9th World -- John Smith (5 posts)

thread created on 8/13/13 at 23:08

John Smith - - A theatrical diversion in Poolside - Driftwood dream - Self reflection in the Placid Mirror

9thdm, 8/13/13 23:08
John Smith

Your party makes camp another night with Shem, affording the Gravediggers with magical healing and another night of rest to get their wounded back on their feet. That night, you dream...

You wander the halls of a great palace, room after room of beautiful and inspiring architecture, yet each room different in style and design. As you progress through the varied and seemingly endless chambers, you have a growing sense of unease. Although each room is perfectly appointed and furnished, from libraries full of tomes to kitchens full of fresh food, there seems to be something missing, some nuance or ephemera which gnaws at the back of your mind.

Finally you arrive in a grand chamber. A high dome ceiling is held up by mighty yet graceful pillars, its apex a wide hole through which the night sky can be clearly seen, allowing soft starlight to shine down to illuminate the interior. The chamber is open on all sides, looking out from some height at the surrounding landscape - sea to the north, plains to the south, forests to the east, mountains to the west.

In the center of the chamber is an ornate dais upon which sit two thrones. As you approach, your unease is heightened, and you realize that this room is the source of your discomfort. You stop at the foot of the dais, and looking up the steps you realize that this is as much an altar as it is a throne. You see that while both thrones exhibit the same master craftsmanship, one shows signs of use and wear, while the other remains pristine, as if never sat upon. Between the two stand the raiment and accessories of authority - armor, robes, rings, amulet, gloves, boots, mantle, scepter - and a mask. It occurs to you that there are no other people in the palace; in all the rooms you walked through, despite open books, fires burning in hearths, and steaming plates of fresh cooked meat, you saw not a single other creature. You realize that there are no people here because the thrones of the palace stand empty, both physically and spiritually - this is a palace without a ruler. In your core you feel some crime has been committed here, some wrong inflicted, and you find that it is the vacancy of the pristine throne which troubles you more than that of the well-worn one.

It is then you notice that, while lost in thought, figures have appeared behind you. Dressed in heavy robes and wearing masks, you cannot recognize any of them. They step forward and past you, up the steps to the thrones, which they huddle around together and begin to take the royal trappings for themselves. You call out to them to cease, and they stop, slowly turning around and spreading out before you. The two thrones are gone, replaced by a single seat, upon which sits a large figure robed in deepest black and wearing the mask of the authority. The room has grown dim, the stars above still shining, but their light seemingly pointed away from this place.

In a flash of anger you realize that you do not wear your own mask. You demand the figures identify themselves, and those standing give a start before responding with a combination of laughs, tuts, snorts, snarls, coughs, and sighs. Your attention is drawn to the figure seated on the throne, however, and with a terrible fascination you watch as the monarch's mask it wears warps and cracks until it suddenly shatters inwards, sucked into the monstrous pit which is the figure's face. You cry out as you are drawn tumbling up the stairs and into that black abyss, but your voice is swallowed by the empty visage, as are you, and you tumble into nothingness...

... and awaken to screams.

9thdm, 9/18/13 22:38

The first night spent back at Una's after his foray into the Grave, John Smith dreams...

Two fortresses, one built of the black stone of the Crucible's exterior, the other from the milky white stone of its interior. The black fortress is a sprawling monstrosity, designed by either an army of independently operating architects or a single madman. It sports wildly differing design elements and architectural styles, with spires, walls, bridges, domes, stairways, terraces, courtyards, crenelations, and decorations, all jumbled together seemingly at random. It sits upon ocean cliffs, where in some places the pounding waves having washed away the earth to reveal its dark, gleaming foundations stretching down beneath the waterline.

The white fortress is ever-changing, one moment a beautiful castle sporting tall, slender towers, the next a squat, forbidding keep, then a pillared palace full of gardens, then a mud hut... It seems to shift and change based on your thoughts and whims, taking many shapes and even materials, but always reverting back to the milky white stone before flowing into its next form. This fortress sits within a meadow, gentle breezes swaying the grasses and flowers, with the faint call of gulls in the air.

John feels that these fortresses are both similar and opposite to one another, and though they seem impossible things, upon waking he is sure that sometime, somewhere, he has seen them both with his own eyes.

9thdm, 1/8/14 23:28
A theatrical diversion in Poolside

Having given the obstructive bugbear the slip, Smith makes his way through the crowds to the stage he had glimpsed. Asking around, he learns the production is a one act play called "One's Own Counsel", and will be performed again later in the night. Waiting through a sloppy production of the third act of the sleazy melodrama "The First Queen of Tierreino", and an inspired performance of the first act of the famed (and gruesome) comedy "John of Jontlesberry", Smith gets to see the play that caught his interest in its entirety.

"One's Own Counsel" features 11 characters, two of whom stand facing each other at opposite ends of the stage - one a noble shepherd , the other an imposing, anonymous figure robed in black. The other eight stand in a circle between them, facing inwards, and slowly walking, alternating between clockwise and counterclockwise movement. In the center stands a masked man, silent and still. The eight in the circle question and command the man in the center, each in a different manner, seemingly arguing against each other for their own ends. When the more selfish, cruel, and violent members of the circle seem to have the upper hand, the circle walks counterclockwise, and the ominous figure slowly moves towards the center; when the more caring and fair-minded members are winning the argument, the circle turns clockwise, and the shepherd slowly moves towards the center. Eventually the two men walk through the circle and meet at the masked man, where the ominous figure envelops the other two in its robe. The circle stops moving and kneels to the robed figure, at which point the robe falls away to reveal only the masked man. Slowly the man raises his hand to his mask, and just as he rips the mask off the stage lights are doused, leaving the players in darkness and the man's face unrevealed.

Asking amongst the players, Smith discovers that the masked man wrote the piece. Seemingly flattered by Smith's interest, he explains he was "trying to portray the conflicted nature of mankind, who is an imperfect reflection of the mother that birthed him: composed of eight separate parts, but never in balance, subject to an internal war whose victor is unknown to us until he decides to show his true face." After some artful prying, Smith learns that in fact the writer was inspired by a piece he had seen a month ago, from which he borrowed "a whisper of dialogue, a hint of staging, and perhaps more than a few costume ideas." He didn't bother to learn the title of his inspiration, but remembers that the players called themselves the "Grave Mummers", and were part of a larger troupe that passed through Poolside one night and offered a variety of diversions.

Unable to learn more about these Grave Mummers or their troupe, Smith eventually heads back to the inn, where he rejoins his companions.

Edited by: 9thdm on 1/9/14

9thdm, 2/1/14 23:15
Driftwood dream

The final night in Driftwood-on-the-Sea, Smith lies in bed sleeping when his satchel, resting nearby on the small table furnishing the rented room, seemingly begins to move of its own volition. The flap is pushed open from the inside and the crystal orb of the "Eye" rises from the bag, floating to the center of the room. Its iris shifts from grey to blue to fiery red to blinding white, the orb trembling as it becomes a miniature sun of fierce light, shafts of brilliance illuminating the hall outside under door and through keyhole. Unaware of the display, Smith begins to dream...

...an outdoor market, simple wooden stalls adorned with colorful cloths and ornaments to complement the goods on display. Craftsmen labor behind their stalls at portable workstations, smiths, potters, weavers, and more, hard at work while potential customers peruse their wares.

The market is in a plaza flagged with large hexagonal tiles in a myriad of hues, each of identical dimensions but carved with seemingly unique patterns, some childishly simple while others are dizzyingly complex. Surrounding this scene are gracefully pillared marble buildings and a sense of a surrounding city.

One stall is tended by a young woman with no implements or tools, simply pieces of precious ores arrayed on blue felt in front of her. A father and his daughter approach and speak with the woman, eventually choosing a piece of silver and one of copper from her collection. The woman takes the metals in hand and begins to softly sing, working the ore with her fingers as she does so, the metal pliable as soft clay to her touch. Rolling the silver and copper out into strands of wire, she then begins twisting them together, deftly shaping two conch shell earrings. Her work complete, her song comes to an end, and she smiles as she hands the jewelry to the young girl.

The father gladly lays a few coins on the felt before he and his child leave, mixing back into the crowd as the girl proudly puts on her newest treasures. Scooping the coins into her pouch, the stalltender reaches out for her bits of ore as her stall suddenly begins to shake. The entire plaza is trembling, then shaking, violent as the Plains of Fury. Cries arise as merchants and marketgoers alike clutch at stalls to avoid falling to the tiles, while some panic and make a stumbling run for nearby buildings. Suddenly the entire plaza darkens in shadow, as if stormclouds have covered the sun...

...and a single, resounding note sounds from the orb, high and clear, as a hairline crack splits its surface. The light instantly dies and the orb drops to the floor, once again grey and lifeless. With a start Smith awakens, evoking light to see by and discovering the damaged orb, it having apparently rolled out of his unsecured satchel to the floor. Unfortunate, but with little to be done about it, Smith securely stows the magical sphere. He then retrieves Shingles' gift, studying it with some interest for several minutes before returning to bed.

Edited by: 9thdm on 2/1/14

9thdm, 1/11/15 00:41
Self reflection in the Placid Mirror

Smith kneels on the shore of the Placid Mirror, briefly scanning the reflection of his mask. Looking around, he sees only Kek and Chocobo far off across the lake, and his falcon ally high above in the sky. Removing his mask, he studies his own reflection for the first time in months, studying its every detail for some clue of recognition, until he meets his own eyes - and remembers...

He stood near the edge of a high cliff, a thin peninsula of land jutting defiantly between the darkening skies above and the raging sea below. A man standing nearby had just spoken to him; the speaker was a dangerously handsome human dressed in lavish vestments which were covered in shifting arcane symbols. A pair of figures flanked this man a step behind - to his left, a figure of indeterminate race and gender completely enclosed in an intricately segmented suit of jet black full plate, its left hand holding a 15' long lance or spear with a strange tip; to the man's right, a beautiful woman dressed in exquisite and revealing silks of milky white who stared at him with unsettlingly bright, glassy eyes, a hand coquettishly held to her mouth in mock suppression of her melodious giggles.

Whatever the man had just finished saying had made Smith angry. As the wind picked up he could feel it building within him, every beat of his heart feeding his ire. Beneath his mask his brow furrowed and his lips pressed into a thin, hard line.

Thunder rolled, and the armored figure glanced slowly up at the sky. The woman continued to giggle, perhaps nervously now, her unblinking eyes never leaving his own.

A slow, suave smile spread across the man's face and he gestured in Smith's direction then out to sea as he spoke on in a condescending tone.

"...and with all due respect, I refuse to recognize the authority of a king without a throne."

Lightning exploded down from the sky at the trio. The armored figure instantly thrust up it's lance to catch the bolt, electricity coursing over and through its armor and forcing it down to one knee amid a shower of sparks. The ground scorched around them, and the ensuing thunderclap blew the woman off her feet to land unceremoniously several yards away. The symbols on the man's vestments flared and he smirked, seemingly unharmed.

"I am no king," Smith said with a cold fury that wiped the grin from the man's face.

"I am the Emperor."

The cry of the falcon high above brings Smith out of his reverie, and he realizes that stormclouds fill the sky and winds whip about the rim of the lake's crater; he feels a kinship with the storm, his brief memory having awoken something deep within him...

Edited by: 9thdm on 1/11/15

John Smith - - A theatrical diversion in Poolside - Driftwood dream - Self reflection in the Placid Mirror