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  1. - Top - End - #271
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    Default Re: [WFRP] The Lord of Lost Heart (II)

    Leopold didn’t need telling twice. Frightened eyes searching the broken undergrowth where the black horse had passed, he turned and headed into the trees. Any direction would do, as long as it headed away from the clearing and that trampled path.

    Pieter and Ithelus were creatures of the city, and Leopold was not much better. Without guidance, they stumbled blindly through rain-slick undergrowth, stumbling over hidden roots and catching their clothes in tangling thickets of thorns. The character of the forest had changed, the hoarse rustle of the canopy a constant accompaniment to the drumming rain. The trees loomed vast and dark, their crooked boughs swaying in the wind in unsettling kinship with the thing they had burned.


    A sudden slope appeared from under a waist-high carpet of bracken, and Pieter found himself sliding heels-first into a muddy hollow. The last scraps of mist still lingered here, swathing the ground in a rags of drifting vapour – pushing himself back to his feet, he felt something with altogether too many legs scrabble out from under his hand, but saw nothing.

    Ithelus dropped down beside him, landing cat-like on his feet. Behind them, Leopold came crashing down the slope, rolling to a clumsy halt in the mud; Illiiya picked her way more carefully down in his wake, watching the fog with untrusting eyes. Somewhere far off to their right, another distant scream echoed through the tree-trunks – scrambling up the other side of the hollow, they redoubled their speed.

    Threads of dissipating mist crawled around the roots of the trees, thickest in the depressions between the tallest oaks. Skirting around the edges of such foggy basins, Ithelus began to wonder whether they weren’t running in circles.

    Somewhere nearby, crows were squabbling in the trees. Pulling himself up over a bank of tangled roots, Ithelus stopped as he heard another sound – the high-pitched whinny of a horse, dead ahead. Undergrowth was rustling and crackling in the same direction, a dry accompaniment to the cries of an animal in distress...
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    The Hour After Midnight
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    The Lord of Lost Heart
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    Ill Met By Morrslieb
    Threads: I


    Threads: I, II, III


    Chapter I
    Chapter II
    Chapter III
    Chapter IV
    Chapter V

  2. - Top - End - #272
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    Default Re: [WFRP] The Lord of Lost Heart (II)

    At the horse's whinny, Pieter stopped, a chill running down his spine.

    Talberg?

    No... He'd be halfway back to the village by now. Unless he got lost or delayed.


    He advanced cautiously, a hand resting on the pommel of his shortsword. His ears strained to pick up any sound of a human voice or a pistol firing. His eyes watched the ground, looking for tracks.


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    Quote Originally Posted by LCP View Post
    Is there a path like in the picture, or did you choose that pic only for the trees?

    Quote Originally Posted by TheSummoner View Post
    Oh wow. I will never again underestimate [our characters'] ability to turn friendly conversation into a possible life or death situation.

  3. - Top - End - #273
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    Default Re: [WFRP] The Lord of Lost Heart (II)

    Pushing his way forwards through the undergrowth, Pieter closed in on the source of the sound. When he felt he could not go further without revealing his position, he put his back to a particularly squat and bulbous oak and peered slowly around its bulk.

    It was one of the Hohlesbruck carthorses. It had run deep into a dense thicket of brambles, and was rearing and whinnying in an attempt to free itself from the tangling coils. Its wild movements were not helping, serving only to snare itself worse and pull the thorns tighter against its skin. Pieter could see the whites of its eyes flashing in its scratched and bloody face.

    The terrified creature had left a welter of deep hoof-prints behind it, the confusion of tracks just visible from Pieter's position. What cargo of straw it might still have been carrying had been lost, but there was something still and shapeless slumped over its back – and in the trees overhead, shabby crows were jockeying for position, puffing out bedraggled coats of rain-soaked feathers as they looked down with glittering, patient eyes.
    Last edited by LCP; 2012-08-13 at 11:18 AM.
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    The Hour After Midnight
    Threads: I, II, III
    The Lord of Lost Heart
    Threads: I, II
    Ill Met By Morrslieb
    Threads: I


    Threads: I, II, III


    Chapter I
    Chapter II
    Chapter III
    Chapter IV
    Chapter V

  4. - Top - End - #274
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    Default Re: [WFRP] The Lord of Lost Heart (II)

    Illiiya Jaelrae

    Trailing closely behind Pieter, Illiiya looked over the horse and cart warily. She was certain the knight was not one for simple brigand's ruses, but the daemons might take a sick mirth in slaying folks who come to help a living thing.

    I doubt it is a trap, but still... be cautious.

    Shifting the winds slightly around her, she prepared to defend herself, if need be.

    Spoiler
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    Looking the cart over with witchsight, and holding an action to Magic Dart anything that pops out that isn't human. Unless Pieter and Ith don't wanna check the thing themselves, in which case, Illiiya will see if she can free the horse without getting kicked or stomped.
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    Default Re: [WFRP] The Lord of Lost Heart (II)

    Ithelus puts a steadying hand on Illiiya's shoulder. 'We should keep going, this is just going to attract attention.' He looks over his shoulder, 'Come on illiiya.'
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  6. - Top - End - #276
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    Default Re: [WFRP] The Lord of Lost Heart (II)

    "Sorry, Ith."

    Pieter drew his blade and followed Illiiya cautiously, squinting at the dark shape on the horse's back. If nothing else, they could free or put down the poor animal to keep it from drawing attention.

    Quote Originally Posted by TheSummoner View Post
    Oh wow. I will never again underestimate [our characters'] ability to turn friendly conversation into a possible life or death situation.

  7. - Top - End - #277
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    Default Re: [WFRP] The Lord of Lost Heart (II)

    It was a body - the body of the villager who had held the horses in check in the last desperate phase of the battle. Where the other carthorse had got to was anybody's guess; trying to ride this one to safety, the man had been dispatched by a single, deadly stroke from behind. One stiff hand still tangled in the terrified horse's mane, his clothes were dark and wet with blood.
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    The Hour After Midnight
    Threads: I, II, III
    The Lord of Lost Heart
    Threads: I, II
    Ill Met By Morrslieb
    Threads: I


    Threads: I, II, III


    Chapter I
    Chapter II
    Chapter III
    Chapter IV
    Chapter V

  8. - Top - End - #278
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    Default Re: [WFRP] The Lord of Lost Heart (II)

    'Guys, let's keep moving. Please.' Ithelus begs, his voice hushed. 'There's nothing we can do, he's dead. Illiiya...'

    Ithelus looks over his shoulder at Leopold, 'Tell them this is dangerous'
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  9. - Top - End - #279
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    Default Re: [WFRP] The Lord of Lost Heart (II)

    Leopold looked uncertain. He looked up at the rustling treetops, then round at the shadows between their trunks.

    "Yeah," he said, his heart not really in it. His eyes still flickered between the trees. "Yeah, this seems... really, really dangerous."

    The crows squawked bad-temperedly.

    "To be honest, though, right now I can't really think of anything that doesn't." He looked in the direction he could only guess was south. "How far do you think we still have to run?"
    Last edited by LCP; 2012-08-16 at 05:27 PM.
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    The Hour After Midnight
    Threads: I, II, III
    The Lord of Lost Heart
    Threads: I, II
    Ill Met By Morrslieb
    Threads: I


    Threads: I, II, III


    Chapter I
    Chapter II
    Chapter III
    Chapter IV
    Chapter V

  10. - Top - End - #280
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    Default Re: [WFRP] The Lord of Lost Heart (II)

    Pieter cut through the thornbushes with his sword to free the unfortunate horse. His gaze could not leave the dead man, taking in the horrendous wound in his back.

    Why? he wondered in horror and incomprehension. He was fleeing for his life. Why did the knight see fit to murder him, like that, from behind? He was no threat to it or to whoever commands it.

    That did simplify their choices, though. If the knight found them, surrender was not an option. The knight did not reason; it only killed. Was it even capable of free will?

    "How far do you think we still have to run?" asked Leopold.

    "Don't ask me. I was eighteen the first time I set foot on an unpaved road."
    Last edited by -Sentinel-; 2012-08-16 at 06:50 PM.

    Quote Originally Posted by TheSummoner View Post
    Oh wow. I will never again underestimate [our characters'] ability to turn friendly conversation into a possible life or death situation.

  11. - Top - End - #281
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    Default Re: [WFRP] The Lord of Lost Heart (II)

    'I don't think we're going to stop even once we get to the village.' The elf says.

    'Ok, look he's dead. Great, now please can we leave.'
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  12. - Top - End - #282
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    Default Re: [WFRP] The Lord of Lost Heart (II)

    Pieter's sword was not the ideal tool for cutting through the thorns, but it sufficed. Emerging rather more scratched and bedraggled than before, Pieter led the whinnying horse out with him.

    As soon as it had left the thicket, it darted towards the trees. Pieter had a hold on its reins; digging in his heels, he and the horse danced in a clumsy circle around each other. The villager's body finally slid from the horse's back, dropping gracelessly to the ground. Nostrils flaring and eyes flashing in wild and unreasoning fear, the animal twisted and pulled at the end of the reins...

    OOC:
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    You can test Strength to simply try to hold the horse in place until it gives up; alternatively, you can test Animal Care (since it's a Basic skill) to try to calm it down.
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    The Hour After Midnight
    Threads: I, II, III
    The Lord of Lost Heart
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    Ill Met By Morrslieb
    Threads: I


    Threads: I, II, III


    Chapter I
    Chapter II
    Chapter III
    Chapter IV
    Chapter V

  13. - Top - End - #283
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    Default Re: [WFRP] The Lord of Lost Heart (II)

    Pieter reached out and put a firm but gentle hand on the horse's mane. "Whoa, calm down, girl," he said in a soothing voice, with no idea whatsoever of the horse's sex. "You're safe now."

    Did horses have any homing instincts? The Ranaldite had little affinity with animals, save cats.

    "Leo, you can ride, correct?"


    (OOC: Charm Animal test in the OOC thread)

    Quote Originally Posted by TheSummoner View Post
    Oh wow. I will never again underestimate [our characters'] ability to turn friendly conversation into a possible life or death situation.

  14. - Top - End - #284
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    Default Re: [WFRP] The Lord of Lost Heart (II)

    "...Well enough," said Leo, cautiously. "I'm not about to win any contests."
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    The Hour After Midnight
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    The Lord of Lost Heart
    Threads: I, II
    Ill Met By Morrslieb
    Threads: I


    Threads: I, II, III


    Chapter I
    Chapter II
    Chapter III
    Chapter IV
    Chapter V

  15. - Top - End - #285
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    Default Re: [WFRP] The Lord of Lost Heart (II)

    Pieter shrugged. "Someone on a horse might find the way back faster. Or we can stay together to avoid getting lost. I don't really have a use for a horse, so I was wondering if you might."

    Come to think of it, he was not even sure why he had freed the horse and kept it from fleeing. It just seemed like the right thing to do. But at least, with a mount, one of them might escape if the knight found them.



    (OOC: Seriously, I didn't have any plan. If Leopold doesn't either, I guess we just keep walking.)

    Quote Originally Posted by TheSummoner View Post
    Oh wow. I will never again underestimate [our characters'] ability to turn friendly conversation into a possible life or death situation.

  16. - Top - End - #286
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    Default Re: [WFRP] The Lord of Lost Heart (II)

    Leopold shook his head. “It didn’t do him much good,” he said, indicating the crumpled shape on the ground. He looked up at the horse, patting it on the side of the neck. “If it’s all the same, I’d rather stay with you lot.”

    The carthorse breathed out heavily through its nostrils. Glancing sideways at Pieter, Leopold seemed to have a thought.

    “You know, it might not be able to carry us all,” he said, “but it might know the way back. Here,” he said, motioning for the reins. Leading the horse clear of the others, he gave it a sharp slap on the rump.

    It didn’t need telling twice. Putting its head down with its ears flat against its head, it barrelled away into the trees. The thunder of hooves died away into the dripping greenery, leaving a straight track of broken twigs and trampled undergrowth behind.

    Pausing for a moment, Leopold looked left and right at his companions. Extending a hesitant finger in the direction the horse had run, he waited a moment more.

    “That way?”

    One by one, they followed the new-made trail into the trees. The crows waited until they were gone to descend on the cold, blood-stained object they had left behind.

    ~

    They were running in circles. Pieter was sure of it; the blighted woods surrounding the barrow and its boneyard could not possibly have stretched this far the last time they had come this way. Out of breath, he leaned against a tree-trunk: the bark came away under his hand in soft, rotten flakes. Overhead, the rain still hissed in the leaves.

    “Hey!” came Leopold’s shout from up ahead – enough to make him jump. The young man’s head appeared over a thicket of nettles. “Hey, I think we found it! The track!”

    Pushing forwards, Pieter joined the others. For a moment, he couldn’t see what it was that had caught their attention. Then, he saw the trio of squat little stones, sitting unassumingly beneath their cloak of tangled undergrowth. The Watchers.

    He found his eyes drawn uncomfortably to the exposed carving on the foremost stone. Those branching antlers no longer seemed to have anything in common with Taal, or any god of men – instead, Pieter saw in its round belly and wide-mouthed smile an uncanny resemblance to the gibbering things that had come spilling from the disintegrating tree. His eyes strayed treacherously to the other two stones, still swathed in their cloaks of bracken, and wondered what carvings they might bear.

    The others were already on the move again. The track that Suster had brought them on was barely discernable, nothing more than a slight depression in the forest floor. Still, the deep hoof-prints of the cart-horse showed them it had gone this way, and that was better than nothing.

    ~

    Ithelus was far from sure they were still on the track. It seemed like hours since they had left the standing stones behind. The trees grew taller and greener here, the forest floor less choked with thorns and mud. Still, the forest was the forest – and Ithelus had no idea where they were.

    Neither did the others. Faulebrand was trying to act as if he had a clue, but the last time they had seen the horse’s prints was far too long ago for comfort. The grey clouds masked the sun, so that he could hardly even tell how long they had been running.

    Still, Ithelus was in the lead, and that meant he had to keep moving. They couldn’t stop, not here. Not until they were out of these dripping shadows. Maybe not even then.

    Predictably, his sickle was well-suited to cutting through the tangles of undergrowth that sometimes blocked their path. Hewing his way through a tangled screen of the stuff that grew around the base of a particularly broad and ancient oak, he stopped and squinted in a patch of unaccustomed light.

    A narrow stream rushed and gurgled in front of him. It was swollen and muddy with rainwater, but even so that barely made it more than knee-deep at its deepest. The gap it forced between the trees was admitting the thin, grey light of the sky along with a steady drizzle of rain, pricking the surface of the water with rippling patterns of raindrops.

    Over on the left, a tumbled bank of mossy boulders rose up to form the steep shoulder of an earthy ridge, stretching some distance in either direction. The stunted trees that had grown on top of it had tied the precariously-stacked stones together with a network of roots; the stream had long since eroded away the earth that must once have made the mortar for their wall. Straight ahead, the trees stretched away on a slight slope: was it his imagination, or were they thinning slightly?

    On the right, there came a tremendous splash. Stumbling to a halt behind Ithelus, the others looked immediately in the direction of the sound. A huge, armoured horse had just burst out of the treeline and into the stream.

    Its rider pulled it to a sharp halt. There was fresh blood on its barding, running away in thin streaks as the spray of the stream washed the metal clean. As the rushing water settled, it came up only to the level of the horse’s knees.

    The knight was looking straight at them. He was perhaps a hundred yards upstream.

    OOC:
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    Some visual references.

    The tree by which Ithelus stopped.
    The bank of boulders (steeper slope/bigger boulders than in picture)

    These are just to give you a vague picture. Refer to the text for specifics.

    The big tree is right next to you; the bank of boulders is about 12 yards away on the other side of the stream.
    Last edited by LCP; 2012-08-19 at 05:11 PM.
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    The Hour After Midnight
    Threads: I, II, III
    The Lord of Lost Heart
    Threads: I, II
    Ill Met By Morrslieb
    Threads: I


    Threads: I, II, III


    Chapter I
    Chapter II
    Chapter III
    Chapter IV
    Chapter V

  17. - Top - End - #287
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    Default Re: [WFRP] The Lord of Lost Heart (II)

    Illiiya Jaelrae

    He's come to claim us too... Illiiya said in a voice eerily calm, as if she had accepted her fate. Khaine is yet hungry tonight...

    She made no move to flee, merely watching the knight from her spot by the river bank, waiting for Pieter or Ithelus to make their move. If they did not flee, she was more than content to fall in the same manner as her lover did.
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    Default Re: [WFRP] The Lord of Lost Heart (II)

    Ithelus froze, his exhausted mind taking what seemed like forever to process what it had just seen. Illiiya's words snapped his head around and in one fluid motion he grabbed her clothes and began running towards the boulders.

    'Run' he gasps,

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    I'm not sure if we are entering combat time but Ithelus will run with Illiiya to the boulders and then help her begin to climb them before he himself will do the same.
    Last edited by Exeson; 2012-08-20 at 06:00 AM.
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    Default Re: [WFRP] The Lord of Lost Heart (II)

    This is a nightmare. I'll wake up any time now.

    Pieter felt oddly calm, as if his reserve of emotions for the day had been spent. Escape was probably futile, as was surrender. No option but to fight, and the four of them might even have a chance out of ten. He opened his mouth to tell Ithelus to stand with him, but the Elf grabbed Illiiya and ran. Not fair, the initiate thought, filled with a sense of betrayal. Why would he fight to the death while the others ran? His most basic survival instincts rushed back.

    Motioning Leopold to follow him, he followed the Elf up the boulders.
    Last edited by -Sentinel-; 2012-08-20 at 01:19 PM.

    Quote Originally Posted by TheSummoner View Post
    Oh wow. I will never again underestimate [our characters'] ability to turn friendly conversation into a possible life or death situation.

  20. - Top - End - #290
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    Default Re: [WFRP] The Lord of Lost Heart (II)

    Leopold ran. Seeing the four of them break away, the knight dug in his spurs. Muddy water roiled and foamed as the black charger surged up onto the bank, hoofbeats rolling out with a thunderous, quickening tempo.

    Making for the ridge, Pieter splashed down into the stream, soaking his fine breeches through. Pulling himself out the other side, he propelled himself over the tumbled stones of the bank, wet shoes slipping on damp moss. Ithelus and Illiiya were already well ahead, the thief clambering over the uneven stones like a great four-legged spider. Pausing on the top of a particularly tall boulder, he leant down to pull Illiiya up after him.

    Pieter and Leopold were not far behind, the noise of their pursuer right on their tail. Pulling himself up over the first of the tall rocks, Pieter heard a great splash behind him – glancing over his shoulder, he saw the warhorse cutting straight across a bend in the stream, white water flying from its galloping hooves. The knight held the sword raised high, and the grey light gleamed from its blade.

    No time for caution, no time for care. Pushing off against the slick rock, Pieter scrambled on, racing over the mossy scree with the speed of a mountain goat. For a moment he slipped, but Leopold caught him, the two of them catching their balance above a wide gap between two boulders. The rolling hoofbeats had grown deafening behind them: as one, they jumped.

    Pieter felt a rush of sweet relief as his feet came down on solid rock, and heard the skittering of flying gravel as the horse skidded to a halt below. Rearing at the foot of the rocky slope, it stamped and tossed its head at its escaping prey. In the saddle, the knight only stared in silence.

    “Look!” exclaimed Leopold, pointing away through the forest on the other side. There, beyond a tangled slope of treetops, a familiar shape rose against the sky – the upper sails of Hohlesbruck's mill. The knight's helmet turned with whip-crack speed at the sound of the shout. Kicking his horse's flanks, he turned it away from the impassable bank, making for where the stones petered out. It would not take him long to find his way around.

    Looking over his shoulder, Leopold saw the movement. “Run!” he shouted, before realising he was the only one not already running. Turning on his heel, he sprinted up the slope after the others.

    ~



    ~

    Ithelus blinked when he crested the final rise, breaking free from the shadows of the trees. The rain seemed to have thinned a little, and before him lay the thin, winding path of the Marienburg road. Nestled in the bend on the far side was the old drystone shrine to Shallya – and beyond that, peeking through the trees, the Hohlesbruck bridge. The mill rose over the surrounding treetops like a watchtower, furled sails defying the wind.

    There was no time to stop. Leading the way, he burst out into the open, legs pumping independently of his brain. In his wake, he heard Illiiya, then Pieter, then Leopold come racing out, barely having time to take in what they saw.

    There was a crackling crash of breaking branches, and horse and rider came bounding out of the woods behind them. The low twigs and stony slope had slowed the knight's pursuit; now they were in the clear, the horse was accelerating. Watching the corner of the bridge grow larger as he neared the bend in the road, Ithelus felt a sinking sensation in his stomach as he heard the rhythm of the hoofbeats quicken...

    OOC:
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    The shrine has just enough space for all four of you to cram in, if you want to, and is a little closer than the bridge (see the village map), but is on the wrong side of the Taalsbruck. The knight would have to dismount to come at you if you were inside it.

    If any of you so chose, you could try running in a straight line and wading the Taalsbruck rather than taking the bridge - it's a lot deeper than the little stream, but still probably wouldn't come up above your armpits. The banks, although only earth, are quite steep and would probably cause trouble for the horse. Then again, at its narrower points a speeding horse could probably jump it. Taking this shortcut would involve running through the short screen of trees on the other side of the road.

    The current distances are as follows:

    Illiiya & Ithelus lead Leopold & Pieter by 10 yards.

    Leopold & Pieter lead the knight by 20 yards.

    Distances from Illiiya & Ithelus (add 10 for distances from Leopold & Pieter, add 30 for distances from the knight).
    • To the shrine: 37 yards
    • To the bridge: 62 yards
    • To the river (in a straight line through the trees): 44 yards


    To work out how quickly the knight will gain on you, you can consider things playing out in combat time, with you guys going first. The horse's effective Movement characteristic is 7 (not 8), thanks to its barding. Feel free to crunch the numbers to your heart's content (your characters would have an accurate idea of how fast the knight is bearing down on them), but please do not discuss them OOC: your characters are having to make split-second decisions here!

    If you have any complicated plans, feel free to give me instructions in a spoiler or similar and I can incorporate any conditionals into the next update. And remember, you don't all have to do the same thing!
    Last edited by LCP; 2012-08-20 at 06:46 PM.
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    The Hour After Midnight
    Threads: I, II, III
    The Lord of Lost Heart
    Threads: I, II
    Ill Met By Morrslieb
    Threads: I


    Threads: I, II, III


    Chapter I
    Chapter II
    Chapter III
    Chapter IV
    Chapter V

  21. - Top - End - #291
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    Default Re: [WFRP] The Lord of Lost Heart (II)

    Wild fear in his eyes, Ithelus runs across the open ground, sucking in gasps of air as he goes. With a quick glance over his shoulder he makes to grab hold of Illiiya's hand.

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    Ithelus is just going to keep running to the bridge, he will try to take Illiiya with his but if she resists he will keep running.
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    Even while running for his life, Pieter did not allow his mind the luxury of giving in to panic. He was not a coward, but a survivor. A coward curled into a ball and whimpered while a survivor thought of a way out. So Pieter evaluated distances, glanced over his shoulder once in a while, and calculated. Things did not look good. He could flee straight through the trees and hope the knight went after Leopold, but it would spell death for the miller's son and only give the initiate a short respite.

    The shrine.

    Pieter's gaze locked onto the shrine to Shallya. Shallya the merciful, who was anathema to Nurgle and its minions. The initiate was not superstitious enough to believe that his second favorite deity had the power to keep the knight out of Her shrine, but in these dire straits, he still clung to the desperate hope that She could lend a hand, if only in a small way. If nothing else, the shrine's cramped confines would force the knight to dismount and fight him on foot, costing it precious time.

    This is stupid. On foot or on horseback, it'll kill me in no time.

    It was a long shot, but it was the best chance he had. He remembered the corpses the knight had left behind... and if he, too, was going to die today, by the gods, it would not be from a blow to the back. Breathing hard, he pushed himself even harder and motioned Leopold not to follow him.

    Shallya, he thought desperately. Shallya, Shallya, Shallya, Shallya... I'll give You anything You want. Anything You want. Anything. Anything. Anything...

    "Anything..."
    Last edited by -Sentinel-; 2012-08-21 at 02:20 PM.

    Quote Originally Posted by TheSummoner View Post
    Oh wow. I will never again underestimate [our characters'] ability to turn friendly conversation into a possible life or death situation.

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    Illiiya Jaelrae

    Ith... Illiiya gasped, short of breath. Ith, the shrine...

    She was not about to assume that crossing the bridge would end the knight's pursuit. She was more than certain it would simply bear down on them and cut them down from behind. But the shrine... There had to be some reason the village had been so close to such chaos for so long and had not felt nor heard much of it. There had to be a reason they had been safe. Perhaps the human goddess had some power after all... Perhaps her blood had not been wasted after all.

    At the very least, it would force the knight to fight them on food, through a narrow entrance way.

    Ith. Run! She called out, breaking away from him to dart for the shrine. It seemed to be where Pieter was headed as well. At the very least, Ithelus could flee while it was taking to them. That would be enough, she told herself.
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    Sprinting alongside Pieter, Leopold gave a look of confusion as he saw him change direction. Glancing back over his shoulder, his eyes widened as he saw how close the knight was coming.

    “****!” he exclaimed. Feet skidding in the wet dirt of the road, he too turned aside, running for the trees. The horse was slower to change direction than a runner, and came looping after them in a great, galloping arc.

    Feet barely touching the ground, Illiiya came crashing in through the low doorway of the shrine, sending dribbled candles tumbling as she came to a hard stop against the rear wall. Pieter was not far behind her, but the speeding warhorse covered in moments what the runners could only make in seconds. It was after him, no doubt about it – as Ithelus ran for the bridge and Leopold dashed into the trees, the horse kept straight as a bow-shot after the muddy figure running for the shrine.

    Legs screaming, Pieter saw the doorway of the shrine mere yards away, Illiiya’s pale face staring out from the shadows. The pounding hooves behind him were all he could hear, drowning out even the hammering of his heart – still running, he felt a warm snort of animal breath on the back of his neck. Behind Illiiya, the crude triptych of the dove, the maiden and the bleeding heart looked awfully like nothing more than a piece of wood.

    Screwing his eyes shut, he leapt for the shrine.

    ~

    Ithelus wasn’t looking at Pieter. Even if he had been, the trees would have obscured his view as he turned the corner, running for the bridge. There it was in front of him, its weathered old stones looking as if they had lasted out a dozen centuries without once feeling the need to come alive and eat people, or vomit out little stone-daemons... and beyond it, the village. Lights were burning in the windows, and there in the square around the well, figures in foul-weather clothes had gathered in a lantern-lit huddle. There was a horse among them – Ricard’s horse. With the rain flying in his eyes as he ran, he couldn’t see if Ricard himself was among the gathered crowd.

    They had neither heard nor seen him, too busy talking among themselves – he could hear the fearful babble of their voices already. Feet still flying down the muddy path, he ran without slackening his speed, sprinting straight towards the ragged huddle. If he shouted now, they would hear him. They’d have to.

    ~

    Picking himself up off the earthen floor of the shrine, Pieter gladly took Illiiya’s hand to pull himself to his feet. Rubbing his skinned knees, he heard the whinnying of the horse die down outside – and then the solid, jingling thud of two steel boots hitting the ground.

    There was only one way out, and the knight appeared in it like a prison guard. The blank visor swept from Pieter’s face to Illiiya’s, then back again. There was a long moment of stillness.

    The knight took a sudden stride forwards and stretched out his hand, reaching for Pieter. The initiate flinched back, but there was no need – a moment or two after the grasping gauntlet crossed the threshold, it stopped. Flecks of dirt were dancing on the scratched steel, like an unwashed skillet held over a fire. There was a smell of singeing incense, and the knight snatched his hand back as if in pain.

    Stepping back from the door, he stared at the hand in silent incredulity. Then, slowly, his gaze returned to the two panting creatures still cornered in the shrine, and his grip tightened on his sword.
    Last edited by LCP; 2012-08-21 at 06:58 PM.
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    The Hour After Midnight
    Threads: I, II, III
    The Lord of Lost Heart
    Threads: I, II
    Ill Met By Morrslieb
    Threads: I


    Threads: I, II, III


    Chapter I
    Chapter II
    Chapter III
    Chapter IV
    Chapter V

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    Pieter had dared to believe it, yet he was surprised all the same: Shallya really was with them. He did not know if it made any difference; perhaps it would only give them false hope, as the knight clearly did not intend to let that stop him. Still, the initiate welcomed any kind of hope.

    I'm sorry, Shallya, for bringing violence to Your shrine. Please have mercy on me.

    He drew his shortsword with his right hand and his dagger with his left. This was not the way he had expected to die, but then again, he had never given much thought about his death. He felt as he had in Morsleek's lair, when the sorcerer decided he no longer needed his prisoner alive. No talking his way out, no escape, no surrender. He could only fight - and most likely die. There was some grim satisfaction to be had in running out of options.

    "It was foolish to come in here, Illiiya," the Ranaldite murmured with some regret but no reproach. "I was hoping to give you a head start."
    Last edited by -Sentinel-; 2012-08-23 at 12:49 PM.

    Quote Originally Posted by TheSummoner View Post
    Oh wow. I will never again underestimate [our characters'] ability to turn friendly conversation into a possible life or death situation.

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    As Illiiya broke away Ithelus flatered for a second, his speed slowing to match his indecision. I can go get help he thought and his pace once again increased.

    Illiiya, just hold him off for long enough.

    'Hey!' Ithelus shouts as he flies towards the group, his legs burning as he runs. 'The Knight! he's here. You've got to help!'
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    Illiiya Jaelrae

    My blood? Or would it have been the goddess' will regardless?

    Illiiya stood tall as she was able within the shrine, fixing her glare on the knight as it recoiled from whatever godly force had harmed it.

    You took him from me! She cried out in a voice breathless from her run and surging with barely restrained anger, as if demanding from the creature a reason for it's actions, But you will not take us! Not here! Now go, and crawl back to hell!

    She glared the being which had once been a man down... her gaze unfaltering and her expression one of cold, determined anger.
    Last edited by BloodyAngel; 2012-08-23 at 04:04 PM.
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    Heads turned towards Ithelus, faces showing as pale ovals in the grey light. Running nearer, he saw Ricard in the centre of the huddle, the young nobleman the only one among them not wearing a coat or cloak against the rain. One of the shorter figures pulled back the hood of an oilskin coat, and Ithelus recognised Aloysius Faulebrand’s rounded face.

    Behind him, over on his right, there was a distant sound of splashing and scuffling, and Leopold came staggering out of the trees on the other side of the Taalsbruck. Dripping with muddy water, he too ran towards the crowd in the square.

    It’s here!” he called. “He’s here!

    ~

    Illiiya stared at the knight, and the knight stared back. He didn’t seem troubled by her words; he only looked back in silence, regarding the two of them like animals caught in a trap.

    After a few seconds’ hesitation, he turned away. Pieter’s heart raced, daring to hope that Illiiya’s show of defiance had deterred him. He was soon to be disappointed: reaching the nearest tree, the knight reached up, breaking off a thick branch with two hacking blows of his sword.

    Picking up the fallen branch, the knight broke away its twigs and leaves, holding the jagged end up before his eyes. He looked back towards the shrine, and Pieter felt a cold sense of understanding creep over him.

    How good a throw is it?

    Planting one end in the earth, the knight began to crudely whittle the other into more of a point. He had taken three strokes when voices began to rise from the direction of the river – the sound of a large group of people approaching.

    The visored face turned at the sound. He hesitated for a moment, seeming to weigh his choices. Finally, betraying the tiniest flicker of frustration, he threw his makeshift javelin down to the ground. Striding over to his horse, he pulled himself back into the saddle. Casting one last glance back over his shoulder at Pieter and Illiiya down below, he kicked his heels against his horse’s flanks. Horse and rider sped back into the embrace of the forest, vanishing into the shadows beneath the branches in an eddy of disturbed leaves.

    It felt like an eternity later when the first of the villagers reached the shrine, advancing carefully with lanterns held high. Ithelus and Ricard were with them, the young nobleman’s fine face and hair scratched and tousled. In the rear of the group, Leopold was practically towing his father: the younger Faulebrand looked as if he had taken a sudden swim.

    Crows croaked far away in the forest, and no lightning-bolt of steel and horseflesh came bursting back onto the road to ambush the Hohlesbruckers. The knight was gone.
    Last edited by LCP; 2012-08-24 at 06:07 PM.
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    The Hour After Midnight
    Threads: I, II, III
    The Lord of Lost Heart
    Threads: I, II
    Ill Met By Morrslieb
    Threads: I


    Threads: I, II, III


    Chapter I
    Chapter II
    Chapter III
    Chapter IV
    Chapter V

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    Pieter sheathed his weapons. With trembling hands, he dug into his purse and put four gold crowns in the collection bowl of the shrine; two for himself, two for Illiiya. The goddess probably deserved quite a bit more, but too large a sum would only invite the greed of the first peasant who saw it. It was best to serve Shallya with actual deeds, not money.

    Plus, Pieter was a bit of a cheapskate.

    He waited for the villagers to reach the shrine before emerging. He probably did not look good - muddy, wet, dissheveled, ashen-faced. But since Illiiya looked worse, he had no grounds to complain. He did not expect much sympathy in any case; it would not surprise him in the slightest if he and the Elves were blamed for the disaster at the barrow, since Mr Waite was no longer around to take the heat.

    "I... I suppose Talberg told you the gist of it?" he asked no one in particular.
    Last edited by -Sentinel-; 2012-08-24 at 07:47 PM.

    Quote Originally Posted by TheSummoner View Post
    Oh wow. I will never again underestimate [our characters'] ability to turn friendly conversation into a possible life or death situation.

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    "You said he was here," said Ricard to Ithelus, cutting off Pieter's question before it could get a reply. The young man's voice was terse and taut with nerves, and his hand hovered by his pistol. "Where is he?"

    "Where are the others?" came a different voice. A woman came forwards, pulling a coarse woollen hood back from her face; Pieter took a couple of moments to recognise Greta Suster. "Master Talberg said - said they'd run with you."

    She hesitated, looking around at the darkened trees.

    "Where's Hans?"
    Last edited by LCP; 2012-08-24 at 08:06 PM.
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    The Hour After Midnight
    Threads: I, II, III
    The Lord of Lost Heart
    Threads: I, II
    Ill Met By Morrslieb
    Threads: I


    Threads: I, II, III


    Chapter I
    Chapter II
    Chapter III
    Chapter IV
    Chapter V

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