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Ruby Realm, sketch #1

Hello again.
I'm sharing another sketch here, from wayyyy before I had enough material to assemble Opal's Hope.  Ruby is an important stopping place for Topaz on his Journey through the 12 Realms.  He learns a powerful lesson on each world he visits, so that he will be ready for what his Opaluck is leading him towards.
On Ruby, a world of Fire, Passion, and a definite martial state-of-mind, he will be challenged in a way that he has never experienced before.  He will be very much changed after visiting this place, but the question will be how he deals with what he learns....

This first sketch is a possible Arrival for Topaz in this Realm.  It was drafted a very long time ago.



Ruby:     Meetings

     The darkened pathway was roughly paved at best. Topaz passed the archway, and the oppressive heat of the ruby world washed over his face again. He had to walk to the other end of this pathway, that’s what the rest of them had said. It would help him learn what it took to use Ruby powers. Well, that was his goal, of course, but he’d only just arrived.]\

     The heat was getting more intense, despite the growing darkness along his path. He looked about, casting light from a hand to see. There were large black marks on the walls and floor, at irregular intervals, as if some flaming thing had burnt out there.

     Then, at the far end of the pathway, a glowing red ball of magma flew in from beyond the walls. It landed on the ground, and split open, gushing a small, scarlet tongue of lava that cooled into ashen heat.

     “That’s something to avoid, to be sure.” he said out loud. Loud, raucous laughter rang out from the tops of the walls. Several young men his own age had gathered there, all of them Ruby adepts. They were joking and shoving each other in rude horseplay. And they were watching with avid interest.

     “Walk the path, outworlder!” they shouted. “The Heart of the Ruby will never let a weakling commune. C’mon!”

     He could feel the heat coming up from the ground, from the very walls. Nothing he’d ever felt had prepared him for this. He could try using his new Sapphire powers, but he had no idea how to do that. His light powers might protect him a little bit, but this was fire and magma here. He had to hope that he was able to dodge any more of those. He began to run, keeping an eye out on all sides.

     He’d only gone a few strides when a fine rain of sparks started falling directly upon him. They landed like a million angry bees upon him, leaving black singe marks where they landed. He winced, trying to brush them off. The laughter rang out again. How could they be finding this funny. Didn’t they know that he had no clue as to how to protect himself against this?

     “Or, maybe they do know that...” Topaz said to himself, now starting to run a little faster. Fear started to make his heart race, as the sparks became embers. Each would try to stick to his face or hands. He already had numerous burns and scalds, and they were getting worse. Finally, a lava-bomb landed only feet ahead of him. He couldn’t slow down in time, and tripped. Searing pain consummed his right leg as he grazed the fireball with his shin, falling over it. He landed in a defensive ball on the ground and tried to summon a photon sheild. One appeared, but it was only as big as his forearm. He tried to use it to deflect the fire and debris, but it kept on coming, relentlessly. He could feel frustration and anger lending speed to his arms, but this onslaught was not relenting at all. Despair was at the fringes of his mind. There was no way out of this. Then he heard a loud thump land near him. Good, another lava-bomb here to render me all the more dead.

     However, it was not a ball of magma that had landed there. The quiet, distant Ruby apprentice that had been in the background of all his classes, had jumped over the restraining walls, and was approaching him. His eyes were blazing flames and his aura was crackling. Topaz cringed and hid his face, not wanting to see how this bruiser was going to inflict pain. However, he stood over T’paz’s prone form, and drew the ambient heat around the Opal into himself. Another lava-bomb was headed towards them, but his saviour simply drew the energy into himself and deflected it to the side..

     “You able to walk, Academy?” the stranger asked, reaching down.

     “Yes, but I’m hurt bad.. Topaz repleid. The ruby helped Topaz to his feet. “Thank you.”

     “Academy, you have no idea how to channel Heat, do you?” the ruby inquired. Topaz shook his head no. “I thought not. You are the first off-worlder to come by this path in many many years. Most of the students who come to our realm, stay near the planetary poles, in the sheltered areas. They come, they attend the beginner classes, then they leave as fast as they can. Only a Diamond or another Ruby would have chosen to come here.” He guided the Opal off of the designated path, and through a corridor to a mercifully cooler room. There were pools of water all around him, along the walls. “You may refresh yourself here.” He indicated the pools and said: “The baths will cool you down, wash the ash from you, and even begin healing your burns.”

     “Healing my burns?”

     “We’ve a little practice in dealing with flame related injury in this realm.’

     “No doubt. Thank you again.” Topaz was pulling off his shirt and tossing it into a bin. “I can’t even call you by name. I’m Topaz, of the Academy.”

     “Everyone on the planet knows you, Academy. All the information that the government has on you was flashed across every screen in the Realm.” He sat on a bench near the pool that Topaz was stepping into, with looks of utter releif flashing across his face in waves as the cooling waters washed over him. “I’m one of the few in my generation who actually knows the old Laws pertaining to students from the Academy who are on their Journey. Most of the rest of my peers simply follow the propaganda put out by the Steward’s office, that all outsiders are weak and not deserving of the gifts of the Ruby realm.” He pauses, staring off into space a moment. “I’m not very popular for my view that there’s more to being Ruby than simply Fire, Power and Battle.”

     Topaz sank down to his cheeks in the water, feeling the gently flowing water soaking off all the dust and ash he’d accumulated on his way here. He could tell that there was some energy in the water as well, starting to work on the open burns he’s received.

     “Just because you’re told one thing doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s true,” Topaz said. “I’ve had to overcome a lot just to make my Journey possible. I almost didn’t get chosen to go to the Academy in the first place.” Then a secondary thought occured to him. “And I didn’t catch your name yet.”

     The ruby became a little stiller, then sighed deeply. “That’s because I was hoping you would forget that you had asked.” Sighing again, he continued. “I am Rubin, first order adept of the Ruby world, and....” he hesitated a few moments, then said: “...heir to the Scarlet Throne. My father is the King of our Realm.” Topaz blinked once, then rose slightly out of the water. The Ruby realm was said to be a mixture of Royalty and democracy, the old and the new forms of governing at a dynamic sort of balance. That was what he’d learned back at the Academy.

     “So...I should call you...” Topaz began.

     “Rubin. Just Rubin. My name is my title, for all intents and purposes.”

     “Rubin. Understood.” He could feel his mind reeling from the news, but curiosity was getting the better of him. “If you are the crown prince of this Realm, may I ask what you are doing here? As I understood it, you’re family all live in a palace at the center of the old city.”

     Rubin nodded. “We do. My father, my brothers and sisters and I, as well as at least a hundred mealy mouthed servants and other nobles from very old families.” A look of disgust crossed his face. “They keep us in the palace, day in, day out. We are forbidden to leave the palace grounds, with words like ‘We do not mingle with the commoners!’ or ‘Imagine the filth!’ They teach us the ways of the Ruby, but do their level best to prevent us from ever seeing our own people. The old ways of the Ruby are not what most of the people in the world know now. That is why I’m see just how far from those teachings our realm has fallen. Take this place, for example.” He indicated the building they were in. “Once, long ago, this was a training ground for the most experienced adepts of the flames. Bright young men and women were shown how to become Warriors here, through trials of strength and fire. We were the fiercest fighters in the 12 realms. Well, our soldiers are still known as fierce, but they are also brutal. This place trains them to ignore what they feel, to ignore honour, and to fight like a blunt Now, it’s been reduced to a public spectacle. People who barely have the training to light a candle are being sent down the Gauntlet of Flame, with promises of touching the Heart of Fire if they survive. None get that far. All who attempt it are either scared back the way they came or they are rendered unconscious by the assaults.” His eyes glowed red briefly, then faded. “We have something like this at the palace, where we are shown, gradually how to meet the flame and bend it to our will. It’s a most advanced technique.”

     “Have you tried this Gautlet yourself, yet?” Topaz inquired,

     “No, I have not. This commoner’s disguise prevent me from being recognized, but I’m also not slated to run the gauntlet. The stewart’s office chooses who runs and who doesn’t. The last time I asked my father for permission to attend, he laughed, calling it a game for the masses only, not for the nobles.”

     Topaz nodded. “Well, in any event, I have to thank you for coming to my aid.” He rose from the water, feeling quite refreshed. His time in the Sapphire realm had trained his body to heal itself very quickly when immersed in water. He toweled himself dry, and retreived his clothes from the bin. They were clean, and dry. Again, signs of the Sapphire realm, this time it’s technological gifted-ness could be seen. He started to dress again. “I guess I’m sort of stuck on the path I’ve chosen, here, but I’m definitely not ready for it.”

     “Therefore, you’re coming with me, to the palace, where my old instructors can show you what they showed me.”


     NOW! Topaz dodged to the side as his aged tutor swung a long pole past his head. He responded by striking out at the shaft of the weapon. His fist connected, and the thick wooden stick snapped in two. This didn’t slow down to old man, who twirled the two halves of the staff as if they were wicked extensions of his hands. The nature of his attacks changed, as he let Topaz have more . . .

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