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  1. I'd be interested, although I'm a bit behind on the games, so I don't know all of the characters super well. But, it sounds fun, regardless.
  2. Well, it's only been a year and half! Sorry. I don't know if anyone remembers this story, but I do. And it's time for the next chapter. If you are returning, I hope you enjoy it. If you are just starting, welcome! This story picks up with Talver, Pirate John, Elini and Rhen's soul-less body (whom we last saw in Chapter 36) *** Chapter 39: “I can take you no further.” Talver stares down the mountain pass, keeping his eyes fixedly on the ground. Behind them lay the darkness of the world of the Dead. The trek had been harrowing, for the living and the dead are meant to stay in their own worlds. Without Ra’ana to guide them they would surely have been lost forever. She had been waiting for them when they passed through Rashnu's portal, which should not have discomfitted him nearly as much as it did. He knew very well how accurately she could read the future. Yes, behind them lay darkness and madness. He would gladly go back, even unguided, than face what lay ahead. “The Demon Realm is none of my concern,” says Ra’ana softly. John and Elini were settled against some rocks some paces back, tending to Rhen and resting before the next stage of their journey. They had stayed tactfully back, out of earshot, to allow Talver this time, alone with the spirit of his old love. “Nor is the land of the living. Still, I worry. Who are these women who hold the balance of the world in their hands?” Ra’ana waits for an answer, but Talver has no answers for her. She looks away then, staring out into the wildly striated sky of the Demon Realm. “I had hoped you would choose thus, though the world may suffer for it. What do I care for the world of the living? I was cast out, and I have waited. Talver, stay with me. You have brought them this far. Let your demon summoner guide them now. We can be together now and no one will ever keep us apart again.” Talver does not answer right away. Her words are deeply disconcerting. Had he chosen wrong? Should he have chosen Alaya over Rhen? Or had he even chosen to help Rhen? Perhaps his true reason had been to see Ra’ana once again. He is afraid to even look at her. He raises his eyes from the ground to see the Demon Realm spread out before him like a nightmare. What would he give to avoid wandering that landscape of horror? He feels the locket against his chest, though he is not fool enough to to look at it. It burns against his skin: Rhen, a woman he has loved from afar since he was a child; Alaya whose anguish at his betrayal pulls him like a lodestone. And Ra’ana. Ra’ana will ever be his first love, loved deeply and truly with the abandon only possible to children, whose hearts have not yet learned caution. “I wish I could stay,” says Talver finally, not taking his eyes away from the mesmerizing sky in front of him. Looking at her, he knows, would be his undoing. “There is no way for me but forward, I’m afraid. Too many string out there, pulling at me. Somewhere down there,” he gestures widely at the panorama spread before them, “somewhere is a door that leads to the rest of my life. I must find it, Ra’ana.” His voice trails off to nearly a whisper. “I must.” “So be it,” says Ra’ana with a finality that chills Talver’s blood. He looks, finally, into her eyes and sees that one door, at least, has closed to him forever. “Seek no quarter in the Realm of the Dead, lest you plan to stay for eternity. I will guide you no more.” For the briefest of moments, Talver thinks that he sees a chink in her armour, a sadness so profound that it threatens to swallow him. “Farewell, Talver. I do not think I shall ever see you again.” Talver nods, not trusting his voice, not trusting himself. She gazes at him for a moment longer and then simply fades from sight. He turns back towards the Demon Realm, losing himself in contemplation of the shifting strands of red and black in the sky. Pirate John counts silently to one hundred, slowly, and then back down to zero. He and Elini have discussed everything that needs discussing, at least for the moment, and now she is resting. It will be time to continue, soon, and then there will be time for neither for resting nor discussing. He walks slowly up to Talver and clasps him on the shoulder. “You should rest, now.” Talver turns to face him looking a bit wild around the eyes. “We should not tarry,” he says. “Even now, Rhen could be in the clutches of some demon.” John shrugs. “Then the world is already lost,” he winces a bit at the harshness of his words. “Talver, you have done well. Elini will guide us from here, but she must rest first. Soon, all too soon, I’m afraid, the four of us will certainly be in the clutches of a demon and Elini must be strong enough to control it – in the Demon Realm, where the demon will hold all the advantages. Rest now. Let us not be foolhardy in our rush to destruction. In the morning, or whatever passes for morning here, Elini will seek to summon a demon guide for us.”
  3. That did it. Thanks! (Just fyi - I had to walk up the stairs to get back into the Cave System, and so I walked down them when I came back out. But I hadn't walked both up and down without leaving the area.)
  4. Hi, I'm stuck in the lowlands! I was exploring the Sandstone Cave System, and now I can't walk under the bridge. I went back into the Caves and walked over it, which worked just fine. I was hoping that would unconfuse the bridge, but no luck. I still can't walk under it. Please help! Thanks
  5. The boolean variable is fine (all of my front-end design is form-based, so I tend to think in terms of checkboxes). You can certainly store a boolean field in the database (I believe in Access the boolean type is called yes/no). But if you aren't able to load any data back into your app it's not going to do you any good.
  6. It should be, but you will probably need to store that info in the database. There may be built-in tools (like cookies on the web) for something like that I don't know about (I do a lot of work in VB6, but not for desktop applications (.exe)). So here's what occurs to me: create a hidden checkbox for each button (these would be yes/no fields in the database). It would default to unchecked. When the user clicks on a button it would check the hidden checkbox. The formatting for the button would depend on the checkbox (green if unchecked, red if checked). As long as the checkboxes are reading from and updating the database, that should do it.
  7. Seven! Well then... one or two (or three or four) more should be no biggie! I'm glad you talked to your parents. My kiddos are still little, but I hope as they are older they will be able to come to me with these kinds of problems. Particularly if they have are as mature about their problems as you are. (It never even occured to me to try to be self-sufficient until after I graduated from college and landed my first real job.) Good luck!
  8. Well... presuming your text box can handle multiple lines you need to concatenate your strings with a line break character. I would try something like txtOutput.Text = "ABC" & vbCrLf & "DEF" vbCrLf is a VB constant that puts in a carriage return line feed.
  9. I think to do what you want, you need to have your VB form bound to a specific table in your db. You can certainly do that if your front-end is an Access app. I would think it ought to be possible with a vb app. Otherwise, you will need an update query to take the info from the vb form and store it in the db.
  10. Great story! I'm glad you are writing the sequel!
  11. @destinyluck -- am I serious? No, but Agas may be. I have been struggling with this scene -- of what exactly happens to Rhen when she finds herself on the shores of the Demon Realm -- for over a year... well over a year. But I think I posted too early. I don't like the way it flowed. So, I've substantially revised the second half of the chapter. @all: The second half of Chapter 38 (above) has been very substantially revised.
  12. Great opening! Rhen as demon queen? I like the moodiness. Looking forward to more.
  13. @destinyluck: Poor Dameon. He has a lot to feel remorseful about! @aislingyngaio: I'm never sure how best not to answer questions like that... @all: This chapter continues Rhen's thread, which was last seen in Chapter 32. Thanks for reading! ***** Chapter 38: Rhen crawls onto the rocky shore and collapses. She feels as though she has been swimming for days. The baby strapped to her back begins to protest feebly at the change in her movements. She forces herself up so she can release the ties and examine the baby. She is shivering so badly that she can barely work her fingers. A particularly sharp blast of icy winds cuts through the meager protection of her light clothes. She whispers a brief prayer of thanks that whatever she had been swimming through, it apparently was not water. If her clothes were wet now, she knows that she would have already frozen to death. The baby is barely breathing and it’s skin has taken on a ghastly shade of blue. She fights back tears – no time now – she must find shelter for herself and the baby. Alicia will never forgive her if she dies now, before she even manages to make her way back to the world of the living. She snuggles the baby inside her shirt. It feels as though she has nestled a block of ice against her chest. The howl of the wind grows louder, and icy particles of snow drive like daggers into her skin. Neither she nor her child will survive long if she cannot find shelter. It is hard to see far. It is hard to see at all. She can barely open her eyes against the wicked cold of the wind and blowing snow obscures all but the immediate area. She cannot tell for certain, but it seems that she sees a slight darkening off to one side at the limits of her vision. Hoping against hope that the vague shape promises shelter, she stumbles toward it. The shape takes on form more rapidly than she expects. It is closer than she had thought, and much much smaller than she had hoped; no larger than a man. So this is it, she thinks, this is where it ends. “I am sorry, baby,” she murmurs against its head. “You deserved a better chance than I could give you.” She realizes that she is crying only when the tears freeze against her cheek. Still, she struggles over the rocks, fighting her way through the wind and towards the dark shape. She has nowhere else to go. The wind ceases without warning and she stumbles badly, twisting an ankle painfully as she catches herself from falling. The dark shape she sees now is just a man, a man dressed in strange, bluish spiky armor staring out to sea. There is no shelter, save that the air here is still and warm enough that she can feel the cold rising from her bones. So racked by shivers is she that she can do no more than to pant through chattering teeth as the man turns to face her, and Rhen realizes that she has just made her last mistake. “My dear Sword Singer,” says Agas sketching a courtly bow. “What an unexpected pleasure it is to see you.” Rhen shivers helplessly. “You don’t seem happy to see me, Sword Singer,” the demon says with a mock pout. Rhen looks away. Agas watches her intently for several minutes before turning back to regard the sea, absently fingering a thick gold band that encircles his neck. Finally, he nods slightly to himself. “Darius will be most pleased to see you. Most pleased.” “Dar-Dar-ius?” Rhen manages to push out between shivers. “D-Dameon’s father, Darius?” Her voice is starting to come back under her control. “Yes, Dameon’s father Darius,” says Agas sharply. “He has taken Ahriman’s place.” “I will not go,” Rhen says firmly. “I would rather die.” Agas laughs. “I’m afraid it is too late for that, Chosen One.” He looks around with obvious distaste. “Your soul wanders the Demon Realm now, and here it will stay forever more.” Rhen roars in anger, drawing her sword and slicing in a single motion. The sword cuts through the demon’s neck, an inch above his shoulders, just as she had intended. And yet his head does not fall. He stands watching her, amusement written clear on his face. “You are not paying attention, Sword Singer,” he says. “This is my realm.” He waves his hand negligently, and Rhen feels the air solidfy around her. “I am afraid that there is no hope for you, Chosen One. He very much wishes to see you, and what he wants he always gets, one way or the other.” “No. No. No no no no…” Rhen is surprised to find that she is speaking. Agas waves his hand irritably, and the sound cuts off, though in her mind it continues, an unending river of denial. “You are lost, Chosen One,” he hisses. “Darius will have your soul now. Likely he will put you up on a throne next to him. There is nothing, I am sure, that he would like better than to make the Chosen One,” and his voice drips with sarcasm, “the Queen of All Demons. No, there is nothing I can do about it, even if I so desired to cross him.” He regards her silently for a time, his face a mask betraying no hint of his thoughts. “You were a worthy enemy, once,” he says finally. “I might be able to do you a favor.” He pauses again, and Rhen is humiliated to feel hope surging unbidden through her chest. After a moment, he shrugs slightly and begins to speak again. “You see,” he says, tugging again at the band around his neck, “Darius wishes the Chosen One to… understand… his perspective in all of this.” He gestures vaguely all around. “It would be more than my life is worth to cross him in such an important detail. He has not, however, said a solitary word about the Chosen One’s child.” Agas turns again towards her, and pulls back the neck of Rhen’s shirt to stare intently at the child nestled there. Rhen would pull away, if she could, but she is held tight by the air. He watches the child intently for what seems like an eternity. Rhen cannot even begin to follow the slurry of emotions that cross his face. “I would hazard a guess that he does not even know the Chosen One carries a child.” He glances at her questioningly, but Rhen does not even know what he is asking. “What… what are you suggesting?” she says hoarsely. “It is up to you, of course, Chosen One. I can bring your child’s soul as easily as yours to Darius. He will be most appreciative, I am sure. For such an unexpected prize, I might well be able to restore my standing..." he trails off, staring again out to sea. He draws a deep breath. "Or, I could -- at great personal risk to myself -- with no possible thought of reward from Darius -- have your child’s soul taken out of this cursed realm, and raised in the world of men.” “How?” breathes Rhen, hope and wonder creeping into her voice despite her intentions. Agas smiles, and Rhen feels her heart drop at the cold gleam in his eyes. “I have a friend – a very good friend – who would be... overjoyed... to raise a child such as this." Rhen's eyes narrow suspcisiously. "Why? Why would you do this? Why should I let you?" Agas turns back to his study of the water. "As I said, Sword Singer, you were a worthy enemy once. As, perhaps, was I. The world has changed around us, the old ways fading. Who among the living has shared as much with me as you? It is, as I also have already said, a favor. Do not make me repeat myself again." "What would you gain from this, demon?" Agas returns his attention to her, to her baby, and she would cower away from the anger she sees in his eyes, but she is still held fast by the air. "Do not waste my time, Sword Singer. You are running out of choices. Let me make myself perfectly clear. I will take your wretched soul to Darius, where he will do with you what he will. If you choose to keep your child's soul with you, than your child will also enjoy Darius' eternal... hospitality. You are lost, Chosen One. Only I can give your child a chance." “No.” The word is out of Rhen’s mouth before she can even think it. “No. No.” Rhen bangs her knees sharply on the rocks and cries out in surprise. The cursed demon had released her from his spell, and she had not even had the strength to remain standing. Agas shrugs. “Very well. Shall we be on our way?” He raises his arms and Rhen can feel the power crackling in the air. “Wait!” she calls out, desperately, before she loses her nerve. “Wait. I will...” Agas watches her shrewdly, but says nothing nor makes any move. Rhen casts her eyes down at the ground, her voice sounds dead to her ears as she forces the words out. "Please, Daeva. Please save my child." Agas smiles with delight. “Your word is my command, my lady. I shall return shortly.” He raises his arm and calls out in a tongue that Rhen does not recognize. In a few moments, a wyvern is landing beside him. He climbs easily onto its back and disappears into the blowing snow. Rhen is caught in a rip-tide of forboding and despair. She wants to scream into sky, to wail and to rage, to call down lightning to strike her dead on the spot. Instead she gathers her baby close to her chest and tries to walk away. She does not get far. Within a few footsteps she is outside of the protective shield that had surrounded Agas. The cold bites into her with renewed ferocity. Already her baby is turning blue. There is no shelter. None, save the warm calm air that remained after Agas left. Agas had been right. She is running out of choices. If she tries to flee Agas, her baby will die... or be trapped forever in the Demon Realm. And doubtless Agas would find her anyway. With wyveryns at his command, where could she possibly hide? She returns to the spot where she had found Agas. This way, at least her child may have a chance. Her child and Dameon's. She cries softly against the baby's head while she settles down to wait. (Revised 6/21/2009)
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