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Friday, 17th December, 2004, 01:56 AM #1
Of Fey and Shadow - A Midnight story hour (Restored 14 May 2006)
This is for my Midnight campaign, which uses Riddle of Steel instead of D&D for the mechanics, and Ars Magica (modified) for the magic system. It gives a very epic feel, with combat that is both bloody and encourages PCs to fight for causes (not cash). I think the tone suits Midnight perfectly
Prolog Part I
It had been a cold winter, the frozen North seemingly bent on swallowing up the Plains of Eris Aman. Unfortunately, thought Olaf bitterly, the cold came not with snow, or rather, not enough. Snow erased their tracks, and without it they had to move slowly to avoid leaving a trail any twice-damned Oruk could follow with ease.
Olaf sat for now at the low, well-hidden fire the bandits had made to fight the chill. A glance over to the sentry showed the man had the same priority he himself did, but of course could not leave his post. Watch was the longest hour of the night, without doubt. With a chuckle, Olaf tore a bit of steaming, dripping flesh off the hare he had caught earlier. He noted one of the bandits eyeing the scrawny carcass longingly.
Better to make friends, if I must travel with bandits. At least the only ones with anything worth taking are the bastards of Shadow. His finger traced lightly upon the spear next to him - if it came to that, this spear had taken at least two Oruk last night, when he'd met up with these rough Men more or less by accident, as they were ambushing a couple dozen Oruk on patrol. It could just as easily take the bandit watching him.
Yes, better to make friends...
Olaf smiled at the man and nodded. "Aye, come then. Have a leg, and some wamth in your belly man."
The other came over and nodded. He tossed him an Oruk tusk, the best he could offer in payment. "Dornhild. I saw you fighting last night, when the Oruk broke from the killing ground and rushed the hill we were on. Two, right?"
Olaf nodded. Counting kills was fun, but hardly what he wanted to talk about with food before him. The other continued, his gruff voice almost a whisper, as was the habit of all of these men. Loud conversation drew the enemy, after all. So would the smell of rabbit, but a Man had to eat... "Fine hare. Well cooked. I'm glad you decided to join us. I have a feeling more than one escaped last night, and your spear is going to be a welcome addition before too much longer, I suspect."
The man froze, then. Eyes narrowed, hard as iron. "We are being watched. There, in that copse of pitiful pines. One. Taller than a goblin, shorter than an Oruk."
Olaf frowned. "You are a Northman. We've all heard the tales," he said with caution. It was a touchy subject.
The other man spit. "Bah. Don't be getting me started on the tales of women! No one's seen one of them. Not in my lifetime, if ever they did exist."
Olaf smiled. "We're close to the forest of the snow ghosts. Who knows what manner of Fey might still live in those woods? Men don't go there, nor does Shadow. Why? I say it's a curse or it's *them*."
Dornhild was smiling, about to slap him on the shoulder with a laugh, when the twig snapped. They had laid out twigs from the nearby trees in a circle around the encampment in the little depression they were in, a makeshift alarm.
Then another snap, over there.
And another from the far side.
Olaf had his spear in hand before he even realized it, before his mind could decipher the simple meaning of twigs breaking, and he kicked over the firebasket, releasing its dirt onto the fire to eliminate the light and smell. Dornhild, spear somewhere else, drew his axe and crouched. The sentry was nowhere to be found. Where was the sentry?
The smell of blood wafted across their position, a probable explanation for the missing bandit sentry.
Fear crept into Olaf, cold and clamy with a grip he could not squirm his mind free of. Izraedor's curse, but we're surrounded! He found himself suddenly back to back with the dozen other men he had joined with. Most had spears out, some had shield and axe. The axemen did their best to cover the spearmen next to them, as well.
They waited. The sounds of the night were gone, insects silent or fleeing, birds no longer crawing in the darkness. Even the fire, which crackled merrily just moments before despite the dirt of the firebasket, in his mind seemed somehow diminished in its volume. The only thing loud was the rushing thunder of blood in his ears, and the deep thud of his dry throat trying reflexively to swallow. Dry mouth. Dry throat.
Somewhere behind Olaf, one of the men shifted his weight to get a better balance. Almost as if on cue with this, a rain of a dozen javelins streaked toward them in a deadly arc, aimed entirely at the shield-wielding axemen.
Orc javelins, these. No Oruk, thankfully. A small blessing, however - even as his mind collected these thoughts, one javelin bounced off the shield of the man to his right. To his left, the man who had fed off his rabbit was struck in the shin, the javelin passing clean through the limb - bone included by the sickening sound of it - and he gasped and fell, tripped by the length of wood now protruding from his leg.
All around Olaf this was the story, but he had not time to see to them, nor gauge their state, for the Orcs were now charging forth from the darkness, their long wicked cleaver-like Vardach swords raised over their heads as they cried out their warcries and moved in to engage the seven Men who remained standing, spears readied.
Typical Orc fashion, only half charged, the other half staying ready to pick off any Man who fled, or if the battle should turn against them, ready to flee to bring word to the nearest twice-damned Legate. May I live to slay a hundred of them!
The Orc that rushed Olaf had a deep scar across his face and left eye, clearly a veteran of combat. The raw fear of the moment prompted Olaf to take an offensive stance, lashing out at the Orc long before it could reach him. It struck the creature under the ribs, speartip sliding deeply in despite the tough hide of his foe.
Olaf spared a quick thought to thank the stars that this one didn't have a shield or armor, or it may not have been injured at all. As it worked out, however, Olaf was certain that the blow hit this creature's liver, a mortal wound. The Orc screamed as his momentum kept his feet going while his body slid slowly off the spear. Olaf had not much time to consider this, however, for around him the battle still raged.
An Orc had finished off the spearman next to him, and spotting Olaf gut one of their number, charged him to close the distance. Olaf broke ranks with his fellow spearmen to avoid the powerful blow, coming as it did before he was well prepared to receive the charge.
The two circled, for the moment unable to care about or focus on the cries of anguish and the stench of blood all around them. The Orc let out a snarl and charged, just as Olaf did the same, and only the longer length of his spear kept the orc from striking him simultaneously. Olaf aimed for the chest once more, the Orc knocked the speartip aside and moved to strike the human with his cruel vardach. With a quick shuffle back and to the left, Olaf avoided the blow and then suddenly reversed direction, moving in low to take the orc in the gut while momentum favored him. The tip of the spear slid past the Orc's guard and embedded into his upper hip, a gout of blood pouring from the wound while this orc, too, cried out. He staggered, and the internal bleeding would finish this orc off if nothing else did, but Olaf wasn't giving it a chance. He simply thrust once more at the thing, and it didn't have the strength to defend. A spear through the eye and it was all over.
Glancing around the field of battle, Olaf saw that of the six orcs who had charged, three remained standing, while five of his spear-wielding companions did. Ha! We may win this yet, you bloody grey bastards! As the two sides circled around and tried to regroup - just for a moment - another hail of accursed javelins rained down upon the remaining Humans. Damn, I forgot about them! Here they come! Oh, bloody..
Olaf watched the javelins coming, fear forgotten in the heat of the moment. He raised his spear to try to deflect it, but in one sickening moment he realized it would hit - he was too high... The javelin tip rent his leg, piercing the knee directly and embedding itself up to the wood, and an inch beyond. Bone shattered, piercing his skin further. Olaf looked down, dazed, noting in an almost detached fashion the bones protruding from his leg. It took him a moment to realize he was on his side, on the ground.
And another moment to realize there was an Orc rushing at him. With all the effort he could muster, he raised his spear, hoping to take the bastard with him - there was no way he could fight for long. He put everything he had into driving the speartip into the rushing Orc's gut.
He watched in glee as his speartip swung into position a moment before the orc reached him... and his spirits sank as he realized he had not the strength to follow through with the attack. The toothy Orc grinned, a grin any predator would immediately recognize. He batted the speartip aside with distain, and howling, swung at Olaf's head with that meatcleaver they used as swords, nearly as long as a man is tall - his Vardach.
Olaf felt the blade hit his skull. Felt himself falling over backwards from the impact as the light drained into blackness. He never felt himself hit the snow. Somewhere, an Orc screamed in victory...
Last edited by Emiricol; Sunday, 14th May, 2006 at 10:15 PM. Reason: changed update date
Friday, 17th December, 2004, 04:46 AM #2
Friday, 17th December, 2004, 09:26 AM #3
Thanks! Unless you meant that you have no works to describe how horrible it is. But for any reason except that one, yes, thanks.
Friday, 17th December, 2004, 08:22 PM #4
*hiding behind tree and watching the battle* "Heh, silly orcs." *fireball is launched into the middle of the orc party*
Friday, 17th December, 2004, 08:36 PM #5
Magic hasn't come up yet, but if we stay with Ars Magica for the mechanics it'll be a while before he can do a fireball spell - just due to range, mostly. Unless we change some things. Or if we change to another system (which we're discussing, since it isn't too late) the magic system will get more epic/mythical. So, the Prolog conclusion is very much up in the air right now.
Edit: We found a couple very minor changes that will let us keep the Ars Magica system, while still allowing potent low level magic that isn't overly earth shattering. So, we're continuing into Prolog II now.
Last edited by Emiricol; Saturday, 18th December, 2004 at 06:28 AM.
Monday, 20th December, 2004, 06:43 AM #6
Novice (Lvl 1)
Only read a part of it so far but very nice Emericol. I'd say guess who but it's a little obvious. Didn't know you had an Midnight game going. I'm very interested in this "riddle of steel" and Ars Magica system, I'll have to look into them. You are officially being bookmarked!
Good 'ol horribly busy withfinals CM of Rhaavin
Monday, 20th December, 2004, 08:24 PM #7
Hi Renfield Good to see you. There's a "quickstart" rules available as a free download at www.theriddleofsteel.net - it is very similar to the real book, but has fewer attributes and abstracted skills and combat maneuvers, as well as a simpler Magic system. But of course, I'm using Ars Magica for the magic. Anyway, thanks
Tuesday, 21st December, 2004, 02:10 AM #8
Prolog Part II - The Snow Ghosts
The scene below was horriffic. The smell of blood hit Thrayn's nose, but he did not allow it to distract him from the task at hand. The reserve Orcs, seeing the fight nearly over, broke from their cover to converge on the scene of the ambush - the better to make sure they received their portion of the loot.
Beside him, Rongald whispered to the elf. He still had a tone of awe to his voice whenever he spoke to the snow ghost, Thrayn. The Elf's recent problems lessened his status in the eyes of the superstitious Rongald not at all. "We are still clear, Sir. The orcs haven't seen us," he said to Thrayn in the abrupt, gutteral tones of the Norther tongue.
Below, two Orcs came to fists over what looked like a small furry animal, but was in fact the scalp of one of the Men. Only the first scalp, for the dead Men would all soon be so abused. The remaining Orcs, who numbered now a mere five, gathered around the other two in a circle and hooted, cheering on their favorite and laughing, while dying Men and Orc alike bled out nearby. The distraction of the fight would last only a few moments, certainly, and then the mutilation of the dead would begin in earnest.
Rongald's words barely registered in Thrayn's mind. Within sight these servants of the Shadow reveled in the success of their vile work. To him they looked no different than the many orcs he had already lain asunder during this past century of pain and dragging war. And so, to him, they were already dead. Dead faces laughing while other dead faces quarrelled. They just didn't know it yet.
Crouched in the shade of the thick bole of a snow coated tree, Thrayn turned to Rongald, his eyes dimly reflecting in the dark, and finally replied. "And they never will see us. Move in when they start to scream."
Thrayn stood and began the short litany that would direct the arcane powers he called forth. His hands worked in a small circle and came together, his fingers twisting into an uncomfortable knot. "Mutos corporus augaminus destrie theles margat finestus."
The words hummed with power and a small breeze blew back against his face, fanning his hair in a most unnatural fashion as he spoke. Below, the orcs began to notice that something was wrong. They erupted into cries of terror and confusion as, even at this distance, it was clear what was wrong. Their eyes, usually black, had turned to the color of new snow, white and glowing in the moonlight, while droplets of blood rolled out of savaged tearducts in place of tears. Rongald darted from hiding, charging down into the clearing, his spear held ready.
Thrayn took a few breaths. He could feel the energy sap from him as the curse took form in black, orken flesh. He drew his fighting knives and charged down after Rongald.
Ahead of him, Rongald's charge came to an abrupt stop as his spear buried itself in the back of a flailing Orc. The victim's confused cries turned to a squeal of agony, but were cut off with a sickening wet sound as Rongald pulled freed his spear. Thrayn took a dancing step left around Rongald and immediately had to duck as a stumbling Orc swung blindly with his sword. The clumsy Orc might as well have been standing still for all the good it did him. Thrayn sprung up as the beast twisted from the force of his own swing, and buried his long knife to the intricate hilt, directly between two of the orc's ribs with one quick thrust. As he pulled the blade free, black blood frothed at the wound and splattered against his face. The orc tried to cry out but managed only a wet gurgle, dropping his sword and clutching at the rent in his side as his lungs began to fill with blood, before falling over into the snow and struggling no more.
Thrayn spun around and stepped directly into the path of another stumbling thug. He looked into the orc's white, clouded eyes and plunged the clean blade of a second knife into his belly, the shudder of a bursting organ travelling up the blade as blood from the wound gushed out over Thrayn's hand. He pulled back on the knife swiftly as he backstepped to avoid the orc's stumbling fall to it's knees. It clutched at the wound in vain, blood was pouring too quickly from the wound for any hope of survival.
Thrayn looked around the clearing, still in a ready crouch and eager for more. The only movement he saw, however, was Rongald, breath heaving, dragging his spear from the throat of a downed orc. In the weakening light of the fire he could see steam rising from the open wounds of the dead and dying around him, and from the still-hot blood on his own blades. It was several moments before he realized that his breath was coming just as hard and ragged as Rongalds from the exertion of the fight - even as one-sided as this one was.
Gathering himself, Thrayn carefully wiped the intricately engraved Erunsil knives on the cloak of one of the dead bandits, ignoring his bloodied face and hand for the moment, as well as the man's arm - which lay some feet away. He sheathed the knives and looked about clearing at the carnage. They had been dead long before he had arrived, it just needed some convincing.
Thrayn began walking amongst the dead, turning them over with his foot one at a time searching for any surviving Orcs to slay or finish off. As he passed the fire, he grabbed a leg from the still roasting hare and began to eat what was once the meal of a man now dead, and circled the camp. They had been bandits after all, and would have stolen from any who they encountered, Shadow or not, so the liberation of a rabbit was of minor concern if any. Two enemies dead, bandit and Orc, the viler of the two at my hands.
Still circling, the sound of a muffled moan reached his ears. He darted a look to Rongald, who was seated across the camp from him still regaining his breath and covering his mouth with the hem of his shirt. Thrayn sniffed, and noted idly that the air did indeed stink of orc offal. He decided against chastising the Dorn for his weakness.
The moan came again. This time Thrayn saw the source, a tangle of bodies; an orc, spear broken off and protruding from it's chest, lay atop of two humans. He drew a knife and walked over to the slain orc to kick the corpse aside. The first body beneath was obviously not the source of the moan, as one of the cleaver-swords of the Orcs was stuck deep in the man's skull, bisecting it almost to the neck.
Thrayn knelt down and flipped that body over, too. It snagged on something, and just then the man beneath him wailed and curled in agony, his hands reaching toward his legs. Thrayn looked down and saw the source of the man's pain. A javelin was thrust through his shin, bone and all, and had become entwined with the other man's leg. "Rongald, come over here."
Rongald nodded, quickly coming to the Fey's side and waiting expectantly. Rongald always looked like he'd follow the Elf to the Obsidian Tower and back if he asked him to, but of course this wasn't so. Rongald himself was a bandit, but had found some purpose to his meaningless life fighting the Shadow - especially since he had a Fey, and a Sorcerer at that, to back him up. Purpose in life and a full belly were a powerful enticement in these times.
At a glance from Thrayn, Rongald looked down at the Man, who was pale with shock and loss of blood. Now that he was free of the two corpses, the wounded took off his simple belt and made a makeshift tourniquet. The whole affair lasted just a few seconds.
"So, the bandits had a survivor, Sir. Shall I kill him for you?"
At this the wounded man stopped what he was doing and looked up. He glanced at his axe, but it lay far enough away that he hesitated to try for it. Instead, he spoke in a deep voice using the Erenlander tongue but heavily accented in Norther. "I am Dornhild. Should not my fight with the Orcs make me your ally? At least not your enemy." Then Dornhild glanced from Rongald to Thrayn and back. And froze. His eyes slowly tracked from Rongald back again to Thrayn, eyes wide and pupils consuming the blue of his eyes. "Y... y... you..."
Rongold translated quickly for the Elf. Dornhild shot a look back at Rongald, then locked eyes with the Fey, exclaiming in his native tongue. "What in Shadow's Grasp is this?" His breath was heavy with near panic. "I beg you, kill me if you must but do not eat my soul! Let me die fighting!" He whispered the last, as his voice cracked in raw fear.
Thrayn held his had up to Rongald, indicating that he should hold. Eat his soul. These pathetic, ignorant Norther and their superstitions. Snow ghosts. Eaters of souls. Stealer of children. He sighed softly. "What are you doing in the woods of the Erunsil, Northman?" Thrayn's voice was quiet, his words spoken steadily.
The man paused for a moment, perhaps considering whether to talk, but his situation was dire. The fear on his face showed his decision was a foregone conclusion, so Thrayn waited patiently but did not have to wait long. "We had raided the Shadow's forces near the curst ruins of Cale, but had to flee deep into these foul Plains. Eris Aman is tricky and we lost our position, and thought to avoid wandering into the hell of the bogs in the south of Eris Aman by skirting the Veradeen woods." He swallowed uncomfortably then, and cringed very slightly. It was an unnatural look for a Dorn warrior, from everything Thrayn had seen of their kind.
Thrayn stood and looked about the abbattoire that remained of the campsite. He gave a significant look to Rongald and headed toward one of the two carts at the edge of the firelight, throwing open the flap at the back and looking about the contents. Within lay over a dozen of the Orcs' heavy vardach blades, as well as sack upon sack of flour and grains labelled in Orc, jar upon jar of various preserved foods, and a barrel of fresh water, as well as horse shoes, bits of leather and other gear for the group of bandits. He looked back at the two humans, pausing for a moment to consider his situation. He then went to the second cart, likewise mostly stolen food, giving credence to Dornhild's claim that they had been raiding caravans of Izraedor. Calen had long since fallen to ghosts and worse, defeated in the early days of the Last War by treachery, as so many places of Man were in those horrible final days of freedom.
Satisfied of the man's veracity as well as the rich find, he returned to the two Men at an even pace. Light from the fire backlit him as he squatted down near Dornhild's legs, shining off his white hair like a halo. "Rongald, hold him tight."
Rongald grunted, eyes lingering a bit too long on the wagons, and then knelt down to pin the man's shoulders to the ground. "Don't move or it'll be rough on you, Norther," said Rongald as if ignorant of his own Dorn heritage. He said Norther as a curse, his tone bitter. Dornhild grunted and nodded in a single, curt motion, then set his teeth in anticipation.
"I don't know your intentions, *brother*," he said to Rongald, "but I beg of you not to let him hurt me..."
Thrayn dropped his knees down on either side of the javelin jutting through the man's shin. Setting his shoulders, he gripped the haft near the wound and pulled it free in a single quick motion. The javeln resisted but then gave way, coming free with a sudden jerk. Dornhild, to his credit, made not a whimper but the muscles standing out on his jaws gave away the pain he was in. Blood began to ooze once more from the wound, though his tourniquet kept this from becoming too bad.
Drawing his knife, he cut the man's pant leg off and tore it into strips as quickly as his hands could manage. He bound the wound tightly, wrapping it in several layers of the makeshift bandage. Reaching up to the tourniquet, he loosened it and yanked the belt free. He nodded to Rongald who released his grip with a somewhat perplexed look.
The wound seeped, but as Rongald let him go Dornhild nodded in apparent relief and sat up, putting pressure on the wound until it stopped seeping. "I'm hoping this doesn't mean you are just sparing me long enough to fatten me up. My papa used to tell tales of the witches of the woods stealing children to either eat or to grow up into slave soldiers to fight shadow, bringing the Orcs to whatever village they came from to burn it down in retribution." His tone showed he was unconvinced of the tale, but nonetheless here was a real, life Elf, a creature of legend in modern times. "I didn't believe the Fey existed still in the world of Men and Orc," he concluded simply.
Thrayn tossed the belt onto Dornhild's heaving chest. "You were a fool to make such a visible camp in the borderlands. This place is rife with bandits, Orcs and worse. But, you are a fool who will live a while longer." He stood and walked over to the fire and grabbed what rabbit remained, returning to Dornhild and tossing the meat near the Dorn, within his reach. "Eat. Meat to feed your blood. You may suffer tonight, but the morning will be all the better for having lived."
Dornhild glanced at the meat, eyeing it hungrily. "Living is better than not living," he said finally, voice shaking slightly in a mixture of pain and no small amount of shock at talking to an Elf. "I thank you for sparing my life, if in fact you have." He took a hesitant bite of the rabbit, as though the touch of the Fey might have tainted it somehow with magic or worse.
A feeling of sympathy came over Thrayn as he looked at the wounded Northman eating now hungrily of the rabbit. He nodded to him and stood, and had to stop himself from making some gesture that might betray his feelings. Sympathy had no home in the Plains of Eris Aman. Thrayn started to walk back toward the fire and called over his shoulder. "Rongald. Help me gather up the bodies. Add anything of worth to the carts. Burn the rest."
Rongald commanded Bornhild, "We burn the bandits first. They don't stink as badly, so we do them first and Orc second. Less time spent in burning Orc fumes that way." He punctuated this by spitting upon one of the dead orcs. Bornhild merely nodded.
The busy work of burning the corpses went off quickly, bodies piled high with cold efficiency atop a mound of wood and lit up without remorse. Dornhild spared a tear for his companions, now all dead, but said nothing; no words of remembrance marked the passing of those men. Then came the orcs, and the odor indeed was something to remember. It seemed to burn one's nose, and weak men had been known to retch at the smell.
Gathering all the gear, Thrayn nodded after a final look around. "Rongald, you and the bandit take a wagon each and head west with all due speed. Worse things than orcs and bandits plague these curst plains. If anything should happen, keep going west - never south. As you value your soul, go not south." Thrayn followed with stealth, alert for signs of ambush.
With that, and a parting glance over his shoulder at the life he knew now burning in the night, Bornhild was taken with Rongald and the Elf Thrayn west, into the lands of the Veradeen, the home of the Erunsil - the snow ghosts.
Tuesday, 21st December, 2004, 06:23 PM #9
Novice (Lvl 1)
Well, you have me hooked, a considerable task considering my standard aversion to elfs. Compared to orcs however they are a lesser filth... kinda like my political way of though. Anywho, keep it up.
Tuesday, 21st December, 2004, 09:21 PM #10
I normally don't like Elves either, but in this game I've moved away from the standard gaming elf and I'm trying to make them feel like mythical fey - ancient, immortal, powerful, rare, and they don't think like us.
Of course, since this is a writeup of a game in progress, it isn't going to be 100%, but hopefully the differences in Fey and the magic system are apparent.
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