Steel Dragon's "Tales of Orea" - Page 7
  1. #61
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    Same here.

  2. #62
    Steeliest of the dragons SILVER SUBSCRIBER
    A 1e title so awesome it's not in the book (Lvl 21)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tamlyn View Post
    Ok, you've had enough of a break. Get back to writing!

    Seriously, I've been enjoying this SH and was missing it. If you're still interested in writing it, I am definitely still interested in reading it.
    lol. Fair enough. Ya got me.

    I have a few other projects in the fire at the moment, but I will get back to our friends in Orea shortly.

    Thanks, as always for the interest and encouragement.

  3. #63
    Steeliest of the dragons SILVER SUBSCRIBER
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    I was hoping to get further along than this for the next post...but since it's done and you're jonesing hahaha.

    More to come soon.

    Alaria paused outside a shop to peruse the dresses set on a rack outside of the dressmaker’s shop. One of bright green caught her eye. It was embroidered with vines and leaves in the golden trim. Very nice work, Alaria thought. It was “off the shoulder” as most of the women in the area wore from what she had seen. The sleeves were close to the arm until the lower arm when they widened a bit.

    “Very lovely.” Alaria smiled to the woman standing before the shop.

    “Thank you, lady.” Answered the woman. “Would you like to try it on. It would look lovely on you, lady… Might be a bit short though.”she added apparently sizing up the statuesque R’Hathi woman.

    Alaria smiled. “I think not. But do you have something similar in violet?”

    “I might have just the thing, m’lady.” The woman said enthusiastically and ducked into the shop’s door.

    She returned shortly with another gown, this one was a plum color, with similar golden trim though no design was embroidered. It also was worn over the shoulder, with a slight collar. “This was designed in the style of one I made for the Green Witch.” The shopkeeper offered.

    Alaria felt the smooth fabric, not silk or velvet, but soft to the touch. Alaria looked at it a moment and said “I love it. How much?”

    The dressmaker looked at the handsome blond knight behind her who distractedly looked down the avenue, then to the mage. “Would 5 gold be too much?” she answered.

    Alaria raised an eyebrow and followed the shop-maid’s gaze. “I think it would.” She said. “My thanks, but I really don’t need another dress so fine for the traveling we would be doing.”

    “Oh! It is most durable, m’lady. And comfortable….3 gold?” the woman offered.

    Alaria thought a moment. “Do you like it, Coerraine?”

    The young paladin snapped to his employer’s attention, “It is very fine, milady. I’m sure it would be, uh, most fetching.” Alaria noted the momentary blush in the Goldshield’s cheeks.

    “Of course, this dress will travel to many realms, in the service of the gods.” Alaria noted, giving a nod toward Coerraine. “I would be happy to share the name of the maker who wove it.”

    At this, it was the shopkeeper who blushed. “M’lady, travelers are not known for finding Welford for a simple dress.” She looked at the handsome knight again and leaned in toward Alaria to say in a hushed tone, “2 gold and 5 <meaning 5 silver>. Methinks the gentleman would enjoy it greatly and as the maker, I could not ask for a more lovely form on which to show off my wares.”

    “2 gold and 2.” Said Alaria flatly and began to withdraw coins from her purse.

    “As m’lady wishes. 2 gold and 2.” The dressmaker happily agreed. “Gods blessings, m’lady. Shall I wrap it for you?”

    “I think not.” Alaria said, “I’ll change here.”

    “Of course, m’lady.” The woman took a moment to receive the coins and extended an arm for Alaria to enter the shop, “Right this way, m’lady.”

    “I’ll wait here.” Said Coerraine. A few minutes later, Alaria returned in the new plum gown, her travel-worn golden robe in a bundle under her arm. Coerraine was struck dumb at the sight of the magess.

    “What do you think, Coerraine?” Alaria smiled.

    “It is…fetching…as I knew it would be, milady.” The paladin stumbled.

    Alaria smiled to the dressmaker and thanked her. The shopkeeper bowed and smiled and thanked Alaria profusely. The wizard asked if there were any “magic shops” in town.

    “Ehm…’magic shops’, m’lady? No. But Master Devrim the Apothecary has some oddities at his shop that a simple dressmaker, such as myself, do not understand. Master Devrim had some experiences in the realms beyond our fair valley before he returned here and opened his shop. Perhaps he could help you?” The dressmaker gave the magess directions to Devrim’s shop and thanked her again, eagerly pinching Alaria’s coins from one hand to the other.

    Coerraine followed Alaria down the main avenue of Welford Town. He caught himself staring more than once at the wizard’s lovely figure. This was followed by a mental chastising for his lewd thoughts. The Redstar Knights were, by no means, sworn to chastity, but they did have rather stringent rules about “involvement” with their assigned duties and/or charges they were to protect.

    Alaria, freed of her apprenticeship that morning and donning a fresh new gown, felt like a million gold pieces and did not notice the paladin’s glances. Many of the shops were notably closed for the midday meal. She hoped that Master Devrim’s would not be.

    She was thankful to find it was not and boldly entered. Coerraine a few steps behind her.

    The shop “stank” as far as Coerraine was concerned. Various herbs and rows of multi-colored bottles and vials, pots of salves, even a few candles of various hues all conspired against the paladin’s nose. A moment of concentration to look through his golden gifted sight noted nothing “evil” in the shop, including the slight-framed man with black hair and blue robes behind the counter.

    Alaria shared a brief conversation with Devrim of various arcane topics, most of which Coerraine did not understand. Alaria purchased a few pouches of various materials, including a “potion” that Devrim said would “soothe the travel-weary joints in a bath.”

    The two left the herbalist’s shop and intended to return to the inn for a meal and some drink when Braddok came jogging up the road to meet them.

    “We have a…” the swordsman began before interrupting himself, “By the gods, you look the vision, Alaria.”

    Alaria smiled. “Thank you, Braddok. I’m glad you like it. What do we have?”

    “Oh!” snapped the warrior. “We have a problem. Come with me, please. It seems Duor…” Braddok filled in the wizardess and paladin, whose frown dipped lower and lower as Braddok explained until it seems his mouth might fall off of his very face.

    Braddok, Alaria and Coerraine entered the Constable’s office building. Duor sat, relaxed, on the banch/bed in the iron barred jail.

    “S’bout bloody time.” The dwarf smiled. “Get me outta here! It’s all lies.” He looked with disdain toward the very large black-bearded man standing before the Constable’s desk.

    The mountain of a man, nearly a hand taller than Braddok and twice as wide and round, wore a flour dusted apron. He glared at the trio as they entered.

    “My lady, it seems your associate here has committed a crime.” Constable Bertram began. “We do not take kindly to thievery in Welford.”

    “What happened?” Alaria asked innocently, ignoring Duor’s claims of innocence.

    “It seems, this dwarf…”the Constable started before the huge man burst in.

    “Stole a fritter from my shop!” said the black-bearded man.

    Constable Bertram let out a sigh and pinched the top of his nose. “My lady, Alaria Staver, this is Ortrus Baker…”

    “Finest baker in the Laklans!” added the irate man.

    “Yes, noone’s dismissing that Ostrus.” The Constable continued. “Seems your dwarf, here, pinched a few items from Ostrus’ shop without paying.”

    “I pinched nothing! Who’d want that ogre’s day-old pastries anyway!” added Duor, severely not helping his situation.

    Alaria glared at Duor and composed herself before turning back to the constable. The finer points of law in the outer realms were beyond Alaria’s knowledge…she stood for a moment looking from the constable to the baker and back again. Thankfully, Coerraine stepped forward.

    “Gentlemen, on my honor, I am not prone to trust this dwarf,” started the paladin.

    “HEY!” shouted Duor.

    Coerraine continued undeterred, “ …but the laws of gods and men must be observed. What proof have we of this accusation?”

    The baker burst again, “He took me fritters! No good thievin’ dwarfs.”

    “HEY!” shouted Duor again. “Let me outta this cage and I’ll show you thievin’ troll-born. I’ll steal yer ugly hide!”

    Constable Bertram again sighed audibly. “There were the crumbs in his beard when I arrived earlier.”

    “HEY!” yelled Duor again.

    To which Alaria turned and with a single murmured syllable and forceful motion of her hand, the blanket on the cell’s cot leapt up from the mat of its own accord and thoroughly wrapped itself around the dwarf, particularly his head and mouth. Muffled objections ensued before the entangled rogue toppled over himself onto the floor.

    Alaria turned to Ortrus and the Constable with a smile. “Now, my good gentlefolk, what can we do here to handle this in a reasonable manner.” Her dark eyes lingered on the mammoth baker who still watched the ensorceled dwarf trying to tug the blanket off his face. When his gaze returned to Alaria, he smiled a nervous smile.

    Constable Bertram’s face was again beneath his palm.

    Next time: By the light of the Sorilorr-y Moon

  4. #64
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    Quote Originally Posted by steeldragons View Post
    I was hoping to get further along than this for the next post...but since it's done and you're jonesing hahaha.
    Thank you very much.

    Quote Originally Posted by steeldragons View Post
    More to come soon.

  5. #65
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    Oh What a Night...Part I

    Haelan washed down the last of his pastry wrapped meat pie with the last of his honey mead and eased back into his seat with a very satisfied sigh. He lazily looked about the inn’s tavern.

    Most of the crowd who had been there for their lunch had returned to their fields and shops. A few obvious regulars still sat at the bar trading loud guffaws and whispered tales with Grahm while Inya cleared plates and mugs from the abandoned tables. The girl looked over to meet Haelan’s gaze and gave the halfling a quaint smile and a wink. Haelan, naturally returned the smile.

    His gaze passed over a trio of cloaked figured in the corner table near the bar and fireplace, across the room from the halfling priest. He couldn’t tell very much about them, one was rather spindly looking, one’s back was to him and the third short and plump, not much taller than Duor. The short one was the only man whose face Haelan to see beneath their cloaks. It was rather round and unappealing with pronounced bucked teeth. Not wanting to appear rude, Haelan’s gaze continued to travel around the room, eventually resting on the paned windows that looked out the side of the building.

    Haelan’s relaxation was shattered when he saw, what appeared to be a lump of light brown fur rise up into view outside of the window and disappear just as quickly. Inya came by his table shortly thereafter with another mug of mead “on the house.” Haelan asked if there was a dog that hung around the inn. Inya shrugged with a grin. “Not any one in particular. There are a few around town though. Scraps are scraps after all. But most people out on the farms are good to their animals. Why?”

    Haelan smiled a nervous smile, “Oh, no reason. Just wondering.” He thanked Inya for the mead and turned his attention back to the window, but he saw no other glimpses of any furry creatures.

    He was thankful to see his companions return from their errands.

    “My word, Alaria, that is a lovely new robe.” Said the halfling priest. He received no response. Alaria simply stalked through the tavern to the stairs and went up to her room.

    Haelan noted the various grimaces and scowls on just about all of their faces. Coerraine was kind enough to give Haelan the run down on their midday activity as he ordered one of the pastry meat pies and some fresh water. Braddok and Duor also ordered some food and ale. Haelan turned to Duor with a “tsk tsk” shake of his finger.

    “So now I am responsible for this miscreant’s activities.” Coerraine comcluded.

    “Not like I asked fer it, Goldilocks.” Duor retorted. “Besides, it’s not like yeh’ve lost anything.” Duor sulked.

    Braddok informed Haelan that Alaria had paid for the damages and Duor’s “bail” from Duor’s own purse, which oddly was full of gems the party had not seen before. Alaria confiscated the remainder of the gems, leaving Duor with what few coins remained. She also was quite clear, that Coerraine was to “keep an eye” on Duor and if he stepped out of line, Alaria had threatened to turn him into a mole.

    Haelan’s eyes went wide throughout the tale. “All for some cakes? Duor, really? Glad I came back here.”

    “Weren’t about the cakes, yeh hairfoot fool. I needed to stretch my muscles. Test my skills. Stay sharp. Yeh understand?” Duor replied.

    “Well sounds like you need more practice.” Haelan replied in all seriousness and took a long draught from his mug. He did not notice Duor's angry glare.

    The remaining afternoon and evening went without incident. Most of the group had a few more drinks, many more for Duor until he realized he was out of coin.

    Fen returned late-afternoon telling them tales of his day in the countryside, including rumors of wicked goings-on at the cemetery in “the Downs.”

    Haelan did not like the sound of that at all, but everyone was very clear that they should be moving on to Miralosta the next day and with their altercation with “the law” from earlier in the day, even Coerraine wanted to “get the dwarf out of Welford” as soon as possible.

    Soon after, Alaria descended from her rest looking significantly less angry. Then it was time to go about their respective evenings.

    Braddok asked Alaria’s leave to bring Coerraine with him to the evening training session with Deputy Skot. Alaria thought it a good idea and even better that Duor should accompany the warriors. Duor did not like the idea but kept his mouth shut, daring not tempt the wizard’s wrath.

    Haelan and Fen would accompany Alaria back to the rectory and Brother Berk to retrieve the crystal orb.

    They would meet at the path that led up to Rhea’s cottage when they were all finished and see what the purpose of this stone ring was they had traveled all of this time to bring her.

    The bell chimed for evening prayer from the tower adjoining the rectory as the magess, hilltender and druid neared the Gods’ Hall and the small park that led to the living quarters of the town’s religious few.

    Again, as they crossed the lawn, there was a rustle in the bushes that caused Haelan to jump. In the late evening shadows he couldn’t make out anything specific at the distance, but he didn’t like it. The halfling tugged on the druid’s cloak to get his attention and pointed toward the hedge rows.

    The half-elf looked where Haelan indicated and seemed to squint a bit. Then he looked at Haelan and shrugged. “I see nothing unusual, friend Haelan.”

    Haelan breathed a sigh of relief but still stuck close to the druid and mage.

    As they neared the door to the rectory, a they heard a woman’s shriek followed by a dark-cloaked figure exited the building and darted away quickly lost in the shadows.

    Fen looked at Alaria, who looked at Fen, and the three sprinted for the building. Coming to the door, they were nearly bowled over by two more cloaked figures coming out at a fast pace. One was tall and spindly and one was short and round. Both held short swords in gloved hands.

    Haelan immediately recognized the buck-toothed man and his friend from the tavern that afternoon. The tall spindly one was rather ugly, himself, with a long narrow nose with a few lengthy hairs forming a sparse moustache.

    Alaria, not about to take on two armed men immediately went for her pouch of pink sand.

    Fen rushed in front of the wizardess and leveled his spear. Haelan, being Haelan, called out “In the name of the Hillmother, hold where you are!” in his most intimidating voice.

    The two cloaked men seemed to sneer, the shorter one even chuckled aloud, before they darted in the opposite direction of the first figure the companions had witnessed.

    Before they got too far, Alaria flung her sand in their direction and confidently shouted, “Contro es amberall buul.” <mage spell: Sleep>. As she cast, part of her mind heard Haelan invoking one of his goddess’ prayers.

    The men stopped momentarily in their tracks and shook their heads before turning toward the magess bearing teeth and hissing…like animals.

    Alaria took a step back, shocked not only at the failure of her spell but the reaction it elicited.

    “FAAAAAERRRRRATHAAAA!” cried Haelan as he charged the thieves. His the pinecone-shaped head of his mace pulsing with a golden glow.

    Haelan's swing caught the portly thief in the shin. A bit of golden light seemed to stick to man for a moment and then the cloaked figure began to hiss and…squeal?

    As Haelan swung around from his charge to face the thief, he nearly dropped his mace as he backed away in horror to watch the man’s features stretch and twist.

    The puggish nose stretched like dough from his face, rounded flabby cheeks sprouted grey-brown fur at an alarming rate and his buck-teeth elongated and sharped.

    Finally, in what seemed like slow motion to Haelan but really only took moments, large round glassy black eyes looked at the halfling priest from the face of a monstrous rat atop this round short human body.

    “AAAAAHHHHHHHH!” cried Haelan and bolted back toward Fen and Alaria, avoiding a half-hearted swipe of a short sword as he fled.

    Alaria gasped when the rat-man turned to face them. “Lycanthropy!?”

    “By the Grove!” shouted Fen similarly surprised. “Wererats! Their cursed disease is an afront to the Balance. They must be stopped.”

    The spindly man continued to try make his escape, long thin legs moved him swiftly towards the Gods’ Hall and the corner of the rectory behind which was nothing but woods sloping up toward the mountain.

    The wererat who had been revealed followed his leggy friend nearly running into his back as the taller man stopped short in his tracks.

    From around the corner of the rectory came a large rodent-like face, this one a weasel and as tall as the shorter of the men. It had very pale yellowish-brown fur over most of its body with a darker, almost black, mask pattern over its eyes and ending its short legs and clawed feet.

    The giant beast opened its mouth wide, showing very thin pointed teeth, and hissed loudly.

    The two thieves nearly fell over each other in their retreat from the creature, squealing like…well, like scared rats. They attempted to sprint across the lawn, between the weasel and the companions.

    Alaria felt a humming in the air and a tingle up her spine. She realized Fen was murmuring near her and while her ears were not being assaulted by the secret language of the Ancient Order, the working of their magic did, indeed, “feel” different to Alaria’s own.

    When the half-elf had completed his spell, he slammed the butt of his spear into the ground and a flare of green light shot across the lawn toward the wererats. No sooner had the light disappeared beneath their location than vines shot up from the ground, the blades of grass grew and twined around the creatures’ limbs.

    They made a couple of futile swipes with their blades before the congestion of tangling growth had them completely incapacitated.

    “Nicely done!” came an unfamiliar voice from the direction of the weasel. Alaria wondered for a moment if the animal itself had spoken. Enchanted speaking beasts were not unheard of in the Mage Lands but she was unaware that any existed in the outer realms.

    “Walking rats and talking weasels?” Haelan questioned.

    A hearty chuckle came from the direction of the animal again as a figure, not much taller than Haelan himself stepped out from behind the weasel-thing.

    Large bright blue eyes sparkled like gems above a large bulbous nose. He had a short curled beard of steely grey and wore a hooded cowl and cloak of bright red. The tip of the hood looked like a forked twig or branch with two leaves of violet sticking off the top. A jerkin of bright yellow stretched across a pot belly gave way to green stockings and bright red gloves and soft leather shoes with ends that curled up and back toward the little man. A slender dagger hung in a decorative sheathe from his belt and a gnome-sized flgaon hung on his other hip. He seemed otherwise unarmed.

    “Yeer very funny, daely-var. Buttercream cain’t talk…well, cain’t talk to you folk anyhoo.” said the little man as he patted and stroked the head of the giant ferret.

    “A gnome?” Alaria wondered out loud before catching herself.

    “Aye a gnome, lady. Wut yeer take me for?” the gnome answered. “Gnobertilum the Great, at yeer service.” He bowed to the magess with a flourish. “Oh, and Buttercreamshadowfeet.”

    Alaria and Fen each arched single eyebrow and Haelan’s head cocked to the side.

    “I put the ‘shadow’ in theer t’make her sound more fierce.” Gnobertilum explained. “Gives her that spooookyyyy edge. Don'ye think?” The gnome smiled broadly at his cleverness.

    “Um, yes, well Master gnome,...” Fen began.

    “Gnobby. Me friends call me Gnobby,” the gnome interjected, “….or Gnobs…or Gnobert…or Berty…or..”

    “Uh, yes. Well ‘Gnobby’, we have to take care of these unnatural creatures before my magic gives out, so if you’ll excuse me.” Fen marched to the wererats’ position (the tall spindley one had transformed at this point attempting to use its preternatural strength to break free) spear in hand.

    While Alaria made introductions and asked the gnome if he had any knowledge of these wererats and their purpose. Fen attempted to interrogate the bound creatures. They simply sneered at the druid, hissing that they “could not be stopped by some plants.”

    “It seems, you can.” Haelan offered. “I wonder if Prior Korin can remove the curse from them.” Then Haelan recalled the scream they had heard moments before and raced for the rectory.

    “There is only one release from such a curse,” Fen said and pressed his spear against the chest of the shorter rat-man.

    “If yeer kill ‘em, yeer ne’er find out what’s theer plans.” Gnobert called to the druid.

    “He’s right, Fen.” Alaria soothed as she came to stand before the creatures. “Of course, in R’Hath we know a thing or two about curses.”

    She leveled her gaze into the shorter wererat’s eyes, the air around the magess began to swirl and spark, “Tell me what you were doing here. What is your purpose?”

    The wererat tried to draw back from the mage, but the vines still held him tight.

    “TELL ME!” shouted Alaria, as she did, her eyes seemed to flash into discs of violet flames licking from her sockets.

    At this the taller wererat also tried the scamper back. Both were squealing and whimpering at the visage of the wizardess from R’Hath.

    The wind around Alaria was whipping into a frenzy, rustling the leaves and grass, violet flames in her eyes and blue-white sparks danced around her figure…then, a loud crash of thunder sound. “Last…chance,” She said.

    “The orb! He sent us for the orb. We knew the old scribe had it, but that damned ferret was on our tails all day.”

    “The orb? Where is it?!” Alaria commanded.

    “I…I have it here…in a pouch beneath my cloak.” Thunder rumbled again. “Please don’t curse me wizard. Lovely wizard. We can help you. We’ll do much better for you than for him. You can have the orb!”

    “Him who? Who are you working for?” Alaria asked.

    At this the shorter wererat whimpered a bit. Alaria turned to the taller one and used her cantrip for a final flare of violet flames from her eyes, “WHO?”

    “T-T-Tres-Tresahd! He sent us to get the orb. Told us where to find you. It was Tresahd.” The tall one blurted.

    In an instant, the rustling and thunder stopped, the flames left her eyes, the air was still as it had been before. She seemed not at all imposing. “Thank you.”

    Just then, Haelan returned from the rectory with Protectress Kaylie in tow the armored priestess carried a large coil of rope. She looked questioningly at the gnome with the giant ferret but figured it could wait.

    “Lycanthropes in Welford,” said the stern-faced woman, “Goddess grant they are the only ones.” Her blond hair was bound in a tight braid at the back of her head. Her yellow tabbard flowed over a shirt of chainmail and the rosehead mace of her station hung from her belt. “Your Hilltender told me what happened. I am sorry I missed the fight.” Kaylie leaned in toward the taller rat-man, “We wouldn’t be having this conversation if I had been here.”

    When she and Fen were binding the wererats, Alaria retrieved her crystal orb then understanding fell upon her as it often did. “Brother Berk?” she said the the Protectress. “Is Brother Berk alright? I left this with him and it is what they came for.”

    Kaylie nodded. “He’s fine. He was at prayers. Seems the creatures snuck in to his study and got it. One of the Daughters caught sight of them as they tried to escape and was given quite a fright.” At this, Kaylie leaned in toward the shorter rat-man, “Another reason you and my mace will be having a chat. I’ll take them to Bertram.”

    Protectress Kaylie took the ends of the ropes binding the defeated wererats in one hand and hefted her sacred weapon with the other. The head of the mace was shaped like a rosebud. It flickered and sparked with white holy light. With shocking speed, the priestess smacked the two lycanthropes over their heads and their bodies slumped forward. Shortly thereafter, two of the acolytes Alaria had seen early came out and they helped Protectress Kaylie lug the creatures to Constable Bertram’s office.

    Alaria thanked Gnobert for his assistance.

    “Please, me lovely, call me Gnobby. We’re all friends here. N’ Buttercream too. She helped.” The gnome amended.

    “Yes, of course.” Alaria smiled. “Buttercream too. Now, if you’ll excuse us, we have some business with Brother Berk.”

    “Ne’er a worry, lovely. We can wait here. Beautious e’ening fer it, huh Buttercream?” said Gnobert offhandedly.

    “Oh, er, yes. Of course.” Alaria stumbled. “See you in a bit, then.” She shrugged at Fen.

    The half-elf smiled broadly. “It is a ‘beautious evening’. I’ll wait out here too, in case our third thief decides to return to the scene…I think it’s safe to say he’s probably a wererat too.”

    “As you wish.” Said Alaria.

    She and Haelan returned to the rectory to see what information the scribe brother had turned up.

    “Quite an eventful evening, huh Alaria.” Haelan said. “Whew I’m glad that’s over. I’ve never seen a were-thing before.” The halfling shook off an exaggerated shudder. “They might be worse than undead…not that I’ve ever seen any undead before either…Hillmother willing, I never will. But I’m glad it’s over.”

    If only the poor naive little Hilltender noticed...the night was just beginning.

    Next time: Oh What a Night...Part II

  6. #66
    Another one added to your list of admirers, Steeldragons. Great story.

  7. #67
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    Oh What a Night, Part II

    Apologies for the lag time, but am on vacation through the Greek isles at the moment. Internet access (and specifically EnWorld access) has been spotty and the excursions and schedules haven't allowed much "downtime" for writing.

    BUT, I have it now (this afternoon) and will be taking full advantage of it.

    Never fear, I will be returning to the states in 5 days and should then by back to a more "relaxed" (and computer-heavy) lifestyle.

    Thanks to all for your interest and hope you're enjoying it.

    For now, back to our intrepid band in Orea...

    In the rectory, the Gilean priestess they had met that afternoon was consoling the other healing goddess’ annointed Daughter who had suffered a bit of a scare from the thieves in their living quarters.

    She told Alaria and Haelan they were welcome to go to the study and await Brother Berk there. “His meditations should conclude shortly,” supposed the young woman.

    “Do you need consoling, Haelan?” Alaria quipped as they made their way down the short hallway to the library study of the priest of Sorilorr.

    Haelan exhaled deeply, “Thank you Alaria. I think I am alright now.” Said the hilltender in all seriousness. “They are quite a frightful sight, aren’t they? I will admit that.”

    Alaria rolled her eyes at Haelan apparent (and usual) lack of understanding in the ways of sarcastic wit.

    The two waited patiently for the brother’s return. Alaria perused some of the rows of scrolls and manuscripts on the shelves. Most of them were of little interest to her. Various local lore, histories of Welford, civil records of births and marriages and the like. She did note a small section of books that seemed to deal with more esoteric and philosophical topics, including one tome that dealt with recording the rites of Sylari worship and another on the “historic” account of the Daughters of Gilea and the “Sainted Daughter, Phsyha of the Flaming Hair” who is said to be the order’s first “Protectress” who saved the order of Gilea from extinction in the last age (“Should be ‘the mythological account’” to Alaria’s thinking).

    Brother Berk entered quietly and went straight to his desk. “I’ve been told of the the evening’s events. Most extraordinary.” He dipped his quill in the inkpot and began writing furiously. He continued, without looking up, “Interesting, indeed, that one day a mage from R’Hath comes to Welford. The very next, my study is compromised by creatures cursed by unnatural disease.”

    Alaria said nothing. Haelan’s gaze, however, turned uncharacteristically stern. “You don’t mean to insinuate that Alaria had anything to do with those godless monsters?”

    At this, Berk’s eyes looked out over his spectacles and his quill stilled for a moment.

    “Certainly not Hilltender. They were only here to steal the very item that was left in my care. I’m sure there is no connection between your presense and theirs what so ever.” He looked back to his parchment and again began writing.

    Haelan was rather flummoxed but said nothing further.

    Alaria stepped forward. “Just so, Brother Berk. So perhaps you’d care to tell us what it was about that item the creatures wanted? We have already discerned that they were under the instruction of the evil mage from whom we claimed the orb where it was most definitely being put to some sinsiter purpose. But we cleansed the item with holy water of the goddess Tyris and as you noted earlier, the orb does not seem to have any inherently destructive properties.”

    The wizardess had had more than her share of dealings with sages and students of various magical practice. Brother Berk struck her as one of these men, and despite her irritation at his less than friendly manner, she was hoping such an academic sort of discussion would get his attention.

    Brother Berk continued writing, as he had been the whole time Alaria had spoken. When it seemed he would not respond, he again looked up over his spectacles and sighed.

    “I see this will have to wait.” He set down the quill and clasped his hands together, looking at the mage and halfling with what might been taken as anticipation. When they said nothing further, he began to share his findings.

    “Well, I can tell you nothing about any evil mages or their servants. But you are correct in your assumption about the orb. There is nothing inherently evil, about it. Neither is there anything inherently good.”

    “Uh-oh. That can’t be good.” Haelan mumbled. The pun of his comment completely eluding him.

    Berk ignored the interruption and continued, “ It seems, from what limited time I had with the object, to be elemental in nature. Specifically, the element of Air if I had my guess.

    “As you well know, lady of R’Hath, there are many items of magical nature which are tied to one elemental plane or the other to fuel its power. The Histories of Orea are full of tales with swords that burst into flame or freezing ice, rings that allow the wearer to fly, breathe underwater...”

    At this Haelan burst in “Potions that do that too! We have some of those!”

    Berk looked with open disdain at the halfling, “Quite…May I continue?”

    Haelan looked at his bushy blond hairs atop his feet. Despite his goddess’ tenets of respect for other faiths, the daelvar was finding it more and more difficult to “like” this priest of the All-Knowing.

    “ The process is not completely unknown to me, but requires a great deal of time and energy to bring about. I am not one for the crafting of such items, nor are there any within the Laklans that I can think of who would be engaged in such practices. The Green Witch would be capable, I suppose, but she is more interested in her herbs and potion-making.”

    Now it was Alaria that seemed annoyed. She knew the orb was not Rhea’s nor was she very much concerned with who made it. She just wanted to know what it did and how to use it. Noting her folded arms, Berk began again.

    “Though the disctinction between enchantments applied by divine methods and arcane ones have their subtle but notable differences, I could not specify the properties of this crystal. Nor could I discern the specific nature of its powers.”

    Alaria looked confused, as did Haelan.

    “In other words,” Berk continued with apparent exasperation, “that orb is not strictly arcane in nature, nor divine. I would warrant the guess that it possesses properties of both kinds…or at least applied with both practices.”

    “So,” Alaria summed up, “it is elemental in nature, you think specifically Air ), and is an item of both arcane and divine origin?” Though very little information, Alaria was forced to admit to herself that what the scribe-brother said made sense based on what she had witnessed

    “Quite.” Brother Berk replied. With that, he took up his quill again and began to wrtie. As he did so, he concluded, “That is all I can tell you. Perhaps Rhea might tell you more. If I had more time, I might be able to glean more from it, through the grace of the All-Knowing. But given this evening’s event, I would thank you to get it out of Welford at your earliest convenience.”

    Alaria, completely unsatisfied with Berk’s services, simply nodded and forced a civil “Thank you for your time, Brother. We intend to do just that. Come Haelan.”

    Haelan blurted a brief, “Oh, ok. Good evening to you, Brother.” Then under his breath to Alaria in the hallway, “May Faerantha grant your soul a fragment of her warmth.”

    Alaria found this to be rather amusing but was surprised to see an actual scowl on the halfling’s face as they exited the rectory and met up with Fen, the gnome and the giant ferret waiting for them in the lawn.

    Haelan’s mood improved somewhat as he acquainted himself with the gnome, Gnobert, and was quite taken by the immense but very affectionate “Buttercreamshadowfeet.” The halfling had heard many tales about gnomes in his days, but had never actually met one. The two gabbered most of the way down the road to the pathway that broke off to climb the wooded slope to Rhea’s cottage.

    The gnome and giant ferret gathered quite a bit of attention from the townsfolk, but since they were in the company of the R’Hathi magess (whom they had all heard about by now) and one of her attending men.

    There had been quite a bit of gossip about the elegant magess from the “far away” land and her “stable of males.” The goodwives and shop-women tittered among themselves about whether the dark-haired swordsman or the golden-tressed Redstar Knight or the "carrot-topped druid" were the more handsome. One tale included the steely-haired elf but since he had disappeared earlier that day, some women refused to believe the magess had an elf in her entourage. Rumor also claimed that with the ruckus earlier that day in the constable’s office, that the wizard-woman had ensorcelled that “crass boor of a baker.” The charming druid had made quite an impression on several of the younger maids outside of town, though none were so daring as to approach him. None of Welford’s women wished to get on the bad side of a R’Hathi mage.

    Alaria, Fen, Haelan, Gnobert and the giant ferret, Buttercreamshadowfeet (“I calls her ‘BC’ fer short,” Gnobby offered.) awaited their companions at the pathway that led up through the wooded slope to the cottage of Rhea, the Green Witch.

    As the shadows of evening overtook the secluded vale, the paladin, dwarf and swordsman came racing up the road to meet them.

    Duor rubbed his shoulder where, it was later told, one of the militiamen at the training session had gotten in “a lucky shot” with a quarter staff. But the dwarven rogue refused Haelan’s offer of healing, claiming it would be fine. Coerraine smirked a rare grin when Duor told the story, believing it to be a clear indicator of cosmic justice and penance for the dwarf’s transgression earlier in the day.

    Braddok began, with some urgency, “You won’t believe what’s happened…”

    Fen answered deadpan, “Yes. Wererats. We know.”

    Braddok was a bit befuddled. “What?! Were-…Huh? No!...WOAH! What’s that?!” Braddok’s hand went immediately to his sword as the large masked ferret face poked out from behind Fen.

    Alaria attempted to get things back on track. “It’s fine Braddok. Some new ‘friends’. What’s happened?”

    His hand left his sword but he continued staring at the six foot long furry creature and its three-and-a-half foot tall smiling curly-bearded handler…whose clothing seemed to change from red and yellow to shades of blue and dark purple as he watched.

    “Well, boats have begun arriving from South Imer and Lakesdown <the two villages on the south side of Lake Imerlis, whereas Welford sat along the north-northwestern coast > with refugees from there. South Imer has already been overrun by the goblin army. Look. You can see there.” The swordsman pointed to the southeast.

    From their location higher up the moutain slope, overlooking the town and harbor, an orange glow in the darkening evening was perceivable on the clouds where, according to Braddok, South Imer was supposed to be.

    The news did not sit well with any of the companions. Alaria’s brows lowered. This did not bode well for the hamlet…though its rim of low mountains seemed naturally defensible…and if the goal of the goblin army was, indeed, the elf nation of Miralosta, they would have no cause to assail Welford on their was to the great forest realm.

    “That is, indeed, ill news, Braddok.” Alaria began. “We will go see Rhea, as appointed. Then we will discuss our next move. Perhaps it would be best for us to follow Erevan sooner rather than later.” With that, the magess began the climb thrugh the wooded slop to Rhea’s cottage.

    The others of the group, including the curious (and uninvited) Gnobert the gnome and his giant ferret, fell into pace behind her.

    Next: OWaN Part III

  8. #68
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    Oh What a Night, Part III

    Oh What a Night: Part III

    The band ascended the wooded slope. Evening turned to early night. The rising lesser moon, Sorilorr, shred beams of eerie green light through the still leafy boughs. The green was muted somewhat by the mostly waned greater moon’s silver light. The dancing of the moons’ glow and shadows through the trees and underbrush was both unsettling and mesmerizing.

    Haelan murmured the simple prayer to Faerantha and the head of his mace illuminated with a soft golden glow to light the path.

    Gnobert thought this was quite the handy trick and with a syllable and simple flick of his nimble fingers, the pointed branchlike top of his hood “popped” and was surrounded by a puffball of blue-white light, offering more light for his new friends who couldn’t see in the speckled moonlight as well as the smaller folk.

    Great, it’s true, thought Braddok. A gnome with magic. Braddok had no dealings with gnomes, but it was common knowledge across his homeland of Denil that they were not to be trusted and had a knack for trickery.

    It was alleged among humans that all gnomes were capable of magic, specifically for the purposes of tricks and dishonest dealings. I’ll let Coerraine worry about Duor, the swordsman reasoned. I’ll have my eyes full between the gnome and the druid.

    They passed most of the walk in silence. As the band neared the cottage, Rhea appeared in the cottage’s doorway. Her billowing high-collared green cloak practically shone in the green moonlight bathing the glade in which she lived. The emerald teardrop that hung between her eyebrows glinted brightly. It was no wonder, several members of the party thought, she was known as the ‘Green Witch’.

    “My, my. This is quite an audience.” Rhea said by way of a welcome as they entered the glade. She looked to Gnobert and Buttercream with a smile. “And rather a different one than I recall from earlier.”

    “I am afraid, Lady Rhea, we have some unsettling news since we last spoke. Even…” Alaria began.

    “More questions than you began with…I see.” Rhea responded.

    “Yes.” Answered Alaria. Rhea had plucked the very words from Alaria’s mind with apparent (and alarming to Alaria) ease. The R’Hathi mage relayed the events of the evening, the wererats, the information about the orb, the new refugee situation to the Emerald Tear initiate though, Alaria fully realized, she didn’t have to.

    “Indeed.” Rhea replied with little surprise at any of it.

    “I see your concern, Alaria. Some of it sounds well founded. Though you needed worry about Welford. I have glimpsed the future with my Sight and have seen the goblin army pass Welford by. They appear to have a singular purpose and their leader….this Bulgruch…is a powerful creature though not possessed of a powerful mind to such as I…or you, Alaria.” Rhea finished with a smile.

    This compliment meant quite a lot to the young magess.

    “As to the wererats and this orb. I am afraid I know not. Nor am I aware of a wizard named Tresahd. Though," Rhea chuckled lightly, “even I do not profess to know all wizards, everywhere. May I see the orb?”

    Alaria handed her the mysterious clear crystal. The green cloaked seeress held it in her hand for a moment and stared at it intently.

    The party watched in collective awe as the emerald teardrop of Rhea’s diadem sparkled and flared from some inner light. After a few moments of this, the green gemstone on her brow flared.

    Rhea’s head snapped up from the orb and looked past the party to a shadowed corner of the glade. Her brow furrowed in obvious anger.

    “We are being watched!” Rhea said with absolute assurance. “Make ready.”

    The band wheeled around to where Rhea’s eyes rested. In an almost single fluid motion, all weapons were pointed and drawn, but they saw nothing but the green-bathed woods and shadows. No apparent movement. No foes to be seen.

    Arcanivis!” shouted Alaria.<mage spell: Detect Magic> The sphere of violet light surrounded her outstretched hand and to Alaria’s eyes, a bunched up ball…no…the shape of a coil of rope seemed to glow to her eyes. Within the coil Alaria was able to discern a set of red glowing eyes looking at her.

    “There! In the bushes where Rhea’s looking.” Alaria said forgetting that her magical sight was not available to her companions.

    Golden light shown in Coerraine’s eyes, but even the paladin’s gifted sight could not make out any discernible image. “Where, Alaria? Whatever it is, I see no evil.”

    “Yeah, I don’t see anything.” Duor chimed in. His hand crossbow was nocked. Not one to question two wizardly types, Duor leveled his weapon and fired. The bolt was heard to crash through the undergrowth but nothing seemed to stir.

    “Fen,” Rhea said, “your order has taught you to see beyond visible sight? To find the fayekin <Orean term used for sprites, pixies and other assorted faerie folk> and others cloaked by magical means?”

    The red-haired half-elf nodded and called to mind the simple invocation Rhea spoke of. His lips moved as he whispered the cryptic druidic syllables.

    He made a wide sweeping motion with his spear in the direction all were looking. Haelan and Duor jumped as a swathe of light blue flames arched out from the tip of the spear.

    The fire harmlessly passed over (or was it through, thought Braddok) the warrior and dwarf. It washed through the undergrowth and tree trunks. Nothing burned but where Alaria saw the coil with her enchanted vision, the flames seemed to “stick” to the form she saw.

    The black shape uncoiled and burst forth from its place and streaked into the air.

    Now surrounded in flickering soft blue flames by the druid’s “Faerie fire”, all of the companions jerked back to watch two forms of black shadow wind and dive and circle their way into the glade. They moved like eels or serpents through water, long slender forms, perhaps four feet long each with serpent-like heads that shown with glowing red eyes.

    Duor fired off another bolt as Coerraine moved to stand before Alaria and Rhea. The dart hit unerringly, and flew right through the darkness of the creature to land in the middle of the glade.

    “What are they?!” Haelan called and stepped back as he raised his enchanted shield before him.

    “Magic, for sure.” The dwarf said disappointed.

    “Shadow snakes.” Rhea said plainly. “Only enchanted weapons will harm them. But harm them you must.”

    Haelan immediately mustered his faith and courage to invoke Faerantha’s blessing on their weapons.

    “Deisa Faerantha, dicteus beneficia spiritos y tiem paras.”<cleric spell: Bless, “Holy Faerantha, bless your loyal followers in this time of need.”>

    His pinecone headed mace and Braddok’s sword immediately flared with a honey-colored glow as the Hilltender’s prayer was answered.

    Alaria stepped nearer to Rhea. She had heard of the creatures butwas unable to recall anything specific about them, other than they were creatures conjured from shadow to do a summoner’s bidding.

    “These are the least of the their kind,” Rhea answered to Alaria’s unspoken question. “They are used for observational purposes...spying. It is unlikely they will attack you, there are other larger varieties for that. These simply relay information to the conjurer who brought them to this world.”

    “Tresahd?” Alaria said.

    The emerald teardrop again flared and sparkled. “I cannot say for sure.” Rhea said with obvious apology. “The mind of the caster behind the creatures is faint. Whoever it is, they must be some distance from here.”

    Alaria did not like this tidbit of information at all. But she had no doubt, this is how the dark wizard was following them. The wererats had said they had been told where to find her and the orb.

    Braddok was able to land a blow on one of the shadow snakes, the golden glow from Haelan’s bless spell seem to melt the creature in two and with a whisper of a hiss, the shadowy form dissipated into the green night of Sorilorr's moon.

    The second swirling shadowy form ebbed and curled its way into the air beyond Haelan’s reach.

    This did not keep the daelvar priest from swinging vigorously in the thing’s direction. At one point, the shadow snake swooped directly at the Hilltender and in a panicked swing, Haelan toppled over backwards as his elfin helmet fell into his eyes.

    Buttercreamshadowfeet, had no liking for serpents of any kind. The lengthy cream-colored ferret leaped up and took a purposeful bite at the shadow snake. Of course, the poor ferret's jaws simply snapped as if on nothing and she flopped back to the ground.

    “Aight. Here’s wheer yeer meetin’ yeer end, snakey!” yelled the gnome at the swirling shadow.

    The gnome’s hands and arms began making swirling motions…as if he were miming a juggling act.

    Imberil nossos…” <mage/illusionist spell: Chromatic Orb> As Gnobert incanted, one puffballs of light appeared, then two, then four. Each was a different vibrant color…“BEX!

    On the last syllable, all of the balls turned icy blue and combined into a single sphere that Gnobert seemed to “push” at the shadow snake. The Icy blue sphere streaked to the shadow creature and struck with a flash of blue light. Again there was a whispery hiss as the snake-form faded away along with Fen’s bluish flames. A few snowflakes fluttered to the ground.

    Gnobert swiped his hands together. “E’en that’s that, me friends.”

    That was impressive, master gnome.” Fen smiled as he patted Gnobert on the shoulder.

    “Rhea?” Alaria asked.

    The Green Witch’s emerald teardrop diadem again flickered for a moment. When the light subsided she nodded to Alaria and smiled.

    “We are alone. Well done, friends. But conjuring even the least of these creatures is no small feat. There are few wizards who use such means. It is most common among priests of dark powers. If this Tresahd was the originator, he may be more worrysome than I thought.”

    “Bollux.” Duor and Braddok said in unison. Braddok covered his mouth with his hand in surprise and apologized to Rhea for his vulgarity.

    “Hmph. Quite the compliment, Rhea,” Alaria prodded in jest. “He doesn’t apologize for such language to me.” She smirked at the now blushing warrior.

    Rhea simply smiled. “Now, shall we see to this orb?”

    “And that stone hoop.” Haelan added. “What’s that do?”

    Rhea chuckled softly again. “Indeed, Haelan Hilltender, and the ‘stone hoop’ too. Come.” The Green Witch led the party further up the slope beyond her cottage. She moved with almost elf-like elegance, her bright green cloak flowing around her giving the appearance that she floated over the increasingly steep terrain.

    Haelan, leaned over to their new gnome companion and commented, again, in sincere relief, “Thank Faerantha, that’s over. You shouldn’t be discouraged. We don’t normally have such troubles in our travels.”

    “Ye don’ say?” Gnobert replied. “Theer’s a pity. Seems quite a bitta fun.”

    “Well, I did get kidnapped by a harpy one time…” Haelan began and regaled the gnome with his abduction on Dragonbone Isle to the amusement of Rhea and some of the other companions.

    Next: Oh What a Night: Part IV...?

  9. #69
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    “…and that’s when we found the big harpy’s nest and fought a crab-demon-man. But that’s a tale for another time.” Haelan concluded as the group broke through the trees to a wide broad, almost perfectly circle flat plain.

    On the far side, the sheer rock of the mountainside formed a wall on two sides. The rock tapered off to the north and formed a small rim to the glade. Toward the center of the opening, a rectangular flat-topped jut of natural rock broke the level plain, like a table or an altar.

    Looking over the edge, the party could see lights from the tops of some of Welford town. There were also several lights from boats crossing the lake that shimmered green and white in the dueling moonlight.

    “We are here.” Rhea said. The seeress neared the risen stone and moved around it, to stand facing the party. Out in the open, Rhea’s cloak and robe and jeweled diadem sparkled and shone in the emerald light of Sorilorr. Her eyes rose to meet Braddok’s with a smirk on her face.

    Braddok’s eyes widened and the warrior turned back toward the view downslope, blushing.

    Alaria could only guess what the Green Witch had “heard” in the dark-haired swordsman’s mind.

    Men, she thought.

    *They are good for some things, you know, magess.* Rhea’s voice sounded quietly to her thoughts. Now it was Alaria’s turn to look surprised and blush.

    “Come closer, magess.” Rhea said. “And any of you who would wish to see, before we begin.”

    Gnobert was not at all shy about bounding up to the rock. He stood on the tips of his curly-toed shoes to peek over the edge of the rock table. Haelan did the same on his bushy-haired feet. Fen stood near enough to see over the small folk. Coerraine, ever watchful should anything sudden occur that might put Alaria in jeopardy, stayed within arm’s reach of his charge and viewed the flat rock with cautious curiosity. Duor and Braddok watched from a distance.

    Fen remarked on the apparent “power” the site that he felt. Alaria also sensed the tingle of magic in the air all around the flat opening. The tingle became consistent hum to her arcane senses the closer she got to the stone slab.

    Rhea passed an arm over the top of the rock and in the wake of her gloved hand an image appeared etched in the rock. When she had waved her arm over the whole of the slab, it was clear the carving was an image of a map of the whole of Orea. The outline of the coast, the Daegun mountains to the south that abut Coerraine’s homeland of Mostrial, the great southern forest of Mistwood (birthplace of Fen’s “Ancient Holy Order”), the ancient elvinhold of ShiStaliir (much larger than Alaria had seen it on more recent maps), the Worldcrest range at the frozen top of the world, the Gorunduu plains, just about every geographical feature of significance.

    A moment after the physical features of the map appeared, more etchings in the stone showed themselves. It was writing of some kind. The language was unknown to most of the companions, but Haelan and Alaria readily identified it as the tongue of the ancient Selurian Empire…the same tongue in which priestly rites and magics were conducted to this very day and many ancient tomes of magic were scribed.

    Some of the names that appeared confused Haelan, but Alaria easily recognized the names of several ancient sites and cities of legend, names of provinces and geographical features tht had not existed since before the empire’s fall, before the Godswar.

    Most notable, to Alaria, was the lack of the Zarchan Mountains (which separate R’Hath from the Orean mainland which were not raised until the formation of R’Hath, long after the Godswar) and the area where R’Hath now sat was labeled as “Vot.” Alaria explained for the others that Vot was the name of the province in the Empire’s day. It would, centuries later, be claimed by the “Founding Five” Archmagi to form the realm of R’Hath.

    Below the southern coastline of the map sat a small indented circle. Rhea pulled out the stone ring from some hidden pouch and place the bracelet sized hoop in the depression. It fit perfectly.

    “This,” Rhea explained, “as you can see, is a map of ancient Orea. It is tolariam <Old Selurian: “Telling Stone”>. It is a device some of the learned through the ages have come to call an ‘identifier.’ The Selurians, as you well know, were very advanced in the practice of magic and these maps were placed throughout locales in the Empire for the purposes of tracking locations and identifying items of enchantment, and thus the persons in possession of them, across their realms. How many survive to this day is unknown and the location of this one is a guarded secret so I will thank you all to keep it so.”

    “And it still works?” Haelan asked innocently. “I thought the Selurians were gone and eaten up by their demonlords in the Godswar.” The daelvar priest looked to Coerraine, “This thing isn’t evil is it? Powered by some infernal source?”

    Rhea laughed openly. Alaria smiled an apologetic smile to the Green Witch. “My, but you are a wonder are you not, little one. Though it is true, the histories have not been so kind to the Selurians. But, no my hairfooted friend, they were not demon worshippers. Though many were dangerously powerful wizards. So they developed divining devices, like this one, to keep an eye on their empire. ”

    “Can this…’identifier’…tell us the properties of the orb?” Alaria asked. The hope in her tone was palpable.

    “It can, indeed, and much more. But it would not be able to do anything without its key.” She lifted the stone hoop from the depression and placed it back again. It is my great pleasure to reward you and your companions, as a tribute of thanks to Vertior, for finding it and returning it to me. But first…”

    Rhea placed her hands upon the edge of the stone and began an incantation Alaria did not recognize, though the lilt and timbre of the syllables were reminiscent to her ear of elvish. Her emerald teardrop again began to pulse and sparkle with its inner light. Rhea spoke the same phrase three times and at the end of the third time said, in the common tongue “the Fire Staff of Nator”.

    As she finished, the stone hoop rose out of the depression and skitted around the map making broad circles at first and then subsequent smaller circles. The circles continued to get smaller and as they did, it seemed the hoop itself shrunk as the device became more and more specific in its locating. Finally, it came to rest toward the western part of the continent, not far from someplace labeled “Nane Tarum.” The hoop was again no larger than the ring it had appeared in the packet. The hole in the center of it glowed red.

    Rhea frowned slightly.

    “What’s wrong, Rhea?” Haelan asked quickly.

    Alaria also was concerned by the seeress’ reaction. “The Fire Staff of Nator, Rhea? It truly exists?”

    The Staves of Nator were legendary items reputed to possess immense powers over the elements. As legend told, the greatest Archmage of the Founding Five and R’Hath’s first Archmagus Imperius, Nator, was the most powerful and crafted a magic staff for each of his fellow founding mages.

    There was one for each of the four cardinal elements: Air, Earth, Fire and Water. Each was rumored to grant nearly god-like sway over its element. The fifth staff was Nator’s own and was told to hold power of all of the elements, that none of the other founding mages might usurp Nator’s power and throne.
    The R’Hathi magess thought all of the Staves of Nator had been lost to the ages long ago. If they truly existed, Alaria thought, a wizard in possession of even one Staff of Nator, would be nearly unstoppable.

    “It does indeed, magess…I am sorry to say.” Rhea responded. “But it is not of any dire concern. I now know its location, and if I do not miss my guess, I am well acquainted with its wielder.” Alaria noted a slight furrow to Rhea’s brow. “I shall convene with some of my more…accomplished friends and see what is to be done about it.

    “Now,” Rhea seemed to relax a bit, “let us see to your orb.” She took the stone ring and replaced it in its depression. Then she placed the crystal sphere on top of it. Again, she recited a verse in that same elf-like tongue. The orb began to glow a soft white light that then seemed to shatter, as if light passing through a prism and cast beams of various colors that rose about a foot above it. At the same time a pinpoint of white light shone on the map, not far to the east and north of their current location.

    “By the Emerald Tear.” Rhea said, obviously impressed. “This is quite a bit of magic you have found yourself, Magess Alaria. No wonder this Tresahd person wants it back to badly.”

    “What is it? What do these lights mean? Is that where it is from?” Alaria’s ever-questioning nature all but burst from here, as if she were a first year apprentice again. Alaria mentally chastised herself for the obvious lack of composure and control, ingrained during her years of training as the utmost importance in the working of magic.

    “Quite correct. Very good.” Rhea smiled in reply. “This point,” she indicated the light on the map face, “is where the crystal originated. Hmmm.” Rhea thought a moment.

    “If I am not incorrect, that would be in the lower Zarchan mountains these days. Doesn’t look too far…perhaps a couple of weeks. Of course, travel through mountains is so slow going…”Rhea halted herself from digressing further.

    The Green Witch examined the colored rays shining off of the orb, itself. “This blue light indicates the orb possesses elemental magic, transmutational in nature most likely. Come here, Alaria.” She moved Alaria into position and Alaria could see, at the flat face of the termination of the beam a character was inscribed. “Do you know what that means?”

    Alaria took a long look. It seemed familiar. Never wanting to be wrong, she finally made her best guess, “It looks similar to the character for Air in the elvish writing.”

    “Quite so.” Rhea said with a smile. “The Selurians learned their tongue and writing, specifically in the working of their magic, mind you, from the ancient elves. It is not so strange that their arcane sigils would not be far from it. It possesses transmutating magic specifcally related to the element of Air. And this beam,” she indicated the beam soft pink, “the color marks as having illusionary powers”

    Alaria looked at the end of the pink beam to see a marking she thought loosely translated at “mist” or “cloud”. Rhea concurred.

    “Eer, I wanna see.” Piped in Gnobert. “Here Pally, gives us a lift.” The gnome indignantly waved Coerraine over to him. The paladin reluctantly complied and lifted the gnome high enough to look down on the colored beams.

    “Oooooo. This is a good one.” The gnome said pointing to the shaft of white light.

    “You know what it says?” Alaria said in surprise.

    “Well, not exacataly. But if ye look at it juuuust so,” the gnome twisted his head to the side until it looked like it would pop off his shoulders, “t’looks like the gnomish character fer invisibility.” Gnobert stuck his finger out just far enough to touch the orb and said, “Repleesh!

    Sure enough, the gnome being held up by Coerraine vanished from sight. The Redstar Knight confirmed that he was, indeed, still holding the gnome but was also amazed at the trick. Coerraine jerked the gnome away from the stone and when his touch was broken, Gnobert quickly reappeared.

    “HohoHeeHeeee. I gotsta get me one o’ these!” Gnobert laughed in glee.

    The following couple of hours were used to fully detail the powers of the crystal orb, which the tolariam named Ihs Repahl <Old Selurian: “The Windsoul” or “Soul of Wind”>. In addition to controlling winds to the wielder’s whims, the orb was also able to endow the wielder with Levitation, Invisiblity, create an obsucuring fog and its greatest power, transform up to six individuals into cloud-like form (duplicating the Wind Walk spell)

    Next was Haelan’s shield, which the tolariam dubbed “Hohd Brin Gibahk” <dwarvish: “Shield of the Lord Brin”>.

    “Heh. Told yeh it was a dwarf made.” Duor added unimpressed.

    The shield was imbued with the enchantment of Defense <+2 to AC> and Returning.

    The latter seemed to confuse Haelan. “Where does it return from?” the halfling asked.

    “Give it here, hairfoot.” Duor offered. Haelan passed the shield to the dwarf rogue and Duor flung the shield, side-arm, at the rockface of the mountain at the far end of the clearing. The shield clanged loudly against the stone and flew with great speed back to Duor’s awaiting hand.

    “An’ that is a returning enchantment.” Duor said matter-of-factly as he handed the shield back to the daelvar priest whose mouth hung agape.

    Then Duor pulled out his glowing green dagger and placed it on the identifier. “My turn.” He said.

    The dagger didn’t seem to have a name of its own. But the enchantments upon it seemed potent. The weapon was imbued with the Striking spell <+1 to hit and damage> and a special additional magic for disrupting otherworldly material that Rhea called “Etherealness” <+3 damage to intangible creatures>. The green glow was the result of this second enchantment, according to Rhea. She said it was the blade’s connection to this “Ethereal plane” that allowed the weapon to strike those unable to be struck by mortal means. She further explained, some of the energy from that other plane seeped into their world surrounding the blade, which formed the pale green light.

    “So, yer sayin’ my dagger is oozing this ether stuff into our world?” Duor said somewhat disbelieving.

    Rhea smiled and nodded.

    “Cooooool.” Duor said.

    Alaria’s ring was, indeed, a ring of protection <+1 to AC and all saving throws> as well as addition enchantments <+3 protection instead of +1> against creatures of the elemental plane of earth.

    Their evening concluded, Rhea removed the "key" from the tolariam and with a wave of her hand, the face of the stone slab again faded to appear nothing more than flat natural rock.

    The band descended the slope from the secret magical stone and returned to Rhea’s cottage. The seeress said she would do what she could to learn more about "this Tresahd person and his purpose." But did caution the party to be wary and alert, siting that if he could conjure shadow snakes once, he might do so again.

    Many thanks were given and the companions made their return to the Inn at the Lake with the intentions for some solid rest and an early start to continue on their way after Erevan to Miralosta, the nation of the “Watchers of the Moon.”

    Next time: "You Take the High Elf Road and I'll take the Low..."

  10. #70
    Cutpurse (Lvl 5)

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    Jan 2002
    Plano, TX
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    ø Block wolff96

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    The identification -- the split beams of light and glyphs -- is quite possibly the coolest thing I've read in quite some time. I really like that idea and will have to remember it.

    Still loving the story hour, steeldragons!

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