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  1. - Top - End - #241
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    OldWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Flight From Ironheart IC

    Ardraket Oldn

    Clearly the gods have a sense of humor.

    Ardraket was not a religious man. That is not to say he did not believe in the gods. He considered his very existence proof that they existed, and the fact that he was alive proof as well that they have a twisted sense of humor. Yet it is moments like this where either the gods or chance conspire to make his life a lot easier.

    Without waiting for Vash (the youngster could use a few lessons) Ardraket smiles slightly and nods to the lieutenant.

    “Of course we would be honored to assist you in finding out what is happening to the men. How many men will you have available, and what will we have available to us to prepare for this patrol?”

    In many ways this would be beneficial. Depending on what happened it would be very simple to slip away from the patrol, either as “causalities” or just plain vanish and in the confusion it would be difficult for others to follow their paths. Plus one never knows what they may find out in the forest.
    My DM Reputation
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    Quote Originally Posted by Inspectre
    I'm good at making you fear the unknown. Pwenet is good at making you fear the known, which had been the unknown five minutes before he pushed you off screaming into the abyss.
    Quote Originally Posted by Kalirren View Post
    I'm feeling this real hard now.
    Curse you, Pwenet. Curse you.... You had my hopes up there...

  2. - Top - End - #242
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Dorizzit's Avatar

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    Default Re: Flight From Ironheart IC

    Korram Alstan

    Korram's angry speech followed by his abrupt dismissal has exactly the intended effect, leaving Kris cowed and less angry. Moreover, it places Korram back as the leader of the conversation, allowing him to drive it away from uncomfortable near-truths. Still, his already black mood only deepens as he lashes out at himself for not being smarter or stronger and being caught in the first place in his impossible straights.

    Deep in his mind, Calcifer laughs.

    As Kris follows Korram, questioning his intentions, Korram pauses and smiles darkly.

    "What I mean is that Baron has never understood me. When I fought, he called me a fool. When I tricked his soldiers, he called me a coward. When he knew the cause of my anger, he only laughed. When I offered him the deal, he accepted without thought. He thinks he will receive a broken, toothless old warrior who has lost his will to fight. I intend to show him that if he plays with fire, he'll get burned."

    Kris points out the way to a game trail to Korram to ease his passage, and then apparently decides to accompany him. As Kris seeks his approval, Korram simply looks at him dolefully.

    "I would be happy to have you accompany me. But be warned: I have a habit of attracting trouble."

    Assuming Kris accepts, Korram walks in silence with him for a while before questioning back.

    "What made you decide to rebel against the Baron?"
    Truly awesome Ark Tamaeus avatar by Bryn. Full size version here.

  3. - Top - End - #243
    Orc in the Playground
     
    Falconer's Avatar

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    Sep 2007
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    Running the World
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    Default Re: Flight From Ironheart IC

    Gazrul

    Gazrul sighed as he gazed into the crystal, his voice bitter. "It seems our situation has gotten far more complicated here: some manner of disaster has occurred at Amaranth, our forces there can't communicate what it is, Malohk is probably dead, and the scouts that have been sent by the city have been killed before they could see the attackers. So our affairs are not exactly glorious, and there's definitely going to be some fighting to do."

    "But the issues aside, your report gladdens me: at least one victory seems to be at hand, and you, my friend, are the conquering hero. If it is the Countess you find, remember your instructions: she is not to come to any harm."

  4. - Top - End - #244
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    OverWilliam's Avatar

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    ~Tare

    Following Limier's admission and explanation, Tare fell silent. "...Whatever. Let's just get out of here."

    It was a lot to take in, but Tare did his best. As a matter of fact, the easiest way to manage that was to try not to think it through at all. He was right in the middle of his determined effort to not think about it when he spotted the Keyring. He glanced back toward Limier, but didn't say anything. Instead, he palmed the odd-looking thing and slipped it into his sash. It would come up eventually, he was sure.

    He caught back up with Limier with a few quick strides. "I found our friend Teareal's betrothed upstairs. She's not in any danger... the exact opposite, perhaps..." He frowned, remembering how hurt she had sounded upon hearing his lies before. "Did you get a chance to see Teareal himself? What kind of shape is he in?"
    Deo Soli Sit Semper Gloria

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    Quote Originally Posted by Innis Cabal View Post
    Its offical. Overwilliam is Duke Devlin.

  5. - Top - End - #245
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Gourtox's Avatar

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    Telest

    "That's good to know. Now lead me to the quartermaster." Then he follows the elf to the quarter master where, after a humorous conversation he retrieves a horse, rope, cloth, a couple bottles of sleeping potion, a mild poison, antidote to said poison, food, and healing poltices. The elf who led him to the quarter master asked, "I can see what most of that's for, but why the antidote?"
    "Leverage. Now where's that horse?"
    "Right this way." The elf still a little confused leads Telest to the his horse where he is asked, "Do you know where the girl is, or in what direction she was spotted? If so tell me."
    ((If the elf knows he will set off in that direction.))
    Last edited by Gourtox; 2009-07-21 at 09:53 PM.
    Avatar by Onasuma

  6. - Top - End - #246
    Orc in the Playground
     
    Iethloc's Avatar

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    Default Re: Flight From Ironheart IC

    Sohssal

    Since he was currently a floating orb, Sohssal couldn't really contribute to the run-in with the gnolls. He managed to stayed out of sight and didn't make any noise, as boring as that was for him. Afterward, he just focused on plowing ahead, trying to ignore anyone who passed by.

    The two girls caught his attention. He didn't give more than a moment's thought to the one who reeked of vampire, but the brilliantly magical one fascinated him. Wait a moment...there's something odd about this one... he informed his associates. He floated in for a closer look, still trying to stay hidden. So instead he tried to pick up any trace of what could have done this. He also made sure to remember the scent of the vampire's musk - not while too close, of course.
    Order of the Pstick Avatar by Sneak

  7. - Top - End - #247
    Firbolg in the Playground
     
    The_Snark's Avatar

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    Default Re: Flight From Ironheart IC

    Mar

    Mar stared downwards at William. She didn't know what she'd hoped for when she'd half-agreed to come and help, but this wasn't it. Even if he woke up, it looked like it would be hard to climb back up—and he might fall off before realizing where he was. That was bad. She could see why Caroline hadn't tried to help William herself. She wanted to do the same thing and go for help, but she didn't know anybody. And there wasn't time.

    The problem was that she couldn't fly. She'd never tried, but just the thought of trying to hold herself up with nothing but her wings sent a shiver through her. "Ca- I can't... I mean, I..." She looked at the expectant Caroline, unable to get it out. She'd tried to tell her earlier: she wasn't an angel! She couldn't fly, and angels were... she wasn't sure. Strong, like the one that had taken her away in the dream. Whatever they were like, she wasn't. But you couldn't just not do what people said. Not when someone was about to die, she corrected herself; she'd discovered that you could run away instead. She could run here, too, and then there wouldn't be a problem. Leave William like she'd left Julian.

    She almost did, only Caroline was still holding onto her hand. She would have had to wrench it free, and she felt so guilty just thinking about it that she couldn't. Well, she couldn't fly, but maybe she could try to get William back up anyway. She was taller than Caroline, and he wasn't too far away.

    Letting go of Caroline's hand, she placed a foot carefully on the cliffside, turning around and dropping to her knees. She made very sure she had a good grip on a pair of stones with her hands, and that the stones weren't going to move, before letting her feet drop, carefully searching for somewhere to rest her weight. There wasn't much, but she found a slight swelling to her left and a nice rough knob below her. That would do. She moved downwards.

    It took her all of five seconds to become convinced she'd made a terrible mistake. It had looked so easy from above: they were only a few feet from William, after all. Now that she was actually on it, she found that the distance that really concerned her was the distance between her and the ground. She clung to the rockface as if her life depended on it, which was in fact the case, and tried not to look down. The lip of the cliff, only a few inches above eye level, looked very appealing. It would be so much easier to just climb back up—no, it would be hard, actually, but at least it would be very short. Caroline was still looking at her, though, and she didn't feel like she could come back up just yet.

    Making herself let go of the rock face was hard. Daddy had never made her do anything like this: she either had nice, simple tasks, or else she was punished (which was terrible, but also very simple, because she didn't have to do any of it). He never made her do anything to herself. Finally, she released a trembling hand from its handhold, feeling shakily around below her for another—don't look, don't look, don't look, don't look... It was among the most wretched five feet she'd ever gone, but eventually (a minute? It felt longer) she was next to William, one foot resting on the small outcropping he'd fallen on. Now what? She'd thought going up would be easier, and it probably would be, but she hadn't really thought about how she would carry William. She'd thought she could hoist him up with one hand, but that was before she knew how hard climbing was. She couldn't climb with only one hand. Couldn't.

    After a few moments, she decided to see if she could get him around her shoulder. She crouched, reached down with both hands, and tried to hoist him up, and there was a very sickening feeling as they both tilted outward, into empty air.

    She screamed, hands instinctively clinging to the unconscious William, but very quickly the wind had stolen her breath away. Panicking, she flapped her wings, sending them tumbling; she had a brief upside-down view of the cliff face (at least they'd gone far enough away not to hit it).

    She stopped flapping. She wanted to huddle into a ball with her wings around her, but something made her hold them out stiffly.

    The wind hit her like an almost physical blow as she did. She wobbled wildly from side to side, William's weight pulling at her strangely.

    Sparse trees and white loomed up ahead, but she was going sideways almost as much as down now. She was going slower. Maybe—

    The ground went from looming to there so fast that Mar barely had time to try and curl up in a ball. There was a stretched-out moment of agonizing pain, and then everything went black.
    Avatar by Ifni. Thanks!

  8. - Top - End - #248
    Halfling in the Playground
     
    Meltemi's Avatar

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    Default Re: Flight From Ironheart IC

    Ruya

    “No, I don't believe so for the moment,” Ruya said in reply to the patrol leader's question, as she returned everything to her bag and hefted it back onto her shoulder. She and Delora followed as the patrol began to move back through the gate, heading for whatever destination they had planned. No sooner had they passed through the gate than they stopped again, faced by a man and a woman. Ruya remained silent as the gnoll patrol took the lead. For a moment, she thought she saw a flicker of light out of the corner of her eye, but when she turned, there was nothing there. Her hand drifted lightly to her dagger, as she continued to keep one eye on where she thought she had seen light.
    Ruya Perist, Flight from Ironheart
    Teira Feiwright, Lost and Clueless

    I am me, you are you.
    We’re totally different, separate persons.
    But even so, what if we have just one thing in common?

  9. - Top - End - #249
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Baerdog7's Avatar

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    Ander Windrivver

    Oh, yes. Bright and beautiful. He paces back and forth, reaching out with his senses to try and pinpoint exactly where Peeping Tom was skulking about. Got to talk to the Lord and Lady, which was...enlightening Tom was close, Ander could feel it. He seemed to be across the way from Melcara, moving around some trees. You'll be happy to hear this, Tom. Miriam still seems adamant about me purging the Church. Maybe now you'll stop your bitching about me not holding up my end of the deal?

    Ah, he'd stopped! Ander could feel his aura not more than six feet away in front of an old oak tree. Or maybe I've decided to renegotiate... In one swift movement, Ander unsheathes Sin-Eater and lunges across the distance between him and Tom. Holy fire sheathes the blade as Ander cleaves right through the center of Peeping Tom's aura.
    Quote Originally Posted by PhoeKun View Post
    Baerdog: super genius.

  10. - Top - End - #250
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Inspectre's Avatar

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    Jul 2007

    Default Re: Flight From Ironheart IC

    The Ghosts of Callaway Camp

    Dorizzit

    At your assertion that the Baron would still pay for his crimes, Kris breaks into a slow smile that widens quickly into a full-fledged grin.

    “That’s more the Korram Alstan I’ve heard of! And I’m used to trouble – hopefully we’ll cause some of our own, hmm?”

    At your question as to why he had joined in the fight against the Baron, however, Kris suddenly falters.

    “Um, well . . .”

    The normally bold warrior gives a sheepish smile and a shrug.

    “My parents were taken from me by the Baron, like a lot of folks. I was too young to remember that, but that’s what I’ve always been told. I guess that was the start of it, although I was always too busy trying to survive to think much about it.”

    Drawing one of his signature weapons to examine it critically, Kris grows more confident as he continues his story.

    “Then Moloch came along and changed all that. I met her – Katrina, your daughter down there in his basement. He wasn’t a picky sort – no, Moloch didn’t really care whether you were a boy or girl so long as you were young and easily dominated.”

    Kris smiled and gestured with his weapon at the scar at the corner of his lip, which made that side appear to be permanently turned downward in a slight frown. His voice is quiet now, with a faraway note to it.

    “That’s how I got this, actually. The day we finally got out of there. It was my turn that day. I was so sick of his little games, of being kept like an animal he could abuse whenever he felt like it. He was sitting on my chest, with a kris like this one rammed down my throat, when I just lost it. I can still taste the copper in my mouth sometimes. Can’t really remember what it felt like to rip the last inch of the blade out, but I can strangely enough remember that taste. Of course, I was a little preoccupied at the time, so the whole thing is a little bit of a blur actually. I can remember that taste, him screaming, me screaming, and my newfound weapon stabbing into Moloch’s chest, over and over again. And then I can remember pulling the key ring off his belt, and crawling over to the other cages to let the others out, and all of us stumbling up into the sunlight together. Funny story though, bastard ratted me out to the authorities for Moloch’s murder – apparently Moloch was regarded as an upstanding community member.”

    Sheathing his weapon, Kris shrugged. “Anyway, after that, Katrina and I decided to stick together, and from there she sort of dragged me into this war against the Baron. Or rather I suppose, *you* dragged us both into it.”

    The Purifier’s Camp

    Baerdog7

    (*snort* You spent that much effort just to attack Peeping Tom? Boy are you going to be disappointed. )

    “That’s . . . good. The memories are faint now, but occasionally I can remember the dawning glow coming from the Palace.”

    There is a wistful tone in Melcara’s voice, but then she chuckles self-consciously. “Of course, you’ve seen those mornings with your own eyes. So . . . what was so enlightening about your conversation? Did you find out what you wished to know?”

    Ignoring Melcara’s delicate pressing for the moment, you focus on locating the invisible Peeping Tom. He’s not far away, as usual, and upon being addressed he comes forward. Which makes what you’re about to do next even easier.

    “Ah, I’m quite glad to hear that Lord General.”

    Both Melcara and Peeping Tom are caught off-guard by your sudden attack, although their reactions are somewhat different. From the folds of her dress, Melcara produces a dagger which she holds up in front of her like a slender shield. She stumbles back away from you, crashing into the tree directly behind her. Peeping Tom manages a short yelp of fear upon seeing your charge, followed by a “You backstabbing motherf-“

    An instant later, and Sineater briefly comes in contact with flesh before easily slashing through it. An instant after that, the neatly bisected halves of an imp appear before they both dissolve into ash.

    You turn back to face Melcara, who is examining her surroundings intently, as well as watching you carefully, dagger still held up defensively. Her eyes lock with your own for a moment, and then with a practiced snap of her wrist, she sends her dagger sailing into the ground beside your left foot. With a resigned air, she shuffles closer and then drops to her knees at your feet. At her approach, the new sword given to you by Miriam snarls within your mind.

    “I suppose I am next then. I will not fight you, and running will only prolong the inevitable.”

    Palms pressed together, she extends her hands up to you.

    “But if you are willing to show the faintest glimmer of mercy, I ask that you take me to Ironheart instead. Bind me forevermore beside my new master if you must, but spare my life. Please – I do not wish to suffer the torments waiting for me in the Hells, even if that is my deserved fate.”

    Stonefall

    The Surrounding Forest

    The_Snark

    Despite the overwhelming desire to run away from this problem the same way you had fled Daddy and Julian’s confrontation, your guilt at the thought of pushing Caroline aside was even stronger. With great reluctance you approach the cliffside and look down, which proved to be a mistake – you were *very* high up, several hundred feet at least.

    Somehow though, you managed to kneel down and swing your legs over the side, and from there slowly climb your way down to William. Caroline comes up to the edge herself, gasping and sighing at your every awkward movement. This didn’t help matters at all, but ultimately is only a minor distraction compared to the very strong urge to look down, which might have caused you to abandon all bravery for good.

    Fortunately, you manage to reach the ledge before you glance down again, your feet close together as they take up what little room William’s body has left. As if sensing your presence, William moans loudly, and his closed eyelids flicker. Sadly, he remains unconscious, which means you will have to carry him back up after all.

    While it had seemed pretty straightforward while you were climbing down, your plan to carry William back up quickly hits a number of snags. You are just in the process of working these snags out when you lean a bit too far away from the cliff face. Dimly, you hear Caroline give a high-pitched scream of terror before you tumble completely backward off the cliff face, and can only hear the roaring of the wind as you and William plummet.

    Instinctively, your wings flare outward, but your terrified mind overrides those actions with its own commands that result in only panicked flapping. Somehow, despite the desire to simply fold your winds around yourself, you manage to right yourself so that the ground was now properly at your feet. Again, instinct takes over as your wings flare out again, turning your rapid fall into a rapid glide.

    For just the briefest moment, you have a glorious view of the forest rushing up to meet you. Then you realize the ground is still coming far too fast, and a few moments after that you and the ground meet in a blinding haze of pain before everything goes dark.

    A hissing, hate-filled voice, similar to Daddy’s but thicker and somehow even more menacing. Intermixed with the voice is a series of jumbled images, some involving Ironheart, some featuring a blood-stained Daddy, and some simply too horrific to contemplate. “Hello Marisiel. Hmmm . . . or perhaps not. It has been far too long since we saw each other last, and the years have not been kind to you I see. How . . . pathetic, for you to have fallen so far. No, no, this simply will not do. Perhaps more time will allow your shattered soul to heal. Yes. Despite my eagerness, I can be patient. I can wait a little longer so our long overdue reunion can be just . . . perfect. Rest well, my little angel. Enjoy your newfound peace – while it lasts!”

    You awaken from the darkness slowly. At first everything is a haze of dark grey just shy of blackness, but then it slowly brightens into a dark room. Gradually, your mind becomes clear enough to realize that you are lying down in a bed. You’ve never slept in one before, and in different circumstances you may have understood why Daddy never let you. It was soft and warm here beneath the covers, but your dull mind barely registers this information.

    From one corner of the room, a dark shadow moves, causing your heart to skip a beat, but little more than that: it was so hard to focus right now. The soft light provided by a fire coming from the open doorway leading into a nearby room allows you to see that the shadow is a man – Jacob.

    “Easy now. You’ve had a terrible fall. One that should have killed you, but I suppose if you are an angel . . . well, nevermind. What you did was a very brave thing. William’s safe now, although with a nasty bump on his head and a leg that probably won’t support his weight for a few weeks. I’m not sure I would have been able to get him down from there, even if Caroline had come to me first. Um . . . I came to get you both alone, after Caroline explained what had happened – in her own panicked way. You can rest assured that your, ah . . . secret is safe with me for the moment. You’ve been out for two days. Hmm . . . it’s funny. You looked pretty bad when I found you and William lying there at the base of the cliff – you’ll forgive me if I paid closer attention to my son’s injuries? Still, now you look much better, although I imagine you’ll be out of it for a little bit. Ah – how are you feeling right now, anyway? I could get you some water, maybe?”

    The City of Amaranth

    The City Gates

    Meltemi/Iethloc

    Sohssal

    It takes only a moment to record the vampire’s unique scent – he seems to be a mage of some power. Amusingly enough, this might make him even easier to deal with than a more mundane vampire. The unique abilities belonging to a vampire are wide-ranging and primarily based on their lineage, but they are all not strictly magical, and thus immune to absorption. A vampire mage, however, was more likely to rely on his magic and be more arrogant due to his superiority to others of his kind. Both weaknesses you could easily exploit should it come to that.

    Yeah, great. How exactly do you intend on me keeping these guys to stand here? They seem rather intent on moving ahead – probably the same place everyone else is.

    Of course, that comment by Roger is made only a few moments before the gnolls notice the strange man and woman standing in the middle of the road, seemingly aimlessly. Half of the group cautiously raise crossbows at them, while the others fan out to cover the nearby alleyways and the open street behind them. None of them notice your appropriated sun globe body, although the strange girl seems to be looking in your general direction – it would seem she can sense you.

    Focusing your attentions more intently on the girl, you can begin to discern that the magical auras are not emanating directly from her flesh. She is entirely human as much as you can tell. Rather, the magical auras come from writings on her skin – tattoos, essentially. You have heard of such things mentioned occasionally, but only theoretically as a way to allow normal humans to tap into magical power.

    This is something far beyond those, bearing stronger resemblance to another topic of scholarly debate: runes. Once, in ages past, a common method of creating sustainable magical effects was in the use of magical writings known as runes, or so the theory went. Apparently, this girl has somehow merged those two theories, past and future, together into a joint technique. An impressive display, although it still leaves you curious as to whether she had innate magical power or was simply a scholar.

    Ah, Sohssal – perhaps you’d like to figure out a way to convince these nice . . . people . . . things to leave us alone? They aren’t being particularly friendly.

    I could exterminate all of them, if necessary. Although they seem merely cautious rather than aggressive. Perhaps they are attempting to flee something from the Slums district.

    Ruya

    Your work done here, you pack up your belongings and Delora in tow, follow the gnolls as they move rapidly through the city streets. You have not gone far, however, before your small group rounds the corner to encounter a young man and woman heading in your direction. Upon coming within sight of each other, both groups came to a dead halt.

    After a moment’s pause, both groups spring into action. The gnolls fan out protectively around you, covering all angles, while at least half of them level crossbows at the man and woman. Meanwhile, the man springs into a spiel about being sent by the Mages Council to investigate the situation.

    You hardly pay attention to the details of his argument with the lead gnoll, however, as an odd sense washes over you. You are sensitive to strong magical auras, and you can now sense just such an aura lingering out of sight in one of the alleyways. You think you see a brief flash of light come from one of them, but it is only a fleeting glimpse before the alley is plunged back into darkness.

    An angry shout suddenly brings your attention back to the deteriorating situation out here in the street. The strange woman is now eyeing everyone in your group in the same analytical way as a predator preparing to pounce, and the man and lead gnoll are snout-to-snout.

    “I told you before, I’m with the Mages Council!”

    “Then you ought to be able to provide proof of such an identity, yes?”

    “I’m a secret agent! We don’t tend to carry around obvious identification to wave around to everyone going, “Hey, kill me assassins!””

    “How convenient for you!”

    WhiteKnight777

    A slow smile spread across Helion’s face as he smoothly stands up.

    “No, I really don’t. But for old times’ sake, I will tell you about Fianna. What little I know anyway – she had little use for me except as a spy on the old council of elders. She is completely emotionless, but strangely suicidal. Well, perhaps not quite suicidal, but certainly quite insane. She believes there is no logical reason for life’s existence, and has dedicated herself to eradicating it. Of course, she like so many others had a lot riding on the Hierarch’s success, and you royally screwed that up. What she will do now I have no idea, but if she’s really as logical as she claims I imagine she will go find a dark corner to crawl into. Much like you should Umber – it’s Kartul’s time on the stage now, and there’s only room for one deranged old fool in the spotlight.”

    At this last comment your vampire guide coughs loudly, prompting a grimace from Helion. “Of course, Kartul has always deserved this time in the spotlight, and now his magnificence will not be overshadowed by anyone.” Helion added, rolling his eyes.

    “And speaking of him, I should think his plan is fairly obvious and straightforward. Killing everyone and thing on the planet, and reviving it as undead. Every little vampire’s private wet dream, when you think about it. As to how he’s going to accomplish this, I’m afraid I’m just the initiate here. I really don’t know much else.” Helion said with a sneer. Then as if remembering something, Helion stoops down and retrieves an object that had been neatly tucked beneath the pillow. It was a wooden stake. He salutes you with the weapon, and then lightly tosses it to you as he walks up to within about a foot of you.

    “And now to conclude this little show, I want you to understand that there is nothing you can do to me anymore. I’m beyond death, Umber, all thanks to Elder Kartul.”

    The arrogant little **** throws his arms out to his sides, smiling as he all but demands you to shove the stake through his heart. Behind you, your vampire guide coughs loudly.

    “What are you doing, initiate Helion? You’re supposed to be the one –“

    “Oh, I think Umber’s little visit calls for a slight bending of procedure, don’t you think? And it’ll all end the same way regardless, ashes to ashes. So go ahead Umber, prove I’m immortal now.”

    Ironheart

    The Surrounding Mountains

    Gourtox

    The elf simply nods sagely at your mention of the antidote being leverage, and shrugs sadly at your question as to the girl’s location.

    “I’m afraid not. We have no idea where this girl is, or what she is beyond that she needs to be found. We’re completely without guidance . . . guidance! That’s it!”

    After showing you to your horse, the elf begins hurriedly motioning you to follow him as he leads you back into the camp.

    “We have a number of shamans with us. Their visions are not always clear, particularly at first, but their communion with the spirits is almost always helpful. They have not revealed anything new to us yet, but I understand they will soon be conducting a ritual in the hopes of learning more. Perhaps you should stay and speak with them?”

    As you are proceeding through the camp towards the shaman’s rudimentary ritual tent, the elf hands you what appears to be a wooden horn.

    “This enchanted horn will enable you to remain in contact with us, although we will not be able to communicate back with you very easily. Simply press you lips against the mouthpiece and speak through it. With any luck, the spirits of the wind shall carry your words to us wherever we may be at the time.”

    Falconer

    Upon hearing your report of how bad things were looking in Amaranth, Wulfric simply stares in shock for several seconds. It was rare for Wulfric to be rendered simply speechless. When he finally spoke up, his voice was raw, full of suppressed emotion.

    “The old dog may still have a few tricks up his sleeve. Although that doesn’t explain why he hasn’t contacted you. If he is dead though, we shall avenge him, I swear it!”

    The miniature Wulfric shakes his head and sighs as he rubs his eyes. It is clear that he has gotten little sleep tonight if any.

    “I shall attempt to track these fleeing individuals down. Hopefully I can find them before the elves do, and hopefully they will know where to find the Countess. As unlikely as that may be . . . I fear we may be embarking on a wild goose chase here sir. And one that we can ill-afford with both the elves and this new enemy pressing in. I will keep in contact – if you need me and my men to withdraw back to the main force, you only need to give the word. Whatever reward the Baron is offering for the Countess’s safe return isn’t worth **** if we’re all dead.”

    Wulfric looks out at something beyond the field of his communication crystal’s view, and then nods before turning back to face you.

    “Alright sir. I need to move out again. Do you have any further instructions for me? What am I to do if these . . . individuals do not have the Countess among their number, or indeed are other prisoners from Ironheart? I’m not sure it’s worth it to bring them back to Amaranth for trial, particularly with the city under attack apparently.”

    Lonna

    The elf seems to consider your suggestion for a moment, then shrugs.

    “Why not. Allow me to point out there my companion and I are not alone, as a number of our men are currently surrounding the cave. Any act of violence against us will surely be returned in kind.”

    With a rough shove, the other elf sends Klaus stumbling over towards you and the Countess. As the grizzled warrior is steadied by you and the Countess, he whispers, “Don’t trust any of the pointy-eared bastards.”

    At your revelation of your dual heritage, the lead elf suddenly smiles. “Ah, now I understand. What a droll little riddle: neither elf nor human, *but both*.”

    Sending a dismissive glance at Klaus and Amelia, the elf replies to you question. “I want nothing from either the old man or the other female. Although I can’t vouch for their safety from other hunting parties, they are free to go from here so long as it guarantees your own cooperation. You see, our leader very much wishes to speak with you. I don’t know why, nor is it my place to know. So I’m afraid you will simply have to accept that for whatever reason it is very important to him, and thus by extension is very important to me.”

    Klaus snorts at the explanation, earning him another angry glance from the two elves. Amelia likewise seems concerned by the elves vague motivation, but in the end what choice did you have? Either you could attempt to buy your friends’ freedom with your own, or likely resort to more bloodshed.

    For the moment at least, you chose negotiation rather than bloodshed. Thankfully, in addition to be considerably more fluent in the human tongue, this elf was likewise much more willing to compromise. Ultimately, you struck a bargain – in return for your full cooperation in traveling back and speaking with the elven leader, this band of elves would escort your friends to the outskirts of the nearest human settlement. Klaus revealed that there should be a human town a little more than a day away, one of the farming communities a short distance outside of Amaranth.

    With the deal made, the elves allowed you to finish packing the cart and guide it out of the cave. They did not let you ride up on the cart with Klaus and Amelia, the leader evidently wise enough to know any potential escape more difficult. Of course, he could have made it even more difficult by treating you like an actual prisoner but for some reason now all of the elves wanted this to be kept civil.

    Upon exiting the cave, you saw that the lead elf was not bluffing. Emerging from the woods to form up an escort for the cart was a little over a dozen elves. With the cart fully loaded and the elven “escort” ready to depart, things seemed to be going smoothly until they fell apart completely.

    It started with as simple of a thing as a crossbow bolt flying out of the woods into the lead elf’s shoulder. From there, things went to complete madness as a dozen men and strange . . . dog-faced men charged from the trees. A moment later, another half dozen burst out of the treeline mounted on horses.

    “CCCCCHHHHHHAAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGGEEEEEEEE!!!!”

    Immediately the same clearing around the cave become a chaotic mess as the air became thick with elven arrows and human crossbow bolts, as well as both sides engaging in melee combat about the periphery.

    “Hurry!” The Countess shouted from her position crouched down in the back of the cart, while Klaus desperately attempted to keep the mounts from bolting. Unfortunately, what elves were left were attempting to form up a protective barrier around you, between both these new arrivals, and more importantly, the cart slowly beginning to pick up speed as it carried your friends away from you.

    Pwenet

    The lieutenant shrugs and smiles self-consciously at your questions. “About two dozen men, and whatever resources we’re already carrying around. They’d have given us horses, but all the remaining horses are out with the men that were sent out to patrol. So we’re going to have to walk it, and the smoke signals are perhaps a mile or two out into the forest – far enough away that running back for help is probably not going to be an option.”

    The lieutenant shook his head.

    “Quite frankly, I voiced my opinions on this night-time investigation, but unfortunately despite my strong opinions, I was over ruled. I know supplies are also sort, but I still have a few people who owe me. If you want some sort of equipment for this, let me know before we leave and I’ll see what I can do. I’ll be back here to collect you in an hour, sergeant – I’ll got a few more recruits to draft.”

    “And what about me, lieutenant? I assume I will be coming along as well?” Vash pointedly asked, apparently noticing that he was being ignored for the moment. As if in confirmation, the lieutenant blinked at him in confusion.

    “What? Oh – I’m not sure that’s a good idea, Brother. I’m not expecting many of us to come back if this is anything more than the best possible outcome, and –“

    “Well then, I should think my services would be needed far more with your little band than in here.”

    “I still don’t think –“

    “Lieutenant, I know that this is what the Gods want me to do. You don’t want to stand in the way of the gods’ decision, do you?”

    “Well, I suppose not –“

    “Well then, it’s settled! I will be accompanying your patrol, and although it will hopefully not be needed, and can treat some of the injured.”

    Throwing up his hands, the lieutenant muttered a “fine”, before stalking off, presumably in search of his next recruit.

    Once the lieutenant was gone, Vash leaned in close to you. ‘So – we bailing on these guys before they get to wherever it is they’re going, or on the way back? And is there anything else you need to check out here before we get out?”

    The Hells

    The Screaming Dark Estate

    OverWilliam

    “Bruised, but still whole and considerably angry last time I saw him.” Limier reports as you round the corner. Hearing harsh laughter approaching, you and Limier duck behind two of the nearby statues of the estate’s currently indisposed ruler. Just in time, as from a connecting hallway some distance down the corridor a trio of devils emerges.

    They seem to be swapping jokes of some sort, and move down the hallway towards you for a minute before thankfully veering off. They descend down a flight of stairs set into the right-hand wall, which presumably leads down into the mines. Which Limier confirms a moment later as she moves to rejoin you.

    “Yes, down that long flight of stairs, and towards the bottom of a massive pit is where Teareal is. The whole mining structure seems to be one large cavern with prison cells, equipment stores, and guard posts set up around the periphery of the actual work area. I also saw a few sealed doors down there, mostly unguarded – don’t know what those are for. Everyone seemed to give them a wide berth, and they all appeared pretty solid.”

    Limier knelt down on the floor, trying to sketch out a picture of the scene for you with her fingers on the floor, although it was obviously hard with the hard floor being completely unwilling to leave scratch marks.

    “There’s some support pillars scattered about, as well as unattended supply carts, plus quite a bit of rubble heaped up here and there. That gives us plenty of room to hide and move about discretely, so long as we’re careful – there are a *lot* of devils down there, even if their eyes are mostly on all the male slaves.”

    Limier shakes her head.

    “I’m not sure how to get Teareal out of there, even if we could get him out of his chains. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to be like normal chains – there’s no locks as far as I can see. Which is why I was hoping to find Crx, and perhaps locate some sort of magical device on him that unlocks the chains.”

    Thinking back on it, you remember that Vylethar’s girls did not seem to have any keyholes on their restraints either.

    “As for Crx, he was there briefly when I arrived, but then he left. Due to my need for caution, I was unable to follow him closely, and lost him. I don’t know where in the manor he is now, although presumably he’s up here rather than down there somewhere.”

    Limier snorts and shrugs at you. “Any ideas?”
    I didn't actually intend to kill EVERYONE. It just sort of happened.

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  11. - Top - End - #251
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    WhiteKnight777's Avatar

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    Umber

    Umber held the stake in his hand, eyes narrowed slightly "And where do you fit in, Helion? Planning to usurp his rule of the Dead? No... doesn't seem your style. I agree with you there, at least - a world of the living dead is far less appealing than some would have it. But in any case, what is your plan? Stealing Kartul's power? Or simply life everlasting?" Umber's gaze narrowed, and he tossed the stake to the ground, his eyes gleaming red as he took a step towards the other vampire, one hand on his blade, ready to strike, the other stroking his chin. And, more to the point... what's to stop me from draining you dry right here and now?

  12. - Top - End - #252
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    OverWilliam's Avatar

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    ~Tare

    Tare nods slowly. "One." With a deep, 'relaxing' breath, Tare closed his eyes, and reached out a hand for Limier's shoulder. For a moment he thought he imagined the twinge of pain in his chest-- but forced it out of his mind as just that. He Imagined it.

    With his other hand he formed a series of half-seals; not as effective as using both hands, but by using a few more the effect was the same. On the final Note of his hand-signed melody, the Invisibility charm was activated once more, this time spreading until it crossed down his arm, and then continued to take hold on Limier as well. Of course, Invisibility was one of the most useful tools in Tare's bag of tricks, and so he had learned to activate it near Instantly and with no somatic component whatsoever. However, he knew had to conserve his strength...

    When the Spell had been cast, Tare looked over at the vague, blurred grey whispy outline of Limier to his side. This was all that was left to his eyes, and all that could be seen of him to Limier; to any others, there was nothing at all. "How's this?" He asked quietly, trying to deny the fact that his breathing was coming a little heavier. "Please keep in mind... The farther you get away from me, the more difficult it becomes to maintain the charm. So please... Stay close."
    Last edited by OverWilliam; 2009-07-25 at 04:57 AM.
    Deo Soli Sit Semper Gloria

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    Its offical. Overwilliam is Duke Devlin.

  13. - Top - End - #253
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    OldWizardGuy

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    Ardraket Oldn

    “It is a simple choice. We will see what is happening out there, for while we have found out much there are still gaps in our knowledge. Such a strange event could be a coincidence; however it could provide another clue in our hunt. Afterwards we will leave them to follow our own path.”

    Thinking over what they have already found Ardraket shakes his head at the last question.

    “We are done here – Now it is the time go on the hunt again. Get whatever you need, I am ready to go. And now, I shall rest.”

    Finding a quiet place to rest Ardraket sits down crosslegged and closes his eyes. Breathing in and out he focuses quietly on an ancient practice he picked up. Entering a deep state of meditation (while remaining enough concentration to focus on threats to himself) he allows himself to relax and enter a deep state of rest, allowing him to condense the normal amount of sleep one needs into a short span. By the time that the lieutenant is back he would be fully refreshed and ready for whatever awaits.
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    I'm good at making you fear the unknown. Pwenet is good at making you fear the known, which had been the unknown five minutes before he pushed you off screaming into the abyss.
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    I'm feeling this real hard now.
    Curse you, Pwenet. Curse you.... You had my hopes up there...

  14. - Top - End - #254
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Dorizzit's Avatar

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    Korram smiles grimly at Kris, remembering when he himself had been much like that.

    "Don't worry. You can count on it."

    Korram nods silently as Kris recounts his parents being taken, and then spits on the ground at the mention of Moloch. He listens quietly for the rest of the tale, wishing that it was surprising to him, or that he was taken aback by it. Sadly, though, such things were all too common in the Barony. His wife was a testament to that.

    Oh, Skva, will you be quiet about her already? It's been what, twenty years? MOVE ON!
    Shut it. I'm trying to listen.

    Calcifer mutters something about hairless apes but quiets down.

    Kris finishes his story, with a parting jibe at Korram over the results of his actions. Much as he'd like to, he can't really refute the point.

    "Yeah. I guess I did."

    Korram doesn't really feel like continuing the conversation at that point, but will respond if Kris does.
    Truly awesome Ark Tamaeus avatar by Bryn. Full size version here.

  15. - Top - End - #255
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Lonna's Avatar

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    Pyrene

    One moment everything was peaceful, the next all hell broke loose. Arrows and crossbow bolts flew through the air, some of them narrowly missing Pyrene as she tried vainly to reach her human companions and the relative safety of the sleigh. As the panicked mounts began to pick up speed despite Klaus' best efforts, Pyrene gave up.

    "Go! Just go!" she shouted at them. "I'll catch up with you!"

    If I can...
    she thought pessimistically, focusing now on reaching the cave without getting shot. This is almost certainly one of the Baron's hunting parties, searching for escaped prisoners. Inside the mouth of the cave, she watched the sleigh pull away, wincing as one of the beast men snarled an order and began fighting his way out of the melee to follow them. Not good... I have to do something, but- Behind her, a stick in the half extinguished fire snapped. That's it!

    Hurriedly, Pyrene knelt by the remains of the fire, reaching into her magic even as she stretched her hands over the embers. There! She felt it: light and heat and color, the essense of fire. And it was already there, under her hand. All she had to do was help it grow...

    Pyrene scrambled to her feet and raced to the entrance of the cave again. Extending her arms above her head, she summoned the fire with a gleeful shout, a crackling, firey word that scalded her tongue. Obedient to her call, the embers of the tiny fire blazed into life, becoming the source for a stream of flames that flowed between her outstretched hands and over the combatants, striking the ground directly between the sleigh and the dog man who had begun pursuit of it. Within seconds the entire battlefield was ringed with multicolored flames that did not touch the trees, did not disappear when the grass beneath them was gone, yet were too hot to be safely approached.

    And all of it had streamed through Pyrene's hands, while she laughed with a pure joy she had never felt before. She loved the fire, and the fire loved her, and for a few seconds, even the heavily armed fighters outside were not enough to dampen the sheer feeling of life that the fire gave her. Too soon, the last of the fire landed where she had asked it to, and Pyrene put one part of her mind to work controlling it while she crafted an illusion in which to wrap herself.

    "Garthax, if you're in earshot, I'm about to play the big bad sorceress. Feel free to join the act," she muttered, once again privately lamenting the loss of the dress.

    ((OOC: Assuming all goes according to plan, she'll step out of the cave looking like her clothes are made of the same fire that surrounds the battle, probably with Garthax flying somewhere nearby. If she starts to lose control of one or both spells, she'll drop the illusion in favor of keeping the fire in place. Speaking of which, the fire doesn't look unnatural except that it doesn't move, it only burns what Pyrene wants it to burn, and it has every natural color of flame (so no black or purple, but red, orange, blue, white, even a little green.)))
    Last edited by Lonna; 2009-07-31 at 04:08 PM.
    I started a blog!
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  16. - Top - End - #256
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Baerdog7's Avatar

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    Ander Windrivver

    Ander grins with grim satisfaction as Peeping Tom falls to the ground dead. It would be somewhat easier to focus on dealing with Karth if he didn't have that annoying little imp whining in his ear the whole time.

    I'm sorry Melcara. I included you in my report to Miriam and I tried to plead the case that you might be able to be redeemed but she would have none of it. He sighs, any remaining satisfaction over killing Peeping Tom gone from his face. You betrayed her and Athelion for Azguloth. I'm sorry, but the Valkyrie has no mercy left in her heart for traitors.

    With a quick lunging thrust, Ander plunges Sin-Eater through Melcara's torso. He watches her crumble to ash before returning to camp. He couldn't be sure if it was just a trick of the light, but as Ander sheathed Sin-Eater he couldn't help but notice that the pale red tint of the blade seemed a tad darker, fresher, than usual. Probably nothing, just a trick of the light.

    Goood...

    In his mind, the sword was pleased.
    Last edited by Baerdog7; 2009-07-29 at 04:05 PM.
    Quote Originally Posted by PhoeKun View Post
    Baerdog: super genius.

  17. - Top - End - #257
    Orc in the Playground
     
    Iethloc's Avatar

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    Sohssal

    I've seen what I needed to see. Don't exterminate them. Just see if you can...make their minds more open to suggestion. Normally Sohssal would just sweep them aside or even destroy them, but he didn't want to risk attracting attention to himself outside of the pyramid. An illusion would be too risky. They probably wouldn't see through it now, but a report about a mage that didn't exist won't help Sohssal. Mind control wasn't his specialty, either, but a Suggestion spell was an easy one to pull off for a mage of his power.

    An idea for a Suggestion quickly came to him, and he wasted no time in planting it. There's little time to waste! Ignore those who'd throw themselves at danger and continue with your duties.

    He doubted it would work on the tattooed one, but the gnolls would probably fall for it. If not, he was already beginning to lose his patience, and one way or another the gnolls would soon no longer be delaying them.
    Order of the Pstick Avatar by Sneak

  18. - Top - End - #258
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    Telest

    "Hmm that will be useful when I find the girl," he says taking the horn. He straps the horn to his quiver and heads toward the ent saying, "Now let's go see what these Shamans have to say."
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  19. - Top - End - #259
    Orc in the Playground
     
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    Gazrul

    Gazrul nodded in agreement with Wulfric's words. While the Baron promised untold riches, their own deaths would render such useless.

    Gazrul gazed into the crystal silently for a moment, thinking of orders.

    "If you do not find the Countess by tomorrow evening, I want you out of there. As much as I hate to admit it, I'm becoming pessimistic. She may well be dead, and our mission for nothing.

    "As for the band you pursue does not have the Countess among its number..." he hesitated, "Do as yo wish."

  20. - Top - End - #260
    Firbolg in the Playground
     
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    Mar

    "Tired," Mar mumbled. It was harder to think than usual. The bed was very comfortable, and right then she just wanted to be able to sink into it and lie still. Part of her felt like she should talk to Jacob, though. Hadn't she been wanting to see him (or William and Caroline) for the last few days? "Everything's okay?" He'd told some of that already, but that was all right. Mostly, she just wanted to be reassured.

    This was very strange. Daddy never gave her anything like this when she was hurt. Part of her recognized that he wouldn't have done anything to reassure her, unless it was to reassure her that it had been her own fault, and that part cringed... but only for a moment. She remembered Jacob being nice, even if he didn't seem as nice anymore. He wouldn't do that.

    "Is it..." No, he'd said she was safe... wait, not quite. He said her secret, whatever that meant. "What..." she stifled a yawn, "what secret do you mean?"
    Avatar by Ifni. Thanks!

  21. - Top - End - #261
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    Ruya

    Ruya remained quiet as the gnolls' and strangers' argument began to escalate, but every rune on her body suddenly pulsed slightly. It would have been almost unnoticable if it hadn't come on the heels of the pyramid's appearance and its own effect on her. "Magic...someone near us just cast a spell," she warned. She pulled out her dagger, concentrating on the divination spell engraved within it. Normally used only for accuracy, she had never used it on targets that she couldn't already see, but it was the only active divination spell she had on her at the moment.
    Last edited by Meltemi; 2009-08-02 at 10:30 PM.
    Ruya Perist, Flight from Ironheart
    Teira Feiwright, Lost and Clueless

    I am me, you are you.
    We’re totally different, separate persons.
    But even so, what if we have just one thing in common?

  22. - Top - End - #262
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
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    The Ghosts of Callaway Camp

    Dorizzit

    Despite the dire circumstances under which you left the Ghosts’ Camp, your trip to the capital was rather uneventful. Near the outskirts of the forest, Kris takes a brief detour to a subtly marked tree. Buried in the crook of a very large root was an equally large sack which faintly jingled at every movement.

    “Something for my retirement – figured now was as good a time as any to put it to use. Should be enough to get us both to the capital and then some. Of course, I expect to be reimbursed – even family doesn’t get to ride for free.”

    Despite the words, the slight smile on Kris’s face suggests he may be joking – a little. The smile fades suddenly as he ***** his head, listening intently.

    “Do you hear that!? It sounds like horses!” Kris hisses, slinging the sack over one shoulder while drawing his signature weapon with his other.

    It takes a moment of focus on the distant parts of the forest around you, but you hear it then as well – the faint clapping of hooves rapidly striking the ground. Your experienced ears tell you something is off though. The hoof beats are not quite right for horses, and there is another faint sound present – the rickety clatter of wagon wheels.

    So, a carriage or wagon of some sort, being pulled by hoofed beasts, or at least that plus several mounted escorts. Much better than just approaching mounted people, as it suggests something other than a hunting party. It is, however, coming in your general direction, although likely will miss you as whatever it is thunders off along the forest in a near-parallel path to you.

    Kris quirks an eyebrow at you. “Investigate, or ignore it? I’d rather not have any further involvement with the Baron’s men personally, but it doesn’t sound like they’re coming after us, either. And this sack of gold is rather heavy . . .”

    The Purifier’s Camp

    Baerdog7

    Even as you are refusing Melcara’s plea for mercy and lunging forward, the fallen angel is leaping back up onto her feet with a panicked cry. As such, your thrust is a little lower than you had intended, completely missing her heart. Still, the blade passes cleanly into her torso, cutting her cry off into a soft gasp. Melcara attempts to speak, but all that comes out is a thin spray of blood that lands on your neck and shoulder. She then slides off your blade, arms flailing as she crumples. One flailing hand catches you across the face, her fingernails digging a series of furrows in the right side of your face that immediately being to reseal.

    As she strikes the ground, Melcara’s human illusion shatters, revealing her raven wings and other less overt angelic features. Like a wounded bird, Melcara’s wings thrash back and forth underneath her for a moment as she attempts to stand, only to fall back. She raises one arm pleadingly at you, and then slumps for good as she begins to violently hack up more blood.

    You’ve seen angels recover from an obscene amount of punishment, their wounds healing nearly as fast as their enemies can inflict them, at least until the angel’s energy reserves are depleted. Here, the hole in Melcara’s torso fails to reseal at all, and indeed seems to suffer from the opposite, as blood continues to gush out until she is lying in a shallow but wide pool of her own blood. It takes her over a minute to die, but finally dark flames engulf her body, reducing it and her spilled blood to ash.

    As you begin to sheath the sword, you note the blade oddly seems a bit darker, its edge a bit keener. But unmistakably, you can feel an empathic connection with the sword, and its feelings traveling over into your mind. Pleasure, and approval.

    As you are walking back to camp, you hear the crash of brush ahead of you, and two dark figures moving into the woods from the camp – the two guards assigned to watch you.
    “Lord General? We heard screams and the sounds of battle. Are you alright!!?”

    Looking down at yourself, you see that Melcara’s blood has burned away, leaving a thin layer of ash on your neck. The scratches on your face have mostly healed, but you’d guess they are still barely visible lines still.

    Stonefall

    The Surrounding Forest

    The_Snark Theater II - The_Snark Strikes Back (Yeah, not really. )

    At your question, Jacob hooks a thumb and reaches over to point at his back.

    “Your, ah . . . wings? Most people don’t have those, although I heard they were quite helpful in this case. For now, no one else in the village save myself, Caroline, and William know about those. Or even, really, know about you in general. I’ve just told them all that William hurt himself while playing out in the woods. But Caroline told me the truth. You have my eternal gratitude. I -”

    For a moment Jacob stopped, his voice apparently too thick with emotion to continue. But, eventually, he manages. “I am sorry, that I doubted you. But . . . I see now that you’ve come here to the right place and time to save my son. Forgive me.”

    This was another completely new experience to you. Always, it had been Daddy demanding your pleas for forgiveness. Now, Jacob was offering you his.

    Disturbing this scene was the sudden opening of the door, revealing William standing there. Several cloths have been wrapped around his head and various other parts of his body, and several long slats of wood have been tied to his leg. He also is currently leaning heavily on a pole shoved under his arm, but nonetheless he smiles when he sees you.

    “Hi Mar.” He whispers sheepishly, not quite meeting your eyes. “Thank you for saving my life.”

    “Shouldn’t you be in bed still, William?” Jacob grunted, although his stern comment had little edge to it. It got a slow nod from William regardless.

    “Yeah pa, I know. But, I was worried about Mar –“

    “Heh. She’s in much better shape than you son. But she’s awake finally, so I suppose I don’t see the harm in allowing you a few minutes to talk.”

    “Mar!” A voice suddenly calls from the hallway, and the slight form of Caroline bounds into the room, nearly knocking William over in the process. The young girl immediately hops up on to the bed next to you, somehow landing precisely on the one spot that was still tender and caused you to wince. Still, compared to what Daddy had forced you to suffer as punished, the pain was nothing, and quickly forgotten as Caroline bombarded you with words.

    “Oh thank you Mar, thank you thank you thank you for saving William! I was so worried when I saw you fall! You were so beat up looking when I found you down below, but now you’re looking great! Why isn’t William looking better like you are?”

    “Caroline! Give the poor girl some space!” Jacob admonished, causing Caroline to shrink back off the bed. “Awright.” But, immediately the little girl’s enthusiasm returned.

    “Were you scared Mar? What was it like, to fly down the cliff like that!? Do all angels fly like that?”

    The City of Amaranth

    The City Gates

    Meltemi

    (You two seem to have a slightly different posting schedule. Rather than try to press you both forward together I think we’re just going to do a two ships passing in the night and move on with your both individually. Sorry if I got your hopes up about no longer being alone. :-p)

    Feeling the pulse of magic nearby, you begin to cast a divination ritual, only for the gnoll leader to snarl in frustration.

    “Forget it. None of us have time for this.”

    As if in agreement, a loud shout comes from the direction of the Slums, evidently warning that something was beginning to occur there. You did not have much time left to reach safety. Allowing the strange pair of humans to pass, the gnolls push you onward to the center of town, the Nobles District.

    Although normally an area of beautiful gardens and fortified homes, today the streets are overrun with fearful refugees and armed guards. You have little time to appreciate the trampled remains of the scenery however, as your escorts push you on through to the large cathedral taking up one corner of the area. For the moment, the heavy iron-bound doors are wide open, although a number of gnolls and humans are working feverishly on the inside, apparently attempting to make the doors even more impregnable once closed.

    Slipping past them, the group of gnolls lead you to the main worship area, where a number of gnolls are milling about. Included amongst this number is a particularly ancient member of their species, leaning heavily on a gnarled walking stick while several humans attend to his numerous, but mostly superficial injuries. The ancient gnoll seems to be attempting to direct the efforts of a balding priest, who is frantically working on a summoning circle sketched out on the floor.

    You aren’t quite sure what this summoning circle is supposed to do. It definitely isn’t meant to summon demons or some sort of spirit, which is what you have experience with. But what does that leave? Regardless, even at a glance you can analyze what the circle should look like, and note several small mistakes that nonetheless may prevent the circle from functioning properly.

    “I’m telling you, I don’t think this is going to work. I’ve never done this before, and I don’t have access to my books – are you sure you can’t spare a few men to go over to the Great Library and retrieve the ancient texts in there? Maybe they have a diagram I could work off of or something.” The priest whines as he puts the finishing touches on the circle with a stick of gold chalk.

    “We must all do simply the best we can. If our ancestors favor us, then we shall succeed. And unfortunately, we can spare no men to go hunting for a tome that may or may not even be present!” The old gnoll rasps, breaking off midway through for a moment to growl in pain as the medics wrap cloth around a wound in the old gnoll’s side.

    At this point, the lead gnoll of your group comes forward, saluting and speaking quietly with the elder gnoll. They seem to be speaking in their native tongue, but you notice the lead gnoll gesturing in your direction several times, causing the ancient to thoughtfully look in your direction.

    Finally, the lead gnoll turns back and motions you forward.

    “This is our leader within Amaranth’s walls, Seer Malohk.” The lead gnoll said, bowing out of the way as that you and the elderly gnoll could examine each other closely. The ancient gnoll smiles kindly, or at least you can only assume it was meant to be a kind smile despite the appearance of a toothy grimace.

    “Greetings, child. My lieutenant here tells me that you are skilled with the runes?”

    At mention of “runes”, the priest perks up, eyeing you incredulously. “Runes? Seriously, her!? Oh please, maybe you can help me then. We need to get this summoning circle done so we can get some major help down here.”

    (If asked, the priest will reveal that the summoning circle is meant to summon an angel down from the Heavens. It was a fairly rare thing to do, but if she could be convinced to help the priest believes the warrior of the Gods could prove a very helpful ally.)

    Iethloc

    (You two seem to have a slightly different posting schedule. Rather than try to press you both forward together I think we’re just going to do a two ships passing in the night and move on with your both individually. Sorry if I got your hopes up about no longer being alone. :-p)

    Very well.

    Whatever Omega did, it seemed to be quite effective, as you swiftly entered the lead brute’s mind and implanted the suggestion. A moment later, he snarls in frustration.

    “Forget it. None of us have time for this.”

    As if in agreement, a loud shout comes from the direction of the Slums, evidently warning that something was beginning to occur there. Taking this as further hint for them to leave, the gnolls don’t give Omega and Roger any further trouble, allowing them to pass freely. Meanwhile, the gnolls continue heading towards the Noble district, the two strange girls in tow. Perhaps after this was all over, you could investigate the girl further if she survived.

    Continuing on into the slums, you can see a number of people moving about frantically, either securing their residences or preparing to flee the premises to the supposed safety further inside the town. There seems to be a strong sense of fearful anticipation here, and it is little wonder with the massive black pyramid now nearly directly overhead. It seemed to be slowly drifting inward over the city. Likely within a few hours it would be over the center of the city, unless something somehow changed its course.

    Meanwhile, the people of this city would likely have far more to worry about, as you notice a very large number of figures darting about around the pyramid – gargoyles, if you would have to hazard a guess. And, in the distance near the gates leading out from the slums into the graveyard, you can hear the hungry moans of the walking dead. Whatever you were going to do, you would likely need to do it fast.

    As if a prelude to this, you suddenly notice a number of dark shapes begin to plummet down from the pyramid. They quickly resolve themselves into humanoids, some recognizable to you and some not.

    There is the massive paladin Alexander Ross present, as well as the vampire Umber’s ward Bran, he who still embodies a wellspring of primal magic. Finally, there is what appears to be a massive metal golem, or at least what is left of him as the horde of gargoyles assaulting the group finally manage to get a firm enough hold on him to pull the metal golem apart, sending pieces of metal raining down on to the streets.

    Despite fighting furiously and giving their all, Ross and Bran also look likely to be similarly overrun by the swarm of gargoyles if intervention is not soon undertaken.

    WhiteKnight777

    For just a moment, Helion’s eyes flash with mirth at your mention of usurping Kartul, but then the expression disappears as quickly as it had come.

    “Oh no, I am quite happy at remaining a small cog in the great machine of undead liberation. In-fighting would only serve to weaken us and cause our joint downfall in the struggle to come. Besides, what sort of ingrate would I be to stab in the back the one who grants me true life eternal?”

    At the doorway, the other vampire coughs loudly and taps his foot. “Wrap this up and conclude your transformation, Helion. It is time for the Elder Umber to go as well.”
    Sparing an annoyed look at the vampire lackey, Helion nonetheless chuckles as he bends down to retrieve the wooden stake.

    “There is nothing to stop you from draining me dry, Umber. Nothing but the sure knowledge doing so would be entirely pointless. I was made immortal by my sire, but now true eternal life is within my grasp.”

    Pushing past you, Helion approaches Mellita. He wraps her up in an embrace, kissing her enthusiastically. Unlike when they had first met however, Mellita was not quite as enthusiastic in return. Finally breaking away, Helion smiles as he gently folds a lock of hair back behind Mellita’s ear.

    “Ah, my sweet. Behave yourself now. I will miss you, but sadly you will not be able to follow me. But perhaps Umber will be able to find a use for her.”

    Turning back to you, Helion stage whispers with a wink, “She has several.”

    Turning serious once more, Helion snaps a jaunty salute at you. “Good-bye Umber. I can’t say my dealings with you have been pleasant, but they’ve at least been entertaining. I hope we never meet again, but I suspect we shall – your curiosity will undoubtedly be the end of you.”

    Spreading his arms wide and craning his head back, Helion shouts up at the ceiling. “And now, with this very act, I spit in the face of death! Forevermore!”

    And then in one smooth motion, he brings the wooden stake up and into his own heart. The effect is immediate, as Helion’s body locks up, and then rapidly dissolves away into dust, as he evidently came from a clan for whom such a wound was instantly fatal. Mellita gives a sudden scream, kneeling down beside the pile of ashes and clothing left behind. The vampire lackey only gives a grunt of satisfaction, and motions you towards the door.

    “Your questions have been answered, Elder Umber. And now for your own sake, it is time to leave. The Ungod does not have much patience in these times of great change.”

    Ironheart

    The Surrounding Mountains

    Gourtox

    You are led without fanfare to the shamans’ hut. Even from a distance you can hear the sound of low chanting and moans coming from within. At the entranceway, several elves stand guard, although they swiftly move aside once informed as to why you were there.

    “Be careful not to disturb the ritual, no matter what occurs. The spirits can sometimes be . . . strange. But if anyone can give you the information you seek, the shamans can.” The guards whisper to you, and then you are within the hut.

    Once inside, you can immediately see what the guard means. Inside the room are five people – four elves and one human. The elves are dressed in long flowing robes and are moving around a low fire barefoot, apparently heedless of the cold seeping up from the ground. Hanging down from the ceiling of the hut is the human, an elderly woman covered in thin cuts, which form various sigils. As you watch one of the dancing elves slices open another shallow cut along the woman’s arm, eliciting a pained moan from the woman and a loud shout from the other elves as another sigil is complete.

    Apparently taking this as a sign that the next phase of the ritual is ready to begin, the four shamans dance out to the outskirts of the hut, each gathering up a large handful of snow in their hands. Dancing back inwards to the fire, the four elves drop their handfuls of snow into the fire as one. Immediately the fire goes out and a thick puff of misty smoke leaps up, surrounding the woman. Instead of dissipating however, the mist only thickens, and suddenly begins to move of its own accord. It begins to flow into the cuts in the woman’s skin, and into her mouth and nose. The woman gives a violent shudder and a final loud scream, then falls limp.

    Reverently, one of the shaman moves forward and removes the human woman’s gag as her eyes slowly open. You notice that they appear frozen solid now, pale white orbs of ice that sweep about the room before settling on the shaman.

    “What do you want?” The woman, clearly no longer human, intones.

    Bowing low, the shaman whispers, “Oh great Queen, please lift the veil of lies away from the truth. Tell us how we may serve you, how we may find the one not human or elf born.”

    Angrily, the woman hisses.

    “Have I not already told you enough!? The one you seek is not human or elf, what part of that do you not comprehend?”

    While the shaman briefly pauses in consideration of a suitable answer, the milky white orbs of the possessed human turn to focus on you.

    “And you. What is it that you desire to learn here?”

    Falconer

    Reluctantly, Wulfric nods. “Very well sir. If all goes well, I shall contact you again in several hours.”

    Sure enough, a number of hours pass. Your various lieutenants check back in, reporting their status in fortifying the outlying towns surrounding Amaranth. So far, no further communication with your forces inside the city could be managed. Your own unit is finishing with packing up camp for the morning when Wulfric contacts you again.

    The fearsome warrior looks like hell. His face is pale and he shivers occasionally. He does not seem to be wearing his customary armor, but rather has one of your black cloaks from the Baron covering him from the chin down. Still, despite his odd appearance, Wulfric is grinning.

    “Sir, I saw her! A young woman matching the Countess’s description, fleeing a band of elves in a cart. We were unable to catch her and have not located her yet, but I managed to capture one of her traveling companions. You won’t believe this, but it was Pyrene the Temptress! Miserable wench nearly drowned after plunging into a frozen lake.”

    At first, the name fails to register. But then you recall the name from the Baron’s files. A somewhat infamous seducer of men within the human lands, known for stealing their clothes after spending the night with them. Supposedly not much of a threat, but believed to have some middling magical talent. A relatively small catch on her own, but if she was traveling with the Countess . . .

    “Sir, this could be a very important lead in our investigation!” Wulfric presses, his voice even more eager than usual. “We can’t move the whore in her current condition, but she should be awake by tonight. I plan to interrogate her, get whatever information on the Countess and her whereabouts that I can. If you can give me another few days out here, perhaps I can salvage this situation after all! But, what are your own intentions, Gazrul? Will you join me out here or do you intend to take the bulk of our forces back to Amaranth to attempt rendezvous with whatever is left of Malohk’s forces?”

    Lonna

    Conjuring forth the flame, you block off any routes the Baron’s men could use to pursue the cart bearing the Countess and Klaus away from here. You aren’t sure what the Baron was doing employing this odd mix of human and beastman, considering the almost all human guards of Ironheart. But certainly, this fighting force is brutally effective, as the fight against the elves is already nearly over with most of them lying dead and a broken handful, their wounded leader included, fleeing quickly into the woods.

    Considering your next act, it is probable that their attention would have shifted to you anyway even if they had still been involved in brutal melee combat with the elves. After all, it isn’t every day that even hardened veterans saw a sorceress wreathed in flame. Garthax swooping around in front of you with cackles of “Bow down, filthy mortals!” likely helped your impression.

    Many of the assembled men stumble back, and even those who don’t are clearly awed, wavering in the decision to stand their ground or flee. It really was a pity that you did not have a dress or a mirror so you could see yourself, flames dancing about you and your flame-red hair also dancing and flashing about your head like tongues of fire of their own. This feeling is absolutely exhilarating! Never have you felt so alive or in tune with your surroundings as the fire crackles around you with every step. The fires are like an extension of your own body now, as you continue to walk forward, driving the Baron’s men before you through sheer force of personality alone.

    Sadly, this moment is not to last, as another helmeted man rides up out of the forest. You aren’t an expert on military affairs by any means, but considering the ornamentation on his armor you would assume this one to be the man in charge. If the armor wasn’t a clear enough giveaway, his actions a moment later confirmed his authority amongst the soldiers.

    “Why are you afraid!? Forward, you idiots! FOR GAZRUL!”

    The screaming armored giant then levels a crossbow at you. Despite the distance and shielding flames, the fired bolt still penetrates to slice along your left side. The wound is considerably less serious than it could have been, and you suspect that the flames surrounding you may have partially melted the bolt, lessening the damage further. But still, the hot bolt glances off your left side, stinging painfully. And this distraction, while not much, is enough to cause your concentration to falter.

    Slowly at first, but growing in strength like an inevitable tide, you feel your control of the flames falling away from you. In the cold air and without your magical aid, the flames quickly falter and die out, each time causing you to feel like a part of you is dying with them.

    As the last of the flames surrounding you winks out, the armored giant nods in satisfaction. “See!? Mere sorcery is no match for our might! Now hurry up and finish this so we can get back to our job! A bonus to the man who brings this one back to me alive!”

    With a greedy shout, the assembled mass of men and beastmen who had previously been falling back now surge forward after you. Garthax swoops down to try and turn them away with a harsh cry, but the lead beastman simply swats himself aside with his shield, almost as an afterthought.

    Your side starting to sting and burn, you do the only thing you can think to do in this situation, faced with over a dozen heavily armed, angry men – you turn and run. You run for your life. No direction, no plan, just mindless flight through the woods as fast as your rested legs can carry you.

    Your shoulders are hunched, expecting a crossbow bolt between your shoulder blades at any moment, but none hiss past you – they wanted the reward for taking you back alive. Much like your side, your lungs begin to burn as they take in deep gulps of the frigid air. Your legs tremble as they attempt to carry you further on through the deep snow.

    Amazingly, you are somehow fleet of foot enough to gain ground against the heavily armored men, who are even more encumbered in attempting to move through the snow. You can hear their shouts slowly beginning to dim behind you, and for the briefest moment a sense of elation cuts through the fiery pain and fear – you were going to get away!

    But then you hear the angry whinnies of the horses, a moment before a group of mounted men burst out from behind a corpse of trees just ahead of you. The lead two are carrying a net between them, which they throw at you as they get close. Sliding to a halt and veering off towards a nearby tree, you are able to cause this attempt at catching you to miss, the net thwacking violently into the tree and spraying chips of bark into your face.

    Rolling back up to your feet, you duck through a trio of closely placed trees, forcing the mounted men to go around as you continued straight on through, pushing yourself forward once more. Now you had little hope of escape however, for the mounted men seemed to be all around you, closing in from all directions.

    Barely keeping ahead of them and dimly aware you can’t continue this pace for much longer, you stumble on through the snow, now roughly perpendicular to your current course. To your dismay, you quickly find yourself approaching a very large snow-covered clearing within the forest. Without trees to weave around, you would lose your small advantage in maneuverability, and would undoubtedly lose in an open race against horses. Yet what choice did you have? The black-cloaked riders were hemming you in, herding you towards the open field.

    As a painful reminder of your pursuers, something hard suddenly strikes the back of your shoulder, flinging you forward into a nearby tree. A rider had pushed his mount to the limit, and had caught up with you. Whirling his mount around with a laugh of triumph, the beastman swings his club around for another blow, this one plowing into the tree where your head had rested a moment before, showering your with exploding bark again as you duck under the blow. Summoning what little remaining breath you had left, you hissed at the foul creature “*FLEE!*” Obediently, the creature’s eyes went wide as he whirled his horse around again, guiding it charging off into the opposite direction from you – for a few moments anyway.

    A few moments were all you needed though to push off from the tree and continue stumbling onward, away from the riders and out on to the open field. You could not go much further, but with grim determination not to be imprisoned again you push onward.

    There is not as much snow here as you would expect a field to have, and the ground is oddly both somewhat slick and hard beneath your feet, much different than the frozen ground of the forest. You are only a little way out into the field when a loud crack, followed by splashing and loud cursing, reaches your ears. Turning your head, you watch a horse and rider stumble back up into the forest, dripping wet. At the point where the forest meets field, there is a hole now, with dark water beneath it.

    The awful realization finally enters your mind as all the facts rush together: you are not standing in a field, but on top of a lake. A frozen lake whose covering of ice has become disturbed by the mortal beings running about on top of it.

    The riders all fall back as the hole’s cracks begin to shoot outward, and they don’t even attempt to follow you out on foot, just silently watch you. You manage to press yourself onward a number of steps further out onto the lake. Not even the riders can follow you after all, although you dimly note a few of them grimly urging their mounts into motion once more, this time following the boundaries of the lake around, towards the far side.

    Even so, the lake is wide and long, and the riders would have a long ride ahead of them before reaching the far side. Cutting straight across it, you might have been able to get there ahead of them and disappeared somewhere into the woods beyond, safe at last. Unfortunately, the last of your strength began to leave you, and instead of a full run you could only manage a stumbling, numb trot. Your exhaustion, fear, and intense focus on reaching the far side all conspire against you, and suddenly a new complication arises. You misstep, and suddenly the warning creaks of the snow-covered ice beneath your feet turn into a harsh snap.

    You fall, and suddenly your world is nothing but wet, cold, and dark. Your brain manages to realize that you are underwater, underneath the ice, but everything is a confusing mess. Your arms and legs churn slowly through the frigid water around you, trying to keep you from sinking further down into the dark cold depths, dragged by the weight of your sodden clothes. Your head strikes something hard, that gives slightly but refuses to rise enough to allow you to break above the water.

    You must have shifted under the ice, away from where you broke through, or fallen through in such a way that chunks of ice still clog the hole. You are trapped down here now, in the cold depths beneath the ice. You can’t get out, you can’t breathe, and with a final inevitably your limbs begin to slow as you sink further. You can’t even scream, as the distant still functioning corner of your mind realizes that to do so will be the final step in allowing the cold in to claim you.

    Paradoxically, you are able to look up through the ice overhead, a bright shinning whiteness standing out against the blackness surrounding you, at least where your flight disturbed the snow. As you continue to slowly sink downwards, you can only watch as a dark shape emerges from the forest. It is the leader of the Baron’s men.

    Insanely, this man charges his horse out onto the ice, ignoring the loud protests of the ice beneath his mount’s hooves. Finally, even the mount refuses to go any further, and the massive figure leaps off of his mount’s back, carried forward by the momentum. He hits the ice hard and immediately breaks through. Despite being weighed down by his armor, somehow a dark shape looms in your graying vision a few moments later.

    An iron band wraps around your waist a moment after that, and suddenly you are ascending again. Reaching the field of white overhead, your rescuer swings his other arm up, smashing a chunk of ice aside. Suddenly, you are back in the real world again, and somehow even colder as the frigid air cuts through the water dripping off of you. You manage to weakly exhale, and then inhale, injecting even more chill into your abused lungs.

    Somehow, the armored figure manages to find a more solid piece of ice, shoving you up on to it. Now the full effect of the air strikes your already numb body, and your heart nearly seizes up from the shock. Movingly considerably slower now, the armored figure manages to beach himself next to you, and then struggles to stand. Somehow, he manages not only this but avoid breaking down through the ice again.

    Mechanically, he bends down to scoop you up in his arms, his harsh ragged breathing magnified by his helmet. With halting steps he carries you back to the shore and captivity, while the waiting figures shout in disbelief and near panic.

    “PREPARE A FIRE! CLEAR OUT A SPOT ON THE GROUND!! GET SOME DRY CLOTHES!”

    As he steps foot onto the shore, the armored hulk’s strength finally leaves him, and he stumbles, falling to his knees as he hands you off to several of the waiting men. They immediately drag you over to the fire they’re desperately trying to get started, tugging at your clothes and their own cold (but dry) cloaks to wrap around you. The rest immediately go to attend to their leader, who still defiantly remains planted on the ground on his hands and knees. Somewhere along the way, his helmet has fallen off, revealing a dripping mass of blond hair.

    “Looks like I give the reward to myself . . . you ****ing pansies.” The armored figure rasps, before looking up at you. His green eyes bore into yours for a moment, and for just a second you feel an odd sense of déjà vu. “Knock . . . the whore out.” He grunts, and in response one of the nearby guards pulls out his crossbow.

    “Sorry.” The man grunts as he pulls his crossbow back, and then rams the butt of the weapon into your right temple. At last, the darkness claims you, and you rush on to the cold oblivion. Despite your recent experience, the darkness seems even colder as the harsh wind hisses through your unconscious mind once again.

    ”Daughter . . . you disappoint me. You could rule over these insects in my stead, and yet you knock my hands away. You will come to accept your destiny . . . or you will perish.”

    Slowly, the cold and darkness fades, but it doesn’t disappear completely. A throbbing pain in your head likewise grows commensurate with the lessening of the darkness, until the two seem to equalize. Slowly, your brain awakens enough to process that there is something wrong with your eyes – something is covering your eyes?

    You give the command to bring your hand around to remove the blockage, but this effort fails as well. Repeated attempts make no further progress, and it takes your clouded mind a few minutes to realize that this is because you are bound. Quite thoroughly and tightly too, if the wild and utterly futile attempts to thrash and twist your way free which follow are any indication. Your angry shriek of indignation is muffled by a heavy cloth gag, and it is only then that your brain realizes just how much trouble you are in.

    Dimly, you hear shouts and movement somewhere nearby, but you are unable to puzzle anything else out. A minute later, and your blindfold is torn away, flooding your eyes with light. Or at least to them, bright light, when really the only illumination is provided by a dim fire. It still takes nearly a minute for your eyes to focus properly and for your brain to register what you are seeing.

    You are lying on the ground within a tent, or more accurately a lean-to, a heavy cloth draped over a low-hanging tree branch and several rough-cut poles to provide rudimentary shelter from the outside world. A small part of the cloth “ceiling” has been cut open, leaving a hole for the small fire’s smoke to exit. The ground has been largely cleared, although left bare save for the bed of several cloaks which you are currently lying on.

    Several more cloaks are piled up on top of you, and you can feel one or two more wrapped around you, likely as much for your modesty as your warmth. The similarities to your current situation and previous situations you have awoken to are not lost on you, and neither are the differences.

    Difference one, you are bound and gagged. Your hands and arms are tightly tied behind your back, and held in place by numerous ropes which loop around your torso. Your legs are similarly bound together, and it seems as if your ankles are tied to some sort of stake given their refusal to move out of their current position. Difference two, you’re surrounded by a number of skilled warriors. Although the heavy cloth blocks them from sight, as your senses begin to come back into alignment you can hear them moving about outside, talking, laughing, practicing with their weapons. Difference three, you have two guests. One is obviously the guard, one of the beastmen squatting down near the flap leading out of the makeshift tent and covering you intently with a readied crossbow. The other is your rescuer, clutching the cloth that had been serving as your blindfold in one beefy hand. His wild hair and intense eyes give him a ferocious look, but somehow you are only reminded of something instead of frightened. Otherwise, business largely as usual since awakening in the depths of the Prism within Ironheart.

    “Well, good morning! Or rather good evening, considering you’ve slept all day. I was beginning to become a little worried you’d never wake up.”

    The man’s eyes narrow.

    “I wouldn’t have liked that. I went to enormous amounts of trouble to save your life, and I’ve been looking forward to this meeting for quite some time – Pyrene the Temptress!”

    The man chuckles and grins as he studies your face intently.

    “Yes . . . it really is you, isn’t it? I knew it was the instant I saw you – although I don’t recall the fire trick. Something you learned how to do for more ostentatious clients, perhaps? Ah, no matter. For now, we should probably discuss business. I think you can assess the seriousness of your situation. But what you don’t know is that my friend back there has his ears filled with wax. Your silver tongue won’t work on him, and I doubt your other . . . charms will either, you’re not his type – or species really, for that matter. If I suddenly start acting funny, he also has orders to shoot you. Nothing fatal at present, since you’re admittedly too valuable for that, but it will hurt a whole lot and then I will be pissed when I snap out of whatever spell you had me under. And unlike some nampy-pampy “gentleman”, I have no compunctions about pushing a lady’s teeth down her throat with my fist if she deserves it. So, behave yourself, answer my questions nicely, and we’ll get along fine. Or don’t, and see what that gets you. I’m going to remove your gag and ask my first question now.”

    Reaching down, the man unties the knots holding the gag into place, pulling it free and tucking it into his hand holding your blindfold. He allows you a few seconds to work your jaw, and then says. “Alright, first question. That blond-haired woman we saw fleeing in a cart – that was the Countess Amelia Ashargrin, wasn’t it?”

    Pwenet

    You descend into your meditative trance, refreshing your body and mind in a fraction of the time it normally takes via sleep. It was unfortunately not a permanent replacement for sleep, but for now your body would accept the use of trances as an acceptable substitute. Soon enough, you brought yourself out of the trance, and went to go find the lieutenant and Vash.

    You are only able to locate the lieutenant, along with the other men intended to serve as the scouting patrol. Vash is not present, and after several minutes of waiting, the lieutenant begins to make noises that the group will need to head out without the helpful preacher. Just as you are about to give him up for lost, he comes bounding around the corner, looking oddly flushed.

    “Overslept.” He grunted to you, as the group finally set out with a ragged cheer. With a minimal amount of checks now that the prison was no longer maximum security, the massive gates of Ironheart were opened, allowing your procession access to the woods. After a brief period of getting your bearings, the group sets out towards the supposed signals.

    It takes some time to make your way in the dark through the woods, although this allows your eyes to adjust fully to the night. You can tell that your training has given your much sharper nightvision than any of the guards, an advantage you are careful not to waste by looking into the lanterns that some of the guards were carrying to light the way.

    It is likely this attempt at preserving your nightvision that saves your life as you near the rendezvous point. Cunningly concealed, but not quite enough to avoid your eyes, you notice a thin wine stretched out between two trees, at about ankle height. You aren’t sure what the wire is connected to, but it seems likely that nothing good will come of it.

    The lead guard is nearly to the trap now. Calling out a warning might be dangerous if whoever set the trap is nearby. Your eyes don’t detect any dark shapes standing out against the forest nearby, but that doesn’t mean there couldn’t be someone lurking further away and waiting to hear the sound of either screams of their perimeter alarm going off. Or the approaching set of lights suddenly stopping, not at the trap but just in front of it.

    One thing is for sure though – unless the guards were paranoid before making emergency camp within the forest, this was looking more and more like a big trap.

    The Hells

    The Screaming Dark Estate

    OverWilliam

    “Impressive.” Limier said simply, although with a tone of respect in her voice. “If it is draining on you, we should hurry.”

    Without another word, the wispy outline of Limier moves towards the open doorway leading down into the depths beneath the Screaming Dark Estate. She pauses frequently however, clearly waiting to ensure you keep up and that she doesn’t get too far out ahead, straining your invisibility charm.

    The stairway is, for the moment, empty of guards or denizens of any sort, allowing you both an uneventful descent. Upon reaching the bottom there is a harrowing moment when a pair of devils patrolling the outskirts of the room sweep by the doorway just as you are about to step out. They fail to notice either of you, and proceed along as if nothing happened while you and Limier breathe a quiet, collective sigh of relief. Then you slip out into the room, taking momentary cover behind a stand of mining tools to prevent a blunder similar to what almost happened from occurring while you scope out the room.

    The cavernous pit was much as Limier described – a sort of reverse ziggurat, pits within pits leading down in layers to the very bottom where a number of chained humanoids worked. The mining process was done entirely by hand, and as you watch several slaves struggle to haul a wheeled cart full of broken rock up a short incline from the bottommost pit up to the surrounding ring. A trio of devils look on, encouraging the group with their barbed whips. Scattered about the room are other groups of slaves, widening the upper layers of the pit under the lazy supervision of more devils. There are also several roving patrols of devils similar to the ones you and Limier almost collided with.

    Here and there, tunnels yawn open in the “walls” of a layer, provided by the layer above that. Most have iron gratings of various sorts over them, and you can see movement behind some of them – slaves apparently being given a short respite. There are also several other solid dark iron portals which are completely shut, and have a suspicious lack of any guards or slaves standing near them.

    Predictably, all of the slaves you see working down in the pits are male, and are all sorts – humans, elves, orcs and other humanoids, even a few scrawny devils. You do not see Teareal among the working ones, however. Beside you, Limier hisses in irritation.
    “He was just working here a short while ago. He looked like he was plotting some sort of ill-conceived attack on the guards, so perhaps they’ve dragged him off somewhere for punishment. Hmmm, punishment in the Hells – seems excessive, don’t you think? We’ll have to examine some of the side tunnels to find him, I suspect – unless you’d prefer to locate Crx and his keys first – I don’t notice him down here either.”

    Just then, a loud commotion drags your attention back over to the stairway you had used a few minutes ago. A somewhat large patrol of devils, half a dozen in all, are energetically bounding down the stairs into the room. Caught in their midst is a woman, wrapped up in an intricate network of chains, the ends of which the devils are holding on to and using to drag her along with them. No, not a woman after all, but an angel, although even that descriptor feels . . . wrong. Her bound wings are raven black instead of snow white like most common depictions, and there is a dark edge to her beauty. You were also given to understand that angels were weapons of the gods, and naturally despised devils as a result. This one however kept her head bowed, silently tolerating the occasional blow from her devil keepers, and meekly following where they led even when a sudden tug from one would send her stumbling. And even so, there was a strange hesitation in the devils, as if they needed a moment to consider if another blow was worth the risk that their prisoner’s demeanor might suddenly change.

    Attracted by the loud shouts of the group, one devil, slightly larger and with some sort of markings of rank on his armor, flies up from the pit to meet the group.

    “You six, what is going on here!? And why have you brought this . . . thing into our very midst!!?”

    “We found her outside, sir!” One of the devils reported, before another added, “Yes sir! She was just sitting there! At first we thought it was a trap, but she made no move to resist, even after we started to bind her!” “She even gave us suggestions.” A third one muttered.

    If anything, this caused the leader devil to look at the angel even more suspiciously. Drawing a wicked dagger, the devil moves directly up to the bound angel and shoves the knife under her chin.

    “Why are you here? Why did you allow yourself to be taken so easily!? Who sent you!!? Who are you!!!? ANSWER!!”

    Briefly, the angel’s eyes flick up to the devil’s face, but then return to staring at the ground. With a roar of frustration, the devil removes the knife from the angel’s throat, opting instead to smash the hilt of the weapon into her face. The impact is enough to knock the angel to the ground, or would have been if the surrounding devils hadn’t pulled their chains taut, catching and then lifting her back up onto her feet. A tickle of blood running out from one corner of the her mouth, the angel looks directly up at the lead devil and gives a harsh laugh, one that sounds more like a choking cry than any gesture of mirth.

    “I’m here to be punished. Everything else is inconsequential.”

    Now it is the devil’s turn to laugh. “So, the Valkyrie has become recently disappointed in one of Her whores.”

    Again, the angel’s gives its strangled laugh.

    “Oh no, I’m a returning guest! I simply missed the caress of your torture implements.”

    “Well then, you will not be disappointed here! I will go alert Crx he has a new guest down here. You lot take her down to the –“

    “Um, begging your pardon sir, but shouldn’t we alert Lord Vylethar first? I am sure he would be *quite* interested in learning he has a fallen angel as a . . . guest now. Particularly given his orders regarding . . . certain types of new guests.”

    Slowly, an unpleasant smile spreads across the lead devil’s face. “You’re right, Lord Vylethar would be quite pleased to learn that, particularly if she remains undamaged. Fine, secure her in one of the empty slave quarters and then get out here – I’ll need to decide which option I like more.”

    Sharing a joint cackle as the leader steps out of their way, the patrol of devils drags the angel into motion once more. As chance would have it, they drag her directly past your position. As was thankfully usual, the devils fail to notice you and Limier completely. The angel however, for one brief moment lifts her head up, turning to look directly into your eyes. Or perhaps she was simply looking around at her new home, but whether she actually saw you or not, for that one moment you got a good look into her eyes. They were filled with confusion, fear, and despair.

    Past your position now, the devils stop a short distance away, at one of the grated doorways built into the wall. Popping it open, they drag the angel inside, spending a few minutes inside before eventually emerging, shutting and locking the cell door behind them. Cackling amongst themselves, the six devils then fly off, leaving the doorway unguarded. Evidently, they were either confident in the chains and locked door holding the angel, or the some two dozen devils wandering about the cavern to stop her if she got loose.
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  23. - Top - End - #263
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    WhiteKnight777's Avatar

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    Umber

    Umber snorted, breaking in on Helion's monlogue. "You'd be exactly the sort of power-hungry bastard who seeks immortality in the first place. I should know."

    He listened with increasing amusement at Helion's declaration of immortality. The lad really did remind Umber of himself, a few thousand years ago. Of course, that just made Umber all the more privately determined to make sure he met a nasty and very final end before he could become a problem...

    But before he could effect that, Helion completed whatever ritual he had in mind, vanishing into dust. Umber seemed unphased - whatever he had done, there was price, and there would be flaws. If there was anything he'd learned in his millenia of life, its that there were always prices and flaws. Even the gods were not immune, why should men be so, mortal or otherwise? He simply smiled as the darkness gathered about him. Something had changed in his stance, his gait - it had been happening all evening, the old faces and familiar places letting a bit of the old Umber shine through.

    The grinning wanderer, the Fool, as he named himself, peeled back, showing glimpses of something else. He remembered the weight of his war-panoply - ebon armor of cunningly wrought plates, its like not seen in the world for all these thousands of years since the fall of their Bastion. The heft of his ancient blade, a relic of a pre-human people best left unnamed. The shift of his mount beneath him, a truly nightmarish creature that spoke in a high-pitched, childlike voice, a thing of malice and claws and leering eyes that supped on warm flesh.

    Oh, he remembered those days - marching to war. Invincible. Unconquerable. A dark god walking the earth, one of the Seven. A herald of nightmares and a king of the Court of Shadows.

    A damned fool, he thought with a wry smile. And fighting for what? Dust and ashes. That's all it ever was in the end. Dust and ashes. And thats what Kartul would make the world, if he were allowed.

    No. Not tonight. There was too much to do, and too much to see. And he'd be damned if he bowed down to a mad, worm-riddled corpse, old "friend" or no. It was time to end this.

    His fingers wrapped around the hilt of his blade - It had no magic in it other than the subtle, secret sort of a master smith. No enchantment strengthened its steel, but elegant traceries ran through it. He could feel them under his fingertips. Channels, they were, hidden in the blade. Yes... the man who made this blade had possessed a gift indeed. It was perfect.

    Umber just hoped it would be enough.
    Taking Mellita's arm and giving her a gentle smile as he pulled her to her feet, Umber spoke in a soft voice. "I am sorry, my dear, that your former master was so... inconsiderate. You are far too valuable and far, far too lovely to be treated such, used as chattel... I only hope that you will be willing to lend me your loyalty, and that I prove worthy of it." He turned, then, cupping her face in his elegant hands and bringing her lips to his in a long, hungry kiss.

    When he was finished, he bent, sweeping up the ashes and placing them in a small box - he always kept a few containers about his person for just such occasions, and these remains might prove useful, he thought with a smirk. He made sure to retrieve every bit. After all... one never knew. He made sure the box was sealed tight, that nothing might seep in or out, and then brushed an imaginary speck of dust off his clothing.

    Finally, he looked at the lackey, and merely smiled. "I think not. Kartul and I have some unfinished business"

    With that, he strode out of the room, Mellita on one arm. He marched straight to Kartul's throne room, ignoring the lackeys cowering and groveling, staring Kartul straight in the face. Drawing himself up, Umber began to speak, his voice calm, yet firm. There was a trace of the old pride and unutterable strength in his voice, the command and charisma that had made nations bend their knees and cause kings to grovel at his feet.

    "Kartul... I have been thinking about your offer, about your plans. What you propose... it is madness. Do you not remember what happened the last time we sat on our thrones and tried to hold the world in thrall? Do you think the gods will allow you to lord over a dead world, to defy them so brazenly? Their servants were enough to unmake our ebon Kingdom. They may have grown petty and bicker among themselves, but even so they are still strong. What you are doing is madness, Kartul.

    But it is not the wrath of the gods you should fear. Even if you could defeat them, what then? You want to lord over a kingdom of bitter ashes and watch corpse-puppets dance for your amusement? Hollow, Kartul. I, for one, enjoy this world. There is more to life than dominion and petty power. Life - or, in our case, unlife - is something more. It is a quest to transcend ourselves, a quest to know, to evolve. And we - we more than any can appreciate that. Have we not passed beyond the limits of mere mortals. You are right to think that we can be more, that we could become in times as gods ourselves - but to think that control and dominion are the paths to that transcendence is folly.
    "

    Umber smiled grimly "But in the end, neither of us is going to listen to the other, is he? You are set in your ways, and I, for my part, have chosen a different path. Neither will bow their head to the other. I will not be content in a dead world, nor bow my head to you. And you will not stray from your course, I think. We would come to conflict, sooner or later.

    I regret this necessity, Kartul. We never saw eye to eye, but in the past, I could at least respect your drive, your accomplishment. But now... Ah. We come at last to the ragged end of the road. What say you, Kartul, my old friend?
    " Umber asked with a wry smile, his stance easy, but ready for anything, including sudden treachery.

  24. - Top - End - #264
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Lonna's Avatar

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    Pyrene

    As she came fully awake, Pyrene's first thought was one of annoyance. This kind of situation is getting really old. This makes what, three times in four days I've woken up to find myself helpless and in danger? And twice that I've nearly frozen to death... why did he save me?

    Eyeing her oddly familar rescuer while he explained the situation, she tried to understand what her instincts were telling her. He clearly knew her somehow, and while she did not doubt that he would make good on his threats, she also did not fear him. If only she could remember him! Was he a bodyguard for one of her old clients, perhaps?

    Then the gag was being removed, and Pyrene brought her attention back to the matter at hand. Fortunately she had given some thought to what she would say in such a situation after leaving Klaus' home the day before, and didn't have to hesitate over her answer.

    "She called herself Amelia, yes. I didn't ask for any details. Though, she really wanted to get to the capital; I guess that would make sense if she was actually nobility." Seeing his surprised and suspicious expression she added, "Believe me or not, as you will, but Amelia was just a chance-met companion. You, on the other hand, have power over my life and death at the moment. And even if you choose not to kill me, there are any number of ways you could make my life... unpleasant... if I don't cooperate. Given the circumstances, what would you do?"
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  25. - Top - End - #265
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Gourtox's Avatar

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    Telest

    Telest's eye turn into thin slits as he stares at the human. "What I desire to learn is where the girl is. The one that they describe as not elf and not human." As he speaks he moves so that his directly facing the human although he never takes his eyes off of her. He stares at her with unblinking eyes as he shows that this "Queen" does not scare him in the slightest.
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  26. - Top - End - #266
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Baerdog7's Avatar

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    Ander Windrivver

    Ander continues to walk toward the sentries, smiling slightly. Ah, it's you two, he greets them, briefly touching his hand to his face. Nothing to worry about anymore. There was a pair of fiends, a demon and a devil, that have been following my since I left Ironheart. They finally caught up with me again and I sensed them approaching the camp. Don't worry, they won't bother us. I've already sent them back to Hell where they belong.

    He puts his hands on the guards' shoulders, guiding them back into the camp. Now let's get back to the tent, eh? There's been enough fun for one night.

    Ander looks over his shoulder just once while they walk, looking back toward the place where he had slain Melcara. I'm sorry Melcara. Between you and duty, I had to choose duty.
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  27. - Top - End - #267
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
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    Korram the Firebrand

    Korram "harumphs" quietly, rubbing his beard stubble with one hand. He comes to a decision quickly, after weighing the possible merits and consequences of each choice.

    "We watch and wait. If they're enemies, we can take them out. If they're potential allies, we can make use of them, and if they're neutral, we can move safely. I'd rather not share the road with any unknown factors."

    His position stated, Korram scales a nearby tree and perches on a branch to hide himself.
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  28. - Top - End - #268
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    OldWizardGuy

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    Ardraket Oldn

    Seeing Vash’s flushed face Ardraket shakes his head sadly. The young always thought that the tracing was the best thing out there, better than sleep because they could push themselves longer and harder. Even for a time Ardraket thought like but them with age came maturity. He used it when only needed and his skill was far greater. Vash on the other hand appears to have not reached the point where he could awaken himself at the proper time.

    Still though the long trek through the forest the sense of humor faded. There was a comment made about the ease of getting out of Ironheart however that only resulted in mirthless laughter from some of the men. Many of them seem to be on edge and worn out from the past few days.

    Yet the long trip is refreshing in many ways. It brings Ardraket back to some of his earlier days of training with the endless hikes in the pitch black. Part of him wants to chuckle at the youth who rely on their lanterns instead of the natural star and moonlight to see by.

    Hence that is why he arrives at a moment of indecision. The wire which to his lifetime of observing and setting traps seems to blaze out to him. A swift gesture to Vash (who should be looking at him since he is out on lookout) to hold position flashes quickly. There was much that was unknown about the enemy at this point however since the guards were using lanterns and not bothering hiding their noise a blind and deaf enemy would have heard them by now.

    As such Ardraket slows his steps slightly and watches out of the corner of his eye what happens to the guard while the bulk of his attention is focused everywhere else to see what else happens.
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  29. - Top - End - #269
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
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    ~Tare

    As they crept along, observing as they went, Tare could be heard from behind, only by Limier, muttering some sort of near-silent chant, perhaps to maintain his focus, or perhaps just to have some means of expressing the thoughts that ran through his head given the macabre scene they now delved into.

    "And the people; ah, the people,
    They that dwell up in the steeple,
    All alone,
    And who tolling, tolling, tolling,
    In that muffled monotone,
    Feel a glory in so rolling
    On the human heart a stone..."


    He fell silent through their close encounter with the patrol, but once the fiends had left and they continued on, he finished quietly.

    "They are neither man nor woman -
    They are neither brute nor human -
    They are Ghouls."


    Tare heard the gaggle of demons before they entered the room, and slowed to a stop to turn and watch. For the second time that day, it was very convenient that he was not visible to the unaided eye, solely because it allowed him to be dumbstruck without fear of discovery (or less, at least). When the bound woman looked him in the eyes, it seemed to re-awaken him. "Was that... an Angel? Really an angel?" He breathed to Limier. "Where are they taking her...?"
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  30. - Top - End - #270
    Orc in the Playground
     
    Iethloc's Avatar

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    Sohssal

    Undead, gargoyles, and the very real possibility of vampires running around. Looks like investing in this globe was a good idea after all! he thought to himself as he rose high into the sky above the city. Then he began absorbing a massive amount of all the magical energy that would otherwise scramble spells, and ran it through the Globe of Sunlight, unleashing a massive flash of pure...well, sunlight upon the city, lighting up the area in a golden glow for several seconds. He was sure the undead wouldn't last long, but he couldn't be sure this particular variety of gargoyles were vulnerable to sunlight. Still, they were likely to be blinded, and that was enough.

    Then he gathered the Orbs of Blasting and sped down towards the Gargoyles, flinging them left and right to fend off the beasts. I was never fond of gargoyles... he thought to himself as he neared Ross and Bran.
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