Cassael's Lament - An Eberron Story (Updated 5/1)

Anti-Sean

Villager
Sypheros 18, 998 YK
Aundair
250 miles NE of Fairhaven


A cold, hard rain poured down from the storm clouds that had rolled in from the Eldeen Bay, bringing the promise of an early winter with them. The passengers of the lightning rail bound for Thaliost were warm and dry inside the various passenger and dining carts, paying little heed to the weather outside. All of them, that is, save for one...

Massive hands of stone and steel gripped the edge of the lightning rail, finding solid purchase along the smooth, wet surface. As the rainfall increased, quickening the stacatto rhythm it drummed across the roof, powerful muscles of tightly corded wood and leather animated by arcane might vaulted their owner from the side of the cart. Landing as nimbly as a carnival acrobat despite his size, Autumn stared ahead at his quarry: the servant who had attacked Niv during dinner. The boy was not alone. Difficult to hear over the noise of the storm and the speed of the lightning rail, he was deep in an animated conversation with a fully armored soldier of the Order of the Emerald Claw. Looking around, Autumn noticed that he had climbed up directly into the middle of a squad of Emerald Claw soldiers.

A guttural laugh rolled out from deep within the beard covered by the soldier's half-faceplate helm as he pushed the boy aside. "You're a persistent one, clank, I'll give you that! But to no avail. Your persistence has only succeded in hastening your doom."

Autumn replied in a low, sonorous voice somewhere between the creaking limbs of an oak tree swaying in the breeze, and the wind rustling through the leaves of a deep forest. "'Clank?'. How sad. I've heard more imaginative insults from urchins in the street. Did you come up with that one yourself, or did your lackeys here have to help you? Tell me where I can find Morathus, and I'll let you go without too severe of a beating. The boy, on the other hand, will pay for attacking my companion."

"Aye, he should pay dearly. He was supposed to kill the stupid witch, but he couldn't even manage a task as simple as that. Our mistress demands better." With those words, he slipped a dagger between the ribs of the unexpecting boy, twisting his wrist as he pulled the dagger out, and re-sheathed it in one fluid motion.

"Open your eyes, fool! Morathus has abandoned you. You are here alone and outnumbered! Surrounded by elite soldiers of the Order of the Emerald Claw! No mere warforged can compare to the likes of us!"

"You're right, there is no comparison - for instance, I can count past three. Now, I was going to allow you to call for reinforcements to give you a fighting chance, but if you refuse to cooperate, we can begin any time you'd like."

"Insolent dog! I'll have your head for that! Tear it to pieces!"

The soldiers began to move in slowly, shields raised and flails starting to spin. Autumn drew the quarterstaff from the sling on his backpack, quietly whispering a prayer to the spirits of the clouds above and the plains hurtling by. The wood of the staff thrummed and pulsed with power as it settled into his grip. One hand at the base, the other towards the middle, he held the staff forward in a guard position as he crouched low, waiting for the attack. They were taking their time, certain of their eventual victory. Two soldiers in front of him moved forward. Autumn knew from years of bitter experience that this was a feint to draw him out, as the two behind him moved in for the actual strike.

Faster than the eye could follow, Autumn spun around to his left, catching one of the soldiers creeping up on him across the face, denting his helm and sending him sprawling across the roof of the cart. Quick as a whip, his staff swung upwards, crashing down on the helm of the soldier next to him a moment later, dropping him immediately. Before anyone could react he charged to the side, barreling into another soldier, knocking him off of the lightning rail. The screams of the hapless soldier trailed off in the distance as Autumn leapt back to his original position. A flash from the lightning arcing from a conductor stone illuminated the looks of shock and surprise on the faces of the two soldiers in front of him.

True to form, however, the soldiers regained their composure and pressed forward to attack as their comrades closed in tighter. Shield bashes and flail strikes were buffeted back easily, knocked aside by stinging rebukes from Autumn's quaterstaff. A sweep of his staff knocked one foe off of his feet. Autumn brought his foot down over the soldiers helm to finish him off. His comrade joined him a few minutes later, brought low by an onslaught of staff strikes and punches. A few more whispered words of power, and the hafts of the flails the two remaining solders held bent and twisted, rendering them useless. Seeing the fate in store for them, one soldier leapt from the side of the lightning rail while the other ran towards the front of the vehicle, leaving their captain to face the warforged alone.

"Worthless cowards! I'll finish you myself!"

The captain rushed forward, his flail a blur of motion above him. Autumn knocked his shield aside with a swift kick, but not before the captain landed a telling blow across his face. Sparks flew as steel scraped against steel, the spikes of the flail gouging out deep grooves. While Autumn reeled from the pain, the captain pressed his advantage, keeping the warforged off balance, and moving him closer and closer to the edge of the cart.

"You should have known better than to cross the Emerald Claw! I've played games with you long enough, It's time to finish this!"

As the flail swung down towards his head, Autumn brought his staff around, tangling the chain around it, then pulling it across his body, pinning the weapon.

"Where is Morathus?! Where is he hiding?! I saw him board this rail!"

The captain laughed madly. "Fool! Morathus was never on this rail! We sent him on the caravan to Flamekeep - you took the bait, just as he said you would! You're miles and miles off track, you'll never reach him in time! He will deliver the weapon to our masters, and Karrnath shall be triumphant once more!" He spun around, twisting his arm, sending both flail and quarterstaff sailing off into the night. A quick strike forward with his shield caused Autumn to lose his footing on the slick roof, sending them both to the ground. The captain pulled his bloody dagger from his waist, pressing it down towards Autumn's throat as the warforged struggled against him. The captain's leverage and surprising strength pressed the dagger forward, slowly and inexorably.

"I will find him! There is nothing you or anyone else can do to stop me! Do you hear me! Nothing!", Autumn roared as he pushed back against the foe on top of him. Even so, he was already beginning to lose the grapple, the dagger hovering menacingly overhead. A beastial growl rumbled forth from deep within him as his head snaked forward, clamping his massive, serrated jaws down around the hand holding the dagger. The Karrn screamed in terror, writhing in pain as Autumn's jaws dug deeper and deeper into his flesh. He pulled himself back, clutching at the bleeding stump where his hand was moments ago. The warforged's jaws had sliced and crushed through the bones at his wrist like a bear trap.

"You won't have my head this day, Karrn. Even if I had time to put you out of your misery, you aren't worthy of it. Don't worry, though. I'll find Morathus soon, and then you'll have some company in Dollurh, although you may not recognize him after I'm through with him."

"Autumn!!"

The warforged's head snapped up at the sound of Niv's voice. He ran to the head of the cart and leapt down, crashing through the rear door of the next cart. He brushed himself off, nodded curtly to the astonished passengers, and ran full bore to the head of the train.

"Autumn, I need you here now!!"

"Niv, are you alright?!"

Autumn smashed the door to the lead cart off of its hinges, leaping through and quickly taking in the scene. The Emerald Claw soldier who had fled from battle was sprawled on the ground in a pool of blood. Standing above him was a young half-elven lady wiping the blood from a dagger into the folds of her resplendent gown.

"Niv, are you ok? What happened?"

"I'm fine, I'm fine. I guess you don't need to bother calling me Lady ir'Tain any mo- Sovereigns, Autumn, you're covered in blood - what happened to your face? Are you hurt?"

"Don't worry, the blood isn't mine."

"Oh, very clever. How long have you been waiting to use that line?"

"A few weeks. If you're fine, what's with all the shouting?"

"Well, I heard footsteps running across the roof, so I waited for a while, and then followed them up here. When I arrived, I found this guy mucking about with the controls. Somehow he fell onto my dagger about six or seven times."

"And backwards, from the looks of it."

"Yes, it was a terrible accident. The Emerald Claw should really start recruiting less clumsy stooges. We can suggest that to them some other time, though. Somehow, he was able to break the wards binding the elemental into place. In its new found freedom, it seems to be racing along, heedless to the needs of its passengers. We keep picking up speed, and there's no way to stop or slow down. We're only a few miles from the pass through the Starpeak Mountains. If we don't fix this thing by then, we're all going to die!"

*To be continued...*
 
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Anti-Sean

Villager
Funeris said:
Great start...I'll be keeping an eye on this one.

~Fune
Thanks, the sentiment is *definitely* appreciated! I've got a rough draft of the next update simmering at the moment. If I can defeat the dreaded laundry golem this evening, I might have an update ready to go tonight!

-Sean
 

Silver Moon

Villager
I enjoyed it.

I guess my only complaint is the name of the story - as I have an ongoing Story Hour on this page titled "Revenge, Renewal and the Promise of a New Year" from my PBP campaign. This could create some confusion.
 

Anti-Sean

Villager
d'oh! I'm going to go ahead and blame the title similarity on the fact that I was scrambling for a title at 2 AM...I looked over the story hours to make sure nothing was too similar. I *knew* that title came too easily, and sounded too good for a reason! I'll change that ASAP, sorry for the toe-stepping! It's these damn clown shoes...
 

Anti-Sean

Villager
"Alright Niv, there's no need to panic, we just need to think through this. How do we control this thing?"

"I don't know, do I look like a 'marked Orien to you?"

"Not at the moment, no..."

"You two are in a restricted area! Only Orien personnel are authorized in the lead coach!" Five members of House Orien's security detail strode forward through the cart behind Autumn and Niv, passengers streaming out behind them, anxious to get out of the way. The tall, willowy guard eyed them coolly, puncutating his speech by rapping his truncheon against his hand. "We have a few questions we'd like you to answer before we escort you from the lightning rail, if you would be so kind."

Niv rolled her almond-shaped eyes audibly. "Look, we really don't have time for this. Why don't you boys just take a nap?" She muttered a few words in the tongue of dragons and waved her left hand vaguely in the direction of the guards. The four guards in the rear slumped to the ground, snoring loudly.

"You'll have to do better than that, young lady!" The guard smiled broadly. "Your little enchantment worked on the humans, but I am Khoravar like you, that spell has no effect on-"

*thunk*

The guard fell backwards, clutching at the bolt protruding from his neck as Niv lowered her right arm. "Hmmph! Looks like you're not immune to crossbows, Khoravar.", she mimed a curtsy as she spat the last word out contemptuously. "Honestly, is there anything more tiresome than a half-elf putting on airs about his heritage?"

Autumn waited for her to finish her tirade. "Hold on... Where were you hiding that crossbow this whole time?"

"This is a frilly, poofy dress, Autumn, there are plenty of places to hide it."

"Where? I don't see any."

"Umm, that's the whole point, isn't it? Besides, how many evening gowns have you worn?"

"Fair enough. Maybe I should wear one so I know what can be hidden in them."

Niv chuckled. "Oh there's a lovely image! I tell you what, if we make it out of this alive, I'll escort you to one of the finest parties in Sharn in whatever dress you'd like."

"Sounds like a plan. Not that dress, though, you've got blood all over it."

"Don't worry", Niv smiled coyly, "it's not mine."

"Hey, that's my line!"

Niv tossed her hair over her shoulder exaggeratedly. "Well, seeing as how your sense of humor is mostly a side effect of basking in my radiant presence, we'll call it even. Besides, we have more pressing matters to deal with, this lightning rail isn't getting any slower!"

"Right. We should probably separate the coach from the carts attached to it. I think they should come to a halt safely."

"Are you sure?"

Autumn explained himself in a rather nonchalant manner. "No. If I'm right, everyone will be safe, but they'll have no idea we saved them. If I'm wrong, they'll all most likely die a horribly painful death, but won't know that we're responsible. If we do nothing, the same thing will happen. Either way, we don't have to worry about any restless ghosts haunting us for the rest of our days."

"For some bizarre reason, that makes sense to me. I know that should worry me, but I don't really have that luxury at the moment. So how do we separate the carts?"

"Well, I've always been a fan of the direct approach." With that, Autumn raised a fist above his head and slammed it into the connection joint between the coach and the first passenger cart. A stroke of lightning arced up through the joint in response, coursing over his body. "Aaaarrrgh! Perhaps a slightly less direct approach is in order!" Autumn kneeled and gazed into the storm raging above them, chanting softly until a nimbus of pale blue light surrounded him. The light faded away as he rose to a crouching position, feet splayed widely, raising a fist once more. "Alright, let's try that again!" Once more his fist hammered down, the connection joint buckling from the force of the blow. Once more, lightning shot over and through his body in retaliation. This time, however, he began to laugh. "Heh! That kind of tickles!"

Niv cocked her head, regarding him quizzically. "That's odd... I didn't know warforged were ticklish."

"Neither did I!" A few more strikes from Autumn's mighty fists and the connection snapped. The trailing carts receded swiftly into the distance, slowly coming to a stop as the coach hurtled forward along the path of conductor stones laid out before it. "Well, it looks like they'll be alright." He looked down at the line of conductor stones passing by below them, deep in thought. "Hmm..."

"What is it, Autumn? I'm not sure I liked the sound of that 'Hmm'."

The warforged looked around the coach intently, studiously avoiding all eye contact. "Well... nothing really. It's just that, now that I think about it, maybe we should have been in one of those carts instead of the coach!"

Niv's jaw worked up and down wordlessly for a a few moments. "And you... you didn't think of that until just now?!?! Auugh, I don't believe this! What in Dolurrh did Cannith do when they made you, did they literally fill your head with rocks? Here, take my dagger! Just give it one quick plunge into the back of my neck, it'll be nice and painless!"

"Well, I didn't hear you chiming in to correct me! In fact, I don't remember you mentioning any ideas at all!"

Instead of firing back with a scathing retort, Niv's face scrunched up in a perplexed expression. "What? I can't hear you!"

"I said...wait, did the wind just get a lot louder?"

Wreckage and detritus from the damage inflicted to the coach and its door swirled around the arguing pair before flying out the rear of the coach. Autumn and Niv turned in unison to view the gale force wind whirling in a malevolent frenzy behind them. The elemental was free.

"Niv, grab hold of something!" Autumn struggled against the vortex pulling him towards the gaping hole where the door used to be. He grabbed hold of the mangled door frame as Niv wedged herself into a secure spot in the front of the coach. "Hold on Niv, just, oof!", the corpse of the Emerald Claw soldier smacked wetly against Autumn as it was sucked outside. "Just hold on and we'll be alright!" Just then, a terrible groan followed by a loud crack rang out as the frame he had clung to so tenaciously pulled apart from the rest of the coach, tumbling backwards and upwards into the center of the whirlwind along with him. "Niiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiv!!!"

Niv screamed. "NOOO!!! Autumn!!"

Autumn bellowed loudly over the winds stirred up by the enraged elemental. "Niv, do something, please!"

"Autumn, you've got to fight it!"

"Fight it? And how do you propose I do that? Do you know a technique for fighting air that I'm not aware of?"

"Well, what do you expect me to do?"

"I don't know, urgh! you're a very resourceful ow! person! Perhaps you know a spell or two that might come in handy?"

"I don't know any that would help in this case!" Niv fidgeted nervously, wringing her hands as she watched her companion being pummeled over and over again as he circled around within the whirlwind above the coach. "Well...I mean, maybe there is one..."

"Great! Fine! Excellent! What are you waiting for?"

"I hate casting that spell!"

"What?!"

"I hate it! I can't explain it, you wouldn't understand. Besides, you'll laugh at me!"

"Niv, I can assure you that laughter is the furthest thing from my mind right now!"

"It...it makes me itch all over for hours every time I cast it."

"Leg me get this straight, Niv, you don't want to cast the spell because it makes you itchy?!?! Oh, that will be a lovely story for you to tell as the years pass by! 'My friend is dead now, but at least I didn't have to briefly suffer from an uncomfortable skin condition!'"

"Well if you're going to be so rude about it -"

"Niv, please! I'm being torn to pieces out here!"

"Alright, fine! Honestly, you're so self-centered sometimes!" Niv concentrated, her fingers tracing intricate patterns through the air as she spoke ancient words of power. She grimaced as twin bolts of fire blazed forth from her outstretched hand, burning through the winds buffeting the warforged about. An unearthly hissing scream issued forth from the center of the whirlwind as it quickly began to dissipate. Autumn fell back towards the earth as soon as the winds were gone, barely managing to grab hold of the speeding coach. Niv scrambled forward to help pull him inside. "Autumn? Autumn, are you alright?"

"I've been better. Thank you, that was... unpleasant. We don't seem to be slowing down, though. Why is that?"

Niv shrugged. "Maybe there were two elementals?"

"Oh, please don't say that. I'd rather not go through that a second time!"

Niv stared through the window at the front of the coach. "Autumn? Do those mountains look a lot closer to you than they did a few minutes ago?"

"Yes. That means we're coming up on that sharp curve you mentioned earlier, doesn't it? We're going to have to make a jump for it soon."

Niv nodded, sighing heavily. "It gets better. Look behind us. Jagged outcroppings of rock to the left, and a deep ravine to the right."

"Hmm. No doubt filled with more jagged rocks at the bottom."

"Right, unless that's Soft Fluffy Pillow Gorge, and I don't remember seeing that on the map. We don't have much time, Autumn." The coach began to rumble and shudder ominously, underscoring her point. "I think we might as well go for the ravine. At least we'll have a little more time before the end. And we have the lovely surprise of finding out what's at the bottom, rather than what we can already see up here. There's just no mystery jumping off to the left."

Autumn stared at her for several long moments, finally adressing her in a distant, almost rehearsed tone. "Niv, If we don't make it through this... There's something I need to say -"

Niv stood up, turning away quickly. "Stop right there, Autumn."

"Niv, this is important!"

She spun back towards him, her voice rising in anger. "No! There's nothing *to* say!"

"Niv, I've been trying to tell -"

"Autumn, we are not having this conversation! Every time someone starts off with 'There's something I need to say' in a situation like this, it always ends badly! We don't stand much of a chance at all, but if you say what you are about to say, you'll doom us both. Besides,", she added quietly, eyes downcast, "you don't need to say anything." Regaining her composure, Niv took a deep breath. "I'm jumping now! Are you coming with me, or are you going to sit there and watch me jump alone?"

The warforged rose to his feet with a sigh. "Why ask a question you already know the answer to?" Autumn took her hand in his. "No matter what, Niv, I go with you."

The lightning rail coach threw itself forward, unable to follow the sharp curve of the conductor stones at its accelerated speed. Horrible screeching and rending noises filled the night as it crashed and splintered along the rockbed. The resulting cacaphony drowned out all other sound, including that made by the wind whistling past two small figures plummeting through the darkness of the storm into the unknown depths below.
 

Funeris

Villager
Yeah...I knew the title seemed remarkably similar as well ;)
And I know you appreciate the sentiment...I'm a SH author as well...and people's responses always help to fulfill that intrinsic reward writing gives us...

I'm enjoying your story...so keep it up!
 

Anti-Sean

Villager
Therendor 22, 998 YK
Breland
Wroann's Gate, Sharn


Rand Faldren leaned heavily on his halberd, eyes heavy from the remarkably warm weather this early in the spring. His lack of sleep wasn't making it any easier to stay awake. He cursed his friends under his breath, bitterly regretting his decision to follow them out to the taverns last night for 'just one round'. As usual, that one round turned into another, and another, and it was well past the third bell by the time he stumbled home. “Never again!”, he swore to himself for the thirtieth time that day. With great effort, he lifted his aching head to find his gaze alight on the most beautiful woman he could remember seeing in all of his 19 years. Tall and statueqsue, her long dark hair billowed down in curtains around a smooth face with high cheekbones and a delicate chin. Deep brown eyes stared back at him for a moment before she disappeared behind a hedgerow, beckoning for him to follow. Rand tapped a friend on the shoulder and told him to watch his post as he hurried off in pursuit.

Rounding the corner of the hedgerow, he tumbled headlong into the arms of the mysterious young lady. "It has been a long, hot day in the sun, Rand. You deserve to take a break from all of your hard work." She handed him a mug of ale, which he took in both hands and drank from greedily. "You must be hungry as well!" She handed him a peach and he bit into the succulent fruit, savoring its sweet taste. She smiled as its juice ran down his chin.

"Who are you? How... how do you know my name?"

"After so much food and drink, you must rest!" She giggled and pushed him backwards onto what felt like the softest bed in all of Sharn. He could work for 20 years in the Guard and still not be able to afford such luxury. Before he could ask another question, she had climbed on to the bed, gazing down at him with a mischevious grin on her face. His puzzlement as to how the bed had suddenly appeared vanished as she leaned in close to him, and Rand shivered as he felt her cold, wet nose press against his neck. He murmured softly as she began licking his face over and over.

Rand opened his eyes to find himself flat on his back in the dirt, the muzzle of an enormous white wolf inches away from his face. He screamed and scrambled backwards as a roar of laughter erupted from the guards and travelers around him.

"Kiva! Easy now, you're going to frighten him." Rand looked up again to see a warforged looming above him, its stone hand extended towards him in an offer of assistance. He grabbed it and pulled himself up, trying to regain what little composure he could as he dusted himself off. Large green eyes that seemed to almost glow of their own accord regarded him from within its helm-like face. A massive jaw of uneven, spiky metal teeth jutted out in a pronounced underbite. The warforged leaned on a long wooden staff, most of its other features hidden beneath a voluminous green cloak. Its voice rang out with the sound of a distant, rolling thunderclap. "I am sorry about that, Kiva can be a bit exubarant at times. I think she likes you!"

"You-your identification papers, please." Rand stammered, studiously avoiding looking at the wolf.

The warforged cocked its head slightly. "Identification papers? That's silly. Why do I need pieces of paper to tell me who I am? I can remember that without any problems."

Rand thought for a moment, the comment taking an eternity to navigate through the pain and haze in his head before making any sense. "Your identification papers are for us to know who you are!"

"Well, I can tell you who I am easily enough, you just had to ask! My name is Autumn. You've already met my friend Kiva.”

“Wonderful. And why are you here?”

“Why are any of us here, really? Isn't that one of the most fascinating questions any of us can ask? I've often wondered that, myself. One answer that-

Rand felt the pain in his head intensify. “Look, I'm not asking for a philosophical discussion! Why are you here in Sharn?!”

Oh. Well, we have heard a great many things about your city, and we are here to see it firsthand. It has been a long journey from the Reaches, but I have a feeling that this will definitely be worth it! Perhaps we are here to find out why we are here after all!"

"Yes, yes, that's fascinating, please make your mark here and move along,", adding under his breath, "quickly."

Autumn walked slowly through the teeming masses of people moving through Wroann's Gate to all manner of other destinations throutout Sharn. He had been to other cities before, but none of them were quite like this. His gazed shifted from the crowds up to the towers above and back again as he walked, Kiva padding along beside him. “I think I'm beginning understand what those bees I spoke to last summer were talking about now, Kiva.”

Kiva barked happily in response.

After about ten minutes of offering a constant stream of apologies to everyone who bumped and jostled him as they passed by, Autumn felt a soft tap on his shoulder. He turned his head to meet the owner of the tapping finger: a half-orc almost as wide as Autumn was tall.

"Dabu! Loktar, zug-zug!" Autumn greeted the half-orc cheerfully.

"What?"

Autumn repeated himself a little slower and louder, since the half-orc seemed to have trouble understanding him.

The half orc growled from behind clenched teeth in a voice that sounded like he'd been gargling glass shards since he was three. "You need to start talking some sense, clank, I can't understand a word you're saying."

"Really? I was using a standard Orcish greeting. Maybe the dialect is different this far south..."

"Look, I was born and raised here in Sharn, I don't understand any of that Marcher babble. Now, I don't have a whole lot of time. Where is the package?"

"The package?"

The half-orc repeated himself a little slower and louder, since the warforged seemed to have trouble understanding him.

"I'm afraid I don't know what package you're talking about. Also, I don't appreciate being called a 'clank'. My name is-"

The half-orc sighed, trying to remain calm. "The package that was given to you in Wroat to deliver to me? You were supposed to make the dropoff right after will you stop licking my hand!?"

"That means she likes you! I suppose there aren't very many wolves in Sharn for you to know that."

"Right. I think she likes the mutton I had for lunch a bit more. You call that a wolf? Sovereigns, I've seen newborn pups that look more threatening! Sure it's big enough, but look at it, wagging its tail with its tongue lolling out the side of its mouth."

"You seem awfully hung up on appearances. Things aren't always quite what they seem, you know."

"Ha! You don't know the half of it! Listen, Bron told me to look out for a warforged arriving this afternoon. He said I'd know which one it was when I saw it. And you stick out like a sore thumb, even without the wolf. So give me the package so we can go our separate ways. I have a date with a few pints of ale, and I'd rather not keep them waiting."

Before he could reply, Autumn felt a tap on his other shoulder. He turned around to see a human grinning broadly, with several others behind him.

"Please pardon the interruption, but I'm going to have to insist that you give the package to us instead." The human turned to address the half-orc. “I hope you don't mind, Gorm. Strictly business, you understand! Now hand over the package, clank, and no one gets hurt!”
 

Funeris

Villager
Bump for more readers :D
And to remind you that even if I don't update for the next couple days, it'd be nice to have something to read in the meantime ;)

Good update by the way....I like the way you just threw Autumn into that situation...I'll have to use that package idea...hehe.

~Fune
 

Anti-Sean

Villager
Autumn threw his arms up to the heavens. "What is it with this city? Is everyone here obsessed with papers and packages? You are all mad! And I would like you all to leave me alone before you drive me mad as well!"

The human at the head of the shifty looking group stared back at the warforged as he warned the half-orc in a cold, even tone. "Gorm, you might want to let your friend here know that I don't ask twice. And neither do my employers."

Gorm spread his hands wide, grinning obsequiously in an effort to ease the tension. "Look, Halvar, I'm just trying to do my job here. I've got wives and a kid to feed. Or maybe it's the other way around, I can never remember. Anyways, do you really want to get in Bron's way? If you interfere here, there's going to be all sorts of unpleasant repercussions for all of us to suffer through."

Halvar drew a shortsword from its scabbard; his companions reached for their weapons, following his lead. "The way I see it, Gorm, you're the only one who'll be suffering. I was going to just take the package and be done with you, but now you're going to have to pay for wasting my time as well." He punctuated his speech with short stabbing motions of his sword in Autumn's direction. Kiva's ears folded back against her head as she bared her teeth and growled menacingly.

Autumn's fist connected with Halvar's wrist in a wide backhanded swipe, sending his sword spinning end over end down the alley. The warforged pressed forward, slamming his other fist into Halvar's face while kicking through his kneecap with a sickening crunch. As Halvar fell to the ground, Autumn adressed the rest of the group before him. "You may leave now, or stay and join him. The choice is yours!" Halvar's men looked at each other for a moment, and then three of them charged forward screaming a battle cry while the two in the rear aimed their crossbows. Two rushed past Autumn towards the half-orc while the other one closed with the warforged. Autumn batted aside a crossbow bolt with one hand and blocked the warrior's clumsy attack with the other. He grabbed the human's head in both hands, lifting him seveal inches from the ground. He twisted the humans neck roughly to the side until he heard a popping sound, then dropped him and rushed forward to stop the crossbowmen, grunting as a crossbow bolt pierced his chest.

Gorm's shortsword danced and weaved in front of him, parrying the slashes and thrusts of his two foes as best he could as they maneuvered for position. Before they could outflank him, his free hand began tracing a complex pattern in the air as he uttered potent, forgotten words of arcane might. One of the warriors opened two brutal gashes across Gorm's swordarm while he focused on completing the spell, grimacing in pain. His other foe's sword quickly became covered in a viscous grease, slipping from his hand to clatter upon the cobblestones. While he stood there dumbfounded, Gorm lowered his own guard, and thrust his sword deep into the unarmed warrior's belly. Seizing the opportunity, his other opponent reared back for a killing blow before Gorm could recover.

It was the last thing he ever did.

Kiva joined the fray, leaping at Gorm's assailant and knocking him onto his back. He screamed, kicking and flailing in a blind panic as she savaged his arms and face. Kiva's jaws clamped down around his throat, cutting his screams off at their source as she pulled her head back with a hideous tearing sound. Wet, gurgling noises issued forth from the bloody, oozing mess where his trachea was a moment before, trailing into silence as Kiva bounded off in Autumn's direction.

Autumn unstrapped his quarterstaff from his backpack as he ran, reaching the first crossbowman as he was struggling to reload. In one fluid motion, he swung the staff out in front of him with one hand, knocking the crossbow from his targets hands, grasped the staff with both hands on the return arc, and brought it down and across with enough force to take his opponent's legs out from under him. Moving in closer, he reversed his grip on the staff and brought its end down on the prone warrior's face, cracking his skull open. The last of Halvar's allies dropped his crossbow and ran, but Kiva caught up to him with little effort. Autumn stalked towards the last remaining foe and helped Kiva finish him off quickly.

The warforged surveyed the aftermath of the battle, noticing the wounds on Gorm's arm. "You are hurt. Here, let me see that." He spoke a quiet prayer, then grasped the half-orc's arm in his large hands. As Autumn pulled his hands away, Gorm saw that the wounds had disappeared, leaving only a warm sensation as if he had been laying out in the summer sun. He rubbed his arm, peering at the warforged as if he were deciding how to piece together a puzzle.

"You really don't have the package, do you?"

"No."

"I'm sorry about all that. To be honest, you warforged can be tough to tell apart sometimes. Like I said before we were so rudely interrupted, you stand out a bit, so I assumed you were my contact. I should have known better, any contact worthy of the job should have been able to blend in. What was your name again?"

"My name is Autumn. This is Kiva. You are called Gorm?"

"Oh, right...about that... Since I didn't get the package, my contact either got lost or was waylaid or double-crossed us. Whatever the case may be, Bron is going to be more than a little angry. I think it's time for Gorm to lay low for a little while." The half-orc shivered for a moment, and his eyes went a solid grey as his features began to blur and shift, his body shrinking in size and stature. He lost about a foot in overall height, shifting from the stocky frame of a half-orc to a more slender form, details lost under the folds of his now oversized clothes. The patchy tufts of half-orc hair grew longer and thicker, smoothing out into red shoulder-length locks. The rough, pock-marked face of Gorm gave way to that of a pleasant looking human woman. She spoke a quick word of magic, and the half-orc's bulky outfit resized itself and changed into a modest tunic, vest, breeches and boots much more apporpriate for the human's frame. As the change completed, the irises of her eyes came back into view, shaded in a green similar to Autumn's eyes.

The human woman now standing before him offered her hand to Autumn in greeting. The warforged took the change in appearance in stride, shaking her hand quickly and firmly. "Pleased to meet you two - my name is Niv. By the way, I take back what I said about the wo...I mean, Kiva, being harmless. Remind me not to get between her and a meal! So this is your first time in Sharn, I take it?"

Autumn nodded. "Yes it is."

"Well, you've been here for less than half an hour, and you've already commited multiple murders. I think you'll fit right in here! Where are you headed?"

"I'm not sure where yet. Do you think we should report this to the authorities? They will probably... why are you laughing?"

"I'm sorry, that was a good - Sovereigns, you're serious?" Niv laughed louder, doubling over for a few moments. After regaining her composure, she continued. "I'm sure they'll find our friends here sooner or later. I doubt the watch will care enough to investigate the death of a pack of thieves like Halvar. It's probably not a bad idea to clean ourselves up a bit, though." She whispered a few arcane words, and then pointed at herself, Autumn and Kiva. The blood and gore spattered across each of them vanished. "Might as well help myself to Halvar's coin while I'm at it." She looked up at the warforged after looting the corpse, pointing to the crossbow bolt still stuck in his chest. "Hey, you're hurt!"

Autumn looked down at the protruding bolt. "Oh, I had forgotten about that!" One hand closed around the bolt and twisted, snapping it off and leaving the head stuck inside. "I can fix that up a bit later."

Niv stood up and crossed her arms, pausing for a moment before making her sales pitch. "Well, if you're going to be here in Sharn for a while, you'll probably need a guide. Seeing as how I just lost my job, I can offer you my services, if you'd like."

The warforged looked around, trying to make sense of the chaotic jumble of streets and people as he pondered Niv's offer. "We are a bit out of our element. How much do you charge?"

"Oh, I'm very expensive, but worth every crown! We can negotiate a price later," she smiled broadly, "after you buy me a meal and a drink! Follow me, I know just the place!"
 

Funeris

Villager
You continue to impress, Anti-Sean.

So, is this an actual campaign that's running or is this just a bit of fan fiction?

~Fune
 

Anti-Sean

Villager
Thanks! Although I have to admit to cringing at the words 'fan fiction' placed next to each other, especially in relation to me! :) I never thought I'd see the day that I'd sink so low! :) I know they weren't meant with any malice, though.

Well, this seems like a good time for a bit of explanation.

I'm not currently in a game, and no one I game with has any plans to run a campaign set in Eberron, so I'm actually gearing up to DM for the first time several weeks for now so I can get my fix! I was excited by some of the elements of the setting as details were announced, and enjoyed it after it was released, but it didn't quite 'click' for me at first, for some reason. I picked up the book a few months later and gave it a good, solid read, and I was hooked. As so many others have said, plot hooks and campaign ideas burst forth from almost every page. The setting really feels alive to me. I've been consistently impressed with the suppliments, as well. It's probably a good thing that I'll be DMing, since I have sooo many different character ideas I want to try!

There were a few factors that lead up to me writing this story, a lack of gametime among them. The warforged are one of my favorite aspects of the setting. I lurk much much much more than I post, but I pretty much devour every thread about warforged. Two in particular that really resonated with me were a discussion about warforged druids here, and a thread on the WotC boards asking if warforged could love. The wheels in my head started turning, and a few weeks later, I realized that I had to get the ideas out of my head somehow. A story hour seemed the best way to do it.

I'll confess that I had absolutely no idea about the story whatsoever when I began writing. I had a few themes that I knew I wanted to explore, and a few set pieces that I thought would be fun, but that was it. I had to go out of state this past weekend, and I was able to solidify a general story arc and most of my ideas during that time, after the first two chapters had been written and posted. :) Those first two chapters are very late in the story, but I didn't really have a story yet, per se, and it seemed like as good a place to start as any. I figure if a story in Eberron starts off on the lightning rail, on an airship, or in Sharn (preferably in front of a corpse), you're doing something right! I tried to make the jump backwards in time in the third chapter obvious enough to people unfamiliar with the Galifar calendar without explicitly calling it out. I'll try to make things like that a bit clearer moving forward.

This is the first time I've written anything in ages, probably a good ten years or more, and its already the most substantial body of writing I've produced yet. (The last stuff I wrote was some sappy, crappy teen angst poetry waaaaaay back in the day. Oh, the shame!) :) The first four posts total about 6,000 words. I'm enjoying the hell out of it so far - it definitely gets easier the more you do it! One worry I have is making sure that I give each character a distinctive voice and personality. I had originally planned on four main characters a la a standard adventuring party, but I had three that felt strong to me, and couldn't come up with much for the fourth. Three also seemed like an easier number to handle comfortably at this point, too :) Two other things that I've worried about so far are dialogue and pacing. This is the first time I've really done dialogue, and it's been interesting so far finding ways to identify the different speakers without resorting to he said/she said, or reams of dialogue without and description/narration. As far as pacing goes, I can be incredibly terse or incredibly verbose, usually at one extreme or the other. I'm trying to balance all that out while leaning towards a punchy, pulpy, Two! Fisted! Action! feel, while still allowing for plenty of character development, interaction, and thematic exploration.

I can't say enough about how much I love warforged. They allow for an incredibly deep exploration into the human condition. What does it mean to be sentient? To have free will? What does one do when the purpose they were created for is no longer necessary? How do the 'forged define themselves now, as individuals and as a race? Hopefully this story will give me a chance to play with some of those ideas without turning into too dry of a philosophical discussion.

Again, I can't thank you enough for all your kind words, Funeris! If no one ever read the story, or if people chimed in to heap derision on it, that'd be alright with me, because I'm writing this for myself. I do remember that day long ago in kindergarten where they taught us to share, though, and I'm glad that you're enjoying it as well!
 

Funeris

Villager
Ah well...I definitely didn't use the term "fan fiction" maliciously...or didn't intend to. In retrospect, I should've just called it fiction, even though you are a fan. A decent amount of Enworlders won't read pure fiction....they want the round by round review of battle, etc. And for those individuals, they're missing out on this thread!

I am at the other end of the spectrum...I don't want a round by round review...I can get that playing or DMing...I want exposition based on the game but upgraded to a novel-esque feel. Or, barring that, I want some fiction.

I recently began as a player in an Eberron game and I am having fun with my warforged. Although its not a warforged per the Eberron race...but a bit more mixed up/tweaked version. And he's (it's) a warlock...which I felt would be unique and interesting to play.

Don't worry about the fourth character, mythology teaches that all good things come in threes anyway. ;)

You're writing extremely well. And I'm enjoying this very, very much. Especially since I'm too busy to write updates for my SHs right now.

If you have a moment, an Enworlder by the handle of RagBoy also has some excellent Eberron fiction he's posted. Its worth the read. I'll see if I can't dig up the links and post 'em here for you, later.

~Fune
 

Anti-Sean

Villager
Niv led Autumn and Kiva through the streets of Wroann's Gate, ducking and darting through throngs of farmers, laborers and travelers like a fish navigating the shifting currents of the ocean. She regaled her new client with a description of the city of Sharn and a breakdown of its various wards and districts as they walked. One hour and one lift ride later, they were in the Cornerstone district of Middle Tavick's Landing. The weatherbeaten sign above the door Niv finally stopped in front of showed a small cauldron tipped over, its red contents spilling out to form the words 'Bucket of Blood'. Autumn gazed up at the sign, half-whispering, half-chanting a snippet of verse in a far away voice.

"He waked through the rain
And he walked through the mud
Until he came to a place
Called the Bucket of Blood"


Niv looked over at him, arching an eyebrow. "A warforged poet? I really have seen everything now!"

Autumn chuckled. "No, no, just an old memory from a lifetime ago. There was a scout in one of the campanies I served with during the war who fancied himself to be somewhat of a minstrel. He was always singing a ballad or reciting some epic verse. That was from one he sang most often; the tavern's sign reminded me of it."

"Was he any good?"

"He was alright, I suppose. His singing helped to pass the time in camp, and he had his wits about him enough to keep silent in the field. I don't think he ever amounted to much, even if he survived the war. I remember that our lieutenant would always say he was a bad seed. Shall we enter?"

The roar of the boisterous crowd inside the Bucket of Blood was deafening even compared to the bustle of activity in the streets and marketplaces outside. Autumn observed the tavern out of habit, taking note of the mannerisms, the behavior, and the weaponry of its various patrons. After a few moments, he had already planned out several different escape scenarios in case trouble presented itself. A short, stout, balding man with a prodigious amount of unkempt whiskers and an overabundance of chins bellowed at them as they made their way inside.

"Oi! You! You cannot bring that mangy mongrel in here without it being leashed up!"

Autumn stiffened, attempting to maintain his composure as he responded. "I can assure you, sir, that Kiva is no mongrel, and will be no trouble to you or any of your patrons."

The barkeep waved a pudgy finger in Autumn's face. "I was addressing the lovely young lady here, and I was referring to you!" Niv watched the warforged tense up even more. After a few seconds of awkward silence, the barkeep's expression softened, his mouth splitting into a wide, toothy grin and slapping Autumn on the back. "Just having a bit of fun with you, lad! I wanted to see what it'd look like if you smiled with that set of teeth you've got! Come in, come in, make yourselves at home! I'm Doran, and this here is the finest tavern in Cornerstone! Have a seat anywhere you like, and let one of the girls know what we can get for you!"

Niv picked a small booth tucked away in a far corner of the tavern and flagged down a nearby serving girl. "One mug of tal and a bowl of stew, please." Kiva laid down under the table as Autumn took a seat across from Niv.

"I'd like some tal as well, please. And a leg of mutton for my friend, as well." Autumn added, shrugging his shoulders at Niv's look of surprise.

"Correct me if I'm wrong, but you don't eat or drink, am I right?"

"That's right. but I've been in enough taverns and inns to know that my kind aren't exactly welcome, since they can't sell us a meal. In the eyes of many innkeeps and barkeeps, each warforged they let in is one less person they can profit off of. So I try to order something just to be polite. You can have mine so it doesn't go to waste."

Niv smiled. "How very conscientious of you."

"Well, I must admit, it's not entirely without benefit to me. These are difficult times for all of us. With the war over, my people are struggling to find our way in this world. We seek a greater sense of purpose, as individuals and as a whole. People are trying to move on with their lives, and every time they see me, I serve as a painful reminder to them of what they've lost. To one person, I represent the enemy who took one of his limbs, or ended his comrade's life. To a child, I am a the reason one of her parents never came home, or the farm or village that was destroyed during the war and forced her into a refugee camp." Autumn paused for a moment as their food and drink was delivered. He dropped the leg of mutton under the table for Kiva and continued where he had left off.

"My people were created for war. Our single, solitary reason for existence was to kill, to maim and to destroy, to prolong the war that nearly consumed this entire world We were given life in order to fight and to die, an expendable replacement for the dwindling numbers of humans able to fight. In the eyes of far too many, that is all we will ever know, and all we will ever be useful for. Yes, a small act of kindness on my part here and there will benefit the person who receives it, and that is very good. Ultimately, though, it is myself and the other warforged who will benefit as each of those acts helps insure that we will gradually come to be judged as individuals who are as worthy and as capable of anyone madeof flesh and blood. At least, that is my hope."

Niv stared at him, the mug of tal and bowl of stew placed before her moments ago remaining untouched. "Are you sure this isn't some elaborate hoax with a human hidden underneath all of that warforged armor? You have more insight into human nature than most people I've met." She smiled, trailed off into silence. "So what's your story, Autumn? How did you come to these realizations, this level of awareness... is it something you saw during the war?"

Autumn chafed at the question, his voice becoming somewhat strained. "That is diffcult to say. I consider the war, and any involvement I had in it, to be a lifetime ago in a very literal sense. My life, as far as I am concerned, began almost eight years ago in the Eldeen Reaches. I awoke in the care of an elderly shifter. She taught me the lessons she had learned since childhood; a way to live in harmony with the world around us, to draw strength from it and to return its blessings by defending it from those who would lay waste to it and to its children. Through her, I was initiated into druidic mysteries that stretch back for thousands of years. From her, I gained a sense of purpose, a reason for being, and the beginnings of an understanding of my place in the grand scheme of things."

"Oh? And what would that place be?"

"I don't know yet. As I said, I'm only beginning to understand it." Autumn's jaw flexed in a way that almost resembled a smile. "I watch, and I learn, I observe signs and portents as I find them. When I learn of my place for certain, I'll let you know. Before I left the Reaches, my teacher told me she had seen several signs. These signs told her that I would find the answers to some of my questions in Sharn. So, after several months of travel, here I am. An that's my story, for the most part. If I may return the question, Niv, what is your story? And what is your place?"

Niv took a long, slow sip of her tal before setting it down on the table and answering. "Now that isn't as easy it would seem. I've lived in Sharn my whole life. Or for all of my lives, I guess you could say. I spend so much time wearing different faces that sometimes, the lines between who I am inside, and who I am at the moment tend to blur after a while. Where does Niv end, for instance, and where does Gorm, the half-orc you met earlier, begin? Is there really a difference between the two? Are they masks that I choose to wear, roles that I choose to play, or different pieces of me that reveal themselves at different times? Multiply that by the number of different names and faces and lives I wear, and I still don't think I'd be ready to begin to answer your question. I suppose its like being an actor on a stage permanently. You know, it's funny; I've heard it said that there are some people who are always alone in a crowd. Well, some of us can be our very own crowd, and still find ourselves alone."

"It certainly sounds like it is a burden for you. Regardless, I would very much like to be able to do what you can do. I know who I am, and who I'm trying to be, but most people will only see me for what they think I am. You are able to make people see you in whatever way you want them to."

Niv looked away, a slight cast of bitterness coloring her laughter as she drummed her fingers on her mug. "But at what price, Autumn? Is it worth it if I wind up losing myself in the process?"

"I don't know, but I think that it's harder to get lost when you have companions with you. Kiva and I look out for each other since our paths crossed. I don't know where I would be if not for her. You don't have to be alone, Niv. No one has to be, if they don't want to."

Niv nodded, lost in thought as she drank her tal. They sat there for a while in silence, alone in the raucous crowd of the tavern.
 
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Funeris

Villager
Bravo...Bravo.

One thing though...In Autumn's last spoken paragraph: "I don't know, but I think that it's harder to get lots..." Emphasis mine of course. I know you meant lost but... :D That's why spellchecker will never work 100%

I love the character insight at the end of the section. You're definitely translating their personalities quite well into the written word. I empathize with them. And through their seperate experiences (related through speech), one can see why they ended up journeying together. They're two sides of the same coin.

Bravo.

~Fune
 

Anti-Sean

Villager
Lharvion 9, 998 YK
Breland
Cornerstone, Sharn


"Niv, wake up! We're going to be late!" Autumn stood over Niv's bed, shaking her gently to rouse her from her slumber. "It's already past the tenth bell, we don't have much time!"

Niv moaned something unintelligible from beneath her sheets.

"Niv, you've been talking about this job for days, I know you don't want to lose this one. We need to go now!"

"Uuuuurggh, no shouting! My head feels like brgrgkgglpphh...."

"Well, I tried to warn you not to start a drinking contest with a bunch of shifters in their own tavern. You're not used to the spirits they drink."

"wazzzeazzy... no problem. goodtimez had by all. now more sleep."

Autumn sighed heavily, his broad shoulders sagging in defeat. "Alright, I didn't want to do this... Kiva! Come here!" Kiva barked happily and jumped up on the bed, licking Niv's face. Niv leapt out of bed screaming.

"Auuugh!!! Eeew eew eew eew. Okay, okay, I'm up!" Niv stretched languorously, yawning as the taut, lithe muscles of the shifter form she was wearing began to wake up before clutching her head and grimacing in pain. "Owwww. Did you put a bunch gnomes inside my head while I was asleep? I don't remember ever being in so much pain!"

"Be glad it's still attached to your shoulders. Do you remember the dwarf you had been talking to? You told him that you thought he was a woman because his beard was so short, and then you passed out. I had to fill the tavern with fog just to get us both out of there alive after that. It took me until just a few minutes ago to get most of the dents from that hammer of his out of my legs. You made it out of there last night with two marriage proposals and only four death threats. I'd say it was quite an accomplishment. We're behind schedule, though. If you want to make it to the arena in time to catch a skycoach, you'd better hurry up and get changed! I'll give you something for your headache along the way."

***

Autumn flagged down a skycoach that sailed in just as they reached Cornerstone Arena. A low growl from Kiva insured that no one else tried to barge their way on to the coach before them. "Lareth Hall, Morgrave University, please." The skycoach driver nodded curtly to Autumn, gave Niv a look of disdain, and tried to stay as far away from Kiva as possible without falling out of the small craft.

"This is a new form for you, Niv. I don't think I've ever seen you looking quite like this before." Niv had taken on the appearance of a male changeling about 5 and a half feet tall, with an unruly shock of grayish white hair. Two large, solid white eyes dominated a smooth, nearly featureless gray face.

"Well, I figured I should let our employer know who they're dealing with, but I don't feel the need to give away all my secrets. And by the way, the name for this face is 'Mok'."

"Sorry, Mok. So how did you get this job again? Can we trust our employer?"

Mok scoffed. "Of course we can't trust them - we can't trust anyone, especially someone who would hire services through Professor Saeral."

"Who is Professor Saeral?"

"Professor Malloran Saeral is a doddering, senile old elf who teaches Comparative analysis of gender roles in Early Dhakaani artwork at Morgrave University. He's had an office buried deep inside one of the towers of Morgrave for as long as anyone can remember. Strangely enough, no one ever seems interested in signing up for such an esoteric subject. He is known amongst those who are in the know as a man with connections. He is legendary for his ability to connect interested parties with hired help suitable for a variety of delicate and discrete tasks. Crusaders and scoundrels, thieves and explorers, thugs and smugglers, the good Professor always seems to know just the right person for a job. What most people don't know is that Malloran Saeral doesn't exist. It's an open face for any and all changelings in Sharn to wear when they're looking for work. People looking to hire talent through the Professor leave a message in his office. From time to time, a changeling will wear his face, show up at his office, and if he finds a job he likes, introduce himself to the client as being referred by the Professor."

"Interesting. What happens if two changelings show up at once?"

"There are a few signals we leave for each other so that two Mallorans don't show up in the same place at the same time. It's a pretty good system; Saeral's office clerk doesn't even know about it, the clerk just collects his messages when he's out and passes them on to him whenever he shows up. There's always a job for someone. If you find something that doesn't suit your interests or talent, there's bound to be someone else who will take the job. Most of them are pretty small-time, but occasionally, you find a big one. And Autumn, my friend, we have found ourselves a big one this time!"

Mok's explanation was interrupted by the bored voice of the skycoach pilot. "Lareth Hall, Morgrave University. That'll be 15 sovereigns."

***

The inside of Professor Saeral's office looked about as old as Sharn itself. Papers and books were stacked almost to the ceiling, filling up the entire front room. Narrow paths from the door to the clerk's desk, Saeral's private office, and a small meeting room provided the only visible evidence of the floor. Niv announced their presence in a cheery voice. "Hi there! We're Mok and Autumn, here for a meeting with some of the professor's associates." The young human clerk looked up from her copy of the Korranberg Chronicle, annoyed at the disturbance.

"Yes, so you are. You're just in time. The others are already waiting for you in the meeting room."

Autumn opened the door into a small, dimly lit chamber dominated by a large, round oak table surrounded by six chairs. Across the table, a female hobgoblin clad in resplendent chainmail reclined in her chair, fixing a stern gaze on each of the three figures in turn as they entered the room. A hulking brute of a bugbear stood at attention behind her, one giant hand poised near the morningstar dangling from his belt.

"I am Meksoor Dhakaan, Ambassador of Darguul. In this place, I am the hand and voice of the Lhesh Haruuc Shaarat'kor. You are the changeling Mok and the warforged Autumn. You will sit."

Autumn and Mok each took a chair as instructed, while Kiva sat on her haunches at Autumn's side. Mok tried to break the ice. "Was it a long journey from Darguul, Ambassador?"

"The journey was uneventful, and the destination most unpleasant. This city is overrun with verminous humans, their very presence an affront to the former glory of Ja'shaarat. Every moment I spend here within their stink is an eternity, so you would do well not to waste my time with idle banter. What proof can the two of you provide me that you are worthy of the task I have for you? Time grows short."

Autumn interjected as Mok tried to hold back a slew of insults. "In addition to the gifts all changelings share, my associate is as skilled in swordplay as he is in wordplay. He also possesses a fair amount of sorcerous talent. I am a veteran combatant and tracker, and an Initiate of the Wardens of the Wood. The wolf, Kiva, is a deadly hunter. The three of us are more silent and discreet than most you could hire, save perhaps for the two goblins hiding in the shadows behind us."

Meksoor allowed her face to express a small amount of surprise. "You were able to see them? How is that so?"

"No, I did not see them, Ambassador. It was a fair guess. You are no doubt a formidable combatant yourself, given your station and the noise of the brutally spiked links of chain hanging from your waist. You are too wise to travel solely in the company of the Marguul behind you, fearsome and worthy as he certainly is. The skills of the shaarat'kesh are legendary, and it stands to reason that one such as you would be able to retain their services. The heirs of Dhakaan are too crafty to rely too heavily on standard tactics, but guessing that one lay in wait on either side of the door seemed a reasonable assumption to make."

Meksoor flashed a grin full of sharp teeth. "I will admit, warforged, I am impressed. Saeral seems to be worthy of his reputation after all." With a signal from her hand, the bugbear behind her produced a small satchel, placing it on the table. "Among the contents of this package, you will find a map to an ancient temple, a remnant of the eternal glory of the Empire of Dhakaan. Buried deep within is an item that is... precious to me. Eleven thousand years ago, our land was first defiled by the foul presence of the elves. After a brief struggle, the superiority of our mighty Empire was proven, and the elves were driven from our land in disgrace, swearing never to return. True to their nature, though, they have betrayed their words, and now seek to carve out a new home for themselves in our ancestral land." She slammed her fist against the table. "This insult shall not be allowed. Within your destination lies one of the most powerful weapons our empire ever produced. It allowed us to end the conflict with the invaders quickly and decisively. It is called Duur Kasaal, and you will retrieve it for me."

Mok tried to catch his breath, whispering as if in a dream. "Cassael's Lament".

"You have heard of it? Again, you surprise me. I have also provided you with several sets of identification and traveling papers, and a modest line of credit from an untraceable House Kundarak account. Passage has been booked and paid for on tomorrow's lightning rail bound for Thaliost. That should get you most of the way there. Succeed, and I may have more work for you in the future. If you fail, pray that you perish in your attempt to recover my weapon. Whatever death you may find there will be a blessing compared to what I will do to you, should you return empty handed."

Mok slung the satchel over his shoulder, sidling towards the door slowly. "Not to worry, Ambassador. You've picked the right people for this job."

"There is one more thing before you go. Given the danger involved in recovering Duur Kasaal, we have hired an additional swordarm to aid you. You will find him here." The bugbear handed a folded parchment to Autumn. "Now go."

***

"Autumn, can you believe this!? I knew this was going to be big, but this! This is our ticket out of here! If we pull this off, we're set!" Niv bounced around animatedly as she spoke, wearing the same face and clothes she wore to their first visit to the Bucket of Blood several months ago.

"Settle down, Niv, you're going to fall out of the skycoach!"

"I can't settle down! Don't you understand? After this, I can leave this city for good! You know how long I've been waiting for that!"

"I know, Niv, I know. That's why I think it would be best to calm down so we can plan this through and make sure we get everything right. It looks like we're almost in Clifftop. Lets find Meksoor's sellsword so we can get on with this."

***

Autumn, Niv and Kiva received a cold stare from the innkeeper of the Broken Flagon as they entered into the late morning gloom of the run down establishment. "We don't want yer kind in here, clank! What do you want, and be quick about it!"

"My apologies, sir. I need but a moment of your time." Autumn checked the name written on the parchment in a precise, firm script. "I'm looking for Sir Aldren Morathus."
 

Funeris

Villager
Loved the idea of Professor Saeral, may have to use that if I ever run an Eberron Campaign (which you're making me yearn for).

The dialog is top notch, Anti-Sean.

~Fune
 

Black Bard

Villager
Great, great, story, Anti-Sean!!! The interaction between Niv and Autumn is just fabulous, anf as an Eberron fan and DM I'm must compliment the way you just put the scenario flavor into your SH. Congratulations!
 

Anti-Sean

Villager
Thank you very much for the kind words, Black Bard, and thank you Funeris, as always! Feel free to use Professor Saeral, Funeris. I was trying to come up with a plausible contact for them to get the job through, and once the idea clicked in my head, I thought it'd be a great tool to use in game as well. I had to struggle for a while to not saddle him with a cheesy joke name a-la Professor I.N. Cognito or somesuch :) The last post put this story over the 10,000 word mark, I can hardly believe it! I finished a first draft of the next update late last night. I may get impatient and give it a quick revision and post at lunch, but it'll more likely go up late tonight after a more thorough revision and a once-over by my wife. She's mentioned that it reads a bit like a screenplay to her, so now that I'm more comfortable with the dialog, I need to start moving in the other direction and make sure there's enough description happening, as well.

The next update was a bit harder to write than the last few. (Public service announcement: listening to Tom Waits while you're trying to write does *not* help, unless by 'writing' you mean curling up into a fetal position and sobbing, or heading out to the bar to crawl into a bottle.) :) The upcoming leg of the story is the one that is least fleshed out in my mind so far. Once we get past a certain point, it should all fly right off the keyboard, though. I know where I want it to go, I just have to make sure I put enough pieces in place to get it there the way I want to.

It's great knowing that I've got some other people along for the ride, it definitely makes it a lot easier!
 

Sidekick

Villager
Hi Anti-sean.

I'll take this opportunity to say - THIS ROCKS!!!!

and

give me more....

I think that I'll also be using prof saeral. Its a very cool concept, and I'd love to have my PCs hired by the same person, for two completely different jobs. perhaps the second time to steal back something that they've already taken from another.

hehehehehe
 

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