Thread: Steel Dragon's "Tales of Orea"
Tuesday, 27th December, 2011, 06:38 PM #131
Spellbinder (Lvl 16)
"Magus Tresahd, I presume?" Alaria replied, careful to include the polite official title to the dark wizard in unrealistic hopes that perhaps recognizing the presumed pleasantries of those initiated in the Mysteries might spare her and her companions an unpleasant encounter.
"I trust you know why I'm here. I will admit, it has been most entertaining to observe the adventures of your intrepid little harem. I've been impressed with your successes despite your....limited resources. Shame about your Grinlian boy. But as you know, the world can be a dangerous place." the dark mage bantered.
"I warn you, Magus. Stand aside and let us pass. We have no wish to tarry with you." Alaria said with all the confidence and bluster she could gather.
The air was filled with the breathy chuckles from the dark-robed wizard. "No, I trust you do not wish tarry with me. hehheheheh. However, you have something that belongs to me." Tresahd said.
When no reply appeared forthcoming, the wizard continued with his same "casual parlor conversation" tone.
"I have spent much time and energy on your little band, here. And have enjoyed the show, immensely." again it was if they could "hear" the mage's mocking smile.
"FRAGGIM!" shouted Duor.
A bolt from his hand crossbow, Festus' shortbow and two arrows from Erevan shot forward with remarkable speed.
The four bolts flew true only to halt before the wizard, momentarily suspended in the air. Visible ripples spread out from the tips, as if the archers had dipped their bolts into a still pool of water. Then all of the arrows fell to the ground a few feet in front of the wizard, without actually touching him.
"oh boy." Haelan said in a meek whisper.
"I am afraid, my dear, that amateur hour is at an end. You cannot hope to best me in a test of the Art.
"And I have some...pressing issues I must be getting back to.
"Return the Ihs Repahl to me and I will let you be on your way. I will even let you keep the ethereal dagger and that silly flying shield....which originally both belonged to me as well, I'll have you know. But the orb is all I require."
Again, Tresahd paused.
Alaria was shaken to her bones. What should they do? What could they do? Giving the wizard the orb was out of the question. That much was evident. Her hand slipped beneath the sleeve to the wrist on which she wore the new bracelet with enchanted beads she had claimed from the kobold's treasure.
"That would be...unwise, child." the dark wizard hissed. The wizard's tone took on a more menacing tone. "Deny my...request...at your peril."
Erevan turned his head to look sidelong at Alaria. The magess slipped her hand into the pouch with the crystal orb.
"I wouldn't..." Tresahd began.
"GO!" Alaria shouted. "Repleesh!" she said and the magess, Erevan and his horse disappeared from normal sight.
Erevan starting his mount into a full on gallop, trusting his senses and training to keep him upon the now invisible steed beneath him.
Coerraine took a moment to concentrate on his protective field, it was still in place, as he snapped the reigns and the horses took off straight for the wizard.
Festus, in an attempt at distraction, let loose another arrow from his bow. It sped past where Erevan's horse had been only to again ripple in the air before the wizard and fall to the ground.
The dark wizard began speaking the bizarre language of magic.
Haelan and Fen also began chanting.
"Everx zaar!" Tresahd completed. Shimmering shards of white energy sped forth from the wizard. Two struck into the invisible horse, sending it reeling to the ground. One into Erevan. Shot up and curved around to strike firmly onto the paladin's shoulder.
Alaria and Erevan toppled off and over the crashing horse as all of them again became visible. Alaria righted herself and covered her nose and mouth at the awful smell of scorched horse flesh.
"Let's have it then!" said Erevan. The elf was already back on his feet, having gracefully leaped and rolled unharmed from his falling mount.
"Everx zaar!" cried the elf tracker. His own blue-green energy shard streaked forth in the direction of the dark mage.
With a casual wave of his arm and a shouted spell, a shield of solid black shadow formed around treshad's hand and trailed before him, blocking Erevan's spell.
Immediately, the evil wizard again began to mutter arcane syllables.
There was a momentary flash of bright green light that faded into the ground surrounding Tresahd. Vines and roots tore up from the ground surrounding the mage and began entangling the wizard's legs and swirled up the gnarled staff. The mage's incantation was disrupted as the vines whipped up to hold his arms.
"Ah, the half-blooded druid. Defending your precious Balance." disdain dripped from Tresahd's words. "What might your companions think if they knew your real purpose?"
Before anyone could react or question this statement, the wizard's voice rose in arcane anger.
"Beriz arkaniz es theran!" <mage spell: Dispel Magic> completed the black-robed wizard even as Haelan's golden cudgel of light sped toward him.
Both the enchanted vegetation and Haelan's Spiritual Weapon seemed to burst into nothingness around Tresahd before it struck him.
"And the little Hilltender. How quaint. Your pathetic spirit of clover and cowpies is going to save you, I suppose?"
"Hey! You take that back! I don't make fun of your god!...Of course, evil people like you probably don't have a god, I suppose. But still, not nice!" Haelan said, obviously hurt by the statement.
"Just pray fer somethin', yeh bleeding idiot!" called Duor. The dwarf only shifted closer to the paladin, knowing his bolts would do nothing to harm the wizard and not about to dare getting close enough to use his ethereal dagger.
The cart was almost upon the wizard. Festus let another arrow fly. His effort was thanked with the same ineffectual result.
"Alaria, we cannot touch him." Erevan said quietly to the magess. "The cart cannot hope to outrun his magic with all of us upon it. You must get out of here with the orb. Quickly now!"
Alaria did not like what was being said, but knew the elf was probably correct.
She cast the web spell as quickly as she could and was surprised and elated to see the wizard all but cocooned in the milky white strands.
But only a moment. The wizard seemed to make no motion nor say any magic words and the strands of webbing began to fade from view.
"Take this." Alaria said, handing the elf one of the amber beads from her bracelet. "As the cart passes, throw it at him and get on...unless you think you can outrun the cart."
"Now," said the wizard with obviously anger in his voice, "you all die."
"Xerex rex nossos!" incanted Tresahd and a ball of fire began forming before his outstretched hand.
Alaria again gripped the Ihs Repahl, and immediately air swirled around her. She began floating up into the air, five feet, ten feet.
The cart was passing her location and nearing the dark wizard, who was still, more or less, in the middle of the road.
Alaria concentrated and felt the air gathering around her, she needed this timed properly.
The cart was passing Erevan and herself, the elf threw the amber bead with elvin trademark accuracy.
The bead of force burst at the wizard's feet even as he released the flaming sphere which bounded from his hand to burst upon the ground and begin speeding toward the cart. The wizard was blown to the side of the road and Alaria released the winds she'd been summoning.
A small whirlwind momentarily formed beneath and around the flung dark mage and half-carried half-threw him much further into the field beside the road than the initial blast.
"Repleesh!" Alaria said again and winked out of view. She then, mentally began directing herself toward the 'town' of Farthing Cross.
Dirt and grass scorched as the two-foot diameter ball of fire rolled quickly toward the approaching heroes and their cart. The horses were entirely spooked by the flames and veered off the road, sending all of the cart's riders bouncing and grabbing onto anything to keep them from falling off the precariously tipping vehicle.
Without Tresahd's conentration, the rolling ball of flame continued straight down the road and quickly dispersed into nothingness.
Coerraine heaved upon the reigns to right the cart and get the horses back on the worn track of road. They sped toward Farthing Cross and through the town, attracting more than one shocked look at the heavily laden cart that did not slow at all.
Haelan took a moment and was heard by the companions (in the cart) to invoke.
"Dicteus beneficia spiritos, beatius Faerantha, con u guda sevem fehs!" <cleric spell: Resist Fire, "Bless your loyal followers, Holy Faerantha, with your power over fire!"> the daelvar priest intoned in a melodic chant. The halfling sincerely hoped it would be a wasted prayer, but just in case another incendiary attack were to head their way.
Nothing more was seen or heard from the wizard, Tresahd, as the party sped through the crossroads and continued on into the darkness of night further into the hoped for security of Daenfrii and the Dragonmage.
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Spellbinder (Lvl 16)
Alaria's invisiblity faded even as the lights of Farthing Cross were fading into the night behind them.
Maintaining her levitating state was taxing enough than to try to remain invisible also. She also wanted her hands free should she have to begin casting. The magical winds could only carry her about as quickly as she could run, herself. So the cart with her companions, gained quickly on her position and was soon on the road beside her. Erevan had decided against loading the down further and was easily maintaining pace with the cart along the side of the road.
She turned in midair, continuing to float "forward" to see if she could glean any sign of pursuit.
Unfortunately, it was not long before she could. A dark shape, cloaks and robes flailing behind it, was speeding over the buildings of Farthing Cross and heading straight for them.
"He's coming!" shouted Festus from the cart. He and Fen and Haelan had similarly been watching their backs in hopes of a "clean getaway."
Just then, her mind became hazy.
"Llllllllllar.......ahhhh.....iaaaaa..." the strange sensation but somehow familiar voice was subtly brushing the corner of her mind.
Alaria halted in the air for a moment...not moving took significantly less effort, she noticed. Alaria reached into the small pocket in which she kept a few magical components. She withdrew the small teardrop shaped emerald Rhea had given her. The gem pulsed with an inner light, shining green in her palm.
Almost immediately, Rhea's voice came through clearly and an image of the Green Witch's face swirled into her mind's eye.
"Ahhhh...laria. Alaria! Ah good. There you are. How do you fare? I regret we've been waylaid in Evandrial. But the Dragonmage-apparent has informed me that there is a dark power moving deep inside Daenfrii. Have you made it to..." the Emerald Tear initiate's telepathic voice seemed to trail off.
Even as the thoughts were forming in Alaria's mind to "say" what was transpiring to the telepath, Rhea's face took on a visage of fear and concern.
"OH! Oh no!" her voice rang loudly. "Hold fast, child! Help is on the way!" Rhea's face seemed to swirl out of existence again.
In the corner of Alaria's pride, she took offense to the reference of "child." But her conscious mind couldn't care less. She was all but out of tricks and didn't know what she could do to "hold fast."
Determined, Alaria cast the wind behind them at the fast approaching wizard.
Tresahd was momentarily halted by the gusting winds but easily dipped beneath them and continued on.
Alaria redirected them, but such fine control was quickly tiring her. She was forced to land.
Erevan halted and Coerraine pulled up the cart, unwilling to continue on without the R'Hathi before them.
"What're yeh doin', Goldilocks! Drive! Drive! He's coming!" Duor shouted and turned in his seat to look back at the dark mage's approach.
"Oh, Magess Alaaaariaaaaa!" Tresahd called tauntingly. "I believe I've acquired something of yours, now." The wizard made a throwing motion with his right arm and a ball of milky white light shot forth to land half on the rear of the cart, half on the ground.
Fen and Festus were ensnared, as was the left wheel of the cart, in the milky white strands of webbing. The cart was fully pulled to a halt.
"Holy..." cried Duor. To everyone's surprise, the dwarf jumped out of the cart and began slicing at the webs ensnaring the cart wheel with his green glowing blade.
Erevan stopped, raised his bow then lowered it, unwilling to risk one of his enchanted arrows on so nimble a target as the free flying wizard. Instead he spoke the words he knew best, but with a "twist" in his mental casting.
"Seriz verik og theran.”<mage spell: Floating Disc> the elf thrust out his hand in the direction of the approaching mage with a distinct flick of his wrist that Alaris did not recognize from the spell's "official" casting.
Immediately, a disc of amber colored light coelesced, vertically, directly in front of the wizard's path.
Tresahd smashed into the suddenly solid light disc. Stunned, the mage began falling for earth before regaining his wits and staying his fall. A hand over his face.
"HAH!" burst Haelan. "Take that, meany! Nice job, Erevan!"
"Gotta give it to ya, point-ear. That was good!" Duor admitted with a chuckle, despite his feeling that they were facing their impending doom.
"'Nuv waughs. Gehvus outta here!" called Festus from beneath the magical webs. The satyr then began coughing and choking on the webbing that had magically slunk its way into his opened mouth.
"rrrrrRRRRRRAAAAAAHHHH!" burst the dark wizard. Arcane energies seemed to spark and flare around the wizard's floating form.
He held his staff over his hovering form and shouted words of power Alaria did not recognize.
"Imberil zarex korantho!" <mage spell: Lightning Bolt> The tip of the gnarled black wood immediately sparked, seemingly drawing lightning out of the still air into it before Tresahd pointed the staff toward the party.
A huge bolt of lightning crackled forth, followed by a rolling thunderclap, very similar to how Alaria's old wand had done. But the bolt was huge! So bright in the early night. It shed light across the open fields to either side as it jaggedly reached for the party before, about halfway toward them, splitting in two!
One ranch of the lightning crashed into the back of the cart sending chests and sacks and coins and half-elf druids, satyr rangers and daelvar priests in all directions.
Duor was able to dive away from the cart in time.
Coerraine, who had begun climbing down from the cart to protect their rear was fling aside by the blast like a rag doll.
The other fork of the bolt struck directly on the space Erevan had been inhabiting. Only the elf's enhanced reflexes stayed the full force of the blast, as he dove away. But still, the elf was sorely scorched and flung far into the field (on the opposite side of the road that Duor and Coerraine flew into).
Not knowing what else to do, Alaria invoked another of her second tiered spells.
“Shaiir shahiir shaiiris” cried the R'Hathi magess through a shakey throat. She was utterly despondent over what had just happened, unsure of the status of any of her fellows and completely at a loss as to what else to do.
The woman immediately split into three distinct images of herself. She gripped another of the force beads on her bracelet.
Treshad "stood" upright in mid-air. He floated at a menacingly slow pace toward where the shattered cart and her companions, some groaning and rising, some unmoving, lay scattered about the road.
"You could have just given it to me. You could have been on your way. But now, you and all of your menagerie of consorts shall perish. Such a shame. Such a waste of obvious talent, my dear."
"Consorts?!" Alaria burst in disapproval.
"I assure you, dark one. The Magess Alaria has no consorts." came a booming voice that was both there and not there.
In a flash of emerald green light, Rhea hovered in the air, slightly above Tresahd and between the party and their would-be executioner. A corona of green light shone from her statuesque form. Her high collared cloak billowed out about her. The emerald teardrop upon her brow flickered with a ferocious light that seemed like an emerald fire.
There was a momentary pause as the Green Witch and dark wizard had some unseen battle of wits. A bolt of green energy finally burst from Rhea's forehead.
Tresahd swatted it away with another shroud of shadow that spread out from his hand.
"Begone mind-witch! You can do nothing here. The orb is MINE!"
"Oh," said Rhea's voice and thoughts calmly to all in the vicinity. "It is not me you should be concerned with, Tresahd. It is them." Rhea's head turned ever so slightly to look into the empty air beside her.
The air was only empty for a moment before a great golden light seemed to "slash" threw the very space itself.
The light flared into the image of great reptilean or bat wings spreading to either side.
In the center of the light was a figure, a great dark cloak billowing to behind, what appeared (Alaria thought) to be a "him."
Suddenly, from behind this new figure, two other figures leapt out of the golden flaring energy.
One, Alaria thought a moment to be an angel. A short bob of red hair flew above a blazing yellow tabard covered chainmail that sparkled silver, a shield upon her arm and beneath flickering sparks of white light surrounding a peculiarly shaped head of a mace could be seen.
The other did not share such a divine like glow, but moved with amazing speed, in a violet tabbard, also over chainmail, a great mane of golden flowing hair behind him and an immense two-handed sword that Alaria just caught the flashing violet light off of two huge jewels in the swords hilt.
"Die, villain! Taste the Mother's Mercy for the likes of ye!" called the yellow clad woman and she made swing at the wizard in mid-air as she descended.
Tresahd flew back away from the swing with great alarm. The white flickering mace-head had narrowly missed him.
The violet-clad golden-haired swordsman landed softly on the ground beside her, swung his sword over his head. A bolt of purple energy sparked up across the blade and shot forth into the wizard.
Alaria could see now, her golden-haired savior was an elf. Broad-shouldered and muscled, moreso than Erevan, less-so than Coeraine, but an elf nonetheless.
Tresahd cried out in disbelief at the attack and floated back as trails of smoke smoldered off of his robes. Could he?...Should he?...
"Everx imberil rex!" the mage called out.
Black and purple flames shot forth from his outstretched hand and flew down at the woman and elf.
The yellow-clad female simply raised her shield and the magical flames burst upon a momentarily visible dome of silver light.
"Next time, Alaria of Ablidon." Tresahd said quickly. "Next time." With a wave of his arm, the wizard's form became enshrouded in a globe of darkness.
"HyAH!" cried the red-headed woman and threw her mace at the ball of darkness.
The mace flew up to pierce the inky cloud.
The darkness immediately dissipated as the silver light of her weapon passed through it.
Tresahd was not there.
The silver-lit weapon quickly returned to the woman's hand. She scowled and muttered something under her breath that Alaria could not discern.
First Rhea, then the blue-cloaked blond-haired man in a white tunic and blue breeches floated down to the ground beside the devestated scene of the cart.
The emerald cloaked psychic came up to Alaria with a reassuring smile. She laid a comforting arm on the awe-struck but still shaken magess. "Don't worry, Magess. You are safe now."
Alaria just shook her head dumbly.
"Lela, see to the fallen." said the blond man to the woman. Alaria could now see the brightly blazing white budding rose of the goddess Gilea upon the woman's shield.
To the magess' surprise, he did not appear to be any older than Alaria was, herself. And quite handsome.
He turned to Alaria and smiled reassuringly. "I suppose you are this Magess Stormrider I've heard so much about?"
Alaria gathered her wits and bowed her head. "Rhea, I can't...my lords...I can not hope to thank you enough for your assistance. But, my companions? Our cargo is most important...I do not know where to begin to explain or express..." Alaria just stopped, fearing to bumble in front of this apparent master of the magical arts...if he was who she thought he was.
Answering Alaria's thoughts, as usual, Rhea smiled and said, "Montor, may I present to you the Magess Alaria Staver...also known as 'the Stormrider.' Alaria, our Lord-prince, Montor Dragonwing, heir to the secrets of Wyr and Dragonmage-apparent."
Alaria bowed much deeper then fell to her knees. "My lord...I cannot begin..."
"Rise, Magess. I am not Dragonmage yet...and I detest such formality." he extended a hand to help Alaria to her feet.
"My dear, Alaria, you are exhausted. Let us just get you back to the Vale." Rhea said, throwing an arm over the very fragile-feeling wizardess.
"Yes...yes...but my friends. The treasure! I hate to sound so vulgar, my lords. But we need that treasure." Alaria practically wept. She was choking back the feeling she could simply fall apart. She maintained her consciousness as best she could.
"Not to worry." Montor said. With a swipe of his arm over the area of the cart, silver and gold coins, chests and sacks, jewels and the few weapons which had been packed up in their cart began to hover and float about the area. The riches began to swirl in the air as they got closer eventually forming a veritable tornado of treasure that seemed to easily flow into a dull grey sack on Montor's hip.
Erevan, Duor and Coerraine were back on their feet as the Protectress, Lela knelt beside the form of the satyr.
The elf warrior was talking in hushed tones with Erevan, who had also knelt at the gold-haired elf's approach and introduction.
When everyone was, at least, conscious and a step away from death's door. Montor again rose into the air and spread his arms. Alaria couldn't even blink as with apparent and awe-inspiring ease the young Dragonmage again summoned the golden wing-like corona about him and with a hug-like motion, the wings of light swept down to gather up all of the companions.
Alaira watched in amazement as the air around her seemed entirely filled with "rain" of bright sapphire-blue and diamond-white light-drops. She perceived no motion of the air, no movement beneath her feet. Just the momentary "light shower."
When the lights twinkled out of existence before her eyes, she found herself and all of her companions and their four saviors standing within a great open hall of white and silver-grey marbles.
"Welcome to Dragonwing Keep." Montor smiled at the R'Hathi magess.
Alaria smiled back, weakly, at the handsome young wizard.
"Thank you, my lord." she managed to say...before she feinted.
Spellbinder (Lvl 16)
Alaria only slipped into unconsciousness for a moment before a flash of green opened her eyes. Rhea was smiling in understanding at her and supporting her on her feet. The Dragonmage-prince had not seemed to notice the falter. Alaria mentally thanked Manat for that.
Again, she felt the heaviness in her limbs and the weight of cloudy tiredness on her mind. Obviously, sustaining the various powers of the Windsoul had again taken its toll, though not nearly to the extent of her hurricane at Bridgetower.
The magess took a moment to scan her companions.
Haelan seemed to be the worse for ware. Lela had already tended him and now Coerraine was murmuring a prayer and laying a hand upon the small scorched daelvar.
The Protectress was now helping Fen to his feet. A shaky-looking Festus stood nearby leaning on Duor. Erevan stood on his own accord listening intently to whatever the golden-haired elf warrior was relaying to him.
"Yes, of course. How rude." Rhea said. "Alaria and company, may I present Silran Staliirosta of the eastern province of Evandrial."
The elf, who stood as tall as Erevan with the same grace and poise and handsome face turned at the mention of his name. He nodded an acknowledgement to Alaria, though betrayed no emotion. His eyes were a cool lavendar, much lighter than Erevan darker violet and seemed to twinkle with a silver light of their own.
"Honestly, Rhea. I don't know where your mind is some times." barked the red-headed priestess in the yellow tabard. "They need further healing and rest, not introductions. This isn't the Midwinter's Ball." the woman scoffed.
She was a stern looking woman. A strong jaw, that reminded Alaria of Coerraine's, hazel eyes that did not bespoke the caring "softness" one might expect from one of Gilea's Sacred Daughters. All in all, she was more "handsome" than Rhea's "beautiful."
"And that is Lela Eth Mitar, Protectress of Gilea. Not to worry, dear, her bark is not nearly as fierce as her bite." Rhea grinned at her clerical companion.
"These are some of the friends I mentioned at our last meeting." Rhea explained. "We are a few of the Steel Dragons."
"I do not wish to sound heartless, Montor" Silran began, though his handsome unblemished face bespoke no heart to speak of. He strode forward with elvin grace to address the mage in the midnight blue cloak. "I must concur with Lela...in part. We should be getting back. The Council awaits our return...and if we're lucky Carak has yet to find his way into my father's dungeons."
Dungeons? Alaria thought to herself.
Rhea's voice slipped within her mind, *Silran is one of the sons of Seniiris, lord-regent of Evandrial. And Carak....well, let's just say our friend Carak has a knack for getting himself into trouble.* A telepathic chuckle echoed in Alaria's brain. *He's....not quite the upstanding individual your daelvar is.*
"I see." Alaria said aloud. She quickly chastised herself when this statement garnered looks from the wizard and elflord. They returned their attentions to each other without a word, being accustomed to Rhea's often used subtle mode of communicating.
"Yes, of course. You are correct, Silran." the wizard-prince of Daenfrii replied.
"Keep!" he called somewhat loudly through the great pillared hall.
Before the echo of Montor's voice had subsided, a ball of shimmering white and blue light appeared, about a foot in diameter, hovering in the air at head height in front of the Dragonmage-apparent.
"My lord prince." to voice buzzed from the light. It was at once feminine and masculine...like the response of several people at once with a melodic quality, like a choir.
"Can you, please, locate Celerion and inform him I require his presence." Montor returned to the glowing ball.
"The Lord Chamberlain is..." began the ball in reply before being interrupted by a much more present voice.
"I am here, my lord." came the voice before anyone noticed the thin slightly bent figure moving at the far end of the huge chamber.
A small tapping of the twisted staff, banded and shod with various metals that were heavily inscribed with mystic lettering, accompanied the figures slow approach. Celerion wore what appeared to be heavy purple velvet robes, trimmed in gold etched with more runes, and a large golden mantle about his shoulders that gleaned as if it might be crafted of gold itself.
This was a chamberlain in Daenfrii! Alaria remarked to herself in surprise. He was girded more regally than the Primagus of Ablidon himself!
Alaria was confused when first Silran and then Erevan, after staring a moment with obvious surprise on his face, bowed deeply at the waist at the slow, obviously elderly figure neared them.
The man's heard was ringed in a tarnished looking plain band of gold. The shoulder length hair, that at one time might have been a pale gold or sandy brown was now ashen with obvious grey and silver hairs, devoid of the soft or free flowing grace of a young man's hair.
She scanned the face which showed many wrinkles and lines about the eyes and dipping jowels to each side of a thin-lipped mouth hung from thin, almost gaunt, cheekbones. His eyes though...the eyes were a stunning blue-green and seemed no older than Alaria or Erevan, despite the apparent age of the face.
Only then did Alaria gasp in surprise to notice the man's ears. Tall and... pointed? Alaria did not think such a creature possible. Every elf she had ever seen or encountered was ageless! Erevan, himself, she knew to be more than a century despite his youthful countenance. How was this possible? This was an elf? An aged...old elf?!
"Greetings and well met, my lord...and toy our Steel Dragons and Stormriders.
"We had not expected you for some time yet, my lord. Though of course, we are pleased to see your healthy return." the aged elf said with no apparent smile or emotion in his tone.
"Greetings Revered Elder. Evandrial will sing to see you well." said Silran to the floor.
"Oh rise, Silran." the Lord Clamberain waved his hand dismissively. "I should think we are safely beyond such unnecessary displays." Celerion said with what might be called mild annoyance as he neared the bowing elves.
"And you, young one? Let's get a look at you." he said to Erevan who did not rise when Silran was acknowledged.
Erevan rose and stared only a moment at the aged elf leaning on the heavily enchanted staff before shifting his eyes to golden etched hem of his robe.
It was the first time any of the companions could think of that Erevan's face did look filled with the awe of the young...even childlike next to the elderly Celerion and, apparently, "mature" Silran.
"Revered Elder, you honor me." Erevan said.
Celerion looked Erevan up and down. A wiry greying brow, lifted slightly on the lined forehead. "Eres'ka Aiiri, is it?" he asked <Eres'ka Aiiri="House Tracker">.
"Indeed, Revered Elder. I am Erevan son of..."the elvin archer began before stopping at Celerion's raised waving hand.
"Be welcomed to Daenfrii, young one. And you all." he said looking at the battered and bruised collection of adventurers.
"Collecting strays again, are we, my lord?" Celerion said finally turning attention to Montor. The first indication of emotion formed as the elf's thin lips quirked slightly into a small grin.
"Something like that." Montor smiled back. "Can you arrange rooms for them? Call for some Sacred Daughters to attend them and see them fed and made comfortable."
"Of course, my prince." Celerion responded unshaken. "A runner has already been dispatched to the temple. And shall I inform your father of your return?"
"I'm afraid we must be off again. We shall return as soon as we are able." Montor replied before holding up an arm to the side of gathering.
Seemingly at will, a circular portal of shimmering rays of amber and yellow light appeared.
Silran took a bow of leave before Celerion and made for the portal. Lela was close behind.
Rhea turned to Alaria, "We will be back as soon as we are able. But for now..." the Lady of the Emerald Tear held out her green-gloved hand to the magess, "I think it would be best."
"Oh! Yes, of course." Alaria stammered and reached into her pouch to retrieve the Ihs Repahl.
The inner light of the orb swirled in the magess' hand as she passed it to Rhea who, in turn, handed it over to Montor.
"Ah, yes." Montor said, taking the mystic device. The wizard took only a moment to gaze into the orb before handing it over to Celerion. "See this is taken to the study." he said and then turned to Alaria. "Do not fear. There is no power on Orea than can find or harm you here. There is no worry that it will be safe in my sanctum.
"Oh...Keep!" Montor said with surprise. The blue ball of light which had faded away with Celerion's arrival reappeared before the young mage.
"...a coffer if you would."
Immediately, the stone of the floor seemed to turn to liquid, rise and take a rectangular shape, as if carved from the very stone of the chamber, open on top.
Montor opened the grey pouch on his hip and with a wave of his arm, the tornado of riches of the party's treasure again swirled out of the bag into into the open stone box. When the last of the coins and items had passed into the box, the stone again turned fluid and created a lid over the top.
Then the whole block of solid looking stone began to sink back into the floor.
"Now wait justa kobold-throwin' minute here!" Duor began to object.
"Keep, take that to whatever chambers Celerion gives our guests." Montor said before smiling in Duor's direction. "Will that do, master dwarf?"
"Eh...um...Yeah. That'll do fine....uh...Thank yeh." said the thoroughly small-feeling dwarf.
"Couldn't be going off forgetting that, now could we?" Montor said with a broad smile to Alaria.
Alaria nodded, somewhat dumbly, at the handsome young man. The R'Hathi magess was quickly being overwhelmed by the apparent magical power of this place...these people.
"Oh, and Celerion, have Felton set about finding anything he can about a wizard named Tresahd. He's found his way onto my list." Montor said over his shoulder as he headed toward the glimmering portal.
"Very good, my lord." Celerion said and made a nodding bow to the Dragonage-prince's back.
Rhea simply patted Alaria on the hand and went to leave with her companions. Her voice again sounded in Alaria's consciousness.
*Don't worry, Magess. You have done very well. Your companions and the orb shall be safe here. I will speak with you again soon.*
Alaria simply smiled and nodded a thankful reply.
"Did ye believe that?," Lela was heard saying to Silran as they entered the portal. "Burning Hands? The fool thought he could foil the Steel Dragons with Burning Haaannndssss..." the Protectress' final word and a chuckle of disbelief trailed off through the hall as she disappeared into the flickering rays of light.
After Rhea and then Montor passed through, the portal simply closed in on itself, leaving no trace it had ever been there.
Alaria looked to Erevan, who still stared with open-faced awe at the back of the Lord Chamberlain. The rest of the band looked to Alaria then Celerion then each other.
After what seemed a long silence, the chamberlain tapped his staff upon the floor twice, as if to snap the group from a daydream.
"Well then, are we going to stand about like a bunch of open-mouthed cod? No? I thought not." Celerion slowly made his way toward the hall's huge outer doors. "This way. Nevermind your things.
"Rik! Quip! Gather the Stormriders' possessions and come along."
Two teenaged boys quickly scampered from somewhere beyond the pillars and did as the elderly elf had commanded. They wore blue tunics with the golden dragon, wings outstretched, holding a sapphire emblem of Daenfrii emblazoned no the chest and small, flat-topped, blue caps.
"Keep, inform me when the Daughters of Gilea arrive...apprise Captain Tormuk of our new arrivals so he can notify the guards...wouldn't want anyone getting a spear in the face for a night's cup of water, now do we?" Celerion said turning to Alaria with grin and wink.
"...and inform his Lordship, Arganor, I will meet with him shortly. I shall explain the evening's events to the Lordmage, myself." the elf said finally as he neared the great doors.
"As you will, Lord Chamberlain." said the haunting multiple 'voice' from the ball of light before it quickly swirled out of existence.
Alaria and the rest of the beaten company followed behind...still shell-shocked by the evening's battle, subsequent rescue and apparent refuge of this most remarkable 'keep'.
Spellbinder (Lvl 16)
The band followed the elderly looking elf out of the main hall, down a long hall and up one of several twining staircases they passed.
After going passed three floors, Celerion stepped off the staircase at a broad landing with high arched double doors at the end. THe door sung open silently as Celerion approached.
Duor whispered to Festus, who still lumbered along leaning on the dwarf, "The whole bleedin' place is magic. I'm not sure about this whole thing."
"The Vale and Keep of Dragonwing is entirely enchanted. Protected with barriers from all intrusion and spying eyes. We could not be in any better place, my friend. I assure you." Festus whispered back.
Celerion turned to the company as they entered the large sitting parlor, from which three doors led off. A small but still grandly crafted fireplace with a high mantel burst into warming flames with a wave of Celerion's hand. The mantel was supported by two dragons of stone sitting on their haunches. The various candles and gilded sconces about the large chamber came alight as well. The furniture was all finely crafted with cushions of blue and gold velvets and satins. There was a small coffee table between the seating in front of the fire and another long dining table at the other side of the chamber set with pewter plates and goblets, pitchers with twining serpentine dragons as handles. A shiny golden candelabra sat in the middle of the dining table with six candles, all flickered to light as the party entered.
"I trust this suite will meet your needs." Celerion began as the company each found and half-fell into the various couches and high-backed wing chairs set about the room. "Those doors each lead to the bedchambers. Two through that one and the privy is at the end of that hall. The servants will bring you meals here, if you wish...or you are welcome to attend meals in the dining hall. If you have any other needs do not hesitate to ask.
"Rik. Quip. You will see to the Stormriders' needs during their tenure with us."
The servant boys nodded without question at their instruction.
"Does my lady Magess require a maidservant?" Celerion asked directly to Alaria.
"Oh! No! No, Lord Chamberlain. Thank you. This is too much. You and your master honor us! Most exquisite. A meal and a bed will suffice for me. Please do not trouble yourself further." Alaria replied as she took in all of the lavish furnishings and tableware.
"No trouble at all, my dear. You are guests of the lord-prince and I will not have the reputation of the House of Dragonwing's hospitality fall short on my watch." Celerion replied. He leaned close to the magess to say quietly, "Your efforts have averted a grave evil...for a time. Please, do not hesitate to call if there's anything else you require."
"How 'bout our treasure there, Celery?" Duor said bluntly.
"Duor!" Coerraine chastised.
Celerion grinned his thin grin at the dwarf. "You do an aged heart good, master dwarf. No matter how many centuries this old eyes witness, I have never a doubt that dwarfkind shall forever remain as intransigent as the stone from which they were carved.
"Keep! The Stormriders' coffer please." Celerion concluded.
Duor did not reply at what he was not sure was a compliment or insult.
After a few moments, the stone of the floor rippled and rose, becoming again solid as if it were carved from the stone of the chamber. The box was still closed.
Duor stood looking at the magical chest of stone. Nothing changed.
"Well? Open it." Duor said over his shoulder.
All of the company turned to see...or rather not see the Lord Chamberlain. Celerion was gone.
"Wuh? Buh? Hey!" Duor called.
"Duor please, it can wait til the morning." Festus said, obviously still in some degree of discomfort. "Let's get some wine and good food and a rest."
"I'll be dipped in orc fat! How'd we know its all in there? Needs t'be counted!" Duor spat back. "Hey...Keep! Keep? Open the box!"
No blue ball of light appeared. No melodic choir of voices. Nothing happened.
"Bloddy no good magicky..." duor continued to grumble under his beard for some time until the Daughters of Glea arrived and tended the group's remaining wounds.
"Give it a rest, Duor. It's been a long day. You really think a house like this needs our lil' bits of loot?" Coerraine finally chastised.
The servant Rik had poured them all wine while Quip had run out to get a hot meal for them.
They ate and drank for a while. Haelan asked Erevan, somewhat callously, about the "OLD elf."
Erevan had no explanation or reply. He claimed to have never seen such a sight...nor known of the possibility. In fact, the beautiful man seemed somewhat troubled at the idea of aging, in such a manner.
Alaria excused herself to bed shortly thereafter though her rest was initially troubled with nightmares of the dark wizard and shadow snakes. But they quickly faded to thoughts of warmth and security, golden and blue shimmering magics and the starry blue-eyed mage who had saved the day...a living breathing Braddok...and Alaria slept soundly.
The other companions each teamed up to share various other rooms and the whole company shared warm and secure feelings in their sleep. Coeraine's own sleep was occasionally interrupted by the sleep-grumbling of the dwarf, muttering about "his treasure" and "dragons."
But all-in-all, the company awoke fully healed, well-rested and refreshed. After what could only be described as a "lavish" breakfast, served by the boys Rik and Quip, all were eager to explore more of the wondrous structure in which they found themselves and the surrounding town of the Vale.
Not to mention seeking out the temple of Desri to see about their options for getting Braddok raised. Gods willing, the high priestess wouldn't mind their being a tad "short" and might accept an offer of service for a time.
Duor, of course, was only eager to get the "damned box open" and sent the servant boys, repeatedly, to find the lord chamberlain or anyone who might open it.
It wasn't until the bells for the evening meal that he got his wish...and everyone in the company was shocked at what they found inside.
Spellbinder (Lvl 16)
A bit of back tracking for story's sake. The actual "play" of this was relatively quick and painless. But for lack of time and a desire to get SOMEthing posted (over 5,600 views! Thanks everyone!) figured this is better than nothing. Not to worry, the action will continue shortly.
The party all slept in quite late in the warm security of the Keep in Dragonwing Vale.
When they roused, each partook of the adequate breakfast and beverages supplied by the serving boys, Rik and Quip.
Shortly thereafter, Alaria sent Quip for some parchment and writing materials. She carefully penned out one letter to the Lady Dauphinne and another to the Shaalir Dolorn at the temple of Desri. Quip took them to deliver.
After this was done, with Duor already complaining about getting access to their treasure, Alaria retired to her room to begin transcribing the spell of Misdirection from the scroll Stenthil had given her into her spellbook. If they were to be moving through the realms, even Daenfrii, she would rather have it at her whim than as a "one time thing" on a scroll.
Haelan, after his sizavle fast breaking, left to wander about the Keep's halls and see what he could find in this magnificent bastion of magic. He returned shortly after noon with a tale of the "wonderousness" of the keep. He'd had a lengthy "conversation" with a door! (the poor cleric had not noticed that the conversation was all his to a "magic-mouthed" door which never responded to the daelvar's twenty minute ramblings. Nor had he noticed the odd looks from servants passing by who said nothing. This was the keep of the Dragonmage, after all. There were significantly more mystifying things, seen by all of them, than a daelvar talking to the door of the lordmage's library.)
Haelan returned to see a thoroughly bored, but restful, Coerraine taking it easy in one of the plush chairs by the fire as Duor chastised the manservant, Rik, for failing to return from his errand with the Lord Chamberlain.
"But the Lord Chamberlain said he would come as soon as his duties permitted." Rik defended.
"And when will that be?! Go get me a chisel and hammer. I'll open this thing myself." Duor ranted.
"I'm sorry, Master Duor," Rik apologized, "but I assure you, you can not get into it that way. Accosting 'Keep' in such a manner is strictly forbidden."
"Forbidden my dwarven bearded arse! I bet it's forbidden! Keeping our treasure for themselves, I tell yeh!" the dwarf continued to rant to noone in particular. The assembled heroes had given up listening to the dwarf over an hour before.
Festus, who still looked somewhat tired and sore, asked Rik to fetch "that lovely Miss Sacred Daughter Abigail. She had some magic fingers....if you know what I mean. heh heh." Thesatyr winked at the dwarf and paladin. Coerraine rolled his eyes before again shutting them. Duor seemed not to hear.
Quip returned with news that the Lady Dauphinne would be happy to receive Magess Alaria for tea the following afternoon. The short note from the Desriite temple said to arrive at sunset the following day..."with tribute."
Shortly thereafter, another couple of servants arrived with trays for their mod-day repast. Salted meats, hard cheeses, course grained bread still warm from the ovens, an array of fruits (several of which Haelan had never seen before!) and pitchers of honeyed mead (for Haelan), ale (for the dwarf) and elfvine and water.
Haelan was half-way through a thick ham and cheese sandwich when he smacked his forehead loudly and practically spat out his lunch. "Faerantha's foothairs!" he called loudly.
All of the companions immediately looked, startled, at the cleric.
"BUTTERCREAM! We forgot Buttercream! We left her out there in the wilds with that nasty wizard!!!" the halfling exclaimed. "We have to go back! Right now! We have to go find her!"
At the commotion, Alaria came out of her room. "What is it?"
Fen was smiling quaintly. "Fear not, friend Hilltender. I am sure the wizard, Tresahd, has no interest in a ferret. She's a big girl. I'm sure she is taking care of herself just fine."
"But we left her. She was ours and we left her. Alaria, we have to go back and find her! We're bringing Braddok back from the dead. The least we can do is look after Buttercream for Gnobby." The daelvar was already gathering up his things.
Alaria was at a loss of what to say.
"I'll go, Haelan." said Fen, still grinning. At Alaria's startled and concerned look, the druid continued, "She's not more than a day out of the Vale, right? If any one of us can find her, I am sure it is me." the carrot-topped and chinned druid smiled again at the magess. "Don't worry, I do not believe I will attract any attention from the wizard."
Erevan offered to go also, but Fen refused. "A bit of time alone will do me some good. Besides, I already grow weary of this pillar of crafted stone, wondrous though it may be."
Coerraine, to everyone's surprise, also volunteered to accompany the druid before Duor interjected, "Y'ain't goin' nowhere, Goldilocks. We have a treasure to collect."
At this, Coerraine, somewhat defeatedly, slumped back down into his chair. The dwarf, he had to admit, was correct. It would be a dereliction of his duty to leave the dwarf...even in so seemingly secure a place as this.
The druid left.
The rest of the afternoon passed in relative peace, other than Duor's occasional ranting about getting the Lord Chamberlain and opening their "box."
Finally, as evening was drawing down, the elderly elf Celerion came to the suite's doors.
"I trust you've had a relaxing day?" he inquired.
"I'll give you trust!" Duor blurted, even as Erevan was bowing and Alaria was agreeing and thanking the chamberlain for their peace and solitude. "Open this thing!" Duor commanded.
With a mild frown and a simple request, "Keep, will you open the Stormriders' coffer please."
"Of course Lord Chamberlain." came the symphonic voice from the ball of blue and white light even as it coelesced in the chamber. The stone top immediate became fluid and removed itself from the box, just the sides remained.
First Duor then the other companions peered in.
"What's this?!" the dwarf exclaimed as Haelan pulled the shining new shield for Braddok off the top of the contents.
Beneath the shield and magical longsword was the shortsword (Festus had used against the shadow snake), a pair of boots, other assorted items of wood and cloth, potion bottles, the black onyx dragon statuette and 12 small leather pouches. No coins or gems (other than the statue) that they recognized.
"Lord Chamberlain," Alaria began with deference, "I think there's been some mistake. This is not ours."
"Ah but it is now, my dear." Celerion grinned back. "His Lordship was moved by your quest to raise your fallen comrade. He had Master Gnucklebucks transfer your sizeable and heavy load into gemstones. Each of these pouches (he indicated 10 of the 12 leather bags) contains gemstones in the amounts of 500 gold pieces each. The other two contain coins and gems in the amount of 100 gold pieces each for your own resupply and use."
All of the companions stood agape.
"These items, my lord, deemed as appropriate in exchange for your surender of the Ihs Repahl into his son's keeping. There is one for each of you, which I believe you will find, collectively, approximates the value of the orb."
"We're not getting it back?" Haelan asked in surprise.
Alaria confessed to herself that she had not really thought of that possibility. But in their current state, she had to admit, it was better they not have it since it was, indeed, something of decisive power that they could not hope to protect on their own.
"Would you like it back, master Hilltender?" Celerion posed stoically. "I'm sure the wizard, Tresahd would be more than happy to reclaim from you, given another opportunity."
"Please extend our humblest thanks to the Lordmage, Celerion." Alaria interjected. "The hospitality of Daenfrii shows no signs of faltering under your watch." the magess smiled at the elderly elf.
Celerion nodded with a grin to Alaria. "Now, this is for you, my dear..."
Celerion set about distributing the various treasures and explaining their purposes. As he concluded, the bells for the evening meal sounded and all of the company agreed to attend the meal in the common dining hall.
Tomorrow they would have Braddok back, Alaria realized as the group made their way through the halls and straiwells noisily chattering with each other about their new "gifts". The R'Hathi magess found herself smiling softly at the idea.
Spellbinder (Lvl 16)
The Gifts of Daenfrii
For Alaria: the "Staff of Azanna." Create Light equivalent to a torch (from an electrical sparking ball) at will. Acts as a Staff of Striking +2, at all times. Able to add an electrical charge/additional damage to the strike (3d4) up to 3/day (expends 1 charge each, 10 uses before needing recharge). Resistance to electrical attack (attracting and channeling the lightning/electricity into the staff - +2 to saves v. electricity), enough charges for 10 Lightning Bolts (7d6).
Technically speaking, each Lightning bolt uses 3 charges from the staff. But the 10 charges for the "shocking strike" and the 30 charges for the lightning bolts are "stored" separately. The staff is "rechargeable" with a Shocking Grasp (1 charge) and a Lightning Bolt (3 charges/1 use of the lightning bolt power) spells, respectively.
Also has the "typical retraction enchantments" (typical of elf-made magic weapons) so it can/will shrink to a 6 inch long grip when not in use. Altering the size of the staff requires no charges/use of power and can be done at will. It's maximum/standard length is 6 feet.
For Coerraine: the "Mantle of Perception...to enhance your god-gifted sight in the seeking out and expunging of evil." A hooded mantle worn around the shoulders. It appears to be made of golden chain mail but feels like cloth to the touch. When the hood is donned, the wearer can see Invisible creatures/things and is imbued with Darkvision. The wearer is also +2 to saves against/detecting illusions. Each effect lasts as long as the hood piece is up/on the head but can not be used for more than 24 hours at a time. The mantle must "recharge" for an equal amount of time as it is worn/used. So if "up" for 8 hours, it will not work again until 8 hours unworn (the hood down) have passed.
For Erevan: the "Quiver of Tethiryl." A small quiver (only fits 10 arrows) of white leather with scrolling designs of vines and leaves in silver. Any normal arrows placed in the quiver and left there for 24 hours gain a +1 charge. If unused for a month and left to bathe in the light of a full moon for one night, they become +2.
[EDIT] The arrows are only magical as long as they remain in the quiver until shot. i.e. Erevan cannot make 10 +1 arrows per day and switch them to his normal quiver. Once drawn/nocked, the arrows must be shot or lose their enchantment/have to be recharged.
Arrows that are made +2 may also pierce magical barriers up to, but not including, a Wall of Force (Protection from missiles, Shield, Wall of Fire, etc...) and strike "other worldly creatures" even if they normally require a greater than +2 enchantment.
For Duor: some "Special Boots of Elvinkind"...which he did not want to take. When "re-branded" as Boots of "Silence" he was much more willing. Additionally, upon command (1/day) the boots can cause the wearer's tracks/footprints to appear as any sort of humanoid creature.
Haelan pointed out that if they did not enchant the dwarf's mouth as well as his feet, the Silence property probably would not help.
For Haelan: a smallish bowl that fit comfortably in the halfling's two hands (mortar and pestle) of grey stone speckled with red and green flecks. Haelan remarked how it was "...lighter than I'd expect. But very nice." The pestle had a "scoop" on one side of it, so as to appear to be used as a spoon. Haelan was very polite to the chamberlain but didn't quite appreciate the gift until Celerion demonstrated its power by taking the spoon/pestle, placing it on the sie of the bowl/mortar and simply stating "Shepherd's pie". The bowl immediately filled up with the steaming concoction of chunks of tender lamb, carrots, potatoes and thick gravy. Haelan was overjoyed and immediately began digging into the hot meal.
3 times per day the bowl will produce any foodstuff or "normal" beverage (alcohol, yes. magical potions, no!). It will continue to refill itself until it has produced enough to fill "8 grown men...which, I suppose would transfer to about 4 daelvar", Celerion explained with a grin...or until the eater says he or she is "full."
For Fen (who was absent, so Festus decided to hang on to the druid's gift until his return): a cudgel carved at the "business end" to look like a butting ram. A +2 weapon whose additional powers (if any) were not explained/detailed at this time, since Fen was not there.
Festus, as was previously planned, was to keep the +1 short sword from the kobold's horde (since he'd already used it to great effect against the shadow snakes.). From the Lordmage, Celerion produced a small rolled parchment from one of his golden hemmed robe sleeves. Festus unrolled and read it aloud:To the satyr, Festus Hornshod, Ranger of His Illustrious Highness' Defenders of the South March~Festus hooped and cantered about the chamber with prolific thanks to Celerion who was at a loss, as the elf had had nothing to do with the letter. Duor and Haelan seemed more excited at the news than the others. But all congratulated the ranger and smiled politely.
By decree of His most illustrious Highness, Arganor, Lordmage of Daenfrii, the ranger known as Festus Hornshod is hereby freed of his vows of allegiance to His Highness' forces and the realm of Daenfrii. Ranger Hornshod is free to continue his affiliation with the adventuring company known as the Stormriders, for as long as he is able to aid in their causes, heretofore undetermined.
The ranger is, of course, welcome throughout our lands and will be well-received back into our service if and when he deems fit.
Scribe Royal Sefrior,
Secretary H.I.H., Arganor,
Lordmage of Daenfrii
It had also already been determined that the +1 longsword from the kobolds would be given to Braddok, along with his shiny new shield, upon his return.
Last edited by steeldragons; Tuesday, 17th January, 2012 at 02:22 PM.
Minor Trickster (Lvl 4)
- Join Date
- Aug 2004
- huntingdon, pa 16652
ø Ignore SolitonMan
Nice items! I'm looking forward to the raising of Braddok (if, indeed, he wishes to return). Will that be taking place in the next entry or two?
Nothing is true. Everything is permitted. Anything is possible.
"Let's look Death in the face and say, 'Whatever, man!'" - Hugo 'Hurley' Reyes
"I'm your new undercover agent on loan from Scotland Yard, code named The Doctor. These are my top operatives - the Legs, the Nose and Mrs. Robinson." - The Doctor, The Impossible Astronaut
Spellbinder (Lvl 16)
Spellbinder (Lvl 16)
Braddok found himself sitting in a shallow narrow skiv. He looked around to glean something of his surroundings.
There wasn't much to glean. He realized quickly that he was on water as the skiv wobbled dangerously at his slightest movement.
A thick grey fog surrounded him in all directions. He could make out no banks nor any solid objects to tell him if he were moving or if it was just the fog moving passed him.
He instinctively reached for his sword only to find he did not have it. Nor did he have his shield...nor armor. Only just noticing he was clothed front and back in a pale grey sleeveless shift that flowed down to his ankles, open on each side save for a small strip of connecting fabric at his hips. He blushed despite himself and lack of any observers.
He carefully peered over the edge of the shallow boat, which had no paddles or poles for directing it. He did not see his reflection in the water...though this didn't surprise him with the everpresent gloom and lack of direct light.
He had no way of determining any time or day or night...all he could see was grey fog.
The water was as grey as the air around him. He could discern that the water was flowing in a direction that he should be moving "forward", but he didn't seem to be moving very quickly, if at all.
He blinked in surprise at what he thought, for only a moment, was an unknown man's face within, beneath, the water. It seemed to rise up from the depths, coming very near but did not break the surface, and opened its mouth in what looked like a silent wail.
The swordsman in the skiv heard nothing. He blinked and the image was gone. Just grey water.
He tried to paddle his way along, with his hands, which he immediately pulled from the impossibly freezing water. The dark-haired fighter shook to his core from the cold of only an instant touchign the water.
Time passed and he noticed a shadow some distance beside him, silhuoetted within the fog. It appeared to be another slender shallow boat with a figure sitting within it.
He called multiple times, as loudly as he could, but received no acknowledgement nor response as the shadowy image floated by and was lost in the mists ahead of his position.
Some time passed and the fogs did break enough to his right for him to make out a desolated landscape. Plains of dark grey and cracked earth studded with blackened leafless trees stretched out as far as he could see. The sky there the same, or was it slightly darker, grey matt that covered everywhere he could look.
To the man's surprise, he could make out some images of black shadowy creatures along the river bank. They crawled and clamored over each other, pairs of red and yellow and green glowing eyes becoming visible and then lost among the tangled brambles and thickets or disappearing behind a skeletal tree. Some seemed beast-like prowling cat-like on all fours, some flitted about on bat wings, though could not or would not pass the edge of the shore. Some were serpentine forms that slithered as easily over land as into the air....something about those reminded him of....something...why did they?
The mists again passed before his view and the shore was lost to him. He was again alone...a man's face passed before his eyes. Familiar with a dark beard...then he saw a woman with dark hair. She was lovely...and familiar as well...but what was her name?
The image disappeared even as a piercing shriek came to his ears. The mists to his left parted momentarily to reveal the opposite shore, some distance away...judging from what he'd seen before, the man guessed he was, more or less, smack in the middle of this rather wide river. The landscape to his left was equally gloomy without being as dark or desolate as the right bank. Smooth fields and hills of grey, what few trees he could make out seemed to have leaves upon them as well, those these too were all shades of grey. A lone spectral figure with a greenish glow to it was upon the shore reaching as far as "she?" could toward his position but even though the figure seemed to float above the line of the shore, she did not breach the land.
The landscape and disturbing spirit-looking thing were again shrouded.
At least, from what he could tell from his limited views of the riverbanks, he was, in fact floating downstream. From time to time, he noticed other shaded figures in skivs upon the river with him, but always veiled through the fog. His calls to these figures received no more attention than his first one.
And, the warrior noted, ever figure he saw that was, actually on the river, passed him by much faster than he, himself, seemed to be moving. He looked over the edge again. A mournful face passed within his view, submerged, passing upstream, it seemed.
He sat back, centered in his shallow skiv and just continued to see what he couod see about him. The momentary breaks of the fog bank revealed either side to him once or twice more, the view was almost entirely the same. The terrain a bit different, but the desolation of the places was the same.
Finally, he had no way of knowing how much time had passed, the fogs broke and he sat, awestruck and horrified at what he saw before him.
The river he was on seemed to fork not far ahead of him and a small isle sat in the middle. Some distance from the shore of the isle, sat a magnificently huge statue (or so he thought) of a seated figure robed all in shaded of grey. A deep hood obscured any features of a face. Indeed, he thought, it was as if there were a field of night stars within the shadowed hood. Only two snow-white feminine looking hands rested gently over the edges of the arms of whatever gigantic chair the figure sat.
Stretching from some "bottom" behind this massive seated figure and rising straight up into the air until it was lost within the solid pale grey cloud cover in the sky was a width of a screen or fabric of some kind.
The man in the skiv couldn't really be sure of details at the distance, but could make out what seemed to be individual scenes coming into view and continuously shifting within this...tapestry? Just for the part he could see, the man could not count the number of individual scenes from his vantage point.
He looked down the two branches of the parting river. To the left, it seemed to him, the waters and air became a bit brighter. A soft golden glow emanated from somewhere beyond his vision, farther down the river band.
Glancing down the branch to the right, which he could only do for a moment, the waters and air darkened. There was a slight tinge that was more a flickering orange or reddish color...when there was any light at all. The darkening of the waters and clouds over that part of the river gave the man an other shiver through his body, at once burning and chilling, but wholy unpleasant.
The man closed his eyes and shook his head to remove the weight of the darkness upon his mind's eye.
He was surprised when his skiv came to a sliding stop upon the isle's beach, that made a tinkling sort of sound...unlike any sand the man could recall hearing before...what had he heard before?
He heard a woman's voice call out a name....was it his name? That lovely dark haired woman came into his mind again...it was her voice! Or was it?
The man gently, cautiously, rose and stepped out of the skiv, making sure not to touch the lapping grey waters.
His bare feet came to rest and sink upon a "clinking" mass of hard cold "beach." Looking down, he realized it was not sand or stones, but coins! Silver and copper mostly, but others as well. Some of metals he did not recognize. Gemstones of every imaginable color and size. There were decanters and platters of shining metal, jewel encrusted goblets, shields and shining hilts of discarded weapons, all just piled up and strewn haphazardly as far as he could see in all directions to form the beach of this island.
He picked up a large round shield. Across its gleaming golden surface he thought he saw the image of a black bird with a forked tail. But in an instant, it was gone. What did that mean, he wondered? What was that bird?
He looked up again to notice the huge robed figure seemed still as far away from his position as when he'd first seen "her."
To the man's alarm, one of the delicate robed forearms lifted from its resting place.
There was a booming thunder from the clouds far above and a moment later a raven came diving down out of the grey clouds. A huge raven! Impossibly huge. It came to alight on the raised arm. It's eyes sparked and sizzled with white electricity. He peered at the robed figure and then turned its head to peer at the impossibly small man on the beach. It opened its beak, trails of lightning flaring between it, and let out a very raven-like caw. The harsh cry was followed by a thunder that rumbled through the entire landscape...it felt as though it passed through the man himself.
Some instinct caused the man to put the shield on his arm and reach for the hilt of a bejeweled sword hilt within his reach.
The raven took flight and disappeared, again, into the thick clouds swirling over the island.
The man waited, concerned by something...he didn't know why or what. Another figure now appeared, coming at him from somewhere behind the giant robed figure. This one was definitely a beast of some kind. Black feathered wings carried the massive feline body.
The creature landed directly before the man. The creature looked at the armed man impassively. It was the size of a barn, maybe two barns!
It had a sleek black body of a panther, shining black wings and a head that was, at once, feline and woman with ebony black hair that flowed down about its panther-body's shoulders.
"Put down your arms, mortal. Those do not belong to you." the woman-feline face said. "You have no use for them here, in any event."
Without questioning, and without quite knowing why, the man conceded.
"Where is here? Who are you, my...um...lady?" he asked.
"You truly do not know?" the sphinx replied. Its voice was at once that of a mature woman with a peculiar cat-like purr rumbling beneath it.
The creature laid down upon the shining beach of treasure. She crossed her forepaws in a very casual manner. "You are in the Grey Lands, mortal. Upon the Isle of Yrgsdrigal."
The man heard this response but it took a moment to actually sink in. "Wait...I'm dead?!" the man replied in shock.
The amber feline eyes took on a humored quality. "Yes."
"Well, that's just GREAT!" the man threw his arms into the air. He mumbled to himself and walked in small circles before placing his hands on his hips and again addressing the sphinx who just watched him with her amber eyes.
"But I can't be...I mean...I'm not...I'm...wait...How did that happen? Who are you? Why am I here?" the man was fully perplexed. Then, realization crossed his face and he added, very softly, "...and...who am I?"
The cat-woman smiled that seemed at once a smile of amusement and pity.
The sphinx slowly pursed its lips and blew in the man's direction. The soft breath sent coins and gems tumbling before it and when it struck the man, his mind was awash with a blizzard of images in his mind.
A crying daelvar? A laughing dwarf? Skrieking harpies...a castle...that was his father's castle! Who was his father?...a druid watching his back...dead elves...a wizard in black...that pretty dark haired woman, again...Why was she crying?...lightning and thunder!...an army before the castle...an ogre with a club...THOOM! Pain! Darkness! Fog...
Throughout the telepathic onslaught, the feminine feline voice echoed in his mind.
"You are Braddok Kar Barforth of the realm Men now call Denil in the kingdom Men now call Grinlia. You are here by the grace of the Grey Lady and Her servants within what you once called 'the world.'
"She has determined your fate was not completely woven at the time of your demise. She has, and ever shall...see all...You are deemed...unfinished. You time within the realms of Men...rewuires more weaving."
The man looked up at the huge shifting fabric behind the massive figure.
"You may return to that existence you called 'Life'...if such is your desire, Braddok Kar Barforth." the sphinx concluded.
The man, Braddok...yes, Braddok was his name!...He was a warrior...He knew how to use a sword...very well...His ancestral home had been wrongly taken from his father...He had to take it back...He HAD to!...and...that dark-haired woman...something about her...
He clutched his head for a moment as the booming purring voice echoed away and his mind's eye cleared of the images of his former life.
"Yes! Yes, send me back! I have much to do still. Please!" Braddok replied. He looked up at the giant robed figure. "Thank you, lady!" he shouted.
If the goddess heard or cared there was no indication. Just the even slow motion of the giant tapestry behind her with its ever shifting images rising slowly into the clouds.
Braddok stood there for a moment. He looked around after a time and then back at the sphinx who still laid before him, her eyes transfixed on his position.
"Well?" he said.
"Well what?" replied the sphinx, casually licking a huge paw after she spoke.
"Send me back!" the warrior said exasperated.
There was a rumbling purring sound that rose to a cat-like screech coupling a roaring guffaw. The sphinx laughing at him?
"You mortals are always so amusing. It has been so long, I had forgotten the humor of your limited consciousness." the sphinx replied. "I do not have such power as that."
"Um...ok. Who do I talk to then? Who are you, anyway? What are you here for if not to send me back?" Braddok asked, sincerely questioning.
"Huh. It has been some eons since a mortal has asked my name." the sphinx answered more to herself than Braddok.
"I am called, as best you could say, Sinjhal. I serve the Grey Lady, if that was not obvious.
"I am an...'angel'?..."the sphinx seemed to be asking herself. "No...no, that's not right...an...'avatar'? Yes! Avatar, I suppose, might be the closest thing to your understanding of the metaphysical realms are concerned.
"I am here for your protection, Braddok Kar Barforth...and to keep you... company?...Yes, 'company', until such time as you might be returned...or not."
"Well, I've said I want to go back. How much time do you need? What do you mean 'til such time as I might be returned'...?" Braddok asked. He did not like the sound of that at all.
"Until such time as the Shaalir attempt to return you. They have not done so...yet. They may never. But until that time has passed within your 'Living world', you shall remain here...with me." the sphinx succinctly explained.
"Do you know any good riddles? Stories...or jokes, perhaps? It has been rather a long time since I've heard any new jokes."
Braddok crashed down on the coin 'sand', sitting cross-legged and folded his arms. "How much time will I have to wait? How much time has passed on Orea...or...er...the 'living world'?"
The sphinx looked perturbed at his incessant questioning. "It should not be more than a week now...until you might be called. After that, there is nothing to be done." the sphinx said matter-of-factly and bored with the questions.
"As to how much time has passed?" The sphinx raised her head and seemed to sniff the air for a moment. "...a little over a month...by you mortal's experience of time."
"I've been here a month?!? But I was only on the river for..." Braddok's mind trailed off. He honestly could not say how long he'd been in the fogs. He'd not gotten tired nor experienced any hunger or thirst...the ever present greyness of all of the surroundings made the passage of time as days or nights impossible to discern..."...a month?..." Braddok could not believe it.
"So, any riddles, mortal? I can begin if you prefer." the sphinx again asked.
A quintessential cat-like grin formed on the sphinx's lips.
Great, just great, thought Braddok to himself. That 'Shaalir', whatever that was, better get moving.
"Go ahead. No tricks, right? No unspoken trade for my soul or anything like that?" the warrior said, resigning himself to what appeared to be his current fate.
"Nothing of the sort. I assure you." the sphinx replied, again grinning.
"Fine. Go ahead." Braddok looked up at the huge figure of the goddess of death as he half-listened to the sphinx begin her first riddle.
Spellbinder (Lvl 16)
"Is it a clock?"
"An egg! It must be an egg....the answer to all riddles is eggs."
"No." replied Sinjhal once more. "You weren't a particularly intelligent mortal, were you?
"Despite your other, obvious, physical attributes." The sphinx's eyes looked to Braddok's lap, where the loose pale grey fabric had shifted, revealingly.
"Hey!" Braddok objected and quickly adjusted his shift to cover his privates. "Well, what is it then? I give up."
"You can't give up." the sphinx objected. "Where's the fun in that?"
"Look, I've guessed everything I can think of. I don't have any more ideas."
Sinjhal shifted her body, rising on her hind legs and stretching in a distinctly feline fashion.
"No, matter. It is time. Climb on. I shall return you." the sphinx replied.
"What? Now? But that was your first riddle." Braddok jumped up, surprised. He bounded across the treasure-made 'sand' and climbed up onto the sphinx's back.
Without a reply, the sphinx leaped up into the air and with a few bats of her large black-feathered wings, was soaring over the fog0shrouded path of the river beneath them.
From this vantage point, Braddok could see much more of the terrain to either side of the river. The darker bank was completely barren and broken, sharp black mountain peaks were visible at the edge of his vision. To his [now] right, the grey leafed trees and rolling hills gave way to a massive forest of grey extending as far as he could see.
He turned around to watch as the huge seated goddess and endless tapestry shrank incredibly fast into the distance.
Before them, the mists o the river seemed to go on forever, eventually obscured into the grey clouds of the sky and grey clouds of the fogs below joining at some indistinct horizon.
"My thanks for this, Sinjhal." Braddok called, hoping his voice might be heard above the roaring wind as they passed.
"No need, Braddok Kar Barforth. It is not by my will you are returnnnnned. [that last word seemed to be Sinjhal's voice in chorus with untold others] Hang on!" the sphinx said a nano-second before pitching her trajectory and diving into the mists below. "Fare well, mortal, may we not meet again...before your allotted returnnnnn...." the sphinx's voice trailed off from his mind.
He came acutely aware that there was no longer any form beneath him to sit upon...instead he seemed to be lying...somewhere.
"Returnnnnnn...." the symphony of voices came.
"Returnnnn..." again the grouping of voices was heard in his mind. One, the loudest, was distinctly female...though not Sinjhal's.
Braddok felt cold stone beneath his back. An odor...a menagerie of odors assaulted his nose....sandalwood....and patchouli...some kind of musk...A dull golden glow flickered before his eyes....Braddok realized his eyes were closed!
They shot open. As they did so, his mouth also gaped open to take a long huge gulp of air.
"By the Grey Goddess, Lady of Fates and Mistress of Death, Braddok Kar Barforth, She commands you RETURN!" came the strong raised female voice from behind him somewhere.
Braddok bolted up to find himself sitting on a slab of grey stone....an altar? Uncountable candles burned all around him. Braziers at the four corners of the stone slab smoked pale grey wisps of burning incense.
"Braddok!" a blond daelvar at the foot of the altar cried and jumped up and down with a disturbingly large smile on his face.
Behind the halfling stood a golden-haired warrior with a red tabard...and an elf with silvery hair glimmering in the candlelight. Amazement was the only expression on their faces.
"Nice t'have yeh back, boyo." came the rumbly deep voice of a voice to his left. There was a satyr standing beside the dwarf.
"Um...uh...yeah...nice to be...uh...here?" he looked around the chamber at the cardinally placed triads of grey-robed priests and priestesses.
There were others in white robes with flowery trimming and rosebud shaped amulets hanging form their necks. To the other side, a rather stoic looking group of figures robed and hooded in dark blues and purples. Their faces marked with a blue mask-like star tattoos.
Something in Braddok's mind recognized the Sacred Daughters of Gilea, goddess of healing and fortitude, and the Witch-priests of Manat, "the Blue Star", goddess of magic.
Then he saw...her! The pretty dark haired woman he'd seen in his visions from...there. She smiled lightly at him. Her eyes seemed to glimmer with unfallen tears....or perhaps it was just the candlelight flickering across them.
"You!" Braddok said to the woman in the purple sleeveless gown.
"Welcome back, Braddok. I...We've missed you." she said with a smile. She moved forward and gave the newly rejuvenated man a strong close hug.
It was just then, Braddok realized he was still wearing the pale grey...loose-fitting shift. He blushed self-conscious.
He hugged her for a moment before releasing her.
"Well...um...thanks for the welcome." he smiled to her and the other strange collection of onlookers. "Did you bring me back?"
"We did!" piped up the cheery looking daelvar. "You didn't think we'd just leave you in that horrid place!...It was horrid, wasn't it? I mean, I don't know....never being dead, of course....but I hope you had a fairly nice afterlife or a while..."
"Haelan. Be still." the elf said, setting a gentle hand on the enthusiastically rambling halfling's shoulder. The elf peered at the warrior with deep violet eyes that betrayed no emotion. "Braddok?" the elf questioned.
"Um...yes. Yes! I am Braddok Kar Barforth. Swordsman of Denil and heir to the Barony of Barforth." he smiled and then paused to see the assembled companions looking at him. Their amazement was slowly turning to concern.
"Please, tell me your names that I might thank you properly for this great honor you have done for me and my family." the dark-haired warrior said.
All of the companions looked with surprise at each other before turning to the dark-haired woman. She backed away and the relief he had seen in her face a moment ago turned to sorrow.
Then all of them looking toward the raven-haired grey-robed priestess that stood at the head of the altar.
"I am Braddok Kar Barforth." the warrior protested.
"Yes. You are." said the raven-haired priestess. "Dolorn, fetch Braddok some suitable attire, please. You must take it easy. Your spirit has had quite a shock."
She nodded and a couple of the other grey-robed priests helped Braddok to stand.
The woman looked at the other assembled people and spoke as if Bradok were not in the room. "His memories shall return. It may take some time. But the Grey Lady has seen fit to have him returned and intact....more or less. You must have fiath and give it some time."
The daelvar and dark-haired woman, who Braddok could now tell from the etchings of her gown to be a wizard, came to Braddok's side as well.
"It'll be ok, Braddok. You'll be fine. Let's get you back to the Keep. We have so much to tell you." the daelvar again began rambling.
"Not just now, Haelan." the woman said to the halfling. She looked again into the warrior's eyes. "As the high priestess said, you must give it time. You will remember us..." She smiled weakly.
Braddok just nodded, somewhat dumbly. He did not know why, but he felt badly...as if he had hurt this woman somehow. But he'd only been alive for a few moments. What could he have done?
"I'm sorry." he said without knowing why.
Alaria nodded a smile in return. "Don't be. You're back. That's a start."
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