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Nizkateth
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Tales of Dungeons and Dragons

30 Jun 2011, 21:02

Last edited by Nizkateth on 19 Nov 2011, 19:28, edited 26 times in total.
"There was a young lady named bright,
Who could travel much faster than light,
She went out one day,
In a relative way,
And came back the previous night."

Love is never having to say you're sorry. Power is being able to kill anyone who asks for an apology.
Jaito: "Necromancy is like Linux, but even less sociable"
<Logos> The sugar is Asian people.
"Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, watch it! I'm huge."
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Nizkateth
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Re: Tales of Dungeons and Dragons

30 Jun 2011, 21:04

Prologue - The Bargain

Onyr Hodach, elder of his town, awoke in the grasp of a hand as large as his torso. His senses still muffled by the blow that rendered him unconscious, he vaguely saw a large figure towering over him. The light was dim, and his gradually returning senses began to pick up the foul odor of old blood mixed with fresh offal. He choked on his breath for a moment, his stomach turning in nausea.

He felt sudden free-fall, ended quickly by a painful crash against the cold stone ground. Hodach, a man of nearly sixty summers, pushed against the ground and struggled to his knees. Senses mostly restored, he looked around. Inside of a large cave he saw half the floor slicked with blood, and a pile of rancid meat heaped against one of the cavern walls. Milling about him were monstrous figures: enormous shaggy ogres, boar-faced and gray-skinned orcs, and a couple hulking green trolls eating from the meat pile.

"You beasts will pay for this," Hodach choked out. The ogre that had been carrying him pushed him roughly to the ground and held him down.

"No human..." the voice, far too deep to be human, growled from the dark ahead of him, "...you are the one who paid for this." Hodach knew that voice. It was a troll's voice, but far better spoken than any he had met save one.

"Azubal?" Hodach coughed the question back toward the shadows. Leering from the dark, a grinning troll emerged. His face was scarred by a burn that left his left eye solid white, milked-over. Unlike the other trolls, wearing foul hides and crude loincloths, the figure before Hodach was clad in armor of forged plate steel. His grin was wide and full of yellowed teeth, bloody at the gums. "Azubal, why have you done this?" Hodach could barely breath under the press of the ogre's hand.

"I slew your enemies," Azubal's voice resounded so deep that Hodach felt it in the stone under him. "Let him up," the troll ordered the ogre. The giant released its press on Hodach's back.

One of the savage trolls stopped eating the rotting carcasses and turned toward the old man. “Fresh meat!” it snarled and lunged toward Hodach. In a blink, Azubal had moved, slashing his right claw across the savage’s face. The lunging troll staggered back, black blood oozing from the wounds for a moment before they began to heal.

“No!” Azubal snarled at his underling. He looked down at Hodach, “forgive my less developed cousin, he forgets his place!” Azubal snapped the last word at the over-eager troll, the claw marks on its face completely healed after mere seconds.

Hodach pushed himself back to his knees. “But...” he took a couple breaths and steadied himself, “...but we paid you! We paid you what we agreed! And those invaders from were no match for you and your... people.” Hodach looked around at the assembled monsters. Only three weeks prior, with the threat of invasion from the expansionist kingdom to the south looming, Hodach had struck a devil’s bargain with these same mercenary beasts.

“I am dissatisfied with my payment,” Azubal laughed, a horrible guttural laugh that turned Hodach’s stomach almost as badly as the stench in the cave.

The elder shook his head, “but we have nothing more to give you, we gave you everything we could spare!”

“Then you still have more you can give me!” Azubal bellowed.

“No! We will starve! We may as well have let the invaders take us! You can’t do this!”

Suddenly, Azubal’s face was right in front of Hodach’s, his grin changed to a curled-lipped snarl. “Can’t? Are you certain, human?” The troll’s breath was hot and rancid, like the air in a dying swamp. “Not only can I take what I want, but my soldiers are... hungry.” He turned his head and looked toward the cavern ceiling above the meat-pile. Hodach’s gaze turned to follow Azubal’s, and with his eyes adjusted to the low light he could see the meat source. Hanging from chains, like sides of beef in a slaughterhouse, were the skinned bodies of the other townsfolk who had come with Hodach to pay Azubal’s price.

“Gods no...” Hodach vomited involuntarily. His hands shook, his head swam momentarily and a cold dread crept up his spine. It was not courage, just the realization that he would not live through the day either way, as Hodach then pulled the knife he kept in a boot-sheath. With all the strength the old man could muster he stabbed up into Azubal’s throat. His blade pierced the knotted green flesh and sunk deep into the troll’s neck. Black blood oozed over Hodach’s hand.

Azubal turned his head back to look at Hodach. He laughed again, though the sound was somewhat choked by the blade in his throat. “Feel better?” Azubal grabbed Hodach’s knife-arm with one clawed hand, and the old man’s neck with the other. With superhuman strength he lifted the town elder clear off the ground. Hodach lost his grip on the knife, which slowly slid out of the wound and clattered against the ground. Within moments the wound closed and healed over, as though it had never been. “Feel like you accomplished something? One last desperate effort?”

Hodach could not speak, and could barely breath in the iron grip of the nine-foot troll.

“Pathetic...” Azubal threw down the old man, knocking what little breath he had from him. The armored troll turned and walked away, stopping next to the eager troll he had stopped before. “Go ahead,” he growled. With a wicked howl of bloodlust the barbaric troll leapt upon Hodach, teeth and claws sinking without resistance into the human’s flesh. Hodach screamed, and watched as the troll began to eat him. His screams were quickly drowned out by the triumphant roars of the assembled monsters as they moved in to join the fresh feast.
"There was a young lady named bright,
Who could travel much faster than light,
She went out one day,
In a relative way,
And came back the previous night."

Love is never having to say you're sorry. Power is being able to kill anyone who asks for an apology.
Jaito: "Necromancy is like Linux, but even less sociable"
<Logos> The sugar is Asian people.
"Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, watch it! I'm huge."
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Nizkateth
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Re: Tales of Dungeons and Dragons

30 Jun 2011, 21:05

Chapter 1 - Hero
Part 1 - The Slayer

A quick kick dropped the long-dead goblin body off the ramparts of the stone guard-tower. It tumbled down the tapered sides of the building, landing with a light crunch on the bare dirt around the structure. Standing atop the tower, looking down at the bodies he finally cleared from the roof, Khorun the Bold sighed.

It had taken him a week to clear the mess from the tower after he had cleared out the goblin infestation. The fight had not been difficult, but it had been satisfying; and it provided Khorun with a new home. Long abandoned, the tower was claimed by no one, and from atop its hill it overlooked only fallow fields and disused roads.

Clad in his dwarven-forged plate armor, the edges of each plate etched with finely carved runes, with his wide red cloak fluttering down to his mid-calf, Khorun stood at a proud six feet with dark brown hair that fell to his shoulders and piercing gold-iris eyes. It was said at his birth that his eyes were a mark of destiny.

In his right hand Khorun held the grip of his great-sword Skywrath, its point touching the floor. Forged from the iron heart of a fallen star by grateful priests of the storm-god Kord, and blessed with power, it was Khorun’s most prized possession. For several minutes he stood and looked out over what he considered his lands now. Lost in thought, he didn’t notice the visitor until their voice called up from below, “Hello?!”

Snapped from his reverie, Khorun looked down the tower. Standing at its base looking back toward him, was a young woman in a slightly ragged linen dress with unkempt red hair. “Who are you?” Khorun called back, “And what do you want?”

“I am Nella, of Riverford Town... and I am here for your help!” A palpable tone of desperation clung to the lady’s words.

“That’s quite a trip to make, at least a week on foot... I’ll be right down!” Khorun harnessed his sword, which had to hang at an angle across his back for it was as tall as he. Leaving the roof, he made his way casually down to the stone stairs of the tower to the second floor and opened the large double-doors that served as the only standard entrance. Beyond the doors, steps outside led down the last floor to the ground. At the base of the steps stood Nella. “Come on in,” he beckoned her.

Slowly the young woman made her way up the steps, then stepped inside the tower. Her feet were covered only by a crude cloth wrapping. Khorun closed the doors and led the girl down the main hallway of the tower and into the large open room that was once the mess hall for the posted garrison. Only one table was left intact, the rest were broken by the goblins during their occupation or smashed during the battle to remove them. He led her to the good table and helped her into a seat.

“So, what is so pressing as to send you a week from home just to see me?” Khorun stood next to the young woman, looking over the many welts and partially-healed cuts scattered across her skin. “You’ve clearly been attacked.”

“It’s Riverford... everyone’s being...” she stopped for a moment and rocked forward and back while shaking her head, “...we’re dying. They... they took everything... and then... they started... they...”

“Calm down, take a few breaths.” Khorun put a gauntleted hand on the girl’s shoulder to steady her. “No one can hurt you here, I promise you. Just settle, I’ll grab you some food, okay?”

“...they’re eating them!” Khorun had gone no more than a step and he stopped immediately. He turned back toward the woman. “We... we were under attack. Couldn’t fight them off... kept losing ground. Made a deal, with them... with... with...” Khorun stepped back to the girl, but said nothing. “...Azubal.”

A chill swept over Khorun for just an instant. He knew that name, but only from rumor and merchant’s tales. A troll he had been told, as smart as a human, who led a great mercenary army of monsters far less intelligent. This news was somewhat unsettling.

She continued, “...he killed... the invaders. But... the... the payment wasn’t... good enough. They took our town.” She began to settle down just a little, her rocking ceased. “Made us prisoners. Took everything. Set the men to work until they can’t. And then they... they eat them. They already ate the children. We live on the streets... they took our homes. Starving. Cold. Sick. They’re...” she trailed off, her breathing slowing.

Khorun stood silent for near a minute. “I’ll help you. I give you my word.” She looked up to his face, a weary smile trying to force its way onto her dirt-strewn face. “Now, let me get you some food. I’d like to know everything you can tell me, but only once you’re feeling up to it. I’ll be right back.” He walked off through the mess hall’s back door to the kitchen behind it, returning several minutes later with a goblet of well-pumped water and a plate with some of the bread and dry meat Khorun had been carrying when he arrived at the tower. He slid the food in front of her. “Here.”

She paused, as though from a harshly-learned caution, then tore into the food with ravenous abandon. Khorun the Bold sat down in a seat down the table from her and watched, though his mind was elsewhere. He couldn’t help but think the townsfolk had chosen Nella to get his help very specifically. She had clearly been a pretty young woman before all this, and Khorun had a well-deserved reputation as a bit of a gallant. But he could neither stand such horrors happening to innocent people, nor the encroaching threat of a monstrous army so close to his new home.

And the chance to clash blades with a warrior like Azubal was far too tempting on its own.
"There was a young lady named bright,
Who could travel much faster than light,
She went out one day,
In a relative way,
And came back the previous night."

Love is never having to say you're sorry. Power is being able to kill anyone who asks for an apology.
Jaito: "Necromancy is like Linux, but even less sociable"
<Logos> The sugar is Asian people.
"Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, watch it! I'm huge."
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Re: Tales of Dungeons and Dragons

01 Jul 2011, 21:19

Part 2 - The Departure

Nella slept. After eating her fill she fell asleep in her chair. Khorun took the plate and goblet back to the old kitchen, and had a bit of food himself. He leaned against the edge of the door-opening, the actual door long removed or destroyed, and looked at the sleeping young red-headed woman. Her wounds were relatively fresh. She hadn’t made it to the tower without notice. Whatever she ran into, she either slew or managed to evade. Either way, Khorun was impressed.

After eating, he walked back over to the table and sat down. He’d let her rest a while, but obviously time was quite important to this effort. Khorun leaned back in the chair and spent a couple hours considering what he may run into. Rumor spoke of Azubal’s army as a terrible horde of savages. Azubal was said to be the only worthy mind in the entire group, the rest were somewhere between dim-witted but blood-crazed and nearly animalistic.

As the sun passed into the western sky Khorun stood and walked over to Nella. “Nella.” He spoke gently, wanting to rouse her with as little alarm as possible. “Nella.” She stirred a little but remained asleep. She was clearly exhausted. “Nella!” Khorun was a little less gentle in his voice. She mumbled something but remained asleep. He leaned in closer.

“NELLA!”

She awoke with a scream, on reflex punching Khorun in the jaw. He noted that she was pretty strong for her size. His jaw ached. Nella looked around frightened for a moment, then stopped and looked up at Khorun. “Sorry... I...”

“My fault, don’t worry about it. You okay?”

“Yeah, I feel a lot better. I can’t thank you enough for your hospitality!” She stood, more stable on her feet than before. “Please, you have to help my people! We don’t have anything left, but I’m sure we can manage some form of payment. Please.” Khorun noted she was good at making big-eyes. He chuckled.

“I already said I’d help. And I don’t recall asking for payment.”

Her expression became one of either overwhelmed joy or shock, Khorun wasn’t entirely certain which. She hugged him around his breastplate, her head pressed against his shoulder. “Thank you...” she nearly cried into his armor. He pulled her free after a few seconds and stepped back.

“Stay here. I know the way to Riverford. There’s food and water here, and you can bar the main doors once I’m gone. If anyone tries to break in, get to the third floor, there’s a room at the front of the tower with holes in the floor overlooking the main hallway. Not sure how good you are with a bow, but there’s also oil and unlit torches up there. Just dump some fire down on any invaders.” He smiled.

“No.” Nella gained a suddenly defiant expression. “I’m going with you!”

“Far too dangerous if what you say is true. I’ll come back for you when it’s over.”

She stood as tall as she could, which was still a full head shorter than Khorun. “It’s my home, I’m going and I’m going to help! Besides, I know what’s in there better than you do, you’ll need my advice when we get there!” Without another word she walked out of the mess hall and toward the front door.

“Huh...” Khorun caught up with her just outside the tower door. “Hey, slow down!” He grabbed her shoulder. She spun around and was about to protest but he raised his other hand to interrupt. “We’ll make better time on horse than on foot.”

“Thank you.”

“Not sure I could stop you anyway. Now... where is that horse?” He looked around but could not see his mount anywhere, he then whistled loudly and waited. Still nothing. “Amber! Get over here!” Khorun shouted. A short time later the sound of hooves on dirt came from around the side of the tower. A stunning mare with chestnut mane and protected by leather barding, Amber walked lazily over to the pair. “Finally... where were you? Good grazing on the other side of the hill?” Khorun pet the horse’s shoulder and neck.

After retrieving his saddle and some supplies from inside the tower and girding Amber for the journey, Khorun mounted and then helped Nella up. She sat in front of him, holding on to the horse’s neck for support. “Hold tight,” Khorun waited until Nella seemed situated. “It’s nearly a hundred miles to your town isn’t it?”

“Yes... you live very far from civilization, but there was no one else around we thought could help us. The southern kingdom wants to conquer us, and further west are just more small towns like our own.” Nella sighed.

“What about to the north, couldn’t you have asked the dwarves for help? They have ever less love for the kinds of creatures you face.”

She shook her head. “No one in town knew how to navigate those lands. We’d get lost, and we don’t have much time left.”

“I’ll leave a map for your people when I’m done with Azubal.” She looked back at Khorun, and saw that he was smiling. In truth, he really wasn't afraid. This is what he lived for, a real challenge. He’d have faced Azubal eventually anyway, he was sure of that. Now he had a chance to help a lot of people at the same time. In his mind, it was a double-win.

They set off, Amber cantering at first until they reached more level ground and then a gallop along the disused road west, toward Riverford. It would take but two days for the swift horse to reach the town.
"There was a young lady named bright,
Who could travel much faster than light,
She went out one day,
In a relative way,
And came back the previous night."

Love is never having to say you're sorry. Power is being able to kill anyone who asks for an apology.
Jaito: "Necromancy is like Linux, but even less sociable"
<Logos> The sugar is Asian people.
"Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, watch it! I'm huge."
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Nizkateth
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Re: Tales of Dungeons and Dragons

01 Jul 2011, 21:20

Part 3 - First Encounter

“Stay on the horse!”

Khorun shouted instruction to Nella as he nearly leapt from the saddle, landing in a semi-kneeling stance. Toward him charged a small band of orcs; gray-skinned berserkers with flat faces, pig-like noses, jutting lower tusks in their mouths and glowing red eyes. They waved large axes overhead and howled. Khorun was less concerned about them than the twelve foot shaggy ogre behind them carrying a small tree like a club.

The journey to Riverford had been fairly uneventful until this point. When necessary, Khorun made a basic camp with the supplies he had packed on Amber. Nella had slept a great deal, often turning and sweating from nightmares as she did. She couldn’t possibly have seen greater than twenty summers by Khorun’s estimate, probably a couple less than that. Her courage in the face of what they were going to fight really emboldened him.

As they had neared the town, only a few miles away, they had come across the threat they now faced. Khorun drew his six-foot sword with the speed a normal man might pull a knife from a held sheath. Tiny arcs of electricity danced along the length of the blade. He roared and charged toward the onrushing party.

Right into the midst of the orcs he charged and dropped the orc at the front of the charge with a single slash that severed its head, without slowing. Right past the headless body he charged, bringing his sword up in a clash to block a forceful downward axe-blow. Another orc chopped at his side with its axe, the crude blade glancing off his armor. The third orc was luckier, but a quick duck to the side turned a chop to Khorun’s neck into a glancing hit that left only a small cut.

“Now you’re pissing me off...” Khorun growled. He jumped back from the press of orcs and swung his sword in a wide overhead arc. The edge slammed down on the top of the nearest orc’s head, splitting it neatly in two down past the shoulders. Unshaken, or more likely unconcerned, by the death of two of their fellows the orcs pressed the attack. A shadow loomed overhead, and Khorun looked up into the roaring maw of the ogre.

Khorun barely rolled to his left quickly enough to avoid the swung tree. One of the orcs was instead crushed under the ogre’s massive ‘club’. Now somewhat alarmed, the two remaining orcs pulled back and let the ogre press the attack.

“Hells...” Khorun cursed and kept a watchful eye on the ogre. Its reach was so huge he couldn’t even counterattack with his own giant sword. The beast snarled and swung its club, this time from the side. Khorun ducked under it, swatted only by some of the smaller twigs and branches still clinging to it. “Nine... Bloody... Hells...”

Its sweeping strike was very wide however, and left a few moments to get in close. Khorun seized the opportunity. A couple quick steps brought him up close to the creature. The stink was horrible, like dung mixed with stale salt-brine. “Alright ugly, let’s dance.” Khorun slashed his sword across the front of the ogre’s right leg. It howled and spun its bulk back around toward him.

Khorun shifted his grip and on a reverse swing left a cut across the ogre’s gut. It snarled and kicked Khorun back a step. Then it smashed its tree-club into his right side, sending him sprawling across the road. The orcs roared their approval. Khorun shook his head, trying to clear his dizzied senses. His vision came back into focus just in time for him to roll out of the way of a downward tree-strike. Everything on the right side of his body ached, but he pushed the pain aside.

Rolling forward, Khorun hopped back to his feet. “You dance well... HA!” Khorun shouted at the ogre, which if it could understand him made no sign of it. He slashed one of the ogre’s arms, leaving a deep gash but not enough of a wound to impede the creature. Deep red blood dripped from the beast’s wounds, splattering against the sandy roadway.

With amazing and furious speed, the ogre reared back and smashed its club downward. Khorun brought his sword up to stop the tree from crushing him, but was also driven to his knees. His arms startled to buckle and sweat poured from his brow. All he could manage was a pained grunt as he pushed back against the ogre’s weapon, he hadn’t the strength to hold it more than a few seconds.

So he didn’t try. Khorun pushed himself to the side, letting the tree-club crash into the ground. He stepped up onto the tree and leapt up, plunging his sword a full foot into the ogre’s chest. Blood ran along the sacred etchings on Skywrath, awakening the divine fury within.

A crack like piercing thunder shook the sand of the road and a brilliant pulse of lightning surged along the blade into the impaled monster. Arcs of electricity danced along the beast’s skin and arced off into the ground and air. The flash glowed brightly from behind the ogre’s eyes, and smoke poured forth from its agape mouth. Still crackling of residual electricity, the hulking brute fell back lifeless. The ground shook when it hit.

“And that takes care of that...” Khorun laughed to himself. Just then he heard a sharp snap from behind him and spun about to see one of the remaining orcs standing behind him. One good kick from Amber had split open its skull, and it too drop dead at his feet. Khorun looked up to see Nella looking down from the saddle. “I told you to stay back,” he scolded her.

“No, you told me to stay on the horse.” She smiled, but the smile faded as she looked up and past Khorun. He turned quickly and saw what she did, the last orc a good distance away and running toward the town. Nella pushed Amber to a quick gallop. Khorun grabbed hold of the saddle as they passed, swinging himself up onto the horse. Quickly they overtook the orc, and from charging horseback Khorun cut it down.

The pair rode hard toward the town, Khorun praying no other scouts had seen the battle. He was going to need the element of surprise. Without it things would get far too interesting.
"There was a young lady named bright,
Who could travel much faster than light,
She went out one day,
In a relative way,
And came back the previous night."

Love is never having to say you're sorry. Power is being able to kill anyone who asks for an apology.
Jaito: "Necromancy is like Linux, but even less sociable"
<Logos> The sugar is Asian people.
"Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, watch it! I'm huge."
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Nizkateth
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Contact:

Re: Tales of Dungeons and Dragons

03 Jul 2011, 13:34

Part 4 - Infiltration

Nestled at the base of a shallow valley, astride a river that poured down from nearby mountains, sat the town of Riverford. A collection of wood and stone buildings arranged in relatively neat squares, the very architecture spoke of a deliberately constructed trading post at the river’s pass. Though flanked on both sides of the river by simple wooden guard towers, the town did not even have a proper wall. Around its border was a barrier better described as a large fence. The sight of the town in the mid-morning light would have been quaint if the gates weren’t blocked by ogres and the roads crawling with monstrous creatures.

Khorun and Nella crouched some distance away, Amber behind them, partially obscured by bushes and tall grass. Eleven others, all tradesmen or farmers in similar condition as Nella was when she arrived at Khorun’s tower, crouched with them. They were the only ones who had yet escaped. Khorun’s sword, Skywrath, was drawn and crackled faintly. “You weren’t kidding... that’s a lot them.” Khorun scanned the streets, estimating at least a hundred invaders just on their side of the river.

Clusters of people huddled up in the shadows of their former homes. Passing orcs would threaten them, lunging forward and snarling to make them cringe more, then walk away laughing. An ogre picked a woman from a small group and began eating her. The others cried but did not scream or retaliate, they had clearly learned better.

Khorun was ready to slaughter the whole of Azubal’s army, if that’s what it took. He ground his teeth and held his position for the time, every fiber and muscle twitching to charge in. Skywrath sparked more actively. “Any suggestions... before I just walk in and start killing?” Khorun growled out through clenched teeth.

“They have guards in the towers,” Nella pointed at the tower on their side of the river. At the top of the scaffold-type structure, on a platform with a low rail, crouched a pair of harpies: emaciated human-looking women with bird talons for hands and feet and a pair of large feathered wings. Dressed in rags, the harpies each had blood on their fore-talons and were licking them clean. “There must be some way past them...” Nella pondered.

“Have we got bows?” One of the escapees asked.

“No, and if we didn’t kill them quickly they’d raise the alarm anyway,” Nella shook her head.

“If we had a distraction,” Khorun said, “maybe I could sneak around and get up the tower. Pretty sure I could slay them both before much commotion broke out.”

“Even better...” Nella appeared struck with an idea, “...I’ll lead them to you!” Without giving a chance for questions or argument, Nella ran off across the fields.

“Wait!” Khorun began to stand, but ducked back down behind his cover. Nella ran parallel to the town, in open view but still quite far away. The harpy pair visibly stiffened in their posture for a moment, and then came down on all fours while licking their lips. They then took flight, flapping clumsily through the air in pursuit. Nella ran just a bit longer, then feigned as though she had just noticed the harpies. She spun about and ran back toward Khorun and the others.

Though crazy, Nella’s plan appeared to work. The harpies laughed and chattered between themselves as they chased the lone human. A few hundred feet from the others, Nella was panting and running as fast as she could. The winged women continued to gain on her. Through the tall grass she sprinted, looking back over her shoulder every few steps. Eagerly the harpies tucked their wings in to dive. They reached out their front talons toward Nella.

Losing a bit of hair and scalp to a blood-caked talon, Nella threw herself to the ground just before she was grabbed. Khorun stepped from behind the bushes and swung Skywrath in a horizontal arc. Two halves of a harpy fell past him and rolled across the grassy hillside. Seeing this the other harpy beat her wings to stop, landing in its normal slouched posture. Two of the escapees who had been hiding leapt from cover and tackled the creature to the ground.

They struggled for a brief moment, and then the harpy stopped fighting back and began to sing. Despite her nearly skeletal and malformed body, her voice was musical. Ethereal notes issued forth from the winged woman in a beauteous cadence. The escapees loosened their grip, their eyes beginning to glaze over. They started to stand and release the harpy when Skywrath was plunged point-first through the monster’s head, silencing the music. “Shut up,” Khorun growled.

For a few moments the harpy’s body twitched and convulsed. Once it went limp, Khorun withdrew his sword. A few sparks of lightning seared and consumed the blood on the blade, leaving it unmarked. The weapon sensed its master’s rage.

“So that’s how they’re keeping them in...” one of the escapees muttered, the others nodded.

Nella walked over to Khorun. “It won’t be long before they notice their guards are missing, you should hurry.”

Khorun looked back at Nella, “You’re crazy.” He chuckled. “I like that. Alright, I’m going to slip over the wall. Once I get inside I can use the narrow streets and doorways to my advantage, make ‘em come a few at a time.” He looked back at the town, swarming as it was with monstrous figures. “My arms are going to get tired...” he thought for a moment, “killing them all is suicide. But once I get a ruckus going inside and draw them all down on me, you folks get in there and get others out. Be quick and quiet about it. If they see you, just run... don’t try to be a hero. That’s my job.”

With that, Khorun ran toward the wall. Skywrath crackled in anticipation.
"There was a young lady named bright,
Who could travel much faster than light,
She went out one day,
In a relative way,
And came back the previous night."

Love is never having to say you're sorry. Power is being able to kill anyone who asks for an apology.
Jaito: "Necromancy is like Linux, but even less sociable"
<Logos> The sugar is Asian people.
"Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, watch it! I'm huge."
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Nizkateth
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Re: Tales of Dungeons and Dragons

05 Jul 2011, 08:34

Part 5 - Counterattack

Inside a small house, near the edge of Riverford, Khorun the Bold stood beside the door. His great sword, Skywrath, crackled and burned away the lingering traces of black orc blood from moments earlier. Not far away, by a ruined kitchen table, were the decapitated bodies of three orcs. The last one had just enough time to shout before it fell.

With his back to the wall, Khorun eyed the approaching patrol outside. Whole town wasn’t on alarm. At least, not yet. Before the small group could investigate, Khorun dashed across the room and dove behind the wreckage of the table. It would not conceal him for long, but he didn’t need it to. From cover he head the guttural grunting speech of more orcs, which seemed to account for the bulk of Azubal’s army.

Mere moments after the patrol stepped inside, Khorun sprang into attack. The first orc was dead before it knew what was happening, falling in half at the waist with wide eyes and little more than a sharp cough. The other three hoisted their axes, a second orc dropping after being impaled through the chest by Skywrath. Half the patrol already dead, Khorun went on the defensive against a furious onslaught. Enraged, the orcs hacked away at the air with their weapons. Clumsy strikes, Khorun was able to easily deflect them. More critically, one of the orcs shouted an alarm out onto the street.

“Alright ugly, that’s all I needed.” Khorun stepped forward and cleaved through the shouting orc’s legs with a low sweeping strike. He then came about, bringing his sword around and up to chop off the top of the last orc’s boar-like head. Black blood poured out over the floor, gushing from the severed legs of his amputated foe. The beast crawled just a few feet before bleeding out.

Didn’t take long for the forces outside to move in on the house. Out the windows Khorun saw the shapes of orcs encircling the building. Low rumbling gave way to the floor violently shaking. An ogre crouched at the front door and put its head inside to take a look. “Yah!” with a single strike to the neck, Khorun decapitated the monster. Its body slumped down, blocking the door. Khorun laughed, loud enough for the enemy outside to hear.

“Is this the best you can do?! I’m a little disappointed!” Khorun ran toward the opposite side of the small two-room building. Splinters from shattered shutters rained on the orcs in the alley outside as Khorun dove through the back window. Amidst the shower of wood-pieces, Khorun downed two more of their number. “Come on!” He shouted out loudly enough to give away his position, then sprinted down the alley and out onto the next street.

Down the road and from the alleys swarmed more orcs. Several ogres stomped their way through the crowd and pushed through the narrow spaces between buildings not much taller than they were. Walls began to crumble and roofs crack as the ogres squeezed through, but it slowed them down.

Across the street was a small tavern. Khorun raced inside, kicking in the door as he ran. Inside sat a couple dozen orcs and smaller, green skinned, figures. Seems Azubal had at least a few goblins. Greasy leathers and knives were all the goblins carried, but Khorun knew from experience that they were vicious little creatures. They also tended to be loud, and the bigger a distraction Khorun could make, the better.

He skewered only one of the orcs, one sitting and eating nearby the door. Laughing, he ran toward and then up the stairs to the top floor. Crashing of falling tables and roaring came from behind him, followed by the cacophony of the enemy host stomping along in pursuit. On the second floor, top of the building, Khorun shoulder-charged his way through the door into one of the inn-rooms.

Two rotting human bodies lay in the room, one on the bed and the other on the floor not far away with an empty sword-sheath in its left hand. At least someone tried to put up a fight, but Khorun didn’t have time to think much about it beyond that. A glass window, foggy and smudged with dirt, looked out over a narrow alley and the roof of the neighboring one-story building.

Through the open door plowed the enemy, quick on Khorun’s trail. Given the bulk of the orc warriors they could only press through one at a time. Khorun slashed with Skywrath, dropping the first orc to get inside. However, the second one dove over the falling body of the first and smashed its axe against Khorun’s plated shoulder. While his armor absorbed the worst of it, pain shot down his arm and he was certain he felt something inside almost crack.

Staggering back from the ferocious strike he took, and seeing more orcs pushing into the room with howling goblins at their heels, Khorun turned and dove heedless through the window. Glass and man sailed through the air together, all coming crashing down on the neighboring roof. Khorun landed with little grace, crashing and rolling amidst the shattered remains of the window. “Uhh...” he moaned in a dazed state for a moment before his senses cleared.

Back on his feet, Khorun heard the orcs in the inn-room roaring. Wouldn’t be long before they tried the same stunt. He raced across the shallowly-slanted wooden roof and hopped off the side onto the next street over. Landing in a crouch on the muddy road, Khorun then stood. While still clearly chasing him, the sounds of his pursuers was far off for now. He laughed, and turned to walk down the street.

Not twenty feet away stood no less than two dozen more orcs and two ogres, blocking the road. Khorun looked over his shoulder, and saw a similar force blocking the road in the other direction. He was surrounded.

“Crap.”

Skywrath crackled more intensely, gripped in both hands tightly. “I gotta start paying more attention...” Khorun turned every few seconds to face the opposite force, not wanting to keep his back to either side long. “...well, come with it then!”

All at once the enemy howled and charged. Khorun stood his ground and prayed. “Kord, if you are listening, I could really use the help right about now...” As he prayed, Khorun felt Skywrath pulse in his hands. A surge of power coursed through the blade, sending currents through his body. Khorun could feel the greater blessing of the weapon stir and awaken. “Alright, hope to the heavens this works...”

As the charging monsters pressed in to attack, Khorun shouted defiantly and thrust Skywrath into the belly of the first ogre to get close. “Die!” He roared back defiantly as Skywrath unleashed its rage.

Power surged along the edge of the sword and deep into the ogre. Electricity sizzled through the beast’s body, blue-white energy pulsing behind its burnt out eyes for an instant before erupting forth. Bolts of blindingly bright lightning shot from the impaled ogre and into the onrushing horde, dancing and leaping between foes hungrily. The enemy shook and burned as the power coursed through them. Khorun clenched his eyes shut against the painfully intense sight. A deafening crack of thunder shook the street, leaving a dull ringing in Khorun’s ears.

Then silence.
"There was a young lady named bright,
Who could travel much faster than light,
She went out one day,
In a relative way,
And came back the previous night."

Love is never having to say you're sorry. Power is being able to kill anyone who asks for an apology.
Jaito: "Necromancy is like Linux, but even less sociable"
<Logos> The sugar is Asian people.
"Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, watch it! I'm huge."
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Nizkateth
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Re: Tales of Dungeons and Dragons

06 Jul 2011, 08:37

Part 6 - Evacuation

A heartbeat. His heartbeat. The first thing Khorun heard was his heart beating. Immediately following it was a high-pitched whine in his ears that slowly began to subside. Then his breathing, heavy and labored. A smell of ozone filled his nose. As he began to hear distant grunting in a crude language Khorun unclenched his eyes. Everything still looked a little blurry.

He stood at the center of death. All around on the street were bodies of orcs, a scattering of goblins and two ogres. Black marks in arcing patterns marred the street and walls of the nearest buildings. Smoke faintly wafted from the corpses, which were also charred and blackened. In an expanse at least thirty feet wide, all the enemy horde was dead.

Finally Khorun’s ears stopped ringing and his eyes adjusted. Surviving orcs and one ogre were running away, toward the river and the other half of the town. They were shouting in their savage tongue. “Thank you Kord,” Khorun whispered, and kissed Skywrath on the flat of the blade. It gave him a small shock.

Quickly looking around, Khorun saw a scattering of ragged and unkempt humans running the other way. He ran over another street, and saw Nella and the other escapees directing the survivors out the cleared town gate. He waved down the street to Nella, and she waved back. The escapees began going house to house and searching the back alleys to find everyone they could to get out. Khorun turned toward the river, and the ford that gave the town its name. The orcs were halfway across the river already.

“To press the advantage or not?” Khorun mused to himself, “Is there even a question?”

By the time the orcs crossed the river, Khorun had already waded half the way. With surprising speed for a man in armor he plowed through the shallow waters. Subtlety was not his strongest quality, the noise of him dashing across the river very clearly alerted his targets. He glanced up and down the river, and saw that apart from the narrow pass at the heart of the town the river was quite fast and fairly deep anywhere rocks weren’t jutting out.

Khorun dove out of the river at the other side, weapon-first. The monsters awaiting him didn’t stand a chance. Most of them continued to flee, terrified at what they saw or heard from the others. “That’s right!” Khorun roared with laughter as he slashed through an ogre’s leg. “Run cowards!” he then cut open the ogre’s neck and let it fall bleeding.

Cutting a bloody trail through the mostly fleeing creatures, Khorun reached the town gate at the other side. A ways off, he saw the monsters regrouping and herding the men of the town toward the base of the nearby mountains. The men were chained, and clearly beaten and exhausted. They had no chance of fighting back on their own. Khorun moved to pursue.

His chase was abruptly delayed. Screeching, a haggard winged woman landed on his back. Her talons dug into the seams on Khorun’s armor. The harpy rip at him with savage fury with all four of her limbs, nearly dragging him to the ground. “Get off me you bitch!” Khorun snarled. Talons slashed across his face, leaving thin cuts that burned. Khorun grabbed the talon where a person’s wrist would be. With all his strength he pulled the harpy forward and rolled his shoulders, dumping her to the ground. She flailed, feathers flying off her wings from the force of the thrashing. Before she could get back to her feet, Skywrath was slammed through her chest and into the ground underneath.

Withdrawing his blade from the emaciated bird-woman, Khorun saw the other harpy fly from the western guard tower and flap away into the distance. “Smartest thing I’ve seen one of these things do today...” he heard something, and looked back. At the river was Nella, she called out to him.

“We’ve nearly got everyone out!” she shouted.

“They took the men to the mountains!” he called back.

“To the mines! Azubal made that his home here!”

“I’m going after them! Stay here!” Khorun made sure to phrase his instructions right this time. Then, without any further delay, Khorun raced off after the remaining monstrous forces and the enslaved men. They had a good head start on him.

Beyond the town the road forked, splitting into a northern and southern road. Past the road were fields of crops, slashed and burned, and a few farmhouses that sat in partial ruins. It was over the fields that the men were taken, past the small farmlands and to the base of the mountains. Several miles, it took over an hour for Khorun to cross the distance. He could see his targets the entire way, but couldn’t manage to catch up with them before they reached the mines.

Old wooden beams framed the entrance to the mine. Only a foot or so taller than a man, the ogres had to duck considerably to get inside. Four orcs stood defiantly at the entrance as Khorun approached. Skywrath in hand, he charged toward them. They threw down their weapons and waved him off frantically with both hands. Khorun slowed as he approached, but kept the crackling sword between him and them.

“Boss say. Go in.” One of the orcs managed to choke out the words in the human tongue.

“And be trapped, I don’t think so!” Khorun advanced on the orcs again.

“Boss want fight. You strong. He stronger.” He wasn’t sure, but Khorun thought the orc might be grinning. It was hard to tell with a tusk-filled mouth on a pig-face.

Khorun thought for a moment. If it was a lie, he would be fallen upon and probably die in the trap. But he might be able to fight through Azubal’s cronies. If it was true, he’d certainly be fallen upon even if he won... but at least the leader would be dead. It would make the townsfolk’s job of reclaiming the area much easier without the army’s leader in command.

It was worth the gamble. “Alright, lead me to him. But stay in front of me, I see anything that looks like an attack and I’ll kill you on the spot.” It took a bit for the orcs to process what he said, but then they nodded and walked into the mine. Khorun took a deep breath and stepped into the darkness.

Either way, this promised to be fun.
"There was a young lady named bright,
Who could travel much faster than light,
She went out one day,
In a relative way,
And came back the previous night."

Love is never having to say you're sorry. Power is being able to kill anyone who asks for an apology.
Jaito: "Necromancy is like Linux, but even less sociable"
<Logos> The sugar is Asian people.
"Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, watch it! I'm huge."
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Nizkateth
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Re: Tales of Dungeons and Dragons

08 Jul 2011, 09:01

Part 7 - Supremacy

He was surrounded. All around the cavern were monstrous beings, ogres and orcs filling the only entranceway. A pair of trolls sat in a corner. They were hunched, green, savages nearly as large as an ogre; guarding a host of battered men in rusting chains. The cavern was large enough, a natural pocket in the earth judging from its smooth walls and stalactites, for even the largest of the creatures to stand at full height.

Across the cave was a large cooking fire, its smoke filling the uppermost of the cave with a gray haze that slowly filtered out through the upward passage that lead there. The smell of smoke only slightly masked the stench of filth and decay in the cavern.

Sitting next to the cooking fire was a very different troll. This one stood upright instead of slouching. It wore plate armor and had a rather large sword sheathed at its hip. Its left eye was milked over and surrounded by a burn-scar. Pieces of meat cooked over the fire, but only this one troll seemed to prefer it over raw flesh. It took a bite out of a large chunk of cooked meat.

"Excellent," the creature growled, "far more tender than the older men..." The troll gestured, and the assembled monsters laughed. Likely they had no idea what was said, just that they were supposed to laugh.

"Azubal,” Khorun glared death at the troll, “you will pay for this.”

Azubal chuckled, a horrid rasping sound. “You are the second human to tell me that since I arrived.” He pointed to a pile of broken and gnawed bones sitting against the wall. “When will your kind learn?” Azubal stood, a towering figure of nothing but muscle and steel.

“Shut up and fight.” Khorun rushed the troll, and to his sudden concern the monsters in the cave made no move to stop him. Azubal didn’t even draw his sword. Skywrath slashed down across the troll’s twisted face. A deep flesh-wound was left, but it closed and faded to a thin line almost as fast as it was left.

“Same stupid bravado as the old man. Same fate awaits you.” Azubal slashed out with an open clawed hand catching Khorun in the chest with startling speed. Though it did not cut through his plate, Khorun felt the air knocked from him and his flesh bruise from the impact. Before he could recover, Khorun was smashed again by the Azubal’s other claw. He staggered back, gasping to recover his breath.

Defiantly, Khorun stabbed Skywrath at the troll’s chest, but the point merely skipped off his breastplate. His fury wasn’t enough. Azubal drew his own sword and slashed it in a wide sweep in the same motion. Though worn and with dents in the edge, the sword was as large as Skywrath and the troll used it one-handed. It caught Khorun in the side, sending him sprawling to the ground.

“Focus,” Khorun thought, “rage won’t win this... think.” He cleared his mind, letting go of the anger that had so driven him before. Instead of feeling furious about the fate of the townsfolk, Khorun instead set their fate as a clear and sure goal in his mind. It felt almost serene. He opened his eyes as he lay on the stone ground, took a deep breath, and rolled out of the way of Azubal’s next strike.

Back on his feet, Khorun studied his foe in the space between strikes. Seeing that Azubal’s armor did not cover him completely, he aimed for the gaps. A powerful thrust jabbed Skywrath half a foot into Azubal’s side. The troll roared and pulled itself off the blade before swinging its own weapon backhanded at Khorun. It once again smashed into his armor, but Khorun quickly planted the tip of Skywrath into the stone floor to brace himself.

He kept his footing and returned as slash at Azubal, cutting open the troll’s neck. Black ooze leaked from the wound. However, the gouge Skywrath had left in his side had already begun to heal. Blood stopped pouring from Azubal’s neck. Ignoring the injuries, the troll lashed out with its open claw. The blow nearly broke Khorun’s shoulder.

Summoning all his strength, Khorun thrust Skywrath again into the troll, this time sinking it deep into the monster’s leg. A pulse of power shot through the blade, arcs of lightning searing their way up Azubal’s body. He screeched out in a piercing tone and shuddered as the electricity surged. Smoke wisps leaked out through the seams in Azubal’s armor.

Khorun pulled the sword free and stepped back. “Didn’t like that, did you?” Silence fell over the cavern for a few moments. The monsters began looking between each other, muttering in their savage tongue. Khorun grinned.

A snap and the odd sound like splitting or tearing skin crept to Khorun’s ear. Azubal twitched his head forward, his limbs moving abruptly in broken motions not unlike a seizure. Then the movements smoothed out, and the blackened marks from the lightning began to fade.

“You’re kidding...”

Seconds later, Azubal roared and stretched as though waking from a nap. His head shook and then settled, and he glared at Khorun with his one good eye. Azubal grinned, a yellow and foul smile.

“Crap.”

In a terrible barrage of fury Azubal lashed out. With claw and sword he assaulted Khorun, who could only barely manage to block a few of the blows. Each hit bruised and ached, driving Khorun back. No matter where he moved to try and gain a better position, Azubal matched his movements. A backhand from the troll’s claw slammed into Khorun’s face. Blood began to pour from his nose, and he couldn’t see clearly. Azubal followed it up with a punishing slash across the gut, denting Khorun’s plate. He doubled over and fell to the floor.

“You see human?” Azubal hissed, “Do you see just how weak your kind are?” The troll turned away from the fallen Khorun. “You are nothing.”

Khorun’s breathing was labored, and he ached on every part of his body. But still he held an image in his mind: Nella, defiantly brave for one so young and unpracticed, the other survivors with her. All the horrors that had befallen Riverford, he had promised them he would help. He couldn’t give in.

“No...” Khorun coughed out, “...we, are not, weak...”

With that, the dwarven runes etched into the edges of Khorun’s armor flared to life. As their light shimmered in the shadows of the cave, Khorun felt his strength returning. Bruises faded, blood stopped flowing, his vision cleared and his breath came back. Azubal turned back toward the fallen warrior, who rose quickly to his feet.

Not waiting an instant, Khorun charged the now snarling troll. Skywrath’s point skipped along the cold stone of the cavern floor, sparks erupting with each contact. With a loud battle cry Khorun swung his sword in an upward arc. It slashed into Azubal’s side, then diagonally up across his body with enough force to send the giant figure reeling.

Khorun didn’t slow. He smashed his whole body into the troll, knocking Azubal back into the cooking fire. The troll landed on its back atop the burning wood. Khorun went with his momentum, landing on the fallen troll amidst the flames. Azubal screamed in rage and pain.

“Bet this feel familiar, doesn’t it?” Khorun snarled at Azubal as he rose to a kneeling position on top of the giant. He plunged Skywrath down through Azubal’s howling maw and out the back of the troll’s head, pinning it in place. Though the fire licked at his armor, Khorun was shielded from most of it by his foe.

Azubal gurgled out his hate around Skywrath but could not pull free. Ferociously he lashed out at Khorun with his claws, struggling to push the human off. Khorun took the blows. Though they battered him, he did not lose his grip or his footing. Azubal burned, flesh sizzling and wounds no longer healing. Both combatants neared death; Khorun from the heat and barrage of claws, Azubal from the fire and blood gushing from his impaled neck.

After what felt like an eternity, Azubal finally ceased struggling. Khorun held Skywrath in place until the flames burned away the flesh of the troll’s face, leaving charred bone exposed. He withdrew his sword from Azubal’s cooking body and stumbled away from the fire. Barely able to stand, he dragged Skywrath behind him. Turning toward the assembled monsters, Khorun awaited his death. “Maybe you can help fight off the rest...” he whispered to himself, still thinking of Nella.

Not a creature moved. They stood, wide-eyed and motionless, staring at Khorun. He stared back for a while, then took a step forward. The monsters cringed, each taking a half-step back. Khorun hopped forward another step and shouted, “Rah!” They all stepped back and began to cower. He smiled. Though he wanted so desperately to mess with them more, Khorun didn’t press his luck.

“You!” he pointed to one of the orcs that had escorted him in, “you understand me?” The orc nodded. “Anyone else want to fight me?”

“No,” the orc grunted, “you kill boss. You boss now.”

“Really?” Khorun muttered, the orc nodded. “Alright, then I want to you all to get out of here, leave this place and never come back! And if I catch any of you raiding anywhere else, I will kill you all!” The orc managed to go pale, an ashen color, and repeated Khorun’s orders to the rest of the monstrous army. They nodded and began to pour out of the cave in terror. Khorun waited until the creatures had all left and he had unchained the captive men before he dropped to his knees in exhaustion. Khorun looked up at the freed men.

“Well, that could have been worse...” and then he passed out.
"There was a young lady named bright,
Who could travel much faster than light,
She went out one day,
In a relative way,
And came back the previous night."

Love is never having to say you're sorry. Power is being able to kill anyone who asks for an apology.
Jaito: "Necromancy is like Linux, but even less sociable"
<Logos> The sugar is Asian people.
"Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, watch it! I'm huge."
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Nizkateth
Essence 8
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Re: Tales of Dungeons and Dragons

08 Jul 2011, 09:02

Part 8 - Reclamation

Grass and sunlight. Khorun knew he was outside, he could feel the grass under his hands and the sun on his face. If this was the afterlife, he was not an unpleasant one. Somehow, that thought surprised Khorun. Slowly he opened his eyes.

Blue sky and a host of shadowed faces. Everything was blurry for a while. “Who are you?” Khorun mumbled out, “what happened?”

“He’s coming to!” a voice from one of the faces above him, somehow seeming so distant. “Can you hear me?”

Khorun’s vision started to clear. He saw the faces were dirt-smeared and weary, yet somehow happy. They were men, standing around him in an open field surrounded by burnt farmland not far from the mine. One of them was cleaning blood off him with a rag. “Yeah, I can hear you...” Khorun started to sit up; the man cleaning his wounds tried to stop him. Khorun waved him off and got up to a sitting position.

Skywrath lay on the grass a few feet away. One of the men explained that they had carried Khorun out of the mine after he collapsed. They weren’t sure at first if he lived. Each of them expressed tremendous gratitude for what he had done. He was only partially aware who was talking at any given moment. “What about the monstrous army?” Khorun asked.

“They fled. Scattered in all directions.”

In the distance a small band of people approached. Nella was at the head of them. She ran the last of the distance, arriving before the other escapees. “Khorun, you made it!” she called out as she approached. “We got a lot of survivors out. All thanks to you.” Khorun stood as she walked over. “We owe you so much...”

“Never asked for payment,” Khorun said wearily. “You needed the help, and that was the most fun I’ve had in a long time.”

“You’re insane,” Nella laughed. Khorun smiled. “Still, you’re a real hero, we’d all be dead if...” she stopped suddenly, and looked past Khorun. “Allir?!” she exclaimed. Tears welled up in her eyes and she ran past Khorun to a young man, likely a farmer or outdoor-craftsman from his tan and overall look. The young man ran to Nella, and as they met they embraced tightly. Then kissed.

“I thought you were dead...” Nella sobbed.

Allir could barely contain himself either, “No... but I would’ve been if he hadn’t...” he nodded at Khorun.

Nella smiled at Khorun, “thank you, thank you so much! I...” she and Allir held each other tightly.

“Like I said, most fun I’d had in a while. Glad to hear a lot survived, make it easier to rebuild. And glad I could save your... husband?” Khorun nodded back to Allir.

“Fiancé,” she answered. “We’re to be married in midsummer.”

“Congratulations.”

Allir walked over to Khorun and bowed to him deeply. “We’d be honored if you would attend the wedding. Your courage brought us back together.”

“No,” Khorun said, “her courage brought you back together. If she hadn’t escaped and found me, I wouldn’t have known about all this until it was too late.” He smiled. “As for the wedding, I’ll be there.” Khorun clapped a hand on Allir’s shoulder. “I just pray for your sake you can handle her, she’s... spirited.” Allir nodded and the two laughed. Nella walked over and nudged Allir in the side with her elbow.

“So what now?” Nella asked Khorun, “Will you ride victoriously into the sunset?”

Khorun took a deep breath and looked around. “No, not my style, and I live to the east of here... also I’ve been beat to the nine hells and back. Think I’ll rest for the night.”

That evening the survivors of Riverford assembled in their battered town. Bodies were buried, though it would be days before that job was done. Supplies were rounded up, food given freely to all who still lived. It would not be easy to rebuild, but the people were grateful to Khorun for the opportunity. For his part, Khorun ate a little then slept a lot. In the morning he bade the people good fortune, drew a basic map of the dwarven lands to the north as he promised, then walked to the east gate where Amber awaited him.

“If you ever need help, just send me word,” Khorun told those assembled around him as he hoisted himself into the saddle.

Nella and Allir walked over. “Thank you again,” Nella said, “for everything.”

Khorun smiled back, “I’ll see you two later, take good care of each other.” He rode Amber out of the town gate, waving back to the people. It would be a while before he didn’t ache, he knew that, but it was well worth it. A terrible threat to his new lands was gone, another town saw him as a great hero, and most importantly he had proven he was more than a match for even the most fierce warriors.

And so Khorun rode off victoriously, into the sunrise.
"There was a young lady named bright,
Who could travel much faster than light,
She went out one day,
In a relative way,
And came back the previous night."

Love is never having to say you're sorry. Power is being able to kill anyone who asks for an apology.
Jaito: "Necromancy is like Linux, but even less sociable"
<Logos> The sugar is Asian people.
"Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, watch it! I'm huge."
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Re: Tales of Dungeons and Dragons

09 Jul 2011, 14:23

Interlude 1 - What You Sow

Aviera, city of towers and capital of the Ulathian kingdom, was situated at the mouth of a bay on the Noblecoast. Trade roads all converged here, and were the best guarded roads for a hundred leagues. Visible for miles, the cloud-reaching central towers of Aviera were a wonder built during the great human empire. With the fall of the empire, they became the residence of the royal Ulathia family. Now presided over by Queen Sienn Ulathia, the kingdom was expanding to reclaim swaths of the lost imperial territory.

Over the great western forest set the sun, staining the sky shades of orange and red. Night fast approached as Magistrate Aswar walked, or perhaps waddled, back toward his villa surrounded by his guards. The clink of their chain mail drowned out the sound of voices coming from nearby businesses and homes. Not that he needed the protection, even with his silk robes and cascades of jewelry showing clear wealth, as no one in Aviera would dare raise a hand against the magistrate.

Or so he thought.

A voice echoed out over the street. It was light and ethereal, musical to hear. Laughter, the voice was laughing. Aswar stopped, his guards readying their spears cautiously. The laughter continued, though no one on the street could determine its source.

From nowhere, a short wooden arrow whistled into Aswar’s throat and he fell. From the angle it had to have come from atop one of the nearby buildings. “Sniper!” the lead guard shouted. Two of the guards threw themselves on top of their employer while the others looked upward. At first nothing was visible against the twilight sky except the normal skyline of the city. Then a dark shape moved, leaping from the roof to the building next to it, laughing as it went. “After them!”

Aswar shuddered, blood welling up in his mouth. His head swam, swirls of various colors filling his vision. For a moment he saw clear skies over verdant trees taller than the spires of Aviera. A million stars twinkled in the evening sky, like gems floating in a violet sea. The sight was beautiful. A tear ran from Aswar’s eye.

Then the magistrate shuddered violently. His chest split open and dozens of roots erupted forth then plunged into the ground. The two guards leapt off his body as blood splashed onto the street around the sudden growth. Eagerly the roots dug through the cobblestone street and sunk deep into the earth.

The rest of Aswar’s guard did not witness this, as they were doggedly pursuing the killer. The silhouette moved swiftly, leaping from roof to roof as a child might skip across stones in a shallow stream. However, it quickly reached the end of the road, and stopped at the edge of the last building. The span across the main throughway was well over fifty feet. As the guards neared the building, they saw the figure swing over the edge of the roof then heard a crash of a breaking window.

“They went inside! Go, go!” The guard captain lead half his men in a charge.

Inside was an open hallway with small shops and stairs leading upward. The guards clamored up the stairs in a double line, spears at the ready. The stairs turned a corner up the second floor. As the guards came about another shot came from the second floor, the bolt embedding itself in the first guardsman’s right eye. He dropped lifeless on the spot. At the top of the stairs was a figure in a wide, dark cloak. A full hood concealed their head and features. They laughed, the same musical sound as before. It sounded like a woman’s voice, yet far more beautiful than any the guards had ever heard.

Undeterred, the guards charged up the last flight at the cloaked woman. She fled down the second floor hall, but the guards were close on her heels. She ran to the end of the hall, but all the doors were locked and only a small window looked out over the street. “Halt! You are under arrest for the attempted assassination of a royal magistrate!” The guard captain and his men closed in on the woman, trapped as she was.

“Not attempted... you should have watched a little longer...” her voice was light and without a single hint of concern, anger, fatigue or anything to suggest she was saying anything more than a breakfast order.

“Get her!” The guards charged past the captain and swarmed at the woman. She ducked and with a spinning sweep tripped the first to reach her. As he fell she drew a knife with her left hand and slashed open his neck. The others stumbled over the falling body of their colleague. She ran partway up the hallway wall, flipping over the guards and driving her knife into the gap between the back of helmet and top of armor on the last guard. His spine was severed, and he too fell.

“Gods!” the captain shouted. He lunged toward the woman, spear jabbing out. She ducked back under the blow, the spearhead catching only her hood. As it fell back, the captain went pale. Angular features, finer than humanly possible and without blemish, the woman looked at him with eyes of solid gold; no whites and no pupil. Her ears tapered back, several inches longer than normal and ending in a point. She was beautiful, even sneering as she was at the captain. “An elf?” he whispered.

She leapt over the guards as they struggled to gain their footing. Then, diving forward with her arms outstretched, she crashed through the second-story window. The captain ran to the window and looked down. She rolled to a crouch on the street unharmed. However, the remaining guards outside surrounded her. She stood and looked around at them. “Take her down!” the captain ordered from above.

All at once the guards fell on the woman, slamming her to the ground. They grabbed hold of her arms and lifted her up. Moments later the captain left the building and joined them. “Good job men!” the captain walked up to the restrained elf woman. “Who are you?! Answer me!” He backhanded the woman across her face.

“I am Arriel.”

“Who do you work for assassin?!” the captain put his spear-point under her chin. “Why did you kill Aswar?!”

She laughed. “It surprises me that you must ask. Your great empire was nothing but butchers. Now it is fallen, and justice is nigh. With the magistrate’s death, events can now unfold.”

“Sounds like a confession to me,” the captain pronounced. “Alright elf bitch, any last words before I execute you for your crimes?”

Arriel smiled. “Glory to The People.” Suddenly, it was as though she pulled back into her cloak, and then the cloak went limp in the guard’s grasp. They lifted the dark cloth, and saw that there was no one inside. She had vanished, her laugh carrying as a lingering whisper on the evening wind.

Down the street, where once the body of magistrate Aswar had lay, an enormous tree grew. It reached toward the heavens, crumbling lesser buildings around it, until it had consumed the surrounding city blocks. It grew taller than any building in the city short of the towers of Aviera.
"There was a young lady named bright,
Who could travel much faster than light,
She went out one day,
In a relative way,
And came back the previous night."

Love is never having to say you're sorry. Power is being able to kill anyone who asks for an apology.
Jaito: "Necromancy is like Linux, but even less sociable"
<Logos> The sugar is Asian people.
"Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, watch it! I'm huge."
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Nizkateth
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Re: Tales of Dungeons and Dragons

15 Jul 2011, 11:48

Chapter 2 - Apprentice
Part 1 - Family

High in the mountains, perched upon the edge of a sheer cliff, stood a house formed from still-living trees shaped together. Leaves sprouted from around the doorways and windows. Coarse bark papered the outer walls, while the inside was of a polished smoothness. A wide circular balcony with a rail of braided branches thrust out beyond the cliff to overlook the valleys and neighboring peaks.

The sun was just peeking over the edge of the world, and yet Cilya Redmeadow was already busy. Her easel rested against the outer rail of the balcony as she lashed paint against the canvas with a fevered joy. A lithe figure in a long flowing robe of sheer silver fabric with deep brown eyes and amber-colored hair pulled back in a loose ponytail, revealing her slightly pointed ears, Cilya’s heritage was obvious to any who saw her.

Though she had grown up in the care of her elven father and his kin, she had been told many times that she took strongly after her human mother. As a half-breed her father feared she would not be accepted by her human kin, and so had agreed to take Cilya after she was born. He was delighted when she demonstrated his love for the visual arts. However, he had been concerned when she also expressed interest in the mystical arts.

Falowen Redmeadow, a sculptor and swordsman, had met the sorceress Ailura twenty years earlier. He had been traveling as a refugee, fighting the humans as he went. Ailura had been scattering a group of minotaur raiders with blasts of flame when he first saw her. Wounded, she drove the beasts away. Vengeful over the actions of the empire, Falowen attacked her from ambush while she tended her wounds.

Misunderstanding nearly cost one or both of them their lives but Ailura managed to convince Falowen that she did not work for the empire, and in fact was fighting them. Months later, having traveled together for mutual protection, the two grew close. A year later Cilya was born. For their daughter’s safety they agreed Falowen should take her back to his homeland. Ailura stayed behind to help with the war. It was the last time Falowen saw her.

That was the tale as Cilya had been told it growing up. In her fourteenth year she had asked study the arts her mother had used. Reluctantly, and after much arguing, Falowen agreed. He acquired an old tome from one of the sages that lived nearby in the mountains; his brother, elder by a century.

While the elves of the mountains had never shunned Cilya, Falowen’s brother was the only other who had taken an active liking to her. He tutored her daily in the arcane. She was a voracious student, quickly learning the basics and moving on to actual spells far quicker than her elven uncle expected. In the five years since she began her studies, Cilya had mastered as much as her tutor had in the first ten of his own education. The influence of her human blood was apparent.

Finishing her painting, Cilya stepped back and smiled. Her canvas was nearly a perfect image of the mountain vistas beyond, bathed in the pure light of dawn. Soft footsteps approached, familiar to Cilya. “What’ya think dad?” she asked, still looking upon her work.

“You get better every time,” Falowen replied as he walked out onto the balcony to join Cilya. “Good morning,” he said, hugging her close, “did you get any sleep?”

“Enough.” Cilya answered. In truth she had been awake for hours, only having slept briefly. She had wanted as much time with the early pre-dawn light as she could get. “Is uncle Tharol coming over today?”

Falowen shook his head. “Not today, something’s come up.” She gave him a quizzical look. He took a deep breath. “You see, a messenger came to our peaks last evening. He spoke of troubles his people are having, and asked for help.”

Cilya smiled, “Uncle’s off to save some folks then?”

Again, Falowen shook his head. “The messenger asked for you, by name.”

“What?”

“He claimed...” Falowen looked at his daughter for a long moment, “...he claimed he knew your mother, and that she’s still alive.” Cilya stood speechless for a while. “He could provide no proof, aside from knowledge of her name and yours. But I have never known dwarves to be deceitful in this manner, so I believed him.”

“So... he wanted me to go help?”

“Yes,” Falowen’s expression was almost mournful. “And as you are grown, I feel the decision on if you go or not should be yours.”

“But you don’t want me to go...” Cilya spoke softly, “I can see it in your eyes.” Something inside her stirred at this news. “If you don’t want me to go... I won’t.” She desperately wanted to go, to see new places.

“No Cilya, I can’t make this decision for you...”

“But I have to know dad,” her expression was as sad as his, “that it’s okay. That you support me, even if I decide to go. I...” her lip quivered, “I couldn’t leave you knowing you were scared for me, or disappointed in my decision. I... need you to believe in me.”

Pulling Cilya into a hug, Falowen sighed. “Tharol says you have mastered significant power, so I do believe you can defend yourself...” still holding her, he backed up just a bit and looked down at her face. He ran his thumb over her cheek, wiping away a tear. “And if you can be this convincing, then I’m sure you can handle yourself against even the worst of tricksters.”

Cilya frowned. “What gave me away?”

“I know you too well. You’re far too much like your mother to start crying over something like this.” The two laughed. “Of course its okay,” Falowen smiled, “I’m honestly more worried for anyone who crosses you. Tharol says you’ve come close to beating him in a duel... no small feat.”

“Uncle holds back. I don’t.” Cilya laughed. They talked and joked all the way to where the messenger was staying. They both knew that once she left they may never see each other again, and so they made the best of the time they had. Falowen had never been more proud of her.
"There was a young lady named bright,
Who could travel much faster than light,
She went out one day,
In a relative way,
And came back the previous night."

Love is never having to say you're sorry. Power is being able to kill anyone who asks for an apology.
Jaito: "Necromancy is like Linux, but even less sociable"
<Logos> The sugar is Asian people.
"Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, watch it! I'm huge."
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Re: Tales of Dungeons and Dragons

18 Jul 2011, 10:32

Part 2 - The Arcanist

Sitting at a table, sipping at a cup of water, was a man in simple travelers clothes who would stand no taller than Cilya's shoulder. He had a short-cropped beard and mustache, bushy but not long and both tinged with gray hairs, and very square features. Folded over the back of the chair was a long leather coat. As Falowen and Cilya walked in, the man turned to see them. A wide, toothsome, smile came to his face.

“This is Eloi Cyr, messenger from the dwarven town of Bayou Fargirn.” Falowen introduced the small man to Cilya.

“Nice to meet you.” Cilya said with a smile.

“Ma cher! Ailura’s luk in dem eyes! Spittin image de votre mère! Je ne peux qu'espérer que vous avez autant de pouvoir que d'elle...”

Cilya blinked. “What?”

“I forgot to tell you,” Falowen said, “he’s an older dwarf, from the time before they traded with other races, so he tends toward the central-dwarven dialect.” He nodded to Eloi. “Perhaps elven would be easier.”

“Mo chagren...” Eloi cleared his throat, “I forget about that too often, I am not used to speaking the common tongue. I only meant to say that you look just like your mother, and I hope that you have power like hers. You certainly have the fire of her eyes.” He got off the chair and walked up to Cilya. He had to look up to see her face.

“Oh... okay.” Cilya was surprised by just how different Eloi was. She had never met anyone outside the elven community. “So, uh... how did you know my mother?”

“She passed through the swamplands several years ago. Near the end of the war. Helped us with a rebel group, a bunch of dwarves who wanted to side with the empire... bâtards traîtresse!” He shook his head. “But she apparently didn’t get them all. A group is trying to force us to submit to the Ulathians.”

“And you want my help to fight them?”

He paused, “oh, not exactly. I should say, ‘was’ trying to force us. We managed to kill them. Took a while. A lot of fighting all over the swamp.”

“So what do you want my help with?” Cilya quirked an eyebrow.

Eloi grimaced, “Ah... with the rebels.”

“But you just said...”

“Yes. We killed them. That’s the problem. They aren’t staying down.” He shuddered. “Seemed a problem for a magician to solve. Your mother spoke of you. I hoped you might have followed her footsteps.”

“...wait...” Cilya thought for a second, “...undead?” Eloi nodded. “I’m not really an expert on...” He looked deeply worried. “You know what? Never mind. If its magic getting them up, I might be able to figure out what. If not... well, I might be able to figure that out too. Let’s go.”

Eloi hugged her around the waist. “Whenever you’re ready ma cher!”

Falowen lead Cilya out of the small visitor’s house. “Has Tharol taught you anything about undeath?” His voice had concern, but not fear.

Cilya nodded, “yeah, a little. Worst case... I’ll just blow them up. Works on most things, living or dead.” Falowen nodded.

They went together to Cilya’s room in Falowen’s home. She changed into more practical clothes for travel: leather breeches, a wool shirt, heavy boots and a wide cloak with hood. She packed a few essentials in her pouches, stored her book of spells in its water-proof case, and took a simple walking stick. Once prepared, they returned to Eloi.

The dwarf was standing outside the visitor’s house, awaiting their return. Falowen put a hand on Cilya’s shoulder as they neared. She stopped, and he walked over to Eloi. The two talked for several minutes, in the central-dwarven language. Cilya had no idea what they were talking about. Once they finished, Falowen walked back over to her.

“Dad?” she was confused, “what was that all about?”

“I just wanted to confirm where Fargirn was, and how to get there. In case I needed to find you.”

She frowned. “Really? Took that long to ask that?”

“Well...”

“You don’t have to worry about me dad. I’ll be fine.”

“I know. But it’s a father’s prerogative to worry about his daughter. Especially when she’s his only child. I’m proud of you dear, and I know you can handle yourself. But I wanted some assurance that the way was still safe and that the dwarves would do everything they could to keep you safe.” He paused. “I guess it’s only now starting to feel real that you’re leaving.”

Cilya hugged her father, who in turn held her tightly. She smiled up at him, “don’t worry dad, uncle trained me well. And not just in magic. When I get back I’ll tell you all about it, okay?” He nodded. They held each other for a time longer.

When Cilya finally walked over to Eloi, the dwarf wiped a tear from his eye. “Beautiful. I knew our peoples were allies for a reason. Such love.” He looked Cilya over quickly, “you are prepared?” She nodded.

With a long wave back to her father, and her home, Cilya left the cliff-side community. She began her journey down the mountain alongside the dwarven messenger. Though her mind swam with ideas and intense curiosity, she maintained a calm demeanor.

After all, her mother left quite a reputation to live up to.
"There was a young lady named bright,
Who could travel much faster than light,
She went out one day,
In a relative way,
And came back the previous night."

Love is never having to say you're sorry. Power is being able to kill anyone who asks for an apology.
Jaito: "Necromancy is like Linux, but even less sociable"
<Logos> The sugar is Asian people.
"Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, watch it! I'm huge."
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Nizkateth
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Re: Tales of Dungeons and Dragons

22 Jul 2011, 08:23

Part 3 - Arcane Fury

Shining glyphs spun through the air around Cilya. Visible only in her mind’s eyes, Cilya studied the glyphs and considered their potential. For what seemed like minutes she studied the glyphs before deciding. With her thoughts she reached out and selected. The glyph surged to life, flashed with power, and then reality returned.

Mere seconds after the ambush began, Cilya unleashed the power of the selected glyph. Stretching forth her left hand, she shouted the eldritch name emblazoned in her mind. Her voice echoed unnaturally. Power flowed out of the glyph and it ceased to glow in her thoughts. From her outstretched hand the power rushed. As the mystic force struck the air it ignited. Blazing forth as a wave of flame, the magic enveloped half the ambushers. They thrashed and screamed then fell to the ground, still burning.

They had clearly been prepared for this however. No sooner had Cilya and Eloi left the mountains that they were attacked by Ulathian scouts. Obviously someone didn’t appreciate their interference. Despite the immediate death of half their number, the scouts pressed the attack. Eloi was too stunned by what he beheld to do anything but stand and stare for a while.

With short swords in hand the scouts leapt at Cilya. They ignored the dwarf, either seeing him as less of a threat or perhaps specifically targeting her from the moment they attacked. Not prepared for the ferocity of their onslaught, Cilya barely managed to ward off the attacks with her staff. One of the scouts planted his boot into her gut, sending her stumbling back.

Pain, at least like this, was unfamiliar to Cilya. She had never been in a real fight before. Her vision was blurred and her breath was fast. But in her mind, it took but a moment to select another glyph. Regaining her footing, she channeled the power of the glyph through her walking stick. A pulse of power ran down the staff. Then, like a bolt fired from a crossbow, a shining blast of energy shot forth and struck one of the scouts in the jaw. His head jerked to the side, his jaw cracked and he dropped limply to the ground.

Unlike the wave of flame, the glyph only flickered out for a moment in Cilya’s mind. A lesser spell, it took almost no effort for her to replenish the energy contained in it. Looking down at their slain comrade, the scouts were undeterred and once again rushed at Cilya.

Like a blast of magic from a wizard’s staff, a crossbow bolt whistled through the air and sunk deep into the side of another scout. The shot man staggered and looked where it came from. Eloi stood with his crossbow raised, placing a new bolt on the weapon. “Foget sometin, bastads?!” The shot man dropped to his knees.

“Take care of him, we can’t let her get away!” one of the scouts yelled at the others. To Cilya that was a bad mistake, because now she had a pretty good idea who their leader was. Two of the remaining five broke off to attack Eloi, while the other three came after Cilya.

Still a bit out of breath from the gut-kick, Cilya couldn’t fend them all off. She blocked one sword strike with her staff, but the others left cuts along her right shoulder and the left side of her chest. Cilya was even less prepared for pain like that. And with them pressing in so intensely she wasn’t sure she could slay them all, even with her magic, before they cut her down.

So she came up with a plan.

Jumping between other minor glyphs in her mind, Cilya wove her plan into action. Just then, from a little ways up the mountains a roar rang out. Deep and bestial, but not the roar of an animal, it got the attention of everyone. “Never mind that, take her out!” the scout-leader shouted.

The other two scouts attacking Cilya turned their attention back toward her. They were about to strike when one of them went wide-eyed and screamed, “Ogre!” He was looking past the others toward the mountain. They all turned to look. But the others didn’t see anything. When they looked back, Cilya was gone. Many yards away, Cilya was running as fast as she could manage. Before they could pursue, another sharp blast of force slammed into the chest of one of the three. The man doubled over, unconscious but not dead.

He was followed quickly after by his colleague who saw the ogre. Still watching the beast barrel down on them, the man shoved his leader out of the way as it attacked. He felt an enormous club crush into his side. Breath knocked from him, pain encompassing his entire body, the man fell. He was not dead either, because the harm wasn’t real.

Finally, the scout leader considered defeat and fled into the foothills. His expression was one of a man who expected to die for his failure, almost more afraid of his own people than the enemies he faced.

Cilya walked back to her fallen foes, and was met by Eloi who was harnessing a well-used carpenter’s hammer after wiping off some blood. He spoke once more in elven. “Damn girl, if I didn’t know better I’d say you were Ailura from the way you fight. No sign of the ogre, I think we’re okay.”

“There was no ogre.” Cilya smiled. Eloi looked confused. “It was an illusion. Wove it in one of their minds. Pretty convincing I think. Got the art talent from my dad’s side.” She looked down at the man who had been knocked unconscious by nothing but what was in his head. “He’ll be fine, as soon as his body realizes nothings happened to it.”

“Then he can answer some questions.” Eloi got a small length of rope from a belt-pouch and tied the man’s wrists and ankles together. Despite his short fingers, Cilya was amazed at how quickly and intricately tied Eloi’s knots were. Overall, she was starting to get the impression of an old sailor from the small man.

It would be a little while before the captured scout awoke, so Cilya sat down on the ground and rested. She wrapped some cloth bandages around her wounds while she channeled magical power back into the depleted glyph of flame in her mind.

Cilya mused. Real battle was quite different from a practice duel. It hurt a lot more.
"There was a young lady named bright,
Who could travel much faster than light,
She went out one day,
In a relative way,
And came back the previous night."

Love is never having to say you're sorry. Power is being able to kill anyone who asks for an apology.
Jaito: "Necromancy is like Linux, but even less sociable"
<Logos> The sugar is Asian people.
"Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, watch it! I'm huge."
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Nizkateth
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Re: Tales of Dungeons and Dragons

29 Jul 2011, 09:17

Part 4 – Smoke and Mirrors

“I'll never tell you anything!”

Eloi kicked the restrained man in the ribs again. And once more for good measure. Cilya put a hand on Eloi's shoulder. “Stop!” she said, “you'll kill him at this rate...” The dwarf stepped back and Cilya knelt next to the tied up scout. “Sorry, he's... single-minded at times. But I hate to see anyone treated this way...”

“Trying to be my friend huh? Think that old trick will work?!” The scout spat on the ground near Cilya. “I said, I'll never tell you or that mongrel anything!” His loathing of the non-human was palpable.

Cilya sighed. “Actually, I was going to say I hate to see anyone treated this way... when magic is much more effective at extracting information. Simple physical violence is so crude, and far less invasive.” She grinned, a predatory grin that spoke of her elven ancestry. “He was trying to be your friend,” Cilya nodded toward Eloi, “But I was hoping it would come to this...”

Raising her staff, Cilya was suddenly surrounded by swirling motes of light. She began to intone arcane phrases as her voice resonated unnaturally across the foothills. The scout's eyes widened and he pulled harder at his restraints. Nearly thrashing himself into a set of dislocated limbs, the scout then shouted, “Alright!”

Abruptly the lights and eerie tones stopped. Cilya looked down at the scout with a look of no small disappointment. Eloi walked back over, and waved her back. She grumbled and stomped away in a huff. “Fine... you talk to him... I'm... gonna blow off some steam.” Cilya walked off, behind a nearby hill, and let the dwarf hand the interrogation. For one thing, she wouldn't have even known what to ask. This was all new to her.

But she was good at it. From the other side of the hill, Cilya wove the power of one of her minor glyphs into a series of strange and awful sounds. Horrid screams like the wailing of damned souls, sizzling roars of unleashed flame and the sharp crack of stone splitting echoed up over the hill. For greater effect she wove a few light displays just bright enough to reach the captive's peripheral vision.

“Its less fun when it doesn't fight back!” she yelled out, and followed her shout with the distinct sound of a tree splitting under some horrible force. “Hurry up Eloi!” Despite herself, Cilya giggled. She suppressed it as best she could, hoping the scout wouldn't hear her.

Several minutes later, Eloi came over the hill. In elven he spoke to Cilya, “Okay, he's spilled a lot. You almost overdid it back there. Just be careful not to overplay your hand, alright?” She nodded. “Seems they are one of several expedition forces in this area. Ulathia's looking to expand this way. Apparently someone in Fargirn feels its better to serve than fight. They gave away its location and are helping the humans... sorry, the Ulathians.” He looked a touch embarrassed.

“I'm only half, and don't worry... I get it. Can't imagine what it was like fighting against those types during the war.”

Eloi nodded. “I'd like to find out who the coward is who sold us out. He's not giving a name.”

Cilya thought for a moment. “You know... maybe sometimes overplayed is the way to go. No offense actually intended, but...” Putting on an angry face, she stomped over the hill. Thunder crashed with a wave of her staff. Eloi walked a little slower and behind her. “Worthless dwarves! Do I have to do everything myself?!” She walked to the scout and slammed the base of her staff against the ground. “Fine! I'll get a name if you can't! Get out of my sight!” Eloi flinched and backed away.

Looking up at a nearly growling face, the scout went a shade paler. Wisps of flames encircled Cilya's open hand as she pointed at him. “I'll strip the secrets from your soul...” she hissed.

“Wait!” he cried out. She paused, hand still raised and ghost-fire dancing. “I don't know any names, they only told the lieutenants! The patrol leaders!”

She knelt down next to him, her face mere inches from his. “I'm sure you know something. You're holding back, I can smell it.” Her voice was low and sinister. “A place where the meetings took place maybe? Or perhaps your base camp's location?” She growled. “Answer me this... where would someone go if they wanted to join your efforts?” Her tone and volume sank even lower. “Well?”

“But... you wouldn't... you aren't human.”

“Don't remind me!” Still low, her voice went razor-sharp for a moment. “But I am half-human... and I'm so tired of these inept dwarves. My poor mother was human, and those... people... used her to profit themselves. They owe me, so I was going to help them... but now that I've met them...” With a hateful glance she looked back toward Eloi. “I said, out of my sight!” He was startled, and quickly went over the hill.

“This is a trick... it has to be...” the scout looked completely baffled. “You just want me to tell you where it is, so you can go after our base camp.” His tone was uncertain, she could hear it even though he tried to hide it.

“No.” Cilya replied flatly. “I want you to lead me to it. I have no doubt I'd be fired upon immediately if I went on my own... especially with that following me,” she pointed toward the hill Eloi had gone over. “So what do you say? Bring your masters back one new ally... and one new slave? Or should I just burn the flesh from your bones and find it myself? Either works for me...”

“Alright! I'll take you... please, just let me go.”

Cilya untied him. “If you even try to go for a weapon, I'll use your soul to power my spells for a century!” He nodded and got up. “I'll fetch my dwarf, and we can go.” She walked over the small nearby hill and found Eloi waiting.

“That was good cher...” he grinned, “you nearly had me convinced.” Cilya suppressed another giggle.
"There was a young lady named bright,
Who could travel much faster than light,
She went out one day,
In a relative way,
And came back the previous night."

Love is never having to say you're sorry. Power is being able to kill anyone who asks for an apology.
Jaito: "Necromancy is like Linux, but even less sociable"
<Logos> The sugar is Asian people.
"Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, watch it! I'm huge."
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Nizkateth
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Re: Tales of Dungeons and Dragons

09 Aug 2011, 08:18

Part 5 – Proof of Conviction

Eloi ran, dashing over the hills and directly toward the northern swamp where his people lived. He ran as though his life depended on it. “Stop him!” the captured scout shouted. Cilya growled but made no attempt to stop him. “What are you doing? Stop him before he gets to the swamp!”

Cilya glared at the scout. “No, he could be leading us into a trap even now. Besides, if he gets back to his home he can just die with the rest. It won't make a difference. Now march. Lead me to your camp so I can discuss business with someone less reactionary... and stupid.” Her look of dismissive contempt was withering. And it masked her delight that Eloi had made his escape even better than they had planned.

A two-fronted tactic: she infiltrates the imperial forces, blowing them up if needed, while Eloi returns to his people to organize a proper resistance. And perhaps one or the other would discover who the traitors were who sold out the location of Fargirn. Cilya also hoped to discover the source of the undead threat Eloi had spoken of in the camp. She only worried that the imperials weren't behind that.

Unhappy but obedient to her superior force, the scout continued onward. Hours passed before they neared the camp, which sat in a shallow field between the mountains, hills and swamp. Dozens of tents and a few large cooking fires were visible from some distance. It seemed they were counting entirely on their isolated location and not subtlety to mask their presence.

Intercepting them was a small patrol, three armed men similar to the ones they fought before hatching this plan. “Halt.” The patrol leader said very flatly as Cilya and the scout neared. Upon seeing Cilya more clearly, with her clearly inhuman features, the patrol raised their weapons and more forcibly commanded, “Halt!” The pair stopped.

“Get them out of my way before I grow impatient and just kill them...” Cilya sounded almost bored. She yawned a little and looked around idly.

“She wants to see the captain.” The scout said.

“But she's one of them!”

“I know, but only half, and she wants to join us.” The scout didn't sound entirely convinced himself, but made the argument he was told to. Cilya was entirely on her guard, ready to act in an instant. But she concealed that as best she could. “So take us to the captain... she can decide what to do with the 'half-breed'.” Cilya smacked him with her staff, just hard enough to hurt. “...sorry, 'our new ally' is what I meant.”

Reluctantly the patrol escorted them into the camp. Cilya was surrounded, and she knew it. On all sides of her were dozens of soldiers, all staring at her. She had to resist the urge to stare back. After all, she had never seen this many humans before. At the center of the camp was a larger tent guarded by two pike-men. They stood at attention but let the patrol, scout and Cilya past.

“Sir, you have a visitor.” One of the patrolmen addressed someone as they entered the tent ahead of Cilya. She stepped inside and saw a lavishly appointed tent with two figures sitting on the other side of a low table on which was a crude map of the region. One was a young man with the look of either a new soldier or young officer, Cilya wasn't sure which. The other was an older woman, possibly upwards of twice Cilya's age. The woman had dark brown hair tinged with traces of gray, even though she didn't otherwise look old enough for gray hair. Both wore heavier armor than the rest of the soldiers in the camp.

With a small hint of curiosity the woman stood. Her armor was mostly leather like the common soldiers of the camp, but with riveted metal plates covering her vital areas. The scout and patrolmen bowed to her. Cilya remained standing. “Sir, this half-human woman wanted to speak with you about joining our...”

“I can speak for myself!” Cilya interrupted abruptly. “I am Cilya, and I want to join your forces in taking over this region. The dwarves have begun to irritate me, and I loathe the elves for doing this...” she gestured with her free hand at her slightly pointed ears, “...to me.”

The older woman nodded, and waved the soldiers away. They quickly left the tent. “I am Captain Jaril of the royal Ulathian army.” She sized up Cilya, then sat back down. “What do you propose exactly?”

Cilya considered her answer for a moment. She realized she wasn't just dealing with a single captive in the field, where if something went wrong she could just run or easily fight through any problem. This was considerably more serious. “I propose that you hire me, as a mercenary. I do not intend to join your army, but I do wish to be on the victorious side. I would lend my magical skill to your efforts.”

“A sorcerer?” The captain looked up and quirked an eyebrow. “That could be useful. My superiors did not see fit to lend me any assistance from the royal academy.” She rubbed her chin idly. “But I have concerns.” Cilya silently gulped. “After all, you are not fully human. How can I trust you?”

“What proof do you need?! I came here, of my own volition mind you, to offer my services! Why would I do that if I didn't want to help?!” Cilya tried to mask her growing nerves with hostility.

“Just a simple test. To prove not only your dedication but also your power.” The captain nodded to the young man, who bowed and left the tent. “Once you have passed, then we will discuss how you can be of use to us.”

“Alright, I will do your test... if you feel that is necessary,” she grumbled with false boredom.

Captain Jaril laughed. “Very well then,” she stood up and walked out of the tent, leading Cilya with her. “This should be simple for one of your talents.” The captain pointed across the camp. Cilya looked over and saw the young man from the tent leading a dwarf in manacles. A moment of panic took her, but then she saw it was not Eloi. She did not recognize the dwarven man. “This one has outlived his usefulness, dispose of him for us.” The dwarf was lead up to Cilya and the captain, his head down in resigned defeat. “Dispatch him however you like, but I would prefer to see your magic in action.” Captain Jaril crossed her arms and grinned.

“Oh crap...” Cilya didn't say it out loud, but she did think it very loudly.
"There was a young lady named bright,
Who could travel much faster than light,
She went out one day,
In a relative way,
And came back the previous night."

Love is never having to say you're sorry. Power is being able to kill anyone who asks for an apology.
Jaito: "Necromancy is like Linux, but even less sociable"
<Logos> The sugar is Asian people.
"Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, watch it! I'm huge."
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Nizkateth
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Re: Tales of Dungeons and Dragons

15 Aug 2011, 09:51

Part 6 – Diversionary Tactics

“What was his crime?” Cilya asked, trying to suppress the heavy weight in her stomach. “So I know how I should kill him...”

The dwarf was a middle aged man, dressed only in the tattered remains of what were probably once simple laborer's clothes. His face was smeared with mud and dry blood, and his hair was matted. It looked like he hadn't eaten in days, maybe longer. Captain Jaril laughed aloud and shook her head.

“I never said he committed a crime, just that he is no longer useful to us.”

Cilya looked around. A dozen soldiers loosely surrounded the area outside the captain's tent. They were all watching either her or the dwarf. Some looked bored, others seemed to be anticipating the coming execution. Cilya felt like she was going to vomit. On the one hand, she didn't want to kill the man. Especially if he had done nothing wrong. It was one thing to kill in the heat of battle, when her own life was on the line, but this would just be murder. On the other hand, she knew well that the dwarf would not live through the day in the camp anyway. And her life did somewhat depend on this.

“I...” Cilya wavered a little. She looked at the captain, and then past her into the tent. A plan formed in her mind. She prayed to whatever gods might be watching. In her mind's eye, she selected a minor glyph and focused its power as subtly as possible. Inside the tent, the map of the dwarven swamplands suddenly lit on fire.

“I'm waiting...” captain Jaril sighed and tapped her foot.

“Very well!” Cilya puffed herself up a bit. “You clearly have no respect for the refined points of my art... so...” she raised her left hand and put her focus to one of the more potent but still minor glyphs in her mind. With a flick of her hand, Cilya projected a bolt of force that struck the dwarf man square in the chest. He gasped, and collapsed.

She only hoped she had held back just enough. Captain Jaril laughed, “finally! Alright, so you do have some power. Just remember, in a real battle you can't afford that kind of hesitation or introspection. Act quickly, I don't want to see my soldier's lives lost because you were busy choosing just the right nuance of your magic.” The captain motioned to one of the soldiers. “Dispose of the body.”

He was still breathing, Cilya could see that but only because she was looking for it. “Wait!” Everyone stopped and stared at her. “You're right... I took too long. I'll dispose of the body, as an apology.” The captain shrugged then nodded. Cilya walked over to the collapsed dwarf, internally dancing now that she knew she had only knocked him out. She grabbed the man by his wrists and started dragging his limp form out of the camp.

“Show her to the pile...” captain Jaril commanded offhandedly to one of her soldiers. They nodded and led the way out of the camp for Cilya.

“Be good to have power like that on our side...” the soldier said casually, “...though to be blunt I still don't care for your non-human blood.”

“Nor do I.” Cilya grumbled as she pulled the dwarf along the muddy ground. They left the camp and made their way across the meadow toward a nearby pile of what looked at first like burnt wood or scrap. As they drew closer, Cilya saw that while some of it was wood most of it was the charred remains of bodies. She once again suppressed the urge to vomit.

Smoke wafted off the pile of bodies, but also from inside the camp. An alarm rang out, drawing the attention of Cilya and the guard. “There's a fire!” the guard shouted.

“Go! I'll take care of this from here...” Cilya nodded toward the smoldering corpse-pile. The guard nodded and ran back toward the camp. She pulled with all her strength, however limited it was. Turning toward the wooded swampland, Cilya pulled the unconscious dwarf as fast as she could away from the camp. “Come on... wake up... you're heavy...” Cilya grunted with each big step.

It didn't take the camp long to put things together. Captain Jaril was clearly no fool. Three arrows whistled over the meadow and plunged down, impaling the ground only a few yards away from Cilya and the dwarf. “Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap...” Cilya put everything she had into the effort. She reached the edge of the meadow and pulled the dwarf under the cover of the moss-covered trees. The ground was very soft, and pulling the dwarf grew even harder.

Peeking back toward the Ulathian camp, Cilya guessed or maybe hoped that she had a few minutes to prepare. She lowered the dwarf onto the ground and grabbed her spell book from her bag. Flipping feverishly through it, she quickly found what she was looking for. “Okay... just like back home...” Cilya muttered to herself and pulled a small vial from a pouch on her belt. She began to quietly chant arcane words, the magic she evoked making her voice echo between the densely hanging trees of the swamp.

Minutes passed as she worked her magic. Finally, she opened the vial and sprinkled a fine silvery powder in a circle around the unconscious dwarf. As the dust settled it began to glow a pale blue. Her chant unbroken, Cilya closed her eyes and poured the last bit of power into the effect. A shining blue ring encircled the dwarf, and the light seeped inward to fill the circle. Like a hand emerging from water, a concave disk of glowing blue light flowed up out of the ground. It lifted the unconscious dwarf off the ground easily until it was a foot in the air, then it stopped.

“Okay Uncle Therol, you win that bet, this is useful...” Cilya took a deep breath. “Alright whoever you are, let's get out of here.” She began walking deeper into the swamp, the disk following her like a well-trained puppy. It skimmed over the ground, just over the protruding roots and small rocks that littered the ground.

With each step the air grew thicker, mistier and darker. Cilya could only hope she was going the right way. At least she no longer wanted to throw up.
"There was a young lady named bright,
Who could travel much faster than light,
She went out one day,
In a relative way,
And came back the previous night."

Love is never having to say you're sorry. Power is being able to kill anyone who asks for an apology.
Jaito: "Necromancy is like Linux, but even less sociable"
<Logos> The sugar is Asian people.
"Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, watch it! I'm huge."
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Nizkateth
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Re: Tales of Dungeons and Dragons

23 Aug 2011, 18:31

Part 7 – Amidst the Willows

Lit more by the dim glow of the conjured disk than by the traces of light through the trees, the path deeper into the swamp could barely be called such. Though it had fewer trees in the way, the ground was a snarl of protruding roots. It seemed to Cilya that wherever there wasn't an inconvenient part of a tree there was soft mud. Behind her, the unconscious dwarf floated safely along on the disk.

As she walked, Cilya tried to remember what she could of the map in the captain's tent. Before being asked to murder the dwarf, she had memorized as much of it as she could. The real problem was that landmarks were hard to discern amidst the tangle of undergrowth. “Could use some more light...” Cilya opened her left hand and turned it palm-up. She focused on another minor glyph in her mind and manifested its power. Above her hand a small ball of soft light formed, casting a silvery light into the darkness of the swamp.

Probing the ground ahead with her staff, Cilya made her way through the now lit forest-bog. While she could see better, the silver light also caused deep and often distorted looking shadows to stretch out all around her. The low hum of crickets and buzzing insects grew as Cilya moved deeper into dwarven lands. An earthy smell of decaying plants radiated up from the soft wet ground. “At least they'll be even slower...” Cilya consoled herself, “...hard to follow in this with armor... wait...”

“...Who am I talking to?” Cilya quirked an eyebrow and then chuckled at herself. She looked back at the dwarf. “I hope I didn't hit you too hard.” A faint grunt came from the dwarf. Cilya stopped, as did the disk. “Hey! Can you hear me?!”

“...where?...” It was barely more than a whisper, but with audible pain. The dwarf spoke in the common tongue. Cilya guessed he had grown accustomed to doing so around the Ulathians. Unlike Eloi, he didn't have much of an accent. He started to sit up, but Cilya gently put a hand on his chest to stop him.

“Just rest, my magic can carry you for a while.” Cilya was relieved that he was pulling through.

“Who... are you?” The dwarven man coughed violently, but recovered his breath quickly.

“Cilya Redmeadow, daughter of Ailura and Falowen Redmeadow. I've come from the elven mountains to help.”

He seemed confused for a moment, then his eyes opened wider. “Oh!...” he coughed again, “...I knew... I recognized...” yet more coughing.

“Hang on,” Cilya cut him off, “do you think you could drink something?” He considered that for a moment, then nodded. “Alright, drink this.” She rummaged in a belt pouch and withdrew a small glass vial full of a viscous red liquid. “It's bitter, but it'll help.” She stepped next to the hovering dwarven man, opened the vial and put it to his lips. Slowly he drank the tonic until the last of it was gone.

Mere seconds after swallowing the last drop, the dwarf tensed up and arched his back while gritting his teeth. Some of his newer wounds closed up, and the older ones faded. While not healthy, he was very quickly in a much better condition. After the tonic ran its course, he settled back into the disk more relaxed than before. “Sorry... I know that isn't pleasant.” Cilya stoppered the vial and put it back in her pouch.

“That's alright, I appreciate it. And I feel much better now Ms. Redmeadow.” The dwarf sat up in the disk. “I'm Alain Lornon, from Fargirn.” He bowed his head. “I am in your debt. I have to admit, I didn't expect to wake up.”

“Yeah, sorry about the blast... I needed some way to get us both out of there. Hope I didn't hit you too hard.”

He laughed, lightly. “No need to apologize dear. I understand. Those bastards, I can only hope we can rally the people and fight them off.” Cilya nodded. “Alright then. I'll sit on this... thing, and navigate you back to my home. Alright?” Cilya nodded again, and smiled.

They didn't speak much on the way, aside from Alain giving directions. Cilya asked about her mother, but Alain explained only that it was a long and involved story and promised to tell her all about it once they arrived at Bayou Fargirn. Slightly disappointed, Cilya turned her mind back to the current situation. This region was quite far from the Ulathian border, especially the dwarven lands. She considered that perhaps only isolated scout groups had been sent, perhaps to outflank any resistance should the army of Ulathia march north.

What still confused her was why they hated non-humans so much. It wasn't as though many of the other races posed any threat to them. If anything, the Ulathians were bringing hostility on themselves with their hatred. Perhaps if they could be reasoned with, shown that their crusade was unnecessary, then more violence could be averted.

Eventually the pair came to a shallow but quick moving river slithering through the marsh. Alain directed Cilya downriver. Another mile or so along the riverbank, and the trees became chiefly willows. Their long thin branches and wispy leaves were like a natural curtain across the forest. Though unlike her home, Cilya found the sight quite beautiful. They proceeded through the willow grove toward its center. “Here we are dear, home at last.” Alain sighed contentedly.

“I can't wait to see...” Cilya stepped out from under the last willow-bough and for the first time saw the dwarven town of Fargirn. A collection of single-story wooden buildings sitting atop stilts at the edge of bog-lake and connected by raised narrow bridges, the town was surrounded by willows on all sides except where the lake and rivers gave way to an estuary at the north-sea coast. However, something wasn't right.

“Where is everyone?” Alain asked rhetorically. Fargirn was quiet, not a single dwarf could be seen moving. “Hello!?” he called out into the town. At first there was no response, but just as he began to call out again a sound came from the waters of the swamp below the community. A coarse rasping sound, like a rusted nail dragged across wood. Then the marsh seemed to start moving. From out of the brackish water rose several dozen figures of dwarven stature. In Cilya's silvery light the decay of their bodies was obvious. They were clearly dead.

“Oh great gods no...” Alain prayed as the dead dwarves shambled toward them from the bog.
"There was a young lady named bright,
Who could travel much faster than light,
She went out one day,
In a relative way,
And came back the previous night."

Love is never having to say you're sorry. Power is being able to kill anyone who asks for an apology.
Jaito: "Necromancy is like Linux, but even less sociable"
<Logos> The sugar is Asian people.
"Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, watch it! I'm huge."
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Nizkateth
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Re: Tales of Dungeons and Dragons

30 Aug 2011, 16:43

Part 8 – Tactical Regrouping

A crackling bolt of force leapt from Cilya's staff, blasting a hole clear through the rotting chest of the muck-encrusted swamp-boated corpse bearing down on her. It fell without a sound, until it lightly thudded into the soft earth of the bog. Behind it twenty or more of the dead dwarves shuffled forward while dripping muddy water and growling with a hoarse, nearly breathless, voice. All the sounds of the swamp, the buzzing and chirping of bugs and singing of frogs, had faded to silence as the dead rose.

Backing up, Cilya and Alain looked around in case they were being flanked. Fortunately, it seemed the walking dead had no tactics and were just mindlessly plodding forward. Cilya stopped, and stood her ground. “Get behind me Alain!” she shouted.

“You can't take them all yourself...”

“Now!” Cilya's tone became deadly serious. In her mind's eye the glyphs of her magic twirled and danced. She reached out with her will and unchained the power it contained. Her open hand raised, she once more unleashed a wave of flame across the marshy clearing. Fire ripped through the ranks of the undead. In its wake, most of the dead dwarves dropped and lay as smoldering piles of cooked flesh.

“Or maybe you can.” Alain had his hand up to guard his face from the heat, and lowered it slowly.

“It'll take time to replenish that. Stay on guard!” Cilya shot another bolt of force, this time obliterating the head of one of the approaching dwarf cadavers. Bits of rotten flesh and mold-covered bone rained down on the other creatures. Only a few remained. That's what Cilya thought, until she looked past the few stragglers from the first wave.

Crawling out of the shallow salt-bay were possibly a hundred or more shambling corpses. In varying degrees of decay, but all with the same unnatural and nearly pained gait. “Oh great gods beyond...” Cilya muttered. “Alain... get out of here. I'll hold them off.”

“No my dear, I won't just leave you here.” Alain sounded adamant. “Besides, this is my home. If it has fallen, then I shall fall with it.” He was still in no condition to fight, but the dwarf stood defiantly nonetheless. “You go... this isn't your fight. You owe us nothing, me especially. You've already given me much.”

“I didn't...”

Alain laughed, “you gave me a few more hours to live, and a chance to see my home one last time. That is a great deal more than you may know.”

Cilya blasted another shambling monstrosity with pure force. “No, if the Ulathians are behind this... then no where is safe unless they are stopped. No point in running now.” Her knees shook, her convictions were mostly in word. Inside, Cilya couldn't shake the feeling that she should have stayed home. Even if the enemy came for them eventually, she wouldn't have had to see what she had on this journey.

“To the last breath then my dear!” Alain raised his fists, ready to meet his end. The last few of the first wave of undead drew close. Cilya destroyed one just before an arrow plunged through the back of another's head. Alain and Cilya looked where the shot had come from. Up on one of the raised bridges of the town stood a dwarf, crossbow being reloaded for another shot.

“If you two ah done with da farewells, get up here!” Eloi shouted down at them then shot another dwarf corpse through the head.

Looking at each other for a moment, Cilya and Alain ran while they had the chance. They sprinted across the muddy field and scurried up one of the rope ladders that lead up onto the town paths. Cilya got to the top first, then reached down and helped Alain up. Eloi walked over to the pair. “Got ta look up sometime,” he chuckled. In elven he spoke to Cilya, “we have the lights out because they were drawing the attention of those things. So far they haven't figured out ladders, but we didn't want to push our luck. Seems your display back there got their notice.”

“Sorry, I just... I wasn't thinking. I've never actually seen the undead before.” Cilya hung her head a little. “I got a little panicked. Didn't think straight.”

“That's all right, they aren't coming up just yet. Now let's get you two inside, get some food in you both and some medical attention for him,” Eloi nodded toward Alain. “We can discuss a plan. Even if it's just to help the survivors escape.”

The trio walked along the plank-wood bridges between buildings. Below them the dead walked about with a certain impatience and a constant dull moan. Cilya looked around the town of Fargirn from her new perspective. It would have been a lovely sight if not for their situation, she was sure. Glass lamps hung from metal poles at every corner, and fine wood-work graced every doorway and window frame. She prayed she would have the chance to see it when all had returned to normal.

Eloi and Alain talked to each other in the central-dwarven tongue, and so she had no idea what they were saying. Eloi lead them to a large home, Cilya guessed maybe the town leader's house. They all stepped inside. In the dim light she could see many dozens of dwarves huddled together or leaning against walls. A few were sitting around a rolled out map, studying it in the gloom and talking furtively amongst themselves.

A middle-aged dwarf woman gasped when they entered, and ran across the room. She threw her arms over Alain's shoulders and pulled herself close to him in a tight embrace. Even in the low light Cilya could see the tears, and the smile, on the woman's face. In that moment Cilya felt her heart leap and, despite everything she had seen and been through, she knew. Cilya knew she could see this through to the end.

Whatever it might be.
"There was a young lady named bright,
Who could travel much faster than light,
She went out one day,
In a relative way,
And came back the previous night."

Love is never having to say you're sorry. Power is being able to kill anyone who asks for an apology.
Jaito: "Necromancy is like Linux, but even less sociable"
<Logos> The sugar is Asian people.
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Re: Tales of Dungeons and Dragons

01 Sep 2011, 15:49

Interlude 2 – Swordmaster

Winds howled and surged around the mountain peak. Through the windblown snow the gryphon could be seen, it and its rider mere silhouettes amidst the storm. The beast fought with all its might to fly through the mercilessly cold wind. Despite its efforts, the gryphon only barely managed to even keep itself aloft. “You did all you could, my turn!” the rider shouted into the shrill din toward the gryphon. He patted the creature on the feathered neck, then slowly got to his knees on the saddle. With one great push he leapt from gryphon-back toward the mountain.

The man didn't have nearly the distance to reach the snow-covered plateau, and began to fall alongside the cliffs. Swiftly pulling a large sword from its harness on his back, the man plunged the blade into the rock wall. Very abruptly he swung inward, planting his feet against the stone. His fall had stopped just thirty feet below the summit.

“Thank you Kord for this strength...” Khorun the Bold called out his appreciation, “...but maybe you could do something about this abyss-born wind?!” Grumbling, he grabbed onto an uneven handhold of jutting rock with his left hand. Once he had his footing planted into the face of the cliff he withdrew Skywrath from the frozen stone. Harnessing it once more to free his other hand, Khorun began to arduous process of ascent. His cloak pulled at him as it caught the whirling wind that surrounded the mountain and lashed its sides.

Minutes seemed like hours as Khorun fought the cold, the storm, the poor grip the ice-rimed rocks provided and the urge to look down. “Just like scaling the old tower back home... no big deal...” Khorun tried to reassure himself. As he did the stone his right gauntlet was holding on to cracked and fell free of the mountain. Nearly slipping completely, Khorun managed to keep himself up with a great deal of strain on his left arm. “...yeah, just like back home... you're an idiot Khorun...” Far below, the loosed stone bounced its way down the nearly-sheer side of the storm-wrapped peak.

“Can't die here old man,” Khorun berated himself internally, “Allir will cry and Nella will come kill you... again. Come on! Push!” With all his strength, Khorun swung himself to the side and grabbed on to a higher point with his right hand. Using that momentum, he cleared much of the rest of the distance. His muscles burned from the abuse he had given them trying to stop his fall both times. Ice was starting to form on his armor and the wind was slowly freezing his face.

Finally, and with no small amount of relief, Khorun painfully pulled himself up to the snow-field of the mountain summit. Barely visible in the whipping snow was a building at the center of the plateau. He marched victoriously but slowly toward it, muttering to himself. “This had better be worth it, or by all the devil of all the hells I will gut that bard five times before he falls.”

The building looked to be a small house, maybe four rooms in all, built of crudely hewn stone. The front door was solid dark wood, with no knocker or visible lock. Khorun shoved on the door, and it swung open with ease. Stamping inside, snow caked to his entire left side, he was not ready for what he saw.

Sitting at a tiny table next to a cheery lit fireplace was an old man. Thin gray hair crowned his head, and a pair of crystal-lens glasses sat low on his nose. Dressed in a simple gray tunic with brown shapeless pants, the man was currently sipping at the soup in a small wooden bowl. The old man didn't look up. It was possible given his apparent age that he hadn't heard Khorun come in. A scent of garlic and cloves filled the air along with the rich aroma of roasted poultry. The fireplace was the only light in the room.

“Hey, old man!” Khorun demanded, “Do you know the sword master that is supposed to live up here?!” The old man kept drinking his soup, slowly and with a very pronounced slurp. “Hey!” Khorun repeated, “can you even hear me?!” He stomped over to the old man at his table and tapped the small-framed fellow on the shoulder forcefully. Still the old man drank his soup. Khorun sighed, “this is a waste of time!” He turned to leave.

“You're impatient, that's foolish.” The old man's voice was very calm and quite dignified. “For all the effort it took to get here, you are going to give up so soon?”

Khorun stopped. He hung his head a moment, then smacked his forehead lightly with the open palm of his gauntlet. “Old man on the mountain. You're the sword master aren't you?” He turned around, and was quite startled.

The old man was standing no more than six inches away, with a longsword in hand pointed so the tip was a hair's breadth away from Khorun's eye. “Good. At least you aren't that dumb.” The old man chuckled, Khorun stood motionless. Eventually the sword was pulled back, and the old man walked away toward the fireplace. His back facing away from the fire. “Close the door.” Khorun obeyed without question. “Very good. Now, try to kill me.”

Confused, Khorun waited for the rest of the instructions or some clarification but none came. He shrugged and drew Skywrath. Walking with a steady pace he approached the elderly man. Sword raised, he hesitated. “Are you sure?” The old man didn't answer. “Uh, okay then. Bye.” With that, Khorun slashed right about neck level at the wizened man by the fireplace.

With seeming ease, the elder blocked the strike by barely moving his own sword. “Bye? Are you going so soon?” In a whirl the old fellow had come about, lashed out with his blade and knocked Skywrath out of Khorun's grip. It clattered to the floor. With sword-point to Khorun's neck the man smiled, “And now you're dead. First lesson, take everything seriously in a fight. Not all worthy foes look tall and broad like you.”

A lesser man would have blamed the fatigue of the climb, or the numbing effect of the cold, or even just being caught by surprise. Khorun was not so arrogant, despite his demeanor. He recognized the skill displayed and found a great welling of respect for the elderly fellow.

“So you will teach me?” Khorun asked, not showing fear about the sword at his neck. “Or shall you just kill me?”

A great belly laugh issued from the much smaller gray-haired man. “I like you boy. Yes, I'll teach you. Just don't disappoint me.”

Khorun nodded as much as he could without impaling his throat. “Thank you. What shall I call you? Master? Teacher?”

“Just call me grandfather. It's close enough to true.”
"There was a young lady named bright,
Who could travel much faster than light,
She went out one day,
In a relative way,
And came back the previous night."

Love is never having to say you're sorry. Power is being able to kill anyone who asks for an apology.
Jaito: "Necromancy is like Linux, but even less sociable"
<Logos> The sugar is Asian people.
"Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, watch it! I'm huge."
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Nizkateth
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Re: Tales of Dungeons and Dragons

07 Sep 2011, 08:04

Interlude 3 – Glory to the Queen

Queen Sienn Ulathia lounged across her throne of gold and marble. A young man, a favored servant of hers dressed only in a loose kilt of almost sheer silks, fed grapes into her mouth from beside her seat of power. He was a golden-haired and fair-skinned youth, having grown up almost entirely in the Queen's service and hardly ever venturing out of the palace. His frame was light but slightly toned in a way that the Queen found pleasing but did not grant him any appreciable physical might. Faintly oiled to make his features glisten ever so slightly in the flickering torch-light of the royal hall, the beautiful young man fed another grape to the Queen. It snapped as it popped between her teeth. She smiled up at her servant.

For her part the Queen was not entirely hard on the eyes either, but when she wasn't half-draped across her throne she tended to cut a more imposing silhouette. Her black hair, well maintained by her staff of handmaidens and kept woven up in a loose bun held together by gem-studded crown of thin woven gold, contrasted sharply with her skin so fair it bordered on pallid. In fact, with the black makeup applied around her eyes and to her lips, Queen Ulathia would have looked monochromatic if not for her jewelry and the brilliantly colored green and blue gown she wore.

“Oh my darling,” the Queen purred at her man-servant between grapes, “whatever would I do without you? I fear life would be so dreadfully ugly...” She reached up and lightly brushed his bare chest with her hand.

As though just to interrupt her reverie, the large doors of the hall swung open. Queen Ulathia turned her eyes toward the door, without so much as shifting her posture. Entering the room was one of her captains, a man wearing heavy plated armor and clanking slightly as he confidently approached the throne. Her eyes narrowing, the Queen growled a bit and sat up. She picked up her golden scepter with one hand and twirled it idly with its tip against the floor.

“This had better be good captain...” she sighed.

He approached within ten feet of the throne and dropped to one knee before her and bowed his head. He was holding a small scroll. “Glory to the Queen,” he pledged.

“Yes, yes... what do you want?” The Queen glanced over at her servant and smiled slightly, “I'm very busy you know!”

“Pardon the interruption my Queen, but I bring important news.” He unrolled the scroll. “According to our scouting efforts, there is an army amassing to the north. Someone calling himself a king is uniting forces from several of the other races. Our lieutenants feel this growing nation could prove a threat if not defeated quickly.”

The captain finished reading and raised his head to look at the Queen. Her expression was cold and unmoving. But only for a moment, before it gave way to snarling rage. She stood and howled, “Who dares call himself a king in my lands?! And how dare my officers think so highly of the threat he poses!? What is his name?”

“I... do not have that information my Queen... I'm sorry.”

Queen Ulathia shook with anger. She backhanded her servant fiercely, sending him sprawling to the floor. He groaned in pain. The Queen looked over at her fallen man-servant and then back at the captain. “Look what you made me do!” Before the captain could respond the Queen had descended upon him faster than a person in a layered gown should be able to move. With one hand she grabbed the captain by his face and shoved it to the side. The man's neck snapped like a piece of dry tinder and he dropped lifelessly onto the floor of the royal hall.

“Ahhhhh!” the Queen roared incoherently. Then she calmed down almost instantly. “You...” she dismissively pointed at one of her guards, “send word that I want this would-be-king's name, and his head as soon as possible.” She waved the guard off. He saluted and left the hall. “And you,” she pointed at another, “dispose of... this...” she offhandedly gestured at the captain's body.

Turning around, the Queen saw her beautiful boy struggling to rise, still clutching his face where he was struck. She could see it was bruising even from a distance. “Oh you poor thing!” she ran over and helped the servant up. “It's okay, he paid for what he did to you.” His eye and left cheek were clearly hurt. The Queen pouted, “it's okay... we'll get you fixed up in a bit. But first...” she draped herself back across the throne even as the dead captain was dragged out of her presence, “you still have grapes for me.” She smiled, then opened her mouth expectantly.

Ignoring the pain, and possibly cracked jaw, the beautiful but bruised young man began once more to feed grapes to his Queen.
"There was a young lady named bright,
Who could travel much faster than light,
She went out one day,
In a relative way,
And came back the previous night."

Love is never having to say you're sorry. Power is being able to kill anyone who asks for an apology.
Jaito: "Necromancy is like Linux, but even less sociable"
<Logos> The sugar is Asian people.
"Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, watch it! I'm huge."
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Nizkateth
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Re: Tales of Dungeons and Dragons

14 Sep 2011, 10:07

Chapter 3 – Legacy
Part 1 – The Second Level

Ice crystals danced on a frigid arctic wind forming a white cloud of freezing fog that crept along the marshy ground. On the upper walkway of Bayou Fargirn stood the young half elven woman, Cilya Redmeadow, with her staff raised and hand outstretched to direct the chilling haze she had conjured. Many dozens of shuffling dwarf corpses, no more alive than a stone but animate and possessing malign hunger, turned to frozen statues in the wake of Cilya's spell.

Though she did not yet notice, Cilya had changed in the short time since her departure from her father's mountain home. Her amber hair was out of its ponytail and instead fluttered wildly in the shuddering winds of the magic-blasted swamp clearing. Where once her spells had seemed like an art form, dancing lights and fanciful conjurations, now they rained from her as though erupting from a volcano. Instead of tentatively striking out with her magic, Cilya was becoming a force of righteous devastation.

As the warm air of the bog returned behind Cilya's conjured cloud, the frozen undead shattered. Finally, the magic of the freezing mist ran its course and it dispersed. It would take quite some time to replenish the power of that glyph, but Cilya considered it worth the effort. She looked down from the second story of Fargirn. Only a scattered handful of the shambling dwarf bodies remained. To finish her job Cilya began releasing pulses of her minor magic, and each blast ripped a hole through the head or chest of another rotting foe.

“That is incredible cher,” Eloi, the dwarven messenger who had brought Cilya here and had known her mother, showed a wide grin. “You really do remind me of Ailura. She had the same dramatic gestures and intense focus.” She looked over at him and smiled. “I've no doubt you'll be as powerful as her one day.”

“Thanks Eloi, but for now I'm more concerned with what's going on around here.” Cilya looked back over her shoulder. The sun had risen a few hours prior, and the remaining dwarves had set about reinforcing and repairing their town. “So are we really going with that plan? Wouldn't it be better to get everyone out of here?”

“I don't think you'll be able to convince them of that. Frankly, couldn't convince me neither.” His grin got wider and more toothsome. “We're a stubborn folk that way. This is our home. Our life. If we leave it behind, we leave our life behind.”

Cilya sighed. Then she blasted another undead dwarf. “Does anyone know what's causing the dead to rise?” Eloi's smile vanished and he shook his head. “Wonderful. Anything strange or new happen before the dead returned? New visitors, strange sights or sounds? Anything?”

“Well, it wasn't long after we spotted Ulathians in our lands. We figured it was them. But seeing that...” he pointed off toward the edge of the willow-clearing. Lying on the ground, being consumed by dead dwarves, was the corpse of what was probably an Ulathian scout from the looks of the armor. Not much of the, Cilya would guess man, remained.

“That... is disgusting, but it doesn't prove they didn't cause this. It just proves they can't or don't care to control it.” She shot a hole through the head of one of the feasting shamblers. “Maybe they think when the dead and the living finish killing each other, whatever is left will be easy to finish off. From what little I've seen of these Ulathians, it wouldn't surprise me.” She dispatched another of the undead. “The real question I suppose isn't who, but how. And where. If I can figure those two things out I might be able to stop this.”

“Did you see or hear anything at the camp that could be a clue?” Eloi had only heard a little of the incident from Alain, the man Cilya had saved from the scout camp.

Cilya thought back, as hard as she could. Then she destroyed another of the undead with a crackling blast of arcane power. “Not really. They had a map, and I got a look at it before I burned it. But I don't have any frame of reference to compare it to, so anything they marked would be meaningless to me.”

Eloi paused, and grinned. “You do know we have maps here cher, right?”

Somehow, that thought hadn't actually occurred to Cilya. The elves never kept maps of their lands, they just knew where to go from experience. “I...” she smiled somewhat sheepishly, “...no. Well, that could be really useful.” She finished off the last visible animated dwarf carcass. “Lead on then.” The pair strolled across the wooden walkways of Fargirn to a small building, with a sign hanging out front showing a quill touching point-first to a scroll.

Inside, despite an apparently complete lack of staff or residents, the building seemed clean and not even especially dusty. The dwarves clearly kept the place maintained, even during this crisis. Rows of shelves covered in scrolls filled a single large room, forming a circle around a round central table. Eloi began walking between the shelves, looking around for several minutes until he called out, “found it!”

Unrolling a scroll on the table, Eloi waved toward it, “go ahead, see if it looks familiar at all.” Cilya looked down at the scroll and though it was far more complete and detailed, she recognized the layout of the swamp from the map she briefly saw in the captain's tent at the Ulathian camp. Before she burned it, that is.

Remembering back as she looked over the map of the dwarf lands, Cilya ran her hand over the open scroll lightly. Her fingers traced out the routes she remembered seeing marked. There had been a couple prominent locations. One was definitely the camp's location. She followed the line of one of the routes she remembered across the map, and found it lead directly to Fargirn. Shaking her head slightly, Cilya returned her hand to the camp and traced out another path. While it was somewhat meandering, it seemed to lead across the edge of the swamplands and then turn southward. Likely how they came, and how they intended to leave.

Not allowing herself to get discouraged, Cilya traced out another of the paths from the camp. It lead deep into the swamp, across territory the dwarves had indicated as water-logged wetlands. Not the sort of place armored soldiers would do well in. In fact, a place rather far from anything else in the swamp and difficult for anyone to cross. If she was going to plant an item or perform a ritual intended to spread and consume the area, that's where Cilya would have gone.

“Eloi...” she said quietly, “I think I know where we need to go.”

Eloi looked at where her finger rested on the map. Cilya had never before seen a dwarf, or anyone for that matter, go pale the way he did at that moment.
"There was a young lady named bright,
Who could travel much faster than light,
She went out one day,
In a relative way,
And came back the previous night."

Love is never having to say you're sorry. Power is being able to kill anyone who asks for an apology.
Jaito: "Necromancy is like Linux, but even less sociable"
<Logos> The sugar is Asian people.
"Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, watch it! I'm huge."
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Nizkateth
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Re: Tales of Dungeons and Dragons

20 Sep 2011, 13:10

Part 2 – Into the Dragon's Den

“We can't...” Eloi was nearly ashen in color. It was as though his blood fled in fear, leaving his body behind. “Have to think of something else.”

An eyebrow quirked, Cilya stared at her dwarven companion for a while. “Uh... why?” She looked down at the map, the area she was still pointing to was fairly secluded but there were few major impediments between the town and there aside from especially damp land.

Eloi gulped. “That's... the lair of the Murkshadow.” His voice was barely above a whisper. Cilya was pretty sure his mouth had gone dry. He was shaking just slightly. “A terrible dragon, easily thirty feet or more from its horned head full of fangs like small sword to the tip of its lashing tail. A creature with onyx scales that shimmer in the moonlight like volcanic glass, horrible beating wings like some unnatural pairing of snake and bat... and corrosive breath that will scour the flesh from your bones. No one who goes near there ever returns.”

“Then how do you know what it looks like?” Cilya's tone was completely deadpan. Eloi opened his mouth to answer, but seemed to be lacking words. “Do you know anyone who has actually seen this 'Murkshadow'? After all, if it's as terrible and feared as you say I'd think someone outside your town would have heard of it. And while I haven't read everything, I've never heard of a black-scaled dragon in this region.” Eloi stared blankly. “Well? Serious question: do you know anyone who has actually seen it? Because I'd like to know more before I go to those wetlands.”

“No... I don't...”

Cilya smiled. “What I think we have hear is a fish-tale grown to the status of legend. More than likely someone saw a particularly big crocodile or something. And those things aren't to be taken lightly, certainly, but they're nothing like a dragon...”

“Well... I don't know. Maybe... but plenty have gone missing around there!” Eloi was regaining his color slowly. Being distracted from mind-numbing fear seemed to be working for him.

“When? In the last few years?”

Eloi stopped and thought. “Well yes, in the last few years. And at least a couple every few years before that!”

“So, you are telling me that for years one or two people would get lost in pathless, nearly uncharted, animal-filled wetlands. And then a couple years ago, around the time the Ulathians started venturing northward, many more went missing around there?”

“Well... yes.” Eloi nodded. “Why?”

Cilya sighed. “Doesn't it seem more likely that people just got lost out there once and a while, and then the Ulathians started doing something out there and making sure there were no witnesses? To me that seems likely, since from everything I've read the black dragons are only really seen on the northern continent... not down here in the south. I can imagine the Ulathians getting people up here better than I can imagine a dragon crossing the entire Equatorial Ocean just to settle here.”

Eloi shook his head. “No cher, I'm telling you, the Murkshadow is out there. I won't go, if I do I won't be coming back alive and I know it... we need to think of something else.”

“You're silly. And I'm going.” Cilya had managed to memorize the map in the minutes they had been talking. She had even figured out a good route, very likely the same one the Ulathians took for the last half of their trip through the swamp. “So, are you coming with me or not?”

Eloi was visibly crestfallen. He shook his head slowly. “I won't. I can't. And I am sad that I was only able to know you for so little a time. But you are definitely Ailura's child. She had the same stubborn streak... didn't know when she was taking on too much.”

“You make it sound like I'm dead already. But now that you mention it... we're here.” She looked out the window at the elevated town. “Now would be the time to tell me more about my mother.”

Eloi smiled, first time he had in a while. “Cher, I don't know that I could tell you more about her than you could learn from a mirror. But... I can tell you she left here years ago. Went east, toward the untamed lands. If you reconsider doing this, I could show you exactly which way she went. With her power, she may even still be alive out there.”

Cilya laughed. “Sorry Eloi, my mind is made up. But how about this? When I get back from the wetland, having solved the undead problem for your people and thwarted the efforts of an entire kingdom... then you can show me which way she went.” She grinned. Eloi sighed but nodded.

Much of the day was spent in preparation. Cilya packed basic supplies, anything she couldn't easily reproduce through magic, and when ready set out from Bayou Fargirn alone. Her staff in one hand, probing the ground before her to test its solidity, she confidently strode through the drier portions of the swamp. Under the dense tree cover she had difficulty seeing, and so once more conjured the silvery light to her open hand. Disappointed at Eloi's decision to remain behind, Cilya nonetheless pressed onward.

Hours passed as she made her way cautiously down the root-strewn paths and cut through bug-infested underbrush. One rather large insect buzzed around her head for quite a while. No matter how she swatted at it the annoyance managed to evade her. Eventually, tired of the distraction, Cilya called up a minor glyph in her mind and with perfect precision blasted the buzzing thing with a bolt of force. It didn't so much explode as disintegrate from the power of the impact.

“Ha, gotcha.” Cilya's victory was short lived however as the light and sound of her magic drew several dozen more of the bugs, which orbited her head like a cloud. Narrow-eyed and grumbling, she continued on through the underbrush. Soon the paths ended, as did the dry patches. The ground grew softer, water oozing up around each step Cilya took as though it were being rung from a sponge. Bushes were gradually replaced by reeds and hanging vines, willows by mangroves. Walking became even more difficult and her pace slowed. A stink of rotting animal and plant matter, nearly thick enough to see, hung in the air trapped by the canopy of trees. And still the insects swarmed around her head.

“I hate the swamp...”
"There was a young lady named bright,
Who could travel much faster than light,
She went out one day,
In a relative way,
And came back the previous night."

Love is never having to say you're sorry. Power is being able to kill anyone who asks for an apology.
Jaito: "Necromancy is like Linux, but even less sociable"
<Logos> The sugar is Asian people.
"Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, watch it! I'm huge."
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Nizkateth
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Re: Tales of Dungeons and Dragons

26 Sep 2011, 18:08

Part 3 – Discovery

Surrounded by hundreds of yards of knee-deep water and mud, partially hidden behind a small sea of high grass and reeds, stood a small stone structure in the bog. No more than twenty feet high and seemingly carved from a single block of stone, or at least it appeared so from a distance, the walls of the building were tapered upward and covered in creeping vines and moss. Set in one of the seamless walls was a shallow alcove and what appeared to be a door of the same slate-gray stone almost completely obscured by overgrown plant life.

“I'm gonna go with that being relevant...” Cilya stood at the edge of the deep muddy waters, squinting as she tried to get as much information as possible about the structure from that distance. To her trained senses, the place visibly radiated powerful magic. Mystic forces swirled about it and spun outward into the swamp like a grand web. Cilya contemplated and quietly asked herself, “Bigger question... how did the Ulathians build something like this? Especially with no one noticing?”

Then it occurred to her. “Murkshadow. All you have to do is kill a few and spread rumor, and no one comes this way.” She smiled. “I told him so...”

Smile quickly fading, Cilya looked at the terrain between her and the stone edifice. She pulled out her book of magic and started quickly flipping through its pages, her staff resting unheld against her shoulder. “Come on... there's got to be... ah ha! The disk, of course!”

Intoning words of power as she sprinkled silver dust in a circle before her, the words echoing mystically across the bog, Cilya wove the same magic that had carried Alain to his home. Minutes later, the rite complete, a glowing concave disk of shimmering blue light rose from the silvery powder until it was a mere foot over the ground. Giggling, Cilya stepped onto the disk then sat down. Perched in her unusual seat, she willed the disk forward. Gliding over the deep mud surrounding her goal, Cilya grinned and began looking for a convenient landing point.

The land immediately surrounding the building was comparatively solid and dry. Cilya stepped off the disk, but kept it in tow. With her new vantage she saw what appeared to be wood fragments piled near the door. Though not certain, Cilya suspected they may have once been a boat of some kind. “Maybe they shipped out the materials and then... smashed their... boat?” Cilya shook her head. “Don't be an idiot... this has to be recent or it'd be rotted completely, and how would they bring a block of stone this big on a little boat?” She knocked herself in the forehead lightly with her fist. “Focus.”

Pushing at the door with her staff proved ineffective. Shoving it with both hands did not work either. Then she rammed herself into it shoulder first. It moved, but less than an inch. Sighing, she put her shoulder back to it and pushed with all the strength she had. Slowly and arduously it ground open. Once it was open just enough to slip inside, Cilya stopped and panted for a while outside. Regaining her breath, she slid through the narrow opening into the stone edifice. Too dark to see, she called forth her silver light.

Which gave her just a moment to see the nearly-skeletal figures rushing upon her with outstretched boney fingers.

“Ah!” Cilya screamed in surprise and unleashed a wave of mystic flame down the inner hallway. In its wake, the bodies dropped smoldering and motionless. “Holy gods...” none of the figures could have been taller than four feet. Perhaps children, or members of a smaller race. Cilya stared at them for a while, waiting to see if they started moving again. Eventually satisfied that they were now fully dead, Cilya began stepping over their charred remains toward the center of the magic forces she sensed.

The walls were smooth and bare, untouched by mold or spiderweb. The hall was wide, at least fifteen feet across, and lead straight to the center of the structure. At its end was another enormous stone door. Cilya groaned, then put her shoulder against it. As she did a woman's voice rang out, thunderous and powerful, from all around her. It was as though the very stones were speaking. She jumped back.

“Turn back, lest you suffer the wrath of my magics!” The voice was somehow familiar. “None will disturb that which is imprisoned here!” Cilya could have sworn she had heard it before. “All who attempt to enter shall perish!” It sounded an awful lot like her own voice, but just a little deeper. In fact, the resemblance was uncanny.

Cilya blinked, then asked, “Mom?”

The voice paused. It then resumed in a completely different tone, softer and without anger. “Cilya, my daughter. If you are hearing this message and have followed in your father's footsteps, I urge you to leave this place quickly. Something vile is contained here, something powerful and unholy. I have placed wards about it and I believe they can hold indefinitely. If they have failed, then you must surely flee.”

A brief pause. Cilya was dumbstruck.

“However, if you inherited my talents despite my most fervent hopes, then it is possible you are here entirely because my wards have failed. If that is the case, I still pray you leave this matter to others.” Cilya laughed, and was about the reply to the recording. “But if you are anything like me, you probably are scoffing at the very idea.” Cilya stopped laughing, and quirked an eyebrow at the door. “Do not touch the orb, it is death. If my wards have been destroyed, then perhaps you can build replacements. If they are simply disrupted, pour forth magical power into them and they should be restored.”

Another pause, slightly longer than before.

“Cilya. My daughter. I pray you do not resent me for not being there as you grew. I trust that Falowen raised you well, and I know in my heart you have grown to an impressive and talented woman. I have recorded a message here for your father, but if he is not with you please deliver it for me? Tell him I cherished our time together and while I have no regrets about fighting the war, I do miss him greatly. And remind him... I would have won our first battle if he hadn't talked his way out of it.” The voice laughed. “My daughter, I send my love to you from afar. Live well, and may you be always happy.”

With that, the voice stopped. Cilya stared unblinking for a moment. “...oh mom.” She shook her head and smiled. “How thorough were you to put recorded message rituals in this place for each member of your family?!” She snickered. “I'll bet you have a bunch more in here, all keyed to different voices or words... don't you? I... kinda wish I had thought of that myself.”

Without further delay, Cilya pushed on the inner door. It slid open much easier than the outer door. Beyond was a circular room, the floor and ceiling etched with seven layers of concentric runic symbols laid out in rings in the center. The walls had ritual words spelled out in inlaid gold lettering. Littered around the room were the corpses of soldiers, still dressed in armor and completely without decay. Only their hollow eyes and pallid skin spoke of their death. Without a doubt they were Ulathian.

All that quickly faded into the back of Cilya's mind when she saw what the circles were built around. Floating in the very center of the room, halfway between the ceiling and floor, was a pulsing ball of darkness deeper than anything she had seen before. Around it, a corona of shadows crackled like lightning. Its magic was so intense it nearly blinded her mind's eye.

A chill ran the length of Cilya's spine. “Those fools... what have they done?...”
"There was a young lady named bright,
Who could travel much faster than light,
She went out one day,
In a relative way,
And came back the previous night."

Love is never having to say you're sorry. Power is being able to kill anyone who asks for an apology.
Jaito: "Necromancy is like Linux, but even less sociable"
<Logos> The sugar is Asian people.
"Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, watch it! I'm huge."
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Re: Tales of Dungeons and Dragons

04 Oct 2011, 17:36

Part 4 – Quick Thinking

“I hope your wards are still viable mom.”

Cilya stepped fully into the circular room. No sooner did she that the black orb floating at its center pulsed violently for a few seconds. Shadows, not entirely dark but far from light, silently erupted from it like lightning and struck the Ulathian corpses. They shook as though they were alive and had a bolt of electricity running through them. They continued to twitch as the shadows faded, and slowly rose to their feet.

“Not this again... well, at least I can be pretty sure this is the problem.” Cilya aligned a minor glyph in her mind and unleashed its power. A bolt of force ripped from her fingertips and roared toward one of the risen corpses. Before it could reach its target, the energy seemed to shred apart and fall sideways into the black orb.

Blinking in disbelief, Cilya tilted her head a bit to the side as she stared at the sphere of darkness. “You're kidding... right? How does that even happen?” She came back to her senses as the undead soldiers shuffled toward her, groaning like they were in pain. “Oh right. Crap.”

The nearest of the half-dozen or so monstrosities lunged at her with a startling burst of speed. Almost on reflex Cilya struck out with her staff, cracking the thing's skull and dropping it once more lifelessly to the floor. She paused, then grinned wickedly. “Ah yeah... there's that! Have at you!” Taking the offensive, Cilya wadded into the midst of the animated bodies swinging her staff in wide arcs. She switched her grip and bashed one's head completely off its neck with a fierce two-handed swing like she was using a long club. Pulling her staff back she held it close to her and spun her entire body, catching another in the chest and sending it sprawling.

“One is lurching to my right, two to my left and one right in front of me.” Cilya thought to herself as she scanned the room quickly. “They tend to lunge, going for the arms and neck if they can. If their speed is consistent with what I've seen... one and a half seconds before...” she stepped back one step, then ducked to her right. One took a swing at her but she was right in its placement and simply crouched under the attack. The other three crashed into each other, stopping their momentum and causing each to get in the way of the others.

“Enough trauma seems to disrupt the energy holding them together.” Cilya continued to think quickly. “Armor is an issue, but sharp impact to the head seems to circumvent that.” With a thrust of her staff, Cilya smashed the chin of the closest creature. Its head snapped back, its neck cracked, and it fell to the ground. “Good, now just three left. Problem is they'll be on me in less than two seconds. No room or time to evade.”

Spinning her staff in front of her, Cilya created a whirling shield. As the undead reached for her, their arms were swatted away. This left them off balance just long enough. “Left one, create an opening, move into more open room. Duck under backhanded swing from closest, use staff to block lunge of the other as it moves past its fellow.”

With a low sweep, Cilya knocked the footing out from the left-most animated soldier. As it fell back, its skull splitting open from the unbraced impact of its helm against the floor, Cilya stepped past it. As she did she ducked, a savage strike whipping just over her head. Then she spun about and threw her staff in front of her at a slight angle, pushing away the arm of the further of the two monsters as it reached out past the backhanding one.

“Use reach advantage to push back against the spinning one, moving out of range, and then thrust forward as the lunging one approaches to add its speed to the force of impact.” Cilya planted the end of her staff against the side of the turning creature and shoved herself back. It lurched backward as well, stumbling over its own feet before smacking back-first into the wall. The other lunged past its stumbling colleague and, with a hissing groan, rushed Cilya with its open mouth first. A thrust of her staff plunged into the mouth of the dead thing, smashing the base of its skull. It went limp, still attached by the mouth to her weapon.

The weight of the armored body pulled Cilya's arms down until she could barely keep hold of the staff. “Damn!” she cursed in her mind, “throwing off my recovery, last one will grab me before I can be ready. I could... no, it might be magic, we never figured that out... only chance, it's a gamble but...”

With cold, pale hands the dead soldier reached out and grabbed Cilya by the right shoulder and arm. Its fingers dug into her, more painful than having nails hammered into her skin. She screamed, but closed her eyes and tried to focus. From deep within her she summoned a force, not magic as she usually used it, but a trick she had never been able to explain. Tharol had been at a loss to explain it, aside perhaps as some manner of power inherited from her human side. Cilya rarely used it, partly because she had little need but more so because she couldn't explain it.

Mere inches from Cilya's neck, the dead soldier was stopped fast. She opened her eyes, which flashed with an inner light. A wave of force erupted from her, hurling the attacking corpse back and crushing half the bones in its body. The dead man attached to her staff was likewise thrown back and crumbled in a heap. Like a gust of wind what little dust had settled in the room was swept away from Cilya in a circular spray to the far sides of the room.

As the force dissipated and Cilya looked around her, she shuddered. “Hate doing that...” she looked at the black orb and muttered flatly, “...damn you.”

Checking to make sure the animated soldiers were staying down, Cilya then walked to the edge of the concentric circles surrounding the pulsing sphere of utter darkness. “Now then, how exactly did you manage to consume my magic?” She spoke to the orb as though it was sentient, but really was just thinking out loud. “That doesn't even make sense. I mean, to do something like that you'd have to be a...”

She eyes widened as she stared at it and came to a realization.

“Oh... crap...”
"There was a young lady named bright,
Who could travel much faster than light,
She went out one day,
In a relative way,
And came back the previous night."

Love is never having to say you're sorry. Power is being able to kill anyone who asks for an apology.
Jaito: "Necromancy is like Linux, but even less sociable"
<Logos> The sugar is Asian people.
"Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, watch it! I'm huge."
Hamster Style / Kitten Style / Hit 'Em With a Rock Style / Newest Icon Full Pic

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