View Full Version : The Last Tidings of Isneck
2007-12-13, 10:38 AM
The Last Tidings of Isneck
This all started three weeks ago, in late June. We'll call the first day Day 1.
Day 1: Rumours of attacks in the south. This was thought to be a minor raid from mountain creatures at first. Soldiers were sent to respond.
Day 3: It was clear an actual army had come through the pass. Barons were notified to rally their knights and men-at-arms and the main army was sent to intercept. Skirmishes over the next few days, but lots of confusion and little intel.
Day 8: The combined forces of the kingdom engaged in pitched battle at a river in the south-central area. The battle lasted all day and went badly for your nation. Such a large and magical enemy force was not expected.
Day 9: The remains of your army fell back to several fortresses in the midlands.
Day 10: By now, your army had enough reports of the total slaughter being inflicted to see that the Invader was not conquering or taking prisoners. It was genocide.
Day 12: The area around the fortresses in the Midlands was completely occupied by the Invader, who made no move toward the fortresses. He seemed to ignore them.
Day 14: Forces from two of the fortresses made a coordinated strike out, and did damage but were destroyed. Survivors fled for the capital. The forces of the third fortress were never heard from.
Day 15: The king, acting on instructions from the queen, organized and reinforced defence of the capital (Allonum), a walled town with a large castle and a river. Hit-and-run squads were sent out on various missions. Reports came of the eastern and western fringes of the kingdom being under attack as well. Local militia (levvies of peasants) stood no chance, and the few barons who had not responded to the muster probabaly didn't either.
Sunrise Day 17: Blackout. The sky was a wan, wasted colour and light seemed pale. A dry wind from the southeast began to blow. Magic attempts at sending for help failed.
Afternoon Day 17: Your brothers joined the remaining army, with an ambitious plan to trap the area around the capital and use a series of ambushes to waylay the enemy. You, on the other hand, are given a small squad of dragoons and sent to ride through the northern hills to seek help.
Late Night Day 17: You stop at the Summer Palace to rest and get supplies. After only four hours of sleep, you depart again.
Afternoon Day 18: Clouds of smoke can be seen behind you, rising from the direction of Allonum.
Early Afternoon Day 19: Start of the campaign, somewhere in the northern wildlands.
Isneck: Your country. With a proud history of stalwart heroes and just rulers, your people tend to think highly of themselves. According to national legend, Lo Isneck (Isneck Lake) is the centre of the universe. The first humans emerged from the muddy banks of the lake at the behest of the gods, and spread out from there. Although many nations make such claims, there is no doubt that Lo Isneck is one of the most sacred places in the world, with numerous shrines along its banks and allegedly under its waters.
Most of the Isneckine lowlands were once forest, but no one knows that. The land has been farmland for as long as history recalls. Large woods are few these days, though stands of scraggly trees break up the scenery in the borderlands that surround the country.
Foreign relations: Isneck has a reputation as the nation that never fell. Despite the many and lengthy invasions that every medieval nation is prone to give and receive, the core area of Isneck’s territory has remained in her own hands for most of history. With vast deserted borderlands, a stubborn people, and deep faith in the gods Isneck has remained strong. With isolation, however, comes a certain degree of poverty; landlocked and desolate, Isneck does not attract as much trade as its people would like.
Lagin: Your neighbour to the east. The lowlands are divided somewhat arbitrarily between the two countries, and the border has shifted many times in the past. The Great Lagin River has been the dividing point for the past century. The people of Lagin share many traits with your own people, including their general appearance and agrarian way of life.
Foreign relations: In the distant past Lagin invaded Isneck as far as Lo Isneck but was unable to hold the gains. For centuries there were border disputes, but things have been stable since then. The wars between the two countries are very much like sibling rivalry, with a quick return to affection and trade afterward. Although trade lines are open neither country has much the other wants (besides land). Lagin does have easier access to the sea, however, and tends to be slightly richer than Isneck.
The Long Pass: In the southeast, the Long Pass was once thought a promising route for trade and access to the ocean. Efforts to organize any such trade, however, have repeatedly failed. Caravans simply can’t reliably traverse the high passes with weather and beasts to worry about. Centuries ago a trading post was established on the coast at the end of the Long Pass, but it was abandoned and most Isneckine have never heard of it.
The Valley of the Griffin-Chasers: More a legend than a nation, the Valley of the Griffin-Chasers is supposed to be a magical land of tall heroes and mythical beasts. Many people guffaw at the fables, but your mother has assured you the place is at least real, if exaggerated. She accompanied her father (then king) when he went to see the oracles there. She was only six at the time, but can spin a good story about the place. The oracles’ advice did not stop your grandfather from losing his life, however.
Foreign relations: None. The Griffin-Chasers speak a strange language and are tucked away in the most formidable mountains in the world. Few travelers reach them and few Griffin-Chasers travel.
Morren: Far away across a wide swampy waste, Morren is a soggy country with more resources than people. Morreners are sometimes seen as lazy, and sometimes as wise. Morreners themselves often joke that they are lazy because they are wise. The truth is probably the other way around: with so many edible plants and game animals, and so few likely invaders, people in Morren have a high standard of living and can spend more time in study than other races. This has led to a reputation of Morren as a nation of great sorcerers and poets.
Foreign relations: Morren has more relations with the outside world then Isneck does, since the western edge of Morren is a great salt flat along the sea. Almost two hundred years ago Morren came under attack from seafaring invaders, and Isneck (with a small contingent of Lagine) marched across the swamps to help put things right. In return, Isneck was rewarded with a number of magical artifacts and promises of a wooden highway linking the nations. The treasures were much celebrated (after all, the artifacts are believed to have come from Lo Isneck in the first place) but the highway never materialised. It was begun—and parts of it still remain—but in typical Morrener fashion, it was forgotten rather than finished.
Oost: The Oost are a race of mountain tribes to your north, supposedly descended from titans. They are tall, proud and militant, but practical. When they realized their in-fighting was weakening them, they confederated under a single monarch (with most tribal kings submitting voluntarily, or with only ceremonial resistance). They are still highly decentralized, and the over-king is mostly a figurehead, but they obey the terms of their federal pact:
1. If an Oost attacks and Oost, let no one interfere.
2. If a foreigner attacks an Oost, let all Oost defend.
3. Tribal wars are training. Dispense with training in time of need.
4. When the Over-king calls for war, all Oost respond with strength.
Foreign relations: Early in world history there were many hostilities with Isneck and frequent raids from the north. Eventually the Oost learned the joys of oversea raiding and that, combined with fighting amongst themselves, has kept them busy ever since. War with the north has been unthinkable for so long that the castle that once protected Isneck from the Oost has actually been converted to a recreational summer palace. For hundreds of years, trade graced the pass to the north and a long highway was even constructed. As the value of overseas resources rose and inland timber supplies diminished the highway fell into neglect. Now the Oost regard mighty Isneck with friendship and respect, but rarely as a viable trading partner.
Sasha (Sassticca Alia ai Machar) (http://www.myth-weavers.com/sheets/view.php?id=33303)
Her full name is Sassticca Alia ai Machar, but she’s generally called Sasha by friends and family. Sasha was born unlucky—a twin under a new moon—and her family spent her early years fretting about the omen. The meaning became clear three years later, when both girls developed the coughing sickness. Believing that both princesses would be lost, their parents made many offerings to the gods, praying for a miracle. It came, in part; Sasha was spared, but her sister, Ysault, died.
This early loss created a void in Sasha, one she has attempted to fill in various, not always constructive, ways. At times she was charming and affectionate with her family, doting on her baby brother and allowing her older brother to dote on her. Other times, she felt ill at ease in the castle, and dreamt of forsaking her duties and running off to have a grand adventure.
During one of these dissatisfied periods, she made the acquaintance of Finn, one of the stable boys. The young man’s Uncle Nevan was a roguish adventurer, and Finn would spend his afternoons mucking out the stables and telling Sasha stories of adventure and escape. Completely enamoured with the life he described, Sasha begged to meet the famous uncle. Worried that he might get in trouble for leading the princess astray, Finn delayed as long as possible; but Sasha can be persuasive, and eventually Finn arranged the meeting.
It wasn’t long before Finn and Sasha became Nevan’s apprentices. The older man was glad to share his secrets, and he took the youngsters out at night, showing them how to open locks, find and set traps, and even pick pockets. Of course, he never allowed the children to actually steal anything, and they were made to put back their ill-gotten gains by the same stealthy methods they’d acquired them. This was perfectly fine with Sasha, for she enjoyed the game more than the rewards, and wanted for nothing at home anyway.
About a year before the Invasion, Sasha was down in the castle dungeons, practicing her skills on the rusty cell locks. One lock was being particularly troublesome, and Sasha was growing increasingly frustrated. Finally, in a fit of anger, she shouted at the lock to open. To her complete surprise, it did so.
The discovery of her sorceress power left Sasha shaken and afraid. Unsure who to confide in, she kept the knowledge a secret. Looking for answers, she began to research her family tree, and there she made a startling discovery. Her maternal grandfather, who died before her birth, had also been a sorcerer. This knowledge made Sasha feel much better, and she began to practice and hone her skills. During these self-taught lessons, her grandfather’s diaries were a great source of both inspiration and comfort—at times, she could almost hear his voice coming back from the heavenly planes to instruct and help her.
Increased confidence in her skills finally gave Sasha the courage to tell her family about them. However, before she had a chance to, the Invader attacked. Suddenly the household, and the whole kingdom, was thrown into a frenzy. She knew that now wasn’t the time, and that her powers weren’t anywhere near enough to help with the war effort. Instead, she helped the women as much as she could, making bandages, preparing medicines, and overseeing the relocating of refugees. And praying, as everybody did, for help.
Finally, the day came that her parents sent her away. It broke her heart to leave, but she was dutiful enough not to argue. If they were to survive, they’d need help, and her magics and night-time skills might give her the edge in getting the message through. Her brothers, had already left to join the fight, and she couldn’t find Finn amid the confusion. Hardening her heart, she packed her bags, hugged her parents, and left with Kargrove and her 5 dragoons. They made excellent speed that evening, and travelled through most of the night.
However, when the pillars of smoke rose up behind them on the second day, it took all of Sasha’s will not to turn and run back to her family. Her heart screaming with fear and loneliness, Sasha sat on her horse, frozen, unable to move.
She knew there was nothing she could do. If any lived, they would live without her help. And if her fears were true….getting herself killed as well would not be a good way to honour the memories of her family. Too numb with fear and grief for tears, Sasha allowed Kargrove to lead her north, into the wildlands she’d dreamed of travelling as a child.
As they travelled, Sasha became aware of a tentative thought hovering near her grief. Examining it, she realized the thought was not her own. Curious rather than afraid, the girl came out of her grief long enough to look around, wondering who was capable of putting thoughts in her mind. Kargrove and the dragoons seemed intent on keeping watch, and she doubted they were the ones responsible. Instinct told her to look up, and she saw a small hawk riding the currents overhead.
Aware that he had been noticed, the hawk swooped down, landing lightly on the pommel of her saddle. Golden eyes regarded hers, and Sasha put out a tentative hand to stroke the blue-grey feathers. The overwhelming rush of affection and concern that came from that contact melted away any remaining barriers, and she knew she loved him. And as easy as that, Sasha and a Cooper’s Hawk, named Ysa for her lost sister, became lifelong companions.
Sasha is short for her age, standing a mere 5’2”. However, the girl is heavy for her height; a life of relative ease, combined with a love of pastries, has contributed to her weight problems, and she currently is significantly more curvy than she’d like to be. Most people don’t consider her more than chubby, and her coppery ringlets, dark green eyes and easy smile more than make up for the extra pounds. If only she didn’t have so many pesky freckles!
When at home in the castle, Sasha generally wore formal gowns befitting her station. When roaming around with Finn and Nevan, she wore layers of black clothes; what she considered to be appropriate skulking clothing. For this mission, she wore sensible riding clothes: a sturdy woollen kirtle over a cream underdress. In her saddlebags she has one formal dress and her black outfit. The only jewellery she’s wearing is her father’s signet ring, meant to be used to prove her identity, should it be questioned.
More details on Sasha (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3593040&postcount=11)
Interesting note: The name Sasticca (which in Old Common would have been spelled Sastick) is actually related to the name Isneck. Isneck is a very old-fashioned spelling, from a time when “k” was still used in the alphabet (and signified a glottal stop at the end or middle of a word). Both words share the syllable –ick which means something like “shining treasure”. Isneck derives from “the place of the treasure” and Sassticca from “seeker of the treasure”.
Early Afternoon, July 10
Your small company ranges over scrubby heath-covered plains. Stunted oaks, small stands of pine, and large rocks occasionally break up the landscape. The sky is a queer colour, as if coated in an oily film. Helios seems far away, and offers little light to your homeland.
In the far distance behind you a smudge can still be seen, the last smoke rising from beyond the banks of Lo Isneck. There is no conversation, just the clopping of the horses’ hooves.
Ahead are the foothills of the northern mountains. You have left the Isneckine countryside now, truly entering the borderlands. The hills are small here, but they look rugged on the horizon and the land already slopes upward ever-so-little.
A single hawk wings slowly overhead, keeping an eye on its new friend.
The wind blows, dry and warm.
A dragoon coughs.
2007-12-15, 03:15 PM
Sasha slumped in her saddle, letting her horse choose his own path through the scrublands. He seemed to sense her depression, for his step was slow and ponderous. Even the miracle of her newfound friendship with Ysa couldn’t break through her melancholy thoughts.
Dead. They’re all dead. Nobody had said it, but Sasha knew they were all thinking it. There was nothing else that the cloud of smoke could signify. The strange, murderous, Others burned Allonum. Which meant her family was probably dead. They would not have fled, not if there was breath left in them to fight.
What is the point of continuing? Even if we make it to Oost, what shall I tell them? Please, come to the aid of a dead country? Perhaps they will aid me in burying the bodies.
The unkind thought brought tears to her eyes—again—and she brushed them angrily away. She was a princess of Isneck, and she had to behave like one. Giving in to anger and fear wouldn’t help her people. If I even have any people left.
Which triggered another, grimmer thought. If her brothers fought in that battle, she may now be the Crown Princess. Hells, I may even be queen. If only there was some way to know if her family were all right. For a moment she considered attempting to use her magic, but she didn’t know any spell that would travel that far. She and Finn had experimented with a spell she’d figured out that allowed them to whisper messages to each other, but she hadn’t been able to make it work further than about 100 feet; never mind the two-day ride back to Allonum.
A strange whisper caught her mind, and she looked up to see Ysa circling overhead. The hawk had caught something of her thoughts, and seemed to be offering to go back and look. Sasha wasn’t sure how she understood the animal, but she didn’t question it; the gift of her friendship was to precious to risk by over-analyzing it.
Forming the words in her mind, Sasha thought, Thank you, dearheart, but it would be no use. I know the city had burned, and you would have no way of looking for my family, if they’d managed to survive and hide. She didn’t add that she didn’t want to risk the hawk’s life, for she wasn’t certain that the Others wouldn’t shoot him down just for sport. She wondered if the Others worshipped the same gods as her people did; if so, Ares must favour them.
The hawk gave his hoarse, wheezy cry, as if to let her know that he understood. Commander Kargrove looked up at the sound, a frown creasing her face. Sasha wondered why the woman felt so threatened by the animal. She wasn’t about to offer any explanations, however. Nobody knew about her magic, and she wasn’t about to tell this sour-faced, grim woman.
Eyeing the mountains before them, Sasha tried to distract herself by calculating how far they’d get today. However, the distances were deceiving, and Sasha hadn’t ever been this close to the mountains before. Finally she gave up and asked Kargrove. “Commander, how long will it be until we reach the mountains?”
2007-12-15, 05:42 PM
((Commander is the right title.))
Kargrove takes a moment to pull her attention back when you speak. She has been looking at that bird on and off all day. She hasn't complained openly about it since you ordered her to let it be, but she obviously doesn't trust it.
After a second she glances your way, then out at the tall horizon ahead of you. "I should think," she says, clearing her throat, "We'll be in real hills before the day's out. And entering the passes in another day. Your Highness."
She continues along in silence for a moment, then adds: "'Course, it won't be real mountains this time of year. Hardly any snow at all. Can't appreciate the Well when there's no snow on the ground."
The Well is a place you have heard of once or twice. Supposedly it is a spring along the old highway from Oost. It's unusual because its waters are always warm--allegedly it's the place where Persephone first entered the Underworld, and it was warmed by her touch. If you believe that stuff.
((This was the first of many rolls I'll make for you in secret--glad you took Knowledge(Geography) because you just barely made it! :smallwink: ))
2008-01-05, 02:14 PM
Sasha glanced up with interest at the mention of the Well. Her tutor had mentioned it before, in one of the many lessons about the history and geography of Isneck. It had been one of dozens of so-called "holy sites" scattered throughout her country, and supposedly another proof of their pre-eminence in the world.
Many of the sites had been forgotten since those lessons, but she'd remembered the Well because she'd always been particularly drawn to Persephone's story. It was so romantic, so tragic. The luring of the innocent girl, the love of a god, Demeter's distress, the beginning of the seasons.
For the first time in two days, Sasha felt a twinge of her old curiosity and spirit. Turning back to Kargrove, she said, "I would like very much to stop at the Well. If we can make it there today, it would be an ideal place to camp." Maybe there was something to the story of the Well, perhaps not, but either way, Sasha intended to find out.
2008-01-07, 12:05 PM
Commander Kargrove nods in response. "We might be able to make it, your Highness. Dragoons, pick up the pace!" Her yell spurs the dragoons, who in turn spur their horses to a fast trot.
One of the dragoons coughs again, doing his best to stifle a short wheezing fit. You notice Kargrove shoot him a dirty look.
Marnie seems oblivious. As his horse picks up speed and catches up with Kargrove he asks, "Ma'am, what is the Well?"
He gets no immediate answer.
2008-01-11, 12:29 PM
Sasha felt a fleeting concern for the Dragoon whose name she didn't even know. True, they weren't very friendly to her, but she was used to that. Moreover, she didn't blame them; after all, it was her fault that they were stuck out here and hadn't been able to fight alongside their friends. That some of them may be have been grateful to her for their lives didn't occur to her.
Spurring her horse up next to Marnie, Sasha said, "The Well is where Persephone first entered the underworld. My tutor said it's a hotspring, where the water is always warm, even in the middle of winter."
Marnie looked interested, but had to ask, "Persephone, is she the one who helped that guy in the maze....the one with the string?"
Surprised into a laugh, Sasha said, "No, that was Ariadne. Persephone was Demeter's daughter..." and with that, she launched into the story. Marnie was an interested and eager student, and Sasha and he passed several hours talking about the ancient stories. Sasha surprised herself a little; she didn't know how much she knew.
((I'll leave that there, in case you want to do something before we get to the well))
2008-01-11, 01:34 PM
((Hehe, I love it. I am going to force a slight revision though: you pass the better part of one hour, before...))
Kargrove keeps glancing at Marnie warily, but since her liege is doing most of the talking she does not interrupt or scold him. She looks too weary to worry as much about his etiquette as she normally might.
After forty minutes and a few more coughing fits, you get a bad feeling, sort of a fearful premonition but coming from... Ysa? Just a second later you hear the hawk give a loud shriek. Kargrove's head snaps up and then scans the horizon. She turns stiffly in her armour to look behind you, and you can see her eyes widen.
On the distant horizon behind you is the silhouette of a terrifically large bird, easily the size of a chariot with wings as wide-stretched as a row of awnings at the town bazaar. It has a long neck, like a crane, but no other details can be made out. Although... since it is to the southeast in the middle of the day, it can't be in silhouette. It must be jet black.
Kargrove still looks exhausted, but her voice is as strong as ever. "Dragoons!"
2008-01-12, 04:13 PM
For one brief, terror-filled second, Sasha thought that the Commander had yelled out the word "Dragons". So great was her relief at realizing she was simply alerting her dragoons, that she forgot that the incoming creature was still a very large threat. It took Ysa's cry to bring her back to herself.
The creature was already closer. She'd certainly never seen anything like it before. As she wheeled her horse around, Sasha cast about mentally, trying to remember if her tutor had ever mentioned anything like this before. (([roll0], [roll1], [roll2]))
2008-01-12, 05:46 PM
"Draw it off, Marnie, with me, your Highness, go!" Kargrove is not shy about delivering a hefty whack to your horse's backside to spur it forward.
It seems the dragoons must have practised this tactic in advance, because there is no second of hesitation. They give a battle-shout as they veer off to the left and begin circling away from you. Kargrove is fast behind you, and Marnie with her. You can hear her mutter: "What I wouldn't give for some cover..."
You search your memory, but if your tutor knew of such creatures he never spoke of them to you. The bird is miles off, but with its giant wings it could gain quickly. The road ahead offers no hiding places, and though there are ravines and outcroppings offroad they are not suitable for horses.
2008-01-15, 06:55 PM
Sasha was not happy.
She was unhappy to see the party separate. The dragoons may be close-mouthed, but they were her people. They may be all that was left of her people, and she hated to see them put themselves in danger.
She was less happy about her own prospects. The land simply did offered no cover, and she'd spent enough time with Finn's Uncle Nevan to learn that hiding was often better than running. Especially when the thing chasing you was fast. And that bird looked fast.
Looking over her shoulder to assess its progress, she whispered a thought up to Ysa. Stay close, dearheart. She didn't want the bird flying too high, where it could become a target. Obligingly, the bird dove until it was only a handful of feet above Sasha's head.
Shouting to Kargrove over the clacking of the horses hooves, Sasha said, "Perhaps we should be prepared to leave the horses, and search for shelter in the rocks."
2008-01-17, 05:40 PM
At your suggestion, Marnie looks back and forth wildly between you and Commander Kargrove. Kargrove, for her part, doeas not respond at first. She is leaning low on her horse, speeding up the hill as quick as she can. Ysa cries out overhead, keeping close to you as you asked.
When Kargrove finally looks back at you, you can tell from her eyes that she doesn't like your plan but doesn't feel she has any other choice. "Okay, Right after we crest this ridge. Me and the boy will jump off, and then we'll help you down, Highness."
Marnie looks even more worried, and the top of the hill is rapidly approaching.
((If you're going for this plan, you can make a Tumble check to leap off the running horse. Kargrove obviously doesn't have much faith in your horsewomanship, though. If you want you can stop and wait for her to help you down. You may want to Hide as well, once you're off.))
2008-01-22, 03:09 PM
It was clear that the Commander had little faith in her horsemanship. However, Kargrove didn't know about her midnight lessons with Nevan. Jumping and tumbling out of trouble had been among the first learned, and Sasha prided herself on being rather good at it. Granted, for fear of breaking her royal neck, Nevan had never included jumping from a galloping horse in his lessons. Well, no time like the present.
Gathering herself high on the stirrups, Sasha scanned the ridgetop for a likely landing spot. Finding an area that looked slightly flatter than the others, she leaned to the left, and her horse responded. Ahead of her, Kargrove leaped to the ground, landing lightly. Sasha didn't have time to see if Marni landed well, for the time had come. Kicking her left leg free of the stirrup, she jumped high and to the right, praying that she would clear the horse and stirrup and not hit that bolder....
((I'm not sure what the DC is for this roll. Once I know the outcome, I'll finish the post and have her hide))
2008-01-22, 05:04 PM
((DM's note: I'm treating the tumble check as if you are trying to avoid falling damage, even though the damage is from high horizontal speed rather than from falling vertically. So the DC is 15.))
As you leap from the horse you make a fine forward roll. You weren't counting on the rough terrain, however, and as you somersault your back slams into a small upright rock and you hear a popping-and-crunching noise.
You find yourself sprawled out amidst the scrub in the low, flat area you were aiming for. Your lower back hurts like the dickens and you see little white stars as you regain your breath. Kargrove's face appears briefly in your line of vision, as angry a scowl fixed across it as ever a mother has shot at a daredevil child. You feel her grab you by the shoulder and are hoist roughly to your feet, pulled in the direction of the thicker bushes and small trees off the roadside.
2008-01-22, 05:05 PM
Should be: [roll0]
2008-01-22, 06:33 PM
Embarrassed by her fall from the saddle, and from grace, Sasha tried to yank her arm away from Kargrove, but the Commander's grip was like iron. Remembering another of Nevan's teachings, she twisted her arm to the right while throwing her body weight to the left in an attempt to escape the Commander's grasp.
2008-01-22, 07:43 PM
Whether you defeated Kargrove's grip or she simply refused to wrestle with royalty you may never know - but either way, you are free and standing on your own two feet. And either way, the look on the soldier's face is one of surprise.
Marnie is off to your right, also heading toward the thicker brush.
Ysa is only a hundred feet away, still circling the area.
2008-01-22, 07:53 PM
"We need to hide," Sasha stated the obvious. Looking about, she saw a very promising rock outcrop that hosted a variety of shrubby looking plants. It looked big enough for the three of them. "There."
Sasha dropped to her hands and knees and scrambled into the cover. Kargrove followed quickly. Ysa, come down, you must hide too. The hawk responded with a sharp clicking call, and dropped down onto one of the shrubs. No, dearheart, come closer, Sasha begged, afraid that the flying creature would want to snack on her bird. The bird, perhaps wary of his dignity, seemed hesitant to crouch under the bushes, but finally acceded to Sasha's request.
Trying to still her breathing, Sasha scanned the sky through the cover of the shrubs, hoping not to see a dark shape overhead.
2008-01-22, 07:59 PM
You can see that the bird is still some ways off. Kargrove, followed by Marnie, jog past you and into thicker, taller trees a bit further downhill.
((Ouch, not your day for rolling. I would say you can follow them down and try another Hide check if you want, since you have a few rounds before the bird draws close.
Also: please make sure to mark the 3hp off on your character sheet. There should be separate fields for total hp and current hp.))
2008-01-23, 12:14 AM
If you can see the target, the target can probably see you.
Naven's voice rolled through her head, and she winced. Here she was, in mortal danger, and she couldn't even pick a decent shrub to hide under. Gathering Ysa up in her arms, Sasha rolled out from under her bush and followed Kargrove and Marni a little bit downslope. Spying a more likely-looking spot, she chose one near the Commander and slithered down on her belly. Ysa chirped reprovingly at the man-handling, but didn't resist. Hunkering down as deep into the shadows as she could go, Sasha held her breath and hoped that the bird or beast would fly on by.
2008-01-23, 09:48 AM
Kargrove has an armful of brush which she throws unceremoniously over you. At the same time you hear a sharp gasp from her. Marnie echoes with a soft, "Pigsucker!" followed by a stern backhand from Kargrove.
You follow their gaze and see that the horses, free of riders, have slowed to a stop less than two hundred feet down the road from you and are now nibbling at roadside grass out in the open.
2008-01-25, 07:05 PM
Sasha's eyes widened....their stupid horses were acting like bait! She didn't dare shout at them, for fear of drawing them closer, or worse, having the incoming gigantobird hear. Think, girl, think!
Her memory flashed back to her late night experimentations in the dungeons. Would it work? Oh well, nothing risked, nothing....something. Sasha's mouth was dry and her belly in knots. She'd never tried her magic in front of other people, while lying under a bush about to be attacked and eaten.
Before she could get herself too worked up, however, she felt a calm wash of emotion from Ysa. The bird sensed her agitation, and was doing his best to help. Smiling slightly at the bird, Sasha spread the fingers on her left hand wide, with her index finger aimed at Kargrove's horse and murmured, "Bestenna su lich."
((I'm casting magic missile at Kargrove's horse, in the hopes that it will run away and the other two will follow it. But I don't know how to roll the armour check penalty.))
2008-01-26, 11:27 AM
The dart of energy springs from your fingertips and whisks across the air, into the flank of the horse, who rears up, startled, and lets a clump of grass fall from his mouth. Without hesitation he gallops forward along the road, spooking the other two who follow him at a slightly slower pace. They may stop again after a while, but it'll be a lot farther away from you.
Kargrove, who was glancing back and forth between the horses and the bird, seems to have missed your display; she simply stares in disbelief at the spooked horses. Marnie was not so inattentive, and he turns and stares wide-eyed at you.
His mouth falls open, and he tries to find words for the question(s) he wants to ask you.
2008-01-31, 02:00 PM
Sasha put a finger to her lips, warning Marnie to keep his mouth closed. She was oddly glad that he'd seen; it would be good not to keep this a secret any longer. However, now was not the time for questions.
The squire nodded, his eyes still wide. At her hand, Ysa chirruped softly, unhappy on the ground. Sasha turned her attention back to the skies, wondering if her ploy had worked.
2008-01-31, 03:54 PM
Kargrove and Marnie hunker down in the low ground with you, and Kargrove pulls more brush over the group before settling down. "Hold still, your Highness," she whispers, almost a wheeze. She obviously hasn't a clue that princesses sometimes know how to look out for themselves.
You can hear her panting heavily as you huddle together, much louder than Marnie.
As the bird coasts in you can see it in all its terrible majesty. Black plumage from one end to the other, with iridescent red and purple feathers along the neck. A long, hooked beak and a pair of horns - or are they feathers? - behind the head.
It gives out a tremendous shriek that cuts across the quiet scrubland. In the distance, the horses pick up their pace.
Kargrove's hands tighten on her spear.
And then it banks and wheels, pulling away to its left, perhaps heading out after the other group of horses, or perhaps on its own unknowable errand.
2008-02-01, 01:04 PM
Sasha watched the bird's form recede in the distance. Heart hammering, she whispered to Kargrove? "What was that? Is it safe to move yet?"
2008-02-03, 06:42 PM
Kargrove waits a moment before responding. "That was... a Corver." Another long pause. "We'll have to keep in hiding as much as possible." She points downhill, where the low area you are in seems to descend into a sort of gully.
Looking around you can see this will be a difficult task. Keeping a hill between yourselves and the distant bird will be easy, and there is plenty of brush. But that may not offer much cover from the sharp eyes of a hunting bird.
Marnie shakes his head a little.
2008-02-04, 12:43 PM
"Shouldn't we just wait here, then? Until it's gone?" Sasha had never heard of a Corver before, but she didn't like it. Her paltry magic might have been enough to spook the horses a bit, but she had no illusions that it would not do much against a predator of that size.
Wondering where the horses had gone to, she pried her gaze away from the Corver and looked around as she waited for Kargrove's response.
2008-02-04, 01:08 PM
The horses are distant specks now, still visible but a long ways off and somewhat uphill on the sloping terrain. They appear to have stopped galloping at least, and might even be grazing.
Kargrove clears her throat. As you turn your attention back to the commander, she picks her words carefully. "Your Highness, your distraction with the horses has saved us for now. I pray that my men can distract it further. In my experience, I would not stay still near an enemy more powerful than myself. However, you are my liege. I will undertake whatever you offer."
2008-02-05, 02:13 PM
Sasha frowned inwardly at Kargrove's words. Was she actually leaving the decision to an untrained teenaged princess? Did the commander think that Sasha would actually overrule her? Or was the commander merely watching her own back, in case that Sasha was the last of her line?
That thought was enough to silence her clamoring thoughts, at least for the time being. Shaking her head, she said, "No, whatever you think is best, Commander. Just tell me what to do." Now that the immediacy of the threat was gone, at least temporarily, Sasha was feeling shaken and slightly nauseous. Her back was also still aching from her embarrassing tumble from the horse. She wanted to be well rid of this place, and if that meant sneaking past a giant hunting bird, so be it.
2008-02-05, 03:07 PM
"As you wish, Highness." She hesitates and sort of fidgets a moment.
"If you would go first, Highness, I'd rather bring up the rear. If I can see you I can protect you better."
The way ahead is almost 200 feet of gentle slope before it becomes anything like a gully. It will probably require crawling on hands and knees or even on your belly to stay well-hidden; in many places there is nothing more than tall grass to cover you. The bird is winging away from you at least for the moment, and is a good distance off.
((If you're going to attempt it, go ahead and give me a Hide check. If you want you can take 10 or 20 but you will be spending a more time in the open.))
2008-02-06, 11:34 AM
Sasha began to worm forward on her belly, moving as stealthily as she could. She didn't like leaving the cover of the bushes, but she grit her teeth and did it. Ysa wanted to fly overhead, but the princess asked her to remain on the ground; she was still afraid the Corver would come after her friend. The hawk wasn't too happy about it, but he'd seen the size of the predator, and didn't raise too much of a fuss. Instead he hopped along the ground in a way that would have been humourous in other circumstances.
Ready to hide at a moment's notice, or at Kargrove's instructions, Sasha wiggled her way across the barren ground.
2008-02-06, 12:56 PM
After a bit you can hear the sound of Marnie and Kargrove following you. A glance back shows Marnie having a hard time with it, and Kargrove dragging her heavy spear alongside her with as much grace as could be expected under the circumstances.
A grasshopper jumps at your face, giving you a momentary fright before it realises its error and leaps away. The long crawl is no easy work, and as your forehead breaks out in sweat a buzzing cloud of midges forms just above you.
You hear a distant shriek, the cry of the corver. A glance to the southwest shows that it is still a long ways off, and you see its silhouette dive at the ground. It appears to have found the other dragoons. Its call echoes throughout the hills.
At last you reach the beginning of the gully, and Marnie wriggles up alongside you as you sit up. Kargrove has fallen way behind - she is easily sixty feet behind you. Her mouth is clamped tightly shut and periodically her cheeks puff out as if she is stifling a cough.
2008-02-08, 12:03 PM
Sasha felt a cold knot in her stomach. She prayed that the other dragoons were able to fight off the Corver. They were all more-than-capable soldiers; perhaps if they weren't hampered by the need to protect her, they'd be able to kill it.
At least the bird was distracted for the moment. Waving frantically to Kargrove, Sasha whispered, "Come on, hurry up!"
2008-02-08, 12:34 PM
Kargrove seems to intentionally avoid looking up and making eye contact with you, but she does double her pace, hustling forward as best a giant armoured inch-worm can do. It takes her a while but she eventually pulls herself into the gully entrance and flops up against the wall.
"I..." She pauses to cough raucously, and turns away, apparently trying to conceal from you the phlegm that she spits out. "I don't like this sneaking around business, Highness. How do... why do you look so natural?"
Looking around, it's true: Marnie isn't as bad off as Kargrove but you are without a doubt the least winded of the bunch.
2008-02-08, 12:51 PM
Sasha stared for a moment, wondering what to say. She didn't think now was a good time to explain her night-time expeditions with Finn and his uncle. Forcing a small smile, she said, "Oh, I have lots of practice sneaking around. Escaping from lessons, sneaking into the kitchens. You know."
She wasn't sure if Kargrove believed her, but she didn't think the Dragoon would pursue the topic. Just then, the Corver gave another shriek, and she winced. Her voice low, she said, "The others....will they be all right?"
2008-02-08, 12:58 PM
"Highness, the only reason that thing is still alive is because they're drawing it away from us." She exhales sharply, pulls herself together, and weakly climbs to her feet. "Shall we press on?"
The gully before you bends not far up ahead, roughly in the direction the road was heading - but whether it continues to run that way is anyone's guess.
2008-02-08, 03:35 PM
It didn't escape Sasha's notice that Kargrove had avoided answering her question. Which was an answer in itself. Blinking back sudden and unexpected tears, Sasha nodded and began to make her way carefully up the gully.
2008-02-08, 06:21 PM
The gully winds this way and that, following a generally northerly bearing. The walls grow steeper and narrower, like a ravine. A dry floor becomes a muddy floor which eventually becomes a trickle of a stream. Kargrove uses her spear like a walking-stick and Marnie picks his steps carefully. The cries of the corver grow distant as you push toward the mountains, but the group sticks close to the walls and frequently glances skyward just in case.
After about an hour of walking you find your way blocked by a massive tree. Many years ago it must have grown along the top of the ravine; more recently its fallen trunk must have formed a neat bridge overheads. But now it has collapsed and serves to block the ravine altogether. It might be possible to wriggle between its branches, but it might also be easy to get stuck. A more likely route would be to climb it, ladder-like, to the top and down the other side; but if the corver is still on the prowl that might spell disaster.
Kargrove sits down heavily and tries to catch her breath. Sweat pores down her forehead. "They teach you this in kitchen-sneaking school too?" She asks the question before thinking about what she's saying or to whom she's saying it, and follows it up by shooting you an almost fearful look. "Please pardon me, Highness."
2008-02-09, 03:52 PM
Kargrove's unexpected words hurt Sasha's feelings; the tone of her apology even more so. Nodding her head sharply, she accepted the apology with a brief, "Of course." Then the princess turned away and blinked back tears. It was so very tedious to be surrounded by people who treated her as a title, not as a person. She missed Finn and his playfulness, and she desperately missed her brothers. Sure, they used to tease her mercilessly, but she'd give anything to have her hair pulled and her cheeks pinched again. Please let them be alive, oh please.
Behind her, Kargrove was regaining her breath. She couldn't hear Marnie, and didn't turn to see what the boy was up to. Her heart was too heavy to feel curiosity. Instead, she stood near the broken tree and waited for Kargrove to tell her what to do.
2008-02-09, 06:16 PM
Kargrove realises that you're waiting, and pushes herself to her feet. She looks pale, and her face is still beaded with sweat. "Well, we may have to break through. But, by your leave, I'll scout up ahead first and see if it's worth our while."
She looks up at the tower of branches and claps her hands together, then crouches. "Nothing the famous dragoon wind jump can't take care of. Allyoop!" And with a sprint and a leap she flies off the ground, kicks off of a low branch, kicks off of a higher branch and...
She almost made it over the tree in three bounds, but it seemed like she lost momentum on the last one, and a quick scrabble for a handhold did not save her. For a sickening moment you can foresee what's happening, and then the woman falls on her back with a small splash in the shallow stream.
A second later she raises one hand and lets out a groan. Her voice trembles. "Sorry Highness..." She rolls to her side before struggling to push herself up. "Many apologies, I'll just... I'll get over this time." She looks up at the tree like she's really going to try again.
2008-02-12, 11:33 AM
"Wait, just wait a moment," Sasha put her hands out to stop Kargrove from attempting again. "Maybe Ysa can do it."
The hawk looked up at his name, and she felt a query in her mind. She wasn't sure if this would work; she hadn't had time to explore her bond with the bird. But now was as good a time as any. Using the strange combination of words, emotions and images that seemed to serve as communication between her and the bird, she tried to explain what she wanted. For Ysa to fly over the tree, back down into the ravine, and scout ahead. Notice if it was good for people to walk. Did it change direction?
She felt another query from the bird, who seemed to be pointing out that this would be easier from high above. But she reminded him of the Corver, and Ysa relented.
With a reminder to be careful, she tossed her arm up, launching him easily into the air. The bird swooped over the treetop and quickly disappeared from sight.
((not sure if this is possible, but I figured Sasha wouldn't know either, so it made sense to try))
2008-02-12, 12:09 PM
Ysa flutters through the branches of the tree and glides around the next bend in the ravine. You feel nothing in particular from him, certainly not alarm or danger. Marnie kneels beside Kargrove, looking nervous.
A dragonfly buzzes past as you wait, skimming the surface of the stream.
Ysa returns and alights on your shoulder, tilting his head and blinking. You get the sense that the way ahead is at least safe, though little more can be ascertained. You have a sort of vague emotional connexion with the bird, and right now, that emotion is contentment. The bird feels free, comfortable, and settled. While that may not be very specific, it's at least reassuring.
2008-02-14, 09:10 PM
"I don't know if this helps, but the way ahead is safe. I can't really tell if it goes in the right direction, though." Sasha fought to avoid sounding apologetic; she was only just learning about her connection with Ysa, and didn't want to sound ashamed of its limits.
Turning back to the commander, she asked, "Do you want for us to climb over?" She had no doubt that she could climb over safely, without using the flashy maneuvers Kargrove had tried.
2008-02-15, 10:40 AM
"Umm... she'll have a hard time in her armour, ma'am. Highness." All heads snap to Marnie at this uncharacteristic interruption, but Kargrove does not dispute it.
2008-02-19, 07:33 PM
Sasha frowned in frustration. What was she supposed to do? Why was Marnie looking at her for answers? The situation seemed simple. A corver hunted nearby, so they had to stay down. There was a tree in their way. They could either go back or go forward. Kargrove was the commander, so why was she sitting like around like a lump?
Sasha narrowed her eyes and looked at the commander. Had she hurt herself badly in that fall? It didn't seem so. She looked winded, and probably sore, but Sasha didn't understand why she seemed so defeated by the tree. The princess looked down at her own armour. It was hot and sweaty and uncomfortable and unfamiliar, but she didn't think it would hamper her over much.
Still, she was royalty, though she didn't feel like it at the moment, and perhaps it was natural for them to look to her for guidance. Her brother would have known what to do.
Trying to keep any emotion from her voice, she said, "I assume going back is not an option. So we can either go over or through the tree. I imagine we could probably work the armour over or through separately if need be. Or we could wait here, and hope the Corver flies away, then go back. Whichever you think is best, Commander."
2008-02-20, 09:07 AM
Kargrove stands up, shaking. "I can manage, Highness. Marnie." With that, she begins a much more careful ascent of the tree than earlier, taking it one branch at a time as she pulls her way up. Marnie looks at you and then, without a word, he grabs a branch too. Slowly they begin to ascend.
((OOC: Please roll your climb check if you want to go up and over with them, and also roll an unrelated Survival check.))
2008-02-21, 11:46 AM
Sasha waited until Kargrove was near the top before beginning her careful ascent. Ysa circled around her, glad to be in the air again. The climb wasn't too difficult, as the tree provided plenty of hand and foot holds, but she had to be careful that none of the branches broke beneath her weight.
2008-02-21, 12:43 PM
You make it up and over the tree without further difficulties, though Kargrove's breathing is laboured. For an elite bodyguard she sure seems to be having a rough time of things. Even Marnie looks better off.
At the top of your climb you get a brief chance to scan the horizon. Southward you see no sign of the corver; to the east you spot what you think must be the road, though farther off than you would have thought. The terrain gets steeper to the north and you can see where the scrubland gives way to woods up ahead.
Once back in the ravine you have little choice other than to pick your way amongst the smooth rocks, trying not to turn your ankle, and head vaguely northward. Much of the afternoon passes this way, and it's hard to tell whether you'll converge with or completely depart from the road you should've been on.
Eventually trees loom above either side of the ravine and you can see you are truly in the forest. The stream has also gotten wider, though not much, and runs a bit faster than before. Even with the trees blocking the sky (or perhaps especially with the trees blocking the sky) you can tell the day is coming to a close.
Kargrove trudges on resolutely, stopping briefly to take a drink of water from her cupped hands and then croak at you, "We're nowhere near the Well yet, Highness." She takes another sip and clears her throat. "Shall we push on into the evening?"
2008-02-23, 05:29 PM
Sasha was starting to get seriously worried. She didn't know Kargrove well, but she would have wagered that the dragoon would have been made of sterner stuff. Surely her parents wouldn't have trusted her safety to a sickly commander.
Which meant that she was either sick or injured. Sasha wasn't feeling quite brave enough to confront her--yet--so she said, "Perhaps it would be better to camp here. There's water and cover, and we can find the well tomorrow. I'm very tired, and I could use an early evening." She wasn't sure if Kargrove believed her lie, but she didn't really care. "What do you think?"
2008-02-24, 07:53 PM
"As you wish, Highness." The commander looks... relieved? Or maybe just vexed. "That looks like a grotto up ahead. We could camp there, if it please your Highness."
You see immediately that Kargrove is generous in her choice of words. A sort of a sand blow-out marks the left hand wall ahead, leaving a dent in the side of the raving and a heap of sand, soil and small rocks at the bottom. This offers a dry place to sit, a bit of shelter from the wind, and (if the rocks are moved) a fairly soft bit of earth to lie on.
As you get closer you can see that the roots of a tree cover the walls, and a tangle of thicker roots form almost a ledge over the top of the blowout. The tree was probably what caused the collapse in the first place. This would probably be a good place to climb up as well as camp.
Marnie empties out his water skin, walks a bit upstream and refills it with fresh cold water. He offers it to you before moving to help Kargrove remove her armour. As he begins undoing leather straps she lifts her arms for him and looks you in the eye.
"Please don't be concerned, Highness. We have our lives. Once we have our allies with us, we can see to our family's lives as well." She winces as Marnie sets aside the top piece of her chainmail.
"Holy Zeus!" Marnie exclaims, dropping the layer of padding he was about to lift off of her.
You have to step around to see. Marnie lifts up the padding again.
Covering Kargrove's back are deep red-purple marks as if some creature had lashed lines into her body. The lines seems to be concentrated in places where he armour would be tightest. It almost looks like something is festering beneath the surface, some kind of infection in her skin or blood.
"What is it?" the commander asks.
2008-02-26, 01:21 PM
Sasha stared in horror for several moments before she found her voice. Her first instinct was to get her little mirror, so the commander could see for herself, but she then realized the mirror, along with almost all her possessions, was in the saddlebag of a horse long gone.
Marnie looked up at the princess, wordless, not knowing what to say. Cautiously, she reached her hand towards the angry, red marks, and touched them gently. "Does that hurt?"
2008-02-26, 01:56 PM
"Just a little sore, your Highness. Armour's always a bit rough on the skin." Kargrove doesn't sound like she is lying.
"Um, Ma'am, this isn't normal chaffing, ma'am. You got a... uh..." he looks at the princess to supply some kind of explanation. Before either of you can complete the sentence, Kargrove goes into another wheezing coughing fit.
As if in sympathy with his mentor, Marnie starts hacking and coughing as well.
2008-02-26, 04:07 PM
Sasha's horror was not ameliorated by the sudden coughing. The dragoons were coughing too, she thought suddenly. "Commander, this is not chafing. Merciful Asclepius, I've never even heard of anything like this." Granted, she was hardly an authority on skin conditions, but neither Kargrove or Marnie pointed it out. "It looks like a serious inflammation, maybe even infection, under your skin."
On a sudden hunch, hoping she was wrong, Sasha turned to Marnie and said, "Lift your shirt."
2008-02-26, 04:12 PM
Marnie's armour is much lighter than the dragoon's and he has little difficulty complying. As expected you see the same marks on his back. Just like Kargrove, they are brightest wherever the top layers pressed hardest: shoulders, arms and underneath any straps or seams.
2008-02-26, 05:14 PM
"Oh, Marnie, it's on you too," Sasha said, her voice nearly a moan. "Does it hurt very much?"
Sasha turned to Kargrove and said, "That's what your back looks like. It's everywhere, worse at the tight places. Have you ever encountered something like this before? Could it be related to your cough?"
2008-02-26, 05:22 PM
"I..." Kargrove winces as she looks over Marnie's back. "Highness, I haven't seen anything like that before. I suppose it could be some kind of rash. We crawled through a lot of grit today."
Marnie pulls his shirt back down and turns around nervously. He is struggling to contain something, not sure how to say it, but his face gives him away. "Um, your Highness, I uh... I wonder, well..." he looks at Kargrove.
"Out with it, boy," the woman commands.
"Well, does her Highness have it too? I don't mean to be rude!" He blushes as he hurriedly blurts out the last part.
((To avoid making you post and wait for a one-line response for me, I'll just inform you that if you choose to let either of them check or find a way to check yourself, you will find nothing like the rash on your own body.))
2008-02-26, 05:34 PM
Sasha felt a blush start at her neck and work its way steadily and relentlessly up her face. Her instinct was to say that no, she was fine, she wasn't coughing. But the cough might have nothing to do with it. Marnie was right, she might have it, and even if they didn't know what it was or how to treat it, it was still important to know.
"Marnie, turn around," Sasha said, her voice nearly a whisper. The boy spun on his heel, and brought his hands up to his eyes for good measure. Sasha had no desire to disrobe before Kargrove either, but it was the lesser of the two evils. She just wished that her body had more muscle and less marshmallow.
Silently, perhaps sensitive to the princess's discomfort, Kargrove helped her lift the still-unfamiliar studded armour. Hunched over, Sasha felt the woman lift her tunic, and run her calloused fingers over Sasha's back. "There is a little reddening, but nothing like what Marnie has," she said.
"Really?" Marnie said, turning around to look. Even as he did so, he realized what he was doing and cried out, "Sorry!" as he spun around again, so violently that he nearly fell.
Ignoring him, Kargrove said, "This is nothing more than typical marks from those unfamiliar with armour." There was definite concern in her voice.
Sasha allowed Kargrove to straighten out her garments, then she turned around and said, "It's safe, Marnie, I'm decent." The boy, however, seemed to be intently examining some fascinating stone near his feet, and didn't turn around immediately.
Hoping her face was a more normal colour, Sasha looked up at Kargrove and asked, "What should we do?" She thought about the two precious healing potions she had in her saddlebags, and wished for her horse to miraculously appear before her.
2008-02-26, 07:53 PM
"Your Highness, I don't think there's much to do, except set up camp. With some rest we'll get through it like anything else."
Marnie needs no more excuse than that to get out of the awkward situation that the little sand bank has become in the last few moments. "I'll go get firewood!" he calls and splashes off down the stream, looking for branches that have fallen.
Ysa has settled into the roots growing up the ravine wall. Hopping from branch to branch during the back-checking frenzy, he seems satisfied that nothing else lives in any of the nooks he has staked out, and perches half in shadow regarding you.
You get a vague feeling of curiosity from him.
2008-02-28, 11:48 AM
Yeah, well, I'm curious about you too, Sasha thought towards the bird. As she stared at the hawk, her belly rumbled....loudly. She was starving. Turning to Kargrove, she said, "All the supplies were on the horses. What are we going to do for food?"
2008-02-28, 12:00 PM
Kargrove seems unphased. "I'm sure we could catch something if we tried, your Highness. Problem is getting it cooked. Boy's off getting firewood, but I don't think we should start a fire. It might attract unwanted attention."
2008-03-01, 11:06 PM
Sasha shrugged. She didn't imagine that the fire would attract the corver back....most animals were afraid of fire. Still, she was sure that Kargrove knew best.
Moving to a likely little patch of earth, she struggled out of her armour, and put it down with a sigh of relief. It was hot, uncomfortable, and made her stink. And all my clean clothes are with the horses, who knows where. Well, no point bemoaning that loss; better to focus on the solution, not the problem. Her mother's words of wisdom ringing in her mind, she set about going through her pockets, inventorying what she actually did have.
Her thief's tools, a gift from Navan, she stuffed quickly back again, so she wouldn't have to explain them to Kargrove. In her other pockets she discovered a candle, a bit of chalk, and the mirror she'd thought was in her saddlebag. That and her weapons were all she had. Good thing you planned for every contingency, she mocked herself ruefully.
Marnie returned, splashing noisily up the stream, an armful of wood. Sasha looked to Kargrove, wondering how the boy would take finding out that his effort had been in vain.
2008-03-03, 09:50 AM
"You can put those over there," Kargrove directs the boy. He drops the firewood as directed and immediately receives a new assignment: "You want to try your hand at hunting again?"
Marnie is out of breath and his patns are soaked from the stream. He looks a little pale, but he's nothing if not enthusiastic. "Yes ma'am!"
Kargrove hands him her shortbow and he strings it. "Find whatever arrows you lose, and don't go around more than two bends. There's plenty of game around - just get something small. Right?"
"Yes ma'am," he repeats and scrambles up the sand bank and roots to the top of the ravine. It takes him a little while, and he has a coughing fit at the top. He takes a moment to breathe before standing up to head into the bush.
2008-03-05, 12:32 PM
With Marnie gone there's little to do but sit with Kargrove. She is not talkative, however, and between coughing fits she spends her time gritting her teeth in pain and breathing deeply. You notice that your fingertips begin to turn red and then purple on the hand you used to touch her back. Luckily the marks are painless and do not seem to spread.
It takes almost an hour for Marnie to come back, and he has some difficulty managing the porcupine he carries over his shoulder. Kargrove tells him to toss it down the slope and he does, then follows by climbing. He spends another ten minutes stringing it up from a root on the ravine wall and gutting it. Luckily, he walked downstream a bit away from camp for the procedure.
It isn't until after he brings back skewers of porcupine meat that Marnie is told there will be no fire. Dutifully, he does not argue with his commander, but begins collecting flat river stones. As dusk gives way to gloaming he sets about pressing the meat between flat stones. "Only way to cook without heat," says Kargrove.
Piece by piece, cubes of raw meat become flattened strips that do indeed have a cooked texture. In the dark, Marnie hands the first "platter" of strips to you (the platter is a large piece of smooth bark).
He offers the next to Kargrove, who takes one strip and barely nibbles at it, and finally makes some for himself.
In the cool damp night, to the sound of the gurgling stream, you fall asleep.
* * * * * * *
And wake up to a different sound--a long low whining, punctuated with gasps and ragged whimpers.
In the dark, you make out the shape of Kargrove leaning over Marnie's small frame. He is spread out on his cloak where he went to sleep, but is now squealing in pain. The older woman's is holding him tight - at first glance you might think she is strangling him, but it looks more like she is holding him down by his shoulders as he rocks and jerks with spasms of pain. Clearly, his illness has gotten worse.
2008-03-08, 12:25 AM
Sasha's sleepiness vanished at the signs of Marnie's distress. Fumbling to untangle herself from her bedroll, Sasha finally made it to his side. "What's wrong with him? Is he going to be okay?" She stroked the boy's sweat-soaked hair from his forehead, but he didn't seem to notice. "Is there anything I can do to help?" Again, Sasha cursed the Corver and the loss of the horses. Her healing potions might just make the difference between Marnie's life and death.
2008-03-08, 05:02 PM
Kargrove doesn't answer. No sooner do you ask the question, than you notice a cold sweat covers her as well. A moist cloth, once pressed to Marnie's forehead, has been shaken off by his tremors; a spilled canteen lies on the ground nearby. Kargrove looks weakly in your direction, opens her mouth as if to speak, and then slumps backwards. You have a brief glimpse of her eyes rolling back into her heard before her eyelids flutter shut, and she is sprawled heavy on the ground above Marnie.
2008-03-08, 11:17 PM
Sasha stared in horror, momentarily unable to act. "No, no, oh please, sweet Apollo, wise Athena, what do I do? What do I do?" Suddenly realizing that she was wringing her hands, Sasha forced herself to take a deep breath. "Won't help by panicking, so calm down, Sassticca."
Moving to Kargrove, Sasha positioned the commander more comfortably. Running back to her bedroll, she found her canteen. Resoaking the cloth, she wiped Marnie's forehead again, then Kargrove's. Neither responded to her touch; Marnie continued to moan and twitch, while Kargrove lay unmoving on the ground.
"Think, girl, think!" Sasha wracked her brain for what to do while her hands kept busy wiping the sweat from their faces. What was wrong? How could she help? Was there anything in Kargrove's healing kit that would help? She thought back to the books she'd read while studying her magic...could this be arcane in origin? Kargrove had never seen the condition before, and she'd been around. Perhaps it was an attack of some kind.
As she searched her mind for any helpful bit of information, she murmured a prayer. "Moirae, sisters three, guard the threads of their lives. Clotho, humble thanks for spinning. Lachesis, measure not the thread so short. Atropos, cut not too soon." Sasha repeated the prayer as she thought, barely aware that she was doing it.
((Sasha will also try to get them to drink water....will either take it?))
2008-03-09, 09:54 AM
When you press the cloth to their foreheads you feel a raging fever, but between the wet cloth and the little bit of water you get into them you manage to (at least temporarily) cool them off. Marnie's spasms continue, although not as severely. Kargrove looks to simply be unconscious.
The effect is nothing you've seen in your magical or alchemical studies, but neither is it any disease you are familiar with. Thinking of the strange marks on their backs, you suspect it must be poison - perhaps something that was smeared onto them somehow. However it got into them, it is eking away at their very life force ((OOC: Con damage)) and the potions you lost with the horses would have been only a temporary fix for what is clearly going to be a very long night.
2008-03-09, 11:34 AM
Considering the fact that they were both burning up with fever, and that they could have had some sort of contact poison on their skin, Sasha decided that a makeshift spongebath would be a good idea. Of course, there was little chance that there was much poison still on their skin, but it certainly couldn't hurt.
"We need fire," she murmured to herself. It might draw unwanted attention, but she needed light to see by, and she didn't want Kargrove and Marnie to over-cool. She quickly assembled Marnie's pile of sticks, and using the flint-and-steel from Kargrove's kit, got the fire going.
Sasha began to work. She moved their bedrolls towards her prone companions so she could wrestle them on once she had them clean. Then began the long work of wiping them down. She had nothing bigger than a canteen, so it took a lot of running back and forth to the creek. Sasha left their undergarments on; she simply couldn't invade their privacy that far.
When she was done, she rinsed their clothes out as best she could in the creek, then draped them around the fire to dry. The princess took a quick break, drinking some water (which she collected upstream from where she'd washed the clothes) and trying to give some to the others. She was desperately tired, but didn't want to risk sleeping.
In order to keep herself awake, she moved to their armour next. She dragged it to the river and wiped the inside down as best she could. The marks on their backs had been worse where the armour had touched, which led her to believe perhaps it had been the vehicle of the poison. When she was done, she wiped everything carefully dry, and washed her hands as best she could.
The sky was starting to lighten in the east, so Sasha settled down and continued to keep watch over her companions.
((she'll continue to do so until their situation changes, one of them wakes up, or the morning is several hours old))
2008-03-09, 10:12 PM
The hours pass slowly. Once the flurry of washing is over, you find yourself cold and wet in the nighttime chill, with nothing to do but watch your erstwhile protectors.
Kargrove begins writhing and convulsing in her sleep like Marnie was; Marnie for his part calms down and wakes up partly. Kargrove wakes up intermittently, only to faint again within seconds or moments. When either of them speaks it is clearly the speech of the delirious, with Marnie speaking to his absent parents and someone named Rhonica. Kargrove scolds invisible people more than once about their shoddy treatment of her armour, which she spotted on the riverside. She also consents to unheard orders from far more members of royalty than you can account for, promising several times that "you can count on me."
For a short while right around dawn, both of your charges become coherent at once. Marnie relaxes, his breathing returning to normal, but he does not stir. Kargrove sits up, looks around, and speaks, clearly looking at you this time: "Ah, your Highness. How is the boy?"
Her voice is raspy, low and hoarse. A frothy foam runs from the corner of her mouth, like whipped milk. She coughs as she speaks.
2008-03-10, 05:53 PM
Sasha relaxed at the sound of Kargrove's question, even though it was clear that she wasn't out of the woods yet. Handing the Commander the full canteen, she said, "I'm so glad to see you're okay! How do you feel? Marnie, how are you? Do you feel better? I think you were poisoned, I think that's why you're both sick and I'm not. I washed you off, I hope that's okay, and I had to make a fire too..." she gestured to the fire burning nearby. Realizing that she was babbling, Sasha simply asked again, "Are you both feeling better?"
2008-03-11, 10:13 AM
Eyes stll closed, Marnie answers you: "A little better. I can feel the ground again." His hands move up to rub his eyes, but he doesn't sit up yet.
Kargrove coughs, foam flying between her fingers as she hurries to cover her mouth. Her lucid moment vanishes with startling speed and she wobbles from side to side as she speaks.
"Your Highness," she struggles, "It has been an honour serving you. Up..." She pauses to hack and cough some more. "You will maintain, you will avenge... I..." (coughing, and a wracking set of dry heaves) "Up Isneck. Up, our queen. Up the, the many gods."
With that, Kargrove falls back onto her bedroll. A long wheeze escapes her foaming lips. No further breath moves within her.
2008-03-14, 07:07 PM
"Is she....dead?"Marnie's voice was little more than a whisper.
Sasha closed her eyes and forced a deep breath, that her voice might not quaver when she answered. "Yes." The boy made a sound in his throat, and she didn't dare look, in case she began to cry.
Think. What to do? The first thing was to bury Kargrove. They owed her that much. She couldn't drag the commander out of the gorge, and the sand was too soft for a good grave. Which meant they'd need to build a bier. Fortunately, they had river stones in abundance.
Opening her eyes, she said, "We'll have to leave her here, she's too heavy to take with us. You stay here and rest, eat if you can."
Marnie began to protest, but Sasha interrupted him. "No, you've been sick all night, and as of now, you're the only protection I have. I need you well and rested. I can do this much myself."
Not daring to disobey a direct order, but looking mortified, Marnie lay back down. Sasha took hold of the sleeping bag Kargrove lay on, and dragged her to the edge of the ravine. Arranging her armour and halberd beside her, Sasha then laid a coin on each eye. "Charon take you safely across, Hades accept your soul," she prayed simply. Then began the time-consuming and back-breaking labour of building the bier.
It took the better part of the morning, and Sasha was exhausted by the time it was finished. But at the end, she was sure that nothing was going to get at the body without a lot of effort, and that was the best she could do.
Finally she returned to Marnie's side, where she flopped gracelessly beside him and took a long drink of water. "How are you feeling?" she asked. "Let's take a look at your back again."
((Sasha will also inventory whatever Kargrove had with her, and ask what Marnie's carrying.))
2008-03-15, 12:12 PM
It's with difficulty that Marnie rolls over so you can inspect his back. It is a sickly canvass painted with every painful shade of blue, green, purple, and dark that the body can create. As you approach you can hear him murmur: "Am I going to die too?"
When you are finished surveying the infected skin, Marnie pushes himself first to his knees and then to his feet. Staggering, he takes a few steps only to collapse on Kargrove's cairn. Whether he was going to pay his respects to the fallen dragoon or simply to help sort through the pile of gear nearby is hard to say. Either way, you spot something at the corner of his mouth that wasn't there before: the same telltale foam that bubbled out of Kargrove's mouth shortly before she died.
((I'll put together an inventory of the remaining supplies for you soon. I just wanted to get this up for you right away.))
2008-03-15, 06:52 PM
Sasha wiped a quick tear from her eye and forced her voice to sound strong. "Of course you aren't going to die. Don't be melodramatic. You're already doing much better." She helped Marnie back to his feet, and moved him back to his bedroll. "You just need a little more rest, that's all."
The boy sank weakly back down, and Sasha gave him some water. "You just need to get your strength back, that's all." She wiped his face with a cold cloth again, being careful to remove the foam from his lips. As she did so, she prayed silently and earnestly for the boy's life.
Remembering how much he'd liked hearing about the Well, Sasha passed the time by telling him a few of her other favorite stories; the journey of Orpheus and the sad tale of Echo.
((Sasha will stay by Marnie's side, only leaving to sort through the gear if he falls asleep.))
2008-03-16, 09:46 AM
As the morning goes on Marnie sleeps heavily. More than once, with his pale face and shallow breathing, it appears he has joined Kargrove on the ferry; but always a finger on his wrist or neck reveals a pulse still holding on.
When Marnie finally wakes up again it must be eleven in the morning. The sun isn't quite at its height yet, but the day is warm and clear. Something nags at the back of your mind, but it takes awhile for you to place it: miraculously, the sky is a natural blue colour and has none of the wasted tint of the last few days.
Marnie's eyes flutter open very suddenly, and he stretches and yawns as if waking up from a perfectly normal night's rest. He looks around without sitting up, and nonchalantly inquires, "How long was I out for?"
The gear includes Kargrove's gear, unless you buried it with her: a masterwork halberd (a massive, heavy barbed spear with rings decorating the barbs), masterwork buckler, a dagger, and a masterwork breastplate (with a leather lamellar coat beneath it).
Marnie's gear includes studded leather armour, a shortsword, and a dagger.
There is also a shortbow which belonged to Kargrove but was with Marnie's things because he used it last. There is only one quiver and it holds 17 assorted arrows.
In addition they have one backpack and two bedrolls, one heavy blanket that I'll presume you put on Marnie, a stub of a candle, flint and steal, three fishhooks, a smashed and probably forgotten old trail ration in the bottom of the backpack, several strips of cloth, a small book of sacred myths and hymns, a vial of water marked with the symbol of Apollo, two canteens, a hammer, a chisel, a whetstone, a spare bowstring, a vial of feathers for making or repairing fletching, and a set of steel manacles.
Plus, of course, whatever you are carrying.
2008-03-17, 07:15 PM
Sasha breathed a sigh of relief, and thanked the gods. "Oh, a fair few hours," she answered. "How are you feeling? Let's take a look at that back of yours."
2008-03-17, 07:44 PM
Marnie turns over without any protest. His back is still a multi-coloured mess of angry skin, but the colours have a more washed out look than before.
"I feel better. I--we should, I mean. Well I don't want to be bossy."
He is quiet for a bit. When you are done going over his back he goes over to Kargrove's cairn again. This time, rather than collapsing on it, he stands beside it and just kind of stares at the rocks. "I was hoping that was a hallucination."
2008-03-17, 08:55 PM
Sasha nodded, understanding. She wished the last month had been a hallucination.
"What were you going to say before, Marnie?" The boy turned to her, but hesitated. Sasha knew she had to put an end to this behaviour if they were to survive.
"Look, Marnie, listen to me. You have to stop thinking of me as 'Your Higness'. Right now, I'm just a girl who's lost and far from home. I don't have all the answers, and I don't really know what I'm doing. If you have an idea or a suggestion, you have to feel free to voice it. I won't take it personally, and I won't be offended. You have information and expertise that I don't have, and with Kargrove dead, I need your help. Nobody here is watching you or judging your behaviour. It's just us, and if we're going to survive, we have to trust each other and communicate." She looked at the boy with a careful eye, judging his reaction to her words. "From now on, you just call me Sasha. Deal?" She stuck her hand out, a smile on her face.
2008-03-18, 09:04 AM
Marnie stares dumbfounded. He collects himself, then starts to put out his hand to take yours, then hesitates. He seems to be thinking, wondering if this is a trick or a test. Finally he bows rigidly, then reaches out and takes your hand, a soft but sure grip. With a definitive voice he answers, "As you order, Sasha." He has a slight grin, like he is proud of solving the riddle.
It takes a moment of standing there for him to realise he hasn't fully complied. Maybe it is the awkwardness of an overlong handshake, or maybe he reads the exasperation on your face at his continued formality. But his grip on your hand loosens and he breaks eye contact with you to look around nervously. Only then does he remember your other order.
"O, right, um, well what I was going to say before is, well, maybe we should keep moving. I don't know if we should stay and do offerings for Commander or maybe there's something else. But I think I can walk. I mean, if you want to move on... Lady Sasha."
2008-03-19, 10:16 AM
"If you feel you can walk, then I agree." Looking at Kargrove's cairn, she said, "I said a few words over the commander, and I think we'd need a priest to do any more than that. Though it pains me to do so, I think we must leave her."
Together they gathered up the equipment. Kargrove's breastplate and halberd had been buried with her; they would have been difficult to carry, and she might have need of them in the afterlife. Sasha took the buckler, and along with the strips of cloths she found, tied the bedrolls and blanket to it. This way she managed to make a rough and clumsy way of carrying them. Marnie took the rest of the gear in the backpack.
"If we can find the horses, I think that should be our first order of business," she said. "I have gear and food there that may make the difference between life and death." She didn't mention the other dragoons. Though she sincerely hoped they were still alive, she'd heard the screams yesterday, and didn't hold out much hope.
Ysa was already in the air, having just finished his breakfast, and he looked down upon them as they clambered their way out of the ravine. As they neared the top, Sasha paused, taking a long look around for any sign or hint of danger. Not seeing anything, Corver or otherwise, she scrambled over the lip and onto the ground above.
((what does she see? Any sign of the horses? Is it possible to send Ysa around to look for them, or is that too complicated?))
2008-03-19, 11:24 AM
((Actually sending Ysa is probably your best bet. I'll assume he's up to it.))
Late Morning, July 11
As you scramble up the roots of the tree and onto the bank of the ravine you find that the surrounding woods go on in every direction. You've seen forest before, though only the game preserve near the Summer Palace. This place seems different: more undergrowth, smaller trees, and no human sounds breaking the soft hum and sigh of the surroundings.
If you are this deep into forest then yesterday's hike along the creek bed must have taken you mostly northwest rather then due north. That puts the road, and the most likely place to find the horses, to the east; but judging by the sun you are on the western bank of the ravine. You will need some way to cross.
Ysa, ever helpful, wings off to the east. If anyone can spot the lost horses it is him. Marnie, a bit slower, comes huffing and puffing up the ravine behind you. He has a slight coughing fit at the top but holds up a hand to indicate he is alright. His leather armour is strapped to his backpack and bobs up and down as he walks; obviously he is not ready to trust it quite yet.
A sharp, insistent noise echoes through the woods, a sort of shir-shir-shir-shir-shsh. The breeze picks up for a second and a sprinkle of dewdrops from above hits your forehead and shoulders.
((I'm really glad you took knowledge (geography), 'cuz you just succeeded on a roll for it. By the way, you have recovered 1 hp from resting overnight, so you can add that to your sheet.))
2008-03-20, 07:09 PM
Sasha eyed the ravine and didn't like what she saw. She still ached from her tumble off the horse, and Marnie wasn't in any condition to do strenuous climbing. The road might be east, but they were west, and they were staying there for the time being.
"Well, let's charge on," she said to Marnie, hoping she sounded confidant. "We'll stick close to the ravine, and hopefully it'll either close up or be bridged ahead."
With that she started walking. The day was warm and pleasant, and the sky looked a normal and healthy blue again. If she tried, she could almost pretend that nothing was wrong, that most of her friends and family weren't dead, that she was just out for a pleasant outing...
((Sasha will walk north, keeping an eye out for any likely-looking crossing. Also, she'll be keeping an eye out for Corvers!))
2008-03-20, 09:47 PM
As you walk, Marnie alternates between wheezing/coughing fits and aimless chatter. "That was nice of you to bury the commander's spear with her. A lot of people would've taken it. It was made by Master Aurelius. Three kinds of steel folded together and a special alloy in the barbs that's supposed to infect the blood. Really good weapon..." (Coughing fit.) "Do you think the horses are still out there? Maybe they found wild horses. Are there still wild horses up here in the highlands? I've never seen any..." (Coughing fit.) "I put together some of that meat from last night in case you get hungry. It should keep another day. I hope it was alright. I left some by the cairn too... She didn't get to eat much last night..." (Sniffling, quickly covered up with a coughing fit.)
After a short while Ysa comes back. You sense him coming long before you can see him through the dense tree cover. As he comes close you notice the other forest sounds stop, and then he lets out a short shriek before alighting on a branch nearby. The bird lifts one clawed foot toward you, at the same time nodding his head up and down. Then he turns to face southeast as if pointing.
((91-100% means you've come across a fallen log over the ravine by now:))
2008-03-20, 09:48 PM
Trying again: [roll0]
No luck so far...
2008-03-22, 10:52 PM
"Good boy! Clever bird!" Sasha was delighted with Ysa's information, and sent as much love and praise his way as she could. The bird puffed out his feathers, looking very pleased with himself.
"What is it?" Marnie asked, not sure if Sasha was talking to him.
"Ysa, my bird. He's been off looking for the houses, and he's found them."
The boy's face lit up. "That's great! We won't have to keep walking." Sasha's expression must have warned him, for he said, "What, what is it?"
"Well, we've been walking north, and the horses are south of us. And on the other side of the ravine."
Marnie looked into the ravine and bravely said, "I can climb, if I have to."
Sasha thought a moment, then said, "I don't see an option. If we go south, we can backtrack to where we came up, but we know there's no good way up the other side. We might as well cross here, if we can, and then Ysa can take us the most direct route to the horses."
Sasha walked to the edge and looked down. The wall was crumbly and loose with stones and roots. Some would provide a handhold, some would provide a false ledge. She would have to be careful. "I'll go first, and you follow as closely as you can. Take your time. Better to get down safely than quickly." Marnie nodded and tightened his pack on his back.
Sasha lowered herself to her bum, and swung a leg out over the edge. Thank goodness for Navan and his midnight lessons!
((I gave you five, hopefully I won't need them all! Unless they're great..... *Fingers crossed*))
2008-03-22, 10:53 PM
((Ouch! I'll add a few Tumble rolls in case I need to use them to avoid falling damage.))
2008-03-24, 08:43 AM
[roll0] (I figure I'll soften it up since you're falling into shallow water)
You slide over the lip of the ravine a bit too eagerly and the root in your hand pulls put of the soil it was anchored in. You slow yourself a bit by trying to dig into the ravine wall, but not enough; with a spash and a yelp you drop into the stream, jamming your hip against a (thankfully smooth) river stone.
Marnie's head appears over the top of the ravine, with a concerned, "Lady Sasha, are you alright?"
When he has determined that you are uninjured he decides to try the descent himself. With careful aim he tosses his pack-and-armour to a fairly dry spot along the far wall of the ravine. Then he cautiously swings a leg over the side of the ravine and makes the climb. You watch him come down with more than one scary moment as debris scatters out of one of his handholds or his foot fails to find purchase. Eventually he has only about ten feet to ago and he just jumps for it, landing with a splash.
((I really feel sympathetic for your string of bad rolls. None of them would succeed in getting up the next wall, but you'd also probably know this isn't your best work, and none of them get you high enough to risk falling damage. The DC is 16, so retrying is a possibility.))
2008-03-24, 05:15 PM
As Sasha landed on her butt a second time, she kicked her heels in the ground and shouted a string of curses that she'd learned from her brothers. Marnie's eyes widened and the colour rose in his cheeks. However, he swallowed hard and didn't turn away. "Lady Sasha,..."
"No, I'm NOT okay!" Sasha interrupted him, shouting. "I'm anything but okay. I'm stuck in the bottom of a ravine because I'm too bloody clumsy to get back up, and all our stuff and food is on the other side getting further away every second. Kargrove is dead, the other dragoons are probably dead, my family is almost certainly dead, I can't get up this stupid cliff and I'M NOT OKAY!"
Marnie alternated between pale as a sheet and red as a beet during Sasha's tantrum. When she was finished, she sat there another moment, panting with anger and frustration, trying not to cry. Marnie's mouth opened a few times, and finally he said, "Actually, Lady Sasha, I was going to ask if maybe you wanted a hand up?" He reached out a hand to her.
Sasha stared at him, open-mouthed for a few seconds, then finally shut it with a snap. Taking a deep breath, she said, "Of course, thank you Marnie. I'm sorry I snapped at you."
The boy levered her to her feet, then made a cradle of his hands. "Here, I'll give you a boost. The rock looks a little firmer up there."
Sasha put her foot in Marnie's cupped hands and let him lift her as high as he could.
((Can she get +2 for Aid Another?))
2008-03-25, 08:39 AM
With Marnie's help you manage to scramble up the wall, which is actually easier than coming down. Once you're up Marnie puts on his heavy backpack and makes a few tries, giving up and moving to a different handhold each time. On the fourth try he actually heads up the cliff a ways before getting stuck and jumping back town. He staggers a bit when he lands and then it's his turn to fall on his butt in the river. He sits there a moment, coughs, and stands up.
The next try goes better and, backpack notwithstanding, he manages to make it to the top. He thanks you for your help as you pull him up over the edge and he collapses against a tree, coughing.
Ysa seems insistent and after a short rest you head off to the southeast. It's about noon, and Marnie offers you some strips of porcupine, eating some himself. He talks less than before, but he does venture to speak once:
"I'm sorry it's so hard, Lady Sasha. I should've brought the rope along. That's why I have this big backpack, 'cuz if the horses get killed or run off it's my job to have everything Kargrove needs. Er, well, everything we need. I should've put the rope on it. There's probably room, I could hang it at the back."
After another hour or so the forest looks younger, and then begins to thin. You are approaching the scrubland with its all its beautiful vistas and complete lack of hiding places. Ysa indicates that the horses are still ahead, and seems to want to fly out again to point them out.
((I noticed you changed Marnie's speech to lime. Is that easier to read?))
2008-03-27, 10:32 AM
Sasha paused and took a good look around, making sure there was no sign of the Corver. When she was convinced, she gave Ysa a nod, and the bird flew off and up.
Understandably nervous, Sasha wanted to find the horses, and get back into the forest. She felt open here, exposed, and she wanted to get going. "Let's go, Marnie, as fast as you feel able to. I hate these scrub lands, and I want out."
The boy nodded, "I can keep up, don't worry about me." And Sasha wasn't worried about him. He was still weak, but he was gaining strength. She was sure the worst had passed. She headed out after Ysa, wondering why the bird was in such a hurry, moving as quick as she could.
((She'll travel quickly but as alertly as possible. I didn't mean to change Marnie's text, the lime is actually pretty awful. I just can never remember what he is. Is it yellowgreen?))
2008-03-27, 10:57 AM
((Yep, yellow green. It's not the easiest to read but I didn't think he'd be around long. If you ever want to change it to a different shade go ahead and I'll follow suit.))
As you range out over the scrubland Marnie does his best to huff along behind you and Ysa vanishes into the sky ahead. It is some time before you see the bird again, and he is wheeling in lazy circles about three miles up ahead. The horses must be over a ridge - you can't see them, but Ysa is clearly marking their location for you.
Noticing how you nervously scan the skies, Marnie pipes up. "You know there's not really a corver, right?" At your surprised look, he hastens to explain: "I mean, uh, of course that bird was real. But there's no such thing as a corver. Commander made it up. The name, I mean. She does that all the time. She didn't want to scare me or you by acting like she'd never seen one before. But I could tell." He beams with pride at this last statement.
At last you crest a hill and see the horses below. Ysa, figuring that even your human eyes can probably spot them by now, wheels away and plummets toward the ground - or rather, toward a formation of much smaller birds. With a shriek he plucks one from the air and starts to dine.
The horses prove to have similar keen senses, noticing you long before you approach. When you are still several hundred feet away they trot in the opposite direction, first one, then the other. After a short jaunt they resume grazing.
((How're you gonna get these horses back?))
2008-03-27, 01:40 PM
((Are all three horses there, or just two?))
Sasha frowned in frustration. It hadn't occurred to her that the horses wouldn't be eager to come back. This called for some strategy. And I think I know how. At least, it worked yesterday.
Turning to Marnie, she said, "You stay here, hidden as best you can. I'll circle around, out of sight. Ysa and I will try to herd them in your direction."
Marnie nodded and dropped his pack, then stretched his back. "Be careful, Lady Sasha."
Sasha nodded and mentally called out to Ysa. The bird had finished his meal, and came winging towards her. She then back tracked until she was out of sight of the horses, and began to circle around. Ysa guided her, making sure that she didn't wander too far from the beasts.
When she was opposite Marnie, she crept forward until she could see the animals. They were busy grazing, though one kept looking up, as if wondering where the humans had gone.
Whispering the plan to Ysa, Sasha hoped the bird understood. She got herself into sprinting position, then waited until one of the horses had it's bum facing her. Whispering the words, she pointed a finger and sent a pulse of energy directly to the creature's bum.
The horse reared up, squealing, then began to run. Sasha cried out, "Now!" and Ysa burst in from the right. Sasha ran left, making sure that the horses could see her. Hopefully, between the scared horse, the screaming hawk, and the yelling girl, she could send them all towards Marnie. Hopefully, they wouldn't crush him.
((hope this works!))
2008-03-27, 02:19 PM
((Yep, it's all three.))
Marnie sees the horses coming and rises up from his hiding place in a stand of tall grass. He has some experience as a groom and does not move except to hold one arm out toward them. The horses might have preferred their freedom to their groom, but their groom's familiar face is far preferrable to that awful monster behind them. Kargrove's destrier is the first to reach the boy and he swings up into its saddle as it goes by. Once on, he is able to gain control and the other two horses follow the lead of their larger companion.
The horses are still jumpy and Marnie knows better than to direct them back toward you. Instead he dismounts, patting each horse on the head lovingly, and waits for you and Ysa to catch up.
Your gear appears to be intact and accounted for. In addition, Kargrove's horse has two more quivers of 20 arrows each, and a royal pendant (pennant) of Isneck. The pendant is properly folded and wrapped in linen, stored in one of the saddlebags. Three trail rations, a flask of liquor and a purse with 25 gp 2 sp is in the other. Marnie's horse has the coil of rope he had bemoaned earlier, 50' of the stuff.
There is a problem, however. As Marnie goes over the horses he makes a sort of worried clucking noise. "Lady Sasha," he calls. "Look."
He shows you red, raw patches just under the saddles and reins of the destrier. "At first I thought they had the poison too, but it's just chaffing. 'Cause they been running around with this stuff on all night." He sighs. All the horses have the same problem, and one of them has two wounds on its flank - one looking very fresh. "We could ride them, but it'll make things worse. What they really need is some ungent, or at least some time without their saddles on."
((It's about 3:00 p.m.))
2008-03-28, 09:55 AM
Sasha sighed. She had really been looking forward to riding, but these horses might mean the difference between death and long term survival. "Well, I don't have anything that would help them, but I guess we can walk them."
She looked around, trying to guage the time, and guessed it was mid-afternoon. "If we're lucky, we can get to the Well this evening. If we're really lucky, the other dragoons will be there waiting for us." Sasha barely had any hope that the others were still alive, but a little hope is better than no hope.
Taking her backpack out of the saddle bags, she slung it on her back. She certainly wouldn't be caught without that again, no matter how badly the straps chafed. True to his word, Marnie took the rope and slung it around his pack. They began to walk back to the road.
Sasha munched on a trail ration as she went; she was sick of raw porcupine pancakes. As she ate, she pondered Marnie's words earlier, about the Corver. If Kargrove really had never seen one before, where did it come from? Could it have been one of his agents? Had it been looking for her? The thought was terrifying, and she pushed it from her mind. Her mission would be difficult enough without paranoia.
((They will head back to the road, and try to make it to the Well before or just after dark))
2008-03-28, 11:54 AM
Marnie removes the saddles and bits from all the horses, but leaves the rains so they can be led easily. With three saddles added to his backpack, he is doubled over and panting under the weight. He does not complain.
The walk is long. You get back on the highway in short order, but it's another hour before you enter semi-wooded land again. The way gets steeper, and Marnie drains his entire canteen.
As the sun gets low in the sky the land drops off. A massive gorge splits the ground from east to west, and an ancient bridge spans the distance. The horses shy from crossing the bridge, but at your urging they go forward.
The "highway" is more of a mountain trail beyond that point. A shallow, rapid creek runs along the side of it, racing toward the gorge you left behind you. In places the trail crosses the creek, or the creek crosses the trail, washing it out. In other places mudslides and rockfalls have blocked or altered the course of the trail. Here and there, signs of the original highway (complete with worn wheel grooves) show through the undergrowth.
The flora changes as well. Spruce trees, so dark they are almost black, are predominant. Except for a few stands of cedar and rowan they are the only trees at all. Juniper, rhododendrons, and other mountain shrubs fill in the gaps.
Dusk falls as you ascend the mountain highway. Soon it is a waning grey light you navigate by. Marnie's panting and coughing and the occasional whinny of the horses are the only sounds for a moment, and then the chirping and humming of evening bugs takes up the place of the daytime birdcalls.
You almost miss the turnoff. With wet feet, a turned ankle and sweat dripping into your eyes you are not paying the closest attention, but you do notice the fork in the trail before you walk by it. One side continues northward while the other juts to the east. Since the creek also goes east, you know which way to go.
A half-mile later, in complete darkness, you reach a clearing. It takes a moment to note the old paver stones that the grass is growing through. The creek continues past the first clearing into the darkness, and against the night sky you can make out the shapes of tall stone columns amidst the trees. You have come to the shrine beside the Well.
No campfires or human voices greet you.
* * * *
Edit: In case you're getting lost at all you can see the borderland area here: http://img98.imageshack.us/my.php?image=isneckborderland1fa2.jpg
2008-03-29, 12:13 PM
Sasha signed, and almost sobbed. She hadn't realized how much she'd been hoping to find the dragoons here until they weren't. Marnie dropped the saddles and his packs, and collapsed to the ground. Sasha dug around in the saddlebags until she found the hobbles, but the horses weren't keen on letting her try to use them. Marnie laughed and heaved himself up; the horses submitted docilely to his ministrations.
Meanwhile, Sasha pulled some firewood together and started a fire. She didn't care if it put them at risk; they needed warmth, hot food, and the comfort. Clearly, other travellers had camped here, for there was a well-used firering. She quickly had a merry fire blazing.
When Marnie was finished with the horses, he made as if to help, but she motioned him away. "Rest, just for a while. You carried a dragon's load today, and you're still not well."
He submitted, saying, "Well, just for a moment, then." Sasha rooted through the bags, finding a kettle, a pot and a few limp vegetables and dried meat. After collecting water from the stream, she set about boiling water for tea and making a soup. As the water heated, she pulled out one of her healing potions. Marnie needed it, but she doubted he'd take it from her. Well, no need to tell him what it is. He probably has never had one before and won't recognize the taste.
Pouring the potion into a battered tin mug, she brought it over to him. "Here, have this while we wait for the tea."
As she cooked, Sasha brought her tired mind to bear on the events of the last few days. The poisoning shook her up. Turning to Marnie, she said, "Tell me of the other dragoons. Did you know them all? I heard a few of them coughing before we split up, and I worry they may have been poisoned too. But by whom? Could one of them be a traitor, working for our enemy?"
2008-03-29, 12:31 PM
Marnie perks up when we drinks the concoction you give him, and he stretches out on the grass near the fire. The stars and a bit of moon offer light beyond what the campfire gives, and Marnie stares up at the sky as you speak. Looking troubled at your question, he sits up.
"I don't know, Lady Sasha. I don't think any of them would do it. They all served a long time, two of them with Kargrove personally. Didn't you recognise them?" He looks at you, and then into the fire. "I suppose you're real busy doin' princess stuff."
Marnie scoots over a little bit till he can reach his armour, and he looks it over. "We got it all from the royal armoury like usual. I take care of Kargrove's gear in general but when we're at court we usually send it to the armourers for repairs. Kargrove wants everything tip-top." He sighs.
2008-03-30, 09:59 AM
Sasha felt a little guilty for not getting to know the dragoons better. "My brothers probably knew them better than I did; I was certainly not encouraged to spend time with the military."
She looked at her own armour, wondering where it had come from....surely she should know. But all she could remember was her father pressing her to wear it, not knowing that she could summon a magical armour for herself.
"Perhaps somebody in the armory, then. But the question is, why? Who would want to kill you all? It breaks my heart to think that somebody in Isneck would be conspiring with that...that...monster." Sometimes Sasha wished she had a name to call the invader who'd done so much destruction.
The soup, such as it was, was finished, and the tea was nice and strong. As she served some to Marnie, she said, "We'll need to hunt tomorrow, if we have time, as our rations are running low already." She supposed one of the other dragoons was carrying the main rations.
((After she eats, Sasha will explore the Well))
2008-03-30, 02:55 PM
Marnie snorts. "It was probably that old Nevan guy. He's weird."
When you go exploring, you determine the basic layout of the area easily enough. The firepit you found is not the only one; as you go farther into the grassy field you find two more, each with a stone ring around them and stone benches to sit on. A row of columns borders the north end of the field, holding up nothing in particular. They are toppled in some places, overgrown in others and frequently without plaster. Several deity statues stand in front of them.
The stream runs along the south part of the field, and as you go upstream (east) you see more and fancier columns. These still perform useful service, holding up the roof of a small partly-enclosed shrine. The shrine is more like a doorway than a building, with openings on the east and west. It is small, no more than 10x10' on the inside. In the center is an altar, also overgrown.
Immediately beyond the shrine is the edge of a small pool, natural by the looks of it but with stone steps leading down into the water from the shrine. If you touch the water you find it is only warm, not hot, and a narrow path with ruined paving heads northeast along the edge of the pool, presumably to warmer springs.
The forest of dark spruces crowds close against the row of columns and has broken the path in places. It would be treacherous to follow it without a light source.
The south is rockier, and would require a lot of climbing.
Visual aid: http://img144.imageshack.us/my.php?image=isneckthewell1wr8.jpg
2008-04-01, 01:43 PM
Sasha was too tired to explore further. She returned to the comforting light of the fire to see Marnie waiting up for her. The boy looked as exhausted as she felt. She made sure the fire was safely banked, unrolled her sleeping bag, and bid him good night.
((I'm assuming that Marnie won't bring up the topic of keeping a watch. Sasha will agree to take a watch if he mentions it, but she won't suggest it. If the night passes without incident, then I'll pick it up in the morning.
Also, thanks for the maps!))
2008-04-01, 04:06 PM
You fall into a deep, unwakeable slumber. In your sleep you dream that you are floating, or sinking, or even falling - a weightless feeling you've only felt in your dreams.
Your flight takes you through heavy clouds and thick mists, banks of fog in utter darkness. As the clouds part you find yourself some height above the Well. Not the Well as it was when you went to bed, but the Well as it was in its heyday: pilgrims sharing food and stories around the campfires, garlands and wreaths decking the white-plastered pillars, large baskets of doves hanging from the eaves of the shrine, fumes of incense rising to the heavens. it is still nighttime at this Well but it seems much brighter. Despite the evening chill, several pilgrims stand in the waist-deep water at the bottom of the granite steps just past the shrine. They chant soft rhythmless prayers in their lustrations, holding their hands up to the sky.
You see all this, and your curiosity is aroused; but you cannot linger. Some power beyond your control is pulling you forward past the shrine, away from the warm fires, and down along the dark tree-lined path that follows the shore northwards.
Roots tangle the way, branches loom low overhead, footsteps would be poorly received on this path, but you use no foosteps. You float forward past the dark boughs, lonely spiders and frog song of evening. A half mile, a mile, further still, and to your right the lakeshore is broken by great rocks, crags and waterfalls from some higher pool. You rise up easily over these boulders, paying no mind to the narrow steps carved beneath you.
And there at the top you find steam, you find warmth, you find restless water burbling beneath you. Sulphur fills your nostrils (or whatever a ghost has) and your feet just skim the surface of the spring. Ahead is a copse of rowan, wedged between two great crags. In that rowan, old and ruined already in this idyllic past, is a thick wooden statue carved from an entire log. It rises from the ground, in the vague stylised shape of a woman, and in old script the word KORE is scrawled along its side. The woman has one hand placed on her left breast and the other held open in front of her as if waiting for something. Before you can contemplate the statue you are pulled deeper into the wood.
A path winds between the trees. The wood is bigger than you would have thought. It fills a sort of vale between the rocky hills, and it is in the heart of this place that you find a tomb.
It is not a plinth or headstone as you would expect along the roads outside Allonum. This is something older, the kind of tomb built by the Titans when they roamed the earth. Big uncut boulders have been stacked together, some as walls, some as roof, some a little of both. A small low opening faces the path. This is what has called to you. You float in.
The inner space of the tomb is not much more than a badger den. The ground is hard-packed damp earth. The stone roof offers little head clearance. There are no bodies present; if anyone was buried here, they are either beneath the floor or long since exhumed. The space only four feet wide and completely dark. You can see that the chamber narrows about six feet away, with nothing but blackness beyond that.
Then a voice speaks to you:
"Your, your Highness? Is that you?" The voice sounds familiar, but all you can make out is a faint wisp of light in the blackness. "Your Highness, you are alive!"
A face forms out of the light, pale and transparent. It is an elderly face, warm but burdened by years of duties and secrets. It takes you a moment to recognise Umbrofer, the aged pontiff of your mother's court, and her father's court before her, and his father's court before him. Umbrofer is no ordinary priest. He is not called in for baby naming ceremonies. Rather, his is the keeping of the royal tombs, the embalming of the dead and and the mediating of messages from beyond the grave. Because of his station and his closeness with the house of Hades, he refuses to put his hands to healing or celebratory ceremonies. He is a reclusive specialist, but has always been a loyal advisor to the royal house.
"Your Highness!" he repeats. "Please, I must show you... I must show you!"
His speech seems nervous and laboured, but you have no time to think. He turns from you and proceeds down the passage of the tomb, past where it narrows into darkness. Pulled along again, you have no choice but to follow.
As narrow and low as the passage is, it continues on for a great distance. It seems to slope downwards, and strange round symbols have been carved into the wall. You can barely see them in patches of twilight here-and-there. In time the place becomes completely black with no way to see at all. You float in what may as well be endless dark space, the spectre of the priest receding int he distance.
And then, in the sort of scene change that only dreams can offer, you emerge. Not into a cave or the rowan copse, but into Allonum. The sun is up, but setting. Wind blows. Umbrofel appears before you as a perfectly solid, decidedly un-ghost-like man. You are stepping out of a doorway in the market with no sign of a tomb behind you. "Look, Highness!" the old man exclaims. "Look!"
The market is smashed, the colourful awnings are tattered, broken pottery and wood is everywhere. Smoke fills the air. In many places you see the citizens of your homeland naked and chained together. Dirt and tears streak their bodies. Rust flakes off around their shackles. The chain gangs walk back and forth in morbid obedience, following circuitous routes and moaning with one voice. Their heads are down and a broken, punished expression fixes their faces.
Umbrofer runs among them, shaking them, shouting at them. "Look! Look up! Our princess lives! She is free!" The people do not respond. They certainly don't look at you. But he keeps running, keeps shouting. His voice trembles with tears as he calls to them. "Look up, damn you! Look up! She will free us!"
At the last words - "free us" - heads begin to rise. You see blank expressions, alienated expressions, dead eyes, and suddenly they are all filled with recognition and hope. The chain gangs break from their trudging routes and swarm toward you. Sickly faces call out and overworked hands reach for you. Everyone wants to touch you. Umbrofer's voice can be heard over the crowd. "She returns! After all these years, she returns! Here, look here, come here!"
His words ring in your ears as you are mobbed. With your back against a wall, you try to fend off the grasping, clawing hands of your people. They tear pieces from your clothing. They holler and keen at you. You keep edging along the wall, until suddenly you edge into a door, and you fall backwards.
And you fall.
And you fall.
Tumbling, you plunge into darkness.
"Come here! Here, Come here!" echoes after you.
* * * *
With a start you awake from a heavy sleep. Your whole body feels fatigued, and a scream catches in your throat as you jolt straight upright. You are in your bedroll near the Well. Pink-orange light tints the eastern sky. Marnie's bedroll is empty, and you see no sign of him.
"I didn't mean to scare you," says a gruff voice to your right. It comes from a tall, thin man with a youthful demeanor but a look of experience about him. "I was just surprised to see anyone here. Come here! Here, come here!" he calls. A small black dog comes trotting out of the woods to his side. "There you are Kei, where have you been? We have a visitor, boy!"
2008-04-01, 04:33 PM
Sasha was badly disoriented--the scenes from her dream were slow to fade. She took another quick look around; and she was having a hard time dealing with the implications of both Marnie's absence and the presence of this stranger.
However, one did not get through sixteen years in the royal courts of Allonum without learning a little about how to handle yourself in uncomfortable situations. Smoothing her hair back a bit, she sat up straighter in her sleeping bag and put on her "there's-nothing-strange-or-uncomfortable-about-this-situation" face.
"I'm sorry," she said, in her most winning voice, "am I trespassing? I didn't see anybody else around when I got here last night." She avoided saying we, although Marnie's gear was pretty obvious.
2008-04-01, 07:55 PM
Early Morning, July 12
The man pats his dog on the head as you speak. He looks at you and responds, "No, not at all. Trespassing?" He laughs a short, barking laugh. "Ha-ha! I wish. This land isn't mine. I just come here to reminisce."
He stares at you for a minute, then quickly looks away up at the morning sky. "Sorry if I startled you. My name's Urthros. This is my friend, Kei." He pats the dog on the head. "Where are you from? You don't look Oost to me."
((Sense Motive: he seems genuinely surprised to see you.))
2008-04-02, 10:30 AM
Where was Marnie? Sasha's mind was racing as fast as it could, but was coming up with no answers. Should she trust this handsome stranger with the truth? Perhaps he could help her. If he knew the area, perhaps he could even be a guide. However, he could also decide that passing over the royal heir of Isneck over the the enemy would be a good way to secure his fortune.
"My name is Alia," she said, deciding to use her middle name. Of course, if Marnie came back and said her name before she could warn him, it could blow up in her face, but at the moment she simply wasn't ready to to tell the truth. "I'm from Hollybend," she improvised, picking a small village she'd heard of, at the northern reaches of Isneck.
"My brother and I decided to come up and visit the Well. We heard the upper springs have wonderful restorative properties. We arrived too late last night to explore properly; I imagine my brother is looking around now."
She stood up as she spoke and straightened herself out as much as possible. "Do you live around here? We haven't seen anybody for days, I thought this part of the world was uninhabited." She began to stoke the remaining coals in the fire, coaxing them up into a reassuring blaze.
2008-04-02, 12:35 PM
"Nice horses," Urthros remarks as you start the fire. "Yeah, not many folks left around these parts. I'm a woodcutter, so I'll be here as long as there's trees to cut. I live in the hills up here." He gestures vaguely notheast. "Hollybend, eh? That's a long way to come. Is your brother ill or something?"
2008-04-06, 04:03 PM
"Nothing life threatening," she said, trying to sound vague.
She busied herself putting a pot onto the fire to make tea. As she did so, she mentally asked Ysa if the bird knew where Marnie was. Dearheart, can you find him for me?
Changing the subject, she said to the stranger, "We saw a strange bird day before yesterday, huge and black. Much bigger than an eagle. And we heard screams, from far off. We were afraid to run in to it. Have you seen anything like that? Is it something that lives around here?"
2008-04-06, 04:49 PM
The woodcutter's eyes dart toward Ysa as he takes off from nearby trees, but he looks back at you almost instantly. "Bigger than an eagle?" He shakes his head. "Nah, I don't think I know of anything like that. I've been here a long time, I know all the birds." Kei lets out a slight "Woof!" and runs around his master's feet.
A moment later your eyes feel pulled to look in the direction of the lake. You feel as if Marnie is that way.
((Must have had a busy weekend eh?))
2008-04-06, 05:00 PM
"Good," Sasha said, with a real shudder. "Must be from the south. Hopefully we won't see it again."
The water was beginning to boil. "Will you stay and have tea with us?" she asked. The more she spoke to Urthos, the more she couldn't help wanting to trust him. He seemed kind, and he might be able to help them.
((assuming he says yes...))
"Would you mind the fire for a moment? I think my brother must have gone down to the lake. I'll go fetch him."
((If he says yes, Sasha will hurry down to the lake, in order to find Marnie before he comes upon them. And yes, busy weekend....had to move for my summer job. But I have wireless in the new place, so should be able to continue to post through the summer. Hurrah!))
2008-04-06, 06:34 PM
((Cool! Mind if I ask where you moved to?))
Urthros is happy to join you for tea and doesn't mind tending the fire. As you make your way down to the water you see Marnie standing on the stone steps. His trousers are rolled up to the knee, but he is almost waist-deep in the water. He wears a frustrated expression and has the shortbow drawn as you approach, pointing almost straight down at the water.
"Lady Sasha!" he says when he sees you. He lowers the bow, taking the arrow off. "I've been trying to fish but it isn't easy like this. Ugh." He sighs, pointing at the water. "I can see the fish. I can see them!"
The water is startlingly clear, showing a gravelly bottom with occasional blooms of vivid green water plants reaching up. There is a definite current in the lake, which probably explains why the warm water doesn't support thick pond scum on its surface. Dark fish dart here and there, a few with silver splotches on their backs.
2008-04-06, 08:00 PM
"Marnie, forget about the fish for a moment," Sasha said, and something in her voice alerted him that something was wrong.
Turning quickly, he asked, "What is it?"
"We have company. A man and his dog. He claims to be a local wood cutter. He seems nice, friendly, but I don't know...." She shook her head, as if to clear it. "I told him my name is Alia; it's my middle name. I told him you're my brother, that we came here from Hollybend. He thinks you're sick, that we came here for the Well."
Marnie's eyes were wide with either surprise or concern, maybe both. "I just wanted to tell you, so you don't slip up and call me Lady Sasha in front of him. You have to be really casual, you're my brother, okay?"
Sasha looked intently at Marnie, judging his reaction. She was worried that his overwhelming sense of politeness would give her lies away.
2008-04-07, 09:02 AM
Marnie almost looks relieved that there's something more important to worry about than his fishing ability. "Please don't worry, your Highness," he says in a confident tone. "I have a sister, I can do it." His grin gives way to a perplexed look. "Well, um, maybe without the wrestling. Or the worms..." He frowns. "Do you like toads? 'Cuz Rhoni hates 'em. I know they give people warts, but they can cure a cold, too. So when Rhoni had a sore throat, granddad told her to put one in her mouth, but when she did I came up behind her and covered her mouth and she couldn't spit it out and--" He blinks. "O sorry. So what's wrong with me? My liver?" He clutches his side in mock agony. "Ohh... my vitals is achin'..."
Ysa jumps along the ground, like a pigeon pecking at grain, but with eyes firmly fixed on you.
Should you manage to get the two of them in line and head back toward the fire, Urthros is exactly where you left him. He notes the bow and arrows Marnie holds, but doesn't move from his spot. Kei runs excitedly up to you, running circles around Marnie and sniffing him.
"Been hunting?" The man asks Marnie as you approach. "Game isn't so great in these parts, but fishing's good in the Well. If you want I can show you the best spots after your breakfast." He raises an eyebrow. "Or was whatever you caught supposed to be your breakfast?"
2008-04-08, 11:07 PM
Sasha spoke up quickly, before Marnie could start up his act again. They'd agreed that he'd be suffering from a coughing sickness. It wouldn't be fatal, but debilitating enough to warrant a trip to the Well. However, she was concerned that in his eagerness to show off his acting skills, he'd overdo it.
"Alas, my poor brother is rather a poor shot. But we have some flatbread and hard cheese, and plenty of tea to wash it down. Perhaps after we've broken our fast, you can show us where the good fishing is."
Sasha quickly laid out their meagre fair; it was the last of the rations. They'd have to hunt successfully today if they wanted to eat tonight. As she served, she said, "Won't you tell us about yourself, Urthos? Do you and Kei live alone out here? What do you know about the Well? Can it really heal my brother?"
She bit into the flatbread; it was quite stale. She took a big sip of tea to soften it. She felt an inquiry in her mind, but she firmly told Ysa to stay out of sight. The last thing she needed from Urthos were more questions she couldn't answer.
2008-04-09, 09:34 AM
Urthros passes on the food. "I had a bit of tack myself on the way here, and I wouldn't dip into your supplies when you're on such a long trip. The Well, hmm, I can't say as I've been up to the springs proper since I was a boy. It is invigorating, but the climb up is what gets the heart pumping."
He has to be prompted again before he answers the question about himself. "Aye, well, it's just me and Kei for the time being. Tell you the truth, I wasn't always a woodcutter. I used to be a glassblower. Had my own shop up here, even had an apprentice for a bit." It takes a further question for him to finish the anecdote. "Oh, well, the workshop burned down and I lost a lot of equipment. I could rebuild, but the tools cost money. So here I am."
During the breakfast Marnie coughs occasionally but keeps mostly quiet. he looks up when he hears of Urthros' former occupation, obviously interested, but he doesn't interrupt.
When breakfast is done Urthros brings out several fishing hooks and lures and a bit of line. He travels light, with no pack or equipment; just a knife on his belt and a small pouch from which he draws the fishing gear. As he casts off he remarks to Marnie, "If you have the breath for it, go ahead and cut yourself a pole. There's enough tackle for us both."
((Edited: If you let Marnie fish, he'll prove a bit too impatient for the task and, despite Urthros' occasional words of guidance he won't catch anything. Urthros however will pull out no less than three fish and offer two of them to you. On the other hand if you try to leave without letting Marnie fish, the woodcutter will simply nod and bid you good luck at the springs.))
2008-04-12, 12:21 PM
Marnie looked sideways at Sasha, and the princess nodded. It would be a good skill to learn, if he could do it. Unfortunately, the boy was too impatient and came up empty-handed every time. Sasha would have tried herself, but she was also impatient.
The dream still haunted her, and she wanted to climb to the upper springs. She wasn't convinced the cave would be there, or that she'd find anything inside if it was, but she felt compelled to at least look.
However, she also needed information, and Urthros might have some for her. As he pulled up his second fish, she asked him, "You mentioned the Oost, earlier. I've heard so many stories about them, but I've never seen one. Have you? Do they live around here? Are they really as fearsome as the stories say?" The princess would never have admitted it, but she was more than a little apprehensive about her upcoming meeting with them. Assuming, of course, that she lived that long.
((She will pump as much info out of him as she can, hopefully sounding like a curious girl, rather than somebody who'd use the information one day. When he offers the fish, she'll take them, and then pack up and they'll head up to the springs.))
2008-04-12, 06:31 PM
A few of the tidbits you garner:
"Every once and awhile an Oost will come here. But they don't live around here, no. They keep an eye on the road north of here, but that's a ways off, you won't have to worry about them."
"Hmm? Oh, I don't know. They have strange beliefs. I think they come out here to pray, but not the way we do. One warrior will come alone, spend a few days camping out, then leave."
"Nah, I never talk to 'em. I usually just make myself scarce. They seem nice enough, but you know how the high-and-mighty are. Better to just not talk to 'em."
As you finish wrapping up the fish Urthros casts off again. He calls over to you. "Be careful up there. It's supposed to be a healing place but a woman and her son drowned up there a few years back. They say they're still at the bottom somewhere."
The trail along the lake is similar to what you saw in your dream, but that might just be because of the little bit you saw of it before bed. Eventually it does begin to ascend a rocky slope, complete with waterfalls, but it doesn't look familiar - and the trail is much harder to follow. In a few places where steps had once been carved, they are either broken, worn away, or covered in water and slime. You and Marnie both have a couple near-falls as you make your way up the precarious climb.
Eventually, a bit short on breath, you crest yet another boulder only to find you have truly come to a hot spring. Steam rises from the bubbly water. There is no wooden statue, but there is a glimpse of thick trees between two crags.
((If you or Marnie go in the water you will each recover 1 hp.))
2008-04-12, 08:56 PM
For a moment Sasha merely sits on a boulder and pants. It takes her longer to catch her breath than she would like, though less time that it would have a week ago. The steam over the springs curls and drifts in the mid-morning air, soothing her restless thoughts. Marnie sits not far from her, keeping his eyes open, but his mouth closed. Overhead, Ysa circles once, then comes down and perches on a tree limb near Sasha.
It was similar to her dream, but different. Where was the statue woman? Kore--the young maiden--had that been Persephone herself? It would make sense that there would be a statue of her here, but why wood, and not stone? Would she even still exist? Even the pillars were long crumbled. But the tomb...that might still be there. If it was a tomb. Perhaps that was the very spot where Persephone had....but no, she wouldn't think of that. Not just yet.
The steam continues to rise, and Sasha feels the urge to go in. Standing, she begins to strip of her outer layer. "Your highness!" Marnie blurts out, scandalized. He then claps his hand over his mouth, realizing his blunder. Blushing, he spins around, and Sasha laughs. "Don't worry, I'm not stripping right down. But I don't want everything to be soaked."
In her undergarments, Sasha wades into the water. It is very hot, but not scaldingly so. After the initial shock of it, it's actually very soothing. Careful of her footing, she wades out until she is waist deep, then drops down to her knees. Her long hair floats around her like red seaweed, and she inhales the strangely comforting sulfur fumes. Closing her eyes, she prays softly, "Persephone, beloved daughter and coveted wife, iron queen of the underworld, I beg you hear me. Lend me the wisdom to understand the message I was sent, and the strength to act upon it. Grant mercy to my people, that they may live yet, and be spared the voyage to your realm a little longer. Please, let me help them."
She isn't sure if Persephone is strictly the right deity to be praying to, but here it seems appropriate. She'd never paid too much attention to the prayers and traditions before, but she finds herself praying now more than she ever has before.
Feeling refreshed, Sasha stands and wades back to the shore. Using her cloak as a towel, she dries herself as best she can, then dresses again. "You can turn around now, Marnie," she says, and the boy does so, blushing furiously. "You should go in, it feels wonderful," she says, ignoring his embarrassment.
At first he looks like he's going to refuse, but he hesitates and looks at the water. "It's okay, go ahead. I won't look."
She turns around, presenting her back to him, and stares at the place where she hoped the tomb would be. There's a clatter of rocks, and then some swishing sounds. "You're right, Alia, it does feel good. Smells funny, though."
He splashes around for a few minutes, then comes out again. She waits until he comes up beside her. He's pretty wet; he either went in with his clothes on, or didn't spend any time drying before putting them back on. "Now what? Do we go back down?"
She shakes her head. "No, I want to explore a little. See what's this way." He doesn't argue, but follows as she walks towards the glimpse of trees she saw earlier.
2008-04-13, 01:54 PM
While in the spring, you find that the water runs very deep - although the edges are shallow, the centre is far too deep for you to touch bottom without diving. However, as you duck your head under the water, you catch sight of something shiny glimmering below you. ((Feel free to tap back or not if this is of interest to you.))
The woods are not the same as you saw before. First of all, rowan are scarce - there are some small ones, along with snowberries (not in season) near the edges, but the bigger trees of the forest are almost entirely maples. Plus, every inch of ground under the big trees is grown in with thick, dense shrubs. There's hardly room to walk through the place, and no path.
By pushing through and looking around a little bit, you are able to locate a heap of rocks which might (you think) be in the same place the tomb was the previous night. As Marnie swats at biting flies, you size up the moss-covered rock pile, trying to figure out if it is what you think it is and, if so, how one might get in.
2008-04-14, 10:15 PM
((backtracking to the springs))
Sasha came up, wide-eyed. What could that have been? Perhaps a fish? She ducked her head under again, and saw the shine again. Curious, she was about to dive under the water when she remembered Urthros' warning about the drownings. Surely one look wouldn't hurt? She took a breath and dove underwater.
((Do I need to roll here? Just in case...[roll0] Sasha will make one attempt, and if it's too far, she won't try again.))
2008-04-14, 11:05 PM
As you dive down, your vision is obscured at first by the bubbles and currents of the spring. But as you reach your maximum depth you can see that there is something not far below you--something that glitters, something a deep red colour against the silt and rocks and algae around it. Gold sparkles from within the red, but it is hard to see more than that before you have to go back for air.
((Since it was within diving distance I'll assume you go back.))
On your second pass you aim better, and you know to dive deeper. As you reach your maximum distance, you can make out a beautiful ornament of red glass streaked with gold and transparent sections.
As you reach out to take it, it comes easily from the funny-looking silt around it. It was strung on a cord at one time to be worn as a necklace. The cord is long since broken, but that is not what catches your attention; you realise, to your horror, that the strange formation that yielded the trinket was not rock at all, but the near-mummified body of a woman. She stares vacantly from her tomb of mud, a look of panic on her face.
2008-04-18, 06:03 PM
Sasha let out a scream at the sight of the dead woman, and inhaled water as she did so. The necklace clasped tight in her fist, she shot for the surface and broke water coughing and gasping. Marnie spins around, alarmed, but Sasha is already on her knees in the shallows, coughing hard. Eventually she got the water out of her lungs, and she waded ashore.
Not wanting to tell Marnie about the dead woman, she came ashore to dress, and slipped the necklace in a pocket, for further examination later.
((cue middle section about Marnie swimming, and going into the woods))
Turning to Marnie, Sasha said, "Would you help me move some of these stones?"
The boy looked at her askance, but Sasha didn't offer an explanation. After a moment, he insisted, "La....Alia, is everything okay? You've been acting a little weird all morning?"
Sasha shook her head, "I'm fine. I just...I want to see something, okay? Later, after we're surely alone again, I'll explain. I promise. Will you help me?"
((Regardless of Marnie's answer, she'll begin shifting rocks aside))
2008-04-18, 06:37 PM
Marnie shrugs and agrees to help you, and you find that his renewed strength is a great boon to your efforts. By using a fallen branch as a lever the two of you are able to remove even the larger stones in your way, but you find it is mostly heaps of small fist- or melon-sized stones that cover the familiar-looking cairn. The work takes time and leaves your hands chafed, scraped and dirty; but as you go it is more and more clear that the small rocks have been piled up to cover the doorway to the tomb of your dreams.
"This is creepy," says Marnie as he works. Suddenly he jumps back and away from the tomb with a shriek, "G-AHHHH!" He dances away. "Ahh, ahh, whhhooooooa!"
You spot the cause of his fear, a little field mouse or vole that ran out of the rock heap and past his feet. After a few second he quiets down, realising what it is, and mopes a bit. "Stupid mouse," he mutters.
After an hour or so you have dug through enough to see into the dark tomb below, and with a little more time you have it open enough to climb in.
If you enter, you will find it terribly uncomfortable; many of the stones from the entrance litter the floor, jabbing into your hands and legs as you crawl about. Several roots have grown in from around the ceiling, further complicating matters.
The tomb is empty. If you head to the far end, which in your dream led down a tunnel, you find only a solid stone wall. Your fingers feel patterns on this wall--and only this wall--and when your eyes adjust you see another familiar sight.
The spiral patterns that decorated the tunnel in your dream are engraved into this wall in waking reality. Three lunar symbols (a waxing crescent, a circle, and a waning crescent) are also engraved there.
2008-04-19, 06:57 PM
Sasha stared at the symbols, tracing them with her fingers, as if the tactile experience of them would help her understand. "No, there has to be more," she muttered under her breath. Exploring the wall with her fingertips, she searched every inch of it, not knowing what exactly she was looking for. A secret door? A passageway? Something that would help her understand her dream, and what it might mean.
((also, did Marnie come in with me? If so, what's he doing?))
2008-04-19, 07:11 PM
Marnie starts to crawl in, undaunted by the uncomfortable confines of the passage. But he realises he is blocking your only light, so scrambles in and off to one side, waiting patiently in the corner by the door for you to do whatever you're doing.
Your search does not yield any further clues, no matter how carefully you inspect the walls, floor, and ageing ceiling of the little tomb. ((I'm applying your search check to the whole room, not just that wall, since it is a relatively small area.))
As Marnie's eyes adjust to the darkness he is able to see the markings before you in more detail. He still stays where he is, but comments, "Such weird symbols! Do you know what they mean, Alia?" And before you can answer his first question, more: "How did you know this was here? Is it a royal secret? I--do I have to be sworn to secrecy? O gods, is it okay for me to be here?"
2008-04-20, 11:56 AM
Sasha giggled in spite of herself. "Well, I guess I'll have to tell you now, but then I'll have to kill you."
In the dim light she saw Marnie's eyes widen, then he smiled. "You're teasing me," he accused.
"It's no royal secret," Sasha said, slumping down to the floor in defeat. "Just a dream I had last night. I dreamt I came in here, but it wasn't all ruined like this. And there was a tunnel, and Umbrofer was there. You know him, the pontiff? He took me down the tunnel, and it went..." her throat hitched, and she swallowed unexpected tears. "It went home. But it was horrible. Everything was ruined, all the shops and markets were destroyed. Everybody was in chains and shackles, trudging from place to place. He said I'd been away for years." She wiped her eyes.
"I'm afraid it's a true dream. And maybe it will be...after all, I dreamt this place, and here it is. But it doesn't make sense! I don't know what these symbols mean. I don't know how to help!"
Marnie stayed blessedly silent for a moment as she struggled to get her emotions under control. She dug around in her pocket for a hankie, and her hand closed around something cool and smooth. Pulling it out, she saw the pendant she'd found in the springs.
As she examined it in the dim light, a thought suddenly occurred to her. Could it be magical? Closing her eyes a moment, she concentrated on the spell she'd learned only a month ago. Murmuring the words, she opened her eyes again, wondering if she'd see the dim glow she now associated with magic.
((casting detect magic. Will look at pendant, and all around the room. Also, [roll0] to identify/recognize the symbols))
2008-04-20, 02:42 PM
((The symbols do not resemble anything taught in your lessons at Allonum.))
As you whisper the words of the spell, you are almost blinded by the light that seemingly erupts into the room. The wall with the carvings sears you with an overwhelming blue-white light, while the moon glyphs alone radiate a piercing golden light. Looking around, no other part of the room is affected. Marnie is sitting nonchalantly, just as he was, looking at you and evidently waiting for something. It shocks you to realise: he can't see any of this.
Try as you might, you cannot tell what school of magic any of the auras belong to. Your efforts do pay off, however: you suddenly become aware of a much lighter, indeed downright dim aura lingering on the glass pendant. It doesn't seem to be enchanted, but appears to only recently have been in the presence of magic.
As you block out the other auras in the room an concentrate, you sense that the lingering aura has to do with healing.
Marnie--still unaware of any of this--muses out loud. "Those look like moons at the top. Weird."
2008-04-20, 10:58 PM
Sasha thumped her fist against the floor in frustration, being only moderately careful of the pendant in her hand. It doesn't make any sense! Why bring me here, in this place of magic, for no purpose? She had to keep herself from physically growling in frustration.
Get a grip Sassticca! There has to be a reason. Just be calm, and think it through. There has to be something else to do. She racked her brain, and remembered one of the spells she'd discovered after a particularly frustrating lesson with Nevan and Finn. There'd been a lock she was supposed to practice picking, and she just couldn't get it. When she finally did, it was too heavy to move. In anger and frustration, she'd felt the newly familiar sense of power begin to build up within her. Words she'd never imagined before welled up out of her, and she made the door open with magic.
Could it work here? Was there a door, a tunnel? She couldn't find it, but maybe she could open it.
Concentrating on the brilliantly engraved wall, Sasha clearly pronounced the words that would open the door, if a door indeed there would be.
2008-04-21, 08:17 AM
((I assume this is Knock? It has no effect...))
2008-04-21, 08:30 AM
((Nope, she doesn't have Knock. It was Open/Close. I didn't think it would work, but I thought she would try.
I feel like I'm missing something really obvious here. :smallconfused:
So, there's no way for me to figure out what those spells are? How about [roll0]))
2008-04-21, 08:46 AM
((The one thing you can figure out is that you have literally never seen anything as powerful before. In metagame terms, the spell level is so high that you couldn't ID the school of magic even if you rolled a a 20 on your Spellcraft check. This is the kind of power that is beyond the ability of mortals to replicate.))
2008-04-21, 11:17 AM
Sasha stared hard at the symbols for a little bit longer, then had to admit defeat. She was going to learn nothing new here; to linger would be to waste time. "Come on Marnie. I guess I was wrong, there's nothing here for us."
Once out, they spent some time replacing the rocks at the tomb's entrance. The last thing she wanted was to be responsible for it's desecration. As they worked, she silently prayed to Persephone, asking forgiveness for the intrusion, and the wisdom to understand what she'd learned.
They were unable to make the rock pile look undisturbed, but hopefully nobody would come wandering back here until the elements had had a chance to erase the marks of their passage.
((she'll head back to where they made camp now))
2008-04-21, 12:25 PM
Marnie is quiet as you stack up the stones, but prattles away once you are out of the woods. "So you saw this place in a dream? What made you think it was real? Do you think that's why it had moons? Or do you think it's for Artemis? Or... you don't think hecate, do you?" he seems to have scared himself silent, but only for a moment before going on: "Maybe we're supposed to come here when the moon is full? Or maybe when there's no moon? But all the moons were on that thing. Why would someone put that in a tomb anyway?"
As you near the shrine area, you see Urthros on the trail up ahead. He is still fishing, but has moved to a new area. Kei is lying in the shade neaby, panting and watching his master.
2008-04-23, 11:12 AM
Sasha shook her head at Marnie's questions. "I don't know, Marnie. The dream seemed like more than a dream. More like a vision, or a sending. I thought maybe it was a message of some sort. But now I'm not so sure. I mean the tomb was real enough, but there certainly didn't seem to be any sort of passage through it. And those symbols....I don't know. I have a feeling they're of religious import, but I just don't know what. Perhaps if I'd paid more attention to my lessons, I'd understand what they meant."
As they reached the bottom of the trail, they saw Urthros fishing, and Sasha realized she was ravenous. They'd done a lot of hard labour, and breakfast seemed a long time ago. "Shall we eat lunch before we continue on our way?" she asked Marnie. His eyes lit up, which she took for a yes. "I'll get the fire going, you collect the fish." They'd left Urthros's offering well-wrapped and in the shade. Marnie went off after it, and Sasha raked the fire down to coals, then added just enough wood to keep it going. In no time at all, the smell of cooking fish wafted over the area.
"Urthros, will you share our meal?" she asked with a smile. "There's more than we can eat, and you were kind enough to provide it."
2008-04-23, 11:56 AM
Urthros joins the group with a smile, and adds a few more fish to what you already have. He keeps an eye on Kei, who repeatedly tries to sneak, charm or nuzzle his way into the fish.
The conversation that passes around the cookfire is idle but pleasant. At one point Marnie excuses himself and heads off into the brush and trees to answer nature's call. At this moment there is a lull in the conversation and Urthros chooses to fill it with an unexpected comment.
"I know who you are."
((Question: where are you keeping/wearing/hiding the pendant from before?))
2008-04-23, 01:47 PM
((The pendant is back in Sasha's pocket. You said that the cord was rotted, right? If she wants to wear it, she'll need to restring it. And just to be clear, it isn't magical, right? It was just carrying over an aura from being near magic?))
Sasha felt her heart freeze, and it took all her court training to continue eating normally. Hoping that her fear was not showing on her face, she said, "Of course you do, I told you this morning. Though to presume that you know any more about me than that would be considered rude by many." She said it with a smile, hoping that she was coming across as being slightly sassy, and nothing more.
2008-04-23, 02:23 PM
He shrugs. "You don't have to worry. I can't say you'd be the first." He pauses a moment and looks at you. "Those horses aren't the kind that work in fields. You've got a suit of armour over there for crying out loud. Then you show up here wondering what kind of creature could've killed a troop of royals." He shrugs. "Don't know as it's a safe life, taking from the bodies of knights. But if you got to do it for your family or whatever, I won't be the one to turn you in. Just thought you should know it's pretty obvious."
((Right, the pendant has no cord, and no, there is no spell actually on it. The aura was just lingering.))
2008-04-23, 03:41 PM
Sasha felt a stab of anger when he accused her of robbing the dead. She was about to deny his words when something he said registered with her. "I never said anything about the bird killing royals. All I know is that we saw it, and then heard screams." She watched his face for a reaction. "What do you know? Did you find some royals killed? Why are you lying to me?"
2008-04-23, 04:10 PM
((He seems bewildered by your comments.))
"Wha--?" Urthros looks taken aback, then sort of forces a laugh. "Turnabout huh? Well, no need, I'm not lying. They're all royals aren't they? They lay claim to this land but when we need them they can't be bothered. Whoever you took that armour off of, he might not have worn a crown but he knew exactly how many cousins he was away from King Esticcarn."
Oddly, he refers not to your mother, but to her grandfather, a man whose life and reign ended some forty years ago.
Just then Marnie walks back from the trees, and as he approaches, senses the tension between the two of you. He just sort of stops and looks back and forth between the two of you, before slowly walking over to check on the horses.
2008-04-25, 06:58 PM
Sasha watched Marnie, who was keeping an eye on her. She winked at him, to let him know everything was okay, then turned back to Urthros.
"King Estriccarn? But he's been dead for years and years." She felt badly off-balance in this exchange and was stalling for time. Had Urthros found the bodies of the other dragoons? It seemed like he was being honest, but something just rang false with the princess. "Why not the queen?"
((sorry, I can't find a reference to the names of my parents? Did either of us invent them yet?))
2008-04-26, 01:16 AM
((Huh, I don't think we did. Feel free to make them up as you please, or leave them blank if you prefer.))
Urthros pauses. "Qu--Um, well, you know what I mean. They're all the same aren't they?" He sighs. "Look I didn't mean to insult you. In my experience when someone is lugging around armour and fine horses, they're either nobility or they've been scavenging. And look at you--all dirty. The Hollybend part I believe. But I don't think you came by those horses fair and square, and like I said it isn't me who'll report you. I don't care about looting. My old man had two suits of armour and a sword in our cellar when I was little, in Cooperbark. But you gotta learn to keep that stuff out of sight. Some folk'll turn you in.
2008-04-26, 01:18 AM
trying again [roll0]
((You've never heard of Cooperbark.))
2008-04-26, 10:21 AM
This fellow was getting queerer and queerer. How old was he? Was it possible that he still thought her great grandfather had been king? Well, at least there was little possibility that he'd sort out who she was.
Engaged in the enigma that was Urthros, Sasha decided to push a little further. "I don't think I need to worry about that. After all, who are they going to report me to? I don't think that the new rulers of Allonum are going to care much for pilfered armour."
It cost her something to speak so casually of the destruction of her home, but she bit it back and watched his face. Did he not know? She supposed it was possible, living this far from civilization, but it seemed....wrong...somehow.
2008-04-26, 10:45 AM
"New rulers?" He looks at you blankly. ((I assume you'll tell him more, a little bit about the Invader and the fall of Allonum, probably without too many specifics.))
The man looks visibly shaken. He looks past you at the sky to the south. Over the horizon, the shroud of wrongly-coloured sky can still be seen above the Isneckine borderlands. When you look back at Urthros there is a tear on his cheek. He speaks with anger: "Damn them all! Betrayers. This is just like that damned Gortiver. Damn them all!"
He takes a few paces away from you, muttering. Kei whimpers and puts his head down. "I just want them back!" he bellows at the sky. "Is that so much? Just let me have them!"
2008-04-26, 07:49 PM
Sasha couldn't help staring at Urthros's unexpected outburst. Gortiver? Is that a name I should know? She wracked her brain, but came up with nothing. He was truly a strange man, this woodcutter.
However, when he bellowed at the sky, Sasha felt her heart go out to the man. She knew pain like that. In a soft voice, she asked, "Who did you lose? Was it your family? Did they...was it the fire?" She didn't want to cause him more pain, but she couldn't stop herself from asking. Her own pain and fear was too close to the surface, too much on her mind, though she try to deny it, even to herself.
"What happened, Urthros?"
2008-04-27, 03:06 PM
Urthros suddenly looks at you very suspiciously, as if you had planned this. But one look at the emotions on your face softens him up. He sighs. "It was my apprentice, Gortiver. He started the fire on purpose. He wasn't very good at glassblowing and he got jealous. He was angry that I wouldn't make him a journeyman. My wife and boy got out... but..." he trails off and grits his teeth. "That bastard!" Kei growls in clear sympathy to his master.
Assuming you lend a sympathetic ear and prompt the man to go on, he explains. "He killed them. Both of them."
2008-04-27, 06:31 PM
"Oh, Urthros, I'm so sorry," Sasha's voice was barely above a whisper. His grief was almost palpable, and it brought all her fear and sorrow to the surface, yet again.
"I...that is, Marnie and I...we've lost family too. He's all I have left." In a way, that was very true. It suddenly occurred to Sasha that she had no idea about Marnie's family. She'd never asked him. She promised herself to rectify the situation, soon.
Still, there was a chance that her family was still alive. Perhaps they had escaped, perhaps they were in hiding. Perhaps they'd been imprisoned, not killed. Anything was possible. But deep in her heart, she knew it was unlikely.
"Is there anything I can do?" she asked. She knew it was a feeble gesture, but she felt compelled to ask, nonetheless.
2008-04-27, 06:49 PM
Urthros seems torn. "Well I... I mean, look, I didn't mean to lie to you before. But it wasn't just anyone who drowned in that spring. That's how he killed them. That's what he said, anyway. But I never could find their bodies. I just wish I could find them and bury them proper. But there's probably nothing you can do about it."
2008-04-27, 07:14 PM
Sasha felt the blood drain from her face. Reaching into her pocket, she pulled out the glass pendant. Holding her hand out to Urthros, her voice shaking a little, she said, "Is this....did this belong to your wife?"
((Assuming it is, she'll either describe where the bodies are, or take him to them.))
2008-04-27, 07:43 PM
Urthros stares, his mouth gaping open. "How... where did you get that?" Again, accusation springs to his voice, but as you explain tears stream down his face. He acts as if they aren't there. "I... I can't believe you found them. I've looked so many times."
If you indeed offer to show him, he accepts the invite. Marnie follows at a safe distance, obviously still suspicious of the man. This time he leads the horses along, too, though they'll only go to the base of the big rocks - they won't willingly climb up to the top.
"I never liked going into the water to look for them," he explains on the walk. "It's uncomfortable."
When you reach the spring, he stands at the edge and peers through the roiling water. "They're down there? You sure?"
((If you offer to go in he'll be grateful, but he will obstinately refuse to enter the water himself.))
2008-04-27, 08:11 PM
Sasha stared at the man in confusion. Here lay the bodies of his family, and he refused to get wet. After trying to convince him that the water wasn't very deep, she finally offered to go in herself. He looked embarrassed, but he also looked relieved.
For the second time that morning, Sasha stripped down to her underclothes and waded into the springs. Overhead, Ysa soared, crying down encouragement to her. Despite the heat of the springs, the princess shuddered. Two bodies lay below, and she was not only going to see them, she was going to have to swim with them.
Ysa must have sensed her distress, for she felt a welcome sensation of reassurance and strength from him. Taking a deep breath, she dove under the water.
((what sort of roll do I need to make here? Another swim roll? Assuming that I do.... [roll0] Do I find the boy here too?))
2008-04-27, 09:35 PM
((It'll be a Search check to find the boy, and a Str check for each body (unless you can think of some better way of dredging them up besides pulling them by hand). Also, your Swim check wasn't so good on your first try, but I'll assume you take 10 and can thus manage alright.))
2008-04-27, 10:23 PM
If Sasha fails the str roll, perhaps marnie can volunteer the use of his rope? I can tie a knot around them and the men can pull.
2008-04-27, 11:18 PM
Once you secure the robe to the woman's midsection, the men are able to hoist the body free of the silt. You surface shortly ahead of the body, and when she reaches the surface Urthros' face contorts into something between rage and relief. He jumps into the shallow water at the edge of the pool, running toward her, but lets out a horrendous shriek. Howling as if in pain, he skips back to the edge of the pool and onto dry land.
It takes him a moment to calm down, but when he does he explains: "It's a cruel curse. Ever since they died, the water here has burned me. Must be by punishment for not burying them where they could sleep easy. But I can't bury them without going through the water... the gods have a cruel sense of humour, it's true."
Once the body is free of the water he crouches beside her, embracing her remains and gritting his teeth in pain from touching her.
((You were so far unable to find the other body.))
2008-04-28, 02:24 PM
Sasha turned away from Urthros's emotional reunion with his wife. She took another deep breath and began searching for the boy again. Starting where she saw the woman, she began to swim in a spiral pattern, moving outwards. Whenever she couldn't see the bottom clearly, she dove down for a better look, but was careful not to stir up the sediment too much. As she searched, she felt Ysa sending her encouragement. Too bad I don't have a turtle for a familiar, she thought. Ysa didn't deign to respond to the thought.
((is this something she can take 10 or 20 at? If not, how long before I have to give up?))
2008-04-28, 03:02 PM
After a couple of dives you find the boy but he is in worse shape than his mother. You also find that there are still cords wrapped around the middle of his body, with a sack of rocks tied on for good measure.
By using the same method as before you're able to get the second body hauled to the surface, though you can't vouch that you got every last bit out of the silt. When you come up Urthros takes a moment to compose himself and places his cloak over their faces, then thanks you profusely.
"I never gave up on finding them, but I thought about it. I tried so many times to go look down there but that water is like fire on my skin. I tell you what, why don't you two come to my place tonight. I don't have much but I'll share what I do have." He surveys his dead family once again. "After getting these two buried proper, o'course."
It is mid-afternoon right now, with the sun moving to the west, a few clouds in the sky and the moon showing her face just above the horizon. Marnie looks pretty tired, and the horses are still below.
2008-04-28, 09:46 PM
Sasha hesitated. If they left now, they could get in several miles before dark. So far, her mission to get aide had been beset by one delay after another. On the other hand, she was bone weary from her time diving, swimming, and pulling, and she was still sore from yesterday. A hot meal and a warm night would do her a world of good. Marnie too...her healing potion had helped, but he was obviously still feeling the effects of his poison.
Yes, the choice was clear. They would make better time tomorrow if they rested now. "That is very kind, Urthros. We will accept your offer. And, if you wish our help burying..."
She stammered to a stop, her mind racing. There had been magic in that tomb....powerful magic. Divine magic. Was it possible?
"Urthros, if you wish a place to bury your family, we found a tomb, not far from here. We covered the entrance with rocks again, but it wouldn't take much work to clear them again. It was a shrine to Persephone, I believe."
((If he wants to, Sasha will show him the tomb. If not, she and Marnie will offer the horses to carry the bodies, or to bury them (or burn them?) up here, should he wish.))
2008-04-29, 01:35 PM
Urthros seems undecided, but after he understands there are no bodies presently in the tomb he thinks it over and agrees. "Be the fanciest grave we've ever had in my family," he says. "A real shrine, huh?"
When he sees the little heap of rocks he doesn't look too impressed, but once they have been cleared away and he can peer inside his jaw drops open for the second time today. "We'll be buried with the titans!" he exclaims. "You really have a knack for finding things, don't you Miss?"
Marnie is significantly less impressed, clearly not happy with uncovering and burying the same dooor twice in one day. But he works quietly and doesn't complain aloud.
Once the tomb is open the bodies are taken inside and laid beside each other. It takes all three of you to get them inside with some degree of grace and respect, and by the time you do it is evening. Urthros sits between the two for a moment, staring at his dead wife and then squeezing the remaining hand of his son. He removes a ring from his finger and places it on his wife's chest, wraps his son in his cloak, and sets two big filleted fish on a bed of maple leaves between them. With a short prayer he finishes the formalities and crawls between you and Marnie to exit the tomb.
((If you go out right away he'll help you seal the tomb. If you linger he'll tell you not to be too sad and that he'll be down the path looking for a bigger stone when you're done.))
2008-04-29, 06:11 PM
Sasha crawled out of the tomb behind Urthros, not wanting to be left there with his dead family. She hoped that she wasn't participating in some sort of desecration by suggesting it, but somehow, she didn't think Persephone would mind. She hoped so, anyway.
The three of them closed up the tomb again (hopefully for the last time), and then carefully made their way back to the horses. Sasha hoped that his home was nearby, for she was starving and exhausted.
2008-04-29, 08:45 PM
Urthros leads you, Marnie and your horses on a long, sombre walk through the spruce trees. Weaving between large crags of rock and loose skids of stone, you gain elevation and head northeast for about an hour before coming under heavy forest cover again. Another mile or so and you reach a small wooden structure by the last evening light.
The structure is essentially a cottage built of whole logs and caulked with some kind of mud or daub. However, the little cottage is attached to the burnt remains of a much longer building. Beside the door on the outside is a flat stone not much larger than a cutting board, on which several woven straw plates and carved wooden cups hold offerings for the local spirits. Urthros calls a hallo as he approaches his own cabin, apparently to said spirits or else out of a morbid sense of humour - there is no one else there. Urthros shows Marnie where to tie up the horses and leaves Kei outside on wolf patrol.
The inside is a single small room, surprisingly with a planed wood floor spread with a large number of deer and wolf hides. There is a hearth in the very centre, kitchen equipment to the left, tools to the right and a single deep bench or shelf running the entire length of the far wall. A pair of skinned and gutted hares hang from the ceiling, presumably to catch the smoke of the fire.
Urthros leaves his shoes at the door and sits heavily on the bench. He motions for you to sit wherever you like. Marnie comes in and tosses himself on the floor beside the fire. Soon a meal is cooking, the fish smothered in animal fat and wrapped in thick leaves in the coals and a pot of hare stew bubbling on the fire. A jug of honeywine goes around. Your host proudly explains that he used to brew the stuff.
Once when Urthros moves near you to tend the meal, he discreetly sets the glass pendant you found beside you. It gleams in the firelight, and is newly strung on a leather cord. At first he doesn't say anything but as he moves to go back to his own seat he says softly, "You should have that."
((You can talk with Urthros as much more as you want (and he'll move down to the floor to be closer to the two of you) but that's about all I have for you for today. So basically, whenever you go to sleep we'll tap forward.))
2008-05-02, 05:28 PM
Feeling a little overwhelmed, Sasha tied the thong around her neck. "Thank you, Urthros, I will wear it with the memory of your family."
She started to say something else, but she interrupted herself with a huge yawn. The long day, the hours of physical activity, the past stress, the good dinner, and the warm fire were all conspiring against her. "Again, my thanks," she managed to say, as she curled up into a particularly cozy wolf hide. "For dinner, and for everything." She yawned again, her eyes already drooping. It wouldn't be long before she fell asleep.
2008-05-03, 10:59 AM
Aside from Urthros going out to feed Kei, there is little activity as your eyes grow heavy and you fall asleep. You sleep long and restfully before finding yourself floating-or-walking once again into the rowan grove beside the spring.
The grave is open and in good repair, as it was in your last dream; there is no sign of the newly installed bodies from earlier today. Once again the far wall is open, the entrance to a tunnel disappearing in blackness. But before you can move toward it you spy Umbrofer's silhouette shambling slowly toward you out of the shadows.
"Ah..." he says. "Your Highness." He gives a slight bow. "So it is true that you are alive. You are alive, aren't you?"
2008-05-03, 11:03 AM
Sasha approached the spirit cautiously. "I am alive, Umbrofer." She looked around again, taking in the sight of the new tomb. "But are you? What is this place? Why do you come to me here? What has happened back home?"
((is Sasha aware that she's dreaming?))
2008-05-03, 04:29 PM
((This is what I would call a lucid dream, so yes she is. She could probably even try to wake herself up with a Will Save if she so chose.))
Umbrofer grins a wry grin and plants himself heavily on the floor of the tomb, sitting and looking up at you. "O, my princess, I have not felt alive in many years. I gave myself to the Underworld so very long ago."
He places his ceremonial rod across his lap and folds his hands over it. "But I am still holding on, you see. They haven't gotten rid of old Umbrofer." He laughs, practically a cackle in the closeness of the tomb.
"Well what has happened since you've been gone... Hmmm... How long have you been gone?"
((For the sake of moving things along I'll assume you tell him it's only been a few days.))
"Hmm... there's still time then... good, good. But where are you that you can appear to me? I know you have the talent but I wouldn't expect you so soon... Hmmm... and who is your friend there?"
He points past you, toward the door, but when you look there is no one behind you.
"O, I see, you don't know yet, do you? Ha! Well, soon enough you will have your hands full of them. As full as I have mine. Gods, you are true royalty, aren't you?"
2008-05-04, 09:21 AM
Sasha began to lose patience. Stamping her foot, she said, "Umbrofer, make sense! You're speaking in riddles, and I don't have time for that. What friend do you speak of? I travel only with Marnie, and he is as true a friend as I've had. What will I have my hands full of? Why do you come to me here?"
She gestured around at the cave, and realized she hadn't answered one of his questions. "I am at the Well, in the foothills on the way to Oost. I found a tomb, and symbols on the wall, but not the tunnel you took me down last time. What does it mean? Please, Umbrofer, speak sense to me."
2008-05-04, 01:45 PM
He raises an eyebrow when you ask what you'll have your hands full of. "Why, spirits, your Highness! Souls, and what else would it be? When Tartarus and Erebus open up, who stands at the doors but me?" He shakes his head and harrumphs. "Hmph! And now you, it looks like."
He sighs a heavy sigh. "It has a certain humour, I suppose. Here I am trying to hold together a kingdom, and there you are shepherding about the dead like it was your second nature. Haha, what a pair we've become eh? Where are you anyway?"
When you tell him about the tomb, he grins one more toothy grin. "Ahh, at the Well is it! All the doorways there are so well-locked. And you just open one right up! Well well, a tunnel you seek is it? I can't help you find that - but I can tell you to be careful if you do get into one. There are far more souls looking to come back to your end than there are princesses trying to break through to theirs."
He cackles again. "The Well... O Hades, but where else would she be? Here, let's see if this helps..."
The man flickers out of existence briefly, and then a transparent vision fills the cave. Your half of the tomb is still just a stone chamber, but his half is suddenly a little round study crammed with books and religious artwork, with two small windows letting in a bit of evening sunlight. Umbrofer is now seated on a pillow on the floor, and a censer in front of him emits a thick plume of white smoke.
"Where was I? Ah yes. Your Highness, your people are not faring so well. There is quite a bit of devastation here. If you could see the Bronze Gardens... O, it's shameful. Have you had any luck in securing reinforcements?
2008-05-04, 06:25 PM
Sasha felt guilt in her heart like a lead weight. Here she'd been dickering around all day, when she could have been galloping to Oost. Shame in her voice, she said, "No, Umbrofel, I am still far from Oost. I have lost my dragoons, and have only Marnie. But I will not fail, I will travel as swiftly as I am able, starting first thing tomorrow morning."
She wasn't sure if she wanted to know or not, but she finally dredged up the courage to ask. "My family....do any survive?"
2008-05-04, 07:26 PM
Umbrofel grimaces. "That depends on what you mean by 'survive', your Highness. They set quite a trap for... O!" He jumps up and runs to the door of the phantom study, pressing his ear to its wooden planks before turning back to you. "I... I'll tell you more, but I have to go!" He kicks over the censer and you can see him stamping the hot coals that scatter on the floor. "They're coming, I'm sorry, I have to make my escape while I can. Bring every warrior you can find! And talk to me before they come charging in!"
As the coals of the incense are smothered out, the vision begins to fade. You catch sight of Umbrofer hoisting himself out of the tower window, suddenly quite spry for his age. Then, the tomb recedes into darkness. All you can hear are the chirping of birds. A gentle wind blows on your cheek, and as you turn to the door you feel stiffness in your neck...
* * * * * *
When you open your eyes, the grey light of dawn tints the sky over your head. Birds chirp to greet the sun, and a cool wind blows. Your neck is stiff as you lift yourself from the packed dirt where you rested your head for the night.
Around you is a scene quite different from where you went to bed. About half of the one-room cottage is still there, weathered old logs with little to no daub left between them. Whoever started to build the cottage never finished it, leaving one half with nothing more than a timber frame. A hearth sits against the wall that the cottage shares with the burned-down workshop. The floor is packed earth, not wooden planking. No hares hang from the rafters and only the rusted remains of tools lean against the walls.
You are lying in the same place you fell asleep, and Marnie is sound asleep in the same spot you last saw him. Your horses are tied up where they were last night. But on shelf where Urthros once made his bed, only the scattered bones of a human skeleton are left. A long hunting knife is jabbed in among them--by the handle it's the same knife you saw him using on the fish the day before. There is no sign of Kei.
If you put your hand to your chest, you notice the glass pendant is still with you.
2008-05-04, 07:41 PM
Sasha's heart started racing, pounding in her chest. How much time had passed?! Every story she'd ever heard of humans getting beguiled by fairies or spirits came rushing through her head, and little birds of panic flew wildly in her belly. Don't let it be too late! Oh gods, please, don't let it be too late!
Crawling over to Marnie, she shook him roughly by the shoulder. "Marnie, Marnie! Wake up!" She then cast her eye to the trees above, calling wildly for Ysa, both with her voice, and her mind. The bird had spent the night outside, pray gods he was still with her...
((Is he around?))
2008-05-04, 09:15 PM
Marnie sits up with a jolt and throws his fists in front of his face, coming very near to clocking you before he realises what's going on. "Hi-ah-Alia! What's going on?" He looks around and it's his turn to panic. "What--? Where's Urthros? How did we get here? Is this... is this the same place?"
Ysa flutters down to land on one of the naked roof purlins. He seems unconcerned.
2008-05-04, 10:46 PM
Sasha was already up and running around the ruins. She examined the bones and knife....she definitely recognized the knife. ((Is it thrust in to the body as if it was the cause of death?)) Everything else was old, ruined, gone.
Ysa, sensing her panic, swooped down to land on her shoulder. The hawk nuzzled his head into her neck, sending reassuring thoughts. Slowly, the princess silenced the panic birds.
Turning to Marnie, she said, "This is the same place. But I think....I think it was under some sort of enchantment. Urthros didn't know my mother, he referred to my great grandfather as being king. I think he died, or should have died, long long ago. But he couldn't not with his family in the springs. I think we helped him, helped him find peace." She felt for the necklace, and found it still there.
The physical touch of the piece of glass helped her grow even calmer. That actually made some sense. More sense than a hundred years having passed during the night. Surely Umbrofel wouldn't have allowed that, or at least would have warned her.
Remembering her dream, she said, "Come on, let's get moving. We lost a lot of time yesterday, and Oost is far away. I want to get as far as we can today."
((Sasha will ready the horses and move right along, unless something prevents her. Did we gain an hp overnight?))
2008-05-05, 08:34 AM
((About the knife being the cause of death: it's hard to be certain, as the skeleton is collapsed into a heap of bones, but the knife is unsheathed and stuck into the heap. About hp: yep, you each gain your level in hp, which means you have gained 2 hp.... yes, it's time to level up! Let me know if you have any questions or difficulties with the Gestalt rules. I'll post exact XP soon.))
"But that's impossible!" Marnie exclaims when you explain what you think happened. "I mean... Sorry, La, um Alia." He looks around the place. "This doesn't even make sense. I hate this place. I hate this whole mission!"
He looks sidelong at you and apologises again, then realises you gave him an order. Jumping a little, he goes over to the horses and begins to get everything ready.
From where you are--northeast of the Well, hence east of the road--it should be possible to cut down to the road and save some time, but you don't know the land around here. The other option is to backtrack all the way to the Well and get back on the main road from there. Preference?
2008-05-05, 06:47 PM
As Marnie readied the horses, Sasha said a small prayer over Urthros's body. She wondered if the knife had been the cause of his death, and if he'd been murdered too, or if he'd taken his own life. Either way, he deserved peace now.
When the horses were ready, she moved to Marnie's side. Rather than mount immediately, however, she stood by the squire. "I know this has been hard on you. You've lost Kargrove, and all your other friends, and are stuck here with me, a whiny princess who doesn't know where she's going. But, for what it's worth, I'm really glad you're here with me."
Suddenly embarrassed, she turned and scrambled on to her horse. Scouting quickly around, she decided that they could save time by cutting diagonally through the woods towards the road. It should be easy enough to do so without getting lost. As extra insurance, she sent Ysa up to scout overhead. Hopefully the hawk would notice if they began to wander astray.
((Woohoo! New levels! :smallbiggrin: I don't have time to level up immediately, but I'll look into it and if I have any questions, I'll ask. ))
2008-05-05, 07:33 PM
Between occasional breaks in the trees and the guiding cry of Ysa, you find the highway again without much difficulty. In less than an hour you clamber onto the mountain track and continue your way north.
Marnie is silent for much of the morning. Eventually, on one of the downhill stretches when the horses are trotting easily, he pulls up beside you with a bashful look on his face.
"I--I'm sorry about before," he stammers. "I didn't mean I don't like being around you. I don't think you're whiny at all." He sighs. "And I didn't even like the other dragoons. I just wanted to be a big chariot-warrior when I was little, like Achilles, and my uncle worked as an outfitter for the guards, so, you know." Another sigh. "I didn't even know they don't use chariots anymore. Not for battle."
He passes another moment or two in silence and goes on. "Kargrove was nice to me, I mean for a boss, but you're just nice. Like actually nice. You don't act like a--well, I mean, you don't give a lot of orders."
2008-05-05, 09:43 PM
A giggle escaped Sasha before she could hide it. Marnie looked at her askance, and she explained, "My little brother, Bram, would disagree. Though, I guess I was pretty bossy to him. That's what little brothers are for, after all." She thought about Bram, only fourteen, acting as squire to Garren. Both her brothers, probably both dead. Or maybe not...Umbrofel had started to tell her something before he'd had to run away.
"I had another dream," she said, turning back to Marnie. "Umbrofel again, but this time I had more control. I talked to him." She told Marnie as much as she could remember. "He told me to talk to him before we come charging in, but I don't know how. I think I could only talk to him because I was near the Well. But I guess I'll try again tonight." She so badly wanted to know how her family was.
Remembering her resolution from the day before, she asked Marnie, "What about your family? What do your parents do? Do you have any siblings? Who's you're uncle? If you don't like being a dragoon, maybe when we get back you can become a charioteer. You could win races in the hippodrome, be famous."
((she'll try to learn as much about Marnie as she can. After, she'll ask the following))
"You mentioned Nevan the other day, as somebody you suspected of tampering with the armour. Why did you say that? What do you know about him? Do you really think he'd want to poison the dragoons?"
2008-05-06, 01:07 PM
Marnie tells you more about his family. He grew up on the outskirts of Allonum with his mother, his father and his younger sister Rhonica. He once had a younger brother as well (in between him and Rhoni) but he had passed away when Marnie was only four. He says he doesn't remember much about the brother, and he doesn't mention a name.
His father was a farmer but didn't own his own land. He worked for a local landlord, a petty aristocrat, farming the rented land until he injured his leg bringing in hay. At that point his father became a woodworker, since it only requires the use of hands, and he became quite well-known for his carvings. After selling a few tables and chests to nobles the family moved into Allonum proper, which was where Marnie spent his early adolescence. When his uncle became an outfitter for the royal guard, his mom asked him if he was serious about being a fighting man. "She didn't usually want to talk about it, so I knew something was up," he explains. Shortly after, she arranged for him to become a squire.
Marnie's reminiscing is daubed with frequent anecdotes about Commander Kargrove. It seems like working for her was the only thing on his mind for a couple of years, so he doesn't have much else to talk about. "She was teaching me how to read, too," he tells you at one point. "But that prayer book is a pain in the ass."
When you ask about Nevan he replies with a frown and a shrug. "That Nevan is such an old... wait, you know Nevan?" He looks thoughtful for a minute. "I don't know. I mean, he's just always so shifty. He never looks you in the eye except when he's got something cross to say. And I think he just pretends to be drunk. It's like he's always watching everybody. I wouldn't put it past him to... to do that."
2008-05-07, 06:15 PM
Frowning, Sasha said, "I just hate to think of anybody in Allonum betraying us. I don't know Nevan well, but I met him a few times. His nephew, Finn, works in the royal stables, and I used to play with him." It wasn't a lie; although she and Finn had been sort of apprenticed to Nevan, she never felt that she got to know him. The more she thought about the possibility of him betraying Kargrove and the other dragoons, the less she liked it.
Well, there was no way to know for sure, so it was better not to dwell on it. Changing the subject, she said, "I can continue to teach you to read, if you want. I don't have a prayerbook, but I'm sure we can figure something out. Maybe in the evenings, after we've camped."
((I'm not sure how far to go with this. I assume we'll keep riding north until something happens, or until night falls. Sasha will want to push on as long as possible today, but will want to be camped by full dark.))
2008-05-08, 09:31 AM
"Actually it's in my saddlebag," Marnie says when you mention your dearth of prayerbooks. (There was such a book listed with the gear you recovered with the horses.) "I don't want to be disrespectful, but those hymns don't make much sense even when I read 'em right. I like it better when you tell me the myths."
Conversation wans as the day wears on. You are deep in the mountains now, and the path is treacherous at times from loose stones, fallen trees or mud. Luckily, nothing you can't handle, but it does slow your progress. By late afternoon you figure you are practically in Oost territory, and should reach their side of the mountains in two days' ride at the most.
About the time you think you should start looking for a campsite, the trail crests and you get a breathtaking view of a wooded valley below you. More intriguing are the two structures you see: to your right, a bit higher up the mountain slope from where you are now, a stone house with slate slate roof overlooks the valley. It's too small to be called a manor house, but too big for most peasants. It's probably less than a mile away through the spruce forest.
On the far side of the valley, also overlooking the whole scene, is a smaller but more purposeful structure: a single round tower keeping watch over its surroundings. The tower is tall, but narrow: probably just wide enough for a person to climb a ladder to the top. If the road continues on straight, it'll run right past the base of the tower, but it's hard to judge how long it would take to get there with all the climbing.
There are about two hours left till sunset, so there is a chance you could make it if you chose to go that way.
2008-05-09, 04:22 PM
Sasha sat still on her horse, staring back and forth between the stone house and the watchtower. Her instinct was to stay away from both, but she realized that was just paranoia. After all, her mission was to get help, and that wasn't to be had by hiding. On the other hand, she wasn't in Oost territory yet, and her people couldn't afford for her to lose any more time. On the other hand, she needed information, and these people were practically neighbours of the Oost. On the other hand.....that was already too many hands.
Marnie cleared his throat, and she saw him looking at her with concern. Making her decision, she said, "Let's try the house first. Hopefully they can tell us something about the Oost. We're going in blind here, and I need information."
Her decision made, she still didn't move. Biting her lip, she wondered if she was making a mistake. What if the people weren't friendly? Well, no help for it. All she could do was be as careful as possible. And speaking of...
Remembering her experimentations, she recalled a spell she'd discovered that would protect her. Closing her eyes, she concentrated and said the magic words. ((casting mage armour))
Thus protected, she and Marnie turned their horses and moved towards the stone house.
2008-05-10, 01:32 PM
It doesn't take long to stumble upon a disused trail leading uphill through the spruce woods to the house. The ground here is sandier than most places, but solid bedrock still breaks through here and there. The trail actually circles up away from the valley a bit, then cuts back to approach the house from the east.
As the woods thin out you see the very curious home in front of you. The building is large, but somehow quaint; the size of it is the first thing to be noticed. It almost seems to have been built for a child's diminutive size. Most of the doors are barely as tall as a man's midsection. The windows are even smaller, what windows there are--most are high up as if the place is meant to be defended. Still, it is built for beauty, with masterfully crafted trim and beautified stone walls. The grounds surrounding the home are however overgrown with tall grass and weeds, toadstools and moss and other unpleasantness.
A five-foot stone wall surrounds the overgrown gardens in most places, but the gate facing you is open and creaking a bit in the wind. You can make out a heavy wooden door into the house proper, which is closed and perhaps locked. You see no one as you approach. As you are currently still in the last edge of the woods, it is likely no one can see you yet either.
2008-05-11, 04:30 PM
"Damn," Sasha muttered, staring at the most-likely-deserted house. She didn't think she'd be getting any answers or help here. Still, they'd ridden out of their way, and it would only take a few minutes to determine if there was anybody home.
She slid from the horse's saddle and began walking towards the house. When she got to the stone wall, she took another good look around.
((assuming she doesn't see anything))
At the front door, she passed the reigns to Marnie, and approached the door. Knocking hard upon it, she called out, "Hello? Anybody home?"
2008-05-16, 10:27 PM
As you cross the garden to approach the door, Marnie gives a shout.
"Alia! Look out!"
No sooner does he speak than you see something rustling out of the overgrown thicket to your left. It seems to be a giant shambling mushroom - something you've never seen before, certainly not in the cultured gardens of Allonum.
There is no doubt that it is heading for you, and it doesn't seem friendly.
I am assuming that your weapon is at your side but not drawn. You can see a map of the grounds here (http://img206.imageshack.us/my.php?image=smallmansionoutsidens0.jpg) (I apologise for the lack of grid). You are blue, Marnie is green, mushroom is purple, two of the horses show as brown ovals beside Marnie.
Feel free to post two rounds of actions at once, with any if-then contingencies you want. I'll run Marnie's actions in a reasonably intelligent manner but feel free to yell any commands at him you want. My internet presence will be spotty this weekend but hopefully by Sunday evening I'll be regular again.
Sorry again for the long delay but let's get this show on the road!
2008-05-17, 09:29 AM
"Woah!" Sasha shouted as she automatically stumbled back a few steps. She wasn't much of a botanist, but she was pretty sure that any plant that could move around was bad news.
((turn 1 - If the creature is far enough way not to invoke an AoO...))
Knowing that she'd likely have only one chance to cast a spell before the thing closed with her, Sasha cast the one spell she'd had plenty of practice with lately. The tiny missile of magical energy flew from her fingertips and struck the mushroom in mid-cap. It shivered, as if with pain, as a small hole smoked in it's purple skin. It didn't stop coming, however.
((turn 1 - If already engaged in melee, or turn 2 if turn one was casting the missile))
Horrified, Sasha fumbled at her belt for her rapier, finally drawing it. Hoping that her training wouldn't desert her, she slashed at the strange fungus, hoping that it was as fragile as its smaller edible cousins.
((if it hits))
The rapier slashed diagonally down through the soft meat of the mushroom. A cloud of spoors swirled up, nearly choking Sasha, and she moved backwards, away from the beast. ((5 foot step back up the path))
((turn 2 if first turn was attack with rapier))
The monster didn't stop coming, so Sasha swung again. A (second) cut opened up on the beast, and it shivered violently. Please, die, you horrible fungus!
((I think I've covered all my bases here. As this is her first real battle, she's forgotten she has any help, so I'll leave Marnie and Ysa to you. Don't forget she cast mage armour, so her AC is 19.))
2008-05-21, 02:37 PM
Sorry again for my delayed posting lately. I know it's a pain in the middle of combat. I'll try to be more regular nowe.
The mushroom seems undaunted by your attacks, although your magic missile certainly left a noticeable hole punched through its mushroom cap, with dust and spores leaking out of it. Its movements are strange, almost as if it is drunk or doesn't know how to walk properly, but it does manage to adeptly dodge your rapier thrusts.
Even as you ran in to close with your rapier Marnie was stringing his shortbow and when he sees you in close combat with the thing he gives another shout. He circles in along the garden wall, trying to get a clear shot at the thing without endangering you. He gets his chance, but misses by a hair.
No sooner do you see the arrow fly past then the mushroom surges forward for a bite, leaving your arm a bit bloody and more than a bit tingly...
2008-05-21, 02:41 PM
2008-05-21, 04:52 PM
Realizing that the creature was too adept for her meager sword skills, Sasha decided that magic was a better offense. However, if she tried to cast, it might bite her again. She needed to get out of range.
Throwing herself backwards into a roll, Sasha hoped that she could get out of range of the creature. She rolled backwards as far as she could, then sprang back to her feet. Feeling a little dizzy, she nevertheless cast a second missile at the fungus.
((I didn't take off any skill points for my con/str damage, as I don't think it will affect any of the above rolls. If I'm wrong, adjust rolls as necessary))
2008-05-22, 08:29 AM
((Yeah, you're fine. Tumble comes off of Dex. Concentration does come off of Con, but since you tumbled out of the way before casting you don't need the concentration check.))
Your second magic missile and another of Marnie's arrows hit home together. The mushroom staggers a bit toward you, then spins in place and moves about 20' away as it runs toward the dense shrubbery to the south. Its cap is in tatters as it goes, and its body droops. It appears to be retreating.
2008-05-22, 11:56 PM
Panting hard, Sasha retreated backwards as well until she was standing with Marnie. When she was sure the killer mushroom was gone, she sheathed her rapier and quickly checked herself over. She didn't appear to be badly wounded, but her arm was feeling tingly and sore. In fact, she didn't feel at all well.
"That thing bit me!" she turned to Marnie, unbelieving. "A walking mushroom! It attacked me and bit me! How in Hades does a mushroom bite?" Shaking her head, she mopped at the bite wound, which had already stopped bleeding.
Looking back at the house, she said, "Okay, that was a bad idea. If whoever lives here keeps killer mushrooms in their yard, then I don't want to meet whatever they keep inside. I'm not going to do Isneck any good if I end up fertilizer. What do you think, do we have time to try the watchtower before it gets dark?"
Marnie looked back up the trail, but as he opened his mouth to answer, Sasha interrupted him. "By the way, that was a great shot. Thanks."
2008-05-23, 09:00 AM
"I--uh, oh, thanks!" Marnie seems pleased with the complement. "I don't know about getting to that tower... we'd arrive after dark, and what if it has mushrooms too?"
Just as he speaks, a rattling from a top window of the large round part of the house draws your attention. You look up just in time to see a figure hastily duck out of sight. It was hard to make out who or what the figure was, but it either had reddish-blonde hair or was wearing an unusually bright hood.
2008-05-23, 08:11 PM
Sighing, Sasha muttered, "Why can nothing ever be easy?"
She scanned the bushes again, looking for the injured mushroom, but didn't see anything. Turning back to Marnie, she said, "I think you're right, the watchtower is too far. Let's try the front door here, and see what kind of welcome we get. But let's be extremely on our guard."
The squire nodded, and Sasha walked carefully back towards the door. ((Assuming she gets there okay this time....))
Knocking loudly on the door, she called out, "Hello?"
2008-05-27, 09:04 AM
Your knocks resound on the hardwood panels of the small-but-impressive door. No one answers. ((And no, no mushrooms appear this time.))
2008-05-27, 04:33 PM
((Sasha will try the door. Is it unlocked? If so, she'll enter, if not, she'll pick it.))
2008-05-28, 09:02 AM
The door is unlocked and opens easily. There is a small foyer and an internal door, which I'll assume for the sake of moving along that you also open.
As you peer through, you see a terrific round hall awaiting you. ((65' diameter, Map will be posted tonight.)) This large circular area is apparently used for receiving guests in comfort and style. With opulent couches and chairs that are overstuffed, the room could comfortably seat up to 15... children. People your size would find the accomodations awkward and rather cramped. For the most part, the floor is kept clear of obstructions other than the furniture, but the walls are covered with shelves holding all manner of objects of art and antiquity.
The ceiling is tall and light filtres down from a number of high-up windows. Several other doors come off of the room besides the one you are in. Marnie follows you at a cautious distance, bow still in hand and horses tied up at the garden gate-post.
Edit: A figure clings to the rafters two stories above you. It seems to be hiding in a shadowy part of the ceiling on purpose. It's no bigger than a toddler.
2008-05-28, 06:05 PM
Sasha's hand strayed to the hilt of her rapier, but she didn't draw it. Turning to Marnie, she said, "Isn't this a beautiful house? I hope that the people who live here don't mind us trespassing. It's just so late already, and I'm afraid if we camp, we might be attacked by more of those horrible mushrooms."
As she spoke, she gestured up with her eyes while keeping her right hand palm-down in a gesture of peace. Hopefully, he would understand that she didn't want the watcher to know that he had been seen.
((Do I need to role bluff to make Marnie understand this? Just in case, [roll0]
Moving a little further into the room, she examined a few artifacts on the walls. "Look at this, isn't it beautiful? This room is decorated so beautifully. Surely whoever keeps such a nice house would be friendly to tired travellers, don't you think?"
((As she speaks, she'll keep a discreet eye above. Does it do anything, or respond in any way?))
2008-05-29, 09:06 AM
Marnie stares for a second, then grins and nods. He opens his mouth like he is going to try to play along with the conversation, then thinks the better of it and simply gives you a "Yep!" and a "Yeah, I bet they are."
The thing on the ceiling moves slowly forward, crawling along the rafter in a manner that tips you off it is not a human of any size. It seems to be moving to get a better look at you, or through the doorway at Marnie; it doesn't draw any weapons or give any sign of hostility.
It passes through a patch of sunshine just as you glance discreetly up at it, and you see that it is covered in bright coppery scales.
2008-05-29, 08:21 PM
Frowning, Sasha tightened her grip on the hilt of her weapon. Though the creature hadn't threatened them in any way, she was more than a little wary. Still, drawing her weapon would probably be a mistake.
Deciding to go with her previous pretense, she said to Marnie, "Why don't you come in with me. I'm going to see if there's a kitchen. I'm sure the people who live here won't mind sharing, especially if we pay for what we take."
As Marnie entered she turned so that he could see her hand on her rapier. She didn't want him to do anything yet, but she wanted him to be prepared. When he nodded slightly to show he understood, she turned to the door immediately to the right of the door she'd come in from. "Perhaps this is a kitchen or pantry," she said, opening the door.
2008-05-29, 09:16 PM
((I assume you mean the northeast door?))
"No wait!" A small voice calls in clear Common as you reach for the door handle. It clearly comes from above. If you look up, you see the figure is now learning well over the rafter to speak to you.
It is a dragon.
It doesn't fit perfectly, but from all the stories and artwork you recognise it right away once you see it clearly. Except... it's so small. The thing is hardly bigger than Kei is. Was.
It stares at you with bright eyes and a curious look, but says nothing else.
2008-05-30, 04:54 PM
((Yep, northeast door))
Hardly daring to move, Sasha stared at the dragon for almost a minute, her mind racing. Copper scales. Didn't that mean they were evil? But he didn't seem evil. He seemed to want to help them. And he as only a baby. Or was he? She? It? Was it maybe a dwarf dragon? Or shrunk with a spell. Or...
Her thoughts raced, but she was able to come to no coherent or helpful conclusion. Finally, her court training took over. When in doubt, act politely and with decorum at all times, but be ready for treachery.
Smiling uncertainly at the dragon, Sasha said, "I'm sorry, should we not go in there? We didn't mean to trespass in your house. My name is Alia, and this is my brother, Marnie." She gestured to Marnie, but didn't take her eyes off the dragon. Just in case.
2008-06-02, 10:35 AM
"Hmmm..." the dragon regards you with bright, inquisitive eyes. He crawls farther along the beam and cranes forward to look back and forth between the two of you.
"It's not my house. I'm just staying here. You can go wherever you want, though. We don't know where the owner is."
2008-06-02, 04:46 PM
((did something funky happen to the above posts? In my email, I got a post about the dragon talking to me and telling me to wait, but I don't see it in this thread. Did that not actually happen?))
2008-06-03, 08:59 AM
((Haha, I was wondering if you'd notice. No, it did actually happen - but then got deleted in an editing mistake. By the time I went back it was too late to get the original text back. If you want to email or PM it to me I'll edit it back in - I didn't even think of email subscription!))
2008-06-04, 04:48 PM
Sasha was beyond confused. What in the name of the gods was this dragon playing at? Why had it told them to wait, then changed its mind? Was there something dangerous in the room, and it had decided to lead them to it? Or was it simply confused?
Stalling for time, Sasha said, "You don't know where the owner is? Do you know the owner? Who is "we"? Do you have friends or family staying here with you?" The last thing she wanted to do was run into this dragon's older, angrier brother!
2008-06-05, 09:13 AM
"Do you have friends or family staying here with you?" the dragon mimicks before plunging off of the rafter. Opening his wings mid-fall he gives a powerful flap and flies over your head only to slam into a tall bookcase. Books shake, vases wobble and a fancy candlestick falls right off the shelf. The dragon recovers quickly and catches the candlestick with his tail, regarding Marnie with bright eyes from his perch on the shelf. "I don't see the resemblance," he complains.
He turns back to you. "The owner is dead, or on holiday. We haven't figured out which yet, but I think he's dead. Who would leave such a nice place?" He blinks as if suddenly remembering something. "Say, did you kill that little mushroom fellow out there?"
He plays with the candlestick as he speaks, rolling it up and down his back like a rolling pin on particularly tough dough.
2008-06-05, 03:29 PM
Frowning, Sasha simply said, "No." She didn't trust the dragon, not a bit. Motioning to Marnie, she said, "Come on, let's see if we can find the kitchen." She didn't really care too much about the kitchen, but she'd started with that pretense, and she didn't want to give it up needlessly.
Standing before the large doors, she listened intently, hoping there weren't more tiny dragons inside. ((Assuming she hears nothing...)) Gripping her rapier, she opened the doors.
2008-06-05, 05:19 PM
You hear nothing, and when you open the door you find it opens into a small library or study. The ceiling is tall here, though not nearly as tall as the reception hall behind you. The room is about fifteen by twentyfive feet, with shelves lining the walls for the proper storage of moderate-sized antiques and artifacts. Books are interspersed throughout. The only gap in the shelves is for the tall, narrow window opposite the door, more an arrow slit than anything.
The shelves are tall enough that a ladder is required to reach the top, and one conveniently rests against the right-hand side shelf. It looks heavy, made of solid mahogany and buffed to a high polish. Small wheels on the bottom allow it to be moved as needed.
Other than the ladder, the only furnishings are heavy rugs on the floor, a painting of a nobleman on the wall high above the shelves, and a single over-stuffed chair.
As Marnie edges up to you to look into the room over your shoulder, he whispers to you, barely audible at all: "I think that's a dragon!"
2008-06-06, 05:20 PM
"I know," Sasha mouthed back. She wanted to say more, but was pretty sure that dragons had excellent hearing, and she didn't want him listening in.
The study looked interesting, but she didn't want to snoop around unnecessarily. Backing out of the room, she asked the dragon, "Is that guy in the painting the owner?" She wasn't sure of getting a straight answer, but it didn't hurt to ask.
She moved to the north door. If she remembered the outside of the building correctly, this would be a door leading outside. She opened the door and peeked in. Just another vestibule. ((If that's wrong I'll ammend it)) Closing the door behind her, she moved to the west door. As she walked, she asked the dragon, in what she hoped was a casual voice, "So, how long have you been staying here?"
At the west door she listened again, and then opened the door.
2008-06-06, 06:36 PM
The dragon seems almost disappointed as you close the door to the library. "I don't know," he admits. "It could be though."
The northern doors are indeed another exit out, and the western doors lead to a sort of antique storage room. This one has no bookshelves, just a number of large urns, a small table, a rolltop desk, an upholstered chair with dust cloth over it, and two more windows. The room is slightly larger than the other one, about 25x30', but the ceiling is much lower at just over six feet. Heavy velvet drapes cover the two windows.
"Well, about a month for me," says the dragon in answer to your other question. "Hmm... No, maybe more like two months. It's hard to tell, I just work all the time. Work, work, work. That's all I'm good for. Don't disturb those boxes!"
In the corner of the western storage room, you see a heap of jewellery boxes, most of them wooden and some with ivory inlay. They don't look particularly well organised, but the dragon admonishes you: "I've been cataloguing those for weeks."
2008-06-07, 08:47 PM
"Cataloging them, really?" Sasha couldn't tell if he was pulling her leg. "Whyever for?" She looked closer, appraising the value of the boxes and any contents she could see. [roll0] "Have you found anything interesting?" She knew she shouldn't be meddling, but her curiosity, and her love of jewelry, had been peaked.
Quite unexpectedly, she heard her older brother's voice in her head. As a child, she'd loved when he'd tell her and Bram stories, and they often contained dragons. Invariably, the moral of the story would be, "Meddle not in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with gravy." She heard Garren now, as clearly as if he stood beside her, and she couldn't help the giggle that escaped her.
The dragon and Marnie both looked at her askance, and she straightened her face. Despite the size of this diminutive dragon, it was still good advice. She was letting her guard down, and that was dangerous.
Closing the door to the study, she turned to the last, south door. Again she listened, and hearing nothing, opened it.
2008-06-09, 09:35 PM
Invariably, the moral of the story would be, "Meddle not in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with gravy."
You just earned bonus XP.
You can tell right away that the boxes vary greatly in value. Many are simple wooden boxes that could be as easily used to hold herbs, incense, or a child's trinkets as jewellery. Others are obviously made of rare scented woods, with inlay of mother-of-pearl, ivory or lapis.
When you express your scepticism of his logistical prowess, the little dragon begins to rant. "Yes, as a matter of fact I have been, and I'll have you know I'm doing a fine job. Do you see the little one on the left side? That's the smallest one of them all. I don't even know why they bothered to make one that small. You can't put anything useful into it, so I put beetles in it. Anyway they're organised in order of size, if you couldn't tell."
The dragon sputters. "Why-- why? Whyforever for not to for? If you left them all around on shelves then you'll never find anything! And how could I show them to people if they're not in order? And what if I wanted to sell them? What kind of merchant would I be if I made my customers root around in a big heap for the perfect box? Hmm?" The dragon has a gloating look like he has truly one-upped you.
"Have you found anything interesting?"
Immediately, he looks crestfallen. "Well... no, not per se. I did find a lot of rouge in one, which looked silly on me, but it tastes good. Tasted good. But I haven't opened them all yet! Somewhere in there is probably a fine treasure. The way this place is stocked up on antiques, there has to be something of value somewhere. And I'll find it!"
When you giggle, he frowns at you. "See if I share!"
You hear nothing at the south door, and the dragon remains in the big round room when you open the door. Before you is a small, long room lined with china cabinets and shelves. Another door leads further south, and a smaller pantry door is set into the corner.
((I'll just give you the whole map now. Ignore the roof sections that show in the south room.))
By Another_Poet (http://profile.imageshack.us/user/Another_Poet)
2008-06-11, 12:09 PM
Sasha rolled her eyes at seeing yet another room full of brik-a-brak. "My aunt Millie would love this place," she said. Truth be told, she would actually enjoy exploring around a little to see what treasures this place might have, but the dragon was still unsettling her. The dragon had said "we", but had avoided her question about who was with him. She needed to know who or what else might be here before she could relax and look around. Was his companion the person with the red hair or hood she'd seen in the window?
She tried to remember the layout of the house from the outside. The window she'd seen the figure in...had it been in that main room, or above it? Had it just been the dragon she'd seen? He was reddish. The look had been so brief...
Poking her head into the pantry, she had a quick look around, then moved to the south doors.
2008-06-14, 03:15 PM
The windows you saw the redhead through were high up over the reception hall, with no ledges or staircases leading to them. If it wasn't the dragon it was someone flying or doing a fine job of climbing.
In the pantry you find what you would expect to find - sacks of flour and tins of supplies - but much of it has been tipped over and ransacked. More than a few dried currants cover the floor along with semolina and unbroken but scattered jars of honey.
A wine rack stands to the left, but it is empty.
When you move to the south doors you finally hear something on the other side: fiddling. As you listen, you find the music to be entrancing. You feel a bit lightheaded, as if you are floating, and your body wants nothing more than to dance. Make a will save!
2008-06-14, 08:19 PM
A dreamy smile came over Sasha's face as her feet began to tap. No! Concentrate! She didn't know what was happening, but it couldn't be good.
2008-06-15, 11:52 AM
You feel almost as if you are outside of your body, watching it dance from afar rather than feeling it firsthand. Marnie, at the other end of the room near the door to the reception hall, looks at you quizzically. "Alia?" he asks, and with a worried expression begins to walk toward you.
((The dragon is still in the next room and hasn't yet looked around the doorway to see what is going on.))
2008-06-23, 03:18 PM
Startled, Sasha watched/felt herself dance to the enchanting music. Her body seemed to be beyond her control, but at least her mind and mouth were still working. "Marnie, don't come any closer!" She gave the command as softly as she could, so as not to alert whoever was playing the music. Marnie, used to obeying orders, stopped instantly.
The music really was lovely. Part of Sasha just wanted to go with it, to forget her cares for a while, to just dance. Fortunately, that part wasn't in control. "There's some sort of music, it's an enchantment of some sort. I can't stop dancing. Can you get me out of here? Maybe with your rope, or if you plug your ears or something?"
2008-06-24, 09:51 AM
Marnie looks about, eyeing the door to the reception hall nervously - perhaps the dragon is still watching. But he takes a deep breath, plug both of his ears with his fingers and starts to faintly hum as he dashes toward you.
His effort to rescue you would probably make a great comedy - with his hands at his ears his only option is to use his elbows and torso to try to bump you away from the closed door. But he can't forget his manners, and takes great care not to touch your hips or push against you too rudely.
So, with a lot of chest-thrusting and elbow-goading on his part, and a lot of stumbling and twirling on your part, the two of you make your way along the narrow room. As the violin music fades from your ear, you feel yourself settle back into your body and your feet become your own again. It's still so tempting to dance, with the memory of that magical song in your head... but now, at least, you can control it.
If you glance back into the reception hall it will take a moment to spot the dragon. He is curled up on one of the rafters, his tail tucked neatly into his mouth and his eyes closed. He appears to have gone to sleep.
By this time, you can see through the windows that it is practically dark out.
2008-06-30, 09:49 PM
"Gah!" Sasha grunted softly, trying to shake the last of the dance-urge from her limbs. Forcing a smile to her face, she turned to Marnie and said, "Thanks, you were great. As always."
Turning back to check on the dragon, who now seemed asleep, Sasha said, softly but with some feeling, "I HATE this place! Dragons, music, mushrooms....all I want is a safe place to sleep and a hot meal. Not necessarily in that order."
Her words triggered the realization that they hadn't found a bedroom yet, nor a kitchen, and they were running out of house. What kind of home had a pantry and no kitchen?
Well, one thing was certain, she wasn't going to stay in a house if she didn't know everything that was going on, and it wasn't safe for them outside either. Turning back to Marnie, she said, "okay, we're going to plug our ears up, hum, and we're going in ready for anything. Got it?"
They pulled some bits of cloth from a tear in her cloak and stuffed them in their ears. Drawing her sword, she began to make her way back to the big doors. Remembering what Marnie did, she began to hum, an old lullabye her mother had sung to her as a child. Feeling as ready as she ever would, she opened the doors.
2008-07-01, 09:17 AM
The dragon does not respond to your pointed comment.
When you go through the doors you find the missing dining room. The table is easily thirty feet long and made of solid hardwood. Fine china with gold edging is set at each place around the table, and stout chairs with high wooden backs and carved arms surround the table. By the size of the chairs and the place-settings, this room too is meant for very small people. But even for very small people it would be hard to manoeuvre around; it seems there are almost twice as many places set as could comfortably fit around the table. For you and Marnie it's downright awkward.
Amidst the crystal gasses, fine plates and tall (unlit) candles is a most unusual sight: a lizard the size of an average dog has planted himself on the table, his forked tongue flickering out of his mouth. More unusual still is the little man beside him, a figure hardly more than one foot tall, dressed in browns and greens and playing a fiddle for all he's worth. The lizard is just as enchanted by the fiddle as you were, and picks up one of his four feet at a time to wave it in the air briefly before plopping it back down. His tail and head sway to the rhythm and his eyes have a faraway look (even more faraway than a normal lizard's eyes!).
When the little man hears the doors fly open he turns to look at you. As soon as he sees you his eyes widen and his fiddling waivers. As he realises his music has no affect on you he lowers the instrument with a scowl. The lizard seems lethargic as the music stops.
((This is the long east-west running room in the south end of the house. Treat all squares as squeezed, i.e. -4 to AC and -4 to atk.
You get a surprise round, so one move OR standard action before these guys do anything. Speaking is, as always, a free action.))
2008-07-01, 10:39 PM
Sasha didn't have time to be as stunned as she felt. The scene before her was unreal, but that didn't mean it wasn't dangerous. He looked harmless, but the tiny person's music had enchanted her, and being enchanted was rarely friendly. However, she didn't want to injure or harm somebody that might turn out to be friendly.
Her first instinct was to simply grab and immobilize him, but there was no way she'd be able to get to him before he had a chance to react. If she cast a spell at him, she could really hurt him, or really anger him; neither option was good. She considered trying to throw her cloak at him, but knew that was likely to end in embarrassment.
Well, as Garren used to say, When in doubt, talk. Not quite pointing her dagger at him, she put on her best in-charge face and demanded, "Who are you? By what right do you go about enchanting folk? Explain yourself!"
2008-07-02, 09:44 AM
The little man throws his head back and laughs outrageously. With your ears stuffed up you can't hear it, but you can see it. He mutters something at you and draws a miniature sword from his side, leveling the point toward you in a low fencing stance. He seems to be almost gleeful as he stares you down.
The lizard picks up one of its feet once more, as if it wants to continue dancing, but then sets it back down. Its head turns toward you with large, emotionless eyes and its tongue flickers out again.
2008-07-03, 06:30 PM
Sasha was quickly losing whatever patience she had left. "Oh, for goodness sake," she muttered, pulling out one earplug with her free hand. Hopefully, as he was no longer fiddling, it would be safe. "Listen, little one, I have no desire to fight you, but I will if I have to. Now, tell us, who are you and what are you doing here?"
2008-07-08, 09:13 AM
"Little one? Little one? Ha!" The miniature man leaps aboard the lizard and takes off at a gallop, knocking china and candlesticks left and right. Rather than a direct charge, though, the lizard breaks left, turning aay from you - and begins to spark.
Within seconds, the entire room is filled with arcs of electricity that rattle both you and Marnie to your bones.
[roll0] ((You made it))
Over his shoulder the little man cries, "That ought to teach you some manners!" and lets out a tremendous laugh.
2008-07-09, 03:40 PM
"That HURT!" Sasha cried. Gone were thoughts of actions and consequences, gone was impatience and frustration. The princess acted in wounded fury, and she reacted instinctually. The words were out of her mouth in a heartbeat, the small missile of magical energy swooping unerringly towards the tiny fiddler.
2008-07-10, 08:55 AM
Marnie follows your cue and nocks an arrow, only to hold fire as you both watch the tiny man tumble off his lizard and sprawl on the floor perfectly still. The lizard itself keeps running for a second before realising something is wrong. It turns and strolls back to the fallen man and licks the air near him. Peering closer, the lizard picks up one front foot and then the other, dancing for a second as it had earlier. It pauses and waits for a reaction. When its master doesn't move, it tries dancing a second time, faster than before.
When it gets no response its head snaps up toward you and Marnie, letting out a soft hiss.
2008-07-10, 04:40 PM
If the little man hadn't just electrocuted them, Sasha might have felt bad for knocking him off his lizard. She certainly wasn't convinced that she'd hurt him, much less killed him. Wary for tricks, Sasha moved cautiously forward, weaving through the tightly packed furniture. As she moved, she said, "Keep that arrow ready, Marnie. If he makes any sudden moves, shoot him."
Arriving at the little man's side, she watched from a safe distance, to see if he was breathing.
((if he still appears to be unconscious, she'll carefully squat down beside him, and check for a pulse. If the lizard becomes aggressive, she'll back away and leave him.))
2008-07-21, 01:18 PM
The man doesn't move at all as you approach, but the lizard lets out a sort of... growl? before you can check for a pulse, and you hasten back a few steps. The lizard holds its ground but doesn't attack.
((That was worth the two-week wait, right? Sorry, first I was away and then the forums were down.))
2008-07-21, 05:48 PM
Holding her hands out in an unthreatening manner, Sasha moved a bit closer to the lizard. It was unnaturally big, and Sasha was sure it had a nasty bite. "Look, I'm just trying to help. Your friend is hurt. So back off, okay?"
((If the lizard lets her approach, she'll check for a pulse. If not, she'll try to use a chair to herd it back a bit. If there's no way she can get past it to the man, hmmm.....I guess she'll have to leave him alone.
I'm moving out of my summer job tomorrow, and then I'll be camping for two weeks. So I won't be posting again until probably about the 7th of August, earlier if the sites have wifi.))
2008-07-21, 08:19 PM
((Well, I definitely can't complain about camping. I'll be doing a bit myself in about 2 weeks. I'll be back before you though, it looks like. Have fun!))
The lizard evaluates you warily, nudging his fallen master a few times. Finally he turns tale and runs out of the dining room to the west, sending a faint burst of electricity out behind him to cover his retreat.
Marnie lowers his bow only a few inches, but he seems relieved and shocked at the same time. He shakes his head, opens his mouth to speak, then closes it and just shakes his head again.
If you check the little man on the ground, you find that he still has a pulse. He stays still as you approach him and seems to be truly unconscious.
2008-08-04, 09:53 AM
Shaking her head wearily, Sasha moved some of the furniture aside so that she could kneel beside the little man. Not sure if he was a threat, she decided to treat him with caution. However, she also wanted answers out of him, so she would have to wake him up.
"Marnie, I'm going to see if I can help him. You be ready in case he makes trouble."
She then looked to the little man's wounds, and did what she could to help him.
2008-08-04, 11:06 AM
You aren't able to rouse him but he doesn't seem to be dying from his wound.
((He rolled his 10% chance of stabilising and made it the second round))
2008-08-05, 12:08 AM
Wiping hair from her eyes, Sasha stood, cracking her back as she did so. The little man appeared to be out for the count, and there was nothing else she could do for him. Turning to Marnie, she asked him to keep an eye on the small deceiver. She then turned her attention to the rest of the room, to see if there was anything else to be discovered. Like, perhaps, where food was kept and prepared. Her stomach growled in agreement.
((will look around some more. my computer is being disagreeable and won't let me look at the map, but if there are any more doors, she'll listen and then check them out.))
2008-08-08, 08:41 AM
At the west end of the dining room, through a fairly wide door, you find the kitchen (the area with the well, if you can see the map again). The lozard that ran off is clinging to the wall about eight feet up in he NW corner. The counters are messy, with crumbs and unwashed cooking utensiles scattered about. There's also a stack of freshly-pulled leeks, soil still clinging to them. In several places a crate or chair has been put up against the counter, perhaps to stand on; it seems the tiny man has been doing some cooking.
There are two small doors and you hear nothing at either one. Both turn out to be pantries, well stocked with sausages, smoked meats, cheeses, and (surprisingly) even salted fish. They've all been rifled through but are in pretty good order.
2008-08-12, 11:14 AM
Calling out to Marnie, Sasah said, "I think we can relax a bit. I found the kitchen. How about if you keep an eye on that guy, and I'll fix us something to eat?"
The princess wasn't much of a cook, and she was too hungry to wait for a stew or soup to be ready. Instead, she gathered some of the meats, cheeses and vegetables and sliced them up. Bringing the tray out with some hard bread and crackers, she and Marnie sat down to eat.
((assuming they get through the meal with no interruptions)) When they were done, she said, "Well, do you think it's safe enough to stay here, or should we return to the horses and camp outside tonight?"
2008-08-12, 11:40 AM
Marnie seems dumbfounded to be served by a princess, and rushes to take the tray from you. He also keeps your cup filled at all times, with your choice of mead or water (both are available, as is ale, but Marnie wouldn't offer you that).
When you ask Marnie his preference for sleeping arrangements, you are interrupted by a voice from the dining room doorway:
"What, what, making supper and you don't offer anything to me? Height of rudeness!" The little dragon drops from the ceiling of the hallway between the dining room and entry hall and clambers out of the shadows into the light. Taking a look at the fallen fiddler, he adds, "So you did beat him. I thought so."
2008-08-15, 01:36 PM
"I beg your pardon," Sasha apologized, "but I didn't want to disturb your nap. Here, we have saved you some." She gestured to the plates she's brought out, which contained many leftovers.
Glancing at the little man, who still seemed to be unconscious, she asked the dragon, "What do you know of him? Is he a friend of yours? His lizard almost knocked us down, but the little fellow didn't have much fight in him. Is he truly dangerous?" She wasn't sure if she'd be able to trust anything he said to her, but he didn't seem to mean her any harm, so she'd take what she could get.
2008-08-18, 09:07 AM
The dragon seems cautious as he approaches the table, as if you might not really let him eat. When he realises the offer is sincere he springs onto the table and clears the entire tray in a couple snaps of his jaws.
Tilting his head back to swallow, the dragon begins talking with food still in his mouth. "O, that's Nathanial. He's alright. Kind of a greedy gobber lately, but that's just his nature." He cranes his neck around at the man laid out on the floor and yells: "Although it SERVES HIM RIGHT to get knocked around a bit!"
As if on cue, the little man groans and begins to stir, putting a hand to the spot where he was hit with the magic dart. "Uuughh..." he mumbles, and sits up.
2008-08-19, 06:27 PM
Marnie was out of his cramped seat before Sasha had time to ask. He held his crossbow at the ready, in case the little man tried anything. Sasha didn't think he looked up to any trickery at the moment, but she was glad of Marnie's quickness.
Turning to the little man, she didn't bother getting out of her seat. It would have been a squeeze, and she didn't want to look undignified just yet. "So, Nathanial, is it? I trust you've learned your lesson. Let's start again, shall we? No reason to be uncivilized. I'm Alia, and this is my brother, Marnie. Pleased to meet you." She was aiming for cool indifference in her voice, and wasn't at all sure she was succeeding. She kept her eye on him as he looked at her, ready to zap him again if tried anything, but hoping that she wouldn't need to.
2008-08-22, 09:09 AM
Nathanial scrunches up his face into the bitterest of scowls. It looks like he's about to spit in your direction when his expression breaks into a gleeful smile. "Talon!"
From the other room, the lizard strides out, scurrying happily along the ceiling. It walks down the wall and picks up the fiddle from where it clattered on the floor, bringing it over to its master in its mouth. (It neglects to bring the bow.)
"Lousy humans," the tiny man mutters, just barely audible. Then he lifts his head and nearly shouts, "PLEASED TO MEET YOU TOO!" Grumbling, he inspects the fiddle for damage. It has a new dent and some minute scratches but seems to be in one piece. He plucks the strings a few times and tunes them.
"Nathanial, you're a bad host. And a bad brother!" the dragon admonishes. He looks at you apologetically. "He can be nice sometimes, but usually he's a grouch." He returns his gaze to Nathanial. "Did you even bring in anything for dinner? Or do I have to wait for strangers to wander in to eat?"
2008-08-23, 09:48 AM
Nathanial's complete indifference to Marnie's threat made Sasha feel a little silly. She nodded at Marnie, who sat back down reluctantly. She thought they were probably safe enough, for the moment at least. These two might be crazy, but she didn't think they were killers. Not yet, anyhow.
"So, do either of you know anything about that watch tower up the trail?" she asked. "We saw it when we came through the woods. Anybody live there? What's it guarding?"
Again, she didn't think she'd get much of a straight answer, but they'd come here for information, so she might as well try.
2008-08-23, 01:35 PM
Nathanial just sits tuning his fiddle with a surly look on his face, but the dragon answers.
"O, the Oost go there sometimes. It's not in good shape. I don't think it's used much anymore, but sometimes their warriors camp in the bottom on their way through."
He thinks for a moment and adds, "I thought about moving in there, but this place was free, and it's much nicer."
2008-08-24, 11:33 AM
Sasha perked up at the mention of the Oost. "Oost? Really? Have you ever met any? What are they like? I've heard they're very tall. Are they really fierce warriors?"
2008-08-25, 09:09 AM
"They're a bunch of bullies and they don't wash much. Fierce? I don't know... more like loud."
The dragon looks longingly at the empty food tray and frowns. "Stupid Oost... I'm going to sleep. And I DON'T want to hear that fiddle!"
The lizard, Talon, crackles with electricity at this comment and Nathanial grunts (or sighs?) in response.
2008-08-25, 09:46 AM
Accepting that she wasn't going to get any more useful information from the two tonight, Sasha realized how very tired she was. A huge yawn nearly split her jaw. "Sleep sounds good," she said to Marnie. "Shall we?"
The page looked at Nathanial with some distrust, but the nodded. They extricated themselves from the rather cramped dining room and made their way back to the big round room. None of the furniture was big enough to sleep on, but there were enough cushions that Sasha was able to make two fairly comfortable piles.
As she did so, Marnie went back outside to feed the horses. Remembering the mushroom, Sasha ran to the door to keep watch, just in case.
((assuming he doesn't make a second appearance))
Chores done, Marnie came back in with the rest of the gear, and Ysa flew in with him. The bird landed on her arm and scolded her for leaving him outside for so long. Chuckling, she scratched his head until he forgave her. The bird then flew up into the rafters.
Sasha weighed whether or not they should keep watch, but her eyes closed before she could decide.
((So, going to bed unless anything else comes up...))
2008-08-25, 12:13 PM
The night is cool, and you can hear an owl hooting somewhere as Marnie tends the horses. There's no sign of the mushroom creature.
The dragon curls up on one of the rafters, and Ysa makes sure to stay at the opposite end of the ceiling. You hear Marnie tossing and turning a lot as you try to sleep, but eventually you drift off despite his noise...
* * *
...and find yourself in Umbrofer's study. Daylight, darkened by the blighted sky, pours through the two windows in the tower. Books and religious images cover the walls. A number of cushions are spread on the floor, and in the middle is the bronze censer Umbrofer had used last time you saw him. It is still knocked over, and the smudged coals from inside scattered on the rug; apparently he has not been back to clean it up since he fled.
2008-08-25, 09:06 PM
Startled, Sasha almost pinched herself. I thought I was seeing him because I was near the Well, she thought to herself. Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes and brought to mind her dream from the night before. No, that wasn't right. He'd said the ways there were locked up and she'd opened them. Well, if she was unlocking hidden ways in her sleep, she certainly wasn't doing it on purpose.
Heartbeat slowing a bit, she took a more careful look around the study. How much time had passed since she'd been her last night? ((Can she tell?)) Remembering Umbrofel's rather hasty exit through the window, she walked over to it and looked out.
((Assuming she doesn't see anything terrible out the window...)) Anxious to know what he'd started to tell her in the last dream, Sasha called out softly, "Umbrofel? Can you hear me? Where are you?" She wasn't sure if anybody else would be able to hear her in her dream state, but she didn't want to risk it unnecessarily.
2008-08-28, 10:22 AM
The coals of the incense are cold, so it's been at least an hour since you last saw the room. The shelves are not dusty, though, so it's unlikely to have been more than a week.
The window is still open, and swings back and forth a bit in the breeze. When you poke your head out you find the wind at this elevation is strong, but not as strong as you remember; it's that same dry southwestern wind that started the day of the Blackout.
A Blackout that seems to be in full force. The sky above your head consists of ominous, torn storm-clouds that would be gray and silver in normal light. With the sickly sky beyond them they are instead a brown, almost sienna colour and quite black in a few places. The sun isn't visible in the sky, though some of its light gets through; either it's blocked by the clouds or the magic sky completely hides it.
Directly below the window is the head of a gargoyle, staring out at the tattered scene with unfeeling eyes. Below that is the slope of a roof, and you suppose Umbrofer could have clung to it to make his escape; it runs toward another wing of the castle. He never seemed quite that athletic, but surprises have not been rare of late.
((For simplicity's sake I'll say Umbrofer's tower is at the end of the Northwest Wing, near the shore of the lake; the roof below you runs toward the High Court in the centre of the castle. There are also NE, SE, and SW wings, though the SW wing is more of a processional area joining to the lakeside temples and the city's Great Forum. The NE and SE wings are largely identical to this one. A ring wall, not attached to any of the wings, surrounds most of the castle. Beyond the wall is city (or lake, to the W) and beyond the city is the main city wall.
You can't see most of this because the High Court obstructs your view of the city, but you would know the general layout.))
2008-08-30, 12:59 PM
Frowning, Sasha pulled her head back in the window. She didn't know how long it had been since the old man had escaped out the window, and she certainly wasn't about to go after him.
Why was she here? How could she end up here without Umbrofel's assistance? The princess took another, more careful look around the study. Could there be something here that would help her?
((Sasha will lightly search the study for any sort of notes or letter or anything helpful. If that fails, she'll probably start to explore.))
2008-09-10, 12:20 PM
((Sorry for the slowness))
You find a number of familiar books on one shelf; these were used for your tutelage throughout the years. Religious texts and ceremonial manuals rest beneath a small shrine on another shelf. Jars of dried herbs and animal parts fill yet another shelf, and various scientific treatises on still another. Not one for light reading, the old priest.
His bed is made and looks undisturbned. It's a low, simple affair but swaddled in luxurious blankets.
Umbrofer generally eschews chairs, and his desk is only about two feet tall. Currently it is pushed up against a wall, but many times you've seen him slide it out to sit opposite a visitor. Atop the desk are papyri, quills, a bottle of ink, a wax pad and stylus, and a little geomancer's box with its tray of soil and smooth pebbles for divination.
There is something odd, though - a prayer book sitting next to the ink has a folded papyrus tucked into it. You've been scolded dozens, if not hundreds of times about leaving things stuck in books. "It breaks the binding! I wears the pages!"
If you choose to look at the papyrus, it is a torn half-sheet folded very small. When unfolded you see it is marked on with sloppy scribbles. With some squinting, it reads:
a.d. XIV Kal. Jun. [14 days till Kalends of June]
Ides of May review notes
-SW and E Gate both closed for royal procession.
-Inner Tomb has leaked terribly. Possible problem with well? Ceremonial chamber closed to public.
-Innr T's royal vaults affected. Serious cleanup issues. Must remove treasures, statuary and decorations to cleanup. Looks like I will be there pretty much every day.
-First New Moon of Winter [1 November] very inauspicious. Will need to restore the throne (worn gilding) by then to perform purification ceremony, otherwise no royalty allowed in throne room till omens change.
-24 major stars over capitol. No visible planet. Western sky above the holy lake is auspicious.
-A convergence of three great planets will occur before the comet's return. A fourth planet will oppose.
2008-09-15, 02:39 PM
Sasha stared at the paper, willing it to make sense. When she'd seen it in the book, her first thought was that it was some sort of message for her. However, this seemed like nothing more than notes Umbrofer wrote to himself. On the other hand, maybe it was note, just in some sort of code. After all, the cleric could hardly leave notes lying around addressed to supposedly missing princesses. Could it mean something more?
((does the note make any sense to Sasha? Are the events anything she remembers (closing of gates, leaks and cleanups)? Do the astrological notes he writes of anything that she remembers from her studies? Anything that she can interpret as a note? I'm not sure what to do here.))
2008-09-15, 02:43 PM
Hmm... I can't tell you too much then ;)
You don't remember any leaks being mentioned, nor any talk of closing the throne room. Changing which gates are open during special events is a standard security measure, but not the sort of thing you'd've been kept apprised of. Other than that, it makes as much or little sense to Sasha as it makes to you. Feel free to try specific knowledge checks for more.
2008-09-15, 02:44 PM
Damn and bummer!
2008-09-15, 02:48 PM
see above though (I edited in the spoiler box, so that wouldn't have been delivered to your email)
2008-09-15, 02:53 PM
i may be going overboard, but i thought i'd try everything!
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