September 10, 2010 20:41
A Beholder, an Gnoll, and a human sit down at a table. . .
August 27, 2010 17:09
The group travels to Greenheart and they stop at the Highfern Inn for the night. Troff, their illustrious guide, attends to business with his boss and leaves the RoughRiders unattended for a night. Clearly there could never be a flaw in THAT logic. To make things even better, the group also splits up – half in the bar and half at the cart. The 421st makes good choices.
At the Cart: Arc and Honest Ja’wn watch the cart outside, lacking the common sense to actually ask about a place to stow it for the night. As Arc stands watch, he notices a young man staring at the cart or him. Arc approaches him but warforged are a little scary so the man runs away, resulting in a high speed chase. The chase ends with a tackle and a great deal of threatening from Arc, who tells the boy that if he doesn’t get the information he wants, the boy will cease to live. This causes the boy to spill his guts and his bowels, which ruins some surprisingly well made and fancy garments.
The boy, terrified, tells Arc that a man paid him 5 gold to watch the cart and then imitates Troff’s voice perfectly. Suspecting foul play on Troff’s part, Arc thanks the boy, gives him a gold, and lets him go. The boy is upset and obviously not used to that kind of humiliation and treatment so he runs off, telling Arc that he will be sorry.
At the Inn:
After days of traveling, Arden is looking for a stiff drink and Kiri is looking for something to relieve the tedium of plodding along in the forest without an exciting mission. In an effort to be friendly, she insults the bartender so she tries to find her fun elsewhere. She drags Arden into a seemingly harmless game of dice with a strange bunch of creatures. It gets stranger when a Beholder sits down. Since Kiri is apparently so schooled in the nature of the world around her (or so very drunk. . .) she finds this completely normal and whines until Arden agrees to play. Tension at the table runs high when Iz, the beholder, insists that the stakes are too low. Kiri, obviously making more great decisions, throws down the crystal that she pulled from the observatory where they had spoken to their past selves. The party watches on in a fascinated horror as the Beholder sends an underling to retrieve a briefcase because he doesn’t have anything worth the crystal. The briefcase contains several shards, but they were unable to identify them in the heat of the game.
As all the other opponents get knocked out, the dice game comes down to Kiri and Iz. Kiri uses her knowledge of his (very obvious) tells and her generally low skill at bluffing to finally beat him after several rounds. Iz leaves in a furious huff but then Arden receives a notification that the bar tab has been prepaid and he can order as he wishes. This fulfills a lifelong fantasy of his and sends him on a drunken adventure outside of the bar, into the heart of the town. Kiri and the captain go upstairs with her immense pile of winnings from the dice game because they were worried about theft or retribution from the owner if he changed his mind.
August 16, 2010 18:00
It's a cave, boy. . .a cave of WONDERS.
August 10, 2010 18:00
The group pulls into a glen. The water is cool and inviting. After months on the road with baths few and far between, Kiri jumps into the water and splashes around while the rest of the unit scopes out the place, checking for the entrance to the mysterious cave.
When Arc enters the cave, long vines wrap around him and attack. Honest and Eggs rush to his rescue. Arden yells to Kiri to get out of the water and rushes to help the rest of his unit. As Kiri turns over, a massive shape is circling in the bottom of the pool and she panics, swimming as fast as she can toward the shore. Before she can clammor out, the water pushes her out on t try land with tremendous force. She fumbles toward her gear, which was sitting next to the water, and then begins strapping everything on in earnest.
By CJ and Mike
August 05, 2010 16:50
The 20th of Ollarune, 994 YK
“We’ll take this ruffian from here, Captain” the commanding Colonel spoke down to Honest from atop his horse.
Dutifully, yet reluctantly, Honest handed over the leash to the manacles restraining the newly captured Thrane General, Charr. From underneath his twisted horns, Honest shot Char a glare which spoke volumes louder than his muffled retort, “This is far from over, lizard.”
Charr continued to be led through the gauntlet of piercing gazes from the 421st. Egnarac spoke firmly a draconic curse, “Niiden pitäisi olla salattu teidän muna hautomossa”, roughly translating to “They should have scrambled your egg in the hatchery”. With his hands he held tightly to Kiri’s shoulders, whose eyes had filled with unbidden tears of vile hatred as she watched her family’s butcher stride off in chains. Arc stood as still as stone with a look as emotionless as death itself, aside from an unrealized fury that burned within his glowing eyes. At the end of the parade stood Arden, slumped up against a tree, sharpening his Cyran issue longsword. Donning his signature smug expression, Arden righted himself and approached the Colonel.
“Stand down, Corporal.” The Colonel ordered, quite aware of Arden’s reputation.
“Private, actually… sir” Arden jibed, “And I was only imagining what your new prize might look like as a trophy mounted on your wall”
“Arden! You’ve been ordered to stand down!” Honest yelled from the front, “Now drop back in line!”
Arden halted chortling, and turned his back to the procession. But before he took his first step back to his tree, his sword burst into glowing green flame and whipped in a wide arc toward Charr’s throat. Instead of meeting scaly flesh however, his sword met the tempered steel shaft the Colonel’s parrying warhammer. Taking his other hand off the reins of his horse, the Colonel swung a small throwing hammer down atop Arden’s sword, snapping it like a twig.
“If you’re quite done… Private.” The Colonel sneered in self-amused boredom. “I’ll not have you sully the honorable name of Cyre for your little vendetta. He will be tried in Royal Tribunal for his crimes.”
Arden’s eyes locked with the Colonel’s, then dropped to Charr’s who took his turn looking smug. Examining the shattered bade in his hand, Arden spat and turned back to his tree.
As he turned however, he saw in the distance a small glint hovering in air. Moments later, a blinding flash burst across the sky. A pillar of fire erupted large enough to see from the 421st’s vantage point nearly 300 miles away. Everyone stood in awe at the spectacle.
Breaking the spell, Arc spoke, “Blast wave incoming. Moving to a more sheltered location is advisable.”
“You heard’m! Move!” Honest yelled. “Get your ass to the river!”
Arden stood for moments longer, still captivated by the destruction before him. It was beautiful, and yet a terrible truth petrified his mind in cold fear.
“ARDEN!” Honest’s voice pierced the torrent’s grip, “Get your ass in gear!”
Shaking his attention free, Arden turned to run, only to find everyone else scrambling frantically toward the river’s edge. Almost instantly he broke into a sprint, just as a sound of rolling thunder began to crescendo behind him. A small wind picked up at his back, and slowly grew to violent gusts as Arden continued the near 500 meters to the water. A disturbingly numbing heat also began to emanate, crawling up Arden’s spine. Ahead of him he saw Egnarac and Kiri struggle to pick up speed as they ran together. Adjusting his course to meet them, Arden pumped his legs as hard as he could. He caught up with them 100 meters from the river. Grabbing hold of each of them, he added his own speed to their nimble footing to power them the last stretch to safety. His blood felt as if it were an fire. Reaching the last couple meters he tossed Kiri to the water, and turned to Egnarac to pull him in front of his pace. A sudden and large explosion sounded on his heels, and in a knee jerk reaction, Arden turned to see the danger barreling down on top of them. The blast took him off his feet entirely, and a menacing blue flame gout pushed him and Egnarac the remaining distance to the river. Egnarac splashed violently into the water. Arden’s body however carried another 20 meters, clear over the opposite bank. His back slammed into the rock slab of the Thrane coast, knocking the air from his lungs and the senses from his mind.
Coming to, Arden hazily looked about to assess the situation as his training had conditioned him. Protruding from his right breast was a large Hoplite spear, blade larger than most swords, shaft splintered in half. He saw he comrades swim toward him, and as his vision finally faded to black he could have sworn he saw a flickering blue flame dancing from his wound.
His life’s blood pouring into the Brey River, Arden Colt grasped at the spearhead that protruded from his chest. The blade was hot and nearly singed clean through his gauntlets as he grasped it in a dying attempt to dislodge it. Every tug was shear agony. In his weakened, semi-conscious state Arden saw gouts of blue flame bursting from his wound as he pulled. A final, laborious pull was enough to free the blade from his chest. Arden stared at the blade as the river waters washed over him. It was the most beautiful weapon he’d ever seen, or ever see again. The blade was elegant, a glowing dragonshard pulsed in the base of the blade, alive with energy. “Fitting…” Arden coughed a bloody laugh. As he slipped into unconsciousness he saw the devilish visage of his Teifling captain reach out for him. Arden sank into oblivion.
“He’s waking!” Kiri called out with a smile. Kiri seldom smiled without a few drinks from the flask he gave her. Arden’s eyes blearily opened.
“If I’m dead…and this is Dollurrh…. Did I really get stuck with you lot again?” His voice was little more than a haggard whisper.
“He sounds as if he is in good spirits.” Arc248 assessed.
“He’s alive. I’ll give him that much credit.” Honest Ja’wn said.
Arden lifted his head to look around. They were on a boat. A small row boat heading down some mist covered stygian river. Egnarac and Arc248 each held oars, while Honest Ja’wn sat at the front peering into the distance.
“What Ja’wn? Too cheap to pay the ferryman?” Arden coughed hold his ribs. They were wrapped in linens, the smell of herbal healing salves penetrated his nostrils and quickly snapped him into reality. The spearhead that nearly killed him rested at his side. He was on a makeshift gurney.
“We’re not dead?” He asked looking to Kiri.
“No.” Kiri answered.
“Where in the 12 moons are we?”
“We’re…That’s our country over there…or what was… that’s Cyre!” The mist was a thick grey, no visibility past ten feet or so. The boat was close to the bank of the river. Nothing could be seen but a barren cost. No foliage or growth. Nothing but brown desiccated earth and dead trees.
“We are travelling south on the Brey river. Heading towards the Brelish coast.” Arc248 confirmed.
They came through the Stygian mists to the coast of Breland. The air immediately smelled less of ozone and copper. The midday sun shone bright, no longer obscured by the translucent fog. To the 421st, it felt like being born… born as orphans.
Arden had been drifting in and out of sleep during the journey, but once they set foot and lay his gurney on land, he found himself alert. ARC and Kiri had been taking turns tending his wound, administering apothecary tinctures to help break Arden’s fever. This rotation was ARC, and Arden was surprised to find himself relieved. He suddenly found himself full of questions, and who better to answer them. “2 days?!”
“37 hours, more precisely” ARC said coldly, “Your wound was grievous. The Captain didn’t want to risk you trying to injure yourself further before we could apply primary aid.”
“You drugged me?!”
“ARC, he’s not our captain any more.” Arden said pensively, gazing out over the water into the mists shrouding Cyre. “There’s nothing more to be a captain of.”
ARC stood looking at Arden, his unchanging metal face failing to betray any reaction. “He was looking out for your best interest.”
They both remained silent for a number of moments. “Have you gone back in there?”
“Not successfully.” It was the closest Arden had ever heard a hint of emotion from ARC’s voice. “The landmarks are gone. The fog is impenetrable. Egnarac and I were only able to return by tracking ourselves back to the beach.”
“Any idea how it happened? Any news of survivors?”
“No” The word ran chills down Arden’s spine and echoed through his bones.
“Well, you look better!” Kiri exclaimed waking to see Arden on his feet.
While his sword arm was still in a sling, Arden did in fact feel much better. It had only been a couple days, but it seemed with each stroke they took down the Brey river away from Cyre, Arden’s strength returned. With his left hand, he was practicing remedial maneuvers with the spear-head that had wounded him. “Gettin’ there.” Arden punctuated with a clumsy thrust.
“Oh, so decided to keep it, eh?” Honest said mockingly as he stepped from his tent. “Not at all surprising you’d have a fondness for something that damn near killed you.”
“Yes, well, we don’t all have the luxury of hiding behind a forked tongue and a bronze star, now do we?” Besides Arden, only Eggs seemed amused with the retort. “Speaking of which, isn’t it time you took that off?”
“I will maintain order of this unit until we’ve reestablished contact with command.”
“I’m not sure ‘order’ is the correct usage of the term.” Arden said plainly, in his best ARC impersonation.
Honest sneered before turning to tend the boat.
“You shouldn’t antagonize him like that.” Kiri spoke softly once Honest appeared out of earshot.
“Sorry, kiddo. But sometimes people need to accept the reality of the situation.”
“You can be a smug prick sometimes you know that?”
“Don’t tell me you’re defending—”
“What the fuck do you know about reality?!” Kiri said angrily, “Is everything going to be alright?! Is that what you keep telling yourself?! Swing your sword a little harder, read another book and all will be right in the world?! Some of us aren’t that fucking simple!” She stormed off, snatching her bow and quiver as she did. Eggs followed closely.
Arden looked to ARC, who just looked back with a blank stare. Clenching his teeth, Arden continued to swing his sword. He kept his focus to the distant East, where the giant clouds of fog could still be seen along the horizon, and swung again, this time a little harder.
After a few days the fishing town of Breyside came into view. The town sat at a bend in the Brey river and represented the closest Brelish town to Cyre. The 421st braced for anything. Who knew what would lie ahead. A Brelish military unit could kill them on sight, or perhaps take them in as prisoners of war? But fear was the farthest thing from their minds. Cyre was gone, and it wasn’t coming back. As the boat reached Breland’s shore they found that they were not alone. The small town of 300 was bloated with hundreds of Cyran refugees.
“By the Sovereigns!” Egnarac exclaimed. “Look at them all!”
“I know, there a far fewer than I expected.” Ja’wn admitted, “Surely more made it out alive.”
“Captain, based upon the shockwave and speed of the spreading mist, I calculate the casualty rate of the Cyran populace to nearly 95.8%.” Arc248 deduced.
“Well, I don’t know about you all but I feel my life has been enriched by that statistic… Or maybe the drugs haven’t warn off.” Arden’s words fell on deaf ears as the party disembarked the rowboat and headed into the town. Two Brelish soldiers aided a crying Cyran woman who had been struck blind. Her tears streaked out of her pale wide eyes down the scorch marks on her face. She wobbled trying to get her bearings, the men attempted to stable her.
“May we assist?” Arc inquired.
“You new arrivals?” The Soldier asked not diverting his attention from the woman. “Head over to the registrar first.”
Weaving through the throng of Cyran refugees that mobbed the street the members of the 421st found there way to the registrar. He was a scrawny Brelish clerk too small for combat, dressed in the royal blue robes Brelish officers donned. He stood in front of a rickety table heaped with scrolls and parchment. A short line of refugees formed in front of the man.
“A cattle call. I feel like I’m lining up for slaughter.” Arden jested.
“Just fall in line for once in your life Private.” Ja’wn was not in the mood for jokes. It seemed the week’s events had sucked the twinkle out of the young captain’s eyes. For once Arden did not argue.
After some time the men approached the registrar. “Name?” The registrar said not looking up from his quill and parchment.
“That some sort of alias?”
“I’m fine. These men…these folks behind me are my unit.” The registrar suddenly took interest, looking up from his papers and adjusting his spectacles.
“Military eh? I’ll make a note.” The registrar quickly eyed each of the 421st.
“Perfect.” Kiri sighed “now they’ll know who to kill first.” With that Ja’wn stepped away.
Arden approached next. “They are perfectly willing to try.” Arden said to Kiri patting his new sword slung along his back.
“We aren’t going to have a problem, are we?” the clerk said from behind the registrar’s desk as Arden stepped up. Despite the man’s diminutive stature, he spoke with full confidence. In his periphery Arden notice two Brellish guards tense in readiness. Arden smirked.
Kiri tugged on Arden’s arm, giving him a stern shake of the head when he turned to look. He just gave her the never-reassuring wink and grin, as he spun back around to the clerk, “Problem? It looks like—”
“For Khyber’s sake! Someone grab her!” One of the guards helping the blind woman shouted as the woman stumbled free of his grip in hysterics. Arden glanced over in time to see her trip over a stone. He lunged forward, catching her before she fell. She went stiff in his arms, recoiling from his touch. Arden set her to her feet, keeping a firm grip. It wasn’t until she lifted her head that she calmed.
Her milky white eyes, glistening with the constant flow of tears, seemed to focus and still despite their blindness. Appearing fixed on Arden, she weakly exclaimed, “I see you!” She placed her hand over top Arden’s wound, deliberately adjusting her gaze to look at it. When her eyes met Arden’s once again, Arden could see a subtle blue flicker from behind the surface of those white orbs. Sadly, with her hysteria dropped off to melancholy she uttered, “You carry it with you…”
Arden felt something twitch in his right breast. It was painful like a atrophied muscle finally being forced to move. Arden winced, gripping his chest. The guards guiding the woman came and collected her from Arden. “He don’t look so well.” One of them said, sounding concerned.
Egnarac walked up and put his hand up to Arden’s forehead. Arden barely reacted, eyes still fixed on the woman as she was carried through into the town. “He’s burning up. We need to get him to an apothecary.” No sooner than those words were muttered, Arden’s body went limp. Eganrac quickly caught him.
“Take him to the East side of town,” the clerk spoke, “That is where we keep the wounded. What is his name?”
“Arden Colt.” Egnarac replied.
The East side of Breyside looked like your typical field hospital: completely unprepared, filthy, and swarming with disease. Cots were splayed in no particular order, and for those that had no cots were laid out on blankets on the ground. Kiri had retrieved the gurney from the boat which Egnarac and ARC now carried with Arden laid on top deleriously mumbling to himself. Arden was pouring sweat, and had grown pale even for his Cyran complexion. They put him down near the outskirts on the far East side in the shadow of Cyre’s mistcloud.
“Kiri, find a healer! Egnarac and Arc will tends his wound until you return.” Honest ordered. With that she bolted into the crowd.
“Sir, there seems to be slight amounts of unstable arcane energy coming off his body.” ARC perceived. “Do you suppose it is safe to keep him here?”
“I don’t think his condition could worsen,” Honest responded, “This is as safe as he’s gonna get.”
“I wasn’t referring to him, sir” ARC said looking out amongst the crowd of sick and wounded. Honest gritted his teeth, “Just keep an eye on him, a healer will be coming shortly.”
“No… he won’t,” Kiri said, panting, “They only got two… in this entire town…. won’t see him until tomorrow… at the earliest.”
They all looked down at Arden mournfully. Arden’s eye’s appeared to be moving quickly beneath his lids, and his mouth continued to mutter uncontrollably. Every once in a while, his arm or leg would twitch, sometimes violently.
“He appears to be dreaming.” ARC spoke.
Honest crouched down next to his compatriot, putting his hand to Arden shoulder. “No, ARC… that’s a nightmare…”
Blue flames licked and flickered just beyond the horizon line. This blue light cast a strange shade on the scene. Thirteen full moons hung in the sky. Arden found himself standing in the center of some ancient battlefield. The field was littered with bodies. Piles of them hacked and mangled terribly. The twinkling of light reflecting off of some reflective metallic surface caught his eye. Looking in the distance Arden saw strange spherical monoliths of impossible alien design dotted the landscape of this wasteland. A thunderclap shook the ground at his feet. Lightning and fire intertwined and struck the ground behind him. He started to run. Moving forward through the piles of bodies he noticed, these bodies were not human. Orcs, goblins, heavily armored hobgoblins in intricate plate mail, all slain by some terrible unseen hand. Arden knew this must be Shavarath, the endless Battleground, where all great warriors come to war endlessly until the end of days.
Honest stepped sleepily from his tent into the cool Brelish night. Rubbing his eyes he walked over to ARC. “You’re relieved soldier.”
“Sir, I am quite capable of maintaining watch. I need no sleep.” ARC replied.
“For Khyber’s sake, ARC. I know that.” Honest said exasperatingly, “Go tend to Arden or…” He paused looking around. “Where is he?”
“Arden. He is no longer here.”
“I can see that!” Honest yelled, waking the wounded and the rest of the 421st from their sleep, “Where’s he gone, ARC?! Weren’t you keeping watch?!”
“Yes, I have remained vigilant since sundown. Arden stood and walked out of town to the East two hours ago.”
“He walked out of town to–“
“ARC! You let one of your dying comrades march out of town without alerting anyone?!” Honest took on a hue of red far brighter than usual, heat visibly raising from his skin.
“Why should we care?” Egnarac’s voice coldly uttered as he stepped from the tent, followed by Kiri. “The man’s a menace and a liability. If he wanted to go off like a dog and die alone, why shouldn’t we let him? Upon his own admission, this unit and hence his loyalties dissolved with Cyre.”
Honest gave a squinted glare in the dragonborn’s direction. Regaining composure, he sternly asked, “Is this how the lot of you feel?” shooting ARC and Kiri and glance.
“Egnarac’s logic is sound.” Arc replied.
Kiri dropped her gaze to the ground, shuffling her feet.
“I see.” Honest said thoughtfully, “Well then, I guess it’s a good thing THIS ISN”T A DEMOCRACY!”
The 421st stood at attention out of conditioned habit.
“That ‘dying dog’ might’ve been right. We may no longer owe an oath to Cyre, to an army that is now dust under a cloud of death. We may be professional soldiers left without a cause for fighting.” Honest marched from person to person as he gave his speech. Other Cyrans around them began to gather. “But I still choose to fight. Not for this!” Honest ripped the bronze star from his armor and threw it to the ground, “I fight for you!” looking at Kiri, “You!” ARC, “And even you!” glaring at Egnarac. “We are more than a unit. We are brothers! All of us! Including that ingrate cur you all are too quick to dismiss. Menace and liability? Yes. But each one of you are alive today because of that reckless bastard. That’s what we do! We persist against odds together!” The crowd continued to grow around the captain. “Our grave is shared, and I’ll be damned if I dig mine tonight because you lot don’t know the meaning of the word ‘family’. All we have is each other. We already lost our country, we are not going to lose that too.”
The 421st stood silent. Honest marched over to face Egnarac still standing at attention. “Have I made myself clear, Eggs?”
“Crystal, as always, sir.”
“Right… well, that’s why I’m the captain, innit?” Honest walked over and retrieved his bronze star lying in the dirt. “Now unless we have any further points of contention, we are going to find our brother and make sure he hasn’t killed himself.”
“Yes sir!” they all said in unison.
“Eggs!” Honest grinned, “You’re on point.”
Arden traveled within the wasteland for years. Not a living soul was found. The endless battlefield was simply dead. Not even the familiar sight of scavengers and carrion beasts could be found. Finally, there was movement ahead. Some foul beast standing on a pile of bodies. Arden charged forward prepared to confront this foe. The creature was taller than two men put together and just as broad. A thick black and purple chitin covered its twisted frame. Its four lanky arms each held a wickedly jagged weapon. Swords longer than Arden’s arm which dripped with the blood of the slain. The creatures face shown with diabolical intelligence. His toothy maw grinned.
“You… I have waited, watched, hungered for this day.” The Creature bellowed his voice echoing through Arden’s mind.
Arden did not speak. No witty retort, no war cry. He pulled his sword
“Ah Vardoger, the ever-changing-blade… it shall be so nice to feel the bite of it again.” The Creature spat and leapt from the body pile with cat-like grace.
The 421st had doubletimed it through the entire night and following day. It became clear to them early on that Arden’s pace did not slow, but rather steadily trailed out directly toward Cyre. For a dying man, he had a surprising amount of energy to give his comrades tireless chase. It was dusk, when they finally caught up with him. The mist surrounding Cyre had cross the Brey river, covering a half mile inland strip, and in that fog they saw Arden. They called to him. As he turned, they saw even from the distance through the clouds his eyes flickering aglow an eerie blue. Arden did not speak. No witty retort, no war cry. He pulled his sword.
“He appears to be engaging us in combat.” ARC said to Honest.
“Oh shit…” Honest muttered under his breath, then louder, “ARC and Kiri, give us cover fire from the rock over there. No kill shots! Understood?”
They both nodded and went to the outcropped boulder.
“Eggs? You ready to feel a little sore for the next week?”
The dragonborn simply snarled, “I can’t say I haven’t wished for a chance to put this whelp down.”
“Good.” Honest smiled reluctantly, “Follow me in!” Honest charged.
“Once more into the breach! Eh?” The Creature attacked striking out simultaneously with all four blades. Arden dodged one blow only to barely escape another. The angles the creature could slice at were impossible for any one man. The air filled with the sounds of gnashing steel. It took all of Arden’s concentration to keep the blades at bay. But he found a pattern, a groove; the melody that which every swordsman fights by. The sword in his hand came to match every note and chord as they dropped into place as if completely by instinct. His beating heart kept time to the tempo, but Arden was too caught up in the moment to notice that the thumping in his chest was coming from the opposite side of his chest. Arden’s blade ignited in blue flame to match sky.
“Where the hell did he learn that?!” Kiri exclaimed taking aim again with her bow, finding her shots deflected by the whirring blue blade.
“It does not appear that he’s learned it all. Something possesses Arden.” ARC observed.
“Do something, ARC! They can’t last much longer out there!” Kiri pleaded, her eyes fixed on the skirmish as Arden continued to push a trance-like offensive against their brothers.
ARC paused for a moment. “Stay here child.” ARC leapt from the rock, running toward the fight, his hands visibly charging a spell.
The fight reached a fever pitch, neither blade finding succor from the other’s flesh. It was then Arden saw his opening. He thrust slicing at his demonic foe’s chest. The blade barely scratched the thick chitin and shattered.
“Heh heh…so weak Vardoger…I expected more of you.” The Demon sheathed his blades. With one arm he grabbed Arden by the throat. Another two began systematically landing blow after blow on Arden’s ribcage. The final fist held aloft glowing with a blue glow.
“Cry out and I shall make this quick.”
Arden spat blood into the Demon’s face. “As expected…” The Demon laughed, licking the blood from his face with a long barbed tongue.
“Snap out of it.”
The demon struck him again and again.
“Glory in death, shall never be yours.”
Arden said nothing.
“What in Dollurh is wrong with you?” The ground shook. The sky fell. A wall of fire enveloped them both.
Arden smiled finally. “I welcome death!”
“Is that what this is about?!” Honest Ja’wn slapped Arden hard across the face. The blue fire was gone and there was only a thick grey mist. Arc stood holding a smoking open palm at point blank range.
Egnarac turned to ARC, “Thank you my friend. That slice would have sheared me for certain. What made you think to attack the blade?”
ARC responded, “I had a hunch.”
Egnarac looked at him quizzically, but ARC remained silent still looking down at Arden on the ground. Honest was crouched over him trying to illicit a response from him, but Arden had passed out completely.
“His fever’s broken, but he’s torn his stitches. We need to get him back to the town.” Honest said to the others.
“What do we tell him when he wakes up again?” Kiri askedm, rejoining the group.
Honest straightened himself, looking at each person. “You tell him ‘Good morning’” Each member of the 421st understood the implication.
August 03, 2010 17:45
August 02, 2010 16:50
The darkness and smell of a burlap sack over the face, and the cold pinch of steel manacles on the wrists. Yep, he’d been kidnapped.
“Ja’wn, Honest. Captain. 421D Roughriders. Serial number 14…”
“Yes, yes Mr. Ja’wn we see all of this on your ID papers.” A familiar gruff voice answered.
“I see that House Tharashk has gotten into the pick pocketing and kidnapping business now…interesting. Hi Marl!”
“Hiya sir. How…” The Half-giant was quickly silenced by his partner.
“Don’t be coy with us Ja’wn. By the way…Honest? Is that really your name?” Troff asked.
Judging by the musky smell of fish and the sound of people they were in a cart near the harbor.
“Since birth. By the way, was it bright to march me through the harbor in chains?”
“Don’t worry sir. No friends of Aundair here. The Reachers think less of your Queen’s spies than they do of the stuff that plops out of their horses.”
“Aundair? I’m Cyran, you see that on…”
“Your papers? Yes, because it’s hard for a Royal Eye to have so papers forged? They handed these out to every mourner who stumbled out of the mist. Can it. We have your shipment. It didn’t take much for us to remove the prestidigitation your warforged friend cast on it. We want to know who told you about them.”
“Royal Eye…oh that is rich.” Ja’wn laughed but stopped quickly as his laughter just shot hot air into the sack over his head causing him to sweat.
“You’ve got some nasty stuff in this box Ja’wn. Nasty business to get into.”
“…and what business is this exactly?”
“I’m asking the questions here friend.”
“I thought I didn’t have any friends.”
“Drive faster, so I don’t stick this spy before we get to your friend’s place.”
“Uldwar’s a good druid. He’ll help us get to Mom.”
The smell of the town left his nostrils. They were on the open road.
“Hope the raiders don’t get us.” Ja’wn scoffed.
“Raiders don’t go where we are going.” Troff laughed.
The air cooled and what little light could be felt from under the sack faded. The smell of trees permeated Ja’wn’s nostrils.
“Last time I was in these woods I was almost wolf food.”
“Don’t worry Ja’wn I’ll protect us.” Marl sounded cheerful and sure of himself.
“Once we get the truth out of you, then you’ll need protection.” Troff said as he lit what smelled to Ja’wn to be a Fairhaven Sweetleaf pipe.
“For a Reacher, you smoke Aundairian tobacco…”
“For a captured spy, you speak too much. “ Troff said puffing a blast of smoke into Ja’wn’s face. Ja’wn liked the smoke. Reminded him of home.
“Gonna take a bit. Rest Mr. Ja’wn.” Marl said.
Honest didn’t want to sleep…but … he just …couldn’t…keep…his eyes…open.
“Sleepy time. Lights out.” Troff snapped.
July 26, 2010 08:30
To be written…
By Ariana and Mike
July 21, 2010 22:25
*Sar, 23 Barrakas 991yk. Cyre. *
The 421st Recon Division had been on the move for days. Honest Ja’wn didn’t allow them a moments rest.
“Honor, vengence, Glory. It all lies over the next hill boys.” He shouted confidently pushing his exhausted recon unit up the hill.
“You said that 5 hills ago.” Panted Arden, who was already at the top of the hill slowing only enough to verbally jab at his commander. Ja’wn ignored him. The unit crested the hill.
“Captain, I see no trace of the Thrane supply caravan we are tracking, nor do I see any sign of the recon unit that was escorting them.” Arc246 reported.
“Nonsense. They must’ve come this way. It’s the easiest way from the border to the front lines. General Char would definitely come this way.”
Egnarac crouched in an almost feral stance, and all discussion ceased. He sniffed at the air, and then tasted a sample of earth from the top of the hill. “They came through here. Horsemen, caravans. The scouts covered their tracks from the rear… they expect us.” Egnarac said standing.
“See Arc? Thank you Eggs for confirming what I already knew!” Honest said patting Egnarac on the back. The Dragonborn rolled his eyes, then turned to face Kiri, the child he had looked after the last few days. She was a mess, still covered in a mix of Thrane blood and the soot from her family’s burned farmhouse. The bruises and lacerations on her face a painful reminder of the abuse she received from the Thrane “Crusaders”.”Are you all right child?” Egnarac’s voice was calm and soothing, he placed his scaly hands on her slumped shoulders.
Kiri was taken aback. She didn’t know how to react to her new companions. They were all so different than any of the people she had met before, and none of them acted or spoke in a way that was familiar. The hand on her shoulder wasn’t comforting, but it wasn’t scary. It just was.
She felt a mixture of fear, anger, and sadness, but those were all dwarfed by another, stronger force – numbness. She knew she should feel upset and angry and sad, but instead, she felt adrift in a never ending sea. She was like a feather in the wind, being blown from place to place, without purpose.Kiri lifted her hand up to her face and felt her swollen lip. Every part of her body hurt so badly that she could not tell where certain parts of her face started and other began. She felt her nose – had it always been slightly crooked? She patted the scale-laden hand on her shoulder and slumped off to the corner while the soldiers bickered back and forth. She didn’t always understand their arguments but she was beginning to understand a little about each of their characters. Ja’wn, the commander, was terrifying and unfeeling. Arc, the robot, was a figure out of a nightmare, tempered with the only sense that she could often discern. Arden was reckless and dangerous. Eggs, the most terrifying of all of the companions, seemed to be the only one with a little compassion. All of them made her feel as though she was underfoot, even when she tried her hardest to stay out of the way. She got the distinct impression that she was viewed as cargo – a small, annoying cargo of almost no consequence. She yearned to feel a sense of something. Belonging, maybe? Fulfillment? Happiness? None of those seemed quite right. If anything, she would settle for a feeling of usefulness.
The unit continued down the hill. The downhill portions of the trip were quick, but in the late summer sun the heat was oppressive. Moving down the hill as one, the unit was quick and efficient. Kiri attempted to fall in line, following closely to Egnarac’s moves, watching his feet. Anything she could do to fit in and stay out from underfoot. She had her brothers bow slung on her back, the bow she’d used to kill the men who burned her home, she had taken a sword from one of the men, and she had that on her belt. She was hardly a soldier and looked more like an old doll her brother used to play with. At the bottom of the hill the unit stopped. “We must rest now.” Egnarac stated.
“It will be a long hotter day tomorrow, and we must not engage the enemy in a weakened state.
“Weakened? Speak for yourself.” Arden’s ego, and his verbal assault targeted the entire unit. “I’m ready to go, maybe you can follow and clean up.”
“Arden, Eggs is right. We’re all tired. We’ve had a long day…a long week. Plus our little refugee needs a break. Isn’t that right?” Honest Ja’wn smiled a fanged smile at Kiri, who hid her face and fled behind Egnarac.
“She’s not chatty is she?” Arden said setting down his sword and sitting down in the high grass.
“She is in shock.” Arc248 responded matter-of-factly “She has lost her home family and suffered head trauma. She is quite resilient to still be alive.”
“She shot straighter than you did in the fight with those marauders. Never seen a farmer who was such a good shot.” Honest Ja’wn said.
“A cornered house cat can be twice as vicious as a stalking panther.” Egnarac said.
“I bet that little anecdote sounded better in Draconic…” Ja’wn said. “Set up camp and go see if the kid can be of use.”
“Captain you can’t expect her to fight…” Egnarac interjected.
“Um… yes I can. Have you noticed that Cyran infantry are in short supply? The kid has just been drafted.” Once she knew they were stopping for the night Kiri slunk away from the unit and found a small copse of Apple trees. Apple trees are common in this part of Cyre and most farmers had an apple orchard. Kiri deftly climbed the tree and reclined back on a branch. The smell of apples reminded her of home. She wept openly for the first time in days. A few moments later Egnarac accompanied by Arc248 approached her tree. She stifled her tears, hoping they would not find her.
“Child, come down, we must speak a moment.” Egnarac instructed.
From her position, she plucked a few apples and tossed them down to Arc and Egnarac, feeling only a tiny bit of remorse realizing that Arc might not actually eat food.
“I think I like it better up here.” She said quietly. “Here, I’m safe.”
She knew that for once, she was actually right. Maybe her comrades could climb a tree, but there was no chance they could climb better or faster than she could. For a moment she considered running away – swinging from branch to branch until she was back in her own orchard, back at her home, never experiencing the harsh reality of this world she had seen so far. She had never realized that the world could be so rough, and filled with rougher people. Where was the warmth and comfort she was used to?
Egnarac and Arc248 caught the apples. Arc248 stared at the apple blankly. Egnarac took a bite. “Delicious, thanks, now I’m going to need you to come down and help us with a few things, and bring a few more apples.” Egnarac held his arms out.
“I’ll catch you if you like…”
“No… that’s alright, I can get down fine.” Kiri dropped from the tree with a shirt full of apples. No chance she was going to leap into that scaly monster’s grasp, though he did seem more and more to be nicer than the rest of them. On her farm she’d heard little about Dragonborn.
“What do you need?” Kiri asked tentatively. Egnarac motioned to Kiri’s brother’s bow. “How good of a shot are you with that?”
“My brothers bow? I’m pretty good. He showed me how to hunt. I’m better than he is.” She smiled prideful
“It’s your bow now child.” Arc248 stated. “Let us see a display of your prowess.” Weaving arcane patterns in the air the warforged caused the apples to float away from Kiri’s shirt and hang weightlessly in the air at different distances. Egnarac produced a quiver of arrows.“Shoot them.”
Kiri picked up one of the arrows and carefully inspected it. To Egnarac and Arc’s surprise, she tossed several aside after careful inspection and finally settled on a three arrows.
“Your arrows are crooked.” Kiri said it so matter of factly that Arc and Egnarac stood stunned for a moment before they scooped the discarded arrows from the ground. In surprise, they analyzed them carefully, wondering how a young girl could criticize the quality of arrows they had made themselves. Egnarac knew he could fletch a fair arrow. He stared at it so intently that when he looked up, he met only a blank look from Kiri and what Egnarac could only assume was surprise on the warforged’s face. He looked expectantly at Kiri and then realized her hands were empty and her bow was handing loosely from her arm.
His gaze wandered upward to the first apple and he gaped – each arrow was centered exactly through the apples that Arc had suspended in the air. Even the highest one, almost 20 times the child’s height, was perfectly shot. Egnarac didn’t know whether he should feel shocked or proud – this was natural talent, and possibly more of it than he had ever seen on one so young – especially a girl.Kiri looked up at her work expectantly. She thought that this was a fun game and now it was Egnarac’s turn. This was the closest to fun she had experienced in weeks and she couldn’t believe that soldiers would engage in games, just like she had with her brother. The memory should have brought sadness and loss, but instead she felt a tiny bit of joy at the fact that she had something in common with this scary band of misfits.
“By the Sovereigns!” Egnarac stared slack jawed. Arc248 lowered each apple down and examined each.
“Each of these is a kill sir.”
“I can see that. How…” Egnarac’s shocked response was silenced by a slow clap as Captain Ja’wn stepped out from behind a tree.
“Well done girl. Well done. Congratulations!” He said beaming. “You’ve just been promoted.”
“Promoted?” Egnarac and Kiri exclaimed at once.
“You’re the newest member of our unit Private. Now go to sleep. We’ve got a squad of killer Thranes and a supply chain to cut tomorrow.” Arc finished removing each arrow and placed them back in the quiver. He handed the quiver to Kiri and walked away with Egnarac back to the main camp.
Arden had lit a fire and was singing war songs, hoping the Thrane scouts could hear him. Kiri fitfully tossed and turned that night. Her stomach felt like it was filled with butterflies and every time she closed her eyes she could see herself dressed in a uniform with a big knife and blood everywhere. It was a terrifying vision, but she also felt a small stab of pride that she couldn’t quite explain. Morning came and she packed up her meager belongings, grabbing a few rations from Ja’wn’s bag. She was small and didn’t eat much. The soldiers had been uncommonly nice to her about food. Even Arden, who seemed self-absorbed, always made sure she had something in her stomach. Before leaving the camp, she grabbed a few apples, thinking that if she was now a soldier, she would have to learn how to feed herself. She couldn’t depend on the kindness of strangers for long.“Move out, soldiers!” bellowed Ja’wn from across the camp. She watched as the other members of her party scurried to do as he said. She took a deep breath and sighed, steeling herself for what was sure to be an interesting first day on the job. The 421st was on the move again. The brief rest filled each member with vigor, a testament to their strength and will. Kiri made sure to keep up with Egnarac, who Ja’wn assigned her to. “Eggs will make a scout out of you, kid. Listen to him and do whatever he says.” The Thrane supply caravan had to be close, the old trade road was recently worn with wheel marks. The high grass by the street was trampled. Egnarac examined a blade of grass.”What do you see Kiri?” He said handing her the grass. “The grass has been stepped on, it’s muddy.”“Good, what does this tell us?”“Someone stepped on it?”“Yes, but examine the mud. Let your sense work for you.”“It’s sandy. Smells like fresh water.”“From the river bank. These men came from over the border. From-”“Thrane.”“Yes. They are using our own trade roads.” Egnarac patted Kiri on the back. “Good work.” For the first time, Kiri did not wince at his touch. He stepped back from the road into a ditch where the rest of the unit waited. A few moments later they were on the move, staying close to the road, but under cover of the high grass. Egnarac showed Kiri how to crouch low without giving up speed. Hours passed.”Egnarac, take Kiri on point. Report back any contact.” Ja’wn instructed. Kiri and Egnarac moved forward and away from the unit, moving quicker than the rest. Kiri allowed her senses to work for her. She smelled smoke. She alerted Egnarac using the hand signals she had seen him use. He nodded. _Contact How many? Shrug _ Egnarac stood and moved to the road. Kiri, wondering if this was some suicidal charge waited for a moment, then followed. They came upon an overturned apple cart. No sign of the enemy, but they had left their mark of these Cyran merchants.
Kiri tentatively went toward the cart, crouching down in the grass by the road to avoid detection. She knew that Egnarac was too large to remain undetected but she had always had a talent for stealth and she felt sure that this was a time to put such a skill to good use. When she reached the edge of the grass, she closed her eyes, trying to heighten her perception of the world around her. She listened carefully to what the world was trying to tell her. She heard a bird’s song – a dove, cooing from the woods to the east. She heard the wind whistle softly through branches. She heard the crackle of leaves as an animal stepped lightly to the west. A deer, perhaps? She felt a sense of satisfaction. She was good at this! She had the ability to block out everything else around her and focus in on the individual sounds. She concentrated harder and listened to the light steps as they went through the grass and leaves. They paused for a moment, like the animal was hesitant – conflicted on where to go next. She pictured a few animals, but none of them sounded right. She listened harder and then realized that something was very wrong. She was able to hear these light footsteps because there was an absence of sound. The light buzz from the high grass was gone, but not just in her position – all around her. She couldn’t hear the buzzing at all. The shocking realization told her that there was something that didn’t belong all around her. Her eyes flew open and she started to silently wiggle in the grass back toward Egnarac, praying silently to any god or goddess that was around that it wasn’t too late. Rejoining the unit, Kiri explained what she had heard or, rather, what she hadn’t. Ja’wn was convinced, that the Thrane scouts were ahead attempting to counter any ambush that they could bring down on the supply caravan.”They probably have been ambushing any merchants on these roads to make room for the supply lines. You saw what they did to that apple cart.” Ja’wn reasoned.”A guerilla attack against a surprised foe has an 80% success rate.” Arc248 agreed in his way, by presenting facts”Well let’s give them someone to ambush who won’t fight like merchants.” Arden said.”Right, decoy.” Ja’wn said.”Decoy could be my favorite word.” Arden said gleefully. He put down his backpack and began rifling through it. “I found these robes on one of those dead merchants back their. We’re lucky… the purple hides the bloodstains pretty well.” Kiri’s stomach knotted. Arden donned the bloodied merchants robes, and picked up his backpack. “Alright, here’s the plan.” Ja’wn instructed as his unit gathered. “Arden you walk right down the street. Whistle, do what you do best. Insight violence.” Arden giggled mischievously Honest Ja’wn continued, “Arc you’re on antimagic countermeasures. Prepare incase they have a caster. Quick kills, range. Nothing loud.” Arc248 nodded.”Eggs you and me will provide back up.” Egnarac agreed.”What about me?” Kiri spoke up. “What’s my job captain?”“Well you’re a good shot right?””...yeah.”“Good. You take point. Cover Arden. If someone attempts to jump him you give them one in the brain pan…squish.” Ja’wn instructed, complete with gross hand gestures expressing head explosions.”Ok.” Kiri said, before she gave it any more thought. “Move out. For Queen and Country.”
A thick tree with long branches provided Kiri with the cover she needed. She watched nervously as Arden walked slowly down the road, imitating the motions of a frail, happy-go luck merchant. He walked with an exaggerated limp and leaned heavily ona walking stick, silently screaming, “Easy target!” as if he had done this a thousand times before. Kiri held an arrow notched, and her arm posed for action, watching fearfully as she saw the first dark-clothed bandit step from the tree line and begin mimicking Arden’s slow pace. Arden was within earshot now, and she could make out a song he was singing. Hearing his ridiculous song made her smile in spite of her feelings of apprehension.
“Apples in the morning, Apples in the evening, Apples all day and night! Apples for my lady, Apples for my maid – hey! Apples for my favorite knight!”
The song was a children’s song that made almost no sense, but that every Cyran child knew. The chorus was just the word “Apples” over and over again, getting louder and louder and louder each time. Typically children would alternate the words but Arden seemed quite content to do both parts himself. He even adopted a female and a male voice as he said ‘Apples’ over and over again.
Kiri felt must more at ease. She saw 4 more bandits creeping toward Arden, weapons drawn. The ones in the back weren’t even trying to be stealthy. She drew back her bow and aimed it on the man in the back. At her angle, she would pick him off before he even got the chance to call out. She thought she would be scared to take her first shot, but she found that she wasn’t. Instead, she felt calm. Her heart wasn’t racing, and her mind was unclouded. She aimed carefully, and fired at the man’s throat from 200 feet away.
The arrow was gone before she lowered her arm. The entire world seemed muted. She watched her target. She saw him in the same way she saw the apples the day before. She saw the arrow hit. An explosion of red. Watched his hooded form slump to the ground, a crimson mist still dangling in the air. She watched as Egnarac and Captain Ja’wn stormed the men from behind. Arc248 firing bolts of blue energy into them. Watched as Arden wheeled about and cut two men down before they could scream. It was a well executed massacre. The silence remained until the all clear was given. “Kiri…Kiri! Kid!” Kiri’s trance faded as she heard Egnarac calling up to her. “It’s over. You can come down.” She nodded and slowly descended from the tree. Egnarac walked over to the rest of the unit who were cleaning up after the carnage. Kiri slowly approached her dead quarry. She saw that her arrow still shown out the back of his neck. She rolled him onto his back and drew back his cloak. He was young, no older than her brother was…had been. His blue eyes looked vacantly up at her. His mouth was bloodied and open. He was clutching a medallion. Arden approached Kiri and inspected her kill. “Nice. Looks like he was a caster. Would’ve probably blasted me full of holes, or set me on fire.” Arden scoffed. “Or tried to at least.” Kiri looked up at him and said nothing”Oh look.” Arden grabbed the man’s cold, dead hands and pried them apart.”Trophy.” He held the medallion up and inspected it in the afternoon sun. It glimmered. A miniature silver apple on a shining silver chain.”Looks like a piece of the loot they pillaged from some Cyran merchant. It’s a good luck charm, these are the guys who sacked that apple cart.”“It does not seem to have brought him any luck.” Arc248 mentioned, rummaging through the caster’s satchel recouping bits of magical reagents”To the victor go the spoils…right kid?” Arden said, placing the apple medallion around Kiri’s neck. “That way you don’t forget what we’re fighting for.” He smiled. She never forgot.
July 19, 2010 08:30
To be written…