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Thread: Nether

  1. - Top - End - #1
    Halfling in the Playground
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    May 2007

    Default Nether

    Winter.

    Snow was universal. It held the land fast in sleep beneath a soft, thick white blanket. It billowed through the air in sheets, veils of powder and hoarfrost kicked up the the northeasterly wind. It sprinkled from tree limbs swaying and groaning beneath heavy burdens like sturdy beggars, hale but weary from years of toil. It crunched with dull, muffled cracking thumps beneath boot soles, shod hooves, and the sleigh's runners.

    Cassandra was dressed as best as she could for winter without immodesty and sat within the enclosed compartment of her sleigh, and still she shivered, furs or no. The young woman felt a moment of queasy guilt- others of her party rode outside the sleigh carriage as escorts, subjected to what seemed biting cold. She could have taken her place amongst them; she was supposed to be in charge, yet here she was, as usual unsuited for the rigors of the journey.

    On the other hand, she had the distinct, if quite foolish, impression that if she took a step out there she would be a perfect ice statue in moments.

    For once the trueborn girl envied Syeira her breeches. Leggings or no, a dress was no attire for a snowfield.

    Two weeks had passed since she had bid for allies; a week and a half since the small party had departed from her manor in Vietzie. Perhaps they would near the borders of the barony of Dammerinthes by next week's Celesmorne, should they continue to make good time. Her entourage was as capable as she could have hoped; small, yes, but talented and of good repute. Then....

    She was not entirely sure what came next, if she were true to herself. She had acted because she felt she must, because she felt responsible. It most certainly was not because she felt genuinely qualified to battle a corrupt artifact with a long and ominous history (if the imp Reskeis could be been believed) and malign intelligence. She alone had touched the cursed thing, and the shock had given her pause. Then had come the green flash, the explosion that blew the chapel's roof clear. Had she not hesitated- had she handed it to Reskeis, or put her sword through it- the Grimoire would no longer exist.

    They had passed several travelers, many heading the other way with great haste, some disheveled and panic-stricken. Most of these passerby, if they spoke at all, were full of warnings; even the merchants in the marketplaces of Vietzie had begun to circulate ominous rumors of the place amidst the usually distressing news of the front.

    Netherspawn attacks, they said- not yet on the scale of mighty armies, but seemingly content to spread pain and death as cowards rather than challenge hosts to battle. Monsters in the woods, the dead stirring in their graves. Strange behavior among the local aristocracy and townsfolk. Unearthly glimmers and lights in the night-time sky.

    Of course omens were a common tale, but to Cassandra, who unlike most folk had seen the effects of the Grimoire's corruption firsthand, each new tale added a host of phantoms to already-existing fears. She wished she had been able to amass more support, but there had seemed little time. The few contacts she had possessed to House Lucaeci were all dubious, demanding proof beyond a junior member's unconfirmed fears.

    No, she was wading alone in treacherous tides, and the knowledge only ate at her more as they traveled towards a land of spreading, cursed repute. She could think only of how ill-made she was for the task.

    Cassandra shivered again and sat back, looking at the other occupants. She dared not vocalize her doubts. "Our course has been swift," she said instead, putting on the practiced, polite smile expected of a lady of fine breeding. "Doubtless we shall reach the barony shortly."

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    WhiteKnight777's Avatar

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    Default Re: Nether

    Alexander

    The Trueborn noble - a redundant phrase if ever there was one - sat in the inn's common room. Though it was otherwise fairly busy, there was a circle of unoccupied tables about them. While Alexander simply pretended it was a mark of respect, he knew that, in reality he knew it was fear. He wondered idly, as he stirred the thick stew with the ancient pewter spoon with which he had been provided, if the Shaden in the tavern were more afraid of him, or of the... creature sitting across from him. Though normally not one given to prejudice, Alexander had to admit a twinge of unease and a bit of distaste when he looked at Harker - though he masked it carefully. Something about him, and about Warbound in general, irked him. It was like looking at a failed experiment - the castoff remnant of some ill-conceived magic or unholy sorcery. He was less governed by this hatred than others of the Trueborn he had met, but his reasons were perhaps more personal than a simple racial distaste - it was his goal, in his heart of hearts, to bring the arcane and the mechanical to sentience - to find the spark of true life within the base elements, to coax from the ether the secrets of pure creation

    And yet the warbound were entities only of destruction. Oh, entropy had its place, of course. Creation and destruction were equally important - if nothing was ever destroyed, all would be stagnant - and as a scion of progress, stagnation was anathema to Alexander. But destruction without bounds, blood for blood's sake, war given form - that was unsettling.

    Charity, as usual, had her head in a book. He smiled fondly at her - she was his second research assistant. Alphonse, his first, had retired some ten years ago, and Charity, his niece, had taken up the position. She had her uncle's flair for the work - even with his photographic memory, Alexander couldn't remember everything - but Charity was dedicated to the work, and her penchant for organization was an invaluable asset that assisted him immesurably. She was consulting a thin volume, making notes on a map to evaluate the best route. As if sensing his scrutiny, she looked up and gave him a small smile before returning to her work. Her light brown hair framed her face, and she wore a simple dress in a matching shade. Her eyes were gray, and her face, though plain, possessed a pleasing contour to the eye. Alexander admired that - form and function, handsomely shaped but without undue decoration. A worthy goal for any craftsman.

    He turned his eyes to regard his other companion. In contrast to the relatively petite charity, John was an ox of a man - Charity was fond of joking that he must have a touch of Bearkin blood in him. A blacksmith by trade, his massive, muscle knotted limbs and hirsute form lent credence to that theory. He was also a taciturn man, but Alexander knew that it was not from lack of intelligence - on the contrary, he had the wisdom to be silent when he had nothing of value to say. A trait, Alexander had to opine, that was all to rare among sentient beings of any race.

    He felt a slight pain in his leg and looked down to see his familiar, Zareesa, kneading him with her claws as her tail twitched back and forth. Apparently she felt that attention not being paid to her was attention wasted, and he dropped one hand to absently stroke the back of her head as he looked around the tavern. The citizenry would occasionally cast fearful glances at them, but Alexander ignored them. He had more important things to consider. Looking over at Harker, spoke in his low, melodious voice.

    "We should probably be moving soon. Unpleasant as the weather is, there's half a day left to travel in. And I doubt we've time to lose."
    Last edited by WhiteKnight777; 2008-09-27 at 03:18 AM.

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    NinjaGuy

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    Default Re: Nether

    Some Time Ago:

    "Breathe...Breathe deep. Savor your last one...nice and slow."

    There was shattered glass and the dying echo of screams. Blood, still warm and sticky, ran from the walls, soaking into the floor. There was Count von Eldingham, crawling away, the broken bones protruding through his skin catching on the thick knots in the carpeting. There were the dead bodies of his guards, what was left of them draped across the expensive furniture in less than peaceful repose, many of them having been smashed into paste. And there was this thing...the Windwalker, covered in black fire, arms wrapped in white hot lengths of chain ending in spiked studded lumps of steel as big as watermelons. Blood soaked through the bandages around its eyes, running down perfect, alabaster cheeks as it drifted slowly forward.

    "I'll let you take your time..." It spoke quietly, with the voice of a young woman, the intensity of its determination was almost palpable.

    Von Eldingham rolled over onto his side, trying to open his mouth to speak, only foamy blood bubbled out of his lips. Gasping, he put his hands together and began mouthing a prayer. The Count's gesture elicted merely an amused grin from his tormentor.

    "You'd think it's a bit too late for that." The thing, whatever it was, stepped on von Eldingham's wrists.

    As he slipped in and out of consciousness, the Count looked straight upwards. Hollow, endless nothingness stared back at him, blood streaming down her cheeks and dripping into his face. The black crystal around her neck pulsed, bathing everything with a glow that seemed to drain light back into it.

    She continued to speak, no hesitation, no gloating, only a quiet, solid determination in her voice. "Why weren't you praying when you were raping those girls? Why didn't you ask for absolution then? Why wait until now? The All-Mother has already turned her back on you, Trueborn." She almost spat that last word out. "In order to gain absolution, you must first repent for your sins. Now ask yourself this; do you really have it in you?"

    All the Count could do was breathe in shallow gasps, his broken ribs tearing through the expensive silk robes he wore. His eyes moved up to the portrait of his family he kept over his fireplace. He could hear their screams for mercy, and then silence. The Windwalker's expression was unmoved. She grinned as she began wrapping the chains around his wrists. One of the spiked balls was thrown over the ceiling rafters. Carefully, she hoisted the Count into the air, the loose end of the chain was tied to the other steel ball, von Eldingham dangling in place.

    "No, you really don't have it in you to repent. Even when you left their bones out for the animals to pick clean. Because they were only gypsies. Nobody. Would. Mind."

    The Windwalker reached in and with a sickening crunch, pulled apart von Eldingham's ribcage.

    "I am Sister Ayani Ghadnan, Priestess of the Forlorn Path."

    She tore out von Eldingham's still beating heart.

    "I speak for my people."
    Last edited by yli; 2008-09-27 at 02:46 AM.

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Troll in the Playground
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    Default Re: Nether

    Harker

    Harker Blitzengale, or as he was now known, Harker the Blighted, sat across from a Trueborn with hair the color of the night sky. Harker could tell he was nervous, but then most people were when around him. The Trueborn, Alexander, had come with some companions, a comely trueborn lass that Alexander said was his research assistant, and a huge, silent man. Harker had come with companions of his own.

    Harker didn't even have to turn around to describe Rolis and Carlio, both Shaden were old time companions of his, mercenaries of the best, or worst, sort. Rolis was of average height and strong build, he had long dark brown hair that he had into a pony-tail, he was clean shaven but some say he'd be better off with a beard, to hide a series of scars cris-crossing his face, Carlio joked that shaving his beard off is what had given Rolis all the scars anyway, his eyes are thin and hard, a foggy gray in color, always looking for signs of a threat: Rolis had earned his status as a veteran by keeping alert, Rolis carried a long pike and a small shortsword on one hip, he kept the pike held easily over one arm but Harker knew from experience he could bring it to bare so fast you'd think it was always pointed at you.

    Carlio seemed a contrast to the wary hard eyed Rolis. An exotic man among men, Carlio was born to the southern areas of Shade, he was tall and despite his constant efforts to build mass, he was whip-thin. To top it off, he had a shaggy mane of snow-blonde hair. Carlio's dark face was often, as Rolis put it "Marred by a ridiculously white stain of a grin" and it was true. Nether only knew how Carlio maintained such big white teeth, Carlio himself maintained that it was all the grinning he did, but Harker had met enough happy people with ugly teeth to know that wasn't the truth. Carlio's emerald eyes seemed to glow good-will and cheer. Carlio was far from the image of a well-bloodied veteran, but Harker knew just how dangerous a man he could be in a fight. Carlio carried a bastard sword in one hand and a longsword in the other.

    Harker shifted the massed bulk of his armor. Harker was a Warbound, a creature of mayhem and destruction, a state which Harker gloried in. Despite the mug of ale he held in his hand Harker didn't need to drink, or to eat for that matter, but he did anyway because that's what old soldiers do on their breaks. Harker had long since adopted the position of ignoring the huddled masses, cowering in fear of him. To some Warbound it was a mark of their power over people that their mere presence caused fear and cowardice, but Harker just found it annoying. The only time people you should fear you is on the battlefield he always thought.

    The Trueborn spoke up, and Harker nodded his beastly helmet, the cruel fanged mouth of his helmet, was a real mouth, and he spoke with a tinny voice, as though his vocal cords were made partly of metal. "If you say so, me and my friends are ready to move out when you are" as if to emphasize his point he downed the remaining ale in his mug, and smashed it down on the table. This caused a collective gasp from many of the patrons, before they calmed down and went back to fearfully ignoring his presence.
    Last edited by Lord_Asmodeus; 2008-09-27 at 12:40 PM.
    Caesar Asmodeus by Andraste

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Sep 2008

    Default Re: Nether

    "...shall reach the barony shortly."

    The girl sitting next to Cassandra was, by all appearances, there for appearances. A traveling companion, a lady-at-hand. A young-looking, petite houri, arrayed in gold and green jewelry. Her white pants whipped about in the wind. Her hair didn't; the hair she normally let roll down past her shoulders now ended in a short fringe at her neck. Her fingers absently played across a small lute, and a slow, sleepy melody drifted about the caravan. Orynn felt her own apprehensions retreat a bit, listening to her song.

    Neither a job nor a girl that would fit well with a name like "the Walker."

    In this case, both job and girl were fronts. Houri have long known that adopting a feminine form usually got them more attention in shaden townships, whether in jobs or in tips. Cassandra had never seen the face Orynn considered true.

    She hoped the noble would sometime soon, really. Strictly, all of Orynn's powers were available to him regardless of shape, but his preferred shape had its benefits. No, not really. Mostly he was just more comfortable in it. Loose-hanging pants and long, full hair pleased an audience, but they were distracting when Orynn was at his work. Also, he liked his hat, and the hat just didn't fit with the rest of her current appearance. It clashed, and her head was too small.

    Orynn felt herself touch her own face, and jolted; the lute belched out a dissonant chord in response. What was she just doing? Trying to tip her hat, of course. The one that, for now, was ugly and too big, and safely in the bag on her lap. Her mind was fixed solidly in the future. She was too eager for this job. Too eager to be paid to explore the great Dammerinthes, undoubtedly stuffed full of secret routes, hidden treasures, and things unknown to the world. And at the behest of no less than a Trueborn like Cassandra.

    She sighed, closed her eyes, and started again the calming ballad. It was more to quell her own excitement than for anyone else.

    But imagine if all her jobs would be like this.
    Last edited by Caphi; 2008-09-27 at 12:35 PM.

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Nether

    Ten days previous:

    "And so I said, that's not a wildkin... that's my wife!"

    The crowd laughed heartily, surrounding a blond-haired trueborn. The man of the moment, while not being the host of this engagement, may as well have been considering the attention he was getting. He wore a stylish cloak, one which was the envy of a few of the nobles there.

    He poured himself a third glass of lightly-blooded wine. "Anyway, as I was saying before I rudely interrupted myself with that," this was accompanied by a couple chuckles, "I was talking about the breakthrough I had regarding aqua vitae." The air of the party grew somewhat more serious as he said the words.

    "... Aqueous ethanol is the proper term, as most of you know. Anyway, I recently figured out that, when combined with lime, aqua vitae has slight combustible effect when combined with lime. So now I'm---"

    The actual host of the party tapped him lightly on the shoulder, and the blond one looked back and raised an eyebrow in confusion. The host, an older trueborn in a high position of nobility in House Lucaeci, smiled and crossed his arms in a particular fashion. "Can I speak to you, Virgil?" The other eyebrow joined the other in a raised fashion to create an expression of surprise, and he quickly nodded, following the host to one of the parlor's several backrooms.

    ---

    "You must be kidding." "I'm afraid not." The older Trueborn shook is head and took a sip of the red wine he was holding.

    The other Trueborn frowned. Wearing a cloak designed for maximum protection against the cold with an eye still turned towards style, it had many hidden pockets and pouches throughout. A custom job. The blond-haired Trueborn wearing it slouched into the large seat he was currently occupying.

    "You wouldn't be asking me this unless there was something in it for me. So go on." "I never told you the destination, did I?" "Nope." The elder smiled wryly. "Well, I do think you'll like this. Let's just say that... you'll have ample opportunity to utilize your talents." "Ok, then. Where?" "Dammerinthes." The younger, though not young trueborn's eyes opened wide. "I've heard things---" "They aren't rumors."

    The younger trueborn paused for a long moment. After a while, he sighed deeply. "Ok. You've got me curious now."

    Present day

    Virgil Thorn was wearing that very same cloak, days later on a snowy afternoon. Sitting a while behind Cassie and the others, he's examining various items he had packed in the large case he brought with him. He runs his hand through his hair, pushing out a few flecks of snow that had nestled themselves in there. Closing the case, he looks toward the front of the sleigh. "Well, Lady Cassandra... I hope this trip is a pleasurable experience for both of us. I've heard good things about Dammerinthes' alchemists. I'm sure there will be many things to learn there."

  7. - Top - End - #7
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    MonkGuy

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    Default Re: Nether

    "I'm telling you, it isn't worth that much. I'm an appraiser, I know what I'm talking about." said the short, old man with the bald head and the greyed mustache. He held in his hands an ornate ring that he had been examining. Very rare, he thought, but not nearly as valuable as the man before him suggested.

    The man in front of him was incredibly tall and muscular, moreso than any man you're likely to see in your entire life. From his clothes, you could tell he was a degenerate of some kind. Only vagrants and prostitutes wear vests with no shirt, after all. From his jewelry, you could tell he was a gypsy, or was one once. It's the anklets, they're crazy about those things. He was very intimidating, even moreso in the dim sunlight leaking in through the doorway.

    A grimace crossed his stern face as he, Bertram Arigonias, wildkin outlaw and vagrant, spoke, his deep voice filling the small room and nearly shaking the counter with its volume. His frustration was clear as day.

    "It's worth no less that forty gold pieces, which you will give to me immediately. Have I made myself clear, or would you like to hear that a tenth time?"

    The old man started shaking. This wasn't going well.

    "L-look, I'll give you twelve and that's-"

    A colossal hand shot out at him and the next thing he knew, Bertram was holding him in the air by the head.

    "I tried to reason with you. Just want you to remember that. Now, I'll have to take the ring back, as well as all the money you currently have in this pathetic hovel. Cooperate, or I'll crush your head like a grape."

    ---

    Bertram sighed as he left the shop. He had been trying to lay low, but some people just won't listen to reason. He'd made a decent haul. He might be getting back on track. On his way out of town, he noticed a "Help wanted" sight posted on a wall right next to a "Post no bills" sign. Ridiculous as it sounds, he almost respected that, but also realized these people might be a tad desperate. Maybe even as desperate as he was beginning to get.

    "A caravan..."
    Last edited by EponymousKid; 2008-09-27 at 07:51 PM.

  8. - Top - End - #8
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    WhiteKnight777's Avatar

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    Default Re: Nether

    Alexander

    Alexander gave a short not and slowly rose to his feet. Pulling on his gloves and pulling the fur-lined hood of his traveling coat over his head, he placed the smoked glass lenses he wore to protect from snow blindness over his eyes and started towards the door, leaving a few coins carelessly on the table. The hood hid his amused smile from the rest of his room, as his servants fell in behind them - when the innkeeper wouldn't even approach to take one's coin, now that was fear. Whether that was a good thing or a bad one, Alexander was unsure.

    Taking the map from charity, and trusting that Harker was following him, he stepped out into the cold, feeling the bite of the wind already as he began to walk forward. He had slung his traveling case over his back, and Zareesa curled up in a small pouch he carried for just such a purpose. Charity carried a number of books, and John carried nearly everything else belonging to the Trueborn. Thus arrayed, he consulted the charts, and set his course by the sun. Each step took them closer to the book. And closer, Alexander helped, to truth.

  9. - Top - End - #9
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    ElfRangerGuy

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    Default Re: Nether

    Charoxtre

    The fox-man, Charoxtre had become a staple to those who travelled with the Trueborn, Lady Cassandra. He moved freely about the caravan of the Lady’s house, his movements light, leaving nary a trail in the snow as his fleet form passed. Often, he would leave the trail for a time, returning later with a new acquisition, some herb, mineral or, on one or two occasions, certain poisonous creatures (and in one case, just the creature’s venom sac).

    The Seelie, known for his healing and skills at anything alchemical, made cough medicines, antidotes to poisons and even brews to ward off the chill of the winter snow storm. The Seelie seemed oblivious to the cold. He wore heavier clothing than usual but he never seemed to grow cold or tired. He simply kept on going. Ever one with a warm smile and a kind word to those he travelled with, it was also not unknown for the Vix to stop to tend a wound or an ailment of someone going the opposite direction to his lady, then catch up later.

    Right now, the Foxman walked lightly beside the covered sled and passed a small bottle in to those inside, “Drink some of this, it will ward off some of the chill,” he said. With that, he closed the carriage again and continued his travel with the lady.

    Charoxtre was a strange sort, in a way. He was very helpful. Probably too helpful. Whether it was healing an injury or tending the sick or simply helping to cook, clean or anything that was required, he never complained, never spoke a harsh word and accepted his lot with aplomb and discipline. The only time he would ever refuse a task was if it went against his own code of ethics which, he was thankful for, hadn’t happened yet.

    The weapons he carried drew interest from the few soldiers that travelled with them. Charoxtre, having trained his whole life in armed and unarmed combat, had earned a degree of respect when he was asked to show what he knew. The young soldier chose a sword as his weapon. The Vix, simply his hands. The young man was fast, but the Vix’s natural agility and further training had made him as fleet as the running doe. He’d let the boy swing twice before he stepped into the swing, catching the boys wrist in the hook of his hand. He twisted that hand clockwise as he slid his right foot back, then, placing his left hand on the young man’s elbow, sent him diving into the snow. Charoxtre still held the sword.

    Thankfully (as far as Charoxtre was concerned), that was the end of that, however, he had been asked to teach which, when they stopped for a night, he did (when he was not required for other duties. The Spetum was a weapon that he kept close to him at all times, it was his most dangerous weapon against a foe that was naturally averse to his being. He could drive the prongs into a Nether creature then channel his own life energy into them, not only making the wound far more grievous but making what would have been a touch on the skin into a touch within the creature. Needless to say, this tactic was devastating against the Nether, though over use tired him considerably. The staff on the other hand, was of wood, though it was nigh on unbreakable. This was the Seelie’s main weapon when a weapon was called for and unarmed combat was impractical.

    Charoxtre continued to weather the storm in his usual way as they travelled the miles to their destination.

  10. - Top - End - #10
    Troll in the Playground
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    Default Re: Nether

    Harker

    Stepping outside he could see the cold air curling from the trueborn's mouth, he looked around at the cold snow everywhere. Rolis and Carlio wore thick fur coats and leather armor. Harker supposed it was cold, but being an unholy warmachine bound to his armor, he couldn't really tell. He followed Alexander, his metal feet trudging through the snow as the trueborn rifled through his belongings and brought out a map, checking it to the sun. Harker quickly lost interest, such things had never really appealed to him which was just as well.

    Instead, Harker hefted his axe. He ran his hand over the head of the axe lovingly, as though it were a loyal pet, and the axe's answering growl, audible only to him and those magically inclined, only added to the image. For, the axe was alive, it shifted in his grip. It even looked alive, from the leather-bound haft that seemed like real skin, to the muscle-like metal that made up the head, right down to the mean looking serrated teeth on the blade-side. Harker smiled fondly, the beastly look of his helm a match for the animal hunger of his axe.
    Caesar Asmodeus by Andraste

  11. - Top - End - #11
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    NinjaGuy

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    Sep 2008

    Default Re: Nether

    "That bastard...those anklets belonged to my sister. You sure he was wearing them?"

    The old man sitting on top of a broken counter nodded sullenly, "you mean the ones with the green stones, big as quail's eggs? I know what you're talking about. Shame that he had to ruin them."

    The young woman sitting next to the old man had her blond hair in braids down to her waist. Amber beads and gold wire were strung intermittently throughout its length. She wore three necklaces, a small gold one with a few rubies tucked in, a hemp cord with a black crystal, and a necklace made of Trueborn teeth, 14 pairs of fangs to be more precise. Despite the bitter cold outside, she wore only a white linen tunic, a short skirt, black leggings and heavy winter boots. Lengths of chain, with links as thick as a man's finger were wrapped around her skinny arms, as were bracelets, twisted from gold wires by the finest jewelers. Of course, the old man didn't notice any of this, all he was staring at was the blindfold and the dried blood on her cheeks. That, combined with the coruscating black flames that seeemed to trail from her body, made the old man shudder a bit on the inside. Normally he would be running the other direction, screaming for dear mercy from the All-Mother while trying to find the nearest Paladin to purge the wicked taint that was within breathing distance of him.

    Sister Ayani Ghadnan just happened to be the nearest Paladin. Vietzie wasn't a backwater, but the Aegis, Scutarum and Hypastis orders couldn't be bothered to start any sanctuaries in the town. Despite being demonic aberrations, the Priests and Priestesses of the Forlorn Path were the only order that could be reliably counted upon to service towns too minor for the other militant orders to care about. Despite her obvious disfigurement, the jeweler felt strangely at ease with Ayani. After all, she wasn't trying to kill him, nor was she forcing him to clean out his safe.

    "What you're telling me is that he's a homicidal maniac."

    "Yes, and also a chronic liar, thief and con-artist. From what I can tell, he only goes after targets he knows won't be missed, street kids, beggars, prostitutes, gypsies..." Ayani trailed off at the last word as rage bubbled in her otherwise calm voice. She could still feel the stiff, frozen bodies of the dead children in her arms. "You can tell he has no compunction with murdering people when it's convenient for him."

    "You mentioned gypsies. You're from the..." the old man took a long look at the bracelets on Ayani's wrists, "you're from the Serevetti band, Datal Kinshp, what's your clan name?"

    "I'm from the Ghadnan branch of the Datal Kinship, How could you tell?"

    "Your warding bracelet uses a 6-2-2-1 wire weave, which is the traditional weave of the Serevetti band, and the inset jewels have centrifugally casted mounts, which is something that only the Datal Kinship has the resources and skill to execute. I'll give you 54 crowns for the bracelet and 105 for your earrings, they're absolutely magnificent."

    "Back on the job again?" Ayani couldn't disguise the sardonic edge in her voice. Those earrings had belonged to her grandmother.

    "He didn't clean me out all the--Oh... did I just...? I apologize for my..."

    Ayani just smiled. It was clear the Old Man was very, very good at what he did. So she decided to ask the question she had been meaning to ask in the first place. "Did he try to sell you a ring?"

    Ayani just smiled. It was clear the Old Man was very, very good at what he did. So she decided to ask the question she had been meaning to ask in the first place. "Did he try to sell you a ring? It was... there was a big stone in the middle."

    "Do you have any idea where he went?"

    "Some caravan, headed towards Dammerinthes, left about 3 nights ago."

    "Everyone wants to be the big damn heroes. It seems uncharacteristic of our mutual friend to go towards the danger. He would have found another job...unless..."

    "Well?"

    "I'll find the caravan."
    Last edited by yli; 2008-09-28 at 11:34 PM.

  12. - Top - End - #12
    Orc in the Playground
     
    Silverkiss's Avatar

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    Default Re: Nether

    Gregorius

    Gregorius could hear nothing but the sound of the snow falling around him. He could see nothing, only a white veil everywhere he looked. However, he knew he was in the right direction. He could feel it. A dark, omnious presence. Something terrible. And he was heading straight to it.

    Climbing over a small hill, Gregorius tried recognizing where he was. There's no use, he thought, I have no clue about where I am. Nevertheless, I must press on. Without a second thought, Gregorius moved forward, feeling the ground ahead with his wooden staff. Slowly, the white veil before Gregorius' eyes began to fade. Less snow was falling now, and the scenery was finally visible. As soon as Gregorius left the woods and began walking on the road, he was certain that he was on the right direction; there were many people going the way opposite of his, but none the other way around.

    "Hey, you ! Yes peasant, you, come over here." - Stopping one of the fleeing men, Gregorius asked for information - "Tell me, from what do you flee ?"

    "Dammerinthes, my lord. The place is cursed. Cursed, I say !" - The man shouted, resuming his walk, too afraid to stop on the road to chat with a stranger, even if that stranger was a Trueborn.

    A cursed land, huh ? We'll see... Without much worry, Gregorius continued on his way.
    My own homebrewed world/setting: Yay!

  13. - Top - End - #13
    Halfling in the Playground
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    Default Re: Nether

    Cassandra

    "...sure there will be many things to learn there..."

    Cassandra looked back up and studied yet another reason to keep her composure firm and proud. Virgil Thorn was a member of her House in high standing, a respected and talented alchemist of great repute. She was still amazed that he had deigned to join her at all; among all the varied members of the party he alone was not under her direct employ.

    They had only met once or twice before, both only in passing. His company was a high honor, even if Cassandra wondered to herself if the man was quite certain of her purpose. She might learn many things in Dammerinthes, but few of them, she suspected, would be comfortable knowledge.

    "Perhaps," she replied, directing her best wistful smile and a polite nod his way, "lest fortune betray us. I thank you for your company, sir. It cheers me."

    She sipped the little tonic Charoxtre had handed her. Charoxtre. Such a dear, even if he seemed almost unnervingly polite. Cassandra had met the lone healer in the township of Misthame, working for minimal pay among the sick. He had since accompanied her almost without question, and while she took pains to pay him well she was almost certain he could have found better employment elsewhere.

    Charoxtre and Syeira alone among her attendants truly understood the nature of their desination; her words to the others had been, of necessity, somewhat vague. That the vix was so willing to face harrowing danger again only made her feel her own fears more keenly and self-consciously.

    Then she looked to the houri girl and winced at the momentary discordant notes. Orynn was another enigma. The girl was certainly a talented minstrel; Cassandra had hired her mostly to keep up appearances. She knew well that she could not simply charge in as a knight might, sword brandished high. Subterfuge and investigation were called for here, and for that she needed the accoutrements of rank and standing.

    Yet Orynn had taken Cassandra aside and offered herself as scholar and investigator as well as pleasant company. It was hard to picture the houri as a cats-paw, though; she seemed far too fragile and eager for that, even though Cassandra knew well enough to not take her temporary lady-in-waiting's appearance as any guide to her limitations.

    "M'lord Thorn, Orynn," she asked, trying to ease her mind again. "If it be not discourteous, might I ask how your trades found you?" Conversation was good. It delayed the point when she would have to either sit there and let her fears gnaw at her, or she would have to face the biting wind outside.

    ----

    Reskeis

    Near the rear of the small party's formation, a dusky young man lagged behind, what little skin remained visible behind thick furs somehow contriving to look dusty even in such conditions. He appeared to be having some difficulty controlling his mount in the deep snow, but paid surprisingly little attention to his troubles. Behind a protective scarf his mouth was open in an expression that would have looked extremely out-of-place on his natural features: genuine, almost childish wonder at the wintry scene around him.

    Reskeis had rarely seen proper, powdery snow. Storms in the Nether tended towards the ferocious, and the area of his birth wasn't known for snowfall to begin with anyways. Of the snowstorms he could remember, most had been thundersnow, making it dangerous to poke your head outside unless you liked eating a lightning bolt, or rains of hard ice like murderous hailstorms gotten way out of hand. Any snow that made it to the streets was slush in hours or days.

    He remembered only one other time when the snow had fallen gently and powdery; it had been on his tenth birthday. He'd clung to his ma an' da that day more than he'd ever admit to anyone, because it was going to be one of his last with them. It had been a good day; they'd given him his first real dague and a heap of good food. His ma and da had been cheerful and brash in a peculiarly brittle way, but after the snowfall abated they'd lit a fire out on their roof and had their meal amidst the glimmering drifts, telling stories for hours. The memory gave him a flicker of warmth.

    This snow was different, even from that one powdery memory. It felt...soft. It was peaceful, and made you want to sit and think- and if you tuned out enough, you'd soon be real peaceful, he reminded himself. Peaceful and cold and still. Nether or Lightwalker realm, you couldn't let your eyes off the wilderness for too long, or it'd find some new and amusing way to bite you in the privates.

    As far as Reskeis knew, none of the Lightwalkers suspected. He'd given them the alias of Jed; the mongrel girl from back in the manor months ago had given him a funny look, but passed it off, evidently, since she hadn't spoken to him since beyond orders. The gypsy- she might suspect, so he tried to steer clear of her, her and the fox-man. It wouldn't do to give them any ideas, even if they would have trouble seeing his current ruse.

    It didn't surprise him too much. He had been a little shocked, himself, at how well the trick worked. He was still getting used to the strange, weak feeling of a Lightwalker semblance. His missing wings felt like someone had taken the sky from him, and the soft skin seeme unpardonably frail. No wonder they wrapped themselves up in so many layers, even without the bitter cold.

    Reskeis urged the animal beneath him into a quicker trot. It gave him a look that it probably meant to be uncooperative; he'd seen considerably worse, so it didn't bother him. Recalcitrant animals were easy challenges to overcome.

    Oh, damn. The fox-man was getting closer again. All he'd need was the gypsy and they could have a scrape right there in back with no one the wiser. Reskeis forced himself to stay calm, fighting the instinct to draw and dare them to do something. Counterproductive. Just another Lightwalker merc, having some trouble with his horse. And freezing his arse off.

    "'Ello," he said, under the theory that the more casual he acted the better it would be for both of them.
    Last edited by Jetrauben; 2008-09-30 at 10:42 PM.

  14. - Top - End - #14
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Nether

    Virgil

    Virgil closed his case with a smile. "It's a funny story, really."

    28 years ago...

    "I'm finished. It's over. I can't---" "Get a hold of yourself, Virgil."

    Virgil Thorn was slumped over his desk, a young trueborn woman hovering over him. "Virgil, you can't do something stupid like this." "Well, what do you suggest, Lucia dear?" The last two words were coated in bitterness. "You know what happened. All that blood is on my hands!"

    He wasn't entirely surprised when she slapped him. "Come to your senses, brother! You know that it wasn't... entirely your fault. And the mission was a success!"

    Virgil sighed and returned to the paper he was writing. "Perhaps, depending on your definition of 'success'. Our goal was achieved, but at an unacceptable cost."

    Lucia sighed, and then stared at Virgil. "But that wasn't your fault, Virgil! You wanted to go in and extract the house's head directly, and they went in through the front door instead!" "AND IT'S MY FAULT I COULDN'T CONVINCE THEM!" The fury of that last sentence is startling, and Lucia takes a step back.

    "... Lucia. Sis, I'm sorry---" But she had already left the room in tears. He buried his head in his hands. "I can't do anything right..."

    ---

    "I used to be in house security." The smile dimmed oh-so-slightly, but small enough to be almost imperceptible. "My last act there was marshaling one multi-House coalition effort to punish another House that had... fallen. I retired on good faith with the higher-ups."

    The smile reasserted itself as he gained momentum. "I got bored, so I took up alchemy. It started as a hobby, but it turned out I was pretty good at it. I'm probably of more use to the house now then I was when I was a glorified bodyguard." He looks away from Cassandra, gazing down the road. "And my hobby has led me here, it seems."

  15. - Top - End - #15
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    NinjaGuy

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    Default Re: Nether

    "'S a real honor to have you along with us, Sister Ghadnan." Martius, the leader of the caravan ladled out another steaming bowlful of stew for himself. The cauldron sitting over the roaring campire was bubbling. It smelled warm and good. The others in the caravan, rough looking traders and mercenaries, quietly huddled close to their own fires as they ate.

    "Pleasure's mine, sir." Ayani took a sip from her own bowl, letting the warm liquid slide down her throat. "So, what's this caravan carrying?"

    "Medicine, water cleansing agents, the things people in Dammerinthes need. Everyone else turned tail and started to run, but there's still people there. We've got to help."

    "Seems like you'd trust anyone."

    "What now?"

    "Who have you hired these past few days?" asked Ayani as she took another sip from bowl.

    "A couple of workers, mostly Shaden, and a Wildkin scout."

    "Bertram?"

    "How did you know his name?"

    "How did you hire a guy wearing a couple hundred crowns worth of stolen jewelry? Those anklets he wears, those are my sister's."

    "We need everyone we can get. Sure, some of my hands don't look too trustworthy, but I know who to trust, I've been doing this for years."

    Ayani just nodded. "I checked up ahead today. Your trustworthy scout is leading your caravan towards an easily bypassed defile. Perfect for shoving a few of your wagons into."

    "You mean..."

    "I mean the scout you hired wants to clean you out."

    Martius sighed. "So what do you propose?"

    "Avoid the defile for now, you can take one of the trails following the Tyor River. It'll add a couple days onto your journey, but it beats losing your cargo. As for your scout, don't do anything for now, I'll take care of him when the time comes."

    "What did Bertram do to you?"

    "Huh?"

    "What did he do to you? Or more specifically, what did he do to wrong your band? You didn't come to us as a cleric. You came to us as a self-righteous gypsy princess hellbent on seeking vengeance, and if there's anything I've learned from my mother, it's to never trust a gypsy. You're a cleric, I'll give you the full respect your post deserves, but I won't stand any gypsy blood feuds in my caravan, understood?"

    Ayani slunk back with a groan. Thin rivulets of blood ran down her cheeks as she cradled her face in her palm.

    They were going through the defile. But what about Dammerinthes? The rumors were true, they had to be. Columns of refugees on the roads up ahead, by the thousands.

    She finished her food, thanked Martius and leapt into the treetops. Ayani glided on the air as easily as a feather as she soared into the moonlight.

    Keeping watch didn't mean standing still.

  16. - Top - End - #16
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    MonkGuy

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    Default Re: Nether

    A caravan. It was carrying valuable and important medicine to Dammerinthes. He couldn't believe his luck. They were desperate enough for help to hire him, for one thing. He was sure he wouldn't make it past the interview until they told him there wasn't one, he was in.

    For now, it was work. He had three meals a day, and sort of a roof over his head. The bare minimum of comfort. He couldn't stand it. The region he was headed for was ideal. News wouldn't travel out of the area very well, and it wouldn't be suspicious to hear that a caravan that went in and things didn't go well for it.

    As a brigand, he'd knocked over dozens of caravans just like this one. But it's different working a job like this from the inside. Very different. Opportunities were likely to present themselves left and right. He just had to be patient. Wait. He'll get his chance, he thought as he trudged ahead of the caravan, wading through the snow and suffering through the winter cold without even a shirt on his back. Frost was forming on the tips of his hair. He would get his chance.

    There was, however, one thing. Her. That... woman. The blind girl from a few months ago. He knew she was there, and he knew she probably didn't know he did.He could smell her coming a mile away, from that putrid perfume she wears to the dried blood around her eyes. The cold had its effects on him, but nothing could keep him from noticing her. Just thinking about her made his blood boil, but he couldn't take her on directly. He'd either have to wait for her to show herself, or force her hand. He was beginning to like the sound of that second one.

    He shouted back to the caravan, feigning a slight sense of urgency. "Leader! You'd better come look at this!"

  17. - Top - End - #17
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    NinjaGuy

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    Default Re: Nether

    "Strange weapons you've got there." The grizzled caravan leader sat on a fallen log in the snow, chewing a fat wad of tobacco. Martius gave Ayani a sideways glance as he cleaned his blunderbuss, being careful to give the weapon a good coating of oil. Ayani responded with a quizzical expression.

    "What? You mean...ummm?" Half the spikes on the chains around Ayani's arms dug point first into delicate flesh, always on the brink of drawing blood. They twisted and writhed like iron snakes, ocassionally slipping into the snow.

    "Your chains, Sister." Martius snapped the lock back into his weapon and rolled a fistful of lead balls down its funnel shaped barrel. "Don't they hurt?"

    "Your tobacco, isn't it a known carcinogen?"

    "What now? I'm not too well educated in the ways of the..."

    "It causes cancer...errr...the crab lumps." Ayani switched back to the simpler peasant term when it became clear that he wouldn't understand what she meant.

    "So? It's not like I mind. I've lived long enough, had me a fair share of adventuring."

    "Dying of cancer is incredibly painful."

    "I'd say it makes things more interesting. Last thing I want happening to me is that I die peacefully in my sleep. Figure the All-Mother's going to have to drag me kicking and screaming to her realm."

    "I don't think the All-Mother would appreciate that."

    "I'm not a devout man, Sister Ghadnan. But I appreicate your concern."

    "What was that?" Ayani turned her head towards the treeline.

    "Was what?" Martius cocked his blunderbluss, a hint of nervousness in his voice. The caravan's fires were pinpoints of light in the forest's suffocating darkness.

    "It's your valiant scout. Whatever it is, it's not an intruder, otherwise he would have started screaming like an idiot. Man's a coward to the bone."

    "There's loads of suspicious things in the forest." Martius gestured for a few of the caravan guards to come with him. "Sister Ghadnan, go check up ahead for anything dodgy looking, you gentlemen, follow me."

    Bertram's darkened silhouette came up against the washy grey background as Ayani darted through the treetops. She shook her head. Nothing, not even a disruption in the snow. What was he trying to pull?

    Martius made his way to Bertram, looking slightly miffed that he had to get up. He turned to his scout and shook his head. "Well, I'm here, now what?"

  18. - Top - End - #18
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    ElfRangerGuy

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    Default Re: Nether

    "'Ello," he said, under the theory that the more casual he acted the better it would be for both of them.

    Charoxtre approached the guard. He'd done the rounds, offering his warming brew to all who would drink it. He responded to the man with a pleasant smile and a twinkle in his eyes, "hello yourself. Having problems with your mount?" he asked, smiling slightly before offering up the flask, "this should help against the cold," he said.

    This new one was strange. He kept to himself and Charoxtre wasn't sure of the man but there was a certain familarity about him he couldn't place. Maybe it was in the man's speech or his mannerisms, however, to this point, the Fox-man had no reason to doubt the other, so treated him as he did any other traveller in the caravan.

    Having noted the other's look of awe as he'd looked around, Charoxtre added, "I love this time of the year, when the silvery blanket of snow sheathes the land in silent, ethereal beauty," he said as he looked round them, falling into step beside the other's horse. "The crisp air and tingling cold of teh day makes one feel truly alive!" he grinned at the one he walked alongside.

  19. - Top - End - #19
    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Orynn sighed, and drew a mellow and sweet tune out of her strings. "And me... I think I never really 'found' my calling. I've just always been thirsty to learn and know more about things. Once I finished my schooling, such as it was, I just decided I wanted to wander the world and drink in as much knowledge as I could. Of course, that includes immersing myself in different races and worldviews, so within a couple years of wandering, I started meeting with nobles as well as mingling in taverns. It's nervous business sometimes, but I've had many interesting jobs. Private performances, accompaniment, even serving parties..." Stealing secrets, infiltrating strongholds...

    She struck a gentle chord. "And from there, I offered myself to Lady Cassandra a couple of weeks ago, and here I am."

    She smiled cheerily at the nobles. Small talk. What would Virgil say if Orynn were to tell him who she actually was?
    Last edited by Caphi; 2008-10-09 at 10:39 PM.

  20. - Top - End - #20
    Troll in the Playground
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    Default Re: Nether

    *bump*

    (OOC: This still happening?)
    Last edited by Lord_Asmodeus; 2008-10-11 at 04:42 PM.
    Caesar Asmodeus by Andraste

  21. - Top - End - #21
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    MonkGuy

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    Default Re: Nether

    The snow continued to fall lightly on Bertram's bare head and shoulders. The latest in a long list of experiences he vows never to go through again. He regarded the grey-haired man with a grim face, his vest's thin fabric clapping slightly in the wind. Being sure to make his tremendous size as apparent as possible to his employer, he decided that he would try to make this as easy as possible for both of them.

    "Now what? Funny, I was about to ask you the same thing. I thought we'd discuss my situation for a moment."

    "Your situation?"

    Bertram wanted to tell him the things he was really unsatisfied with. The way that he's standing in the middle of a snowstorm without a shirt on. How he gets a small bowl of warmed over mush for a meal three times a day, and sleeps in a tent that doesn't keep the cold or the dampness out. How most slaves are afforded more luxury than he is, and how his pay is only slightly higher than theirs. That would have to wait. Bertram indicated the guards before speaking again.

    "For one thing, I can see that you don't trust me. And why wouldn't you, I wonder?"

    Martius grew slightly peturbed and genuinely confused. What had seemed like a perfectly rational action to him, brining guards along with him while he spoke with Bertram, had proven shortsighted.

    "Well-"

    "Don't even. I know. That... witch. I'm sure she advertised herself as a cleric, but she's only fooling herself."

    "Oh, dammit. Look, I wont be part of any kind of vendetta or nothing! If there's trouble between you two, you can settle it after I'm through with you!"

    "Hm? Oh, there's that. Honestly, I was planning on that anyway. No, I want to warn you. She's a murderer and a liar, and you'd best behave yourself around her. Also, tell her that I want to talk to her.", he said before turning his back to Martius and going up the path. Bertram sighed as he walked up the road. His least favorite person was giving him trouble again.

  22. - Top - End - #22
    Halfling in the Playground
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    Default Re: Nether

    ((Yes. I'll be timeskipping us into the outskirts of Dammerinthes once we get some posts from a couple other folks who have yet to do so. Feel free to post activity in the meantime if you feel it appropriate, or to timeskip your own group into the barony's outskirts. If you need information about the barony, feel free to PM me.))

  23. - Top - End - #23
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    WhiteKnight777's Avatar

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    (My apologies for the lack of postage... My subscription here somehow didn't go through and I'd thought the game had died 'till I rediscovered it. Also, having a little trouble writing longer, simply because there's not a whole lot to do with just two people.)

    Alexander

    The travel went by quickly, or at least so it seemed. Alexander spent the time on the road in contemplation, and each night he and his assistants would set up the equipment from his magical carrying case and spend several hours tinkering with various devices and experiments. Alexander kept meticulous notes in a massive leather-bound grimoire, and the light of obsession shone in his eyes whenever he pondered their goal. If they succeeded... Well, in Alexander's experience, knowledge, particularly that which others didn't want you to have, was too valuable not to pursue. Forbidden fruit was oft the sweetest, and for the fruit of knowledge that rang doubly true. One evening, as they drew nearer to the borders of Dammerinthes, he turned to Harker, a smile playing upon his face. Though he still vaguely disliked the creature, he had to admit that it was interesting, the way his spirit was bound to its metal shell. Though it seemed an abomination, he wondered if it might have more... useful applications in his

    "Tell me, Harker... what is it you're searching for?"

  24. - Top - End - #24
    Troll in the Playground
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    Default Re: Nether

    Harker

    Hmm? Harker looked up, not startled but a bit surprised, he shrugged his big metal shoulders, the armor that was his body clinking. I want what all things like me want, I want to fight, I want to battle, I want war. For what I'm searching for HERE specifically, well, money. I need wealth, and power, so I can fund an army of my own, to crush the worthless worm who stole my old bands castle and drove them out...
    Caesar Asmodeus by Andraste

  25. - Top - End - #25
    Pixie in the Playground
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    (OOC, but I've been busy, haven't been able to do much more than work and classwork the last 2 weeks, it's sucked, haven't even been able to get enough sleep some nights. Here's my post).

    Jerrid

    The snow swirled in lazy patterns, crossing and tracing the well worn dirt road, the dark night itself a startling contrast to the swirling white that falls, little light getting through, but the snow seems to glow, providing some small illumination, as a human figure runs at the speed of a horse's gallop, without any sign of tiring, racing towards his destination, silently, as others fled in the opposite direction in the daytime, with the road inhabited solely by him this night.

    Wearing two cloaks instead of his normal one, both bearing bright colors meant to catch the eyes of potential listeners on a dark night in a warm tavern, the cloaks stream out behind Jerrid at his rapid pace, his face protected by a scarf and goggles he periodically wipes, but his eyes even through the goggles show only stony determination, looking forward, toward his target.

    'Damerinthes. Home to many alchemic great works. Damerinthes. Home to an old friend. Damerinthes, home to his destination, to a family friend, and a possible marriage to Kamille. I cannot allow this place to fall, it holds too much. Kerteh I will not fail. I have too much at stake here.'

    He runs, through the night, hoping to reach a group headed in the same direction by dawn, if only to have additional targets for his enemies, so he is not the sole target of those he might face.

    'I just hope I'm not too late, there is too much at stake to fall just yet.'

    Then he sees it. A faint light ahead, perhaps 3 miles at most. "Finally, someplace to eat, and maybe some help in the miles ahead." As he slows his pace to catch his breath a little and be prepared for a fight if needed, Jerrid thinks that maybe this might not be so bad, or at least he hopes so.

  26. - Top - End - #26
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    BlackDragon

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    Default Re: Nether

    With the ease of practice, Devyn gently tugged the reigns of her bay roan, turning the beast back in the direction of the caravan. Snow billowed from beneath the animal’s hooves and splashed over her boots, melting from body heat and then freezing again as tiny crystals of ice.

    The houri paladin had gone ahead of the others to scout the trail, making sure it was free of bandits or other such unsavory obstacles. The snowfall crunching under her mount's hooves left a clear trail, but she wasn’t worried. She had spotted nothing suspicious yet, and to all appearances the landscape was empty of human inhabitants. Undoubtedly the weather accounted for that, but the woods up ahead might prove more shelter for unpleasant folk.

    Devyn urged her mount back towards the small party. The sleigh loomed up ahead, and as she passed the foremost walkers she waved jauntily, her face rosy despite the cold thanks to houri biology. One or two stared enviously after her, and Devyn felt a warm little glow at their obvious admiration. She was doing well!

    As she pulled up next to the sleigh the paladin lifted up a hand. The sleigh’s drivers momentarily halted their horses, and Devyn swung down from her saddle. She pulled herself up onto the sleigh and swung open the door, stepping inside the enclosed compartment in a momentary swirl of frost particles. As she entered the houri put one hand to the symbol of her order emblazoned over her breastplate and whispered a hymn, and the suit began to collapse onto itself, pieces folding up into other pieces with tinkling notes, leather undersuit rasping and dissolving into thin air. By the time she had shut the door the paladin’s armor had reduced itself into a holy symbol hanging on a thong around her neck, and was clad instead in a soft blue tabard and breeches.

    “The road’s clear!” she announced, inclining her head momentarily. “The woods ahead may be a little trouble, but there don’t seem to be any bandits around right now.”

  27. - Top - End - #27
    Halfling in the Playground
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    Default Re: Nether

    Spoiler
    Show
    This post was written in concert with Mirshann.


    Cassandra

    Cassandra nodded politely as the other two told their stories. She thought it interesting, but probably wise, that Orynn kept her private mention of her other talents hidden from the other Trueborn. Sir Virgil was clearly a noble man, but such things were best kept, well, private. Surely he would have understood.

    She shivered as the door opened and a swirl of cold air billowed into the compartment, wincing and reminding herself to make sure the small brazier of coals used to heat the interior was reheated when they stopped. As Lady Devyn climbed into the compartment, Cassandra’s eyes widened and she could hardly help suppress the envy- the woman didn’t even seem cold! It was simply unfair that a lady be so beautiful and wear a paladin’s mantle, Cassandra thought.

    And she has such regal stature, Cassandra whined mentally. Even in a lighthearted mood, she looks perfect. Is the woman a queen?

    “Thank you, Lady Devyn,” the trueborn replied. “Your assistance has been invaluable. Would you take your ease for a time?” She summoned her determination and plastered a cheery smile on her face. “’Twould seem fit for me to dare the cold for a span.” Rising from her cushioned chair she braced herself for the cold and pushed open the door, happy her pained grimace was hidden from view as the feeling of being scoured by frozen curtains swept across her.

    ----
    Reskeis and Syeira

    Reskeis wasn’t entirely certain how to react. Surely the damn fox-man isn’t serious? he thought to himself. Do these people seriously speak like that? Without much in the way of a reply, he just nodded once or twice, and mumbled “Sure thing, mate,” beneath his breath.

    Something in his peripheral vision… Oh, lovely, he thought. It would just figure…

    Syeira kept to the shadows as best she could. Even though the man had done nothing to warrant suspicion, something about him made her wary. Something she couldn't quite place. Maybe it was the way he kept to himself- drinking occasionally with the other men, yes, but never to excess. His interactions seemed furtive, controlled…

    Reskeis forced himself to remain calm with what seemed like a supreme effort. The concealed imp wished he was on more familiar territory- were he dealing with his own kind he knew precisely how to have driven the unwanted supervision off, by beating enough sense into them to let them know you weren’t to be trifled with. That wouldn’t work here….so what would? Stay still. Let the obnoxious wench know you’re being watched and you have nothing to hide….

    He very carefully inclined his head in her direction and raised a hand to wave.

    Syeira frowned, his noticing her only giving rise to her suspicions. The hairs on the back of her neck prickled lightly. Lightly, she waved back, trying to outmatch him in casualness.

    Reskeis deliberately turned back to his trudge through the snow. Great. Now I’ve more to worry about… And that was when he started feeling the prickling too.

    ----
    Martius

    “Hold!” The imperious command rang out from the cliffs to either side of Martius’ caravan, sharp, angry, accented with the dialect of Shade’s southern regions. “You lot, hold!” The speaker strode out of the shadows ahead, a man clad in a bloody red robe and a burnished breastplate, brandishing a torch and a long sword. A copy of the Prophecies of Immaculus swung at his hip, a holy symbol upon his breast. His eyes were hard and suspicious.

    In less time than the telling might take, red-clad men and women with grim, often-scarred faces had surrounded the entire caravan, faces fixed in religious zeal. Martius returned their stare without blinking. He knew men like these, and knew the best way to deal with them was to present a stern, calm face- to act as if they didn’t frighten you. That was nonsense, of course; he knew Inquisitors well enough to realize trying to predict their actions was madness in itself, but…

    “What’s the meaning of this?” he asked.

    “Are you the master of this caravan?” the Inquisitor retorted, sweeping his torch closer to see the man with whom he was conversing. The zealot didn’t even seem phased by the cold, and his expression was grim, but he didn’t seem ready to attack…yet. In lonely places like these, though, that could change very, very soon.

    “Aye,” Martius replied. “We’re peaceful. Carrying medicine to Dammerinthes at the order of local surgeons.”

    “So you say.” The Inquisitor didn’t seem impressed; Martius breathed a sigh of relief at having sent Sister Ghadnan ahead. These lunatics might have taken her poorly. “Your name? I want to see papers.”

    “Martius Avenon, of Vietzie, Master Trader of the Wayfarer’s Guild of Merchants.” He did not reach for any papers; if the Inquisitor thought he was going to bow and scrape to him!

    The other man mulled over it slowly. “I am Brother-Captain Laertes. You name your purpose as trade in Dammerinthes. Surely you know of the cloud over that unhappy land? What would possess you, a timorous merchant, to enter a land of heretics and corruption?”

    “Aye, but the faithful will need succor more than ever,” Martius replied, playing his game. “My caravan and I are aware of the risk.”

    “So you say,” the Inquisitor replied suspiciously. He motioned to his men. “You will permit us to search your wagons for suspicious persons.” It wasn’t a request. “Should we find any heretical objects, texts, or persons, you shall be held and put to the question.”

    That’s what you think, Martius thought hotly. Still, he let the other Inquisitors approach. What could he do to stop them? “I am confident you shall find nothing amiss,” he said, inclining his head despite the strong temptation to put his fist through the other man’s jaw.

    As his subordinates filed through the assembled merchants and guards, Laertes appeared to relax slightly. “Tradesman Martius,” he said in what probably passed for a friendly tone, “you walk into grave danger, body and soul, aye? Are you certain of your course?”

    “I am, honored Inquisitor.”

    “Then know this. My brethren are within the barony in search of the seed of corruption. Though I shall send word ahead as to your character, I cannot guarantee your safe passage and would not have you walk into darkness without knowing the risks. Had we the luxury I would send one of my men to accompany you, but our mission presses. Perhaps it would be best to stay far from any parties of my fellows, save at dire need.”

    It was an unusual statement from an Inquisitor. Martius nodded. “My thanks, honored Inquisitor.”

    “No thanks are necessary. I do as my duties demand. Goddess willing, you shall survive to adopt a righteous path.”

    Martius supposed he had to say that last part, and decided not to take offense.

    ----
    Cassandra

    The man in armor stood before the forest eaves, giving every indication that he had been waiting for some time. He rested comfortably upon a fine sword, half-kneeling, snow having settled upon his black pauldrons, each carved with a raven’s visage. His violet tabard was damp with snow; drifts of it had built up against his armored knees, but he remained still and unmoving as Cassandra’s party approached. Two persons in monastic cloaks flanked him, one on either side, hoods pulled low and heads bowed. Each bore a partisan in gloved hands.

    As the first members of the company approached, the kneeling man stood and faced them, eyes darting unsteadily around beneath his visor. It was an unnerving stare- his head remained straight ahead, but his glance was everywhere at once, seemingly unable to focus on anything longer than a few heartbeats. Then he saw Cassandra make her way to the front, and instantly the wild gaze locked onto her. He let out a small chuckle and raised his visor. The angular face beneath had a healthy tan and dark hair, handsome save for his mouth locked into something between grin and grimace.

    “Greetings, Lady Cassandra,” he said in a voice that seemed immeasurably tired. His lips moved; his teeth didn’t. Both he and his two companions inclined their heads.

    Cassandra halted and drew closer to the strange knight despite her better judgment, fingering her rapier and noticing with a shudder how the knight’s tired eyes never left her body. Few seemed to notice that the strange newcomer Jed shouldered his way up close enough to study the strange knight and his retinue with curious eyes. “You know my name, but I do not know yours,” she replied, steadying herself. “What is your purpose here?”

    “I am Franz de Bieris of Dammerinthes, and I bid you welcome in the name of our Master.” The knight still hadn’t moved his eyes or his teeth. “You are known to us though it. We were told to expect you.”

    Cassandra’s blood cooled and she tensed, ready to strike at the slightest sign of provocation. Now that she was closer she could see the places where it looked like something had been scoured from the breastplate over the collar. “Indeed,” she replied in an icy voice. “Tell your Master that I do not appreciate its attention.”

    “You may confer your feelings to it when you meet,” Franz replied, quirking his head to one side in a disconcerting fashion. “We will be pleased if you could join us at your leisure, but do show enough courtesy to make haste and to take care. The Master would hate for your entourage to be diminished beyond your standing when you request an audience.”

    “Do you think me a cur, to beg for scraps from its hands?” Cassandra retorted sharply. “Have a care, fallen knight.”

    ----

    Alexander and Harker

    The stranger met them by the side of an empty road, as far into the wilderness as anywhere else in the world. He was clearly making no effort to disguise himself or his nature- a lean, good-looking young man dressed in baggy breaches, a vest, and a cloak, all richly attired. He had a houri’s clear, fine features, lips curled in a cocky grin and glowing triangle markings beneath his eyes, silky black hair cut short and unruly, and dark houri wings of blue-black poking out from holes cut in his cloak. A grosse messer with a serrated blade was slung over his back, a single spaulder that looked salvaged from some battlefield over one shoulder, and a long bracer and gauntlet on his left hand.

    He sauntered up to the small group, glancing at each present. His eyes quickly passed over the warbound and the guards, falling to rest on the trueborn. Soft lips parted into a sultry smile as his direction changed slightly to bring him toward the Trueborn.

    "Well, you’re here at last,” he purred. “The road is long, but I trust it won't be boring, m’lord..." The houri inclined his head respectfully. “I trust you’re well?”
    Last edited by Jetrauben; 2008-10-21 at 11:09 PM.

  28. - Top - End - #28
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    NinjaGuy

    Join Date
    Sep 2008

    Default Re: Nether

    "You were right. Man is untrustworthy, thinks I'm dumb enough, I can't tell the difference between a cleric and a witch." Martius decocked his blunderbuss, sitting back down on the log in the snow, taking care to pop another wad of tobacco into his mouth.

    "The difference being..." Ayani sat back down too, not bothering to find a log.

    "Difference bein' you're not a witch. I know what a witch is, and what a witch isn't. I've spent my life doin' caravans to loads of dangerous places. I've been attacked by everythin' from Trueborn to Nether Beasts to misguided clerics. You ain't a witch, just like I ain't a bleedin' witch. Only problem I see here is that you aren't a cleric."

    "Then what am I?"

    "Like I said before, you're a gypsy girl who just happens to get money from the church. Your whole band probably has a vendetta. My question is why you didn't kill him before you got to the caravan?"

    "A...a...I don't really know. A twisted sense of justice..."

    "You want to see him suffer. I can understand that. He's goin' around, flashin' your jewelry around like it belongs on him."

    "Yes...and? He's a thief, murderer of children and, and..." Ayani struggled for the words. There were terms used to describe individuals like Bertram, those without any honor, those who freely violated the hospitality offered by generous hosts, those who did not believe in loyalty to anyone but themselves, "...and, and a monster."

    "Not a priestly thing to be sayin' about someone."

    "As you just said, I'm not a priest. I'm a gypsy girl."

    Marius just chuckled. At least the girl didn't pretend she was anything else.

    "Almost nightfall. I should get going." Ayani got up, brushing the snow off her shoulders.

    "Go up ahead. See what's on the other side of the ravine."

    "I was planning on it... I still say we go around it. We have time." Ayani shook her. The idiot was going to get ambushed, the ravine was a deathtrap.

    "Well, we don't have the time, do we?" Martius got up and stretched his aching muscles.

    "Suppose not." Ayani leapt into the treetops, then into the rocks scattered around the surrounding hillsides. She paid no heed to the ice under her boots as she cleared streams and gorges with an easy grace. She didn't pay attention to the cold. She had a warm cloak, emphasis on the had. It was keeping a little match girl warm and alive, a better use than keeping a paladin marginally more comfortable.

    The washy snowflakes played out against the dark of the sky. Nothing but branches, snow and hills.

    And an unfamiliar aura, trudging through the snow. The cloak was nothing short of ludicrous. Ayani kept in the trees and watched. The mist, the night and the oncoming snowstorm would hide her. The stranger didn't seem to require any assistance, although there was a bit of a hitch in his step, one that was brought on by hunger. Otherwise, he held himself up with a good deal of confidence. The question was whether Ayani should have extended a helping hand or not.

    Wait. No, why even ask that? She thought as she hopped out of the treetops, landing in the waist deep snow.

    The Sirahme, that obscure code of gypsy lore, taught that hospitality must always be extended, even to complete strangers.

    "Lost?" Ayani asked, grinning at the traveller, "I can help you if you are."
    Last edited by yli; 2008-10-22 at 01:01 AM.

  29. - Top - End - #29
    Halfling in the Playground
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Poland
    Gender
    Male

    Default Albert

    Albert was quite relieved to see the inquisitors go. Not that he had anything to hide himself, but people willing to slay you at the merest suspicion of heresy or corruption just made him irrationally uncomfortable. The Brother-Captain's underlings just looked at him appraisingly, found nothing they disliked too much, and went along with the inspection. Just a normal, perfectly ordinary Shaden caravan guard. He really didn't stand out, dressed in a somewhat ritchety fur coat, highly appropriate for the weather.

    With one palm under his elbow, and the other stroking his bearded chin, he took some time to think about the current situation. Five minutes later, he arrived at a decision, and proceeded to announce it. "I'll walk about the par--pery-- around us," he informed his nearest coworker, who looked at him boredly and simply shrugged. "See if there's no more ambushes waiting for us." For some reason he just didn't trust the blind gypsy mage to do a very good job scouting, flight or not. You needed proper, well, eyes for that.

    Unstrapping his axe from his belt, he slowly began to walk in a circular pattern around the caravan, easily within shouting distance.
    Last edited by AbuDhabi; 2008-10-24 at 08:43 AM.

  30. - Top - End - #30
    Pixie in the Playground
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    Maryland, USA
    Gender
    Male

    Default Re: Nether

    Jerrid

    He had sensed her above him in the trees first, at least he thought so, smell and sight telling some details, and not others.

    ‘It seems strange,’ Jerrid mused, ‘that a seemingly blind girl is the one to meet me outside the rest of the camp. Are the people here so stupid that they’d let a blind girl walk around on a dark and snowy evening like this, when it is so dangerous?’

    ‘No, not so blind at all, I think.’ Jerrid noticed her stance, easily standing in the snow, knowing where to step around deeper patches, and keeping her head pointed at him, despite the blindfold over her eyes. ‘And the smell of blood, it is too fresh…FAUGH.’

    The smell hit him. The smell not of blood but In the blood. Nether taint, strong but not out of control. ‘dangerous’ screaming were his instincts, but for another reason than he expected. ‘Ah, that might make sense.’

    ‘****!’ He flinched, Jerrid realizing he had been staring oddly at her for a short while, “Lost? I am not lost, but found on this night by a possible friend in unfamiliar territory, perhaps in away that I might entertain this eve. But where are my manners, I suppose I must do introduce myself. I am Jason the storyteller, knowledgeable of the history and old stories, and with a little musical talent, I can tell a tale, spin a web of memory, and play and dance a little tune to while an evening. If these are skills needed in this camp, perhaps I could be of use on this journey to Dammerinthes? If not, I am able to provide other skills as needed.”

    ‘Damnit I was too long winded there, I sounded like a fop! Jeeze, at least I can play along.’

    Then something unexpected happened.

    The gypsy girl laughed.

    It was oddly high, joyous, a pure sound, one not heard in some time, and unexpected to her ears too, it seemed, as she quickly grew quiet.

    She spoke. “I have not had opportunity to laugh in some time storyteller. Yes, these are dark days into dark places, but another reliable companion would not be remiss. Join me back to camp, will you? We’ll see if we can provide you with food, I am sure you are tired. Still, it is odd, you do not travel with a horse? Most would do so, even in the snow like this.”

    Jerrid knew a lie mixed with truth would work best here. “A horse is beyond my means at the moment my lady, but I can move swiftly as needed to keep up with most companions on horses, in truth. Still, even if I did have a horse, I find most horses are…distressed, when carrying me.” A truth last, as no horse could tolerate him for his beast’s nature, who would carry a natural predator of their species, after all.

    Then her scent reached his nose, and he knew he had to ask before they reached camp. “Tell me, my lady, to which group do you belong. Your garb indicates either an affinity to a religious order, or the gypsies, but I believe only one order would need near blind followers, especially one who can see without sight. Are you one of the followers of the Forlorn Path, or a sorceress?”

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