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  1. - Top - End - #1
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    ylvathrall's Avatar

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    Default Imagine Tomorrow [IC]


    It's a cold autumn morning that finds you at the edge of the forest, gathered in uneasy companionship with three other people who are here to investigate the town of Yazdal, silent now these past thirteen days. Why they want to do so is hard to say; even if they told you, could you believe them? Do you even want to know?

    The shadows under the trees shift in ways that don't feel quite right in the corner of your eye, but seem normal when you look at them directly. It seems like not quite enough light is filtering down through the leaves and branches. Nothing you can be sure of, nothing you can point to and say, "That isn't natural!" But enough to leave you feeling...unsettled.

    The sun has crested the horizon. It's full day now, not twilight, and that means this is the best time to go into the forest if you want the longest time possible before night falls on this cursed place.
    Last edited by ylvathrall; 2019-09-14 at 10:16 PM.
    Please don't capitalize my name.

    I wrote an original urban fantasy series. You can read it for free at http://emrysvaughn.com/

    I'm currently writing an epic fantasy series, which you can read for free at http://www.brokenlandserial.com/

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  2. - Top - End - #2
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    Torson cleared his throat with a rolling cough. Twere my party, I'd be rear guard, with the lancer in front followed by the mercer and the necromancer afore me. Lancer be jungle tribal, an' crack woodsman. Known such in t'Anaran, an' would follow to Hell n' back. Wit' mules, I can drag ye in a travois if ye falter, and I keep eye to rear. He pointed to the second mule in his string. There be potions o' Lightwounds, and alchemik fire, and tang'foot bags. One apiece ye. Help yerself."
    Empyreal Lord of the Elysian Realm of Well-Intentioned Fail

  3. - Top - End - #3
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    BarbarianGuy

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    Dandolin slowly strokes the top of Steve's head, aware of her companion's discomfort of the area. She sends him feelings of reassurance and love as she eyes her new found allies. Two human men and a human woman, not particularly what she would have liked to travel with, but at least the scarred one seemed trustworthy. "Steve and I have no trouble taking point as you suggest Torson."
    Quote Originally Posted by Suzanne Collins
    Strange things did happen here, no stranger would it be if we met at midnight in the hanging tree


  4. - Top - End - #4
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    If we're agreeable let's make tracks for the tram line. Cuts through the woods straight to Yazdal. Spare us walking under these trees...powerful queer shadows this morning. Torson sniffed the air. I been through t'Anaran and Tacame and both sides a'Kveld an' ain't never seen the like. And don't wish to.

    Torson became furry with a short gray coat of coarse hairs. His eyes grew yellow. His nose lengthened to a mauled muzzle. He seemed to look something like a wolf while standing upright. He sniffed the treeline with a deep breath through his nose.
    Empyreal Lord of the Elysian Realm of Well-Intentioned Fail

  5. - Top - End - #5
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    Default Re: Imagine Tomorrow [IC]

    I agree. The tram lines are a good idea. I don’t know much about this forest, but I’m sure that the shadows mean bad news.

    As he says this, Azar turns to the forest, searching the shadows for anything definitive. Though he couldn’t see it himself, his pupils dilated to an abnormally large size for just a second, then changed back just as quickly.
    Last edited by In4Dimensions; 2019-09-15 at 10:06 AM.
    Chaotic Good, probably

  6. - Top - End - #6
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    The tram line cuts a clear path through the trees, going in along a valley that cuts at an angle towards the town. The forest is...disturbing, inside. There's no sign of animal life, not even a the noise of a songbird or an insect. The shadows are dark and thick and do not welcome you. The tram line is well-lit by the sun, with no trees over it, but off the line and under the cover of the pines, things get very dark, very quickly, and even the inhumanly keen gazes of Azar and Steve cannot penetrate far into the darkness under these trees. It is very clear now that this is no natural forest, even without the eerie stillness to the air or the unseasonable chill that was not felt outside the edges of these woods.

    But nothing shows itself, nothing stirs at all, until the town of Yazdal is in sight a bit before noon. Looking at it from a distance, it's a typical town of its type, a cluster of small huts and cabins gathered around a handful of larger buildings, nestled into a lush river valley. There are no defensive walls, or fortifications of any kind; it simply isn't something that most frontier towns bother with, particularly this deep into a dense forest in a place where military action is vanishingly unlikely.

    But it is immediately obvious that this is not a normal frontier town. There is no movement within the town. Looking in, you don't see a soul, not so much as a dog or a horse or a rat. There's a very, very faint breeze, and its susurrus almost seems to whisper words on the edge of hearing, in a grating language you do not know and do not want to learn. The rippling of the river forms almost-patterns that never quite make sense but make your skin crawl all the same. You feel unwelcome, unwanted, like an unwelcome guest in a scorned lover's home. But that's probably your imagination.

    Right?
    Please don't capitalize my name.

    I wrote an original urban fantasy series. You can read it for free at http://emrysvaughn.com/

    I'm currently writing an epic fantasy series, which you can read for free at http://www.brokenlandserial.com/

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  7. - Top - End - #7
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    Torson's face was back to human form again, but wracked with a frown. We got all day to explore the town tomorrow. Thang is, what about tonight?

    Shadows. It don't like the light. We got alchemik fire, and we can build fires. We can set between big fires in the light and shoot and charge 'em as they come out.

    Mebbe.


    How you fellas figger it? We could hole up in a building, or set on a raft in the river, or camp tween three big fires. What am I missin? What you figger for this evening?
    Empyreal Lord of the Elysian Realm of Well-Intentioned Fail

  8. - Top - End - #8
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    BarbarianGuy

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    Dandolin takes a deep breath. The complete lack of life around them was very disturbing. What could possibly happen to drive even the insects away? "We still have about half a day until nightfall. I'd like to scout the area, see if there is any spot nearby better suited to make camp. Steve and I will take to the air to see how things look from above."

    Once things have been settled with the others, Dandolin taps the top of Steve's head, indicating its time to take off. With a loud buzz, Steve hovers in the air for a moment, before rising into the sky past the tree line.
    Quote Originally Posted by Suzanne Collins
    Strange things did happen here, no stranger would it be if we met at midnight in the hanging tree


  9. - Top - End - #9
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    She's right, said Torson, as the fey lancer rose in the air. I'm getting spooked. He turned to the mercenary with a sheepish grin.

    Waal, cap'n, the trail boss done brought ya to Yazdal. Where ya want me?
    Empyreal Lord of the Elysian Realm of Well-Intentioned Fail

  10. - Top - End - #10
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    Default Re: Imagine Tomorrow [IC]

    Azar looked around for a moment before answering. “What do you say we investigate the buildings? Maybe look for a sturdy and defendable one to sleep in if Dandolin doesn’t find a better place? Starting a fire might be a good idea as well. I brought some defoliant, so we could get some wood and tinder with that.
    Last edited by In4Dimensions; 2019-09-16 at 10:02 AM.
    Chaotic Good, probably

  11. - Top - End - #11
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    Torson leads his string of mules on three circuits of Yazdal.

    The first circuit has him outside the village, paying expert attention on the distance, in bowshot, between the village buildings and the forest treeline. He also calculates angles of fire and lines of sight between the outlying buildings and the trees. He shakes his head at the care-free way Yazdal grew up in relation to the surrounding wood.

    The second circuit has him inside the village, looking with careful attention for signs of barricades, forced doors and windows, last stands and any patterns of battle that might be visible to an experienced Army scout. Torson has been in ruined settlements before, and he is curious to know if the residents of Yazdal were attacked and fought in place, or looked to have run, or...what?

    The third circuit is simpler. He is looking for an interior space, out of sight of the trees, to tie down his horse and mules. He finds an angled yard beside one of the buildings that suffices. He ties down Janelle, his mare, first, then Jenny, Jessica and Jane, his mules. He slings feed bags of cut alfalfa for the animals to eat in peace.

    From his mules, he takes a wicker quiver of twenty white-fletched mithral-headed arrows and fastens it to his left hip, and a wicker quiver of twenty black-fletched cold-iron headed arrows and fastens it to his back. The arrows have differing head shapes so they can be distinguished in full darkness. He takes a twine net and slings it across his chest, and stows a ruby-red flask of alchemical fire, a blue ampoule of potion of Cure Light Wounds, and a tanglefoot bag inside the webbing.

    He stows his adamantine dagger in a sheath in his right boot, his cold iron light flail in his belt across his belly, and his mithral boarding axe in his belt against the small of his back.

    Finally he reslings his orcish hornbow to full tension, making it fully ready for combat. He holds the bow lovingly in his left hand, admiring the feel of the weapon.

    Torson jogs back to Azar. Ready with ye, cap'n. Lead on.
    Last edited by TheYell; 2019-09-16 at 11:00 AM.
    Empyreal Lord of the Elysian Realm of Well-Intentioned Fail

  12. - Top - End - #12
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    Spoiler: Dandolin
    Show
    You spot a cliff face about two miles outside the town, an embarkment jutting up from the trees to a height of some fifty feet. It's not ideal, but it would at least let you put your backs against the wall if it came to it.

    Then Steve catches your attention, urging you to land next to one of the buildings - a cabin, small, not very well made. After a moment, you spot what he was seeing: bloodstains on the exterior wall. Not much blood, but some. After a moment, you make out a pattern to the scratches and blood on the logs. A moment later it resolves into words:

    It's inside me.


    Spoiler: Torson
    Show
    There's no real distance between the trees and the buildings - the village continues right up to the forest's edge, some buildings even under the trees. You see no signs of any forced entry, defense, last stand...no sign of combat at all. No damage to any property or even any trees. No barricades. But it doesn't look like they ran, either; too many belongings abandoned for that. No, it looks to all appearances as though the residents simply...got up and walked out.

    You even spot a meal laid out in one of the cabins, through a window. The food is spoiled, but the place settings are still sitting out. Dinner, for three, half-eaten before they left. There aren't even any insects on the food.


    Spoiler: Azar
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    The largest building turns out, once you inside, to be an inn of sorts. The main room, it was clearly the taproom, has a long bar bracketed with large tapped barrels. Behind this are shelves covered in bottles. The kitchen is in a back room, while the guest rooms are upstairs, along with what looks like the innkeeper's rooms. The guest rooms are empty, looking like the occupants simply stood up and walked out. In one of them there are signs of a fight, but no bodies, no blood, just overturned furniture and a gash in the wall from the axe lying on the ground beside it.

    Downstairs, though, there are...interesting signs. Scuff marks on the ground, which after a moment you recognize as following the size and appearance of a Skellish army camp for a squad of five. No tents, but bedrolls and packs and boot marks. The detritus of cooking on the floor - did they not trust the kitchen? And then, finally, the big one:

    A book, it looks like a journal or log, in the corner of the room under a bag, too well hidden to be an accident, too obvious not to be meant to be found.
    Last edited by ylvathrall; 2019-09-16 at 08:53 PM.
    Please don't capitalize my name.

    I wrote an original urban fantasy series. You can read it for free at http://emrysvaughn.com/

    I'm currently writing an epic fantasy series, which you can read for free at http://www.brokenlandserial.com/

    Cho avatar by Noel. Thanks!

  13. - Top - End - #13
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    Azar approaches the book carefully, keeping a keen eye out for any unwanted surprises. As soon as he has the book in his hands, he leaves the building with caution and shares his findings with Torson.
    Chaotic Good, probably

  14. - Top - End - #14
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    BarbarianGuy

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    Dandolin makes note of where this building is, flying to the top to mark the roof with her lance. Whoever, or whatever wrote that message, they clearly meant to warn. Whatever the case, something got inside the people of this town. She prays to herself that whatever it is, it isn't airborne. Dandolin mounts Steve when her marking is done, and flus towards where she saw her companions move off to.
    Quote Originally Posted by Suzanne Collins
    Strange things did happen here, no stranger would it be if we met at midnight in the hanging tree


  15. - Top - End - #15
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    Torson waved as Steve landed in the lane outside the inn. "Skellish Army sent some scouts. Azar found a journal by their camp! I seen no trace of a fight, by army or anybody. Whatever come for these people could have just walked in from the treeline, there's no sign of a defense or a raid."

    He stopped, seeing Dandolin's face. "What's wrong?"
    Empyreal Lord of the Elysian Realm of Well-Intentioned Fail

  16. - Top - End - #16
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    BarbarianGuy

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    "Whatever it is may be coming from within all of these people. Steve spotted a message on one of the cabins. It was written in blood. Where is Azar? I'd like you both to take a look at it, see what you think." The small fey woman seems particularly pale as she speaks. Every instinct in her body is telling her to get out of this town, but whether by conscience or lunacy, she finds she cannot willingly leave without knowing more.
    Quote Originally Posted by Suzanne Collins
    Strange things did happen here, no stranger would it be if we met at midnight in the hanging tree


  17. - Top - End - #17
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    "How can it be coming from inside everybody and the animals too? Ain't even flies in this town," said Torson slowly. He jerked upright. "The River! Don't eat nothing or drank nothing you didn't bring in with ye. I brought rations for a rescue party that'll last us a spell. I'll magic the water for the horses." He turned back to the inn. "Azar should come with us. I wanna know what them Skellish army men wrote down before they vanished."
    Empyreal Lord of the Elysian Realm of Well-Intentioned Fail

  18. - Top - End - #18
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    Default Re: Imagine Tomorrow [IC]

    Here’s the book that I found,” Azar says, pulling out the tome. “Should we open and read it now, Dandolin, or do you want to show us your findings first?” Azar pauses to let Dandolin respond.
    Last edited by In4Dimensions; 2019-09-17 at 01:43 PM.
    Chaotic Good, probably

  19. - Top - End - #19
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    BarbarianGuy

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    "Let's read the book, there is a better chance that it may hold some answers. The message I had found was simple 'It's inside me'."
    Quote Originally Posted by Suzanne Collins
    Strange things did happen here, no stranger would it be if we met at midnight in the hanging tree


  20. - Top - End - #20
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    In the book, the first fifteen pages or so are filled with neat handwriting, and all crossed out. The first page that isn't crossed out is in a different hand, and reads:

    Disregard previous entries. Either they were lulling us into a false sense of security, or they have changed. I don't know which prospect frightens me more. Either way, the situation as it now stands is dire. Here's what we know

    The things in the forest can't leave the trees in the daytime. Some of them, including most of the worst of them, can't or won't enter bright firelight, but others can, so be wary. Some of them can walk through walls - barricades and the like will not protect you. They can mimic faces and voices, but that's all from what we've seen - we've been using passwords.

    They turn the dead into more of them. Undead, many of them seem to be. Don't know for sure. Don't know how many there are, either. At least two dozen of them we've seen, but might be more. Might be lots more. No way to know for sure, not when they can just lurk under the damnable shadows under the trees. Holy symbols and mirrors are no protection, at least not against most of them; we thought they were, and that's how they got the lieutenant. He went down fighting. Jehra doesn't have much chance of getting out of here with how wrong we were about how these things work, poor fellow.

    The villagers didn't fight. Something got into them. It's in us too now. It started as just nightmares, but now the visions are coming during the day, and Karliss is hearing voices telling her to go out into the forest. Pretty sure Pravik was too; he just got up one day and walked into the trees. They let him in. He didn't come back. Heading was north-northeast, same direction that Karliss is being pulled.

    We're almost out of time. Supplies are running low since most of the bags spoiled, magic of some kind. Nothing to hunt. Visions are getting worse. We're all wounded, drained. Not much left but to make a last stand. It don't matter that we'll be going down, we'll be going down fighting. Like the Legion priests say:

    We are the flame.

    Corporal Ingrid Anders, Third Victorious, signing off.
    Please don't capitalize my name.

    I wrote an original urban fantasy series. You can read it for free at http://emrysvaughn.com/

    I'm currently writing an epic fantasy series, which you can read for free at http://www.brokenlandserial.com/

    Cho avatar by Noel. Thanks!

  21. - Top - End - #21
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    "Arash preserve and protect us", prayed Torson, fingering the holy symbol on his neck. "Hail the Third Victorious!"

    "I'm a proud fool," he said to the others. "I've no claim on ye, but I took coin from the Skellish Army to come here, and I won't run to report naught but failure. I feel a duty to scout somewhat for the next Army party that will come through here, and I'm in full health and haven't expended an arrow. I won't leave yet. That may not bind ye folks, and I won't hold you to stay with me. If you go out the tram line, I ask you report the fate of the Third Victorious contingent to Fort Huel."

    "I'm wroth to linger, but tis my duty as I see it. Rue the day my friend Lamel's daughters came down with the Nightmare Plague--"

    Torson's eyes bulged. "The Nightmare Plague! It begins with dreams! The thing grows in power for a hundred miles! Nature of God in Nature, what spawns in this forest is moving across Skelland!"
    Empyreal Lord of the Elysian Realm of Well-Intentioned Fail

  22. - Top - End - #22
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    BarbarianGuy

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    Dandolin pinches in anger as more and more of the book is read. "Lady Savara praises the survival of the fittest. The strong shall naturally prey on the weak, and the weak shall only thrive through intelligence and numbers. Whatever this thing is, it is unnatural, a disease that must be ripped from the body if the whole is to survive."

    Dandolin flutters off of Steve and flies right over to Torson, getting right into his face. "Don't try to be some noble fool, else you're liable to get us all killed. If anyone stays, Steve and I shall as well. The hive teaches that what may normally be weak is strong with others."

    Dandolin floats back over to Steve, placing herself back in the saddle as she idly pets her mounts head. The plantlike fey wears a look of fierce determination as she looks back towards her compatriots. "We should prepare for the night. Assuming we survive, I think I can lead us toward the spot the book hints at. Unless you two have a better suggestion, I think striking towards the heart is our best bet."
    Quote Originally Posted by Suzanne Collins
    Strange things did happen here, no stranger would it be if we met at midnight in the hanging tree


  23. - Top - End - #23
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    Torson blinks, then slowly grins. "Lest I be weakest link? I think your Lady Savara and Arash have--"

    He stops, and stares at Azar Jehra. "Jehra? You know the man in the book?"
    Empyreal Lord of the Elysian Realm of Well-Intentioned Fail

  24. - Top - End - #24
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    I . . . I don’t remember this man, although I feel as though I should. The last time I was in this forest, I don’t think I made it all the way into Yazdal” Azar says, his face getting paler by the minute. “But if you guys are going to see this through, then I’ll stay too. I’d like to learn more about what exactly is happening here, not just for the villagers but for my own sake. I can’t quite remember, but I feel as though I was a victim of something inside this forest too.
    Last edited by In4Dimensions; 2019-09-18 at 06:39 AM.
    Chaotic Good, probably

  25. - Top - End - #25
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    "Then it ain't hopeless," said Torson. "If we're to press forward I suggest a password among us: Corporal Ingrid Anders."

    He turned to Dandolin. "Said I'd follow you to Hell. Guess that's about the size of it. What's your means to strike at their heart?"
    Empyreal Lord of the Elysian Realm of Well-Intentioned Fail

  26. - Top - End - #26
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    A twitch of a smile crosses Dandolin's face for a moment. Steve softly buzzes, surprised at her unexpected emotion. "First, we should get an idea of what we may be dealing with. We should make camp and be prepared for what's to come. Torson, you seemed to have a good nose on our way up, can you sniff out some extra food? I can purify anything you come across, so we don't need to worry about contamination." The little fey goes into her backpack and pulls out a large metallic device. She hands it over to Azar "Azar, can you help me set up a perimeter? Something large enough to keep all of us and our supplies in? I don't think anyone will mind if we bust a few tables and beds to make a circle of fire. I'd also like to avoid using the Alchemist Fire you said you had Torson, as we may need to start a fire more immediately later. Please, use my Anytool to help. Before the light is gone, we all need to be back here, agreed? We can talk guard shifts at that point." Dandolin flys back onto Steve, the imposing insect making her feel more stable than she otherwise would. "If we make it to the morning, I can guide us towards whatever was compelling the villagers. Hopefully whatever we find, we can kill, and return life to this desolate land."
    Last edited by ChaoticHarmony; 2019-09-18 at 09:10 AM.
    Quote Originally Posted by Suzanne Collins
    Strange things did happen here, no stranger would it be if we met at midnight in the hanging tree


  27. - Top - End - #27
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    Torson grins. He becomes a wolf-like creature once more. He holds up his right hand and taps his ring. "Only need two hours sleep," he says. "An' can sleep in my armor, like a old trooper. Let me fetch my mules here and I'll rustle up some food."

    He jogs to the yard where his equines stand peaceably, and gathers them up, careful to rig the mare Janelle first to persuade the others to follow suit willingly. He leads them back to the meeting area, and ties them by the inn. He places his bow in a leather holder on Janelle.

    Torson hefts the two five-gallon kegs of ale off the mules and onto the ground. "We won't need ale and I'll need these barrels for my gals." He knocks the tops off the kegs with his boarding axe and spills foaming ale into the lane. "By Arash," he says over the empty kegs, repeatedly, filling them with magical rainwater. The horse and three mules crowd gratefully over the kegs of water and drink deeply.

    Torson takes a burlap bundle off a mule. "Tacame Desert pemmican, good antelope meat with pine nuts and dried goodberries, thirty pounds," he says, laying it in the lane. "Hoped to have some folks to feed it with. Well, if Azar made it, mebbe some more did too."

    "Let me see about the book a minute," he says, holding his palm flat and concentrating. "By Arash," he says, seeking to test the magical energies swirling about it. He hands it back to Azar.

    He trots into the inn to start rustling up more food, following his superhuman nose.
    Last edited by TheYell; 2019-09-18 at 01:07 PM.
    Empyreal Lord of the Elysian Realm of Well-Intentioned Fail

  28. - Top - End - #28
    Troll in the Playground
     
    ylvathrall's Avatar

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    Default Re: Imagine Tomorrow [IC]

    A circle of fires is soon laid around the inn, ready to be lit, while Ivar scrounges inside the inn itself for food and clues. He finds the phrase "quitepleasemakeitstop" carved into the back of the bar, very faintly, while he's grabbing bottles of distilled alcohol to use for the fires. He also finds, in addition to the numerous bottles of alcohol, a well-stocked cellar, with root vegetables and apples, several kinds of flour, and an alchemical icebox with some meat, seemingly chicken and venison, that seems to still be frozen and good.
    Please don't capitalize my name.

    I wrote an original urban fantasy series. You can read it for free at http://emrysvaughn.com/

    I'm currently writing an epic fantasy series, which you can read for free at http://www.brokenlandserial.com/

    Cho avatar by Noel. Thanks!

  29. - Top - End - #29
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    TheYell's Avatar

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    Default Re: Imagine Tomorrow [IC]

    Ivar Torson climbs up to where Azar and Dandolin are expertly laying fires for a long burn. "Here's a load of booze for ya fires."

    He gauges the height of the sun above the horizon. "That book ain't magic, but the whole town be...queer. Never larnt to read a wizard's spoor, but there be a taint to the place."

    There's days of food in the inn, if ya can cook. Should have tried it for poison. Do that as we bring it out."

    Ivar's fur grows a glossy black. His eyes become inky pools. His ears elongate to points, and his nose becomes a squat snout. He seems more like a bat than a wolf.

    "Lemme search that building across the street," he says. "Shout if ya need me."
    Empyreal Lord of the Elysian Realm of Well-Intentioned Fail

  30. - Top - End - #30
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    In4Dimensions's Avatar

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    Default Re: Imagine Tomorrow [IC]

    What should we do in terms of keeping watch?” Azar asks. “My thought was that it would be best if there was always two of us awake, so that if something happened to one of us, the other would notice. If just one of us was awake, and they were to be killed silently, we would have no way of knowing. We wouldn’t get too much sleep, but we can sleep more once the sun comes up. ” Azar says with a grunt, as he continues to prepare wood for the fire. “Plus, this way, if we need to feed the fire during the night, one of us could do it while the other watches their back.
    Last edited by In4Dimensions; 2019-09-18 at 08:30 PM.
    Chaotic Good, probably

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