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3.5 Dark Days in Sion - Act 3: Scene 3

narayan

Villager

Act 3: Scene 3




Continent of Akhenaten

Kingdom of Vulkh & Surrounding Region; Year 3500 - 12th day of Mid Spring
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< We are using DDS 33 on rolz.org... ​>
 
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narayan

Villager
Within Skull Mountain ...a new terror is born....

As the Akhenaten sun sets across a distant horizon the great craggy bulk of Skull Mountain looked to loom over the landscape like an evil monument of direful purple shadows painted against a canvas of orange and red.

Suddenly the great horn of Kurukshetra bellowed from within the citadel, as it did every nightfall instead of every dawn in ages past. The deep thundering bellow signaled 'the end of the light and the beginning of the reign of darkness' as Oloch, half-demon/half-dwarf high priest of Herod liked to say at the start of his nightly sermons.

Soon after the horn blew, the drums began; rising in tempo and fervor from deep within the mountain mustering nightly patrols and war parties of monstrous evil humanoids who emerged unto the mountain slopes just as fresh watchfires were lit. Gor remembered the drums as his earliest memory. He woke to their sound within his barred cell everyday. The drums signified the start of his whole life.

It began with torturous tests of endurance, might and stamina. Later, there was tutoring by the wiked wizard cabal that created him. They did not even name him until they determined he was 'satisfactoraly undefective'. Unlike so many other preceeding experiments, Gor was a great accomplishment, a prize of Thaumaturgy (blood magic) that could not be easily replicated.

The ruling dwarves of the citadel had him dragged before them in chains like an animal. Then they started asking questions of the wizards and making plans for him; even before he knew the meaning of the words they spoke. Gor understood firstly, that he was a slave, a weapon, nothing more. Despite his ability to think and reason as well as any of the other races, he would never be free.

Gor had no parents, only a most hideous and cruel Ogre Mage task-master named Ravangura. Ravangura forced Gor to the brink of his sanity, inflicting constant harassment, hate and brutal violence on him everyday. His role was to teach Gor what character was expected of him by example. Other wizards were no less cruel, but somewhat more patient, teaching him language, the basics of writing, and the knowledge to identify and combat all the enemies of the Hegemony.

The worst enemy of the Hegemony was actually, itself. Only fear kept Goblins, Orcs, Hobgoblins, Bugbears, Gnolls, Ogre's (and worse) together in any semblance of order. Fear of greater evils that could scarcely be believed! It was Oloch's role to make reminder of that fact to all the insidious and opportunistic leaders of the horde.

Here in the stunningly opulent and ancient dwarven temple of Kurukshetra, various leaders of the mixed races shook their fists with fervor as the high priest shrieked from his pulpit, foaming at the mouth with half-mad bloodshot eyes. The message was always the same. Service to the Hegemony promised glory and reward beyond anything their meager races could ever accomplish alone.

Towering above Oloch, a Balor overlord cracked his whip of fire above their heads while Succubi danced and sang within the same alcoves that once ensconced great statues of honored deities of dwarvenkind. This was now a temple of darkness and dread. An axiom of evil where evil humanoids of all types gathered to pledge allegiance to the most unholy and powerful Herod; God-King of demons and devils.

Deaths and sacrifices were commonplace at these ceremonial rallies. Always there was someone among the horde deserved of punishment. Unholy warriors and clerics of Herod mingled among the thralls, ready to seize whoever the high priest singled out. Examples had to be made. Disloyalty and disobedience to the hierarchy of the Hegemony, the dwarven masters of this citadel, or the clergy of Herod, was not tolerated.

Gor Hornkiller, as he was then known, watched and waited from the shadows as a Hobgoblin warcaptain was dragged through the throng before the pulpit of the high priest
.
"DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU HAVE DONE?!" Oloch asked from his pulpit, his great booming voice that echoed direfully through the great temples grand hall.

"...I did I was ordered to do, bring a proposal of alliance to the great Kumbakarna!" The warcaptain answered, already badly bruised and bloodied by the clerics who'd seized him.

"YOU FAILED!" Oloch screamed. "MOST OF YOUR MEN PERISHED!"

The warcaptain swallowed and spit blood. "He was a mighty opponent!" He explains, barely audible above the boo's and snickers of the horde.

"RETREAT IS NEVER AN OPTION! ONLY DEATH!" Oloch shouts banging his fist against the stone pulpit so hard it should crack."DEATH IN SERVICE TO THE HEGEMONY IS GLORIOUS!"

"GLORY TO THE HEGEMONY! GLORY TO HEROD!" The humanoids chanted.

Oloch lowered his voice to a pitiful tone as he continued. "Herod has no use for warriors who fear death. Punishment for cowardice is execution." He states calmly, waiting a few moments to let the words sink into the warcaptains guts.

"BRING ME GOR HORNKILLER!" Oloch shouts.

The throng errupts in cheers and roars of delight. Gor Hornkiller was an abomination. A killer bred by the evil cabal behind the Black Network to strike fear into all enemies of the Hegemony. Gor represented a new breed of shock troops that would destroy everything in their path and ask nothing in return.

Gor felt a stab of pain as Ravangura sent a spell of shocking grasp through the chain linked to his shackles, jolting him harshly. Gor roared with an angry jerk of his horns yanking hard on the chain, ripping it free of the Ogre-Mage despite how hard he held fast with all his strength. As the chain pulled from his grasp a rare grin of delight flashed across the Ogre's hideous features.

"YES! Use your anger!" Ravangura hissed encouragingly. "KILL THE WARCAPTAIN!" He demanded pointing towards the crowd.

Gor snorted, reluctantly stepping towards the pulpit dragging the chain behind him. The huge Balor demon stepped back. This was not his moment to frighten and awe, it was Gors. The great fires of the hall burned higher and brighter as Gor stepped before the pulpit prompting a clamor of roars and cheers from the throng.

"GOR, GOR, GOR!" They chanted.



The half-minotaurs' body was similar to the poor warcaptains as they both shared Hobgoblin blood, though Gors frame was clearly much stronger and bulkier. His neck and head however were that of a great bull, complete with great black horns! For now Gor wore only a simple loincloth. He had not yet earned the right to wear armor, bear weapons, or move around freely without shackles.

Oloch grinned as the crowd fixated their attentions on Gor with envy and fear. He was stronger than all of them and they knew it. Oloch prayed that the rest of the humanoids would follow Gor to certain death, so long as he could be controlled of course...

"GOR HORNKILLER! EXECUTE THIS COWARDLY WARCAPTAIN!" The high-priest commanded.

"Give me a weapon to fight this beast!" The warcaptain begged of the crowd as he quickly stepped away from his executioner. Someone tossed a battle axe towards him which spun and scraped across the marble a few feet away. Gor gripped his chain in one fist as the warcaptain dove for the axe.

When the warcaptain rolled onto his feet a moment later, axe up defensively, Gors chain was already whipping towards his neck, deflected at the last instant by the axe blade in a shower of sparks. The warcaptain rolled towards him, slashing at Gors legs, slicing a wound across his thigh.

"What kind of monster are you?!" The warcaptain asked. "We share the same blood!"

Gor bellowed, bringing his chain down towards his foe in counterattack. Yet the warcaptain was too quick, rolling forward again dodging easily. Gors chain sparked across the marble harmlessly, throwing him off balance. The warcaptain seized the opportunity to slice him again, this time across his lower back.

The horde shouted obscenities. Gor was clearly untrained in the use of weapons, clumsy even. And yet the crowd also knew the warcaptain was already doomed. Gors ferocity and toughness were legendary. Half a dozen other condemned warriors had already perished by his hands and horns. When the warcaptain tired and got within reach it was all over. It was just a matter of time.

"You are nothing like me!" Gor growled as he and the warcaptain circled each other. "The Hegemony grants you the right to face your executioner! I am merely the tool they use to ensure you die, discarded as readily as a broken blade should I fail in that duty..."

Gor paused to swing his chain once more with such strength it whistled through the air, yet once again the warcaptain dodged.

"If I fall here now instead of you, another will be created to replace me, just as another blade must be forged to replace the broken one." He continued.

The warcaptain panted, already tiring and clearly shocked to hear the horned monster speak.

"What is it that you want?" He asked desperately.

"I want what you have. The freedom to challenge those who would pass judgement on me!"

"GOR-KILL., GOR-KILL. GOR-KILL!" The crowd shouted with bloodlust prompting the warcaptain to sweat even more. The irony was, only he understood how little control over Gor they truly had.

He also realized there was nothing he could do to save himself. There could only be order within the Hegemony so long as the lessers died when the masters willed it. In that moment he understood how Gor felt and lost the desire to carry on with this farce.

"If you ever get free of this place, go south and seek out the great Kumbakarna. His hills are a haven for monsters like you! Only he can shelter you from the wrath of our masters."

"I appreciate the advice. I will end this now and spare you further suffering!" Gor shouted suddenly charging forward faster than anyone had ever seen him move before, lifting the warcaptain bodily off his feet as his horns impaled him through the chest, carrying him several yards to smash against the pulpit itself.

In that moment Oloch actually feared their own creation. It would not be the last time.

...to be continued.
 
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Hillsy7

Villager
Burrai stood in the corner, shield and axe leaned carefully by his feet against the wall, staring across the room at Elloral. Jabbar lay on the table, Elloral in attendance looking him over. No, not Jabbar - his corpse. Judging by Elloral’s manner, his sould had already started it’s journey to….wherever the smuggler hoped he’d been going. Burrai was sure he’d be accepted - no man should make that sort of selfless sacrifice and be denied entry to the afterlife of his choice.

Unsurprisingly, a funereal air hung over everyone, who stood or sat in various states of boiling anger, shock, or sorrow. Burrai himself held a mixture of all three. He thought he’d be inured to it, at least the sharpest edges of grief, but it seems that, like many things, had atrophied during his self imposed exile. Books were no substitute for the rawness of battle and fallen comrades.

The Rhat lay blindfolded and bound by his feet where he could kick it if it made a noise; The other bodies were down in the basement - the cheapest of Jabbar’s illegal goods. It had learned quickly to stay silent, and Burrai hadn’t had to educate it in a while now. He brooded, analysing, picking through his memories of the battle and wondering where the errors hid.

~If I’d know more about the vulkyre’s sensitivity to magic…..then what? Would Aletia have obeyed had I ordered her, like Ersun didn’t?~ He rolled it around and around: the first Javelin, his attempted distraction, the second, Jabbar’s final sacrifice - he rooted about in the gaps in the action and could find no spare time to have done anything from that first moment. Aletia would not have had time to drag Jabbar clear, Ersun not enough time to flee and draw attention, him not enough time to drop the wererat and do…..something to engage the Vulkyre. ~There wasn’t enough Time!~

Which meant avoidance had been their only hope. Part of that blame had been on him; his knowledge had been incomplete, and that always lead to problems in battle. But he wasn’t egotistical enough to flagellate himself for it. No one entered any battle with total knowledge - it was part of their eternal appeal - and all one could do was identify what wasn’t known, and do better next time. If you could. Sometimes the best course was to roll the dice and act - knowing you were unprepared didn’t help a jot then.

Circularly it came around again to whatever authority Jabbar had transposed to him just a few hours ago. That, at least, was something he could deal with now. Staring wordlessly at Jabbar’s body in a shared mire of emotions. Best leave that to the professionals.

“Ersun, Aletia,” He said, not unkindly. “I think I saw something strong in the basement. Come, share a cup with me. You too Billanverthorne. Avar.” He spoke a little louder to the sundered dwarf. “Keep an eye on this one, and keep him quiet and whole enough to talk.” He didn’t say anything to Elloral, just caught her gaze and gave her a nod - this was her task, and he’d give her the space for it.

He lead the 4 of them down into the basement and dragged a crate out to where they could all stand around it. In the corner, three dark bottles of something that looked strong and, when he pulled the cork, smelled stronger. He took one back to the crate, ignoring the glass eyed stare of the bodies. He took a large pull from the bottle, feeling the raw burn of hard liquor spread down his throat, and placed it uncorked in the middle of the crate.

“To Jabbar, who sacrificed himself without assurances of success - the true measure of heroism.” He made a gesture for everyone to do the same if they wished, and waited for their salutes, whatever they were. There was always a time to honour the fallen - sometimes a lifetime.

He waited for the lull. “I’ve thought hard about what happened, and there wasn’t anything we could’ve done to save Jabbar. That’s not to say there isn’t things we could have done better, and can do better in the future.” He looked up at them, all taller than he (though he was tall for a dwarf) and all younger. ~Everyone’s younger than you Burrai, in life if not in years.~ “But today we did lose something else we needed because of choices and a lack of trust: Ren run away and now our path down to his faction of Rhats is significantly less smooth than before.”

He held up a hand to forestall any interruption. “That’s not to say I blame anyone, I don’t. But there in the heat of battle none of us knew precisely what cards we were playing with. There is a place for many assets on the field - from unswerving obedience to total autonomy - but less mistakes are made when those assets are known. And right now, we know nothing of each other beyond what weapons we wield and what armour we wear.” He gave a shrug. These were just problems that came with war, unknown pieces on a chess board and playing for the highest of stakes. He gestured to Ersun, palm open.

“I asked you to follow Ren, but you chose not to. I respect that condition in the context, but the ‘why’ of the decision is important, now, while we have the time to learn of it. Perhaps if I knew yourself, or Billanverthorne here, could find him easily - if you can - I’d have removed Ren from the equation and let him run. Perhaps if you knew, Ersun, of my history, and the sway I have with some of the mercenary guilds here, you’d have made a different decision. If Aletia knew more of Cabarda, and our own martial prowess, she might not have felt so threatened as to cast spells so openly once we’d arrived. If, if, if, if…….” He leaned forward, pressing the palms of his hands onto the barrel top, emphasising his point.

“These aren’t mistakes or errors, they are correct decisions at the time with the facts we had. We all had. You can’t change the past - Gods know I would have if it could be - but we can plan better for the future. So…”
He spread both his hands, a welcoming gesture. “Here is our forum, and we need to know what to expect of each other - our typical choices in battle, our preferred roles, our skills, tactics and capabilities.”

Burrai leaned back again, and jabbing a thumb at the door up from the basement. “While you know what I do from my axe or shield, you amy or may not know I was, for a time, jokingly called a Mercenary Prince. It’s a joke title, given to those who lead and cultivate mercenary units and take them on the more…..glamorous jobs. Mostly, that’s soldiering for rich kings, often in place of their own martially illiterate sons. I’ve seen a lot of war, battle, and many here know that, and respect it. I also know how to survive - which is why I learned to make my own shield and plate - and I try to keep my squad alive, behind me preferably.”

He gave a shrug. “Most of that is probably evident, but some not. And know you know.”

Burrai fell silent, letting them choose to fill the silence before it grew to large for words. That’s how he’d done it often in the past, when Burrai Steelborn built a squad. Little else built teamwork like the comfort to speak freely between your comrades, and often that first step needed silence.
 

Tellerian Hawke

Defender of Oerth
Burrai said:
He lead the 4 of them down into the basement and dragged a crate out to where they could all stand around it. [...] He took a large pull from the bottle, feeling the raw burn of hard liquor spread down his throat, and placed it uncorked in the middle of the crate.
Billanverthorne is still in shock. "To Jabbar, our single day of friendship held more kinship, brotherhood, and friendship than many people experience in a decade or more. May his spirit always guide us to greater things."

Burrai said:
“...I asked you to follow Ren, but you chose not to."
Bill scowls when he learns of this, but says nothing. He doesn't need to.


Burrai said:
“...If Aletia knew more of Cabarda, and our own martial prowess, she might not have felt so threatened as to cast spells so openly once we’d arrived."
Bill eyes Aletia with disapproval, but she can tell that his real ire lies with Ersun, for his outright disobedience.

Burrai said:
"...I’ve seen a lot of war, battle, and many here know that, and respect it. I also know how to survive - which is why I learned to make my own shield and plate - and I try to keep my squad alive, behind me preferably.”
Billanverthorne nods, although it is probably unnecessary. "If you're asking us to follow you, then you have my bow and my blade. I shall follow you into the depths of the Nine Hells, my Dwarven brother."

Bill looks to Aletia and Ersun, "What you've done up until this point is unimportant. All of the regret in the world won't bring Jabbar back. But I need to know that I can count on you both to shape up, from here on out. Our lives are in each other's hands. I want to know that I can trust each of you to do what is necessary, NOT what will feed your own egos, or serve your own agendas. You must be without fear. Fear, in the end, only serves to get you killed. It is better to die walking forward, than to bleed out in a panicked flight. Cowards die a thousand deaths, heroes, only once. What say you both?"
 

narayan

Villager
Vandrok the Relentless

Beneath the twinkling stars of the broad Akhenaten sky, Vandrok the Relentless, as he was now known, huffed and snorted through bulls nostrils as he stepped across the stony sands. Behind his horns a heavy carcass of a dire puma was draped across his shoulders. There were also two two dead wild boar dragging behind him in a net for good measure. Out here in the stony hills, open dunes and barren canyons of the Aluja Expanse; Vandrok was just another beast on the prowl.

Roughly four years after his escape from Skull Mountain, nightly hunts were now the norm to keep himself fit and revel in life un-shackled, above ground. Hides and trophies of his kills would honor his new god Baezu, ancient deity of hunters and warriors. The meat would help feed the great Kumbakarna's extended family.

He had taken the warcaptains advice and lived to thank him with a silent toast whenever he had to opportunity to drink horns of ale. Life was good now in the Hills of Kumbakarna, much better than he expected. Weakened and wounded as he was in the effort to flee Skull Mountain it would have been easy for them to bind him in shackles once more. Indeed judging by appearance alone Kumbakarna looked no less a demon than the evils he fled from. The difference was, Kumbakarna was content with what he already had and served only himself.

As Vandrok approached his home a single torch appeared as a cloaked figure approached from the lee of the hills. Vandrok slowed his stride picking up his scent which was human... yet not entirely so? The stranger walked straight up to Vandrok without fear, close enough for Vandrok to look upon his features by the light of the flame he bore after he pulled off his hood.

There stood before him now a Caishian of maybe twenty years of age, at least foot and a half shorter than he, wearing a leather jerkin over chain mail. There is a spiked chain coiled at his waist along with a short sword and a dagger of fine Caishian craftsmanship.

Stranger: "You are the great horned one I saw in my vision!" He says in the common tongue.

Vandrok: Snorts. "Who in the nine hells are you?"

Stranger: "I am Svexyn, of Caishia. A Dragon-shaman."

Vandrok narrows his gaze with instant fascination. For some time now he had the idea to find a dragon to learn some great knowledge or power. It was a desire he shared with no one, yet now suddenly there was a dragon shaman standing before him? Oddly coincidental to say the least and Vandrok never trusted coincidences. "What do you want ?!" He asks with the great hoarse grunts of his deep bullish voice.

Svexyn. "I bring a message. Seek the great Pit of Bet'Shava."

Vandrok: Laughs. "I have heard of this pit, it is said to swallow trespassers whole and spit out their bones in clouds of dust!"

Svexyn: Nods "You are wise to be wary. Only the worthy or the invited may enter unharmed."

Vandrok: "And which of those am I?" He questions incredulously.

Svexyn: "I do not presume to know anything except that Bet'Shava herself, the great dragon of the Aluja Expanse, knows all there is to know in her demesne. The winds carry your thoughts to her as you wander each night. Forgive me I must go now. There is little time yet to accomplish my quest before the coming doom."

Vandrok: "What coming doom?"

Svexyn: Gestures back towards the hills. "Go and speak to Wrenwil, one of the others I traveled with. We came by the so-called path of blood. He knows much about the doom..." The Caishian says mysteriously.

Suddenly Vandrok feels a headache come upon him. A sharp aching within his skull that makes him wince and growl with pain. ~Not again!~

Svexyn: Stares with sudden awareness. "Ah, and you feel it too... you are connected with the doom somehow aren't you!?"

Vandrok: "Silence!" He roars shaking his horns too and fro.

Svexyn steps away quickly, setting off into the expanse without another word.

Vandrok stumbles forward, his headache lessening the nearer he gets to refuge. He knows the reason for it, along with the visions and persistant nightmares. The magic of his creators still runs through his veins. It pulls against his will everytime the cabal makes a new attempt to call him back, or perhaps destroy him?

The specifics and mysteries of arcane magics are nothing he's cared to dwell upon enough to fully understand. He only knows the power of their influence greatly lessens within the Hills of Kumbakarna. A fact he attributes to the protection of The Hill Tribe and their ancient gods, Baezu being one of them.
 

97mg

Villager
Aletia: Cards on the table

The elven girl's life hadn't just been turned upside down. It had been shattered. A life of freedom, companionship and joy had been stained now, by both poison and a rainy eve soaking her with as much guilt, as blood, wind and sleet. As though the tip of a blade, the angle of her future had sharply turned. There were tears to accompany her few moments alone. Once, she had attracted kindness, laughter and optimism. Now she contemplated something else. Was she a bad omen? Was the next stage in her life to be as bait to the ways of death, treachery and ill-doing? Becoming close to people was inviting great risk. She even wondered if in some manner she was cursed, that all who meant something to her were destined to die. The Black Network. The vengeance she had alluded to with Kayote was ringing in her head like a great temple's bell.

Telling Master Burlock of Vallio's demise hadn't been easy, but what of this? How to now describe the fate of Jabbar, a man to whom Kayote had entrusted her?

~If I had not set out alone, been more careful, not shouted Rasul, just let them take me...~

In Aletia's mind she'd failed. The successful delivery of Kayote's invitation was overshadowed now by attempted abduction, battle on the streets, discovery, interdiction and death. The Burlocks would be better without her. Jabbar's companions would be better without her. A life of solitude and perpetual grief beckoned, "come to me, and misery for eternity is yours..."

Something cold ran along her neck, a thin and serpentine form. Crez slid down her arm and then turned, green eyes peering at her, but not in judgement.

"Oh Crez, if not for you I would have been taken."

Strangely, these last few hours something had changed. A once simple empathic link had gained new complexity. They could truly converse and understand each other. The connection betwixt the two had deepened.

"Promisesssss miss."

Immediately she knew what was implied by the flicking tongue and subtle reptilian jaw movements. They were together. She was not alone, even if it would be only a snake to share her path, and a moon goddess so distant and untouched.

But there had been other promises. To deliver a note to Kayote of Jabbar's intention to meet this morn. To be back at the trade shop before dawn, to visit a temple. To lay a plan to catch Ozzen and Houlgrim before Kayote's foul game was played out in full.

She owed it to them. Jabbar had died for it. Aletia's actions would be the will of the deceased. She was to do... dead man's work, in order to benefit the living.

Burning pain accompanied her attempt to lean forward and write. The wound was fresh, a horrid tear to her back, but not a mortal injury. She'd deal with that later. More important work was at hand.

"For the eyes of Master Burlock alone.

A woman came to you with nothing but ill news. The death of a friend. A woman with grief and loss in-tow; your kindness she relished, your promise of a home and purpose she was humbled by, your knowledge and trust she both admired and was warmed by.

I am eternally grateful to you and your kin.

With broken heart I accept this duty to write words that you shall not wish to read, contemplate, nor remember. However, this is my duty. This is an act I can neither hide from nor conceal.

On this eve as instructed, your invitation was delivered in full. His comrades welcomed me wholeheartedly, though the contest they questioned. A trap, your friend said, dangerous."


~Crez, I shall not mention the plan of removing Ozzen and Houlgrim from the cards. Not in writing. Let that be done with Jabbar's comrades in the morning.~

"Early this day, please make yourself available to your friend's comrades. They wish to visit and speak with you, and I also wish to be there as there is much to discuss.

With the invitation delivered, the shop I did depart, to find myself followed. Rhats and a most horrible man did their best to bound and bag me. Disguised, they did not see the truth of me, nor did they expect your friend's entourage to rush to my aid. My assailant's end came in the dead of night, with rain to wash their blood down filthy city streets. But that was not to be the end of it. Spotted by the flying ones, wounded as I am by javelins hurled from the sky, we watched as the first moves were made to raise alarm.

In the final moments, your friend touched a great power unknown to me. A sacrifice was made. In exchange for his life the flying one was slain.

We both know loss. Your losses far outweigh mine own, yet I truly, honestly and respectfully, am sorry. Twice now I bring you dark news, though this time I am absent. It is not through fear of your anger or remorse that I choose to deliver these words by quill, no, I have made promises. Promises to you and your friend, to his colleagues, that I intend to fulfill in totality. By dawn I will have ventured out to do as I must. To assist one of their own, ill and desperately in need. Also, to come with them, here, to meet you and forge a path forward.

May our common enemies perish! May the dark stain of death be washed away under mooncast light! May together, we avenge those loved ones now fallen!

AM"


Small round crinkles seemed to occupy several areas of the page. She'd signed it as much with her tears as with her name...

---

It was some hours later, with the moon slowly descending from view and threatening dawn, that Aletia returned to Jabbar's shop. This hadn't been an easy decision. Her intuition and survival instinct begged her to flee. Leave this horrid city and its treachery behind, go back to the old ways of wandering the forest lands. Life was simpler that way. But there was no Vallio to share those old ways anymore.

So she'd come here seeking the tools for revenge, as well as to pay her debt and respects.

Burrai's words rattled off the basement walls and Aletia tasted their truth. She appreciated the honesty, the methodical logic, and the calm manner in which they were spoken.

She remained still and absorbed it all, showing her respect to the dead with a quiet prayer.

"Just as the dearest moon runs rings through the sky,
from none to full to none once more.
So too do men die.
So too can a death,
change the motion of a tide."


Billanverthorne spoke then, and even though the words seemed predominantly aimed at Ersun, the young elven lass was quite taken aback by the rebuke. Clearly this one had less control of his emotions. She began to wonder what other words might have been said in her absence.

~Egos? The irony...~

She turned to him and showed only a flat sorrowful face, before moving her gaze back to Burrai.

"I am in dept to you for your aid, for charging to assist someone largely unknown on such a horrible night. That says more of you and yours than any words can. It speaks of honor, bravery, and justice. I am truly sorry for your loss and any role I played in the hour of his death."

Aletia looked to Bill again, somewhat more apologetically and slowly blinked her dry reddened eyes once, before continuing.

"My friend, it seems you berate me with one hand, and with the other either demand or assume allegiance. I am sorry for your hurt and anger. However, you speak of agendas? Please, do enlighten me as to yours. I will come to no decisions hastily or half-advised. At least allow me the opportunity to decide my fate with full knowledge, of what this group's true intentions now are. What are your current plans? What method is there in your desire to thwart the Black Network? I know only of the two men we planned to interdict before the contest, and I also offered to assist in the visitation to a temple. Let me remind you that our ties are less than one evening in age. Lay it out then, tell it all, and if what I next say sees our paths align, and I can be of service, then... then you will have my word."

She didn't give them all of it, but she did go on to briefly speak of what was once her family, the bloodline and the all-true hatred of the drow.

“I believe that what we have done up until this point IS important.”

What they really sought to know though was what she could do. What could a young woman offer a team of what seemed like hardened soldiers of secrecy?

"My friends, this city and its ways are not my element. Do not look to me to bravely charge outnumbered into the abyss. Drawn blades on dirty roads, physical strength and thick armor I suit not. But do not look on me with shame, or dare mock me, as a woman, young and weak, useless and fragile, for I may have ways which can make your strikes quieter, precise and with less inherent risk. I am an unknown, an observer, a silent nobody with an art for collecting information. I take no pleasure in war and death, but when it is due I choose anonymity, working from a distance, and returning to the darkness as quietly as I arrived. Disguise, dare I say it, charm, invisibility, the fine shafts of one’s own handmade arrows. The gifts of my true mother, Sehanine in arcane magic. These are the tools I've been fated with to face this life, and they are yours if our fates are to be conjoined. Along with this, I dare say my connection to Kayote can aid you. With Jabbar gone, it is to the Burlocks alone that I am now sworn."

[sblock=Aletia Stats]

[TABLE="width: 800, align: left"] [TR] [TD]
[/TD] [TD]ALETIA - Shining in the darkness

Sheet:
http://www.myth-weavers.com/sheet.html#id=725599
Level
6 Sorceress Init 3, HP Max: 32 Current: 23, Speed 30ft
AC 14, Touch 13, Flat-footed 11, Fort 4, Ref 5, Will 5, Base Attack Bonus 3
Longbow +6 to hit / D8 damage (+1 point blank +1 with magic arrows)
Longsword +3 to hit / D8 damage

Familiar Crez (Tiny silver viper) Init 3, HP Max: 16 Current: 16, Speed 15ft
AC 20, Fort 2, Ref 2, Will 4, Base Attack Bonus 2
Poisonous Bite +2 to hit / D1 damage (+poison)
Abilities: Deliver touch spells, Alertness, Improved evasion, Spare spells, Empathic link, Speak with master[/TD] [/TR] [/TABLE] [/sblock]
 
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p3sent

Villager
Down the basement

"I barely knew him, having just met, but his act spoke more of character than anything else could. To Jabbar." Ersun added to the salute. There was a queer tingling in the air, or so it seemed to him. A battle that could have been fought better, a death, and a gathering of strange companions, or at least companion candidates. It was not set in stone, nothing is. So much has changed upside down, then back, just to turn around another axis once again, in the past days.

He looked at Burrai as he spoke and nodded, then listened to Billanverthorne speak his mind, and he nodded at Aletia's words, they think alike on this. He also turns to Bill:

"Please, do not jump to conclusions before you speak or listen." he said with a slight curve but soothing in his tone. Implicated cowardice and foolhardiness, yet here was he making assumptions of what happened, him, and what to do. Ego fights, ironically what he spoke against, yet... were not going to help them in any way. He was not angry at him, nor insulted, but there are things better set clear. He sighed, and tilted his head as he turned to Burrai, as a gesture of invitation to come and pay attention instead.

"It is indeed important to take a look and appraise our actions, and the decisions behind them. Let us not brush it off, communication is important." he began, then paused a moment to gather his thoughts. "First, why I did not go after Ren: it was unlikely for me to find him, darkvision or not I would not have trusted my senses for it. I am far not as sneaky as he, although my kin might have a reputation for it, so considering the lights we produced, if any more vulkyrie or guards came closer I would have been easy picking. I am compeletly new to the settlement, arrived in the dark, even if I do not get caught, I am very likely to get lost."

"Second, why I acted as I did once I decided to stay? The wererat still had that malificent talisman of his on the brink of his death, with my spell already prepared against him. I know you wanted to fight defensively to give us time, but neither letting him use it, or giving him opportunity to run away, and hence leek information about our curious group with Jabbar, was something I wanted to risk. Even if you delayed them and we escaped, consiering your legs and armor you are the least suited to break away last, no offense my good dwarf. I would not want to lose two leaders a day just when we gathered. So while I respect your bravery, I was thinking among different lines." he is careful not to sound haughty even by mistake, he is earnest and open to discussion with them.

"As for the Vulkyrie, I really should have thought about the horn. Jabbar's lightning was nothing short of a miracle, I imagine we would be hardly in such a relatively calm situation if not for that."

"Allegiances..." he savours the word and glances at Bill. "It seems like we will be allies, that is almost certain, in what form and shape will I be part of this team, that is still rather malleable, and there is plenty we will have to talk about what and how next." he carefully emphasises the last part to the dwarf, and also to Aletia, as it seems she is in a similiar situation to him. It was a long night so far, and will be probably longer still.

"Well, me, hard to define as well as you" he raises a finger as if asking for their patience, and sings a snippet of an undercommon ballad, just enough to disguise a pair of spells producing a few tiny dancing lights onto the table, accompanied by soft, lingering, ghostly music. It soothed him how smoothly he managed it. Bar of Torment, the magical tune is called, a curiously calming song despite the name, one he learned from Sassan, his mentor in music and some, among the outlandish tales he told. He smiles faintly because of the memories it brings up. "I am somewhat of a jack of all trades: traveling bard, scholar, mage, and passable with the sword and swordly magic, but the later might require few moments to setup. I am far from a wizard, but I will list what arcanacraft I manage." with that he takes out a parchment and quil from his bag, and puts it next to him on the table, so he can pen it down once the conversation settles. "I mostly work as a messenger down below, and currently as a diplomat here."

"As for leadership in the group, you do seem most suited."

[Perform, Disguise Spell rolls: Dancing Lights 31, Ghost Sound 24]
 

Tellerian Hawke

Defender of Oerth
Bill Stands His Ground

Aletia said:
"...However, you speak of agendas? Please, do enlighten me as to yours. I will come to no decisions hastily or half-advised."
Bill frowns, sighs, and says, "I don't have an agenda, lass. I'm not so fortunate as you. I am in no one's employ; I am alone. I am hunted by the Black Network. The Black Network murdered my father, and his father before him, and now, they seek to do the same to me. I was trying to contact a man named Jarahdrin, who was a friend of my father's, hoping that he could help me set things right. I won't bore you with the details, but Jarahdrin knows much about the Black Network, perhaps even enough to bring about its eventual downfall."

Bill runs his left hand through his hair, and sighs deeply again; a nervous habit. "I met Jabbar literally earlier this evening, just after the gates had closed for the night. Jabbar was a friend of Jarahdrin's, and he sympathized with my plight, and offered to introduce me to Jarahdrin in the morning. Together, along with Avar, we breached the caves, and made it into the city. Jabbar told me that he was planning to meet a couple of Dwarves whose purpose coincided with my own. Obviously, I refer to Burrai and Elloral, here. We went to meet them, and I discovered a pair of shifty-looking types watching Burrai's table. I risked much to warn Burrai of the danger, and then, as we were leaving the tavern, we were beset by another of Burrai's enemies, Kong. We fought off Kong and his men, and managed to elude the guards and make it back safely to Jabbar's shop, and even convince more guardsmen who came knocking at the door that nothing was amiss. WE BEAT THE ODDS THREE SEPARATE TIMES TONIGHT. Only to have it all undone by a showboating apprentice who needs to use fireworks to put down a few rats. So, as you can imagine, I'm a bit put out. THAT BEING SAID, if what Burrai says is true, and Jabbar scarificed himself to save you, then I cannot dishonor his memory by turning you away. If I did that, he would have died for nothing. So you need to make a choice. You can get mad at me for pointing out your lack of discretion, and walk away. Or you can stay, and show us why your safety was important enough to warrant Jabbar's sacrifice. If you stay, however, I'd advise you heed Burrai's commands, and obey them without question. He is the leader now, of whatever this enterprise has become. I've said my peace. Make your choice."

Ersun said:
"...Let us not brush it off, communication is important."
Bill scowls, "Indeed it is. So let's get a few things straight, right now. I don't care what your reasons for disobedience were. The fact is, that if we fail to work as a team, we die. The middle of a fight is no time to argue tactics. From the way you're talking, you're beholden to no one, you're your own boss, a free agent. You don't consider Burrai to be in charge. Hence, you follow your own counsel, and act of your own, independent accord. Ok, I will accept that. No formal agreement existed before bewteen any of us. THAT ENDS NOW. Burrai is the leader of this enterprise now, as far as I am concerned. If you choose to accept his authority, fine. Join us. But from here on out, you will NOT fail to follow his orders. This has nothing to do with me, it has to do with US. ALL OF US. Our lives depend upon the certainty that each member of the team will perform the duties expected of him or her. If that doesn't suit you, then perhaps you should be on your way."

OOC: To the players of Ersun & Aletia: No offense. It's not personal. Bill has a stern personality, and sees things rather plainly, in black and white. He has no use nor patience for "gray areas," lol.
 

narayan

Villager
At Jabbars Trade Shop

Avar turned away from the open cellar door with a dismayed expression. He was listening in on the raised voices that now offered little comfort. He steps back towards where Jabbar's body lay peacefully on the table, a smile still present on his face. ~I doubt you would still be smiling if you could hear them now...~ He thinks, wondering if anyone could hold this group together as well as the fallen smuggler.

Elloral looks up from her prayers and sighs. "What are they talking about?"

Avar: "They're arguing..." He grunts with angst evident in the nervous way he fingers the edge of his axe.

Elloral: "It's to be expected. We're mostly strangers to each other after all, suddenly thrust together into a dangerous alliance. It will take time to trust each other and learn how to fight together."

Avar: "I should have been by his side!" He growls with a clench of his jaw.

Elloral: Shakes her head. "Don't do that! Don't blame yourself."

Avar: Frowns and reaches over to pull something out of a concealed pocked in Jabbar's clothing.

Elloral: Gasps. "What's that?"

Avar: "The keys for the smuggling business. They belong to Aust now. Besides, It's time he's heard the bad news." He states with obvious discontent.

Elloral: "Valkauna is especially sensitive to my prayers tonight and sympathetic to our plight. I believe she will grant me the strength to cure Aust after all." She states hopefully. "We need each other now more than ever."

Avar: "Bless the gods for saving our necks!" He states with gratitude, moving up the stairs slowly and purposely, his heavy footsteps softened by tall moccasins strapped around his leggings. Some moments later, Avars heavy hand knocks against Aust's door. When the ailing elf opens it, the normally stern grey eyes of the sundered dwarf are watery and grief-stricken. Jabbars keys offered in his open palm provide all the explanation necessary.

[Aust: What do you do?]
 
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Hillsy7

Villager
Burrai Steelborn

Burrai cleared his throat. It wasn’t a loud sound, but years of easy command dropped it in the perfect space to be heard, and gave it enough of an edge to draw attention. He looked up at everyone and folded his arms on the cask, and waited for them to look down. That had been another trick he’d learned from a dozen other dwarves - don’t make out you’re looking up; they are looking down.

“It was, what now, twenty five years ago? I had a group under my command, mostly green lads and an elf who’d had the hardest upbringing I’d ever heard of. And a dwarf named Grekk. We’d been hired to sabotage a small dam beneath this stonescursed half orc smuggler’s main warehouse: flood the ground floor, push out the gang hiding upstairs into the open, and the stolen goods float out into the river.

“Problem was, he had a pet - some half wyrm or Salamander, or something. No idea what is was. Anyway, we snuck up through fissure in the cavern underneath the warehouse, up over this large natural arch, and was halfway across when this guard lizard spotted us and started spitting fire at us. This woke the guards, who came down to a murder ledge they had to one side, and they started laying down crossbow fire on our flank. I got the boys hunkered down, behind a shield wall, but we were pinned.” Burrai took another swig from the bottle.

“I’d no sooner got us locked down when Grekk simply dove over the side of the ledge. To this day I don’t know precisely how he managed to not just fall. Anyway, a minute or two later the brilliant idiot appeared above us, scaling the wall like a gekko with just a pair of daggers. He got over the ledge and unloaded his pockets - they were full of fist sized cragspiders that started biting and poisoning the humans on the ledge. This gave us the space to charge the Wyrm, and cut it down before it finally melted through our shields. We got past, and got ourselves set just in time for the second charge from behind us. Fortified, prepared and with them held on a bridge, instead of them hitting us in the rear, we met them head on."

He rubbed one finger under his nose, almost smiling to himself, the thick scar over his left eye twisting and scrunching together. “When Grekk came out to meet us, damn fool was covered in spider bites that’d have killed anyone not a dwarf, and was grinning like a loon even as his skin bruised and swelled.” This time he made a point of cocking an eyebrow at Bill. “We’d have been dead if he’d followed my orders. We’d have been dead if he’d taken the time to explain his plan. We’d have been dead if I didn’t know Grekk had the kind of mind that thrived in these situations and rather than held ground, retreated.”

Burrai gave a shrug with one shoulder. “Free agents can be the best or worst asset a commander can have - you just have to know they are going to do what they feel best, and then act according to how much faith you have in them to do it right.” He turned back to Ersun. “That’s why I don’t particularly care what your excuses are, or your reasons. I don’t need to know them. You’ve already told me what I need to know - in the heat of it, you’ll do what you believe right by your judgement. I can work with that.”

He turned to the slight Aletia, propping one elbow on the cask top. “And as for allegiances, I ask for none. What I need to know is simply motives and goals. Knowledge as to what a tool does is only as important as what the wielder will do with it; man may use a paring knife to peel potatoes, or slit a throat depending on his mind at that moment. You say right now your allegiance is to the Burlocks, that’s fine Lass. Just tell me where those goals intersect with ours - as far as I can see, quite a ways at the moment.” He paused for a moment, letting the notion sit heavy in the air. “I know a little more of you now, you know a little more of me and the dangers this town and these...politics pose. What you need to ask yourself is how much you trust me to achieve your goals as well as mine. Think on that, and let me know when you’ve come to a conclusion.” He ended with a smile, letting her know it wasn’t a loaded statement, just a simple request.

“And finally, Bill. Our goals seem to overlap most, and you’ve spoken strong words in defence of them. Good - one should unburden oneself, Lad. Especially in the company of comrades to be. However, “ Burrai stepped back and made a sweep of his arms, articulating the open space between them. “You’ve said your piece, and I’ve know many a skilled group fall into incompetence over words they kept behind their teeth. So, Ersun, Aletia, if you’ve got anything to say amongst us, let’s have it out here and now before we take another step.”

And with that, Burrai took another pace backwards, and waited to see if this group could weld themselves together or would spark and burn the whole thing down.
 

97mg

Villager
Aleta: Cards on the table

Aletia visibly tensed as Bill’s harsh retort washed over her. The young elven heart within her chest rapidly pumped, her hands felt clammy, she took a deep breath, but there was no escaping this. She was on the spot, pinned like wounded prey.

She saw so much subtext in Bill’s harsh judgement and assessment, the swift opinions of a stranger who’d reached these conclusions how? Through earlier discussion with his colleagues of course. It was clear, despite Burrai’s diplomatic, mature and sensitively trod introduction, that young Aletia was being painted as the cause… the failure… the scapegoat. True or not as the accusations may have been, it was plain to see that Jabbar’s death was considered her doing, by Bill at least. The result of her youth, naivety, overconfidence and irrationality. Deep down she knew it was true, and that hurt even more.

This was an agony unfamiliar. The amassing guilt of recent events tore at her. Such a dark slippery slope she’d traveled since the murder of her beloved and the days beyond. Dark curtains were beginning to form around her thoughts, negativity bleeding into every open space of her mind. A moon smothered and surrounded by black emptiness. Was this, right now, what it really meant to be moonborn?

Direct conflict, either with sword in hand or tongue lashing rebuke, was never a good place to be. She was emotionally preparing herself to depart at this point. It was with excellent timing that Burrai had then worked yet again, to diffuse the heavy tension lingering in the room. Burrai had caught the air just in time.

Aletia gave him her full attention. These weren’t the words of an emotional over-reaction. He certainly didn’t come across as nasty, covert or judgemental.


~Now here is a man who knows things, and clearly how to make the best of what and who he has.~

The story was a most interesting one, so foreign in context for the young woman. She had no great deeds to speak of. No great battles to recount. No pivotal moments when her actions had saved the lives of others in some glorious cause. Was she… did she feel… selfish at hearing this? There was certainly reassurance in someone of this caliber being willing to share, not only history, but also a future.

The words she’d prepared in defense, in retort to Bill were largely tempered now. They could come later.


“Burrai, you are clearly an honorable man. I believe our strengths and choices in battle, our abilities that might lay a path to a mutual goal, our shared networking and knowledge, can do far more harm to our enemies than each of us individually. Yes, I am sworn to the Burlocks. They may have placed trust and shared secrets with me. But I am new to this city and its citizens and ways. I will admit openly that I have… much to learn, and hopefully as much to give. If, after this evening's events your hearts are still open to it, then yes, I do trust in fulfilling our motives through mutual effort.”

She took a deep breath. This next bit was going to be difficult.

Looking back to Bill she said, “there are indeed words left behind my teeth. Is not your leader seeking a way to ensure the purpose and usefulness in all of us? He made it clear that blame was not the reason for this meeting. You speak of obedience, Bill, yet all the while appear to wish to undo the work he here set out to achieve.”

“Where your conclusions are drawn from I can only guess, as you rebuke me, having not even witnessed my supposed apprental failures first-hand. Clearly, the reasoning for my attempted abduction is of little interest to you. Nor the offer made from those abductees, with an invitation to join their ranks. Oh, what value would information from the inside have been in our plight? It was a risk I may have considered, and no great loss to you. But no, a charge was laid, identifying names were called in the streets, and Jabbar laid down his life not to save me, but to save the anonymity and persecution of his true friends.”

“I am deeply sad, and dare I say scarred, for your loss and my role in its cause, Billanverthorne. I will however, not swear to those who seek to undermine each other and reach rash judgement with neglect for assembling the full truths at hand. If this is something we can agree on, if you expect that one day... you can forgive me... once our grieving is done and the taste of justice and revenge is wet on our lips, then I will shake your hand now, as pre-payment for my allegiance and your acceptance of my humble sorrow and apologies at this eve’s horrible end.”

She probably should have just departed with her tail between her legs, exited the city and sought a solitary life. But a wheel was in motion. She would not disrespect the man who had pushed it on its first rotations down life's dark road. Vallio. As much as she hated it, all he had taught her boiled down to this, right now...

[sblock=Aletia Stats]

[TABLE="width: 800, align: left"] [TR] [TD]
[/TD] [TD]ALETIA - Shining in the darkness

Sheet:
http://www.myth-weavers.com/sheet.html#id=725599
Level
6 Sorceress Init 3, HP Max: 32 Current: 23, Speed 30ft
AC 14, Touch 13, Flat-footed 11, Fort 4, Ref 5, Will 5, Base Attack Bonus 3
Longbow +6 to hit / D8 damage (+1 point blank +1 with magic arrows)
Longsword +3 to hit / D8 damage

Familiar Crez (Tiny silver viper) Init 3, HP Max: 16 Current: 16, Speed 15ft
AC 20, Fort 2, Ref 2, Will 4, Base Attack Bonus 2
Poisonous Bite +2 to hit / D1 damage (+poison)
Abilities: Deliver touch spells, Alertness, Improved evasion, Spare spells, Empathic link, Speak with master[/TD] [/TR] [/TABLE] [/sblock]
 

p3sent

Villager
Ersun is faced with either retort or giddynes at Bill's outburst, and what eventually bulges out of him is just a smile, and does not comment on it. He is sure someone is bound to find that offensive, but at this moment he will not care. Such giddy little things can be light in darkness, and heck it is dark now, and it helped him break his own gathering sourness.

He listens quietly to the story, ands nods in acknowledment to how the dwarf sees his part. On the other hand, maybe the dwarf Is way too diplomatic and calm, carefully sailing between the two opinions, not an entirerly dwarfish trait, and he finds that amusing. Nevertheless, he finds maybe a firmer hand would have solved their arguing better, this just might turn into a wedge in the group later on.

"You asked the why of my decision..." he comments and shrugs. He does not think he was just making excuses, but anyway, if it isn't your shirt then do not put it on, so he lets the conversation flow on.

"The girl is right." he concurs to Aletia's speech. "This" he gestures at their group. "is what we have now and have to work with, like it or not."

"So, bless our group, and our jolly mood. Next agenda would be what happens once the sun is up. My dear dwarf..." he turns the attention to Burrai.
 

Tellerian Hawke

Defender of Oerth
Bill Is Ready To Move On

Aletia said:
"...if you expect that one day... you can forgive me... once our grieving is done and the taste of justice and revenge is wet on our lips, then I will shake your hand now, as pre-payment for my allegiance and your acceptance of my humble sorrow and apologies at this eve’s horrible end."
Bill nods, and extends his hand. "Forgiveness it shall be," he says, "your apology is accepted."

Ersun said:
"...The girl is right." he concurs to Aletia's speech. "This" he gestures at their group. "is what we have now and have to work with, like it or not." [...] "So, bless our group, and our jolly mood."
"So be it." Bill says, flatly.
 

Aust Thale

Explorer
Aust Awakens & Learns of Jabbar's Demise

Avar turned away from the open cellar door with a dismayed expression. He was listening in on the raised voices that now offered little comfort. He steps back towards where Jabbar's body lay peacefully on the table, a smile still present on his face. ~I doubt you would still be smiling if you could hear them now...~ He thinks, wondering if anyone could hold this group together as well as the fallen smuggler.
Elloral looks up from her prayers and sighs. "What are they talking about?"
Avar: "They're arguing..." He grunts with angst evident in the nervous way he fingers the edge of his axe.
Elloral: "It's to be expected. We're mostly strangers to each other after all, suddenly thrust together into a dangerous alliance. It will take time to trust each other and learn how to fight together."
Avar: "I should have been by his side!" He growls with a clench of his jaw.
Elloral: Shakes her head. "Don't do that! Don't blame yourself."
Avar: Frowns and reaches over to pull something out of a concealed pocked in Jabbar's clothing.
Elloral: Gasps. "What's that?"
Avar: "The keys for the smuggling business. They belong to Aust now. Besides, It's time he's heard the bad news." He states with obvious discontent.
Elloral: "Valkauna is especially sensitive to my prayers tonight and sympathetic to our plight. I believe she will grant me the strength to cure Aust after all." She states hopefully. "We need each other now more than ever."
Avar: "Bless the gods for saving our necks!" He states with gratitude, moving up the stairs slowly and purposely, his heavy footsteps softened by tall moccasins strapped around his leggings. Some moments later, Avars heavy hand knocks against Aust's door. When the ailing elf opens it, the normally stern grey eyes of the sundered dwarf are watery and grief-stricken. Jabbars keys offered in his open palm provide all the explanation necessary.
[Aust: What do you do?]
~ Avar? Why are you giving me Avar's keys? He needs them for...Wha? Where's Jabbar? No. No. ~
Aust doesn't say a word. He accepts the key, opening the door wide. His eyes go from elven large to closed as he suddenly hugs the dwarf, knowing full well that neither Avar nor Aust would ever engage in such an act were the loss not so great, so profound. Aust leaves the door ajar, turning toward his bed. Instinctively, he reaches for the bottle of wine on the table serving as his desk, but he realizes that it was empty before his head hit his pillow. Living here and doing what they have done for as long as they have done it, a certain amount of emotional preparation should have been had; this sort of thing could happen anytime. After all, it was just hours ago that Aust nearly died, poisoned by a half-drow named Chuth and then again if he had not properly deceived the authorities. And then there's the matter of the alchemical fire in the dumped barrels, and the likely attacks to come later. Aust sits down on his bed, head in his hands, the keys' metal cold against his forehead, skipping the disbelief phase of grief and moving to anger and negotiation. " What happened Avar? The Vul? These newcomers? Noro and his goons? "
OOC: I'll presume that Avar motions for Aust to come downstairs, and that he tells him what occurred; feel free to let me know if that does not occur, and I will edit the post accordingly .


Avar motions Aust to come downstairs, relaying the high points of what transpired. Frustrated with what and the way things happened, Aust is angry by the time he enters the basement. He stops at the sight of Jabbar's body, freezing mid-sentence into a long string of elven curses about newcomers and the Vul and Noro and where certain objects should be placed in their bodies. His eyes tear up. The odor of still fresh death penetrates his nostrils. He looks upon Jabbar's face and remembers their first meeting, their last conversation, and a noteworthy moment or two. In that moment, Aust stops being angry and simply mourns the loss of his friend. Profoundly sadness takes over his countenance.

After a few minutes, he speaks, primarily to Avar, but in earshot of the others. " Avar, leave no details out. I need to know. I must tell his family. We must create a narrative and settle on some explanation that doesn't get us killed as well. " Aust enters the living area, and despite being familiar with death, gasps as he see's Jabbar's body on the table. He slowly, silently moves toward it, reaching out to Jabbar's forearm. Aust is grieving the loss of his friend, but also the loss of stability, insomuch as they had any. Jabbar had provided an opportunity for Aust to have a future. Jabbar was a father-figure to him, or at least the brother that Aust had wished he had.
Aust takes a deep breath. His emotions are as disheveled as he is. He clears his thoughts and addresses Avar, "And the rhat? What's that about?” Aust attempts to take all of it in, only half-listening to Avar. He appreciated Avar being aware of it and not becoming frustrated with Aust. Looking again at Jabbar's body, "I want to mourn you, my friend. But right now, time might not permit it. If you indeed look down on me and my doings, do not judge me too harshly. I am thrust into your shoes, and I am not you. I will do my best. You have my word."

Aust moves to the cellar, speaking to Avar as he moves into it. “I have much to do and little time to do it. I was to go to the cleric. That must happen quickly. Can’t very well be dead or furry with all this going on. I must at bare minimum look and feel like an elf. First things first, WHAT?!? You kept the Vul?!? Yes, Avar had shared that with him quietly as Aust had held Jabbar's arm. The small crowd gathered in the cellar was tense, and it was clear they had exchanged words. Aust was simultaneously resentful of their presence and mindful of Jabbar's intentions with them. "Well? What now? Surely you royal fools have a plan, no? I didn't think so."

Aust continues, specifically to Aletia, Ersun, Burrai, Elloral, and Bill without looking at them, continuing to contemplate Jabbar’s body while walking around the Vul on the table. Aust speaks calmly, seething underneath at his friend’s death as well as those responsible for it, in whole or in part. "Aletia is it? I’m unused to restraint; that’s Jabbar’s temperament. It appears that all of you had business with Jabbar. It also appears that none of you are particularly disposed to restraint. It is not my strong suit either, but let me make this clear for you: right or wrong, this place belongs to the Vul; they loathe disruption, and they fear magic, killing on sight those who engage in either. Makes conversation a trifle difficult. Jabbar agreed to assist you, and I will do my best to do the same, as our paths seem to be intertwined. That said, I’ll say this slowly, so you understand; do not start a battle or use magic in the open again, unless you are prepared to die quickly and alone. If you didn't know better before, you do now.

To Elloral, “You are a healer no? Can you heal me?” And a question pops into his mind, “Wait, can you heal Jabbar? I heard a story once that an Elven healer could raise the dead if only a little time had passed. Are you that powerful?"

"
We shall keep Jabbar's death a secret at the moment. If his body can be protected in this state, and it's within any of your abilities, please make it so. I'll have to share his death publicly it at some point soon, but at the moment, I will do what I think Jabbar would do. Jabbar's family...they are not to be trifled with. And when they discover of his death, it needs to be from me, and it needs to be in a way that they will react against those coming for all of us. The guildmasters fancy themselves powerful, with powerful allies. However, it is my intent to make both the Vul and Jabbar's family their mortal enemies. And these corpses will serve that purpose. When the shop opens in the morning, I want no evidence that this has happened. Move his body down in this cellar and clean up all of it. At some point, the Vulfear will notice this Vul's absence. We should make haste."


"As to the rodents, what happened to Rhen, and what can this rhat tell us? I might well say he should be sent back to his brethren with a message that they are Vul-bait."
 
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narayan

Villager
In the cellar of Jabbar's Trade Shop

Aust moves to the cellar, speaking to Avar as he moves into it.
Avar and Elloral follow Aust down into the Cellar. Elloral shares a look with Burrai as if to say, 'Get ready for this...' while Avar crosses his arms.

"I have much to do and little time to do it. I was to go to the cleric. That must happen quickly. Can’t very well be dead or furry with all this going on. I must at bare minimum look and feel like an elf. First things first, WHAT?!? You kept the Vul?!?" Yes, Avar had shared that with him quietly as Aust had held Jabbar's arm. The small crowd gathered in the cellar was tense, and it was clear they had exchanged words. Aust was simultaneously resentful of their presence and mindful of Jabbar's intentions with them."Well? What now? Surely you royal fools have a plan, no? I didn't think so."

Aust continues, specifically to Aletia, Ersun, Burrai, Elloral, and Bill without looking at them, continuing to contemplate Jabbar’s body while walking around the Vul on the table. Aust speaks calmly, seething underneath at his friend’s death as well as those responsible for it, in whole or in part.

"Aletia is it? I’m unused to restraint; that’s Jabbar’s temperament. It appears that all of you had business with Jabbar. It also appears that none of you are particularly disposed to restraint. It is not my strong suit either, but let me make this clear for you: right or wrong, this place belongs to the Vul; they loathe disruption, and they fear magic, killing on sight those who engage in either. Makes conversation a trifle difficult. Jabbar agreed to assist you, and I will do my best to do the same, as our paths seem to be intertwined. That said, I’ll say this slowly, so you understand; do not start a battle or use magic in the open again, unless you are prepared to die quickly and alone. If you didn't know better before, you do now."

To Elloral, “You are a healer no? Can you heal me?” And a question pops into his mind “Wait, can you heal Jabbar? I heard a story once that an Elven healer could raise the dead if only a little time had passed. Are you that powerful?"
Elloral: Looks down to the earthen floor, her face paling at the question. "Raising the dead goes against the edicts of Valkauna. Even if it wasn't, such a thing is only spoken of largely in myth involving powerful relics and ancient spells beyond my knowledge. As for you however, yes I can cure you."

"We shall keep Jabbar's death a secret at the moment. If his body can be protected in this state, and it's within any of your abilities, please make it so. I'll have to share his death publicly it at some point soon, but at the moment, I will do what I think Jabbar would do. Jabbar's family...they are not to be trifled with. And when they discover of his death, it needs to be from me, and it needs to be in a way that they will react against those coming for all of us. The guildmasters fancy themselves powerful, with powerful allies. However, it is my intent to make both the Vul and Jabbar's family their mortal enemies. And these corpses will serve that purpose. When the shop opens in the morning, I want no evidence that this has happened. Move his body down in this cellar and clean up all of it. At some point, the Vulfear will notice this Vul's absence. We should make haste."

"As to the rodents, what happened to Rhen, and what can this rhat tell us? I might well say he should be sent back to his brethren with a message that they are Vul-bait."
Avar: Scowls towards the bound and gagged rhat prisoner. "It may be blinded, but it isn't deaf. What this little beast has overheard already should never be repeated to Noro or anyone else. I can interrogate it as much as we want, but even rhats are smart enough to know when their goose is cooked. If we can't allow it to leave, a quick death may be the only thing we can offer in exchange for its information."

Avar looks between Aust and Burrai. "Who decides?"

[Everyone: What do you do?]
 
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narayan

Villager
Vandrok within the Hills of Kumbakarna

Vandrok breathed easier with each step further into the hills. All around him on rocky slopes, ghostly faces of the hill tribe peered at him from crude stone dwellings as the path meandered through one of their villages. Before each doorway, stern warriors stood sentinel, ever vigilant, as were their well-trained beasts.

Vandrok moved on without pause knowing he had nothing to fear from them. 'Children of Kumbakarna' were free to pass through their villages so long as they kept a respectful distance from the wives and offspring of the tribesman. In many ways Vandrok considered the warriors of the hill tribe to be brothers. After all they worshipped the same god and often fought the same enemies.

On occasion Vandrok was invited to their wild dances and feasts which was a rare honor. Only their temple, private elder council meetings, and some religious/cultural gatherings were off limits to the uninvited. And yet, even now after years of sharing the same ground he was no closer to truly understanding them. The hill tribe did not teach their language to outsiders and rarely spoke of their customs, history, and the many strange secrets of their origins.

Malachias, the warrior shaman who taught him about Baezu, explained very early in his teachings that Vandrok would never have the same relationship with Baezu, or the tribe, as he did. They would never offer him a wife or his own stone hut to stand guard over. His offerings and his bravery would be rewarded by the tribe, and Baezu himself, in other ways.

Three of the warriors waited by the path for Vandrok to approach. They knew well before he came near to expect him. News traveled fast through the hill tribe. Even at this late hour their shamans, scouts and trained beasts let nothing come near their villages undetected. Vandrok recognized one of the warriors as Kedaras, a young, rather foolish good-humored sort who often broke the warriors code to remain silent and expressionless towards outsiders.

Kedaras: "Bless Baezu you on fine hunt!" He says in broken common.

Vandrok:
"Did you see a stranger pass by shortly? A man, a Caishian."

Kedaras: Stares back, confused "I saw no cow... or man upon this path. Maybe goat?"

Vandrok: Sighs. "Nevermind. Blessed is Baezu! This great cat will make a fine pelt to hang in the temple!"

Kedaras: Frowns "Baezu take this offering, but the temple has no need of hats."

Vandrok snorted and lowered the carcass of the heavy dire puma at their feet. Likely it would take all three of them to carry it, but so be it. He was in no mood to detour away from the shelter of his own caves. Vandrok continued on, hefting one wild boar beneath each of his arms. His headache may have lessened but his thoughts were still clouded and uncertain.

What was it the Caishian said?
~Seek out the great pit of Bet'Shava!~ Vandrok huffed. He could think of a thousand other ideas less foolhardy than that. Still he would take his advice and seek out the newcommers who came by the path of blood. Whoever this Wrenwil was, he was curious to hear what he had to say about the coming doom.
_____________________________________________________

As Vandrok approached the back entrance to Kumbakarna's caves he was greeted by the ever-ugly, grossly fat and ever-angry Bugbear, Hrugaga. The Bugbear (who often liked to title himself 'elf-slayer') had a large purple birth-mark around his right eye socket and cheek that looked very similar to the bruise left by a black-eye. Early on in life Hrugaga's tribal shaman attempted to burn off the mark with a torch on more than one occasion, worsening his appearance further with pale, veiny burn scars and a blackened, pussy ear.

Vandrok could only assume the constant taunts and ridicule of his former tribe led to his penchant for over-eating and eventual banishment. Hrugaga was certainly maligned in his thinking being altogether quick to anger, unusually cruel and terribly violent (even by Vandrok's own standards). Yet despite his many faults, Hrugaga was tolerable enough to be around so long as his looks weren't the topic of comment and there was food to be had. Hrugaga was fortunate that Kumbakarna was so forgiving and tolerant towards his children because Vandrok himself was not so much.

Vandrok remembered several prominent warriors within the legions of Skull Mountain that hailed from Hrugaga's tribe. No doubt Hrugaga himself never had the chance to serve, (only the bravest, fittest and strongest were chosen from each tribe) but Vandrok understood that to be a blessing, even if Hrugaga himself did not.

At times Hrugaga appeared to envy Vandrok's service within the legions of Skull Mountain, pestering him for tales of glory and slaughter. He enjoyed speaking of his own conquests (barely half of which could be considered plausable) against humans, dwarves and elves most of all. He even hinted more than once that he'd attempted to cook and eat an elf, a thought that made Vandrok queasy in his guts. Whatever wrong could be done between one race to another never warranted that sort of barbarism.

Hrugaga: -Speaking Goblin- "Vandrok! Dar magaan o huur daagaan?" He asks quickly, stepping forward from the back entrance to the caves wielding a great axe.

Vandrok: -Speaking Goblin- "Duun rhuur."

Hrugaga: "Draal'delen! A shuuch araan a khrelaan hakhaan or rhaluuc kec akuur khruul!" The bugbear states hungrily licking his lips.

Vandrok: "Dar ar kaan akech daan shuush magaan a shakaan duun huukhaagec shuush daan tekaan!" Vandrok states rather impatiently. Part of him wanted to question the gluten about the mysterious Caishian who must have slipped past his guard, but then opted against it, shouldering his way past him instead.
__________________________________________________

Vandrok wasted no time delivering the swine to the kitchens, warning the cooks that Hrugaga would be close at his heels with a ravenous appetite for fresh bacon. The cooks groaned and laughed knowingly, offering Vandrok a pitcher of ale to quench his thirst. Vandrok took a moment to rest by one of the great cook fires, seating his bulk upon a barrel gulping down the foamy brew with satisfaction.

Just then a hissing voice whispered from behind his neck, almost forcing him to spit ale in surprise until he realized it was only Rhast, the smallest and most foul of Kumbakarna's other children.

Rhast: -Whispers- "Vaaandrokkk! Where have you been?!"

Vandrok: "On a hunt you vile vermin!" He curses, wiping away the foam from his lips with one hand as the other swings blindling over his shoulder hoping to knock the offending creature off his perch.

Rhast: "You don't know about the visssitors?!" Rhast asks with insatiable curiosity, effortlessly dodging the blow so easily it would seem he ignored it, leaping down to floor level slinking past Vandrok's legs into the light of the cook fire.

Few creatures ever revolted Vandrok so much as Rhast, who looked for lack of a better definition, as some sort of hideous cross breed between a rhat and a kobold! Resembling something like a partially shaved cat covered in short red/brown hair, Rhast's grey/pinkish hide was leathery and thin revealing a prominently bony skeleton beneath that could move around on all fours as easily as not. His vaguely reptilian skull was a bit large for the rest of his body, as was his thin rat-like tail.

Rhasts large eyes were a sickly yellowed tone of milky white with striking orange, yellow and red irises that glowed eerily in the shadows. His ears were thin, pink and veiny sitting well back behind bony eye sockets. Along his snout, forehead and belly were leathery scales. His hands and feet were extremely dexterous with very long fingers and toes ending in small sharp claws.

Vandrok: "You mean the Caishian dragon shaman named Svexyn and the one he calls Wrenwil who came by the path of blood?"

Rhast: Gasps gleefully. "How did you know that?!"

Vandrok: "I don't need eyes and ears as hideous as yours to know things."

Rhast: "Did you know that the one-eyed half dwarf smuggler was touched by a shaman of Kalia?! Or that he smashed in the skull of Kumbakarna's pet demon with a hammer?!" Rhast asks grinning revealing small but very sharp fangs.

Just then the cook notices Rhast and sends a heavy iron skillet flying in his direction. "GET OUT VERMIN!" He shouts. Rhast dodges the skillet (which sparks off the stone floor with a loud CLAANG!) slipping towards the door on all fours.

Vandrok smirks and downs the rest of the pitcher. ~Half dwarf smuggler? What do the shamans of Kalia need to know from him?~ Bothersome as Rhast was, few creatures had a better knack for getting their nose into everything's business as Rhast did. With his help there was likely very little indeed the visitors could keep to themselves. Vandrok intended to learn as much as he could. Perhaps the shamans of Kalia were also investigating this coming doom?

[Vandrok: What do you do?]
 
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Tellerian Hawke

Defender of Oerth
Vandrok Questions Rhast, Part One

Vandrok follows Rhast outside, so as to avoid angering the cook even further. He looks at the foul, little thing, and asks, "Which of the shamans touched him? Was it a young initiate, or was it one of the elders?"

OOC: Vandrok is attempting to ascertain whether the touching of the Half-Dwarf was a foolish act of curiosity (by a young initiate) or if it was a calculated, purposeful act (by an elder, who had a good reason for touching Ordechai.)


Vandrok eyes the little beast, and draws near to him, "If you will tell me the truth, worm, I will kill a pig just for you. But don't tell Hrugaga, or he'll be jealous. It will be our little secret."
 

97mg

Villager
Aletia: Dodging Arrows

Bill nods, and extends his hand. "Forgiveness it shall be," he says, "your apology is accepted."
The young elf lightly took Bill's hand in hers and nodded. They had an understanding. Not a solid trust or friendship by any means, but they would find a way to ensure Jabbar's death was not in vain, nor Vallio's or a whole host of other victims.

She knew deep down that these were good people, and if they'd ease back on the blame and find a way forwards, then it made sense to work as one. Grief took time, Aletia was well aware of that.

No sooner had the air cleared somewhat, when other remnants of Jabbar's assorted personnel arrived. Aletia tensed again, expecting more hard words, pointing fingers and discipline. Yep. This time it was Aust. She kept her eyes down and let the words roll over her, before finally looking to him with an honestly sorrowful expression.

But she remained quiet this time, feeling it wasn't her place to interrupt the decision making to be done. The fate of the captive. The healing power of Elloral. The latter appeared to come as good news... which was a refreshing change.

In the back of her mind Aletia imagined Kayote awakening drunk and toxic of mood, reading her message, screaming and slamming his fist, and then drinking even deeper from the cup of sorrow. Eventually they would have to decide who might accompany her, if any, and she'd be patient now until such a call was made.

Crez poked his tiny serpentine head out from her pack then, and slithered up to rest upon Aletia's shoulder, licking at the air and the taste of rhat.

~Meal?~ It asked her with a small hiss.

She stroked her familiar's head with a fingertip.

"They are deciding, Crez."
 

Tellerian Hawke

Defender of Oerth
Who Decides? Bill Does.

Elloral said:
"...Raising the dead goes against the edicts of Valkauna. Even if it wasn't, such a thing is only spoken of largely in myth involving powerful relics and ancient spells beyond my knowledge..."
Avar said:
"...It may be blinded, but it isn't deaf. What this little beast has overheard already should never be repeated to Noro or anyone else. I can interrogate it as much as we want, but even rhats are smart enough to know when their goose is cooked. If we can't allow it to leave, a quick death may be the only thing we can offer in exchange for its information...Who decides?"
Bill frowns at these words, not with disapproval for the speakers, but rather, with scorn and hatred for the Rhat, who was an accessory to Jabbar's death. Bill's hatred of the creature is evident in his narrowed eyes, and seething contempt.

Bill muses inwardly, ~We can scold Aletia and Ersun until we're blue in the face, but the fact is, this little cretin and his cronies are the instigators of it all; they are the ones who acted in defiance of Vul authority, by attempting to kidnap Aletia in the streets. They are the ones whose dogged determination to win caused the fight to escalate. They are the ones whom I shall make pay for Jabbar's death. Starting with this one.~

Bill says, "You may not be able to raise the dead, but I know damned well you can speak with them. So let's try that, shall we?"

Without another word, Bill draws his Greatsword from the quickdraw rig on his back, and attempts to cut the Rhat's head clean off!

OOC:
HELPLESS DEFENDER:
Coup De Grace: Automatic hit, automatic crit.
12 pts. of damage. Rhat needs to make a Fort save, DC 22, or die.

If the Rhat survives the first blow, Bill will strike again.
Second blow is 13 pts. of damage. Fort save DC 23.


OOC: Speak With Dead: "...A damaged corpse may be able to give partial answers or partially correct answers, but it must at least have a mouth in order to speak at all." That means that a severed head can "speak," correct? (Wanting DM verification.)


Bill's brutal resolve is unnerving to witness; it is readily apparent that Jabbar's death hangs upon him like a massive weight. He is clearly distraught, and looking for a way to vent, a way to ease the immense pain that he is most certainly feeling.
 

narayan

Villager
Vandrok, Rhast

Rhast cranes his neck up at Vandrok a bit sheepishly, slowly rising to stand with more dignity away from the angry cooks. He quickly straightens out his ill-fitting garments including brown leggings cut over the knee, a tattered grey tunic and a dull orange vest. The vest is tailored for someone thicker around the chest (Probably a halfling or perhaps even a dwarf) and hangs rather loosely. Around his waist is a belt with several pouches and a sharp dirk.

Rhast knows you can demand any information you want, but thanks to Kumbakarna's cardinal rule that family do not harm each other there are limits to how forcefully you can insist. The cooks are another matter though, Rhast has suffered many lumps learning that lesson.

Rhast: Grins. "Another near miss!" He says proudly, slipping out two large hard-boiled eggs from a vest pocket (Rhast is a notorious pilferer) and stuffs them into his over sized cheeks. "...buf worf if!" He says chewing happily, but quickly, sensing your impatience.

"It was an elder shaman who touched the half-dwarf. The one called Vahr..." He says with a heavy swallow.

Vahr is one of the three elder shamans serving the goddess Kalia, each of whom dwells in a separate village. (In total there are 6 villages) Though each village has a chief chosen among the warriors to lead them, the villagers expect the chiefs to heed the wisdom of the shamans, especially the elders who are also married to the high priestess, Shelahr (commonly known as 'The Bone Woman'). Shelahr's guidance is trusted absolutely by everyone in the tribe. Thus very few are brave enough to risk her wrath offending or disrespecting her husbands.

Shelahr also has nineteen daughters, born of at least a dozen different husbands. Her daughters live and serve her in the temple and in many ways outrank their own fathers in spiritual matters. Shelahr herself is ancient, much older than her current husbands. (By the number and age of some of her daughters she has clearly outlived many husbands!)

It is known one of her daughters will replace her as the high priestess someday. Exactly which daughter is a matter of some debate and friction between the villages. Rhast believes most of the tales about The Bone Woman, but his rationality is dubious at best.

Your knowledge of Rhast is rather limited due to the fact he's never keen to talk about himself. His hobby for gossip and snooping about others however is inexhaustible. In the beginning a good portion of what you've learned about Kumbakarna, these hills, and the rest of his family came from Rhast. He was extremely curious about you when you first arrived, always following you around asking questions, (or answering them).

If you asked Rhast to go and speak to Vahr he would no doubt try, but would likely not get the chance before he was speared by one of the young warriors charged to guard him. Rhast has never enjoyed much respect from the hill tribe. His penchant for pilfering has got him banned from every village in the hills! (In truth they would have done worse if Kumbakarna himself had not insisted they spare him.)

You on the other hand have much more respect within the tribe. You worship Baezu, the patron deity of their warriors and hunters, and fight alongside them whenever battle calls.

[Vandrok: What do you do?]
 
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