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  1. - Top - End - #1
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    Default [Empire 2] The Tower of Skulls

    Francesca Dumont, feared and reviled across Arandi, was transported across the Winter Courtlands in the dead of night. The carriage bearing her iron coffin surrounded by a cloud of wrathful baobhan sith, she passed beyond the roads of Caer Gheimhridh and into the high passes. Into the realm of the Dullahan. The mists grew ever colder, the road more treacherous, and had she a vantage point to see the mistress of the Iron Gauntlet would have been assailed by a mountainside carved into an avalanche of leering skulls. At the end of that road waited Caer Sgrechian, the Tower of Skulls, lair of the Dullahan and grand prison of the Winter Court. Not until she was deep in its bowels was the lid of her coffin unsealed, the shackles binding wrist and ankle loosened. Stripped naked by Aeldir shrouded in heavy leathers, shaved bare, she was not allowed rest until the spiral of her Pendrel was found. Then she was falling, down into the darkest and deepest of Caer Sgrechian's oubliettes.

    Time slowed to a crawl in the darkness, broken only by the infrequent deliveries of thick and gritty gruel and water. All was darkness, the only break in the silence the half-forgotten whisper of the baobhan sith as they circled above her ceaselessly. But, finally, she was dragged to face her captors. Leashed and bound, she walked frost-rimed corridors to a circular theater, its center a shallow depression beneath an elaborate iron wheel. Standing before it, with all the poise of a practiced host at a formal dinner, was the Dullahan. Shrouded in white leathers that seemed more appropriate for a slaughterhouse, he guided his masked assistants as they affixed Francesca to the wheel, her arms stretched parallel to her body, her legs at a diagonal angle, her head strapped securely into place. There enough support to hold her, barely, but not without a lingering discomfort. The assistants disappeared from her sight, and the Dullahan set about readying his tools.

    On the theater floor sat a long, high table bristling with all manner of grisly tools, from hammers and hooked pokers to flaying knives and long needles. The table was flanked on either side by braziers, one holding ruddy coals that rippled with heat, the other a pool of boreal nectar, blue ice bobbing along its surface. The Dullahan said nothing as he made his final preparations, finally turning his attention away from Francesca towards the operatic box that loomed high in her vision.

    <"Shall we begin, my Lord?">

    From the shadows emerged the tall form of Lord Winter, clothed simply and severely in the black of his Court. He seated himself at the sole chair within the box, a high backed throne in truth, and leaned forwards against the rail. His eyes met Francesca's, but they were empty.

    <"Who are you?">
    Last edited by TheDarkDM; 2016-07-01 at 03:55 AM.

    I was old when the pharaohs first mounted
    The jewel-decked throne by the Nile;
    I was old in those epochs uncounted
    When I, and I only, was vile;

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    Quote Originally Posted by apocalypsePast2 View Post
    ...one could possibly refer to you guys' elaborate dance of allies-to-enemies-to-suicide-of-the-universe as some sort of weird art form.

    If one were on drugs.
    Quote Originally Posted by VonDoom View Post
    Behold, the mighty slayer of strangely coloured mutant equines! The thwarter of forum woes! The! Dark! DM!

  2. - Top - End - #2
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    Default Re: [Empire 2] The Tower of Skulls

    The search for signs of a Pendrel would prove fruitless for there was none. Through the whole of the process of her dehumanization she was silent though multiple times she had attempted to kill herself when opportunities arose. The practiced hands of the servants of the Winter Court had ensured her demise had been avoided but nonetheless she continued her struggles seemingly immune or simply uncaring to beatings or acts of pain inflicted upon her. Presented now as a spread prisoner little more than flesh before the Dullahan and his lord her eyes communicated a haggard emptiness deeper than any that might have been inflicted in her time within the Winter Courtlands.

    <"I am Francesca Dumont, orchestrator of the death of Branwen Morrig,"> she answered with a quietness borne not from shame or fear but malnutrition and long silence.

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    Amazing Avatar by Qwernt! Thank you!

    Quote Originally Posted by Kornaki View Post
    The whole world is held aloft by a dragon.

    That dragon? Held aloft by a bigger dragon.

    It's dragons all the way up
    Beat the bejesus out of a Paladin

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    Default Re: [Empire 2] The Tower of Skulls

    Lord Winter straightened at her answer, his elbows coming to rest on the arms of his throne as his fingers steepled before him.

    <"And how have you accomplished your reign of silent death? What secrets did you coax from the Old Iron Gauntlet? And why do they so desire your death?">

    I was old when the pharaohs first mounted
    The jewel-decked throne by the Nile;
    I was old in those epochs uncounted
    When I, and I only, was vile;

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    Quote Originally Posted by apocalypsePast2 View Post
    ...one could possibly refer to you guys' elaborate dance of allies-to-enemies-to-suicide-of-the-universe as some sort of weird art form.

    If one were on drugs.
    Quote Originally Posted by VonDoom View Post
    Behold, the mighty slayer of strangely coloured mutant equines! The thwarter of forum woes! The! Dark! DM!

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    Default Re: [Empire 2] The Tower of Skulls

    <"Many questions for an ancient ghost so many say is a wise keeper of secrets. Careful you do not choke on so many questions humbling yourself in ignorance before me. I shall tell you nothing of my hard fought and well earned knowledge."> she turned her head that her neck was exposed and the scar at the base of it could just be seen curving around. Though no pendrel had been found within her the scar spoke of something more.

    <"If it is the ancient order of cowards and fools too afraid to use their abilities you wish to discuss I suspect you would be better served in asking them these questions than myself.">

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    Amazing Avatar by Qwernt! Thank you!

    Quote Originally Posted by Kornaki View Post
    The whole world is held aloft by a dragon.

    That dragon? Held aloft by a bigger dragon.

    It's dragons all the way up
    Beat the bejesus out of a Paladin

  5. - Top - End - #5
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    Default Re: [Empire 2] The Tower of Skulls

    Lord Winter smiled, as though the woman's insolence was a gift rather than an insult.

    <"It is the fool who clings to pride rather than admit a lack of knowledge, girl. I intend to see their Shrouded Lord bound and studied in good time. But you are my guest now.">

    A raised finger was the only signal, yet the Dullahan knew it well. Moving to his tools, he selected a long curved knife as thin as a scalpel and a blunt device that seemed more at home as a nutcracker than an instrument of torture. Securing the pliers in a front pocket, he observed Francesca as he approached. As an artist studying a hunk of raw stone, he took in the fullness of her before selecting his beginning. Taking her left hand in his powerful grip, a twist sent a crack through her wrist. Releasing the hand to dangle, he took up his knife and focused in on the pinky finger. He luxuriated as he flayed the skin from it, dropping paper-thin slivers of bloody skin into the depression in the floor as he peeled the digit like a ripe fruit. Eventually he reached muscle, and the razor tip of the blade danced along nerves and sinew as tendon and fiber were severed and torn free. Once only bone remained, the knife vanished and the pliers appeared again, to crack open the waiting finger bones to clatter noisily to the stone floor. The Dullahan disappeared for an instant, only to return with a burning poker that served to sear shut the wound.

    <"If you wish to leave here without further refinement, you will answer my questions.">

    I was old when the pharaohs first mounted
    The jewel-decked throne by the Nile;
    I was old in those epochs uncounted
    When I, and I only, was vile;

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    Quote Originally Posted by apocalypsePast2 View Post
    ...one could possibly refer to you guys' elaborate dance of allies-to-enemies-to-suicide-of-the-universe as some sort of weird art form.

    If one were on drugs.
    Quote Originally Posted by VonDoom View Post
    Behold, the mighty slayer of strangely coloured mutant equines! The thwarter of forum woes! The! Dark! DM!

  6. - Top - End - #6
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    Default Re: [Empire 2] The Tower of Skulls

    If she felt any pain she didn't show it. Her eyes were dead as the flesh was flayed from her finger and she winced only slightly as it was broken and fell to the floor.

    <"I don't plan to leave here alive or in any shape of use. I've had my body stolen, returned, and stolen again more times than any should. My mind and my body are no longer one. You may tear this vessel to pieces, shred it with the slow precision of a barbaric simpleton claiming refinement but you do not know torture or pain. Flesh is temporary Lord Winter. The pain your Dullahan knows is merely the fleeting cries of a defunct system begging to be remembered. This form is meaningless. You have captured and strung up a puppet whose strings to the Gauntlet were cut before you even arrived in Kagun.">

    <"It is so amusing to read of the Aeldir immortality. Trapped in a single waiting corpse unable to truly experience the full breadth of the world. You do not understand your enemy and never will Lord Winter. I don't doubt you have heard of the simple pendrel who exist and follow the laws of the Shrouded Lord but the true Gauntlet has exceeded that poor fool and with the eye they are unstoppable.">

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    Amazing Avatar by Qwernt! Thank you!

    Quote Originally Posted by Kornaki View Post
    The whole world is held aloft by a dragon.

    That dragon? Held aloft by a bigger dragon.

    It's dragons all the way up
    Beat the bejesus out of a Paladin

  7. - Top - End - #7
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    Default Re: [Empire 2] The Tower of Skulls

    If the woman's barbs drew blood there was no sign on Lord Winter's face. Simply a small smile.

    <"For one unwillingly used you show a surprising degree of loyalty. For one willingly used your claims of torment ring hollow. Which is it, girl? And what trinket have your puppet masters uncovered that deceives you into believing them invincible?">

    I was old when the pharaohs first mounted
    The jewel-decked throne by the Nile;
    I was old in those epochs uncounted
    When I, and I only, was vile;

    Spoiler
    Show
    Quote Originally Posted by apocalypsePast2 View Post
    ...one could possibly refer to you guys' elaborate dance of allies-to-enemies-to-suicide-of-the-universe as some sort of weird art form.

    If one were on drugs.
    Quote Originally Posted by VonDoom View Post
    Behold, the mighty slayer of strangely coloured mutant equines! The thwarter of forum woes! The! Dark! DM!

  8. - Top - End - #8
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    Default Re: [Empire 2] The Tower of Skulls

    <"Have you never suffered for what you love and live for Lord Winter? Surely you have Butcher of the Winter Court?> she addressed the Dullahan, <"I discovered the Iron Gauntlet and the Pendrel before any of your kingdoms. I met with their leaders before Anceris purged great thinkers and the Exarch struck deals with old fools who might have faded into obscurity should history have taken a different course. I saw and came to love an ancient race of immortals as Avonlea loves the Aeldir. I knew their purpose and true ability and they saw in me a hope from beyond the petty politics to create something new that would outlast all challengers.">

    <"I have hosted the minds of philosophers to rival yourself Lord Winter and killers with skills to put you to shame Dullahan. I have seen histories each the match for a kingdom's greatest sagas. In doing so I was stripped of my mind, pushed down, forced to fight for the very facilities of this body but I fought and learned. So too did I teach and act for even the mightiest and most ancient might learn from the new. Surely it was some new and unknown charm that brought Adelie to your bedchambers Lord Winter? Would you expect your lover, if she still lived, to surrender you to hostile captors? Would she turn on you and betray your intimate secrets? So shall I not. So shall I take these secrets and histories earned by my blood and tears to my final grave knowing the Gauntlet will continue. Its true purpose is death and death comes for all. The gift from death to the Gauntlet proves it, the eye that watches from the flames. You may kill me, you may torture me, but it will be a fruitless effort in the face of an unrelenting force.">
    Last edited by QuintonBeck; 2016-07-08 at 08:46 PM.

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    Amazing Avatar by Qwernt! Thank you!

    Quote Originally Posted by Kornaki View Post
    The whole world is held aloft by a dragon.

    That dragon? Held aloft by a bigger dragon.

    It's dragons all the way up
    Beat the bejesus out of a Paladin

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