Spring Ceramic DM™: WINNER POSTED! - Page 51
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    Yes, there is no way I can get done in time. I'm sorry.

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    You still have half an hour. Worry less about colors and formatting.

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    I Defended The Walls!

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    Don't worry about them at all. Just put fake footnotes in, e.g.

    "And then he slunk across the soccer field, the wolverine clinging tenaciously to his buttocks." [1]

    [1] thatsgottahurt.jpg
    Last edited by mythago; Sunday, 25th April, 2004 at 04:41 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mythago
    "And then he slunk across the soccer field, the wolverine clinging tenaciously to his buttocks."
    Whoa. Talk about prescient.

    What she said; there's no penalty or problem with not using hyperlinks, so don't worry about that.

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    (I took a little liberty with the pictures.)

    Due to an unfortunate error, the illustrator for this story was unfamiliar with certain elements of fantasy, particularly that the Underdark is underground. Therefore, for all illustrations, please pretend humans are dark elves, plants are fungus, and the sky is the ceiling. Thank you.

    * * *

    The echoing wilds of the Setarhpue river guided Rodinn home. Through miles of caverns, fungal forests drenched in acrid oils, and plains of desolate, bare stone, young Rodinn walked, carrying the heavy weight of a sedated pig he had purchased in the marketplace of Dadhgab, the nearest city to his home. His family could not leave their village, the threat of attack by the Guenhavesti army keeping them busy preparing magical wards and charms for the small town. Rodinn had gone alone today, bartered with the Taranesti in Dadhgab for the sacrificial pig and a few spell components his father could use, and he struggled now to get back home before the tide shifted, and crossing the river became dangerous.

    Rodinn entered the village’s northern side and smiled to the nervous adults that he passed, frowns on their dark-skinned faces. His family’s house was on the southern bank, across the Setarhpue river, on the very edge of Guenhavesti lands, and many warriors of the village were streaming across the bridge now, preparing defenses. Not realizing the urgency, Rodinn took a short detour to the house of his friend Beired, for he was still young enough to want to play in the face of danger.

    “The Guenhavesti army is on its way now,” said Beired’s father, talking with another villager. Standing before the low brick house of Rodinn’s friend, both men wore hide armor and uneasily handled their swords as they discussed the imminent attack. “They came down from Behnrdi Hills last night. A few hundred warriors, a few wizards.”

    The other villager cursed, then cringed as he saw the young Rodinn standing beside them. “Oh look, it’s Beired’s friend. Brought some food for your family?”

    Rodinn grinned up at the two men, his crimson eyes pleased to share a secret. “My mother needs the entrails to bind a demon. She hopes it will help fight the Guenafsti.”

    Beired’s father nodded. “Then you need to hurry. The south bank will have to evacuate soon.”

    “Is Beired here to play?”

    Beired’s father grimaced at Rodinn. “Now is not the time for fun, child. You probably dawdled enough, and I see you wasted some of your family’s money on trinkets.”

    “Mother lets me learn magic! I’m going to defend the city too.”

    “Hmph. Well, get home, and maybe we won’t-”

    The other man pointed past Beired’s father, across the river. “Look. Torches.”

    At the edge of the village’s cavern, further than any of the Taranesti could see with their normal sight, the faint light of dozens of torches burned, the military standard of the Guenhavesti. They were less than a mile away now, and alarm drums began to sound, echoing across the vast cavern. Beired’s father shoved Rodinn.

    “Go, to your parents, quickly. They should already be fleeing, but they’ll need the swine. Hurry!”

    Rodinn turned away and ran, but glanced back in time to see Beired’s face staring out from behind the house. Rodinn waved and sprinted toward the bridge.

    The long rope bridge shuddered under the feet of dozens of Taranesti warriors, and Rodinn walked carefully, nervous about slipping and falling into the river twenty feet below. When he finally made it across and reached his family’s home, he had a hard time keeping up, his older siblings and his parents in a blur as they rushed the ritual to summon the demon. Rodinn tried to watch, but his father forced him out. The last thing Rodinn saw was an array of priceless wax candles burning in the pattern of a summoning circle, before the curtain to the room was tugged shut.

    He knew that he had to reach the northern side of the river, but he could not resist the temptation to watch the approach of the Guenhavesti army as they swept down the hills outside the village. Their skin was dark like his, their clothes somewhat different, but they were people, just the same. Too young to understand why they would be cruel and attack his family, Rodinn simply stared as the first volley of curses and energy missiles struck the town wall. The Taranesti warriors were outnumbered, and within minutes the stone wall had been magically reshaped into a clear path. The Guenhavesti army, torches held high, charged into the city. They were only a hundred feet away when Rodinn felt his shoulder being tugged.

    “Stupid child, get across the bridge.” Rodinn turned to see Beired’s father, who had broken off from his fellow warriors to pull Rodinn away. “Don’t argue, just run.”

    Angry, Rodinn backed away, ducking as he ran. He heard the sound of earth cracking behind him, and the nearest building’s stone walls shattered, destroying the cover Beired’s father had been using. He and other warriors charged, dodging Guenhavesti spears and sorcerous blasts.

    In the distance, Rodinn glimpsed a tall black fire demon tearing through a few of the attackers, and he smiled with hope. But a moment later, he heard voices shouting orders to cut the bridge, and Rodinn broke into a run. He weaved behind animal pens and through the tents in the town courtyard, trying to keep out of sight of the Guenhavesti wizards as he neared the bridge. He could hear them closing quickly, and he felt himself being overwhelmed by the sound of booted feet pounding on the ground.

    But then he heard a familiar voice, Beired’s shouting at him from the middle of the bridge. “Rodinn! Hurry, they’re right behind you!”

    Rodinn was only thirty feet from the bridge, but he dared not look behind him. The fear on Beired’s face was enough to terrify him. Not waiting for Rodinn, Beired turned and ran too, and at the far shore, Rodinn could see Taranesti men waving the boy in, holding blades ready to slash the bridge. One was waving at Rodinn too, but just as he reached the first few steps of the bridge, the far end was cut. Rodinn pulled up short, grabbing onto the rail to keep from falling, and cried out as the bridge began to sag and fall into the Setarhpue river.

    On the northern shore, Beired was shouting, crying for his friend, but the sounds of battle overwhelmed his voice.

    * * *

    Years later, long after Rodinn’s home was just a vague memory, he found himself again on the Setarhpue river, again in the company of Guenhavesti soldiers. A week ago, he had stood in the grand muster of the Guenhavesti army, preparing to go to war for his adoptive people, silently trying to remember the land he would soon be fighting in. His return had come just a bit sooner than he had expected, as he was recruited specifically a a guide for a scouting party for the army. There had never been any victors in this war, but neither side could end the fight.

    He was supposed to lead them to vulnerable villages and bring back information for the attacks, but the land was foreign to him as if he had never lived here, and he had misgivings about his people’s invasion. He could barely recognize the landmarks of the river, but something of the place caused his thoughts to drift on the darkened tides of homeland.

    No one was here to welcome his return.

    “You filthy, demon-son of a Taranesti, put some more arm into that oar!” Rodinn’s commander beat him on the shoulder with the flat of his sword, and Rodinn quickly forced himself to row harder. “Taranesti patrols will be on this river in a few hours, and with the slack-assed pace you’re moving us, they’ll catch us before we reach the sea.”

    Rodinn said nothing. He always said nothing. Enough beatings had taught him the pleasure of rebellion was best enjoyed in silence. Instead he focused on rowing, pressing their small three-man boat downstream toward the Nilshahal Sea, where their mission lay. Getting them there sooner wouldn’t make his commander stop insulting him for his heritage, but it might stop the beatings.

    T’penga, the Guenhavesti sorceress, leaned off the front edge of the boat and dangled her hand in the water. “Ebb tide,” she said, turning back to the commander. She grimaced slightly at the pain on Rodinn’s face, then shook her head. “Sukem, we’re going more than fast enough. No Taranesti are going to catch up with us.”

    The commander sat down in the back seat of the boat and laughed. “We don’t need that. We’ve got one here. I bet you’d enjoy that, Rodinn, us being caught by the Taranesti. Speak up, will you?”

    Rodinn silently rowed on, and the three Guenhavesti laughed, even T’penga. Rodinn imagined Commander Sukem dying somehow, horribly. Last night he had dreamed about his mother, a fleeting, terrifying image of something infernal. He didn’t know what it had been, but he envisioned it snapping his commander’s arms off, and tossing them into the river. Not that it would help, of course. All of the Guenhavesti army was like this. They were his only family, the ones who had trained him and allowed him to live despite being the son of an evil people. He served them with the loyalty he owed them, but he didn’t like many of them, and every one of them hated him. It would take many snapped-off arms to change that, enough to stain the waters of the Nilshahal red.

    “What in hell?” T’penga pulled her hand out of the water and wiped it on her pant leg. The cloth was stained red. “Blood?”

    Sukem stood up and shoved his way past Rodinn, knocking the oars out of his hands. “All of you, quiet,” he said, and Rodinn laughed. He didn’t bother to cringe as Sukem kicked him in the back.

    T’penga and Sukem whispered at the front of the boat, nervously considering the possibilities as the current carried them into a swath of thick, bloody water. “Go on then,” Sukem whispered. “Do it.”

    Sitting back cross-legged in the boat, T’penga began to cast a scrying spell, her hair shifting from black to white momentarily as the magic flowed through her. Rodinn leaned halfway off the side of the boat, trying to get an angle to watch her actions as she cast the spell, and he listened closely to her words, hoping to catch something he might learn. The soft tug of magic reminded him of his dreams, where he saw his parents, and though he had always been forbidden by the Guenhavesti from learning ‘infernal Taranesti magic,’ the presence of spellcasters comforted him.

    T’penga finished her spell. The boat drifted silenly, the only sound the lapping of water on stone, and their breathing. In Rodinn’s sight, the energy from the divination flowed downriver, an invisible eye scouting ahead.

    Water or blood dripped into the river just out of sight, echoing to them. T’penga’s voice emerged almost inaudbily from the sound. “Something great and dead lies among the rocks around the next bend. It has killed Taranesti, several hours old.”

    Worry in her voice, T’penga turned to look at them. “Its blood flows upstream.”

    Surprised, Rodinn said, “I find that happens if you get beaten enough.” The words were just out of his mouth when Sukem kicked him in the arm.

    “It’s probably cursed. We don’t investigate. T’penga, conceal us.”

    The sorceress tapped the side of the boat. “The depression in the water will still be visible.”

    Sukem nodded and walked past Rodinn again to the back of the boat. “We’ll let the current carry us. No one make a sound.”

    A moment later, the three of them and their boat were hidden, invisible from without, gliding silently down the river, only making noise when Rodinn had to adjust their course when the river swerved. After a minute, they turned around a bend in the river canyon, and saw it.

    Huge boulders had been gouged from the canyon walls, rended with claw marks. A handful of dead Taranesti warriors lay strewn amid the boulders, their weapons snapped. But above it all was the beast’s body, draped limply over two of the stones. Golden scaled, tainted with green and black, the creature was over sixty feet long, judging from what they could see. Its head lay near the shore, blood dripping from between its silvery teeth. Rodinn could not imagine how this creature could have been killed by just a handful of warriors, or why anyone would leave such precious metals behind as those that made up the beast’s scales.

    A warm gust of air slipped from the beast’s nostrils, and one of its long, clawed forelegs shifted. It dug its talons into the sand of the shore, and the entire body lurched forward slightly. On the boat, everyone froze. Dragons were renowned for being able to hear as well as most creatures could see, and even wounded, it might be able to kill them all.

    Help kill me, please. said a voice, echoless and pleading.

    Rodinn looked to his commander, and saw no sign that the man would respond. His expression was simply one of fear at the creature’s remaining ragged life, and his breaths were shallow.

    “Sounds like a reasonable request,” Rodinn whispered, and the three Guenhavesti winced, staring at him with murder in their eyes.

    You wonder why I wish to die? Stop, stop. Stay a moment.

    The great dragon reached out with its right claw and grasped the front of the boat, even hidden. Drawing in their breath, the Guenhavesti readied weapons and prepared to attack, but Rodinn reached out and touched the Dragon’s nearest claw, seeing it was slashed open and clotted with blood.

    T’penga noticed his movement, and she quickly drew a dagger and began to apply poison to its blade. Rodinn looked at the others, trying to convey silently that they could talk their way out of this, but he himself didn’t know what to say. Sukem was slowly lifting a metal spear from the bottom of the boat.

    “I think they’re going to attack you,” Rodinn stammered, fear making him giddy. Growling, Sukem stepped on Rodinn’s back and raised his spear to hurl at the Dragon’s face, but the aim suddenly grew humid and heavy, and a command crept into their bodies.

    Stop. Listen. I must talk with this one.

    Unable to control his movement, Sukem’s momentum toppled him over and he fell into the river. Rodinn tried to reach for him, but he was swept away, his armor quickly pulling him under. T’penga was also motionless, and Rodinn cowered in the back of the boat, overwhelmed by the great creature in front of him.

    I fled here myself, from my home. They will not let me die there, and they use me as a tool for evil. My children do not obey me, and now I just want to die. I . . . I tried to force these ones here to fight me, but my children put something inside me, so I cannot let myself die. I’m sorry that I asked you here.

    “Large Dragons don’t need to apologize,” Rodinn chuckled, wondering if he could swim to safety without having his body paralyzed. “I’m sorry we got in the way of your dying, but, why do you want to die. Too many people are killed here already. I think that if you could get this far, you should just keep running. I would if I could.”

    Rodinn cringed, not realizing how true those words felt until he said them. But there was no retort from a Guenhavesti soldier, and he smiled, for a moment. The Dragon considered him, solid golden eyes blinking with interest, and he thought it smiled too.

    You are oppressed too, held by these people. Your family traps you as well. Your path should not lie here.

    “My path? I’m going, um, to the sea? Should I not go to the sea? We have to scout. The army thinks it can attack Melasurej by sea, and they’re sending forces to sieze this river soon.”

    Beside him, T’penga strained at the holding spell, and began to move her hands. Rodinn watched nervously, pushing himself to the other side of the boat, as the sorceress quickly shouted out the words to a spell. The Dragon lurched to cover her face, giving T’penga enough time to finish her spell. Throwing out her hand, she hurled a crackling sphere of fire, which struck the Dragon’s tainted gold scales and exploded. The heat from the blast seared the water, and T’penga shouted at Rodinn as the smoke cleared.

    “Grab the oars! Get us out of here!”

    From the smoke, a single mighty claw swept out, knocking the Guenhavesti sorceress off the boat. She spun as she flew toward the water, her arms and chest gashed, and with a scream the woman plunged in the river. Rodinn said nothing, not sure whether his luck had taken a turn for better or worse.

    Emerging from the dissipating cloud of smoke, the Dragon pushed herself to her feet, then reached out and pulled the boat to shore. The rocks she had been laying on glowed red with heat, and the hull of the boat sizzled on the sands of the shore.

    Follow me. I return you home, that you may some day repay me this same favor.

    Rodinn, terrified that the Dragon might kill him too, stood and followed. As he stepped off the boat, though, he realized that when the creature had stood, it left its body behind, lying on the rocks. The form standing above him was only semi-solid, hard to see in his normal sight, but glowing dimly with normal light.

    Rodinn pointed at the nearly lifeless draconic body. “Um, are you going to just, you know, leave this here?”

    The Dragon’s spirit laughed softly, and kept on walking, climbing up the edge of the bank to the top of the canyon. Yes, that is certainly not the path you are intended.

    To synopsize the next part, they travel to a village where an adult Beired lives, the Dragon guiding him there and vanishing as soon as the local Taranesti spot him, so that he’s the only one who saw the Dragon’s spirit. Beired is glad to see him, but doesn’t really treat him as a friend, since they hardly know each other now. He stays for a day, uncomfortable and uncertain about whether to warn them of the approaching attacks. The next day, T’penga finds him in the village and orders him to come with her, and Rodinn finds out that she fished Sukem out of the river before the commander drowned. They flee back to the river, finding the Dragon’s body gone. When Rodinn tries to explain why he left, T’penga tells him to be silent. Lacking the will to resist, he obeys, and they cross the river in the ruined boat, then finds their way back to the Guenhavesti army. T’penga gives them information on how to reach Beired’s village through an overhead cavern that bypasses the river, which she charmed out of one of the villagers.

    The night before the attack, Rodinn wakes up, talking in his sleep but not remembering if he had a dream. He realizes that he could escape tonight, and run to explore wherever he wanted, without being forced to obey. But he sees the army getting ready to attack, and remembers his two different families, the Taranesti and the Guenhavesti.

    The next morning, the Guenhavesti army musters, ready to march a small company of warriors to attack, Rodinn among them. When they get within sight of the village, Commander Sukem, standing at the front corner of the unit, gives them the order to attack. Rodinn says no, and refuses to attack, and Sukem orders the other soldiers to attack him as a traitor. Rodinn says he doesn’t want anyone else to get themselves killed stupidly, so he warns them to back off. They ignore him and attack, and, for the first time in years, he is able to cast a spell, the same fireball he saw T’penga cast. The blast warns the Taranesti of the attack, and kills most of the soldiers, but gives Rodinn time to flee, and be free.

  6. #506
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    I almost didn't make it in at all. Apparently board time is 8 minutes ahead of real time. *sad*

  7. #507
    Congratulations! You made it!

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    I know how you feel Ryan! I wasn't sure I would sneak mine in under the deadline either. I scrapped any attempt at hyperlinking and just hoped that my notes in the story were accurate and sufficient.

    Heck I didn't even proofread it. So, I hope it is readable without too many glaring grammar errors.

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    So yeah, what basically happened was: finals, Elements of Magic, staying up late to celebrate being done with my last class for my college career, and then a long, long crash of sleep.

    I woke up at 3pm today, cleaned up, made food, ran to the bank for money, got back, brainstormed a bit on the story, got an email that (hurray!) Elements of Magic is ready and laid out, I got sidetracked watching a silly rip-off of Dr. Strangelove, and then at 8 I realized, "Crap, I've only got three hours left!" And at 10:30, when I posted I didn't think I had enough time left, I realized that ENWorld said it was 10:38. I nearly died after that.

    I hope you enjoy what's there. For what it's worth, I enjoyed writing it, and I'll probably go back and finish it in a few days. So don't view this as an unfinished story -- view it as insight into my process of writing.

    Yeah, that's it. That sounds much less like I was slacking. *nervous grin*

    P.S., it's always fun when something out of left field helps you define a bit of your game world. I've had this character sitting as a side side side side character I wanted to fit into the world, and some of the pictures just sparked my imagination. Particularly 'Listen.' Read the latest post I made in Pkitty's storyhour to find out why. *grin*

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    Quote Originally Posted by mythago
    Darn it, now I want salsa!

    Where are those judges, anyway...
    Eep My fault (big surprise).

    I'm currently trying to get 25 student novellas marked and commented on between now and Wednesday, so I've been trying to avoid the online world as much as possible.

    Coupled with the move away from a house where I had a phone-line dedicated to dial-up, it's left me kind of behind on this for the weekend. All things going well, I'll be adding a print out of the current entries to the bottom of my marking pile and sending out a judgment Tuesday afternoon.

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