Journey of the Elementals RP (Pm if Interested, Started)

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She had forgotten about the shadow, and when it stepped up to activate the creature inside the crystal she still expected them to fight. The shadow had not been anything else than an annoyance to her so far. It came as a surprise when it turned to fight the demons, who were released towards them.

Phebe reached for her bow, and fired an arrow at one of the demons, who went down and made those behind trip over it. She needed to retrieve her arrows, sooner rather than later, lest she run out. Moving in the direction of the first demon she had killed, she fired a couple of more at those who were on the ground, before hurrying to pick them up and get back to her ally.

They kept at it, and when a demon came to close she stopped firing arrows, instead trying to beat it with the arrow head. At least her ally was effective at killing them, but she wished she had some sort of other weapon. A hunting knife, like the ones her father used to carry would have been great right about now.

Raven did listen intently to what Seth had to say, and it spoke volumes that even though he was battered and bruised from the looks of things, he was looking to head on through as well. He's saying such things about me? Even after the last time we teamed up and I ended up blind? I...I guess it can work. If Seth is with me, things will definitely be easier, especially if we have to fight something...but if I mess it up again...

"" sure you are just going to sit back and watch...Or maybe you would rather take a step forward, and go through the gates. Perhaps you can show your old partner what you can do in there."

He does still believe in me. All right, if Seth thinks I can do this, then I will do this. I have to do this. I have to prove someone right in the right way. OK, this is going to work. Seth says so.

"Well," Raven answered, the confidence returning in her voice, though the rasp did not. "If you think that I can overcome whatever may be waiting behind those doors, I'll go forward...with you. Hopefully this will be more successful than the last time we teamed up."

"Hmm I don't see why most would try to escape it, especially if they did what I did to get it in the first place." Alexander said thinking back to the entity who had asked what he sought to do and how he had answered.

"Also I'm not sure how much I can learn from observation, mine at least tends not to do much. Almost as if it either can't do more or simply wishes to observe." He turned to look at his shadow.

"I know you can think to some extent, but does that mean you have emotions and reactions? I wish I could say I knew my own shadow as well as I know myself." He said to it.

As Nydia stepped through, she saw what all the other mages had been greeted by. A strange cloaked figure dealing in cards. As again with all the others, he began dealing out the cards DEMONS, ENDING, JOURNEY, DARKNESS, SOULMATE, and MEMORIES. As before, each of the cards gave off an odd glow that they meant more than just cards. Though this time, it seemed that some glowed slightly more...brightly than others. DEMONS, JOURNEY, DARKNESS, and MEMORIES, specifically. Anything else, the figure gave no hint to.

As Drew tangled with Nat and Nina, the figure seemed oddly satisfied with the choices made. Ever so slightly, the area around the mages seemed to fill in with surroundings and an...existence. It was a stormy night, with a caravan of carts and people walking about. Lightning would sometimes flash, but overall the people of the caravan, armed as they were, stayed close to the carts which seemed to be heavily lit with torches. The people seemed oddly paranoid of the darkness which crept about them, as if there was more about it.

However, the scene did not solidify, and the cloaked figure still sat there, with the cards still remaining on the table for the last mage to take.

As Phebe continued her flow of arrows, it began to get to be a bit much. The demons began to simply close in in greater numbers, and began scratching and cutting at the shadow's form. And oddly enough, they had begun to grab rocks to throw at Phebe rather than charge her, figuring it much easier to simply strike with a multitude of stones and bring her down. Eventually, the pair found themselves up against a wall which they had fallen back to. Demons could not approach from the wall, but they were in full force in front of them. They seemed almost pleased at how they were able to easily overwhelm the pair.

Seth grinned as Raven seemed to show a bit more...well, life in her. He wasn't sure what he said that worked, but it didn't matter to him. She was going to do what she probably should be doing, and that was the important part. He nodded, and did his best to neaten himself up.

"If you think that I can overcome whatever may be waiting behind those doors, I'll go forward...with you. Hopefully this will be more successful than the last time we teamed up."

"We did fine the last time we teamed up. Besides, it wasn't like we exactly were...used to each other anyways. You'll do fine." Seth said, taking a step towards the gateway once more as it became his flaming doorway once more. His shadow once again did not seem to very much support the idea, but stood beside him all the same, as prepared as his owner. Seth turned, patiently awaiting Raven to step forward to her gateway as well.

What are we doing? I have no idea what to get from these...trials, and even less an idea of what Jenn wants out of these...but yet here I am, looking at my door, stepping through against my shadow's own judgement. Well...not like I have much to do anyways.

Glancing over at Alexander, he grinned. Obviously had no intention of doing the trials, not that he could blame him. Least it seemed he was doing...whatever it is he liked to do.

"Hmm...Perhaps it is taking cues from you already? For example, your comrades mostly have stepped through the trials and want to go experience, but you are much happier to sit back and observe what is going on instead." Joseph said, looking over at Alexander's shadow.

"And like I said, many thought that their shadows were against them. Attempting to ruin them in some way, or even possibly replace them. Which I don't think is exactly wrong. Perhaps they were indeed trying to be something like their...former selves. Or maybe they don't think they could live the same with the other selves living."

The shadow of Alexander nodded, seeming to confirm that there were indeed reactions from the shadow. However, any more the shadow was either not inclined to provide, or merely did not have the ability to do such things.

She was bruised by their rock throwing and kind of annoyed, because it didn't seem like they could beat them, not even when they were two. Phebe glared at her shadow, and then back at the demons. It wasn't the shadow's fault that she couldn't defeat them. Was there another way to complete this trial then? The demons didn't even seem to decrease that noticeably.

"Are those wings of yours good for anything?" She asked the shadow, with her eyes on the demons. "Can you carry me with you?"

Maybe it was hopeless, she didn't see any way out of the situation. Phebe fired an arrow at one of the particularly ugly demons. "Or you know, find me a better weapon or a third ally." She laughed at the notion.

Gabriel cautiously followed Fei towards the man and his table. She seemed pretty enthusiastic about the whole thing, in contrast to his own concerns about what was going on. He looked to his shadow, just in case, as he neared the table. "So... anything? Any thoughts on what's going on?" There was no response from the mute version of himself. As usual.

The Hydromancer took a seat at the table while he waited for Fei to finish speaking with the stranger. Having gotten closer, Gabe found that he was shuffling and reshuffling a pack of cards, having dealt six out already. Fei soon grabbed one of the cards and held it up. "I waaant... this one!" The card depicted a face, slightly transparent. In the area around the eyes, Gabe could see silhouettes of what looked like people, places and objects. It was captioned 'MEMORIES'.

The man with the cards gathered up the other five on the table, shuffled them into the rest of his pack and dealt out a new set of six. From the fleeting glances Gabriel had seen before he took them back, the new... hand, maybe? That was one way to word it. The new hand was very similar to the previous one.

Six cards all in a perfectly straight line. SOULMATE, OFFERINGS, NIGHTS, MEMORIES, MENTOR and CHAMPIONS. Gabe looked them over, getting up from his chair to examine them properly, tentatively touching each with a finger to indicate which one he was looking at. The card labeled SOULMATE showed two people standing side by side, in what looked like stances of triumph.

OFFERINGS depicted a man holding out one hand, beckoning as if Gabriel were to join him... but he also held a drawn sword in the other and a slightly cold-looking expression on his face.

The NIGHTS card showed a house on a hill at night. But inside the hill, under the house, was a small room where someone was looking at something on a table.

The MEMORIES card was the same as the one Fei held in her hand.

The MENTOR image was that of a man standing on a platform, before a crowd of other people.

Lastly the CHAMPIONS card was another individual, a blade in their right hand and an orb of something hovering above their left. The champion seemed to be in a 'running-forwards' pose, as if he were rushing into the thick of a fight.

"Which to choose..." Gabriel mused. Fei had already picked Memories. It probably meant something to her. Gabe, however, took a while to deliberate on them. Eventually he slid the Memories, Champions and Nights cards back to the shrouded figure, who scooped them up and shuffled them into his pack. He didn't like the look of Nights, was in no way a champion and a part of him reasoned that Fei had already picked Memories. Strangely, no sound was coming from the cards where normally they would be making at least some form of noise.

That left Soulmate, Offerings and Mentor. What did each mean? Mentor was probably something to do with the teachers or superiors the individual had studied under or taken orders from. A test, perhaps? Gabe wasn't too big a fan of tests back at the Academy. That left Soulmate and Offerings. Gabriel studied the two carefully. He wanted to pick the card that he thought would give him the best chance of passing the trial. Offerings seemed something of a gamble, based on the card's picture. Do you go with the man, or refuse? And what happens if you pick one or the other?

Pick one or the other. It was that simple. Gabriel looked to his shadow, who raised its hands and shook its head as if to say, Nope, sorry, can't help you. Asking Fei was as likely to happen as Gabriel was to become a Nightshade. That left the mysterious dealer. "Do you have any recommendations?" Gabe asked the 'dealer'. There was no response: he just kept on shuffling.

"Alright..." Gabriel was alone, metaphorically speaking. The decision was his and his alone. And he had no knowledge of what would happen as a result of his choice. Soulmate or Offerings. Pick one or the other, and live with the consequences.

After what seemed like an eternity - but in reality was only a few seconds - Gabriel picked up the SOULMATE card with a slightly nervous hand. "I - I choose this one," he stated, unable to keep a slight tremor from his voice. Well, you've done it now. Placed your bet. Let's see how this dice game ends.

As Seth stepped up to the portal, Raven stepped up quickly to match his pace. All right. Here we go...least I'm not doing this alone... As the pyromancer proceeded, so did the Nightshade as they moved into the portal.

As Phebe asked her companion questions, it seemed to look at her almost in disbelief. It spread its arms out, small flames jumping as it did so. At the thought of flying away, the figure did the oddest thing. It laughed. It was a woman's laugh, certainly, but it almost seemed to be mocking Phebe as it did so. It pointed up almost amused, and offered a hand. While the shadow did not seem anxious to leave the battle, it seemed to be offering the chance if it came down to it.

The demons, in the meantime, had stopped throwing rocks and other such things, and now milled about the pair, not seeming to want to die first, but did want the glory of bringing them both down. For now, it was an odd calm before the fighting broke out once more.

As Gabriel selected his card, the others went back to the figure's hand. He did a quick shuffle once more, only to suddenly pause. In that moment, the world around the two seemed to start shifting. The darkness began to be filled with images, lights, people, and stores. In a blur, everything began to pull itself together, seeming to force a new world upon them rather than the darkness which they had been lingering in before. Finally, the world stopped, and the man with the cards, and the table that they had sat at was now gone. In its place was a table for apparently a large feast, in a place in particular that Fei recognized. Oublie, her town, seemed to be throwing some kind of feast or celebration. Harvest maybe? Or perhaps some kind of family celebration? Whatever was going on, it was obvious that it was big enough to bring out the entire town, with all sorts of foods and dishes being passed about, music being played, and the place quite alive.

As Seth and Raven stepped through, the ended up in much the same location as the others. Darkness, with a man with cards sitting in front of them. With a shrug, Seth moved forward, obviously not bothered at this point seeing as he had come this far without any idea, might as well keep blindly going forward. As both mages moved forward and sat, the man shuffled the cards about in a way that Seth could be certain wasn't natural in any shape or form, until finally he slid 6 cards in front of them. MAKER, DEATH, GUARDIAN, SOULMATE, HERO, and ENDING.

Seth quickly skimmed the cards, each having its own word and...distinctive image. He pushed away MAKER, DEATH, and HERO from himself, not thinking much of any of those in particular. However, the card ENDING seemed...fascinating. It was a closed book as a picture, which was...well, an odd way of putting an ending. SOULMATE had a pair together, back to back, which was obvious enough. And then, GUARDIAN...showing an individual who stood before...waves? Whatever it was, the figure stood against them, no fear or reservations about what needed to be done. As he sat there, he glanced at his shadow, finding no guidance.

"I guess this is where we choose our poison then..." Seth said, finally grabbing the ENDING card, looking over the oddly glowing card as he did so. It was obvious enough to him that he wasn't going to be playing with this, but what exactly would happen was...less than obvious.

Raven felt like she had stepped from a strange castle to some sort of devil's den, complete with games of chance. The man at the table certainly seemed to fit the part with his deck of cards, hands constantly churning the deck. As she and Seth took a seat, only one thought crossed her mind. If these Trials are coming down to luck, I'm definitely screwed.

The man on the other side dealt the hand, sliding six face-up cards onto the table. Raven was still trying to take a good look at them, but Seth already had his mind made up.

"I guess this is where we choose our poison then..."

As Seth picked up his card, the dark dealer shifted them back in front of Raven, a new card materializing to replace the one that had been chosen already. Now laid out specifically for her, Raven's mind went into overdrive.

All right, all right. Don't panic. It's just a test, isn't it? One in six chance of being right? OK, let's see what's here. MAKER. Some guy with his arms up and mountains popping up. That's not bad. Control. Good one. DEATH. Pretty self-explanatory. That's the one I should pick isn't it? That's what a Nightshade should pick...unless that's what they want me to think...Urgh. GUARDIAN. That's a lot of guys against one. I don't like that one. Too hard. SOULMATE. Hah! Doesn't exist. A fairy tale...I've got no time for fairy tales. No one wants my back. She glanced at Seth, still looking at his own choice., he's...I don't know. HERO. Look at this guy charging and all. No one would ever do that behind me. I don't want that anyway. Too much pressure. I'm no hero. ENDING? What? No! No, that can't be the right one. I...I don't want this to end. Not...not right now anyway.

Raven pushed the GUARDIAN, HERO and ENDING cards back towards the dealer, leaving MAKER, DEATH and SOULMATE.

OK, half down. MAKER, that could be like giving me power to make stuff, or could force me to make stuff, like a slave. DEATH, probably death, but it could mean I get to cause death. That would be fun. I wouldn't be powerless then. SOULMATE, yeah, if there is one, which I doubt. But...if there was. To have someone I know I could count on? But DEATH is everything I'm supposed to be! It could be 10 years of training condensed into one!

Raven moved the MAKER card back towards the others, only DEATH and SOULMATE remained.

So what's it going to be Jenn? What am I supposed to pick here? DEATH, I swear, specifically put out here for me to take. It fits everything I've been trying to do, everything I'm supposed to be. But SOULMATE, it seems so safe, like what could go wrong with it? Why would I deny it? I....I....

Raven reached her hand towards the final two cards, hand shaking slightly as she did. That look of indecision evident on her face as she looked torn between different perceptions. Fuck it. She closed her eyes and reached forward, grasping at whichever card got more attraction from her slapped-down hand. As she picked up the card, gripping it tightly, she slowly opened her eyes, and all she got back was half a skull.

"There," she said, her voice lowering itself back down to pre-foreign Nightshade levels. "I choose this one." She revealed the DEATH card to the dealer. Please don't let this be a trap. Let it be the right one.

"You raise a very interesting point. I guess it is learning my patterns and mannerisms to some extent at least. Also it makes sense that the shadow of ourselves would try to recapture some amount if not all of the essence of the former self. Seeing as it is supposedly an extension of ourselves, I myself know that I would wish to regain my personality were I in its position. Though I would hope there were a way to live in some form of coexistence, as opposed to the kind of winner take all format you seem to be suggesting.

Though frankly I don't mind having a shadow. I don't think mine is acting against me in any way, and I'm sure there are worse fates than to have a silent watcher. Though I will have to interact with it more and see what I can learn through some experience. Of course I can always keep a log and report my own experiences if you wish. From what you say it seems the shadows are not a common occurrence per say, and if my guess is correct than any kind of written records would be less so." Alexander replied, already thinking of some tests or at least questions he would like to ask his shadow given recent events.

Nydia took a moment to examine her surroundings as she stepped through her gate but found that the only thing of note was the strange figure who stood before her. Unsure of the persons intentions, Nydia approached cautiously and chose her words carefully. "Greetings. I am Nydia Freecs, come in search of my companions. Has anyone else passed through here?" She inquired, wondering if the others had been sent here too or if she had been taken somewhere else entirely.

The figure made no response though except to take six of the cards he was shuffling and place them before her. The silence reminded Nydia of her shadow a bit but being in such an unfamiliar place made her weary. She slowly approached the cards, only taking her eyes off the figure to examine them. They read DEMONS, ENDING, JOURNEY, DARKNESS, SOULMATE, and MEMORIES. What they meant exactly was a mystery to her but the faint glow around them meant they were clearly significant in some way. "Am I to chose one?" She asked but was met only with silence once again. Since that seemed the most logical explanation, Nydia decided to examine them and choose whichever she thought best.

Perhaps it was just her eyes playing tricks on her but the cards DEMONS and SOULMATE seemed to glow more faint than the rest. Perhaps they were less important? Or perhaps it was a trick and those cards were some sort of right answer. After much deliberation she realized that there was no way for her to tell and the best course of action would be to examine each card based on it's own merits and ignore the light altogether.

The cards DEMONS and DARKNESS had no real meaning to her. She couldn't imagine anything pleasant coming from choosing those cards either so she disregarded them for the time being. SOULMATE was another one that she had decided against almost immediately. She knew there was likely no deeper meaning to it, but the idea of a soulmate was so contrary to everything she knew that she couldn't bring herself to consider taking the card. This was hardly the time or place to indulge in hopeless romanticism.

She thought a bit harder about the remaining three. ENDING didn't quite sit well with her. After all, she wasn't even entirely sure what had begun. Imagining an ending seemed a bit premature at this point. MEMORIES gave her the most to think about. She had lived a fairly uneventful life so she didn't have many memorable occasions but she did hold the memories of what little time she had to spend with her mother close to her heart. And yet she came here to seek assistance in the present. The past had little to do with her decision to take these trials and so selecting that card seemed a bit out of place.

And so all that remained was JOURNEY. It made sense to select that card given her circumstances since she was currently on a very unique journey and had come here to hopefully aid her companions on this journey. After taking a bit more time to think it over, Nydia set the other cards aside and showed the JOURNEY card she had chosen to the strange figure. "After much debate, I believe this is the card I shall choose."

Fei's face lit up, and she bolted off into the crowd. This wasn't bad at all! All the horror stories, they weren't real at all! The air smelled like food, and there was music, and it was sunny outside, and there were streamers and flags and colors everywhere.

"Hey Fei!" A woman with red hair waved to the young mage. Fei recognized her as one of her mother's friends, but not much beyond that. She ran up with a big smile, putting her hands behind her back. "How are you doing, sweetie?"
"I'm fine..."
"How's the Academy? Getting good grades?"
"Yes~" Fei nodded happily.
"Why don't you show me some of your magic? What kind did you use again?"

Jacqueline. That was her name. She didn't have any children, but she came to her birthday parties and stuff and gave her presents sometimes.

"I use water magic, ma'am!" Fei went over to the fountain. She felt so powerful, extending an arm to the water. It flew up into the air, swirling around like fireworks in the air. The sunlight made it sparkle like jewelry. It was prettier than the fountain, and more awesome.

Meanwhile, a young girl had snatched up Gabriel, twirling around before pulling him into a crowd of other similarly dancing couples.

Gabriel watched as the scene unfolded. He thought he recognised the layout of Oublie from the one trip he had made there recently, in the company of Seth, Drew and Fei. It was clearly a festive occasion: a large table was clearly set up at which a large gathering of people could dine. Gabe could hear music playing from somewhere: a lively tune, probably performed by a group.

Fei soon ran off with someone Gabe didn't recognise, leaving him alone with his shadow for a moment. "This doesn't seem too... trial-ish," he commented to the mute figure beside him. As usual, no verbal response from the shadow. Just a shrug and a folding of the arms under its robe. Cautious, Gabriel didn't move from his spot, braced to cast a spell in case something went wrong.

It soon did, though not in any way he was expecting. A girl easily a foot and a half taller than himself, with flowing blonde hair reaching down past her waist, dashed up to Gabe and grabbed his hand. "Come dance with me!" she cried gaily, performing a quick twirl in time to the music before dragging him towards a crowd of other dancers. All the Hydromancer could do was try to stay on his feet as he was pulled along. He tried wrenching his hand out of the girl's grip, but she spun around to face him again. "Aw, come on... don't tell me you don't wanna dance, cutie?"

Lost for words, and not trusting himself to open his mouth, Gabriel simply stayed quiet and averted his gaze. The blonde girl just laughed. "Oh, I get it! It's cause you can't dance, isn't it? Don't worry, I'll teach you. Come on!" She grabbed his arm again and pulled him onwards, her grip on his wrist too strong for him to break free. Soon he found himself near the center of the dancing, couples all around, and the enthusiastic blonde girl had begun to whirl and spin with the rest of them, dragging Gabriel along with her.

It wasn't long before the Hydromancer tripped over his own feet and crashed to the ground, almost getting stepped on by countless other whirling feet. He tried curling up to avoid being trampled, but his newfound partner laughed a bright, slightly airy laugh and helped him back up. She led him out of the middle of the dance floor and wrapped one arm around his shoulders. "Aww... look at you. It's almost like you're lost," she purred into his ear before planting a playful kiss on his cheek.

Face burning from embarrassment, Gabriel shot the girl a look to find that she had changed drastically in appearance. Instead of the taller blonde girl, she was now only a few inches taller than Gabe. Her skin tone had become darker and her clothing had changed to a strapless dress. What in the name of the Gods was going on? Was this his trial? Find out who his soulmate was? He didn't even know this girl, or the blonde one.

As he studied her with eyebrows furrowed, she changed again into a redhead, her clothing becoming even more revealing than the dress had been. All three forms were considerably attractive... Gabriel's instinctive response to being in close proximity to a girl his age kicked in. He could feel his stomach churning and a sour taste in his mouth.

Drew was enjoying messing with the pair a little more than he should have, but as the settings changed he turned away from them. "Ok... seems we're set." As he noticed the caravan surrounded by darkness, it took him all of two seconds to realize what was going on. "A journey with darkness everywhere. Just great. We're still together..." he groaned, rolling his eyes. "Ok... so then the question becomes what do we do?"

However, nothing seemed to be happening. "Oh yeah... we're still waiting on one. But... where is he?" Drew looked around for Cale, but both he and the dealer were gone. "Don't tell me he took too long... I'd really prefer having someone I know isn't annoying around during this..." He sighed Lets just hope this Silvana chick isn't a pain...

Seth watched Raven as she sat, seeming to...struggle with the choice of cards. He was going to offer some help, but it seemed like something she was going to beat alone, and he wouldn't want to take that away from her. As Raven finally seemed to close her eyes and just grab a card, he couldn't help but grin. Leaving it to chance was as good a way to try this whole...random thing out as any. As Raven picked her card, the world all seemed to shift. Seth couldn't put his finger on what exactly was going on, but the card in his hand gave off one last glow before vanishing seeming to go into the world itself. It was then that the world seemed to solidify itself.

They were in what seemed to be some kind of mountain range. Some tents and other such temporary structures seemed to be littered about the area, with a small amount of mages milling about as well. All were armored and seemed to be armed in some fashion or another. What seemed to be obvious is that everyone was in a rush now for whatever reason, and some of the mages were located by some kind of summoning circles with many statues and signs seeming to have been drawn about. Of all the mages there, the only one that seemed recognizable to either of the mages was one Nightshade which looked almost like Darnell.

As the two got used to being in this new area, a man ran up to the group of mages, to apparently relay a message.

"Seems a multitude of humans have noticed our presence here, Warlord Vassar. They will be on us in an hour, or perhaps less if they understand what we attempt here." The man said to the larger armored mage, who shook her head at the news.

"Figures....they wouldn't let us hide this long with this amount of numbers and preparation. We will need to begin now." Warlard Vassar turned towards Raven and Seth, almost seeming to treat them as if they were always there.

"Blade Darius. You will need to get into position. Buy all the time that you can, and don't let them near the circles if you can help it. You can expect overwhelming force. Don't be a damned hero. Can't afford to be dying this close." Warlord Vassar said to Seth, then turning to Raven.

"Shadow Raven, you will need to be focusing on the circles with Darkness Darnell. Keep your cool, and make sure that the other elements stay in alignment with the darkness as you work. I can't say hurry, since I realize it is...difficult work. But go as quickly as possible, as Blade Darius cannot hold the enemy forever like he tends to claim." With her words spoken, Warlord Vassar proceeded around the camp, seeming to tell many mages directly what they were in charge of or what they were doing. Things were obviously going to be very busy in a moment, and it seemed all the mages were either heading off towards the mountain passes nearby, or going towards the odd monuments and circles.

Seth, quite confused by the moment, gave a nod as he was addressed, trying his best to seem like he know what to do. He turned to Raven, wanting to offer something, but nothing came to mind. He wasn't quite expecting this. Blade Darius?

"Uh....well, I guess this is where we are tested then..." Seth looked himself over, noting his blade in place and ultimately ready to go, before going to Raven once more. " going to be alright? Because, even if I supposedly need to go, I can, ya know, stick around." He crossed his arms, now slightly regretting his decision. Perhaps he should of thought of this whole....ending thing a bit more deeply.

Joseph nodded enthusiastically as Alexander spoke of keeping notes for him for the shadow. He looked about noting the distinct lack of individuals around them, and then seemed to decide to speak then.

"To be honest, I have not had the chance to write down much of anything about any of the shadows that people have had. Most would refuse to talk about them, or talk with them, or even look them over for an extended period of time. The paranoia, I think, got to them about it. Of course, this would all depend on your shadow even doing something in the first place. Perhaps it is an illusion? Or maybe just another type of test to set before you? I would be intrigued to find out anything."

With that, Joseph stood for a moment and looked at the gateway. Shrugging for a moment, he stepped over to the crystal and for a moment Alexander could nearly see a shadow of Joseph step around the crystal and seemingly say something to Joseph, whom seemed to nod a few times and then whispered something back.

While Drew noticed that Cale had not arrived with him like the other mages had chosen had, Nydia happened to instead arrive at the location the mages were at as well. And it was then that the world suddenly started to come to life, as everything began moving and people began to chat and mutter among themselves. However, most distinct about this journey was that the darkness that seemed to hover around them seemed to be filled with a lot more than the woods about them. In fact, it seemed from time to time that there were whispers in the darkness seeming to contemplate when exactly to strike at the well lit carts.

" we are." A man near the front announced, and the carts all seemed to halt for a moment. In front of the caravan was now a large canyon. About it the darkness seemed to rage and a storm seemed to be brewing overhead. The man shook his head and again addressed the caravan.

"There have been....reports of dark mages in the area. Word is that they are preparing something, and have been gathering to a larger force. It is going to be our job to set up a base camp and keep from being overrun while the rest of the group head out to see if they can find anything. Hopefully its an isolated mess, but IF not, you are all going to be ready to fend off an assault? Clear? Lets get to setting up and looking around...." With that, the carts began to empty of some soldiers and other individuals who proceeded to set up whatever tents and tables they could manage. Largely, the mages got a few odd looks but most paid them no heed except for the man in front, who approached them.

"Alright, you guys are meant to be our...backup plan. I don't care why you are here with us, and frankly I don't give a damn if you are mages. We need you to go out around the canyon and take a look around, see if you can find something...I hear there are night ones roaming around here, so we got all the torches and stuff. Course, I don't expect you to have a problem with that..." The man said, then shrugged. "Anyways, you just go out and...see if there is anything out there. If so, kill it if you can, or get back here if there is a lot of em. We're just an advanced party, that's all." And with that, the man left the mages to their 'work'.

Nat looked around at the newly changed setting then her attention quickly shifted to the man in front of the caravan as he addressed them and spoke of dark mages. "I wonder. Do they mean mages like me?" Nat said thinking to herself and seemed worried. She didn't want to be the focus of a fight and sure as hell didn't want to have to fight every member of the caravan. "Nina, I know I don't need to tell you this but keep your eyes peeled for trouble." Nina just nodded. She didn't like the idea of hunting mages without reason.

The truth was Nina was also worried about what they meant by "dark mages" and if they wound attack Nat if they saw her powers. "I can do that Nat, I've got your back. I wonder where, and even when we are." she said thinking out loud. She had long forgotten about the conflict with Drew and started to worry about what was going on. It seemed to her they might be in the middle of a war of sorts, she quickly noted her observation was obvious due to the company of soldiers but she wasn't going to use that fact as reason to assume.

"Hey Nat, I want to look around this canyon but I don't think we should go alone." she said standing shoulder to shoulder with Nat. Nat nodded and looked around again.

The other mages left the room and soon he was alone with the card dealer. The menacing darkness swirled around him just as the cards did. He planned to be the only one left, because he wanted to face the card dealer himself without anyone else in the room, especially Nydia.

"I know you can't speak, I think, but I hope you can shed some light on what I'm going to be." Cale looked at the cards which floated endlessly at the man's whim. Each one different but somewhat the same in the thought that every door does the same function but is never the same. Only one card stuck out to Cale,JOURNEY.

"I had a different perception of Journey when I stepped on that air ship, y'know?" Cale picked the card the others faded away. "Now look at me, I'm talking to an entity that I'm sure can't even speak and I'm being followed around by a living shadow. I'm just glad Nydia isn't here... she would think that I'm starting to become insane." Cale shrugged his shoulders. "Who wouldn't be at this point?"

The world around him began to shift again, this time there were whispers and a cool air rush around him. He could see the card dealer fading away.

"It wasn't the fact that I killed a man, it was that I think I enjoyed it." Cale muttered before he materialized to a different scene, laced with tension and a foreboding. There were tents scattered about, soldiers getting ready for something, and his fellow mages listening on to a plan. Cale caught the tail end of it, hearing that they were to go to a canyon, watching out for "night ones". It sounded intimidating but as always, Cale stepped forward.

"Wait, what about me? I can help with setting fortifications here if need be." Cale asked the man.

"Well considering my shadow came from revealing a desire from some entity on the way over, it must be one very powerful illusion. Especially to seemingly stop time for a while. For a test, perhaps it is, but even then study would be a good idea to at least try and figure out what it is I'm being tested on." Alexander said as Joseph walked away and around the crystal. He saw something he thought may very well be a shadow come around.Though he did plainly see the man nod and mouth something, what he said Alexander had no chance to discern.

"Penny for your thoughts?" He asked.

The second that her choice was revealed, Raven regretted making the choice. The area around them seemed to dissolve, the DEATH card that she held burst into energy and disappeared into the ether, it was all very disorienting. Immediately after the card left her hand, the landscape started to come back into focus. An imposing mountain range materialized around her and there were people there. No. Not people. Mages. Fellow mages for the first time in the long time. It was easy to tell from the set up of the circles around the campsite, it had been covered at the Academy.

Raven was trying to take it all in when the assumed commander came over to where herself and Seth landed. The woman turned to Seth first. Blade Darius? What is that supposed to mean? The initial directions clouded her mind further as to what was actually going on when the warlord turned to her.

As the orders were given to her, Raven couldn't help but be surprised at the magnitude and the company she was going to be executing this task in. It was a good thing her hood was up, because if it wasn't, the warlord would probably see her eyebrows continually rising up as he talked. Darnell? The Darnell? I'm working with them? She looked over near the indicated circles where a shadowy figure more bulked up than she remembered was...standing? It was hard to tell with them. The darkness was perpetually moving. And now she was going to be working directly with him. As the warlord finished her orders, Raven nodded and punctuated it, rasping, "Yes, commander." The woman moved on to some of the others

" going to be alright? Because, even if I supposedly need to go, I can, ya know, stick around."

After Seth spoke, Raven looked over at the still shifting form of one of the master Nightshades from the academy. The glowing eyes weren't even visible as it was clear he was focusing on the task at hand. I'm on that level here. Working directly with a master. Unbelieveable.

She went in close to Seth, almost resting her head on his shoulder. "As long as you're protecting me on the front lines, I'll be fine," she told him. It was quiet, but it didn't carry any of her usual sandpaper. Her voice sounded...normal. Almost positive. "I don't know what this is, but if this is what we have to do to beat these Trials, and we have Darnell on our side, I think we've got this made. So don't worry about me. Just don't let whatever's coming at us get by you, OK partner?"

Seth didn't even get his first name from the leader, and I got my nickname! This...this might work! I might be able to do this!

She gritted her teeth and thought about using her fire, as the shadow suggested, but not on the demons. This was the wrong time to attack a supposed ally though, so instead she responded in kind; "If you're so eager to use that, why don't you? Or, are you admitting that I'm stronger than you? Well, I figure the only thing you've ever used those wings for anyway is fleeing." It didn't occur to her in the heat of the moment, that the shadow had only recently gotten her wings.

She needed to make a decision, either take the shadow's hand and fly away, but possibly risk failing the trials, or use her fire and attempt to burn them all to ashes. There was no guarantee that she would succeed even if she did attack them with fire, and it would also put her pride on the line, as she had promised herself to beat the trials without using magic. Others had done the same before her, so why couldn't she!?

Maybe her decision at the start had been the wrong one. Maybe she'd fare better if she got a second chance. It didn't matter to think about the past. At least, not right now.

There was no telling if defeating the demons meant that she beat the trial either. There could be more afterwards, or another way to reach victory. However, if she did lose by fleeing then she wouldn't get the reward and a chance to give up something for it. She already knew what she would have tried bargaining with, and perhaps using it now could be seen as a farewell, but then again, she couldn't know if they'd accept it.

In the end, it was a fairly easy choice. Phebe hadn't known about these trials until yesterday. She was fine with staying put on the ground, if wings was the only reward she'd get. She might be allowed to try again.

"I'm glad you can't talk." She told the shadow, and took her hand.

Silvana worried about the same thing as Nat did. What if they would hunt her for being a Nightshade? Well, that wouldn't be a problem for her, assuming they weren't immune to her magic in some way, she could take them on easily if the need arose. Hopefully, it wouldn't. She'd rather get through these trials as unscathed as she could.

The mage that had gone through the gate with them, then disappeared, had reappeared now with them and offered his help. However, it would probably be wise to not think of that and do as the man had told them. Scout ahead for any threats, and that's what she was going to do as she headed forward to where she had been told to go, whether the others followed close by or not.

Seth nodded slowly, seeming to take Raven's words much more carefully than he did before. The somber moment seemed to last a long time for him, before he put on a grin and nodded slightly more enthusiastically.

"Then I shall do what I do best, and not let a damn thing get by if I can help it. You just do what you need to do, and we'll pull through this with not even a scratch. You take care, Shadow Raven." Seth said, turning to follow a few other mages who seemed to be making their way into the canyon. As he stepped away Raven towards where he figured he should go,for a moment something seemed to shift about Seth, and almost naturally his clothes seemed to change. Instead of his travelling garb it instead seemed to shift into a metal armor, getting rid of his robes and simply arming him with a few knives on the suit as well as his blade, unchanged, at his side.

Seth, however, was quite busy thinking to even realize that his robes and simple armor had been replaced with something much thicker and meant for battle. He thought largely of Raven, and how she had spoken to him softly and positively. Almost leaning on him, actually. He knew it was possibly nothing, and maybe he was just overtly concerned.

Or maybe you are thinking properly. That maybe she does like you more than just a means to an end. Maybe there is something there, Blade Darius.

Shaking his head slightly for the moment, he tried to swing his concentration back to where they were going. A canyon like this would offer plenty of narrow passages and areas to strike from for defense. Though, the same could be said against them. However, with his flames it would be easy to flush people out...

The man turned back, looking Cale over a moment, before shaking his head and then seeming to sigh and look around.

"Look, mage. You were brought along on this journey to see that we can handle other mages that we are going to run into. Whether you need the troops to really mount some kind of assault is another thing. We are not here to stay, we are here to clear them out. So, we don't need defenses, we need you to use whatever powers you guys have to find out what is going on in these canyons with this collection of mages, and stop em. So do your job, get paid, and then you can do...whatever it is you mages do." The man finished less than properly, but the point was sent.

As Silvana stepped away from the group and towards the canyons to start her scouting around, her clothes shifted about her. No longer did she possess the defining robes. They instead changed to something simpler, travelling robes to largely keep her safe from rain or snow, and not really define her element. Her clothes also shifted to be a simpler leather armor on herself. Not meant to turn weapons aside, but enough to stop glancing blows from major injury or killing outright.

Meanwhile, overhead a storm seemed to continue to brew in the night sky, with the sound of a large amount of rustling being heard from the trees of the forest before the canyon walls. The men glanced over, and seemed to become more paranoid, keeping weapons close and crossbows loaded.

As Phebe grabbed the hand of her shadowy help, the shadow nodded and seemed to flex her wings for a moment. The demons, sensing the escape, all began charging at once, not wanting to be the one to let the prey the had been dying to, escape. However, with nothing more than stones to do long distance harm, when the shadow, with Phebe in hand, leaped upward there was little they could do to bring them down. They flew up the face of the cliff they had been at, only to get to the top of it where a forest seemed to be, with a much larger canyon seemed to sit. As Phebe was let down and they settled into the forest, it was obvious that someone was nearby as some fires could be seen in the distance, with carts and other such things being set up.

As the two landed, the demon collapsed onto its knees, apparently overexerted from the effort of carrying them both. While no sounds could be heard from the shadow, it could have easily been gasping for breath.

Joseph blinked, obviously not anticipating the odd question, turning to look at Alexander seeming to be both surprised and confused. He stepped about a moment, seeming to contemplate the question, before turning back to Alexander with an odd grin.

"Well, I was wondering how your friends were doing in there....and it seems that they are doing rather well. I think, anyways. I mean, there hasn't been that many people entering the crystal....well, ever. So, they crystal has not yet exploded, or faded away or anything. So I figure that all is going well!" Joseph explained, before seeming to go off on another line of thought.

"And, I would also be extremely curious as to what effect the other...portal? Yes, portal. What effect the other portal has on your shadows in particular. Especially since you already HAVE them, meaning that it can't give you one. So, would it make them stronger? Perhaps more realistic? Maybe able to properly communicate? Or be seen by others? So many possiblities!"

She found it thrilling to fly, even if she was being carried. It was still better than the airship she had been on before. It felt more personal, and death defying, as she could fall at any time. She wasn't the one with wings, but the shadow carried them both up the cliff and landed safely.

"Thank you for that." Phebe whispered. There were people up ahead, but considering what they had escaped; she'd rather not try their luck with them before she knew who they were, and what they were doing there.

She took a few steps further into the forest, however, the shadow didn't move. Phebe had wished to be rid off the shadow, woman or whatever it was. She couldn't leave her ally and savior though. Well, she could. She could try ending it now, to finally be left alone and not have someone stalk her at all times, but it felt wrong. She didn't want it to continue as her guardian, or a tool to be used, either.

Phebe walked back to the shadow, and helped it up on its feet. "Can't stay here, there is a chance there's enemies nearby. Other than the ones down the cliff, I mean."

She allowed the shadow to lean on her for support, as they made their way away from the carts and the fire. If they had heard them, then it was better if she left them behind. It was possible that they carried weapons, which she would need if she hoped to defeat the demons. She figured that since she hadn't returned to the entrance of the trials, she hadn't failed yet.

"Then I shall do what I do best, and not let a damn thing get by if I can help it. You just do what you need to do, and we'll pull through this with not even a scratch. You take care, Shadow Raven."

"You too, Blade Darius," she said softly to herself as Seth moved off to the designated area. Once he left, Raven turned towards the indicated circles where Darnell and some of the other mages stood. All right. I can do this. Seth believes in me. The leader, she believes in me. Hell, I think I believe in me.... I have to do this..... I will do this.

As she walked towards the concentration of dark magic, Raven's form shifted. A shroud of darkness seemed to overtake her cloak, as the prior dull black of her robe became engulfed. It spread over her body, shifting and moving. From behind, her form looked similar to that of the Nightshade master, a constantly flowing mass of shadows. However, it was not as extensive in the front, as the Mage's face and bangs were still visible, although the rest of her body was concealed by the mass.

She took a spot in the circle, next to Darnell. As she looked over at the master, all she could see of the mage's body was one of those familiar piercing green eyes, and it was focused directly on the churning mass in front of him. Raven thought he heard him chanting under his breath, but it might have just been the wind. She looked back at the target of the magic. From what Darnell was doing, it appeared that her task would consist of firing her own dark magic at the indicated circle and helping It didn't look like anything extremely complicated. All right. Just focus Shadow Raven. You're going do this, so do this.

Raven closed her eyes and brought her arms up, her hands emerging from the shadows around her. As she concentrated, a beam of dark magic shot out from her hands into the circle. The beam was wide at first but her new found steely nerves narrowed it down into a more direct shot into the larger pool of magic. It wasn't near as precise as Darnell's magic, but it seemed to be doing the job as her magic started to ebb into the target.

While she did her scouting, Silvana noticed something different about her. Or rather, her clothes. Her robes had changed, and she seemed to have gained armor underneath it. "What in the name of Sitheria is going on here?" she said out loud as she noted the change. These had better change back once this trial is over. She was a little miffed about it, but her clothes shouldn't be her main focus, but rather to scout.

She noted how the men seemed to grow paranoid of the ever growing storm. Were she an Airshifter, perhaps she would have tried calming them down by changing the wind, but she was a Nightshade, and quite frankly, she wasn't about to reveal that fact just in case she would get attacked. She didn't think she needed to worry just so long as she did as she had been asked to do. To scout ahead for any sort of dangers. Maybe the weather counted? Nah, probably not. What's the worst it could do, make them slightly colder and damp? No, she would scout for anything but the weather.

Nydia gazed around her in wonder as everything came to life and began moving as though it had been all along. The place she found herself in was unfamiliar to her but she soon realized that some of the people were. She had met up with some of the others who had gone in before her it seemed which was quite the pleasant surprise. Though she noted that some were missing, Cale Gabriel and Seth being the three she knew best. Hopefully she would come across them as well as the trials continued.

Shortly after they were given their instructions to scout out the area ahead, Nydia heard a familiar voice nearby. She turned to see Cale addressing the man who gave them their orders and briefly wondered whether he had been there all along and she simply hadn't noticed. But that wasn't what was important now. He was safe and she intended to see that it stayed that way. The man had mentioned that there may be dark mages nearby so it would be best for them to stick together if possible.

After the man had finished speaking with him, Nydia approached. "Cale! I'm glad to see you safe... I feared I may not see anyone else in here since I entered alone." She greeted him a small smile before turning her attention to the new stormy horizon that they were tasked to explore. "Shall we get moving? I'd very much like to accompany you if possible. It will be much safer that way."

After the man was done talking Cale turned to a familiar voice which seemed to brighten up the dark and dreary atmosphere. Nydia approached him and Cale welcomed her back with an easy smile.

"Shall we get moving? I'd very much like to accompany you if possible. It will be much safer that way."

"That would be a smart move." Cale looked at the dark valley, cautious of what it had in store for them. "Travelling alone wouldn't fare very well in this kind of environment I'm afraid." Cale looked back to the soldiers around the caravan that held their weapons close to their chests and swords ready to swing at any threat. They looked more weary than any of them most likely from all the fighting they've seen.

"A lightmage like you could really help battle against these alleged dark mages now wouldn't it. It would be like the trials back on the island. That seems so long ago now that I think about it..." Cale walked forward with the other mages towards the valley.

Drew took a few minutes to take in everything around him. He noticed that his clothes were changing, resembling some very light armor. He took a moment, focusing his magic, managing to float off of the ground with as much effort as it normally took him. He sighed with relief. Without anyone using water magic, he had no real means of attack, so his ability to fly around and dodge were essential right now. He was a capable flyer, almost at weaver level, even if it wasn't quite as graceful as a recognized weaver at full speed. He kept up the effort, floating over to one of the men Cale was talking to.

"So... what exactly are we dealing with here? What kind of mages? Like, what elements in particular? Or are we dealing with a mixed bunch here?" He said. The man's silence told him all he needed to know. "Well. Fat load of good you turned out to be..." he said, drifting towards Nydia and Cale. He started working out various plans in his head.

If there are fire or water mages, I can redirect basic attacks. That stuff's basic aeromancy. I can at least go on even footing with air and darkness, on the same level. Earth and light, however... not my forte... plus, I'm not even taking into account just how powerful these mages are... they could be Mage level, they could all be high-level Weavers... perhaps I should leave the first offense to the others. Try and find an... alternative method of attack. If nothing else, I can give some brief cover with some dust for a second or two...

Right before he bumped into someone in front of him, he recognized a small cache of weapons. "Hmm... now that I think about it... maybe my mobility can serve another purpose..." he looked around and tried to find what he was looking for. After a bit of rummaging, he pulled out a crossbow, picking up a case with several bolts. After a few seconds of adjusting to the new weight, he was levitating normally. "It's not as heavy as I thought... can't flip around or I'd risk losing the bolts, but maybe I can fix something up to deal with that..."

"I hope they are all doing well at whatever it is they are doing in there." Alexander agreed with Joseph, thinking on the next part the man had said.

"Well isn't the whole purpose of the crystal to test people? I mean the way it has been described, giving a bonus to the shadows might seem to somewhat invalidate the results. If anything I would think that making a shadow better would be something one would get for completing the trial. Though what one would pay for that kind of dramatic increase in the power of something that seems to gain intelligence and power at a decent rate on its own is beyond me. I have to wonder how many of them actually know what they want and how many are doing this either for adventure or to prove something." He thought on it for a moment.

"I know Fei wanted wings. Though the rest of them never really stated what they want out of this as far as I know."

The people and the dancing slowly stopped, then faded into the black, the music lingering a few moments longer before disappearing as well. The girl dancing with Gabriel, however, kept on laughing and dancing. When everything else had faded, she did one last spin before bowing. There was silence.

And then everything suddenly started again. They were on the airship that took them away from the Academy. And there were dragons. They swooped down, roaring and breathing fire as they attacked. The only difference was... there were only the three of them on board. That they could see: they didn't have a lot of time to look for anyone. The girl who had been dancing with Gabriel was fighting, her magic varying with her appearance. She was a blonde conjuring tornadoes, then a brunette fighting fire with fire, and then a black-haired beauty slicing through the reptiles with lasers. One of the dragons bumped the airship, throwing her off her feet. "Help, Gabriel!" she yelled, crushing the dragon with a rock hand from the mountains.

Where did everyone go?? Where were they now? The dragons were almost as big as the ship, and there were a lot of them, but where was everyone? She couldn't fight them all by herself. Where was Drew and Seth and everyone else? The guards? The Minister? She wasn't advanced enough to deal with the dragons on her own! Water was useless for fighting unless you knew ice magic, or had a whole lot of water. And there wasn't any water around. Even between her and Gabriel, there wouldn't be enough to drown them or anything. And Gabriel didn't know ice magic either. Was this the trial? How was she supposed to pass?

As Phebe and her shadow partner made their way away from the seen caravan and the woods, it became obvious that the demons had not so easily given up, as there were some apparent shouting and chopping coming from behind where the cliff had once been. Though, it was a small enough distance away that being caught right now seemed highly unlikely. What did not seem highly unlikely were the voices that suddenly came from ahead of Phebe.

"...elling you, I saw a damned demon lord jump from the pit. If the damned things ARE under those mages, then we are due for a full deployment." A man said, seeming to poke through the trees and brush as he was walking.

"Gods damn your imagination. Everyone knows to stay the hell away from the demons, or they'll get all riled up. Come looking for a fight and for trophies. Though....maybe we aught to get back to camp. If the demons are coming, then the scout group is probably already in for it."

As Raven's energy began to flow into the odd "core' of dark energy, Darnell seemed to nod in approval, and then spoke, the monotone still seeming to be the same one from the Academy, even in the trials. However, it was clear that something was oddly...different about Darnell. Whether it was that he was wearing the odd shadow armors, or it was because of the odd creating that she was now assisting in making. But, regardless of the change, it still seemed to be Master Darnell.

"Shadow Raven, it is time to begin the catalyst. Your shadow will hold your powers there while you weave your line between each of the elements. Be quick and precise, and do not force the line. Begin" Darnell said, and seemed to amplify the amount of focus he was putting into the darkness, which suddenly seemed to just become a part of a larger whole. It was then that the other elemental circles became much more obvious to Raven, as the Nightshades had begun their channeling first. A ball of fire was next to them, with then the earth, then the water, then the light, and then the air. All had a master holding their element as what could only be assumed to be Weaver seemed to also be prepared to stop helping their master and begin moving between each element, leaving a trail as they did so.

The aftereffects of the now underway ritual could be felt by all the mages within the trials. A growing power could be felt as the energy of the entire world seemed to be shifting and changing around them, becoming more focused at this particular point and moment. Also, the storm began to worsen, the lightning and rain seeming to be not only probably, but inevitable.

As Seth and a few other mages made their way into the seeming mazelike way of the canyon, he finally paused. It was this spot that would be best for them. This spot would be best to sit back and be ready for whatever it was that would come their way. Sure, the entrance was somewhat....obvious, with the few camps and things already in place here. However, it was well enough walled and with enough cover to make a fight...manageable for them. Even if it did get bad, a retreat from here also seemed relatively simple.

"This is the spot, eh Blade Darius? Alright! Lets set up!" A particularly....loud earthshaper seemed to say, and then went onward to seal off some parts, reinforce others. The shifting of the earth would be felt by any nearby other mages, but at this point it might have not mattered. It was obvious to Seth that things were going to get messy, and the time for hiding was all done. Now it was time to be ready for battle. Glancing upward, he noted the coming storm and couldn't help but grin. A perfect way to start this odd...test.

As Silvana made her way some small distance away from the camp, it suddenly fell into her view a shifting of earth. It was a slight one, but was enough to catch her eye. However, before she could even being to get closer to take a look, something else demanded her attention. An odd chatting came to her ears, and she turned to the unfamiliar noise and apparently language as an odd green creature, armed with a spiked club, stepped into the canyon, seeming to be looking for something. Upon being seen, the creature froze, not seeming to know what to do.

In the meantime, back at the small encampment that the mages had originally arrived at, several larger demons jumped out of the odd forest, seeming almost gleeful to have found something to go after for a change. The men, however, surprised, were very ready for the jump, and placed multiple bolts into the demons, but the commander of the group, the man from before, was already cursing.

"DAMNATION! Sound the horns, get the main force up here! Someone riled up the demons, and with these dead we sure as the storms are going to start getting hit if we don't get some help from the main force, NOW. Get those damned horns, and start making noise!" Some of the men scrambled to some supply tents, obviously intent on finding the supposed horns to get things going.

Joseph looked at Alexander for a moment, seeming to be rather confused about what he had just claimed. Muttering to himself for a moment, and pulling out a familiar pad of paper, and looking it over before looking back at Alexander again.

"I....don't quite understand. These are indeed Trials with which there are particular... trade-offs or rewards for such a challenge. Going into them for...well, just to do it? Doesn't make any sense at all. Why do something that is somewhat risky and difficult for no other reason than to say that you have done it? You just enter and leave with nothing? That doesn't make much sense." Joseph said, seeming to be at a small loss for what to think about mages just wandering into the trials for...what reason?

"But, I don't think that stronger shadows is...well, quite an advantage. What if your shadow disagrees with you? Stands in your way? Decides to replace you? Perhaps the other individuals had a point? So many questions, and no real answers. Personally.....I am hoping that someone comes back with....well, something different. Maybe it would enlighten me a bit, and open up what these strange In fact..." Joseph glanced at the Prime Minister, seeming to silently ask something, to which the Prime Minister paused for a moment before finally nodding.

"We have a small chip of...well, something. Crystal or something like that from the strange shadows. It was given at the beginning, and....well, we don't exactly know what it does. Seems to react around shadows, but they only exist around the crystal downstairs for us. For you however, you have no such limitation. So, if I could, I would...well, ask if it would be alright to have you test such a device. If you would...?"

"For the mages who would enter the trials just to say they have done them. It would be a matter of besting whatever challenges they faced inside, or seeing something they never had before. In essence the choice is between to conquer or to learn, with it coming down to the individual as to which they want. As for the power of the shadows, you have pointed out that these are different. Fewer limitations, and perhaps they are meant to be more in tune with our own desires. Seeing as telling some entity about our deepest desire is how we got them in the first place." He thought a moment before continuing.

"I would be willing to carry whatever it is you have that seems to make them react. Though hopefully you have some schedule of checking progress just in case the people claiming that the shadows want to replace are right and I am wrong in thinking that mine does not seek such things." Alexander said. Even though he felt he knew that his shadow would not betray him, it was important to keep an open mind to new information.

She heard the voices of two men, and stopped. The shadow would need to recuperate soon. It couldn't be that straining to carry her, and if it was, she would take it as an insult. Phebe wasn't fat though, most of her body mass was muscles, which was somewhat rare among mages. However, if it was a doppelganger of her, she hoped it could handle more than carrying her up a cliff before giving up for the day.

"I'm guessing they're talking about you." She whispered into the ear of the shadow, as close as she could without touching her. They needed to be quiet now. "I've killed humans before, even if you haven't, so I suggest we take one each. Supposedly, they're carrying better weapons and armor. If we get those we can climb back down, kill the demons and be out of here in no time."

It sounded optimistic in her ears too, but it was the best they had at the moment. She could hand over her shadow, and let them kill the demon lord, which she thought they had mistaken it for. However, she didn't know if they would meet her as friends, and if they found out that she was the one to upset the demons; They wouldn't be her friends for long anyway.

Phebe pulled another arrow from her quiver, and put it along the bow. "I'll take the one on the right. You take the one on the left. Deal?"

She waited for her shadow to respond in some way, and remembered to tell her to practice stealth. There could be more of them close by, and if they screamed she would just have gotten herself into an even worse situation. "We need to be cautious, so they don't get a chance to raise the alarm. Aim for their throats or mouths."

"Yes, Master Darnell," Raven replied. How cool is that! First name with the Nightshade master! OK, now I just got to figure out what exactly I'm supposed to do from here. As she looked around, other mages started moving in from the balls of pure energy, and a trail matching the color could be seen shortly sticking out behind them, growing. OK, I guess I have to do that then...shit, I'm going to have to run now?

She looked back at her shadow. The last time she had checked in on it, it had seemed actively worried. Now, it at least was standing upright, but those eyes still held a sense of dread in them. Like they wanted to be anywhere but here. OK Shadow, I don't know if you can hear this or not, but you have to do this. We have to do this. This is important. I know you don't want to be here, but the better job you do holding this energy stuff or whatever, the quicker we get out of here. Deal? She couldn't be sure if her words actually got through to the shadow or not, but it slowly moved up to the ball of energy and placed it's dark appendages around it. Good. Now just got to make sure I can do this.

Raven tentatively started moving, keeping her arms locked behind her to make sure the magic came out to allow for the easiest movement. If I'm being forced to move, I'm not moving backwards, that's for sure. The dark magic dribbled out behind her at first, before starting to grow in power. As she moved around the fire orb that was next in line, a clap of thunder rang out over the valley. Raven didn't shudder though. The power that had begun to flow thoughout everything in the area was giving her even more confidence. Even Nature itself seems to be lashing out in fear of whatever we're doing....Good.

"What in the name of..." Silvana began as she heard an odd chanting and looked where it seemed to be to see a green creature of sorts. It froze when it noticed that it had been seen. Silvana noted that it was armed, and so potentially dangerous, but it didn't seem to be attacking her. Rather, it just stood there. "I don't know who or what you are, but whatever you need, I'm sure I can't help you with it. If you don't attack me, I won't attack you. But I warn you that I am quite powerful should you wish to attack me."

Silvana didn't get time to interact with the creature as there seemed to be an attack on the camp she had been scouting for. She looked briefly towards the creature before heading quickly back to the camp. Once there, she saw the dead bodies of what looked like demons. "If more come, I'll be ready to blind them." she said to no one in particular as she looked around for if more were coming.

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