soldiers, all wearing the same shiny, reflective armor.
Vaarsuvius struck first with a Fireball spell, but nothing happened; further experimentation suggested that they were immune to spells altogether. When Haley shot one with an arrow, however, the single bolt was enough to shatter the armor. It fell apart, revealing that they contained nothing more than an odiferous cloud of black smoke.
It was at this point that the swarm was close enough to become a melee threat. They were well armed, but frail, falling apart with a single blow. The rest of the Order, Spock included, formed a ring around Vaarsuvius, who was rendered ineffective by their immunity to magic. The elf growled crossly, but there was little that could be done.
"This is crap," muttered Belkar after a while, pulling a dagger from one as he shoved the other dagger into another soldier. "We keep on having to kill the damn things, but they're too weak to give any XP."
"They are a" – thwack – "fascinating construction," – thwack – "I wonder" – thwack – "what methods are used" – thwack – "to create them." Thwack. Vaarsuvius was impressed by Spock's skill with his quarterstaff. There was quite a pile of broken armor building at his feet. In fact, there was quite a pile of broken armor everywhere. The bright desert sun flashing off of it and the noxious scent of the smoke was giving Vaarsuvius, and likely the rest of the party, a headache. It seemed to swirl overhead, getting thicker and thicker, as if it were making some sort of pattern in the sky
The swarm was finally slowing in pace a bit, allowing Vaarsuvius' eyes to wander from the battle to the sky above. The cloud was swirling, the elf decided. The smoke was drawing tighter, moving closer together, turning from random eddies into a familiar conic shape. A cyclone was forming. Great Elven gods, it was the cyclone. The rest of the party had noticed it too, only the random slash, stab, or whack punctuating the growing silence. The sky darkened, as the mysterious smoke seemed to suck the light from the sky. Vaarsuvius could see shapes moving in it, indistinct but familiar. The magic it exuded was strong, most likely Epic, but from this distance there was too much of a penalty to the necessary Knowledge (Arcane) check. There was only one way to discover what the spell was – to get closer.
"NO, V! DON'T BE A IDIOT!" shouted Haley, but the elf was either out of earshot or purposefully ignoring her. The rest of the group, grounded by necessity, were unable to do anything but watch as the red and purple figure that was their friend drew closer and closer to the inky tornado.
The images were sharper as Vaarsuvius flew in, more detailed, harder to look away from… "The spell must be centered around a specific location," the elf said aloud, though there was no one else to hear. "Perhaps if I draw closer to the eye of the storm…" And that was when Vaarsuvius failed a Will save.
With a single cry, the shape in the sky started to fall. Spock was the one who responded in time, managing to catch Vaarsuvius just in the nick of time. The elf's body was limp and worryingly light. "Crap," muttered Roy to himself. "Crap! Okay guys, retreat, retreat!" The Order began to run, leaving the battle behind for the sake of their fallen teammate.
After they were gone, the armor began to melt in the sun.