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5E The Rhyot Break - Chapter One: Endless White

Zemryn's breath was coming in short gasps, sending puffs of white out with each exhalation. Her legs felt like lead, and her head was even worse. She bit her tongue to remind herself of where she was and what she was doing. Survival was the only goal.

Atemi...Atemi...I can still see the bodies of my people littering your shrine. I have not forgotten!

Following Bria's gesturing, Zemryn looked at the cave entrance through narrowed eyes. She nodded. "Atemi will provide, as she has already done by sending you. That is enough for me." Without hesitation, she headed for the entrance. If death found her, it would find her proud and unflinching.
 

97mg

Villager
Part II: Cellinol's Pass



To see what comes, one must bleed-out all that came in the days before.
To know the end, one must turn those dark eyes inwards.
Seek this thing that all that followed, foolishly did ignore...


St. Aranov, Keeper of the Limbs of Torrus and watchman of the West.



The young woman who had led them to freedom, Bria, anxiously stepped ahead into the darkness. It was as though stepping into the mountainside itself, becoming one with black stone and ice-licked shadow. For a moment she paused, removing a small torch from her pack and attempting to light it with shaking half-frozen hands. From a spark a small fire was born, and before long a warming orange glow leapt across her face.

Standing, she turned to those behind, those who'd fled, battled and spilled blood with her. Those who had made it here despite Korrud shouts, piercing bolts and ravenous wolves.

Bria smiled to Gimlak, Faenala and Zemryn each in turn.

"I think we are close. Can you smell it? Old soot in the air?"

Just as she mentions it, her companions notice it too. Someone definitely had a fire lit down here in days gone by.

"We need to be careful. I saw a few spots of blood outside on the snow, before we came in."

Step by step, the party moves deeper and deeper into the old cave. A system of caves in fact, named Cellinol's Pass during the last century by the district's nearest villages. But they are many days travel from here. In some parts of Solov, even the nearest things feel oh so far away...

Once, this place was a site held sacred to alpine people's hearts. Indeed, it is a land both as beautiful... and dangerous as any Solov god. Within a valley of steep black cliffs and an ever-frozen gorge, lie great walls of pockmarked stone, entrances to caves abundant. Caves which offer shelter in one hand, and great risk in the other. The remains of those who once became lost within stone's walls and endless caverns probably still remain. Locked in time by the cold within nature's own tomb.

"Oh..." Bria exclaimed, coming to a halt and waving her torch about ahead of her. It was a cavern some fifty feet across, a tunnel leading off into the darkness to both left and right. In the center of the space lay the dark scattered remains of a fire and several soiled bedrolls.

"They were to wait for us. They'd not abandon camp..."

[sblock=Map]

White = Valley / gorge area
Blue Dots = Known cave entrances (the further into the black they are, the harder to access)
Green Dot = Current party location
Grey Lines / Blobs = Known tunnels and caverns
Broken Grey Lines = Unexplored exits / passages. [/sblock]
 
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97mg

Villager
Welkin and Rorik

Two days ago...

The silhouettes of a tiefling, a tall human, a dwarf and a short elderly man trudged through knee-deep snow with faces bathed in morning light. Edius, Wizard of Rowtil, Fae-Waver of Orinian found it hardest among those in the group. Kazis was far shorter, yes, being of demihuman stock, but the dwarven fighter and guardsman made up for it with brute strength and determination. Like a minature plow, the tough-fleshed fellow pushed on and on, though he took every opportunity to insult their current surrounds.

"Blast'd snow! Always snow snow, best way to ruin a good mountain, bloody powdery... slippery and beard encrusting snow!"

Edius, on the other hand, despite being tall, lacked much of the coordination required to make good pace through the frozen white hazards underfoot. He was a mage and scholar, not some adventure-freak! The old fellow bit his lip, grumbled under his breath and pushed on. It was he, of all of them, who knew the challenges nature would cast before them. It was he, the frailest who had led them here. There could not be any other way. For all he knew, he was the last, the final Wizard of Rowtil breathing. Options were for the lucky and better-equipped. Choices were for those who didn't carry a burden of knowledge, such as he did. Deep inside, Edius had already processed the truth... that this would be his final pilgrimage.

They were half a day from the dark stone jaws that would form the entrance to Cellinol's Pass. Somehow, by some miracle, they would find what they were looking for. Answers. Answers that all knew would come at a heavy price.

Kazis grunted loudly, twisting some hundred and eighty degrees.

"I ear'd something!"

to be continued...
 
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Zemryn's eyes adjusted to the play of shadows and light created by Bria's torch. She saw the remains of the camp, just as Bria did, and could not help but notice the state of it. Whoever the woman was waiting for, they were not there, and had not been for some time. Dark places of the earth, caves and chasms, could swallow life without a sound. How well Zemryn knew that!

Did I escape the pits, the cold rock and stale air, just to once more leave the moon and sun behind? Atemi...as you lead, I will follow.


Her stomach, deep within her, gave a spasm of pain. She gritted her teeth, stepping forward and drawing her two swords free of their makeshift scabbards. "Perhaps they will meet us further in? I will ask my goddess to give me warning of ancient evils, dead but alive, or spirits from other planes, that may inhabit these winding pathways of stone..."

Going down to one knee, she placed the blade of one sword across her brow and the other in a backhanded grip behind her back. She closed her eyes, recalling the temple to her goddess as it was in the shrine of her birthplace. Gilded columns of stone and silver, the echoing songs of the priestesses.

"Atemiri, ulaith dor Neveryn, tari'mi, tari'mi."

Her senses spread out like the wings of an eagle, and she gasped inwardly at the pleasure of being close to her goddess, being overwhelmed by her power. She swayed slightly in a circle...smiling to herself.

<Using class ability: Divine Sense>
 

97mg

Villager
Welkin and Rorik

It wasn't just "something" that Kazis's war-trained ears had heard. Sat in the darkness, Welkin and Rorik perhaps cant help but reform that recent day's events over and over within their minds. Of Edius, all that remains is leather and parchment. Two small books, one of which Rorik flips through, torchlight softly bouncing off the writings and surrounding walls. There is much to digest in these pages, and the wizard's hand is not of a style that reveals itself easily. It is almost as if old Edius still lives within these writings, still choosing the means and time, by which knowledge might unveil itself.

"Dirrevn Faques makes no light mention of the loop and three within the text 'Alpinia en Rhyotes'. The man claimed to have seen the elusive nymph himself, though it would appear that the experience left his mind deeply... shall we say... effected, by the time he had hand upon quill once more. What follows can only be called theory, yet I support the claim that reference to threes is culturally ingrained within Solov's deeper past. What the loop is, I can only guess. Of the three, I might surmise that the nymph might be laid eyes on, via, perhaps... a trifecta of means..."​

Though the human and tiefling man might choose to rest here, they know too well that they dare not let darkness lure them into sleep. There are more than occasional bats, tiny long-legged spiders and deathly still air within these confines.

Then, surrounded by quiet, a sound breaks through between their breaths and the light shuffle of a book's page turning.

Voices. Voices from the old campsite where Welkin and Rorik had earlier been (location 4 on your private map)...
 

97mg

Villager
Zemryn

Calm and attentive, opening herself to sensations only gifted through divine grace, Zemryn's mind empties itself of chaos, anxiety, fatigue and fear. Like rings upon a pool, waves rippling outwards, she is open to all that Atemi might show.

In the past, such acts by the Paladin brought only small inclinations, or small clues as to the nature of surrounding life and undeath. Zemryn might gasp this time, as a soft-spoken woman's words whisper soothingly within her head.

"My child, you will find no celestial aid, hell-birthed fiend, or walking death in places close. But remember, not all good, evil and corruption can be defined as easily as so. There is evil here... and where there is evil... there is good.
 
Zemryn's eyes opened suddenly, and they were afire with the grace of a goddess. How close she was to the great Atemi! She stood up slowly, returning her swords to their scabbards. "My goddess has spoken. There is evil here, but it is not undead. But perhaps, with courage on our side, and sharp blades, it will soon be actually dead."
 

Imladir

Villager
Faelena followed, barely feeling her feet scratching the ground of the caves. Even if she had though, she'd probably have been glad. At least it wasn't snow. Not that it would make much of a difference at this point she thought. The only question probably was how many toes she'd lose to frostbite, not if she would. She wouldn't complain though: freedom was worth it. And if she died before that...well, losing toes wouldn't be much of a problem.

At the mention of soot in the air, she cocked her head to the side, and briefly nodded a few seconds later, having smelled it too now that she focused on it. Despite Bria's admonition to be careful though, she was way past being careful. At this point, she'd follow, and that would have to be good enough.

When they arrived at the abandoned camp, she barely stopped to consider Bria's words, before she walked to one of the bedrolls. She crouched to touch it and cast another Prestidigitation - which was in her opinion the most useful spell ever - to give it back its pristine condition. Or at least, to get it clean. Once it was done, she wrapped it around her. It wasn't ideal, but it was way better than the rags she had on herself. And at least she'd be able to sleep in it at some point. Now, if only she could get some shoes to preserve her feet. Or make sure she'd still have at least part of those when all was said and done...

She glanced warily at Zemryn at the mention of her goddess, grimacing slightly. Gods had long lost any appeal to her. She had lost respect for any gods a long time ago. Of course, she didn't say anything though. If Zemryn wanted to keep praying to a god who had left her to rot with the Korrud for years, it was her business. When she said her goddess had answered though, she just nodded. Like she would if a child were to talk about her imaginary friend.

She soon stopped paying attention to any of that, and instead explored the cave a bit while Bria decided what to do next. She really hoped to find some boots. Or socks. Or... Well, anything that could improve her feet's condition really.
 

JustinCase

the magical equivalent to the number zero
Welkin

Welkin grabs Rorik's hand and with one finger of his other hand motions for his companion to be silent. There's someone approaching!

With a whispered word of magic, the redskinned tiefling dims the light of the burning torch, dropping the cave in a deeper darkness than before. Then Welkin Spinrath Maledicte di Vicomte, of the formerly powerful Vicomte family, quietly gets up from where he was sitting, one hand on his dagger and the other grabbing a drop-shaped crystal hanging from a simple chain around his neck. His scarlet eyes reflect what little light there is, adding to the already devilish look with the horns and slightly pointed ears.

Without a sound, Welkin mouths "kobolds?" to Rorik, fearing the return of these dangerous creatures so soon. The squire moves towards the only entrance of the room and listens tensely.
 

TallIan

Explorer
Rorik

Rorik heard the voices drifting down the cave, he closed the book and started wrapping it in its oil cloth when Welkin touched his arm. He cursed as Welkin doused the fire even as he knew it was a good idea not to give away their position.

"Kobolds?" mouthed Wilken. Rorik shook his head in the dark as Welking crept forward, "Too feminine." Rorik whispered, but he still gripped his huge sword tightly, keeping his off hand free to lanch his magic at anything threatening.

They were too far to make out the words though. "Well, these damned caves have brought us nothing but misery. I'm not dying here like a trapped rat. I’m going down swimging." he crept farther along cave, his armour almost certainly giving him away until he saw the torch up ahead illuminating a ragged looking band. One of them seemed to be praying?

As she stood up Rorik committed to the contact. "You're no kobold. Speak, friend or foe to the Korrud?"
 
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Steve Gorak

Explorer
Rorik
As she stood up Rorik committed to the contact. "You're no kobold. Speak, friend or foe to the Korrud?"
Gimlak turns proudly, his stare never for a moment leaving that of the man that just spoke. With one hand, he opens his makeshif bag, and raises his arm. Partially frozen heads fall out, clearly Korrund. As his blood starts rushing to his limbs, readying the barbarian for a potential battle, he draws his sword and says "Shall I add your heads to my collection, or will you help us kill more Korrund scum!?!"
 
Zemryn's head turned at the sound of the voice, and her shortswords cleared their scabbards with a dull scraping sound even as Gimlak displayed his grim trophies like a proud young child displays stones collected at the beach to his mother.

Gimlak spoke harshly, and with perhaps too much gratuitous gore, but his words got to the point quickly enough and warranted an answer.

"Atemi awaits your answer! Heed your words well!" Zemryn could not resist adding the name of her goddess, so long something that had resulted in only a lash across her back, or a Korrud fist to her jaw. Now she exclaimed it with angry pride so that all could hear!
 

TallIan

Explorer
Rorik

The replies from the scraggly band were feisty, even threatening, but Rorik had surprised them in a dark cave.

He watched as the big man upturned a bag of rocks - no not rocks, heads - dwarf heads. Well that was a good sign. He lowered his sword, taking a more defensive stance, "You're no enemy of mine then. Indeed the enemy of my enemy..." he trailed off the last sentience not wanting to commit too fully to these strangers. "I am Sir Rorik of the Wizards of Rowtil. Well, whats left of them anyway. This is my friend Squire Welkin. Maybe Wizard Welkin may be more appropriate now. We were part of a larger group come here to fight the Korrud, but have run afoul of the weather, kobolds and other beasts."
 
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JustinCase

the magical equivalent to the number zero
The tiefling salutes lazily, the very movement an expression of nonchalance.

”Just call me Welkin,” he says warmly before speaking another arcane word to get the torchlight back to its normal brightness.

He looks at each newcomer in turn, looking into their eyes perhaps a moment longer than needed, and smiles in an attempt to warm them up to him. Gods, how he missed making new friends!
 

97mg

Villager
Bria's amber eyes turned from surveying the passageway that led northwards out of the cavern. Behind her colleagues, the young woman's view fixed instead upon a tiefling man and his robust human companion. At first their voices had brought hope to her heart, but as each word was spoken the truth had revealed itself. These men, she did not know, nor did she know if they were responsible for her camp's disappearance.

She edged closer, listening as introductions began, and smiled at Gimlak's brutal method of declaring allegiance. Well, it seemed to have worked, the barbarian was truly odd in his ways... but she could not condemn the force with which he got things done.

Kobolds?

The narrow-faced and soft-skinned woman was wrapped in once-white fur and leather. She probably looked a little less worn than her companions. Yes, the travel had been hard and the cold had taken a toll, but Zemryn, Faenala and Gimlak carried years of abuse, in comparison Bria must have looked "fresh".

"Sir Rorik, Welkin," she said, "I am Bria of Parhalst village. Tell me, have you seen anyone else within these tunnels and holes? Of Kobolds, please tell us the nature of how they met with you?"

Perhaps Rorik or Welkin would know of her home. A village nestled between mountains several days to the west. A peaceful place that given its location, was yet to fall to foreign dwarven hand. For folk so far from civilization, and amidst such treacherous wilderness, it would strike Rorik and Welkin that these newly met souls are rather poorly equipped.
 

Imladir

Villager
As soon as she heard the new voices, Faelana stopped her exploration of the small cave, and went back with the others. Not that they were particularly far, but even a few feet away could mark her as an easy target. When Gimlak exposed his collection, she grimaced disgustingly, but relaxed slightly when it became clear the two in front of them had no desire to fight them. For now at least.

She nodded slightly when Rorik introduced himself and his companion, but when Welkin smiled at her, it seemed to backfire: given the way her eyes blazed and her jaw clenched, it seemed obvious than the only warmth she might feel would be due to anger rather than anything else. And given how she adjusted the position of the bedroll she had wrapped around herself, she wasn't feeling much warmth at all.

After that, she looked around, frowning. Korruds, wolves, and now kobolds? On top of frozen feet... Frozen everything in fact... She almost wondered at what point she'd start to feel like she'd be better in the mines...
 
Zemryn stood proudly, despite her ill-fitting and blood-caked leather armor and shoddy Korrud boots. In her mind she was a shining beacon of Atemi's power, though in reality she may have looked more like a desperate convict wearing the stolen armor of slain foes with dirty and fouled furs beneath. The black paint around her eyes only emphasized their frosty blue appearance and the deep conviction that was behind them.

Kobolds. Your foes are everywhere, Atemi, and I thank you for the privilege of slaying them.

Bria was obviously eager for news of her people. Zemryn looked at the newcomers, now potential allies, and awaited their answer.
 

JustinCase

the magical equivalent to the number zero
Welkin notes Faelana's acute reaction to seeing him, and smiles even broader. Ah yes, this should be a challenge! The tiefling keeps his eyes on the elf woman as he responds to Bria's questions.

"Darn kobolds were slaughtering some poor sods just up this tunnel," he waves vaguely towards the dark to his left, "Then dragged the bodies back behind a door at the end. We managed to kill a few of the bastards, although I suspect they've taken those corpses away too by now. Haven't seen anyone else in these caverns except you guys, although we did get attacked by the Korrud two days ago, outside in the valley."

Welkin easily falls into the Rowtil city accent, despite the fact that his noble family taught him to speak "properly".

"How did you get here? You must be starving!"

Taking his backpack off, he rummages through it and takes out the rations he had been taking nibbles from only a few minutes ago, then offers it to Faelana first.
 

Steve Gorak

Explorer
"We fled the Korund, thanks to Bria. She brought us here." Gimlak says with heartfelt gratitude. "I definitely won't say no to food, if you can spare it". Gimlack waits eagerly untill the food is passed to him, and he eats it quitely, savoring it's non-Korrund origin.
 

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