Steel Dragon's "Tales of Orea" - Page 18


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  1. #171
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    ahem

    Ok, you've had enough of a break. It's time to get back to entertaining me.

    Thank you.

 

  • #172
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    May I have some more, sir?
    Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.

  • #173
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tamlyn View Post
    ahem

    Ok, you've had enough of a break. It's time to get back to entertaining me.

    Thank you.
    Quote Originally Posted by RedTonic View Post
    May I have some more, sir?
    Quite right. And I thank you, gentle readers, for the oft-needed kick in the proverbial pants.

    I was thinking on Monday how I had not posted in some time...didn't realize it had been almost an entire month! And here we are, somehow, at Friday already!? How'd that hoppun?

    But I appreciate, as always, your patience and continuing interest. You are, most certainly, overdue.

    So, here ya go!
    Keep reading and hoping you're enjoying the Tales of Orea and look forward, as always to any questions, comments...or just sayin' "hi."
    Enjoy.
    --Steel Dragons
    -------------------------------------------

    The next few moments went by in a blur for Alaria.

    The firestone dart lodged in the nightmare's snout burst with a shortlived roaring burst of flame. THe fire did not harm the demonic beast, of course. But the shock caused the creature to rear and buck and "run" around in midair in fear and surprise.

    This threw Madagbueil from the creature's back, as she too was completely taken by surprise. Unfortunately, instead of falling, the hag-witch simply flew around a bit before recovering and righting herself, hovering of her own accord.

    The break, however, was severely needed as Duor was doing a terrible job landing a strike on the great hook-handed monster and decided to "Screw it!" after he had to dive dodge away from another attack. He made with all speed back into the "center" of the battle field.

    Erevan's violet eyes fluttered open just in time to see Fen's smiling, tear-streaked face. His eyes then widened in horror and he sat up with elvin speed to "hug" Fen and jump the two of them away an inch before a great yellowed hook of a claw came crashing down where the druid had been kneeling.

    They rolled a few feet together before coming to a standstill, Erevan laying atop Fen, who was on his back on the ground.

    "My thanks, killi." Fen smiled. "We'll get back to this soon as we're able. But for now..." the druid shoved the elf off of him and leapt to his feet. Bereft of his sacred spear for the moment, he pullout out the ram-head carved club he'd received from Daenfrii. He had yet to use the weapon and the surprise was evident on his comely face when his strike against the hooked monster sent the beast flying back, off of its feet, to land with a thundering boom.

    Braddok was having difficulty with the shambling mound of a Swan Knight until Alaria came close enough to shout out the spell of growing. Suddenly, the shambling mound was a good foot shorter than the swordsman and he shoved the creature back, away from the still praying Haelan, by several feet.

    "Braddok, the hooked beasts, hurry!" Alaria shouted up to the warrior.

    With a turn of his massive torso and swing of his giant sword, the swordsman of Barforth sliced the hooked horror that stood over Festus and Alaria, removing its head from its shoulders in a single swipe.

    "My thanks, Braddok!" Festus called up to the man. The satyr had been having much difficulty landing any telling blows through the creature's hard lumpy plates of carapace.

    Seeing his chance, as the large monster slowly slumped forward, Festus half-stepped half-leaped up onto the dissolving creature's shoulder and jumped off the high vantage point with all of the might his goat-hindquarters could muster. He sailed through the air directly at the momentarily dazed Madagbueil.

    *SWIPE*SLICE*AAAAH!*

    The satyr ranger's two blades whipped out before him and the one magical blade managed to bite into the hag's arm [the other missed]. The satyr tucked and flipped to land on his feet with a smirk toward the witch.

    "Tag! You're it!" Festus goaded.

    Madagbueil recovered from her shock and pain immediately.

    "You DARE assault ME! You pathetic twisted mockery of...Feel my wrath child of Pehn. Azz Nuhzz Zugat..."

    As the witch began to cast, her voice rose in volume but deepened in timbre. The air about her seemed to darken a shade or two deeper than the dark night that covered the whole of the realm.

    Alaria felt a tingling that quickly became a chill. Even without her arcane sight in effect, she could sense the power that was being invoked. The words of power, at least the ones she could hear or understand, burned her ears. What was this magic?

    Even before Madagbueil had completed the spell, Festus cried out in pain. His back arched, impossibly far, before snapping forward and the satyr hunched down, falling to the ground, covered by his patchwork cloak.

    The sounds of stretching and ripping, bones cracking filled the area. All combat, movement and sound, other than the soft chanting of Haelan, seemed to stop for a moment as Madagbueil finished her spell with something that sounded to Alaria like "izthssss."

    Festus cried out in pain again. "HELP MEEE! HELP MEH-..."A cry that became a howl and then a whine to a whimper....and then.

    "Meh-meh-mmmmMAAHAHAHAH!" was the last any of the companions heard before Festus emerged from under his patchwork cloak.

    The horns were the same. The shaggy furred hindquarters were the same. But now there were front-quarters to go with them. A short darker brown beard, the same color as the satyr's goatee, hung off the chin of a brown billy goat where Festus had been.

    "Manat's star!" Alaria breathed in horror.

    "Holy $#!t!" the gigantic Braddok boomed at the same time as the same exclamation escaped Duor's beard.

    Fen and Erevan were similarly surprised, having just finished disposing of the hooked horror that had been upon them. With the final blow, the monster seemed to crack and dissipate into nothingness as streams of blackness leaked out from the shattered plates of its hide.

    The goat, seeing the giant hooked horror beside him, bleated and began trotting back toward the walled garden of the spire.

    Again the battlefield blurred as Braddok reached out and grabbed the nightmare in midair and cleft it in twain just before his enchantment was wearing off. Turning his ever shrinking attention back to the shambler, Braddok saw that it seemed to be "stuck" in its place.

    Then it was Haelan's voice that rose in volume.

    "Now what?!" Duor burst.

    The attention of the field was turned back to heretofore easily ignored halfling. There seemed to be a wind swirling around the daelvar priest. His arms were over his head, palms toward the shambler. The dust and diark dirt that flowed around the hairfoot's position seemed to take on a silvery light of its own and suddenly green leaves and grasses were seen in the swirling air around his feet.

    "Ipsum Deisa Gaela! Ipsum Deisa Faerantha! Ipsum beneficiat y deisa totum! Exclarian malignicas SORTUS!" <the last bits of the cleric spell: Remove Curse. "By Holy Gaela! By Holy Fearantha! By all that is good and holy! I command this curse be gone!">

    The shambler slumped down to the ground, appearing as nothing more than a small mound of mud and twigs and decaying plant.

    Then, seemingly from the creature's own body, bright green fresh grasses began to sprout. Then small white daisies burst and bloomed over the whole of the mound, making it appear as a four foot high hillock in the middle of spring.

    The whole of the battlefield was awash in the scents of spring rain and pine. The wind which had blowing around Haelan's hairy feet turned into a gale that now washed over the whole of the broad open dried lake bed. Fresh living green leaves and blades of grass were carried along the wind, though where they had come from, none of the companions could say.

    The last remaining hook horror screeched into the ether as its form, like its brothers, seemed to crack and then shatter. The black energies that escaped it as it disintegrated were quickly blown clear by the fresh breeze.

    "WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?!" Madagbueil screeched across the field. "NO! NOOOO!" the witch seemed to be shuddering from her hovering place and clasped her ears. Her magical flight faltered and Madagbueil fell the ten feet to land, hard, on the ground. She writhed and raved, incomprehensible. Finally, staring up at the starlit sky, Madagbueil stopped moving or making a sound. Her arms flopped to either side and she just lay there.

    Duor raced forward, intent on delivering a "final blow" to the witch but halted as he neared as a loud hiss went up all around her. Black energies seemed to seem out of every orifice, out from beneath her tattered black robes. These, like the energies of the hook horror were carried away in the pine-scented wind. The purple warted skin seemed to whither and shrink, like all of the air of a balloon being let out. Until, finally, nothing remained of the mad-witch but the black robes and cloak which seemed to turn from solid fabric to a fluid ink-like substance and seep away into the cracks of the dried ground.

    Duor looked to Alaria.

    The magess did not notice, completely awestruck by what was happening.

    Braddok was transfixed on the dissolving witch until he noticed the pine-scented wind was subsiding. Then he heard the soft "clinking thump" of Haelan falling to the ground.

    The elf-folk and Braddok raced for the daelvar, fearing the worst. But he was hoisting himself up on his elbows with some effort.

    "Look to Inskuel." Haelan managed to say, the exhaustion evident in his voice.

    The companions turned toward the daisy covered hill.

    The covering of fresh sod seemed to ungulate and stretch until an arm...a human mail-clad arm?...burst through the top of the mound.

    All of the company readied their weapons, expecting a zombie attack.

    What came out of the hill of grass and white flowers was a tall handsome man, with white-blond hair crawl his way out of the mound. He wore silvery scale mail over which a tabbard of midnight blue with a bright white swan crest emblazoned on the chest. The man was able to get himself almost halfway out of the hill of grassy sod before Braddok and Fen rushed to go aid him.

    Fully freed, he collapsed to the ground between the warrior and druid. His breathing was heavy but soon returned to a normal pace. He lifted his head and looked at the companions all staring at him in disbelief. His gaze finally fell on Haelan and he smiled. Haelan's own face lit up with his own bright smile.

    "Sir Inkswell, I presume?" Duor said.

    "INSKUEL!" the rest of the party corrected.

    "Mahahah." bleated the goat.
    Steel Dragons' "All Things Orea" Blog right here on EN world!
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    Steel Dragons' "All Things Orea" Blog right here on EN world!

  • #174
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    Mahaha... goat stew for dinner
    My Story Hour campaigns. What are they up to this week?

  • #175
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    The Great Druid (Lvl 17)

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    The party, with Inskuel, returned, scorched and bruised but victorious, to the walled in garden.

    The restored swan knight ran most of the way back to the wall, as Evaranthriine raced from the wall and out the gate.

    The two met in the newly restored fresh grass outside of the garden. Their embrace was long. Their kiss longer.

    As the party arrived at the lake bed embankment where the grass began, the night-robed lady turned to them with a smile none of the party thought possible from the typically pale stoic face.

    "My companions...no. My friends. Thou hast restored to this realm and myself Hope. Thou hast restored Life." she said with a sweep of her arm in the direction of the blooming garden. "And now, thou hast restored Love...to the realm and myself. The whole of the treasures of Gorathgraard couldst nay repay my gratitude for thy deeds." the raven haired woman was practically gushing.

    "The honor is ours, my lady." Braddok replied and bowed.

    "We were glad to help, Lady Evaranthriine. And we were lucky." Alaria replied, seemingly troubled by their success.

    "The whole of the treasure, yeh say? Wouldn't be a bad place to start." Duor added before receiving a jab in the ribs from Haelan.

    "Nay, good heroes, the honor is ours." replied Inskuel with a deeper bow than Braddok's. "I ne'er dared to think...insofar as I could think in that beastly guise, that I would again stand with my beloved."

    The grouping moved back within the walls and walked slowly through the beauty of blossoms and daylight that filled the garden.

    "Oh! Hey, Fen. Festus is ruining your lovely garden!" Haelan shouted from the rear.

    The company turned to see the billy goat-Festus chomping happily on some fresh flowers.

    "What are we gonna do about that?" Haelan added, sincerely perplexed.

    Alaria nodded her head, "I have prepared the spell of Unmaking. I can only hope that my power is up to the task of undoing Madagbueil's spell."

    Alaria felt a gentle hand on her shoulder and turned to see Evaranthriine's smiling face. "Allow me, Magess. I think thou hast extended thyself enough this day." Alaria nodded her admittedly weary head and Evaranthriine added, "And if I don't miss my guess, my power still exceeds that of my poor sister."

    "HEY! Getoffa there!" Duor shouted.

    The company turned to see the dwarf in a tug of war with the goat who had left his fresh salad to gnaw on the corner of Duor's dark grey cloak.

    Several of the companions could not contain their chuckles and grins as the dwarf continued to spout obscenities at the goat.

    "You'd best hurry, my love. 'Ere the dwarf be left disrobed." Inskuel jested.

    Evaranthriine stepped forward. She wove the spell of Unmaking and the goat bleated in objection. The bleats became high pitched screams with diminshed in tone and volume as the spell came to an end and there, before them on all fours with a corner of Duor's cloak in his mouth, was Festus in his normal shape. Perhaps, Alaria noted, a bit longer in the chin hairs than before. But in tact.

    Festus' mouth dropped open and the torn corner of cloak fell out. Then he collapsed without a word.

    Haelan rushed forward as duor turned the satyr over onto his back.

    "Is he?" Haelan asked noone in particular as he looked over the ranger's body for any signs of wound or damage. Before the daelvar cleric could summon up one of his healing spells, the satyr's eyes fluttered open weakly.

    "W-....w-..."Festus said hoarsely.

    "Yes, Festus. We WON! Rest easy. Your body's had quite a shock." Haelan attempted to calm the satyr who seemed to be very insistent on saying something through his newly re-shaped vocal chords.

    Finally, the word came from the satyr's throat, "Wwwwine."

    "Ach. He's fine." Duor said dismissively and dropped the satyr he had been helping to his unsteady two goat legs.

    "Wine, indeed." proclaimed Evaranthriine as the laughter of the party subsided. "Ne'er since the birth of Orea has there been more cause for celebration than Gorathgraard has this night."

    The company returned to the tower to find the food that had been laid out for their supper before all of the distraction of the evening was entirely gone...or changed?

    Huge silver candelabras in the shape of great trees lined the table, holding uncountable candles at the end of every branch. The platters that had had their roasted fowl and vegetables were now piled with breads and beef and a whole roasted pig stuff with apples. Crystal goblets of varying size and height held any number of libations as Imgiulg came racing out of the kitchen stairs with a large tray and several bottles of something he called "fizvhein."

    "It's a celebratory wine from the southlands." the elderly dwarf explained to the questioning Erevan. It was significantly more pale than the golden elfvine he and Alaria were accustomed to. It also, by some magic obviously, was filled with every-continuing streams of tiny bubbles.

    After a bit of curative magics from Haelan to various of the morebattered party members, a tearful reunion (on the dwarf's part) of Imgulg and Inskuel, and a lengthy but heartfelt toast with the "fizvhein" by Inskuel to the companions and the return of his lady love, the company set to the serious business of enjoying themselves.

    Hours passed in the telling of tales by Inskuel of his time in Madagbueil's prisoner before being turned into the retched creature under her sway. Festus and Duor (often with Imgulg) toasted with every sip to their good fortune and heroism and mighty deeds (both in and out of Gorathgraard).

    At some point, Imgulg went to the kitchen and returned with a plate holding a chocolate pudding cake, drowned in whipped cream and fresh berries. "An' fer the hero of the day, the greatest of daelvar, Haelan the Holy!" He plopped the colossal dessert down in front of Haelan whose eyes widened to the point he looked as if he might eat the thing with his eyes.

    "Oh, I don't deserve this. My goodness, Imgulg. It is the finest pudding I've ever seen! I don't deserve..." the humble halfling protested.

    "Aye, friend Haelan." Inskuel interrupted.

    "You do, indeed." Braddok agreed and stood to raise his half-empty narrow fluted crystal goblet and proclaimed to the table. "To Haelan the Holy!" the swordsman shouted through the hall.

    "TO HAELAN THE HOLY!" the rest of the company stood and chimed in.

    Evaranthriine moved around the table to grant Haelan a kiss on the forehead before the blushing Hilltender dove into the dessert with his large silver spoon.

    "Mmmmm. Any'un wun'fsun?" he offered through bulging cheeks.

    The companions carreid on for some time, drinking, eating, and telling tales...and more drinking for the satyr and dwarves.

    Erevan and Fen quietly took their leave.

    Alaria used this opportunity to also excuse herself and wandered back down through the kitchen and out into the day lit garden beneath the sky of clouds.

    She folded her arms as she wandered the few paths, barely taking note of the snapdragons snapping or the bluebells that clinked and chimed around her ankles as she passed or the twittering birds that flitted from branch to branch, following her as she went.

    "My dear Lady Magess, is the repast not to your liking? Thou seems far to grim for such a night of triumph." came the soft even voice behind her.

    It was Evaranthriine, who naturally in her "floaty" kind of way of moving had not made a sound in her approach.

    "No! Oh no, Lady Evaranthriine. Everything is lovely. Beyond lovely...But I admit...I do have my concerns." Alaria replied. She turned to stare out through the gate of the garden to where the inky stain remained on the lakebed where Madagbueil had...disintegrated.

    "Ah yes." Evaranthriine said, in seeming agreement to whatever it was Alaria had not said. "Do not feel sorrow, my dear. My sister had been lost to me for longer than I could remember. She made her choices. Her Fate was her own."

    Alaria nodded silent.

    "But that is not your...concern, I feel. Is it?" Evaranthriine continued. "It has been so long...so very long, since I had hope. I have forgotten that it comes with its sister...'worry'. If we do not have hope for the good, we are spared the fear...the concern...that hope might be taken from us.

    "Tell me, Alaria, what is your concern?"

    Alaria thought for a moment, attempting to organize her thoughts. She had so much to worry about, it seemed, even though they had just had an unequivocal victory.

    "The magic, my lady. The spell of Changing that Madag-...your sister, used. It is one of the Forbidden of my homeland...for centuries, now. I had thought the magic did not exist anymore within the world."

    "Truly?" Evaranthriine replied. She sounded sincerely surprised. The surprise was then Alaria's when the dark lady giggled a bit to herself. "The Polymorph transmutation was used as a game in my day. It was even a parlor trick for entertainment and training."

    Alaria could not contain her abject horror. "Entertainment?! To warp and break a body so...to turn it into something else?! Festus is lucky to be alive! I dare not tell him how close to death he came."

    Evaranthriine nodded her understanding. "Well, no. It was used upon things for fun and jest. Trying to best your competitor with objects that might evoke some whimsy or admiration. Or upon oneself, of course...a contest of animal forms to see who was the more cunning wizard. But no, nothing...deadly nor used upon other unwilling beings."

    "I would fear to leave it. I desperately wish to return to our world, my lady. But I dare not leave the knowledge in her...Gorathgraard. It might be found and used to dark purpose. And if she was in league with Des-...the 'Dark One' it is entirely possible she might have access to it also.

    "But I fear to put my fellows in more harm's way. We have endured quite a bit in this foolish hunt for treasure. I do not know how much longer we might prevail."

    Evaranthriine nodded and her face became again the stoic and thoughtful mask that Alaria to which had become accustomed.

    "Inskuel has intimate knowledge of my sister's realm. And with the hope and call to action of you and your companions, I am inclined to accompany him. We shall go to Madagbueil's spire and find or destroy the whole of the evil contained within. The magic you fear is known to me and ineffectual against my form. I wouldst, as a final boon, allow you access to it, though I think it is beyond your capabilities at present."

    Alaria again looked horrified. To be freely offered one of the Five Forbidden Incantations!?

    <Author/DM's Note: the idea of forbidden/forgotten spells/magics in R'Hath was entirely Alaria's creation. She was basing it off of the "3 forbidden curses" of the Harry Potter movies/series. I told her 3 wasn't enough. Let's make it 5 and see where it goes. >

    "If what you pose is correct, and the Dark One has access to some forgotten magic in Orea, would it not the best way to counter it be to have it?" Evaranthriine reasoned.

    Her reasoning was sound, Alaria had to admit.

    "I...I don't know...I could be imprisoned for possessing such knowledge...even put to death!" Alaria stammered a half-hearted argument even as her mind was reeling with the possibilities.

    "Well, consider it, Magess Alaria. For now, let us return to the party and have no more 'concern' or 'worry' on this night of Hope, Life and Love." Evaranthriine gently held out her hand to usher Alaria back into the tower.

    Alaria nodded. "You are right, of course, my lady. I apologize for interrupting your revery." Alaria's mind went back to the seaside village of Shoal and the kindly high priest of Tyris, Tidemaster Kama. He too had once encouraged her from thinking too much and not enjoying the 'good times' of life when they presented themselves.

    The elegant ladies of the court of the night-realm of Gorathrgraard returned to the tower and saw the night of celebration to its end.
    Last edited by steeldragons; Saturday, 12th May, 2012 at 09:28 PM.
    Steel Dragons' "All Things Orea" Blog right here on EN world!
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    Steel Dragons' "All Things Orea" Blog right here on EN world!

  • #176
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    Alaria closed her eyes and reveled in the warm night air blowing passed her. The near silent beating of her steed's white feathered wings only furthered her enjoyment of the ride. Her desire to again wield the Ihs Repahl was reminded and renewed. Though she now possessed the ability of levitation and flight through her magics, the additional powers of the mystic sphere would be most welcomed and necessary, she felt, in their future endeavors.

    She opened her eyes and looked about at her companions upon the other flying beasts. Each seemed to be enjoying their very rapid trip, though Duor, of course, clung to the back of Festus in obvious discomfort.

    Her mind wandered back to the series of wondrous surprises the morning had bestowed upon them and wandered forward to what other amazing happenings might occur within this single day.

    *
    After the night of revelry, the companions broke fast with a delicious and hearty meal by Imgulg. Duor, Festus, Haelan and even Braddok a bit worse for their indulgence of the litany of beverages the night before, were immediately refreshed by the repast.

    Healed and newly stocked with their magics and energy, the companions discussed what to do next.

    Braddok had revealed, in confidence to Alaria, that he had been visited in a dream by a feline yet female face, maned in black. He found her familiar but could not recall why or from where.

    The feline woman had relayed and enforced upon him that his "Destiny was slipping further from his grasp." and the warrior wondered to the magess what she thought such a portent might mean.

    Alaria could not suppose what this meant but was stricken with the reveleation that she, herself, could not recall having any dreams since they'd entered these separate Gorathgraard's. She found her mind wander to the Lady of the Emerald Tear, Rhea, and wondered what was passing in their "real" realm of Orea.

    Following the meal and some discussion, the companions had had a ceremony of sorts with the Lady Evaranthriine and Lord Inskuel.

    The Swan Knight was the picture of regality in his shining silver scale mail, midnight blue tabbard. A sword now hung from his hip and he held a long lance-like spear that was wrapped with a flowing dark blue banner.

    Despite his well-muscled frame being taller and more slight of shoulder, and his white-blond hair more light, Alaria could not help but be reminded, with some sadness, of Coerraine. Inskuel pactically shone with an aura of goodness and peace and the R'Hathi magess grinned at the picture of this Knight of Gorathgraard in indigo as a mirrored image of the crimson-swathed Knight of Mostrial she had known.

    Imgulg came up beside his lady with a shallow, slender case of midnight blue velvet, trimmed and reinforced with silver edges and clasp. The dwarf opened the case and held it toward Evaranthriine. A slight silvery glow emanated from within the case.

    "Not since my father lived," began the lady of night, "since the glory days of the true Gorathgraard, from what you've told me ages before your Godswar, have these pendants been bestowed upon any of Gorathgraard's defenders or servants."

    The woman began pulling silver chains, so fine they were barely perceptible and placed one upon each of the line of Stormriders.

    "Know that these medallions shall keep you safe from the prying eyes of your enemies." Evaranthriine continued. "May they always keep you from harm."

    When she got to Alaria in the line of heroes, the magess noted that the pendant was in the shape of two swans facing each other. They touched at the beak and again at the breast. With the delicately crafted arch of the swans' necks, they formed an opening in the middle shaped like a heart.

    As she reached Haelan at the end of the line, she again bent down and kissed the halfling upon the forehead. "Know that thou, all, art fore'er friends and champions of Gorathgraard. That where ere thou encounters any of the Swan Prince's realms or subjects, thou shall be met with friendship, hospitality and aid.

    "Arise now, thee Champions of Gorathgraard and heroes, all. Thou Riders of the Storm."

    After bestowing her gifts, Evaranthriine left the great chamber with instruction that she be followed to the garden after "a few moments."

    It was then that Inskuel explained thier intentions. "We shall accompany thee into Madagbueil's realm, to thegateway to return to thine own realm. My Lady and I shall continue on to the witch's own spire, dispatch what evil still lurks there and reclaim that realm to the glory in which it was formed."

    "We can help you with that." Haelan offered.

    "'Specially if there's treasure t'be found." Duor added.

    Inskuel chuckled in good nature. "That is nay necessary my friends. With Madagbueil's death, the forces of her command are no doubt foiled or returning to their own true forms. And, as thou hast said, it is passed time for thy return to thine own realm."

    It had, in fact, been discussed and decided they would return that day. Alaria was anxious to get back to Orea. Braddok seemed to have some pressing concerns about his overarchign quest to reclaim his homeland. Erevan,similarly was concerned for his own nation and people and their war with the goblins. Duor, naturally, wanted to get to the "real Gorarthgraard" and the "dragon's treasure" therein...Haelan's argument that the dragon still lived and they weren't up to the task of slaying an ancient dragon fell on the dwarf's greedy deaf ears.

    The elderly dwarf Imgulg came up to Haelan and uor with two normal appearing backpacks which he claimed were stuffed with enough food and drink for the three day journey it would be from "the mounds" to Gorathgraard's citadel.

    "That very kind, Imgulg. But we really don't need it. We have my magic food bowl." Haelan initially protested.

    "Aye." replied the old dwarf, "But does ye magic food bowl carry the weight of young Braddok with the feelin' of havin' change in yer pocket?"

    Duor's eyes widened to popping as understanding sunk in. "Yeh mean...?"

    "The white-bearded dwarf winked at his "cousin", "Yay indeed. Yeh might be wantin' these fer when yeh find that treasure."

    Duor, in a completely unsolicited and surprising show of affection flung himself at his older "cousin" and wrapped him in a bear hug. "Yeh've made me the happiest dwarf in creation! I'll ne'er forget yeh."

    Imgulg just chuckled a hearty laugh and returned the embrace. "Yeer quite welcome. Now go...be heroes...n' make this old bag o' rocks proud."

    "Oh!" added Imgulg, separating himself from Duor and reaching behind him with a curious glance around the room. Most of the other companions were beginning to move off with Inskuel toward the garden.

    "My lady bade me give this t'yeh, master dale-far." the dwarf presented Haelan with a thin silver scroll case. "Tis fer the lady magess, though she not be ready fer it just yet. My lady wishes to leave it to yer care and magnificent wisdom as to when the time might be right.

    "She claims ye will be needing it." he finished with a wink.

    "But how will I know?" Haelan began to protest.

    "Ye'll know, Haelan the Holy. I have no doubt o' that." Imgulg concluded. "Now, hurry on with yeh." the dwarf seemed to be welling up. "Don't want t'miss yer next adventure. I've got work to be done." he wiped a hand across his eye and waved Duor and Haelan off.

    *

    The companions assembled outside the gate of the shining day of garden.

    Their next surprise was to see the sky far to the west aglow in the rosy pink hue of sunset. When questioned about this, Evaranthriine claimed that with the demise of her sister, their realms were beginning to "collide..coalesce, if you like. My sisters and I were each gifted with own own realms and with Madagbueil's loss, her realm will now merge with mine."

    "Does that mean, if we stay and help you some more, we could bring all of your worlds together? Maybe even return you all to the real Orea?" Festus asked, somewhat excitedly.

    Alaria found herself perplexed by the satyr's understanding of dimensional theory which she, herself, was barely beginning to grasp.

    "It might do, friend Festus." Evaranthriine responded. "But that is not thy way today."

    "But...but we could help." Haelan in part protest, in part offer and in part asked his companions, as he often liked to do.

    "Thou hast done more than thy share, goodly one." Evaranthriine replied with a kind smile and took her knight's gauntlet-covered hand. "Tis well passed time that the Daughters of Gorathiel do for themselves, methinks. Ah! And hear they are."

    With the lady's eyes going to the sky, the companions' gazes followed to see a "V" of long necked white waterfowl approaching from the south, through the starlit sky.

    Seven swans landed in what could only be described as pure grace into the pool that had been formed the previous "day" at the edge of the long dead and dried lake bed.

    "My thanks, friends, for heeding my summons." Evaranthriine said politely to the birds.

    What happened next amazed all of the companions but Alaria most of all. With a wave of her midnight-robed arms, Evaranthriine cast the spell of Shaping in a way that entailed none of the darkness, chill or pain that Madagbueil had invoked.

    The swans seamlessly and silently were awash in twinkling stars as their forms grew and spread before the assembled heroes' eyes. Momentarily being washed whole in a blinding silver light. When the light subsided, there stood before them, some pacing, some drinking from the pond, seven pure white pegusi.

    Evaranthriine looked at Alaria's uterrly shocked face and gave a smile and a wink. "You see, Magess Alaria. Tis only with malicious intent upon unwilling recipients tht the spell is cruel and potentially deadly."

    The companions mounted up. Evaranthriine and Inskuel, Braddok, Fen and Alaria each with their own steed. One shared by Erevan and Haelan. One shared by Festus and Duor.

    With barely a word of command, the seven winged horses lept into the air and began winging their way, at incredible speed, to the west.

    *
    Author/DM's notes:

    THE LOOT:
    The silver swan pendants are each, essentially, medallions of "nondetection/misdirection". They also apply a +1 general "protection" (added to AC). Their other, more subtle, properties may surface in future stories...but the characters do not really know what they are, other than supposing any/all Gorathgraard-ians (?) will treat them as friends and allies.

    The two backpacks are, essentially, "backpacks of holding" or, if you prefer "Handy haversacks"...in backpack form.

    Duor was, naturally, ecstatic about receiving both. Alaria was elated with the nondetection magic and reasoned there was now no reason for her NOT to have the Ihs Repahl...since presumably Tresahd would not be able to track her or it...or, indeed, any of them. Everyone else was pleased their series of efforts ws rewarded in some form...and just about all of them were eager to get back to "task(s) at hand"...though each had a different idea of what was first on their collective list.

    The scroll, as you might have guessed, contains the Polymorph Self and Polymorth Other spells (though, in game-world terms they are the same/one spell, just cast differently). We'll see how/when or if they get used somewhere down the line.

    More to come, shortly, as the Stormriders Return to the Feldmere and onward to "Nor Gorthok."
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    Nice. So Braddock gets visions now? And from a cat at that, hehe.
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  • #178
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    Not since the ogre with the great battle axe charging her on the plain outside of Bridgetower had Alaria felt such a rush of fear as when the flying caravan of pegusi pitched into a steep dive toward one of the grassy barrow mounds that just breached the tops of the darkened and mostly dead forest.

    They dove with exacting aim and showed no signs of stopping. Alaria's stomach felt in her throat as first Inskuel's then Evaranthriine's mounts neared the solid ground only to blink out of existence.

    Then Braddok's did the same. Fen's steed close behind. She was next and while braced for a severe impact, found herself instead awash in a hazy purple light for the blink of an eye only to then see the other four steeds before her standing on a similar mound in this new "Gorarthgraard."

    Erevan and Festus' winged mounts blinked into existence behind her, slowing to a flapping trot before finally coming to a rest.

    The pegasus with Festus and Duor atop it came to a rather abrupt halt, sending the satyr, whose hindquarters were not really fit for gripping the back of a horse, and Duor who was clinging to the ranger for dear life, flying over its neck and head to land, unceremoniously, in a a rolling heap of cloaks and equipment and loud "OOFs."

    "Damned flyin' horse. The damnable things ain't fit fer ridin' on the ground, let alone the air." Duor grumbled loudly as he disentangled himself from the satyr. He shot the mystic beast a dirty look.

    The pegasus merely snouted loudly in the dwarf's direction and, for all intent and purposes, seemed to be staring the dwarf back, square in the eye, before throwing up his head and shaking his glistening white mane proudly.

    Erevan spoke first, as the rest of the companions took in their surroundings with some surprise. "Am I to guess, my lady, that this is the 'twilight-Gorathgraard'?"

    Evaranthriine nodded quietly as she and Inskuel and most of the companions dismounted and looked about in wonder.

    The sky was a combination of rosy pinks and muted purples, a bit of an orangy tint in the western edge of the sky. To the east the dusty purple deepened into blues and indigo and there were the first twinklings of stars, just at the edge of the sky.

    "Found the moon." Haelan noted, pointing to the ever so hazy crescent of a lunar body, much smaller than the "real" Arinane would be. Sure enough, looking beneath it, some distance from them, a spire of rose hued stone rose in what appeared to be the center of this glorious garden-like realm.

    All about them, the trees sported blossoms and fresh young leaves. The mound all about them was spotted with tiny white and golden flowers. In every direction, there was growth and color, even beneath the "fading" light that ensconced the realm. The sound of twittering birds was heard everywhere and occasionally seen winging from bough to bough.

    "It's...it's lovely." Alaria said with surprise.

    "Indeed, " Inskuel added. "Seems to be in much better state than I recall."

    "But how'd that awful creature come from a place like this?" Festus asked as his eyes followed a violet and yellow butterfly than flitted passed him.

    "This is the realm which Madagbueil was gifted. We each, in our turn, received a realm of our own...molding, I suppose thou wouldst say." Evaranthriine explained.

    "Mine own became the Summer's Night. Amthyriine, the realm of Winter's Day. Madagbueil, as you can see, the realm of Spring's Evening...and our other sister, Jansithil, a realm of Autumn's Morn."

    When Evaranthriine said no more, Haelan piped up, "I thought there were six? Didn't the poem say there were six?"

    "The poem?" Evaranthriine questioned.

    "The Ballad of the Swan Prince, my lady." Erevan explained. "A song by a long dead minstrel by which we heard tell of your father and lord...and indeed your champions and yourself. It seems to be the only information left to our world of Gorathgraard."

    Evaranthriine seemed perplexed. "A...song?"

    Now Alaria interjected, "The Ballad tells of "Six Swan Maids and Six Swan Knights" who were the Swan Prince's...court, I suppose. We had been assuming that you and your sisters and Inskuel, Ifthrakuel and the other champions when those Maids and Knights."

    "T'would seem a reasonable assumption." the lady of Summer's Night pondered a bit. "Yes. There were six of us, all told. I have no way of knowing how many realms my father created. I know only of we four, now three, who survived Gorathgraard's fall. Though I make no claim that knowledge is complete."

    With that Evarantrhiine and the five pegusi the party had used were again surrounded in twinkling starlight to emerge as swans again. They promptly took wing and disappeared back through the portal that returned to Evaranthriine's world. Evaranthriine and Inskuel remounted the two remaining winged horses.

    "At the base of this hill, the tomb of Ifthraskuel, you shall be able to journey between this realm and your own. We are off to the Twilight Spire to reclaim the realm and those others of our realm lost to us."

    With solemn nodding bows, the night-lady and swan knight took, again to the air. "Fare thee well, Stormriders. May your gods grant we meet again." Inskuel called down.

    The party bowed in return and waved their goodbyes before descending the mound, easily finding the entrance and entered. It was very much as they had already encountered. A narrow set of steps led them down into the mound to find a small antechamber that opened to the great long crypt room. At the far end of the room, instead of a crystalline winged warrior statue, there was simply an alcove that seemed to have a mirror within it. It looked in on a duplicate crypt room, but the party's images did not appear within the image.

    Braddok was the first to touch the "mirror" and as had happened in the winter-realm, his hand pushed into it causing shimmering ripples in the image extended out from his wrist.

    "Looks like the place." Braddok said. "Are we ready?"

    With affirmatives all around, the company, one by one, made their way into the "other" crypt room and say the chunks of melting ice and various spell-burns on the walls and floor from their battle...nearly two weeks prior...just as they had left it. The only difference was the walled door that had trapped them inside was again open to the outer antechamber and the lid of the sarcophagus was again sealed, righted on top of itself.

    The air was noticeably more damp and cold than any they'd encountered, since Amthyriine's winter land.

    "That's some seriously cold ice to have not melted yet. I mean, it's cooler, sure...but to have not melted hardly at all?" Festus observed.

    "Well, it was extraordinarily tough ice, if you'll recall." Fen pointed out.

    "And magic." Haelan and Alaria added at the same time.

    Moving to the antechamber, they saw the skeletal remains of the lizardman just as they had left it. That didn't stop Duor from giving it an additional once over to see if he had missed anything o value the first time. Still nothing.

    Festus practically bolted out of the mound and spread his arms wide to inhale deeply. "*SNIIIIIIFFFF* Aaaah. Yep, this is it." the satyr affirmed cheerily.

    Alaria covered her nose almost immediately. She'd completely forgotten the almost constant musty decaying stench of the Feldmere. "Ugh. Good for us." she said halfheartedly.

    Buttercreamshadowfeet sat not far from the entrance, licking her paws and "wiping" her snout. The ferret looked curiously at the emerging party.

    "Buttercream!!!!" Haelan shouted at first sight and raced to embrace the fuzzy creature about the neck. "I can't believe you've waited all of this time! I'm so happy to see you...and still safe!"

    "Back already?" a feminine voice ushered from the ferret into the halfling's ear. "I've barely had time to clean up from that muck-rat lunch."

    <Haelan>

    "I...Wuh...I..."the daelvar turned to his companions. "Did you hear that?!" he shouted excitedly.

    The various members of the company were spreading out. Erevan studied the sky. From what he could tell of the cloud-shrouded sky and level of light, it was barely evening.

    Braddok and Festus were looking over their map and discussing what they had been told about the "citadel of Gorathgraard" being three days east.

    Fen stood calmly apprising the woods and brush around them.

    Alaria was closely examining the swan pendant they had all received not long ago.

    Duor was lighting up one of his smelly tobacco wraps. "Hear wut, Hilltender?" he said out of the side of his mouth before inhaling and letting out a long satisfying plume of bluish smoke.

    "The...?...Buttercream!...She talked!" Haelan yelled.

    <the rest of the party> <and>

    "She wut? Yeh hit yer head on that wild flying pony ride too? heheh." Duor responded, half-chuckling, at first.

    "What a dunce." Buttercream said again. Haelan presumed about the dwarf.

    "THERE! She did it again!" Haelan cried. He looked at the party expectantly and pointed at the ferret.

    "It's rather rude to point like that, you know? I'd expect a Hilltender to have better manners." Buttercream said again before arching her back and yawning characteristically.

    "She TALKED, I'm telling you! You...you can TALK! How can you talk?! Have you been able to all of this time? Why didn't you say anything?!?" Haelan said to the ferret.

    "Of course I can 'speak.' As can all beasts and birds. You two-feet just don't listen anymore." Buttercream's lovely feminine voice said absently as she returned to licking her paws.

    "You see?!" Haelan cried to the others. "You heard that right?"

    "Haelan...I'm not sure what is going on, but it might be best if you stepped back from the...uh...'Buttercream.' Perhaps something's happened in our absence." Alaria suggested cautiously.

    "What did she say?" Braddok inquired honestly.

    "Silly wizard. What could have happened? You've not been gone longer than my cleaning." Buttercream again muttered in between licks.

    "THERE! She said you were silly, Alaria! She said....wait...we've been gone for how long?" Haelan returned to conversing with the ferret as if it were now totally natural.

    "I do not know, friend of the hills. I'd hoped at least enough time for a proper cleaning and a nap before you'd return from the hole-that-smells-like-death. But I can wait, I suppose." Buttercream said and rose up onto her four stumpy legs.

    "You hear that?! Fen! You must have heard her. You talk to animals!" Healan protested.

    "I am afraid, friend Haelan, that I only converse with animals through the use of my order's mysteries. I heard not but chirps and purring, as always." the druid said somewhat apologetically.

    "She said we've only been gone for moments!" Haelan exclaimed feeling like he was coming undone in the head.

    Festus, who had quietly nocked an arrow in his short bow waiting for some demon or wizard...or worse *shudder* fairy to burst out of the ferret's form, now took a moment and looked about them and to the sky.

    Erevan also was studying the sky. "That would seem...to be accurate." the elf said quietly.

    "WHAT??!" Alaria, Braddok and Duor all exclaimed in unison.

    "It would seem an identical evening to the one upon which we entered the mound..." the elf said plainly. He reached his hand out into the air and rubbed his fingertips together. "Right down to the moisture in the air."

    "So..Wait. We've been gone for...no time?" Festus addressed the elf.

    "It would appear not." Erevan replied, his even smooth voice betraying no surprise or concern.

    "Told you." Buttercream said plainly. "See, the elf knows. Elves always know."

    Haelan now cupped his hands over his ears. "Stop it! Stop talking.

    "No...wait..don't...HOW can you talk? Why can't the others hear you?"

    Haelan turned to the companions, expressions of concern crossing most of their faces. "I'm not going mad, am I?"

    "As I said, I always could. I'm not some bug. Though they are tasty sometimes. A bit crunchy...a bit acid. They don't always agree with me of course...but..." the ferret paused at the expression of disbelief on the halfling's face.

    "Well, of course, they can speak too, but only to each other. It's you two-legged ones who've forgotten how to listen, not we who have forgotten how to speak. Except for the gnomes, of course. They've always listened. Sometimes elves can too.
    "

    The ferret continued with complete nonchalance, "...if they are old enough or connected enough to the reality of the world...His kind can too." Buttercream indicated with a nod of her long-nosed snout toward Fen. "The green-cloaked-ones listen sometimes. As to why you are now listening...I confess, I have no idea."

    "She says..." Haelan began.

    "I have a name you know?" the ferret said with a bit of annoyance.

    "Sorry...Buttercream says she could always speak but we don't listen." relayed the daelvar Hilltender.

    Alaria invoked her mystic sight and saw nothing unusual about the ferret. No specific enchantments nor magic of any kind. "She's no more magical than she ever appeared to be. I...I can't explain it." she said with a shrug to Braddok and Fen.

    "It would seem, friend Haelan, that perhaps your Hillmother has gifted you with some extraordinary...um...gift?" the druid posed.

    Alaria and Erevan just shrugged at Braddok's questioning of the possibility.

    "Have you a better explanation?" Fen asked the party's magic-users.

    "Makes sense to me." Duor said offhandedly and expelled another stream of blue smoke. "Long as I don't have t'listen to her, s'all good."

    "Pfft. Impertinent ignoramus." Buttercream muttered under her whiskers which sounded to the rest of the party as if the fuzzy creature sneezed.

    Haelan couldn't help but chuckle at this.

    "What?!" Duor protested.

    "She called you an 'important piggy-potamus.'" Haelan giggled, relaying what he assumed "ignoramus" to be the ferret-speak version of the giant river-pigs he'd seen pictures of books and parchments in his study of the animals of Orea.

    Buttercream rolled her eyes. "Are we going or shall I nap? I'd like a nap. Need to hunt more later."

    "Yes. Sorry. No nap yet. We've only just started our day." Haelan said simply. Seeing the questioning looks of his companions, he clarified, "We're going, right?"

    "T'ugh. Fine." the ferret grumbled and began weaving her way around the mound before again getting lost in some high reeds.

    Seeing no harm or evil that they could perceive, the companions began their trek easterly toward where they presumed the ruins of the great citadel of Nor Gorthok, nee Gorathrgraard, would be found.

    Though half of the band kept a cautious and/or curious eye on the ferret, there was nothing in her behavior that seemed to any of them out of the ordinary. Even Fen's druid training and Erevan's elvin eyes could discern nothing, at all, different about the creature.

    Buttercream was, to all observation, as she always had been. She kept pace with them. Sometimes hopping along near Haelan. Sometimes gone, moving in and out of the thick growth in the swamp.

    The poor nervous daelvar kept an eye on the ferret at all times she was visible. He dared not say anything more to her, but occasionally heard the ferret saying something observational. "OO frog!*crunch*crunch*" or "Gettin' dark, the muck-rats'll be out soon" or "Dig. Dig. Dig. Digging the digging song. I'mma gitcha swamp-bug." or other things he couldn't quite hear from the brush.

    Haelan would just smile and nod an observance of the statements if the ferret was near him.

    It felt...weird...but normal at the same time. In short order, the Hilltender was content in the belief that Faerantha had surely blessed him with his dream of speaking with animals...though he noticed, of the limited wildlife they caught sight of moving through the swamp it was only the ferret he heard or understood.

    So the companions continued on into the night of their swamp on their world...they were again in the dreaded Feldmere.

    <Author/DM's note: Yes, as a boon from his goddess, an ability of his new level, Haelan can now converse with Buttercream.>


    Next time...The Gates of Nor Gorthok.
    Last edited by steeldragons; Sunday, 13th May, 2012 at 06:42 PM.
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  • #179
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    I was wondering when the two of them would finally understand each other.
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  • #180
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lwaxy View Post
    Nice. So Braddock gets visions now? And from a cat at that, hehe.
    He is "touched by one of the Eight" after all.

    It was the image of the sphinx he encountered in the Underworld, Sinjhal, telling him to, basically, "get a move on!".

    Braddok, masterfully and completely unbidden, "did not remember" his time in the Land of the Dead or who she was.

    I just loves it when story details fade from consciousness. heh. heh.

    But I love, just as much (if not more!) when various things that I had forgotten or thought inconsequential, come to light in really cool/fun ways from the other side of the screen (like Haelan's desire to talk to animals. Seems to make sense for one of the devotees of the Hillmother. But was completely out of left field/unexpected.).

    Good times in Orea.

    Now, if/whether they survive Desaarthal, stop the Bulgruch or Tresahd, get the Ihs Repahl back, save the elvin wooded kingdom or restore Braddok's family to its "rightful" place in Denil is a completely different...<invoke voice of the narrator from the Muppet Shows' "Pigs in Space">contiiinuinnnng stoooory.</invocation>

    --SD
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