The Vorpal Tribble
2007-02-14, 10:18 AM
Josiah carefully closed the door to the house, making sure not to make any unneccessary noise. The sun had not yet risen and his aunt needed her rest. He swung his axe over his shoulder and as he proceeded down the dark, chilly streets. A purple haze suffused the horizon, the only source of illumination aside from the sparks of a distant smithy warming up for his day's work.
Josiah took a breath of the biting air and smiled despite the coarseness it produced in his lungs. The approach of fall was well on its way but reguardless of the time of year he relished the solitude of pre-dawn. By the time the sun rose enough to cast its first rays he had followed the worn forest trail to the river. Along one side of its steep, twisting banks a hundred or more logs stacked atop each other, ready to be released down the rollway. The other men would be along in time, but for now he stood alone, watching the scarlet play of sunlight upon the rushing surface of the river. Or perhaps not quite as alone as he had at first thought. Something lie on the opposite shore in the distance, at a bend. Curious but not yet alarmed he shoved a loose log down into the water and slid down after it.
With practised ease he balanced upon the log, quickly rolling it along till he came to the opposite bank. He walked along side the bank and came to the cloaked figure. It lay sprawled in the cold sod unmoving.
"Hello?" he called, and then nudged it with a toe, neither recieving a response. Josiah reached down and pulled away the hood to show a head of dark blonde curls. Uttering a logger's curse under his breath he cleared the hair from the face and his heart beat a tad faster. Though with a scratched face and chapped lips deep blue she was the match of any girl in town. Putting a hand beneath her nostrils he dared to believe he felt breath upon his knuckles. He reached down to pick her up and was mildly shocked by her feather lightness. Dressed in a thin dress of cotton with only the threadbare cloak to keep off the chill, she felt like ice to the touch.
Three men meantime came to the bank laughing and talking amongst themselves when they spotted the boy.
"Well look right there, is he bringing the lasses to work with him now?" said one.
"He's got the eye of most of them anyhow. Hey, that ain't your Betsy is it?" said a second jokingly.
The third gave the second a friendly shove in the face and his annoyed scowl turned into a puzzled frown. "Whats he wavin' and hollerin' for?"
"I think he's calling for help. Maybe the lass fell in?"
Josiah watched with relief as the jam was removed from the stacked logs. They tumbled with a muted roar and soon lay in a jumbled mess in the river. The three men spryly leapt down and walked across the slippery bark, keeping to areas of sticky resin when possible. Soon the girl had been handed across the river to the opposite side and one of the men sent for the healer.
Josiah smiled as he passed by Granta's seamtress shop. There was Elizabeth already out, as she normally was, sweeping in front of the store. She had filled out since she had taken to working for Granta, whoes seamstressing had slowed from the shaking joints of age. All signs of her seeming starvation and near freezing were long gone. She gave him a broad smile and waved. He waved back and continued waving as he turned and jogged backwards just in time for a dog to come running from a nearby yard. He tripped backwards and landed hard on his rear. Elizabeth covered her mouth though her entire form shook with laughter. Josiah slowly stood back up and with a mock air of injured pride and strutted his way down to the river.
It was apparent to all who knew Josiah that he was smitten with the new arrival to the village, and no less so she. The other fellows around envied him, but Josiah was a good friend to all about him and none begrudged him. He often took his lunch with her, and by the end of another month they were often seen chatting away. Often he took her to visit the small falls that dotted the forest, some no other had yet found. However, he noticed how the deeper his feelings grew for her, the colder she seemed to become. She would be laughing and smiling one moment, but if he were to try to take her hand she shied away and quickly made excuses to leave. Even when she didn't think he was looking he would see her staring upon him as he passd by her home, but when he turned to face her she would always turn away. If any mention was made of their future or his feelings for her she would quickly change the subject, become silent, or walk off. The next day she would act as if nothing happened and would again laugh and chatter. She encouraged him though in his actions, but seemed content to play and tease and provoke. Finally during a picnic he surprised her by leaning forward and kissing her. She instantly melted but then it was as if a tree fell between them. She shoved him away and ran, almost tripping in haste, out into the woods.
He did not return for three days, and despite her treatement he was filled with anxiety for her. When she returned it was to the healer's she went, her fingers and toes frostbitten with the winter air. A rattling had also started in her lungs that worried the healer. For the next several months it was touch and go as Elizabeth improved and declined at random. But though he was forced to work to provide for himself, and though Elizabeth never knew it, her as well, for kind as Granta was she did not have the money to pay for a second mouth whom could only lie in bed, he would spend his nights in a cot by her side. He never brought up her disapearance and she never ventured anything herself. Every now and again when she thought him asleep he would hear the markings of pen on paper but when he roused himself she quickly hid it from sight. Secrets, always secrets with her. Why could she not simply trust him?
It was the beginning of spring before the cough finally was defeated and Elizabeth felt well enough to leave her home. He held her to keep from wobbling for she was quite weak, and to provide extra warmth. She accepted this kind embrace unlike in past times he had tried to hold her, and for the both of them the day was beautiful.
He had waited long and patiently for this day, and he took her to a spot he had never shown even her. Along side a small fall was a pool that led down a creek of moss-covered rocks. Leaning over the creek was a dogwood rich in blooms. Beneath it lay a rough bench he had made himself. She was momentarily stilled at the beauty of the place and when she looked to him tears were in her eyes, and she smiled with such tenderness he knew it was the right time. He led her to the bench and then knelt by her.
"Elizabeth, my dear one, will you be my wife?" he recited solemnly the words he had practised over and over again in his head.
A look of joy suffused her face and his heart soared but then her face went pale, so dead pale he momentarily feared for her. She stood up quickly and her eyes flicked from side to side like a frightened animal.
"N... no, no I..." she stammered, and gathered up her dress to run.
"But why?" Josiah demanded, agony filling his words, "Why do you pluck upon my heartstrings? No crueler hand could play them. Why, just answer me this one time. If you have any affection for me at all just tell me WHY!"
Elizabeth shook her head quickly, tears streaming down her cheeks.
"Josiah, you will never be my husband." she whispered.
All his confusion and hurt came together into a powerful backhand slap that caught her across the cheek. She fell backwards, hitting a clump of ferns hard. A look of sorrow and desperation turned her features as she opened her mouth, but before she could speak Josiah put a booted foot to her side and shoved her end over end into the chill pool.
"Go back up the stream where you came from." he spat, and without a further glance turned his back upon her and trudged down the hill.
Josiah laughed and made a point of putting his arm about the waist of the tall, redheaded girl at his side as he passed Granta's store. It had been many weeks since the episode at the falls and he had become very friendly with Tabitha whom had made eyes at him ever since they were young. He didn't even turn to Elizabeth whom stood in the doorway.
Tabitha didn't know why he treated Liz like that, but she'd always been more than a little jealous and if it pleased Josiah all the better. As they passed she turned her head back and smirked at the stricken faced girl, and put her head against Josiah's shoulder.
A month later he proposed which was eagerly accepted. The next day as he was chopping one of his friends from town came running in, winded to the point he could barely speak. Two words though were enough to set Josiah in motion however. Elizabeth. Dead.
He had thought he had expelled her from his heart but the turmoil that rose up to claim him was stonger than anything he had ever felt. There was a small crowd outside Granta's shop and as he approached he heard 'hung herself'. They parted immediately for him and he dashed inside. Granta sat in her chair ringing her hands while a couple other woman sat around her speaking softly. He ran to her room and for a moment he was confused. She merely looked asleep.
They had layed her down upon her bed, but then he saw the deep purple bruises about her throat. As he knelt by her bed something inside him rose up with a roar that would have shaken the house had it been released, but no sound came from his throat. He didn't know how long he was there, just peering into her face, unable to feel anything. After endless years, or perhaps only seconds he stood and approached her simple desk. Opening a drawer he found her writings, bound in leather.
He sat down where he stood and began to read them. A terrible expression came to his face he began to read, a look that would have made shiver any of the men outside.
'A curse...' he thought to himself over and over, 'She... loved me..." for what he had found was a diary of sorts. It told everything; a hag taking her as a child from her family and being raised by the foul being. As she had grown in beauty the hag's jealousy had as well. She threw the girl from her house, and bid her never to return. But before that she had marked her, body and soul. Though as beautiful within as without she would never be able to return another's love. Furthermore she would never be allowed to speak of the curse, or even mention it to a single being. And he had struck her. As beautiful as he had thought her he knew now she was even more so. She had loved him, deeply and with all her soul. It was written down. He had been whom she trusted enough to partially defy the curse of the hag, at great pain it appeared. And he had struck her. Struck her, mocked her, and treated her with callousness that would have shocked the most lecherous swain in the town. He had caused her such pain that she had ended her life. He had killed her.
He set her book back within the desk. He reached out to touch her cold face but checked himself. He lifted his hands and peered at the palms with disgust, as if they dripped with filth. In fact, he saw blood on them as clearly as her face. No, he would not soil her with his touch. He would never touch another again.
An hour later everyone saw him emerge from the house. His face was dead. Not just emotionless but without even enough care to show numbness. Numbness was still something. No, this was nothingness that showed. Several called out to him but he didn't answer. Once out of sight he ran. Ran with all the power in his legs and all the drive that could be willed. Let them be stretched one last time. To the tallest, rockiest fall he had yet found he took himself. He stood near its edge for some time, remembering his life. It had been a good one, a heavenly one for the last year... and he had no one to blame but himself for the events that had turned it on its head.
He tensed to thro himself down it but something within, something deep inside spoke.
'You are not worthy of death... its too easy, too swift... what of the others in this world who are treated as cruely? Will you end your life when you still have breath to fill your body and move it against the lovers of other's pains? If you jump now you are certainly all you think of yourself now, and more...'
He backed away from the edge and looked out over the treetops. He didn't know if he was capable of anything the voice had mentioned, but he would try. Turning his eyes to the sky he swore to Elizabeth that he would at least try. He would remember her and what she in death had taught him about himself that she could not say in life.
Once the stain upon his hands was clean would he stop. But this, he knew, would never be. For her blood would always be on soul, and no scrubbing could cleanse that. He would do what he could though.
Now the hot tears could flow.
_/ _/ _/ _/ _/ _/ _/ _/
Human Paragon 3, Ranger 3, Scout 4
Medium Humanoid (good, human)
Hit Dice: 3d8+6 + 3d8+6 + 4d8+8 (64 hp)
Speed: 40 ft. (8 squares)
Armor Class: 14 (+2 dex, +2 leather armor), touch 12, flat-footed 12
Base Attack/Grapple: +8/+10
Attack: Masterwork throwing axe +12 melee/ranged (1d6+2/20 ft.)
Full Attack: 2 masterwork throwing axes +8/+3 melee/ranged (1d6+2/20 ft.)
Space/Reach: 5 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: Favored enemy (monstrous humanoids), skirmish
Special Qualities: Trackless step, uncanny dodge, wild empathy
Saves: Fort +8, Ref +10, Will +7
Abilities: Str 15, Dex 14, Con 14, Int 12, Wis 15, Cha 16
Skills: Balance +13, Climb +15, Diplomacy +12, Hide +11, Knowledge (nature) +9, Listen +13, Move Silently +11, Profession (logger) +6, Spot +13, Survival +15, Swim +13
Feats: Blind-Fight, Endurance, Mountaineer, Point Blank Shot, Pure Soul, Sacred Vow, Track, Two-Weapon Fighting, Vow of Chastity, Weapon Focus (throwing axe)
Challenge Rating: 10
Possessions: Backpack, bedroll, beltpouch, candle x4, dagger, explorer's outfit, flint and steel, fowler's snare, leather armor, masterwork throwing axe x2, silk rope (50 ft.), soap (2 lbs.), waterskin, whetstone
Alignment: Neutral Good
Advancement: By character class
Level Adjustment: +0
Favored Enemy (Ex): Josiah gains a +2 bonus on Bluff, Listen, Sense Motive, Spot, and Survival checks when using these skills against Monstrous Humanoids. Likewise, he gets a +2 bonus on weapon damage rolls against such creatures.
Skirmish (Ex): See page 12 of Complete Adventurer.
Trackless Step (Ex): Josiah leaves no trail in natural surroundings and cannot be tracked. He may choose to leave a trail if so desired.
Uncanny Dodge (Ex): Josiah retains his Dexterity bonus to AC (if any) even if he is caught flat-footed or struck by an invisible attacker. However, he still loses his Dexterity bonus to AC if immobilized.
Wild Empathy (Ex): Josiah can improve the attitude of an animal. This ability functions just like a Diplomacy check to improve the attitude of a person. He rolls 1d20 and adds his ranger level and his Charisma bonus to determine the wild empathy check result. The typical domestic animal has a starting attitude of indifferent, while wild animals are usually unfriendly.
To use wild empathy, he and the animal must be able to study each other, which means that they must be within 30 feet of one another under normal visibility conditions. Generally, influencing an animal in this way takes 1 minute, but, as with influencing people, it might take more or less time.
He can also use this ability to influence a magical beast with an Intelligence score of 1 or 2, but he takes a –4 penalty on the check.
Josiah is a somewhat tall young man with a strong build, bordering on the burly with a light olive complexion. His hair falls in long, thick black ringlets to his shoulders and the starts of a full beard has begun its man's growth upon his strong but thin face. He is quite ruggedly handsome with beautiful blue-grey eyes that are often unfocused and staring into the distance. He appears quite serious, but incongruously his face shows faint laugh lines.
He wears simple but sturdy cloth and leather pants tightened by a braided leath belt from which hangs a hatchet and a knife. A homespun cotton shirt covers his broad chest and leather boots cover his feet. His hair is held back from his face by a headband and thin gloves fit over his hands.
Josiah is under the Stain of Guilt curse and if his gloves are removed they are stained thickly with the blood of Elizabeth.
The Vorpal Tribble
2007-02-14, 10:45 AM
Stain of Guilt
Level: Sanctified 1
Components: S, V, Peace
Casting Time: 1 standard action
Range: See text
Target: One creature
Saving Throw: None
Spell Resistance: No
You allow the guilt of a murderer to show itself for all to see. A part of their body is permanently stained with the blood of their victim, normally their hand, which drips slowly but consistently.
This person need not have physically done the deed, but must have been the cause of a sentient creature's death. Those that killed only through self defense, accident or similiar conditions are not affected.
This blood may only be washed off with fresh, flowing water or holy water. Even so, the blood returns within an hour of the washing. The stain may only permanently be removed by the victim making ammends for their deeds. Those of the higher planes judge when this has been accomplished, not the caster.
Those that see the blood and were negatively affected by the death dealt by the target of this spell instantly know the being as the cause of the deed. He takes a -10 penalty to all Charisma-based skill checks when using them against these people.
There is no maximum distance to this spell, nor must the target be known, though it cannot cross planar boundaries.
Peace: The caster must refrain from purposely killing any creature for 24 hours prior to casting this spell.
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