5E The Rhyot Break - Chapter One: Endless White

97mg

Villager
Huddled and occasionally shivering beneath a ragged blanket of fur, you sleep upon the persistent scratchings of sack-stuffed and freeze dried alpine needles. Chilling and uncomfortable though it may be, with time came acceptance of fate. A life of monotony and physical labour. Dreams of anything else were just... dreams.

Many years ago, The Rhyot Break as it is now commonly called, was a site stained in blood. Word had traveled. The quality of the mine's silent occupants, blunt-shafted aquamarine crystals bluer that the seas below a cloudless heaven, were unsurpassed. Clear. Large. Beautiful.

What began as land ownership disputes and the scuffles of distant villages, escalated to tribal war. Here, in the freezing permafrost of Halst Peak, oft above the cloud-line, greed came head to head with one of the most inhospitable places on earth. But things would only get worse.

Ten long years ago the dwarves came. Not the pot-bellied, oft drunk and jovial folk lowlanders most might have been accustomed to, these were worse. Far worse, for they were The Korrud and in their thousands. Skin marked with the symbols of some distant lord, their armies landed on the southern coasts of Reinne, marching north through the marshes, forest and plains. Unstoppable. They crossed the Eyelin Hills. Villages fell to their knees at every step, victims to a foreign culture with superior battlefield tactics, magic and coordination.

The Isle of Solov had new rulers now, and to them, with the Isle came The Rhyot Break. It didn't take the overwhelming powers of The Korrud long to sniff out stories of a mine plentiful in blue glassy riches.

The randomly selected of able-bodied locals. The resistant. Those convicted of crimes against the land's new power. They were the ones sent here to spend their days in small teams, chipping through stone and crusts of ice, mining the precious gems by day, and shivering through the darkness of snowy nights.

Most of the miners barely remember who they might once have been, little more than zombies that dig, eat, :):):):) and sleep. Others, might mistakenly believe that through hard work, they can win some favor with the mine's stout well-armed guardians, perhaps even being granted some vague form of pardon in future days. Rarer still are the braver souls. A sad few who recall something called "freedom", and await an opportunity for such a thing to return. A possibility to escape... or at best... exact revenge.

Bedded down in a timber huts, your small crew of ramshackle colleagues rests, until something shakes you in the dead of night, and a young woman's face smiles down at you, a finger pressed against her lips.

"Quiet, we must go. Clothe yourself and follow me."


She then moves to the next makeshift bed, and awakens another slave in line...

To be continued...
 
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97mg

Villager
The Korrud stationed near the summit of Halst Peak surely hate this cursed place, but not as passionately as you. Short and tough, stern and heartless, the foreign dwarves operate The Rhyot Break with razor-sharp discipline and precision. Their dark skin is laden with symbols from a foul and faraway land; runes, glyphs and other marks. You might assume some have simple meanings, such as rank, victories and failures. All the non-native demihumans here bare one such well-inked scar in common. A cross to the left cheek. A once respected member of your team, Desqoth, from time to time would whisper and share a few theories as to its origins.

“What kind of soldier, winning a war and taking a large territory with ease, would end up here? Here, where a touch of the sun dare not ease one’s perpetual chills? Here, where there is no glory, challenge or respite? I’ll tell you. They are those not unlike us. The guards are little more than slaves themselves! But their despising of this place dare not equal our own.”

Desqoth spent much of his time pondering on possibilities, searching for reasons, as though distracting himself from reality by analysing it, one detail after another.

“How did they come to know so much? One of the three, one of the three…”

He was a human man in his middle years, long of face and with golden brown bottomless eyes, brow always furrowed in contemplation. The crow’s feet beneath his orbits, the shadowy pits below, the wrinkles across his forehead like a three-layered horizon... over-thinking and physical exertion had led him to appear older than he truly was. A kind hearted soul. A man who would divide his tasteless slave rations with any greater in need. A worker who would let a colleague briefly rest during rare moments unwatched, plowing his chisel harder, deeper, ensuring no punishment would be dished out for a day’s yield under-par. A man who had toiled here longer than any others in this team. Somehow, through some miracle, after all his turmoil, Deqoth still cared.

“We must be strong. Stay together. Wait for an opportunity. When you finish caring, that’s when you truly die. The body... is merely a vessel.”


In this slave’s case, the truth of death was quite something else.

Although opportunities to witness the schedule and organisation of The Korrud’s mining venture have been rare, you have through your extended stay managed to put quite a few pieces together.

Your team has worked three mine sites, rotated weekly like the winding of an evil tinker’s clock. Beside each lies a long ragged hut of poorly nailed highland pine, half-dug into mountainous ice where furs line the floor, and a stone hearth quietly sits to one end. When you meet yield targets, chipping precious blue stones from ice and stone as hard as glass, sometimes you are rewarded with fire. A few lengths of sodden timber and a flint and steel on loan. Now those are nights to cherish. Thawed bones. Warm light. Hot yet tasteless food. The Korrud reward you with little more than basic necessity. Nothing is taken for granted anymore.

At least the rotation through the mines has provided a method to count the days, and a change of view. Each site came with its own risks.

“One of three.”

You used to think Deqoth was thinking about the mines as he said this. In hindsight you expect he might have been troubled by something deeper.

Mine One as it is unflatteringly called, lies to the east. Small and open pit in style, the site benefits from accessibility. You leap down into a three yard deep hole, dig out recently fallen snow with shovels, and chip away with basic hand-tools. Thankfully, the walls protect its occupants well from the prevailing easterly wind. A luxury the six guards above do not partake of. Then again, they are layered in leather and an abundance of high quality fur that you could only dream of. Crossbows ready. The glint of sun off shining steel by their sides. They watch, smirk, point and taunt you as you dig.

“More!” they yell in the common tongue. “The buckets fill or you do,” they threaten with bolts aimed purposefully at your heads.

Pales are loaded with wonderous blue aquamarine, like frozen chunks of a wild luminescent sea. Pales are hoisted above. Pales are carried close to a pile near a large timber building known simply as the collection point. Then you do it again.

“That building is where they sort the finds, and probably where the bastards rest,” Deqoth once considered. “And there is a slope beyond, carved into the ice and ending at a great dark hole… if only we could sneak there and look.” Alas, none of your eyes have seen it up close.

Mine Three is much the same, a similar story though more expansive in size, out to the west. Mine Two is the point of difference. A double-edged place where risk is rewarded... but not always. A shaft cut straight into a vertical rise, the entrance is via slippery ladder of dizzying height. The upward journey is your only time unchained like animals. Once inside, under the eyes of guards back and front, you can finally work away from the winds, the snow, the rain, and the burning reflections of a sun refracted by a land blanketed in white.

Above Mine Two the scree begins. Concealed beneath snow and ice, large boulders of misshapen rock lie layered and precariously scattered in waiting. The Isle of Solov, with it's history of creation born via the anger of volcanics and faults, always seems to find new ways to exert a natural authority, a reminder that all are none other than temporary citizens in a world untold years old.

A year ago, stationed at Mine Two, was where Deqoth’s “one of three,” took on new meanings. The guards pointed for him to ascend the ladder first. Half way up, and for a moment a shadow breached upon the sun. A small point of darkness grew further up the slope, fragments of ice fluttering around it like swarms of springtime bees. All looked up in horror as it fell. A great chunk of dislodged rock tumbling, smashing against Deqoth and smearing him like aged jam across the wall of frost…

“Up! Repair the ladder!” The Korrud couldn’t let one man’s poor luck soil their objectives.

Loss resonated through your group like a miserable funeral song for a time. Such hopelessness. Such an unfitting fate for a man so strong of heart. But the death wouldn’t be for nothing. In the coming months it began to strengthen you, give you purpose, push you to bide your time and find a way out.

Like Deqoth, your group began to take note of things. Things that might be important later. Like that the guards outnumber you by at least three to one. Facts that spoke of these mine’s importance and value. Each night three guards circle your hut at all hours. Once a month, all the forces here seem to become edgy and concerned. They speak in whispers in their foreign tongue. They increase yields and push you ever closer to exhaustion for several days. The stone tower at the site’s centre is never unmanned. A shadow always lurks within and at night, a single flame always burns. Sometimes you have seen footprints leading out of camp a way.

If only you had paid more attention to Deqoth’s ramblings and thoughts, as it is only from time to time that new memories of his words strike your soul. They come and go like waking dreams, small snippets of a past that your pain has tried so desperately to bury. But still his ghost speaks to you.

In the hut beside the open scar of Mine Three, it is day three of seven at this site, then you will be moved to Mine One yet again. Unless that woman’s kindly face isn’t some torturous dream sent to mock you in the dead of night.

No, she is real. The cold skin-scraping touch of the shackles against your ankles has gone. In the dim light of her torch, she kneels at a companion’s feet, poking at the lock with graceful, patient, and expert precision.

Click.

A narrow face of soft skin, reddened by the cold. Eyes of amber, bright and alert. Even largely concealed beneath her pure white furs, she is striking as she beams to yet another of you with a smile drenched in hope.

Staring, dumbfounded, you can only look on as she moves to the last bunk. It is there that you can’t deny a change in her expression. A soft sigh. A look to the fur-covered floor. A long moment of silence as though something within her quietly breaks. A glistening jewel, a tear drips down her rosy face as she stands and whispers.

“You are free. Free of The Korrud who enslave you. But not free of nature’s threat beyond these walls. Come with me friends, if in numbers you wish to survive. I offer shelter and rest a day’s walk from here. We can talk more later, once safely out of here. Or make your own path. Go and do as you must. You owe me no debts and your wills are your own.”

To be continued...
 

97mg

Villager
OOC: Welcome to The Rhyot Break everyone! Opening posts for characters is finally upon us :) Feel free to react to current events, describe your character for the other players, and also share with them what they might have learnt about you during the preceding years of servitude.

With the removal of shackles, magic users (and any with magical abilities) will experience a heavy weight lifting off their minds, and once again be able to cast anything that does not have material components. Those Korrud binds weren't just a physical restraint.

I understand that magic users will be at something of a disadvantage at first, but hopefully only for a short time. Until you come across an opportunity to stock up on gear, if it seems logical that a scene might contain a component you'd like to harvest (eg a strip of cloth, a pinch of ash etc), feel free to creatively acquire them of your own accord. The micromanagement of components isn't something I plan on us having to worry about for an extended time... unless you find it fun of course :)

Finally, let's enjoy ourselves! See you in the snow :)
 
Zemryn: Out of Bondage

Zemryn’s eyes could be as hard and frigid as the cursed stones she was forced to pry from the dark places of the Rhyot Break. Down a twisting hole where she could only fit by scraping her shoulders bloody, those two glittering eyes could be seen glancing back at the slave on the other end of the frozen chain that kept them all forever bound to their fate. There was anger in those eyes, and torment, but always those things were kept simmering below a layer of serenity. The serenity was often forced, and so came across more as sadness, but there were also moments when it was sincere.

It was in those moments that she sometimes sang. Her voice would drift out of a crevasse, or echo down a long tunnel, or rise slowly out of the frost and mist of her crude hut. She sang in ancient Elvish, in a secret and guarded dialect of the distant and dreamlike kingdom of the Valenari, a land far across the wide sea. Most often she sang of Atemi. They were songs of primoridal strength, of forgotten wars from eons past, and of undying dedication to the Bright Lady.

Lift me up, on wings of faith,
So I can see,
Above the weeping land,
Where heroines’ bones, moldering and white,
Lay like secret shrines,
To Atemi. To the Bright Lady.

No Korrud in the mines knew this language, and so while they could beat her for insolence, which they did with cruel relish, they could not understand the depth of her words and how they helped her survive. She sometimes sang a song of her own creation, of the final battle at the Shrine of Atemi. Her sweet, haunting voice belied the absolute dread of the words.

I remember the day the sun went down, blood-red and moaning,
Behind the Sacred Shrine.
Atemi’s Hand struck down the devils like ripe wheat before the scythe,
In the twilight, their blood was black.
The Korrud paid dearly for that trespass!
Now only I remember, only I and Atemi,
How their limp bodies fell like flitting snow into the crevasse,
Filling it.
Filling it.
Atemi’s Hand struck them down, gore-flecked and singing,
Singing with their last breath,
To Atemi. To the Bright Lady.

Zemryn was neither tall nor heavily built. Of Elven kind, she stood at just under five and a half feet and possessed an athletic figure that was lean and strong from labor. She was fair of skin when clean, and pretty in those rare moments that she allowed it to show through the grime and the muck. Most often she did not, for beauty was no boon in the pits. Her hair was light, kept at shoulder length, and often hastily secured upon her head so that several strands fell across her face, concealing her emotions and expressions. Distinctive ears, pointed and long, marked her as a Valenari, but her frosty eyes were unique to her alone and secretly told of her dedication to Atemi. She was aware of this, and often drew dark circles around them with coal dust to highlight their pale glow.

Quiet but fair, violent when threatened, kind when respected, Zemryn was also a healer to those in need that she felt were worthy of relief. She worked her ministrations in secret, as best as she was able, mending cuts and bruises, tears and breaks, with practical methods first and then more mystical methods second, so as to hide their effect. The prayer she uttered before easing others pain was for her alone to hear. Still, she was no peace-monger, and had left many a wicked fellow slave bleeding and half-dead when they crossed her line. She was no slave whore either, trading favors out of desperation, and her body was a temple that would only be abused to a point. This, combined with her dirtiness, tact at hiding her features, and perhaps divine favor, had allowed her relief from that foulest fate of slavery.

If asked of her past, Zemryn would only say that she had been in the Break for six years. She also seemed to suffer stomach ailments, beyond the daily sufferings of mining and captor abuse. She would often double over suddenly while working or in her sleep, clutching at her midsection, but she managed the pain in silence. Sometimes, she would even smile a dark smile as her fingers clawed and grasped at whatever was hurting her from the inside.

The most common thing she said to others was this: “I have suffered, as we all have suffered, but I have hope, as we must all have hope.”

******************

Zemryn was dreaming of her last moments at the Shrine of Atemi. She was gripping the hand of Alyne, her closest in age and her dearest friend. Alyne! Her dark hair and bronze eyes, her wondrous smile, were a well of remembrance! The two of them, along with the others that were too young to fight, were listening to the battle that raged beyond the great iron doors. They swayed and sang, their voices mingling with the cries of death just beyond the threshold…

Alyne! She was torn away from Zemryn’s grasp at last…her outstretched hand severed at the wrist by an axe…the tiny drops of dark blood falling across the floor…and then her head…tumbling down, down, down, her golden eyes flashing one last time before closing. Atemi! Welcome her!

The dream shifted and then exploded with sorrow, ending as Zemryn was awoken by someone rattling her shackles. Another day of pain, of perseverance. She would not give up, not while she had a breath to give.

But what was this? Her shackles had fallen free? A woman…amber eyes that seemed to drift from one slave to another. Follow her?

Freedom?

Zemryn did not hesitate beyond a moment. She gave a muffled but still furious yelp of triumph. Freedom! Rolling to her feet, her chest rising and falling with joyous exertion beneath the matted fur of her tunic, she helped a fellow to their feet whether they wanted it or not. Her voice was hushed but brimming over with excitement. She was mostly talking to herself. “Wondrous mysteries! Let us fly from here! If I die in the wastes, I will die free!”

She would have liked to have burned the crude hut to the ground, to watch it sputter and turn to ash! But there was no time. Another day…when Atemi willed it.

For now, she would follow their benefactor! If any needed help to walk, Zemryn would spare no energy or strength in aiding them.
 

tglassy

Explorer
To most at the Break, Thorin is "That Dragonborn". Tall and muscular, with strength befitting his size, he was often put on the most strenuous work detail. He was also a Silver Dragonborn, and thus resisted the cold weather well. Indeed, the coldest night was little more than a cool breeze to his skin, and actually felt good after a long day's mining.

He did not speak much to the others, going about obeying his orders with silent indignation. He hadn't glared at the Korrud openly in five years, since they nearly beat him to death for doing so. They believed him broken. And, in truth, he may as well have been, if not for the cold fury he harbored in the pit of his soul, hidden from all to see.

In his moments of deepest despair, he returned to prayer for his strength. He had grown up in a temple to the Unnamed Dragon God, and had learned all the prayers, same as any priest or holly warrior. Only, while he was strong enough, he had no skill with weapons or fighting. And while he was fervent in his prayers and dedication, he received no blessings from the Unnamed God, as did some others. Even worse, he also showed no potential for the draconic magic that sometimes touched one of his people. He was a nothing, a simple Acolyte, when he was captured and taken by the Korrud. The Draconic Sorcerers of his people were regarded at the same level as the Priests and Holy Warriors. Thorin was neither.

Often, he could be found at night, braving the fierce cold to sit alone. The Korrud wouldn't worry about him running away. Where would he run to? But he enjoyed the solitude.

It is there that this newcomer found him, along on the mountain, watching the stars. He could not help but go with.

But something happened when she released him from his shackles. He felt a...connection with the cold around him. A bonding. A Power.

His blood froze in his body, running cool rivers through his scales, into his muscles, into his very being. He could feel it, the power of the ancient dragons, flowing within him. He smiled as he followed, knowing his fate had not yet been sealed.

For six long years, he has been here.
 

Imladir

Villager
Faenala was one of the oldest in the slave pits. Or more accurately, she was one who had been in the slave pits the longest, which was an achievement she would have gladly done without. Ten years, ten long years. No one would have given her more than a few weeks, a couple of months at most. But ten years later, she was still there. It hadn't been easy, gods no. Every single day had been hell, no one would have been able to say otherwise.

By the time most of the remaining prisoners - she refused to think of herself as a slave - had arrived she had become mostly silent, barely saying a word a week. Part of it was because she had learned early on that even in those conditions, some would try to curry favour with their captors. She hadn't enjoyed that lesson. Mostly though, it had been a way to preserve herself, to strip everything superfluous and keep her core intact, and it hadn't been easy, she had had to make sacrifices. What good was a Wizard who wasn't able to cast spells? Nothing useful when some of the prisoners decided to abuse her. By the time she had learned how to deal with that it had been too late.

In the following years, there were only two things that allowed her to keep going: her desire of vengeance against the Korrud, and her family. As long as she'd be able to make all of them pay, she didn't really care what would happen to her afterward. And she vowed that no one would be able to touch her if she didn't agree to it.

When she felt her shackles slip away from her ankles, she looked at the woman, squinting. She didn't move straight away, wondering if it could be a trap. After a few seconds, she rose to her feet. Maybe it was a trap, some sort of plot she couldn't understand. But she had to take that chance. Worst case scenario, she'd die and wouldn't get her vengeance. What was there to fear? And if she was really free... She had thought, often in the beginning, about how she'd go about it of course. Not so much in recent years though. It was probably best to take things as they came. She'd follow. She'd see. And she'd look for opportunities.

The first thing on her agenda would be to gather a few components to be able to cast the few spells she had memorized, so long ago. Mostly, she looked for fleece or cured leather. Maybe fine sand, but she wasn't too hopeful for that.
 

Steve Gorak

Explorer
Gimlak awoke moments before she touched him to remove the shackles. This started as an ordinary night, as most of the nights in the last ten years of his captivity. He wished for ordinary nights, those without beatings or unusual labor. They were safer. Now, his awareness was arouzed in a way it hadn't been for a long, long time. She wasn't threatning, her touch was gentle. Gimlak felt something growing quickly inside of him. His mind has lost its edge during his tenure in the mines, but he realized that this could be a real opportunity at excape. He layed still, until the shackles were removed. Once done, he jumped up, put his hand on the lady's shoulder in appreciation and respect, and immediately started looking for a stick or board he could use as a weapon. If he didn't fins anything, rocks would do! He must protect this lady, and the other prisoners until they reach safety!

OOC: perception [roll0]
 

97mg

Villager
“Yes. Freedom. We must go,” the woman replies to Zemryn, touched by her lively words and brave resolve. It was a reassurance. These prisoners still have spirit. There is hope.

The mysterious stranger had earlier found the silver-scaled dragonborn slave as she’d entered the perimeter of the minesite, alone in the cold, staring blankly into space. She'd freed him and quietly moved by his side to Mine Three’s hut. They’d gone the long way. Cutting far to the west, hoping not to stir the watchtower’s occupants, or stumble upon any heavily armed guards. Unusual the dragonborn might consider, how well she navigated the terrain and avoided The Korrud prying eyes.

What Thorin saw on arrival at his team’s shelter, remains the same for the rest of the group, now unchained, perhaps anxiously following the rescuer out through it's poorly aligned doors. A few steps into the chill of night, an icy touch from sparsely falling snow upon your faces, pieces of the miracle falling into place.

To your left there is a depression in the snow, drag marks that wind around the hut’s corner and out of view. Thin lines of blood trail through it like patterns in marble. To your right a similar tale. You can almost smell the sour yet alluring aroma of death and revenge. Northward, the tower is little more than a dark shape, it's light strangely gone.

A brief moment of quiet hesitation is shattered then, as from far ahead, eastwards you hear distant muffled shouts and orders issued in The Korrud tongue.

“Hassilik… karas al harta! Grudda grudda!”

[Sblock=Translation for those who speak Dwarven]“Breached… arm yourselves! Move move!”[/Sblock] The woman exhales deeply, a cloud of fog drifting from her lips as she appears to prepare herself emotionally for what has, and will be done. Ending them all… so tempting. But lives saved are of greater value than any taken. A team of fully armed soldiers perhaps might stand a chance, but you, her allies, are unarmed and ill-prepared.

She points to the left with a fur-gloved finger and towards the back side of the hut.

“We head west now. Quickly.” Her eyes meet with yours and she reaches beneath her furs, pulling free a shortsword.

"Here, one of you take this," she suggests.

[Sblock=Map]
[/Sblock]

OOC: All: I'll let you decide OOC who is best to take the weapon. Feel free to make perception or stealth checks in your next post, or do something else, its up to you.

Faenala: You can harvest fleece from the furs you wear if you wish. Fine sand you have seen in sections of the mines, the aquamarine sometimes sitting in clumps of sandy matrix. Cured leather you are welcome to obtain through any boots or leather armor you find along the way.

Gimlak: By your hearth there is a blackened old stick sometimes used to poke the fire, and the only potential makeshift weapon at this point. Outside however, you know that rocks and small pieces of fallen scree can be seen from time to time. Keep your eyes peeled for one!

Gob: Feel free to join in when you can mate, just wanted to keep things moving.
 
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Imladir

Villager
Despite not saying anything, and appearing to pay more attention to not get too close to anyone - and especially that no one touched her - Faenala looks around as they walk, wary of danger and trying to find whatever she could use for her spells. She started by removing a tiny bit of her clothes fabric, enough to be able to cast a Minor Illusion if she needed to. That was easy. The cured leather would be a bit difficult, but she hoped to be able to get some sand: it would make a big difference in her available arsenal.

Outside, when the cold wind kissed her skin, she shivered, vowing that if she ever made it out, she'd settle in a place where it never snowed. She briefly glanced at the drag marks, then at their saviour, frowning slightly, trying to decide if she was the one responsible for that or if she had help.

When she heard the noise the guards made, she turned her head in that direction, squinting. And making yet another vow: that she'd die rather than go back. She briefly glanced at the shortsword, but didn't even pay it much attention: there wasn't much she could do with it after all, better leave it to someone else. And if they believed her to be unarmed... not anymore. And if they were going west, they'd probably come across one of the dispatched guards dragged in the snow which meant she had a good chance of being able to get some leather.

OOC: Looking for sand [d20+2 = 10]
 
Zemryn smells the death. Not the all too familiar smell of a slave beaten to death but rather the smell of the blood of their captors. That smell was forever burned into her mind the night that the shrine fell.

Korrud bodies had been in piles. She knew that smell!

I wish only to add to it. Atemi...give me but a chance!

As if in reply, her stomach flared with pain and she grimaced. But there was joy behind that expression as well.

I hear you, Atemi!

The sound of Korrud guards, and of general alarm, set Zemryn's skin ablaze with excitement. At the sight of a weapon, an actual steel weapon, her eyes lit up.

But she looked at the others first. The Elven woman, so like herself and yet so different. And the rough human known as Gimlak. And the Dragonborn. Perhaps there was another who desired the blade? If need be, Zemryn would gnaw at a Korrud throat!

Despite her zeal, and whether or not she was armed, Zemryn knew that their best chance for vengeance was to flee now and fight later. She would follow their rescuer west.
 

97mg

Villager
Interlude: Maranos (Unknown Location)



Reverend Maranos, fifth arm of Solovtend, keeper of Lightbreaker, took slow steps upon polished grey tile. The passage was immaculately kept, as would be expected of any of this order’s holy sites. Not a particle of dust was allowed to rest here at length. Nor was the tiniest of spiders allowed to take webbed refuge in the corner of it's walls. This was a place for four things alone. Maranos…. to sweep, clean, wash and maintain, and the holy three he served.

Turning right within the passage, a dark cloud settled upon his thoughts. This place was his home, calling and sole-purpose. The tunnels, the smoothly carved walls and ceiling of stone, not only did he know them, he was them. Every finest detail of this bleak underland was burnt into his mind, every living memory, every dream. It was as though he had never been born, always here within the womb, tending the mother who protected three of her own.

The light was wrong. Weak! Where once rays of amber, red and blue shone to show the way, there were only two. The color of blood and the morning sun.

His steps hurried.

The day?

Yes. At last his eyes met the far wall at the end of the passage. He sank to his knees, grey silken robes catching beneath him as he stared upwards.

It is the day.

He would be born now. To thrust himself into the outside world. A child of Solov to make haste as sworn. As written, he was to head south to the lake, and once there make truth known to Howvlas, sixth arm of Solovtend, keeper of Birds.

One of three is stolen from us.

A finger shall trace lines drawn in blood to the next...


[sblock=notes]From time to time I'll drop in random happenings in other places. Characters and events that may or may not be directly relevant in the future... or past :)[/sblock]
 

97mg

Villager
Interlude: Quasp (Unknown Location)



“You haven’t met my friend Veinrunner yet, have you?”


The smirking Korrud turned to open a rusty metal box, atop a small trolley against a moldy stone wall.

Quasp had met many people and… things… over the years. He’d suffered more than his fair share too. He’d killed Korrud along the way, in fact he prided himself this. How long would it take the Korrud who’d captured him, to sniff those details out? This wasn’t going to end well...

Once a near decade ago, the elven man had fought their land's new imposters, with those of similar inclination out in the forests between the Plains of Or and Reinne town. A resistance group had formed, striking the dwarven threat where local knowledge weighed heavier than numbers. They’d hit supply lines, smashing wagons and caravans, killing the Korrud who manned them. They’d from time to time lurked just beyond the town borders, waiting for small units making their way in. Ah the old days, they’d done so gloriously for a time.

Quasp’s mind drifted to a memory of Gimlak. A true beef of a man! Formidable in form and brutal in his ways. But the barbarian was also kind, upholding of virtue, and favored among the locals. He’d been something of a folk hero, actually. Angry and kind, all in one breath.

It is strange what you ponder upon when chained to ceiling-rings, your whole body tensed and bruised, your enemy reaching for another tool of the trade. But it was enough to make Quasp smile. Perhaps, out there somewhere, Gimlak was still wielding heavy steel and taking Korrud heads from their owners.

“Where is it from!”
The dwarf’s beady black eyes stared into Quasp’s as he questioned him again in the common tongue.

The prisoner spat.

“Well, if you won’t tell me. Veinrunner surely will!”

A stocky arm waved the implement before Quasp’s face. A small silver object shaped like a serpent. Then it began to twist and writhe in the Korrud's calloused hands.

“Open your mouth fool, lest I make a new hole for my friend to enter!”

Quasp looked away to the side, where next to the torturer's tools something red and bright twinkled in the torchlight. It was a ruby the size of a baby’s fist. Winking at him with the color of blood.
 
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Steve Gorak

Explorer
Gimlak grabs the fire-stick, and holds it like a spear. It felt amazing to have a semblance of a weapon in his hands. He still looked around for a better makeshift weapon: something he could use a greatclub, with his two hands, woud be best.

As their liberatorpresents the shortsword, he sees the she-elf maiden Zemryn hesitating. He says to her laconically: "Ladies first!", and goes on looking around and playing sentry.

 
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97mg

Villager
Main Party: Heading West

Treading west but a few steps, your suspicions are confirmed. Behind the hut lie the motionless bodies of two Korrud guards, throats cut and here and there in each the feathered shafts of arrows protrude. Beside the nearest, a still-loaded light crossbow rests silently in the snow. Clasped to his belt a dagger waits in clear view also. The other body some twenty feet away, appears to have some kind of sword lying beside him.

The woman leading you glances at the nearest of the deceased before turning to those recently released from captivity. You of all people have every right to ransack the dead! But her expression is tight and anxious, as if to say don’t take too long about it. Indeed the sounds of Korrud to the east are worthy of concern.

Carefully then, she leads you off into the darkness. A cold gust of breeze brushes against your backs as you edge away from the immediate mining area, perhaps for the first time in years. High above you, eastwards, the little light provided by a moon’s rays become obscured by cloud as the Korrud sounds too fade away.

“This is good,” she says glancing back from where you have come. “But we dare not yet light any torches. We must get as far as we can before our tracks our found.”

For Zemryn and Faenala the world becomes a circle of monotone shades, it's edges as though painted black. The odd alpine tree stands covered with ice, the soft snow beneath your fur-wrapped feet begins to deepen, as you take steps downhill on a mild decline.

[sblock=Local Map]
[/sblock]
OOC: [sblock=Gimlak]Improvised pointy stick does D4 piercing damage. Looks like it would break with repeated use.[/sblock]
[sblock=Goodies]Your guide will wait for the equivalent of two or three rounds if you wish to search the Korrud guard bodies. There are:
  • 1x small aquamarine gemstone in a pocket
  • 1x longsword
  • 2x dagger and sheath
  • 1x light crossbow (loaded)
  • 10x bolts in a quiver
  • 2x unsavory looking dried rations
  • A small metal bottle which when shaken, feels to have liquid inside
  • 2x belts, leather armor and boots (that probably won’t fit - except if Gob is with us they "might" with a lucky roll?)
Faenala: Can harvest some cured leather here. No sand in sight yet.
All: feel free to distribute these goodies as you wish.[/sblock]

[sblock=Darkness]I believe only your guide, Zemryn and Faenala have darkvision. To make things easier we’ll assume the others can learn about their surroundings from the whisperings and guidance of their colleagues. Ability checks and attack rolls however, will be at a disadvantage for those without darkvision, for the time being. [/sblock]

[sblock=Terrain]Difficult terrain now, movement is half speed. [/sblock]

All: Please make perception checks if you wish and do what you'd like to do.

DM Mystery Roll hehe.: 1D20+2 = [18]+2 = 20 :cool:
DM Mystery Roll 2: 1D20 = [12] = 12 :uhoh:
 

97mg

Villager
Rolin: Elsewhere

Meanwhile... elsewhere...

The ragged work crews rarely caught a glimpse of one another, deviously segregated to ensure that none of the prisoners could really be sure of their total numbers. All knew however, that there were more. A handful of workers wasn’t enough. Not with three known mines in operation.

One of the prisoners had been stationed at Mine Two this week. Him and four others, grunting and chipping away, tossing precious raw gems into buckets whilst under the watchful eye of vertically challenged foreign scum.

In the middle of the night, a low and gurgling roar had awakened them. Sounds of steel upon steel for a brief moment. Then the door to the hut had flown open.

He was tall, the one who entered. A man broad of shoulder beneath a layer of white furs. Well, mostly white. Splashes of red were scattered up his chest and across a firm and sweaty rectangular face. He stepped heavily into the shelter.

“We leave,” he said commandingly, reaching into a pouch for a key and unshackling the first of the poor dirty bastards within. A silver-eyed man met his eyes as he worked, before the slave’s gaze shifted leftwards. Movement. Out through the door.

Rolin’s senses snapped alert at once. Be this a dream or not, a chill set upon him. A cold shiver through his spine and up through every hair upon his limbs. Freedom. Dread. Fear. Vengeance. Emotions confronted him upon all sides. He opened his mouth to issue a warning, but it was too late.

A twang as a bolt was fired. A groan of pain as the rescuer turned, revealing the shaft of the missile poking out from the small of his back. But still the stranger charged. Out the door, straight at a Korrud who’d dropped his crossbow to the snow-covered ground and was reaching for a hammer.

“Run!”

And run Rolin did. He was fueled by instinct alone in that moment. From the corner of his eye he saw more coming, small dark shapes of Korrud on rapid-approach.

He ran like the old days when the law was at his back, hot pursuit down Rowtil’s narrow city streets. Or darting from a crime scene with a pack laden with spoils. He felt alive, dashing through the snow to the east, then climbing northwards and circling back west. Yes, he hadn’t forgotten the old ways. Doubling back. Leaving confusing trails for pursuers. Going the ways nobody would expect.

Somewhere to the west he stopped to rest and catch a breath. It was cold, so cold out here. How long would he last with little more than the old furs upon his skin? There was something even colder within though. Guilt. Morag, Yas, Verdit, Aleshia… he’d left them all to die. He might never know the outcome of Mine Two’s fate, but at least, he for one, was alive.

One of five.

OOC: Rolin, please make a Stealth (1d20+7) and Perception check (1d20+2) as part of your reply.
 
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Imladir

Villager
Any unease she had once felt in the presence of dead bodies had long disappeared, one of the Korrud's many gifts she intented to repay tenfold given half the chance. So when she saw those two bodies, the only thing that came to her mind was the desire to know how she could take advantage of it. She didn't even look at the sword or the crossbow: while she could use the longsword, she hadn't ever been particularly good at it, and after so long anyway… Still, she took the dagger. If nothing else, she'd be able to fight to the last or slit her own throat rather than be captured once again.

She took one boot though. Only one, and obviously not to put on her feet, as much as she'd like to. Instead, she just tossed the gem, the small bottle and the rations inside: given their lack of bags, it would make transport much easier and she could better afford than others to have one hand dedicated to that task. Then, while the others were dividing the rest of the stuff, she harvested half a dozen cured leather pieces that she tossed in the boot too.

Still without a word, she followed when their small group started to walk again, trying without much success to not think of the cold. As they walked, she tried to keep her eyes - and ears - open, ready to cast her Mage Armor at the first sign of trouble.

OOC: Perception [ d20+2 = 14 ]
 
Atemi! These corpses bring back memories! It has been too long...

Zemryn, her frosty eyes serving her well in the dark, rushed forward to a Korrud corpse and took its head in her hands for a brief moment. A savage look crossed her face in the shadows and she lifted the oppressor's face towards her own.

And spit in it. Then she slammed it back into the snow. Her eyes turned to Faenala then, taking her in briefly and watching her work.

Putting the handle of the shortsword between her teeth to free up her hands, she got to work as well. With quick, almost desperate movements, she stripped the armor free and began shoving things inside of it. Her breath came out in hushed grunts, her teeth gripping the leather handle so hard she grimaced. The remaining dagger, and the crossbow with as many bolts as would fit. To the underworld with the gem...they were blood and death to her.

Glancing back at the others, she tossed the longsword at Gimlak's feet and then quickly lashed a belt around her waist. Taking the shortsword, she slid it between the belt and her fetid furs.

Good enough for now!

Heaving her makeshift pack over her shoulder, she scrambled back to the group.

"Let us leave this place...until we may return to rid the world of it."

<Perception check: 13>
 
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Steve Gorak

Explorer
Gimlak looks at the sword that Zemryn threw at his feet, and then looks at his fire stick. The upgrade is without question, so he picks up the sword, and swings it skillfully a few times to get a better feel for its balance. "Better!", he says, still laconically, but grateful for the feeling of cold metal in his hand.

He also proceeds to take a boot and belt, the latter of which he puts around his waist.

He then positions himself to stand guard, even though his human senses were lacking in the darkness.

 
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McD

Villager
Rolin forced thoughts of his erstwhile mining companions to the side.

Got to keep going!

Fighting off the chill that seemed to penetrate his very bones he continued westward, zigzagging between rocky outcrops and making the most he could of his old friend the darkness. He hoped his old skills would stand him in good stead, rusty as he was after nine years of brutal captivity.

On he went, straining every sense on the look out for danger or a possible advantage.

OOC: Stealth check: [11]+7 = 18; Perception check: [19]+2 = 21
 

97mg

Villager
Main Group:

The icy wind against your backs gathers strength as you make your way further from the mines. It blows flurries of snow about your feet, flakes lifting as though a hive of of frozen wisps has been disturbed. All is quiet, cept for the crunch of your fur-lined feet within this dark frozen land.

Gimlak, the tall and strongly built human appears to struggle with visibility, but he is in good hands. The woman leading you away and a few of the other prisoners at least, can see far enough ahead to keep the group's pace and direction steady.

Quickly surveying the surroundings, it would be a fair guess that a storm is coming. What kind though? This is yet to be proven. Sometimes hail, sometimes rain, or just snow… in massive quantities.

“At least it will cover our tracks,” the stranger mentions quietly. “My name is Bria, by the way,” she unveils as you push on, her words accompanied by puffs of cold cloudy breath.

“Perhaps now it is safe to light a torch,” Bria then considers, as she looks to Gimlak and smiles.

Wisssh… crack!

“Or not...” she quickly adds, motioning for everyone to drop and remain still.

The two high-elven once-prisoners heard the sounds too, drifting from somewhere close to your south.

The sound of something sliding along snow follows, then… was that a grunt?

A pair of dark congealed shapes fade into view. Animals leading two sleds, wait… are those wolves? Yes! And each tows a man, their silhouettes small yet wide, thick in form, you know them well.

Korrud!

“Araggahak,” you hear one of them say, slowing as he commands the beasts to a stop, as he raises a hand to shield falling snow from his eyes, looking out upon the surroundings. His colleague then does the same, raising something else in his grip. A crossbow?

“Bespawling saddle-geese...” Bria mutters under her breath.



Rolin:

Off a short way to the southeast, a half-elven man moves gracefully, artfully and quietly through the snow, his directions random at times, as he stealthily leaves a confusing and winding track for any would-be pursuers.

Through darkness and ever-present cold, adrenaline perhaps fuels him, the prospect of freedom! He is alert and careful, ears and eyes focused on all that surrounds. Yes, a storm comes, he might consider.

Then, tracking west a little further, dark shapes and abnormalities in the scene ahead come to be.

To his right side, just on the edge of where the gift of racial darkvision turns to black, there are small depressions like shadow upon the snow. Footprints. Several sets of them. Ah, there are some people there at the end of them, four or more, apparently laying low.

Directly ahead, again lingering on the fringe of his field of view, he then spots two Korrud men. Makes sense that they’d use a sled for hunting. Short dumpy folk aren’t famous for speed in snow so dense and deep. Thankfully, they aren’t looking in Rolin’s direction. No, they appear to be more interested in where the other group hides.... they at least... don't exactly look like Korrud. In fact, some of them look as disheveled as you!

[sblock=Local Map]
[/sblock]

OOC: All:
  • Feel free to make a Nature, or Survival check as part of your next post. We'll temporarily waive the one skill/ability check per post rule in case you apply some stealth as well.
  • Gob Ironfoot is MIA (EB hasn't logged in for weeks) and Thorin will post when he can (no need to wait). This will increase our pace a fair bit which is good news.
  • Korrud are 60' away. All speed is halved. Thus, you are looking at a full round of movement to reach them if that is your desire.
[sblock=Main Group Notes]Main Group:
  • You have a free round/post to declare actions and make decisions before any initiative might potentially be rolled. If anyone spends a full round devoted to a stealth check (burying yourself in snow or something you craftily come up with), then I will make the Korrud take a new perception check next post. I'm not recommending this course of action, but its an option.
  • Feel free to scheme your plan for this situation in the OOC thread, or dive right in. However you like to roll. You are more than welcome to whisper to each other IC, as long as its not extensive dialogue because the clock is ticking for you.
[/sblock][sblock=Rolin Notes]Rolin:
  • You are almost certain that none of the people in view are aware of your positioning or existence.
  • As with the main group, you have a full round to do as you wish.
[/sblock]
 
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