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Old 01-16-2017, 11:04 PM
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Around The Campfire

Each night, the wagon train – there must be two dozen carts or so – is circled for protection. Guards take shifts patrolling the perimeter; inside the circle, travelers and merchants have a chance to rest from the day's march in their own ways: a game of cards, a round of ale, or eight hours in a bedroll. Most importantly, however, is the campfire; the flickering flames are the perfect place to make a friend and share a story, to laugh and cry, to confide or tell tall tales. Over the past week or so, each of you has shared a little something about yourself in the warmth of the burning embers.

OODM
This thread will be home to the experiment I'm trying, to facilitate some dialogue and relationship-building between characters that's outside the bounds of the story; i.e, the kind of chatter that might fill a short or long rest. In my experience, it's sometimes difficult to get to know other characters because we want to keep the pace of the game moving. I'm hoping that, eventually, you'll be willing to develop your characters and delve into each other's histories and personalities without my prompting.

For now, though, we'll start with a small exercise to work on while we get character sheets drawn up. Hopefully this serves as a sort of introduction for your characters, instead of doing a cold open when the game starts. You've been part of the wagon train from Silverymoon to Neverwinter for over a week now, and at some point, you have shared something small about yourself around the fire. I have the following suggestions, which I randomized; if you feel stuck with your prompt, PM me and we'll get you a new one.
  • Varren Dax - A favorite meal that would hit the spot right now
  • Atina Thompson - An item you lost long ago that you’d still like back
  • Rachael Hurthi - A hobby you used to enjoy, but no longer have time for
  • Kuvir Benathon - A time you were swindled or hustled
  • Gell Thundersnout - A past romantic encounter (I'm sorry, and I understand if you need to change this one.)
  • Fiera Evenshine - The most beautiful thing you've ever laid eyes on
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Old 01-17-2017, 01:32 PM
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With the wagon in place and the caravan patrolling the place, Rachael took up a place at the fire. She had taken off her heavy armor and weapons, dropping them beside her with a sigh as she sat down. "Still hasn't gotten any lighter." She comments aloud as she rubbed her shoulders and cracked her neck. She drew her sword from its scabbard and started taking a whetstone to it, keeping the edge good and sharp, occasionally sticking the blade into the fire to heat the blade some to make sure the edge held better. She wasn't entirely sure if it actually worked, but her sword always stayed sharp longer, she felt.

As she went about her task, she stopped to stare wistfully into the reflective steel, speaking aloud. "Never thought I'd say this, but I kinda miss my time on the seas, aboard The Razorbeak. Fast little frigate, great for slicing through rough seas and getting ahead of storms. I kinda miss the unpredictability of the seas, of constantly staying on alert, the freedom, the exploration, and keeping watch for storms and pirates while we moved from port to port. When we actually landed I could ply my trade and con some gold from those not expecting a 'Paladin' to be a cheater at card or dice games." She chuckled. "I rarely did. I just have natural luck when it comes to gambling. Now? Ever since I took the Oath, I feel like I should behave more. Y'know, be honorable and 'true to yourself' and crap. Since I'd rather not lose these awesome new powers because I stabbed a guy for trying to steal scales off of me to try and sell, or for trying to kidnap me to try and get the location of whatever treasure I have. Because dragon."

She just shook her head and sighed, going back to her task. "'Sides, if I DID have any treasure, I'd damn well spend it. Not risking my life and hide as a sellsword with a fancy title."


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Old 01-17-2017, 07:45 PM
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Gell smiled at the story, fire glinting off his eyes catching the emerald glint and the bright white of his smile from beneath his tangled, bushy beard. Tamping his pipe absently with his finger, he spoke, "A paladin that knows the lay of the land? Seems I'm in good company indeed! Won me many a game playing the 'uncivilized orc' card. Heh!"

Later, sipping from his waterskin by the fire and resting his arm on Russ, his bear companion, Gell sighed contentedly and hummed a snatch of a melody. The stringbean of a man, the wool merchant who'd been traveling with the group piped up, "What the hell's that from, druid? You've gotten the damn thing stuck in my head!"

Gell chuckled. "It's an old song, good merchant. It's a song.. a song for a Meadowlark." Sadness entered the half-orc's normally jovial countenance. Then he brightened. "Ahhh, that's a story!" His eyes glimmering at the prospect of a story, he shifts towards the party, which elicits a grumble from the slumbering Russ. "I had a job, not one of my grandest. Wouldn't have even recorded it if it weren't for her. I was paid by a farmer, a stringbean of a man, like our dear Wool Merchant here, to protect his crops which were being ravaged by rabbits, weasels and the like. So every night for a week, I sat below the farmer's home, smoking my pipe like I am now and I sang to those creatures. With a little foraging from the woods and a little song, the little things would gather 'round like children. Great Bear take my eyes, they sat 'round like fawn. They'd sit and listen, crops sleeping peacefully and when dawn came, they'd leave."

"I'd sit and I'd sing and I'd write. I'd write their stories, I'd record their faces and their fears. Little did I know, above me, ol' 'stringbean' farmer's daughter listened and watched. Second night, she joined me in song. Third night, she joined me with her presence. Fourth, we walked the fields and gave our songs to the night." He stops abruptly, his eyes shining in the firelight. "Never learned her name, we knew it wasn't mean to be. And Great Bear knows, sweet Russ here, he ain't one for staying put so.... we did our job. Then, we left." Somber now, Gell ends his tale and glances at the merchant. "She sang like a lark, she did."

Then, lighting his pipe, Gell placed his arm back on Russ' side and was silent. He watched the tendrils of smoke rise into the night until they were gone against the stars.
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Old 01-18-2017, 01:45 PM
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Kuvir Benathon Cleric of Lathander
 


Kuvir was exhausted again and when his packs hit the floor, the relief was immediate. To put it simply Kuvir had over-packed and he was paying the price. He had been summoned by Sister Melanna, his mentoress, and he got a bit kerfuffled and packed everything. Safir that sly pain in his rear had actually encouraged him to do this. Now he looked back and saw in his memories that Safir had been barely holding in laughter at his packs. Sarcasm not endorsement. Damn him! But here he was so far from home sharing meals with strangers on the road.

They were an interesting lot. Rachael, a dragonborn paladin who talked more like a sailor than a paladin. Gell, the most friendly and pleasant half orc he’d ever met. Varren, a half elf fellow who looks like life put him through the ringer. He puts up a fun show, but there’s much not fun underneath, Kuvir was certain. Atina, a mousy half elf who has barely spoken a word. Fiera, another half elf and winner of the shortest attention span award. He just realized he was the only human amongst those closest to the fire. He’d spent most of his life around humans, halflings, and more recently the Wild Elves of Snakewood. The road had been very different from home.

He came out of his reverie and tuned into the stories being told. This night’s theme seemed to be trickery. Kuvir wasn’t all that tricky, but he had been tricked once. Well once that came to mind, he was sure he’d been tricked more than once in his life. Perhaps it was time to share one of his tales. When the lull started Kuvir began.

***

"As you all may know, I’m from eastern Amn, "said Kuvir.

"We know, we know," came a voice and a chuckle ran through the small crowd.

"It’s well over a thousand miles from here and you may not know the doings. Well, while I’m a Dawnbringer and some of you call me young grandpa, which I have noticed mind you, " said Kuvir, eyeing the crowd with a grin. "You will be surprised to know I’m a bit of a rebel back at home. "

"Liar!"

"Rebel, my foot!"

"What? Do you put on sock shoe, sock shoe instead of sock sock, shoe shoe?"

"Settle down, "said Kuvir waving his hands as if patting them all into bed.

"No, I’m truly a problem in Eshpurta. I’m fighting the corrupt merchant lords over there and I hide in the woods, people’s barns, and under bridges; which is why I’m so well-coiffed, "said Kuvir gesturing to his ratty clothes, mail, his roughly cut hair and beard.

"Well, we’re always scrambling to survive out there and we needed more weapons desperately and were having a dickens of a time getting them. People don’t really like arming underdogs so much. Tends to get them killed. "

"So, when we came across this charming halfling named Belfry Bigguns. Well, we’ve got a fair few halflings around our way and they’ve always been honest, mostly hardworking folks, and this Belfry was new in the area, but he seemed a straight good man. "

"He spun a tale of finding a load of swords and armor abandoned on the Dragon Coast. Surely a pirate’s lost booty. As there wasn’t any proper owner as he could tell, he grabbed a couple of friends and collected them to sell, but wasn’t sure who to sell to. Then he’d heard about what we were doing and knew we’re the right client for his conscience. "

"He offered the armory for a good discount and he told it so well and heartfully I couldn’t help but believe him. It sounds a bit stupid now, when I tell the tale, but his tongue was more than silver, more than gold, I’d say diamond tongued. "

"Anyway, we gathered the money, barely scraped together, mind you. And I paid for that wagon full. Belfry Bigguns was quite pleased and road off into the sunset."

"Mirgis, meanwhile had injured himself in a freak watermill accident and so I ran off to heal him before I properly inspected the crates. "

"When I returned I found one crate with real weapons and armor and six crates with nothing but rocks and branches in the damn things. "

"In fact, I am walking evidence of that one crate from that good for nothing halfling," said Kuvir as he patted his chain mail and his mace.

"That little mother$&#*er. "

THE END.



 
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Old 01-18-2017, 02:23 PM
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"Oh, I'm sorry," Atina said softly to Kuvir. "I wish I could offer you something as a step to making it up, but the closest I have to a spare weapon is this..." She fished in her pack and extracted a small folding knife. "I suppose you could hurt someone with it, but it isn't much of a weapon for fighting." Moving to put the knife away, she spotted something in the dirt that had apparently fallen there when she took out the knife. "Oh goodness!" she said, stuffing the blade back into her pack and picking up the object, "I have to be more careful with this--it's the entire reason for my trip!"

It was a pendant in the shape of a shield, which she held up by a broken chain. The image of a dragon sparkled silver in the firelight, although she knew the fire would never warm it. She had tried that before. The girl gazed absently at the sparkling image. "I think part of the reason my aunt asked me to deliver this," she said to nobody in particular, "is that she thought I was especially interested in it. She noticed me staring at it the first time I saw it. But it simply reminded me of another pendant. They really aren't very similar--the other one is oval, with quite a different design, and the image of a stylized tree. But it made sense for my aunt to have one like it, so I suppose my mind played a trick on me."

She looked up. "The old pendant belonged to my father, and it was the only thing of his I owned. My mother said it related to his family, so I thought there might be more of them and his sister owned one. I wore it once as a child when I was out with my mother, and I suppose the chain broke..." She smirked. "Well, that's one more similarity between the two.

"My mother searched every jewelry and second-hand store in the city for weeks. I think she wanted to find it as much as I did. But it seems like whoever picked it up must have kept it. If anyone ever did find it. It might be buried in the dirt somewhere still, for all I know."


Atina carefully placed the pendant back into its pouch on her pack. "I'm sure this one means something very interesting, but it doesn't mean anything to me."

 

Last edited by Super Zero; 01-18-2017 at 02:26 PM.
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Old 01-18-2017, 06:59 PM
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Varren Dax
- Wood Elf Monk
 



The night looked how Varren imagined gladiatorial arenas in the Fairy Court. All around the horizon huge banks of clouds massed, rippled and bunched like a crowd of faceless gods. Directly over the camp was clean sky; the eye of the moon was wide open, finished with its month-long blink, gazing from a disk of star-spackled black. The clouds funnelled upwards towards it from all sides, a celestial amphitheatre. Varren took a long pull of his ale, not looking down.

Maybe it was his elven heritage slowly recovering from its two decades of being beating into submission, thrown to wither and die in a brick cell, but ever since he’d made the decision to break ties totally from Kalashan, he could stare at the simple unbridled beauty of nature for hours. Or maybe he’d got hit one time to many and there was no longer any beauty left to find in a mirror. He breathed deeply, inhaling the scent of dry earth, horse musk, drying sweat, and freedom.

The campfire evening had been generous. It was a testament to those gathered that they’d stuck at their task, forcing a friendly atmosphere until everyone forgot it was supposed to be an act. Now, a few days into the ride, the group relaxed like a muscle after a hard days training. Varren sat on an upturned bucket that he’d recently upturned over himself by way of a bath, two thirds of the way through his fourth ale, happily soaking in the warmth of the fire.

Rachael turned out to be a paladin, though she neither talked like one, nor spoke of her own status with great reverence. Gell was a pleasant enough half-orc – though he’d known some who were both better and worse – who managed to let his own story trip up his good mood. Varren had to laugh at Kuvir’s story; it never ceased to amaze Varren that clerics, especially those who spent so much time in contact with the criminally inclined trying to get them to mend their ways, never seemed to develop a suspicion about them. Varren himself had used the same trick to relieve Baron Obart of two cases of fine wine at Kalashan’s order.

He was still laughing when Atina, who had until now shown all the gregariousness of a mouse on a kitchen table, spoke up. The young half-elf, one of a pair with them, had the kind of fear that caused something in Varren to heat up, so he had to grind his teeth to stop it spilling out. He’d seen it so many times, on the faces of young slaves cowering in the dirty corners of cells, soon to die in pits for the entertainment of others. He saw himself as he had been.

Instead the anger manifested in a near constant desire to show her how things could be different. “Here, Lass, hand me that knife.” He reached over, one long fingered, often broken, hand outstretched. Atina looked doubtful for a moment, as though it were some kind of trick with an unpleasant punchline. Then she fished the small fold up knife out and handed it to him. Varren settled back down and finished the rest of his ale.

“You say it isn’t much of a weapon for fighting,” Despite the ale, his voice was still dry and cracked. Too many chokeholds. He casually flipped it open and made a great show of examining the four inches of blade. “But you’ve not said who you’re fighting. See there’s two things here that would make all the difference. Firstly, you find yourself facing a bear and yeah, you’re probably carrying the wrong tool for the job. A snake though. Fast. Know what’s going on around them. Like their y in small spaces where they can creep up on them. Find a snake in your bed and you’d swap a dozen of the finest steel swords for this.” He flipped the blade a couple of times, fingers still fast enough to make a decent show. He could almost see the idea taking hold on Anita’s elvish features.

“The second thing about only having a weapon unsuited to the fight, is Force.” Without a word of warning, he caught the blade as it dropped and swept his hand out like astriking viper. The small blade ripped through the firelight, gleaming like a steal crossbow bolt with a fire enchantment, and thudded hard into the wagon side. Three or four of the group had unconsciously flinched. One had even cleared six inches of steel from the dagger at his hip.

The air froze into silence, no one quite sure what had happened. And then a pained squeak, faint and weak. Varren grinned and got to his feet, walking past the fire. The rat spasmed a couple of times, around the knife that impaled it, then Varren gently snapped its neck. He pulled the knife free and carried both knife and rat back to his seat. Everyone watched him, no one said anything. Sitting down, he almost instinctively started skinning the rat.

“See, I spent a long time being beaten, humiliated, abused – and I let it happen because I didn’t think I had the right weapon for the fight. I was too thin, too scared, too timid – what I didn’t know was I had enough of a weapon. I just needed to apply enough force, at the right time. Do so, and – “ He held the rat high by a tail, “you can even get lunch.”

The looks they gave him made him laugh. He patted the air to show he wasn’t mocking them. “I forget sometimes. Spent a lot of time in the dark, in cells, little food – back before they called me the 'Albino Anvil' and splashed my name on posters. They deliberately kept you weak, scared. Thought it made more fun for the punters in the pit fights. Spent a few months in a cell next to a dwarf called Torromon.”

Varren pulled over a pan, and used it to seperate the rat meat from the offal, coaxing off the skin with quick dabs of the knife. Atina kept it sharp he had to give her that. “I asked him one night, as a joke, if he’d managed to smuggle in a lock pick. He laughed and said he had the next best thing for places like fighting pits. Produced a small bag of salts, herbs, powders. All had crazy names I couldn’t remember.”

In a short space of time he’d gutted the rat, and began sharpening a small straight branch. “See, he told me how you can survive in a place like that, showed me how to cure any meat – rat, mouse, lizard, cockroach – and flavour it so you could stomach eating it raw. While they starved you, you could still eat if you put your mind to it.” He spitted the rat and stabbed the point into the embers, leaving to rodent to roast in the flames.

“He died in the ring shortly after, fighting one of those big striped cats they’d brought in from the south. Made him wear a coat lined with fresh meat the bastards. But I kept catching and eating what I could, getting stronger, even after I ran out of his herbs and salts.”

Varren cleaned the knife and handed it back to Anita with a warm smile. “Amazing what you develop a taste for, isn’t it? Thought I’d be sick of it after all that time. But to me, it’s always tasted of strength, of hope.

“Rat, you see, isn’t the best weapon for a fight to survive. But when it’s all you’ve got, it becomes a matter of applying enough force….”

….Roasting rat, though, always smelled awful

Last edited by Hillsy7; 01-18-2017 at 07:03 PM.
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Old 01-18-2017, 11:34 PM
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Fiera listened intently to the stories, bright eyes darting back and forth across the faces gathered around the campfire. Usually when the group started talking, she got lost. It wasn't so bad like this, though, as each took their turn, slow and thoughtful. She followed one story, then the next, then the next. She still took notes though, a thin stick of charcoal skittering across her parchment and leaving a jittery script that was all but illegible to anyone but Fiera (and even she had trouble with it sometimes).

She was begining to feel an air of anticipation around her. She was starting to suspect it might be her turn, and, she couldn't. Not that she didn't want to participate, to share, to make friends, but... she couldn't talk long enough to convey anything interesting. Her throat would give out after a few sentences. And besides, did she really have anything interesting to share?

She fidgeted with her charcoal for a few moments, before slipping the transcript of the stories to the bottom of the pile. She turned the stack of parchment sideways and began to sketch. While she wrote lightly, leaving thin, faint marks on the paper, she drew with much more forceful strokes, making thick, bold lines that stood out even through the smudges her knuckles left as she drew the figures around the fire.

Her drawing style was, in a word, practical; simplified shapes, rendered with just enough fidelity to be recognized as landmarks, buildings, or in this case, people. Her experience with drawing was for reconnaissance, after all, not art. Still, even though she drew no facial features, she thought that the peope seated around the campfire were recognizeable by their builds, and of course their positions. She stared at the finished picture for a second or two, before deciding it wasn't quite finished after all. With perhaps more force and certainly more flourish than was necessary, she drew a crude curved line in the bottom half of each face. Big smiles all around.

She passed the sketch to Kuvir, sitting to her left, and croaked, "This is nice."

And it was nice. It was, probably, the first time in her life she had been around this many people without screwing everything up. Not that she didn't get distracted, but it didn't mean such complete failure to turn her attention away for a moment. It was okay to notice someone walking by, to get caught up in a different conversation springing up nearby. It wasn't the end of everything.

She realized a tense pit was starting to form in her stomach. She couldn't deal with that, couldn't dwell on the mistakes that led her here, had to focus on how pleasant here was. She had to focus on something, anyway. She turned her eyes back to the next sheet of blank parchment. She could draw them something else. But, she really didn't have much creativity; she was pretty much limited to things she could see, or had seen.

She began with stalls. The marketplace had been full of them. That was where she usually started--the terrain, the layout. People were included as an afterthought, if at all, because by the time she needed to reference the map again, they had moved. People were always moving.

And they had all been moving, and there had been so many of them. Dozens, hundreds, she couldn't tell, they came and went flowing through the marketplace like a river. A few cut nimbly across the current, others strode against it like determined salmon. Fiera drew a few people, to start with, the merchants who stayed fairly close to the stalls. But no, they were not still, not part of the terrain. Fiera pressed the palm of her hand to the parchment and smeared. The shapes remained, but now trailed ghostly afterimages across the page. Excited, Fiera drew more people, and smeared again, and more, and smeared, and more. She held the parchment up, letting the flickering light of the fire filter through, breathing life into the scene. She wiggled the page, creating a larger sense of movement, and the way it rustled and crinkled called back memories of the noise, the glorious cacaphony of footsteps and voices and people arguing and talking over each other.

It was perfect. It was beautiful, almost as beautiful as the real marketplace had been. It had been the first time she had been out. Not the first time outside, but, the first time out in public. Away from Lord Evenshine's estate, during the day, in a place where she would be seen--was expected to be seen, but not to leave an impression, because there were so many people that one scrawny, shabbily dressed half-elf wouldn't draw attention. And there were so many people, more than she could have imagined being in that marketplace, more than she had imagined existing in the entire world. It was a marvel.

Was it any wonder she had lost track of her mark, surrounded by something so grand and amazing? Wait, couldn't think about that. She turned her eyes back to the picture, smiling, her ever-tense muscles relaxing ever so slightly. Almost reluctantly, she passed that image to Atina at her right.

"Went to the market once," she commented. It was the longest statement she had uttered all week.
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