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  #1  
Old 02-06-2019, 07:42 PM
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Chapter 3: Worlds Collide

Dreams Come TrueNight came upon the guardians with the soft drape of drizzling rain pattering upon the land in its endless monotone soothing those who vied to sleep in their shelters with its steady rhythms. Those who could slept mostly dreamless sleep and felt the weariness of their toiling seep away from them with the soothing cacophony of careless rainy night. Kurrhaaagn snored softly on his side of the large shelter which he had provided, a magical dweomered one that kept all hostile elements at bay so that the sleeping travelers could rest and mayhap dream. Not all of those who slept were left in peace, however.

Nolia stirred in her place nestled near the giant Troll, whimpering softly to the slumbering night as her eyes, beneath their lids, danced their frantic dance that which bespoke unsettling visions plaguing her unrestful sleep. Her eyes rolling, dancing, weaving. Her breath a staccato intake transforming to the softest gasp...

Inside.

Nolia is crouching and the ground is cold and wet and jagged. It is the rocky ground of a narrow tunnel and the darkness around her is thick beyond what even her eyes can pierce. Her hand, trembling, reaches out straining to remain calm yet seeming frantic nonetheless. She touches more cold hard stone but now she hears whimpering in the still and frigid air. She is cold. Her arms wrap around herself in a vain effort to find what warmth they can but removing her hand from the hard certainty of the stone wall causes that panic feeling to escalate several notches so she finds herself clutching at the unyielding rock, desperate to find some purchase in the unyielding dark.

More whimpering.

Nolia turns her face towards the sound, straining to hear, her face a blank mask of utter horror as her eyes grow ever wider in their futile struggle just to see... something. Anything. She takes an unsteady step towards the sound wanting with all her heart to call out to that distant voice, to scream with all her lungs that she is here -"I am here!!!" she thinks, but the words dare not come. She feels it down there waiting.

For her.

Something in the blackness reaching for her, calling to her, yearning for her... She slips on the wet stone and very nearly cries out in horror but clamps a hand over her mouth to stifle its exclamation and freezes in her place against the stone trying as best she can to become as small as she can be. She dares not even breathe as she clutches at the stone feeling her own cacophonous heart splitting through her echoing head. Another whimper, smaller -no- weaker than before. Nolia finds within that sound another breath of courage and forces her frozen feet to take another steps towards the sound. And another. Another. Shuffling, peering and feeling her way down the gentle rocky slope, letting the raw flesh of her hand chafe against the cruel rock until, to her complete surprise, she begins to see.

Faint light assails her eyes as she rounds a jagged bend in the narrow cave. Flickering and dancing in that eerie way the firelight seems to call to her with its promise of warmth and safety. Nolia begins to shuffle faster along her way, becoming reckless in her eager gait as she rounds a second jagged corner and comes face to face with horror.

"Adèlédané!"

The way opens into a larger cave and at its very center stands a tremendous tree but something has gone very wrong. Embers glow and crackle softly in the stillness of the cave and Nolia realizes, with increasing horror, that the coals are burning underneath the tree! Her sister, once so beautiful and so perfect, is strung upon the tree's gnarled and twisted trunk her arms and legs transpierced by wicked-looking twine holding her in the most splayed undignified position, her nakedness displayed in the most vile and despicable manner as reaching grasping vines of blackest soot coil around and under her to penetrate her bleeding flesh in several places. Nolia's sister is impaled on the tree and by the tree itself yet even so she can see that her sister lives. Her head moves the slightest bit and the moan which slips from her purpled lips streaks across the way between them and pierces straight through Nolia's heart. Nolia swells with grief and pain and reaches out to her sister, pregnant tears pouring forth from her eyes as her mouth twists in her silent denials.

Nolia takes a single step into the cavern, reaching for her sister, yearning for her loved one but then she hears it. A soft hiss and a low visceral growl that turns her face the palest shade of green. Something vast and moist slithers obscenely in the dancing shadows from the depths behind the tree and Nolia can feel as much as hear it scraping its vile self across the jagged stone. She can hear sounds of tearing flesh and her sister begins to moan suddenly and loudly.

"Nooo..." she moans beginning to strain and tear at herself as she undulates obscenely in her piercing prison.

Nolia's heart begins to race and her entire world seems filled by the inexorable thumping of its now thrashing rhythm. She is panting. A low rumble grows, wet and gurgling, with scraping stone and tearing flesh until the endless growl reaches a loud crescendo which becomes a storm of crashing screeches in her bleeding ears.

Tentacles.

Hundreds of them leap from the shadows behind the dying tree and grasp at the stumps of branches and around the trunk itself. Adèlédané is engulfed suddenly by tens of them and the rumbling in the cave becomes a steady deafening thrum as the horror comes.

The horror.

THE HORROR!

Nolia awakens from the depths of horror thrashing, punching and kicking at Kurrhaaagn as the baffled Troll gently puts his hands upon her shoulders to wrench her from the throes of nightmare's grasp. Nolia is awake now, weeping and clutching at the Troll now, desperate for some solace from the madness she had glimpsed. The others in the shelter rose from the depths of their own slumber and found the Dryad whimpering as she wept and finally, as her cries receded and more intelligible speech returned, they heard the words she dragged from the depths of sleep:

"She's alive! Adèlédané! She's alive!

She wept.
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Last edited by LeoByron; 02-23-2019 at 01:58 PM. Reason: Oups
  #2  
Old 02-06-2019, 08:33 PM
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Raw, ragged gasps were torn from the slight creature's throat as she struggled for the air needed to say anything beyond her first cry, her primal scream of terror when the horrific realization had come upon her. Worse, far worse if even such a thing was possible in the consideration of how the Eldest, her Sister, how she was used to feed the corruption of the Tree. Of that Nolia was painfully, horrifically aware, that what she had witnessed was to further the destruction of that which would struggle, strain to survive even in the face of such great evil. Nay worse than all that, the Dryad gagged in the horror that it was not Adèlédané who had called out to her, but he... HE... she could hear the rasp, hear the whistled cry of the arrow, she knew the thing lurked and coiled, a rotten serpentine evil which had opened the door to reveal to her.

"Adèlédané!"

Another shattered cry as her fists clenched and pounded the ground in an impotent rage, though the action seemed to allow her a better grip on the wild terror which had subsumed into a taunt desperation and weak agony. Tears stained her cheeks, the olive darkened to nigh black in the faint light of starlight and faltering embers. Nolia's eyes were bright, feverishly so as she sought the faces of the others in search of an unknown. A moment, a heartbeat and gasp of time as the lithe Dryad lunged forward and grabbed for Winter's hands, flora-hued flesh all the darker against the other woman's delicate ivory. "They, he keeps her with Mother Tree, use her to break all of Mother, corrupt as poison, it know I escape, or thinks to know, to reach out and show."

Somehow, perhaps it was the contact with one who was in truth still a stranger, or perhaps it was that on waking, Nolia found herself grounded once more in the earth which still lived, untainted by the toxins they approached. Though slender and small, her fingers were still strong with a measure of calloused flesh as they held Winter's own hands. Nolia now searched the faces of the others, even in their states of shattered sleep, her expression alien to any not accustomed to that of a wild animal as it determines the safety of the creatures about them. "I must save her or release her, but they grow, the darkness, it grows now much and strong."

 
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Old 02-06-2019, 11:32 PM
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Winter MorningspireWinter awoke with the others to the sound of Nolia's cries, and her mind cast back to the last time they had slept. It had been her who was tormented in her dreams that night. Not wanting to scare the poor girl, the sorceress approached with Lena at her side, but paused some distance away. She was surprised when Nolia sought her out and did her best to offer comfort, gently running her thumbs across the backs of the dryad's hands. Lena whined softly and nuzzled into Nolia's side, offering her support as well.

"It's okay, we're with you," she said. Something was tugging at the back of Winter's mind, something about the dryad's proximity that she couldn't lay her finger on. "We'll get ready and we'll go save her, but we'll do it with a plan and with level heads, yes?" Getting a nod from Nolia, Winter smiled and released her hands. "I need a few minutes to meditate. Lena can stay with you for the time being." As if reaffirming the point, Lena dropped her enormous head onto Nolia's lap, eliciting a slight chuckle from the sorceress.

Quickly gathering her things, Winter made her way outside and sat down with her back to one of the larger pines to begin her meditation. As she focused on her arcane reserves and pathways, a strange whispering sensation kept coming to mind. It was like what she had felt with Nolia, only much stronger. After a quarter of an hour, when she finally had centered herself properly, she stood, ready to set off, before she swore she heard her name whispered. Whirling around, there was nothing behind her except the pine. Acting mostly on instinct at this point, Winter raised a hand and gently placed a hand against the tree, but to her surprise, instead of coming into contact with rough bark, her hand sunk straight into it. A spark of feeling rushed up her arm and into her mind, and suddenly Winter could sense dozens of other trees around them, maybe hundreds. She could feel and see the connections between them, and instinctually knew how to harness them. Stepping forward, her form completely disappeared and the sorceress found herself surrounded by paths and doorways leading all across the mountain.

There was no small measure of euphoria in the experience. Winter had always had a strong connection to nature, but this was something on an entirely new level. It felt warm and comforting like she was in Gaia's embrace herself. She spent a few moments simply enjoying the connectivity before stepping back out. "Wow," she breathed out. "That could get addicting." She shook her head to clear her thoughts. As amazing as it had been, there was also a danger there, a risk of becoming lost.

Returning to the others, Winter grabbed a packet of rations and began eating while she weaved her magical protections around herself and Lena. "Here are my thoughts," she said when she was done. "Nolia has given us a tangible target, what sounds like the source of this blight. I think we should approach from the air, strike fast, and strike hard. Nolia can guide us to her Mother Tree, and whatever the nature of the corruption, Leilani is likely the best equipped to deal with it, just like she did when we fell under that enchantment."

She paused, counting their numbers. They could try going in invisibly, but invisible riders on the back of an invisible mount, with no practice... she didn't like the idea. "When we get there, I can summon a host of warriors from the celestial plane, and if necessary, wall us off to buy time. I don't like the idea of giving this evil any more time to grow as it pleases." It was certainly risky, considering they didn't know what they were going to face, exactly, but that wasn't anything new for the group. She raised her eyebrows and looked about the group, inviting any comments or additions.


 

 

Last edited by LittleBlueNA; 02-06-2019 at 11:38 PM.
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Old 02-07-2019, 01:03 AM
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After sleeping for an hour, Oota spent much of his night in watchful quiet, with only the light crunch of his footfalls as he patrolled adding to the steady rhythms of nature and the sleepers. The Bloodwatch preferred the quiet and valued it as one of the few times that he felt empowered. No trouble that could be faced physically presented itself, but he heard another type of disturbance. He had almost missed the sound of Nolia whimpering because of Kurrhaaagn's snores.

The ogrekin sighed as he looked back at the sleepers, sorrow etching his visage as he wished better for the green girl. Oota had only just met her, but she had been friendly enough and she was free, and thus, under his protection. But this was one thing he couldn't protect her from. If the others were awake, the slave would have immediately tried to master his emotions, but this time he allowed himself to feel the sorrow and the worry fully. For a moment.

When the moment was up, Oota centered himself and continued to watch as he intended to do from the beginning. Behind him, he could hear Nolia's moaning grow worse. He could also see the cloudy sky lighten shade by shade, and so he knew that the sun was coming soon.

And then he heard the night terrors erupt, "She's alive! Adèlédané! She's alive!" The dryad was weeping, and though Oota's heart wept with her, the ogrekin hardened his features as he seamlessly swept into his next tasks. Oota began to build a small fire for cooking, but he also wished that the heat and light might soothe Nolia, though it occurred to him in the back of his mind that such an action might not affect her kind as it did his own.

He began cooking as he listened to the impotent rage and the explanation of how the darkness seeks to corrupt the Mother Tree. He didn't understand what she was saying entirely, but he knew that he didn't need to. He simply needed to commit to his duties. Winter, keeping true to the kind Lady that he viewed her as, commiserated with the Dryad before setting the great cat to watch over her as she meditated. Oota glanced toward them as he wondered if he should say anything. After a moment, the ogrekin spoke in as gentle a voice as he could, "I stand with you too, Madame. The Beast will fight the darkness."

When the food was cooked, Oota dutifully served everyone who would eat and spoke the greetings of the morning to each, though he stubbornly remained until everyone was eating (or fully refused) before he took a small amount for himself. As they ate, Winter began speaking her thoughts with her typical charm. He considered her plan, and while warfare was something that he understood, he couldn't see much fault in her reasoning except the lack of knowledge. It was only when Winter seemed like she was done that Oota spoke again in his deep, gravelly voice "I will go where everyone goes, and guard your lives with my own. Madame Nolia, do you have any idea of what we face? Any foreknowledge may help us prepare, but without knowledge, then my lesser mind has no other plans." Without a better idea, Oota was now determined to fight for his allies as he would his Master, for better or worse.

 
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Old 02-07-2019, 11:21 AM
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Perhaps it was the calm with which Winter accepted the sudden attention from the slight creature, or how Lena nuzzled, nudged the concern and attention that only an animal might truly understand, but whatever it may be, the Dryad began to settled, the wild agony faded and gave way to an incorrigible shine still accented with the garnet tear stains upon verdant flesh.That Winter had told the girl, nay she was a woman even if only a girl to her kind, that Winter sought time to meditate was likely the only reason that Winter was the only one of those gathered who did not find the Dryad underfoot at some time or another. Kurrhaaagn was well used to the nature of Dryads and more so the youngest among them and thus seemed utterly unaware when she clambered up one side then down the other after using his shoulder to look skyward.

Oota was next as she followed him in circles around the small fire until it seemed she understood he was not moving in circles for a good reason, but to give her space, not that she particularly understood that part, but that the circular walk seemed pointless and he stopped any time she stopped leaning almost over his arms. Curious chirps, a coo here and there and then she was off once more, this time it was their bedthings and personal items that she began to poke around in, lifted a flap here, opened a bottle there and looked utterly perplexed when Lena gently picked her up by the scruff of her cloak and deposited her back near the fire and under Oota's watchful and Kurr's amused eyes.

It was thus with relief, possibly for the others more than Nolia when the meal was served. Her nose wrinkled slightly at the scent as nostrils flared and eyes squinted in a most comical of expressions. A small dip of her finger followed by a lap of her tongue. It was not that it was horrible, it just was not something she had partook of before, though those wide, olive eyes watched each carefully after her initial investigation, after which Nolia did her best to mime the exact motions Winter made in consuming the food, even if now and again there were a myriad of expressions based out of some experience the Dryad seemed to derive from the act of eating Oota's cooked meal.

It was with suitable timing that at the completion of the meal there was no moment allowed for the Dryad to wander back to her perusal of her new compatriots, as Winter made clear that indeed they intended to aid Nolia and with it, Oota followed up with the question of details. Of this Nolia knew, understood and respected. While she was perhaps the most wild and carefree of her sisters, she also fully understood the need to plan, to know the darkness that would be faced before such face was made.

This also provided the girl with something to focus upon outside of her now blossomed curiousity, renewed all the more that she had settled to eat and sat in a measure of relative safety in comparison to the last months, even though the image still echoed in her mind, the call, the summon and her terror, the knowledge it was not her Sister who wished to bring her there, no Adèlédané would wish her gone and away, it was the darkness that lurked and waited, that hungered for all those who kept the Source Tree, kept Gaia's Grove.

"Two, no three kinds of much evil things. The last but that is first you see now, is the rot which eats Mother- SourceTree, and when the land spawns life, life is not what is good life. It eats, decays, kills all good things and gives up plants and creatures of dark and terrible. Plants that were friends are dead, now things like plants are no friends but hunger to kill and eat all things.

Next things, are crawling, flying things, demons of not this place but comes through the rend of Mother, things that have scurry and crawl and cover sky, that gnash and claw and consume. Beasts made of many beasts, of leather and sinew, winged and hungers for death. So many of these, like ants in hills but hill is all."
Her voice caught a moment as she waved her hands about her, a single flower within the tangles of her hair had started to bloom and with the sudden exertion, retreated once more into its bud as a garnet tear threatened once more in the corner of the Dryad's eye while her fingers twisted and toyed with the wooden bracelet which adorned her wrist.

"Last thing is the man beasts carved of same sinew and bone, horned, clawed and fanged, and with them, a vanguard of the Dark Angel, who walk and kill with strength and horror, who ride fire and death. But worst of these is Dark Angel, is not angels of stories Sisters would tell, but dark and horrible thing. The Dark Angel, he who saws me, who taked my sisters and not me, who taked Adèlédané and is he, is he I knows who tries to find me now. He sacrifices Adèlédané and Source Tree to the darkness which grows, grows so much now, more than when I saw Tree last, dark snake arms are consume all. And we must cross all things to get to the place that holds Gaia's Breath and then to enter within the earth to reach Mother Tree, it is a dark and dangerous path. And more, in the last, more kinds showed, kinds like Troll but not, the dark keeps to birthing more and more of types I do not know. "

While she struggled to maintain composure, by the end Nolia had not given in to the disgust and horror that recollection threatened, instead her eyes took on a near feverish sheen as she sought the faces about her, hunted for familiar signs of understanding and non-verbal communication with which she was most comfortable with. Her words were still slightly stilted and lacked Grammatical finesse, though the errors were more akin to one who was not accustomed to the language being used and while she understood it, she had not managed to fully comprehend the nuances between it and her mother tongue.
 

Last edited by Kapera; 02-07-2019 at 12:50 PM.
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Old 02-07-2019, 01:37 PM
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Winter smiled and nodded her thanks to Oota when he declared himself. There was no doubt in her mind as to his dedication and she was grateful they had them in their group.

When Nolia began describing the terrors that she had seen, the sorceress did her best to understand the dryad's different manner of speech. She wasn't sure if it was her difficulty with the common language or just the way her kind spoke naturally. A couple of things did catch her attention though. "The rend of Mother? Have you seen it? Could you describe it? And Nolia," she added, moving to sit closer, "if it's easier, you can speak in your native tongue. I believe it is the same one I used when I spoke to Calonfawr?"

The description of the number of demons did nothing to ease Winter's mind. So many flying creatures could be a problem. Perhaps, if they were all the kind to attack with tooth and claw, their magic circles would be enough to keep them at bay. Regardless, she was now reconsidering her idea of using invisibility to mask their approach.

Then there was the Dark Angel and his vanguard. Winter could only guess as to what kind of fiend that could be. Maybe she could get a better description out of Nolia in her native language. "The Mother Tree rests within the earth? In a cave?" Anything underground would be a boon, as they could wall off the entrance, assuming the entrance wasn't too large, and hopefully not have to fight the entire legion of dark creatures.


 

 
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Old 02-07-2019, 02:44 PM
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Nolia mimicked the motion of Winter as she moved closer to the woman in turn. It may have been for comfort, or perhaps still the slight creature used the woman to guide just how she should move and act, either way the space between the pair was just within what one might call 'personal space' if the Dryad had any understanding of the term. A bob of her head when asked if her own language was that of Calonfawr and that she could both describe all that was asked and do it much quicker and more accurately when not lost in an attempt to use the unfamiliar words.

"We were first attacked by these winged creatures, smaller and they fall quite easily by my arrow and vine, though there are great numbers of them. From them, there were larger creatures, like a tall man, but bigger, as if a beast was shaped into it, with horns, claws and hooves, a Minotaur if you know them, save mutated and horrible. There were five, four after I slew the one, but how many in truth I cannot tell, for it was lost in the maelstrom which ensued. The vanguard, of those I remember at least six, creatures of greater build then these other walkers, of crimson fire and nightmares, their steeds were of flame and darkness birthed from the bowels of death itself. Above them all is the Angel of Death. He rises on powerful wings, a creature I can still feel, still know, he waved at me when he struck down my sister, I can almost feel his cry, his summon, a siren call of death and torment.

It was in the last battle, the last..That the walking mountains of evil came, three like Kurrr in size, but of such twisted and tormented form. I wonder if they were but consumed and controlled Trolls or born too of the dark.
Nolia paused, her lashes closed in a wave of ebony over distant viewing eyes. The silence that followed the liquid cadence of her voice and clear well-spoken nature of her mind nigh deafened, though it was clear she was not quite done.

"They were akin to the Treants and Trolls, but wielded a horror of tentacles, the same such that now coil about the Source Tree. It is our tree, our strength, nestled deep within Gaia's Bower, cradled in her mouth where her breath spills out into the land. It is a cave as you call it, but more. There was the waterfalls, the lakes too, but all of that has been darkened to ruin. My home, my home was Gaia's own grove and we her guardians who fell, but the attack, it came from within, the poison rose out from the very throat of Gaia herself, not from outside. It seemed it erupted within her as a disease, a cancer upon the very land and with it, the Angel of Death has now risen. They won for sake of sheer numbers, but to slip past and strike true, this is far more possible than a full force attempt. More, they seemed to travel to the East, to the mines we believed, so many of them, enough so that we were ignored for a time in our Grove. That they still coil about the Source Tree brings me hope she can be healed, even as they crucify and ruin my sister upon it, but there is also the mines that they descend to. I do not know why, we never were able to just tell what intentions they had there." A small whimper as her eyes slowly opened once more, the olive tone a scant shade darker than her flesh, the pupils constricted into mere pinpoints as she watched Winter. To the side Calonfawr shifted, a low whiny of comfort and confirmation to what the Dryad has just managed to explain in far simpler terms of her own understanding.

 


 

Last edited by Kapera; 02-07-2019 at 02:53 PM.
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Old 02-07-2019, 03:29 PM
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Winter breathed a sigh of relief when Nolia began speaking in Sylvan, as the descriptions came to life and there was much less puzzling out to be done. She noticed how the dryad seemed to be mirroring her actions and held out her hands, unsurprised when Nolia followed suit and they joined hands.

After Nolia spoke, she translated so the other guardians could keep up and offer their own insights. It was a relief to hear that most of their number had moved to the mines, although Winter kept in mind that the mines were another place they needed to go, but the chance to stop this blight at the source took precedence.

It had been a long time since she had heard so much of the beautiful language, and it resonated with the feelings she had felt as she meditated next to the large pine. Her face lit up when she began speaking it in turn, it had always been her favorite language, after all.

"I know of minotaurs, and we're at least somewhat familiar with the mutations. Immediately after we set off to come here, we were attacked by mutated trolls, one of which was mutated into a huge, tentacled monstrosity. We weren't prepared for such a thing, but now we can plan for it. Tell me more of Gaia's Bower. How large is the entrance? Understand that I have the greatest respect for Gaia, she is the source of my powers, after all, and my family has stressed the importance of honoring and respecting the natural world to our village. My point is, I wish to stop this blight, and normally wouldn't wield my magic to shape the earth in such a place, but if it gives us time to work to save your sister and the Mother Tree, I might be able to wall off the Bower." She gave a comforting squeeze to Nolia's hands, fairly certain that such an act would be fine considering the circumstances, but wanted the dryad's blessing nonetheless.


 

 

Last edited by LittleBlueNA; 02-07-2019 at 06:14 PM.
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Old 02-08-2019, 05:30 AM
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Oota thought that Nolia was somewhat amusing she kind of mimicked his motions. He didn't know what she was doing, or what she was thinking, but it was a very novel experience to the bloodrager. All said, he was curious about how she saw things because it was clearly different from anything he knew. But his curiosity was not nearly enough to distract him from his chores.

And as they ate, her answers to his probe for knowledge was something that he had to toss around in his mind. Not because of her language barrier - indeed, the stunted speech had an almost nostalgic quality as he could call many goblin and orcish servants back home that had similar difficulties with common speech. He quickly tried to organize her statements in his mind, 'There are three types of enemies... or is it four. The corruption, as we saw it here, demons come through a... rend. A gateway? Unnatural things at least. The doubly corrupted beings like the trolls we encountered and the demon within. And this Dark Angel... I wonder if the angel is the root of things...'

Even as his thoughts flitted through his mind, Winter and Nolia continued to speak, switching languages halfway through and even with the Sorceress' interpretation, Oota found himself growing more confused. He repeated his own thoughts in his mind, though he adjusted them to fit the horned beasts and what seemed to be a sequence of events.

As Winter held the Dryad's hand and waited for something, Oota spoke in a measured tone, "I don't like the sound of the 'Angel', but it also appears that the numbers are stacked against us..." The slave licked his lips as he bowed his head respectfully, even though he thought his next words would likely be presumptuous, "If the numbers are too many, it may be wise to seek allies of our own. Sir Kurrhaaagn, I know little of you and don't wish to offend, but do you have a tribe you could contact? In addition, are there goblin tribes in the area that are unaffiliated with ogres? That kind respond to strength, so it's possible that between us we might impress them. And I imagine that goblin fire-bombers would be helpful against the corrupted rot." It was his hope that the troll, or even the Dryad would know of potential allies. And his mention of ogres weighed more on his mind and his memories than he tried to let on.

 
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Old 02-12-2019, 08:13 PM
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Nolia seemed content to let Winter hold her hands, a sign perhaps the creature had settled enough, or perhaps more that her decision to copy everything the other woman did, meant that this was clearly what she was supposed to do in the situation. Regardless, her expression was keen when Winter translated what she said, as if the Dryad sought to parse out each and every nuance to fill the gaps she struggled with. Nolia still watched Winter closely, though as Oota spoke up and brought up the concept of allies, she began to shake her head slowly before those wide eyes turned to take him in.

"I have seen trolls, we chased three from lands around Grove, but I am youngest Oota, I do not know what else man-kinds types there are near here. Is a dangerous thing to come into Gaia's Grove and lands, so they do nots. You are only second times I have ever met man-types, though Adèlédané teach of other kinds, words are not the same as seeing. But if there are ones who would see reason to defend and attack, it might also offer point of distraction for journey to Source Tree?" The last was spoken with a slight hesitation of a question, as Nolia seemed unclear as to the exact plan which might be on Oota's mind, even as she appeared to grasp at least part of how such a force might be used to their advantage.


 
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Old 02-12-2019, 09:51 PM
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Before the StormKhole sat perched upon the naked branch of a nearby tree, having stood watch for some time in Oota's forlorn proximity. Something had been plaguing the silent Gathlain and he knew he could not entirely blame the grim sights of this blighted land. A sense, forboding and pregnant with dire menace seemed to hang over him and it gnawed at him as he stood his silent vigil. He had felt the song within his soul grow silent and felt naked now without it. Mitah knew to keep his distance when his friend was in such a mood and so had rested with the others in Kurrhaaagn's shelter. When Nolia woke the forest with her frantic cries, Khole strung back his bow and made his eldritch missile hiss its threat into the now noisy morning, but slowly let up and felt it vanish when he saw the disturbance was but a sleeping
one. He turned his gaze outward once more, watching.

Leilani woke, as did the others, intertwined within her bedroll with Mikhaela's limbs and warmth when Nolia woke them all with her distress. She sat up and watched with sympathy as the Dryad ran to the white-haired sorceress, putting her hand gently in her love's hair as if to soothe her. Mikhaela woke and seemed alarmed at first, but settled at Leilani's touch and opted to observe silently. Leilani payed close attention as the Dryad recounted her recent trials at Oota's urging and especially noted the fiends' descriptions.

"It is Baatezu you describe, Nolia! The red bearded ones are Barbezu! All that you described can only be creatures spawned from Hell itself! All but the tentacled Trolls, which, as Winter pointed out, we've faced before. I do not know precisely what those could be except to say that they must, as have their fiedish allies, spawned from some deep pit of Baator.

When Oota pressed his questions upon Kurrhaaagn, the friendly Troll shook his head sadly.

"Kurrhaaagn have no tribes. Kurrhaaagn born of tribe of dumber troll but born different. Ancestors had better blood and Kurrhaaagn born with that blood too. But tribe reject Kurrhaaagn. The tries in chaos with the foes that eat all things. No Goblins here no friends to call. Only Kurrhaaagn. And Delvron and my friend Greywolff! They come. Soon! Kurrhaaagn knows this."

Leilani seized upon what was said, after careful consideration as she softly stroked of Mikhaela's hair.

"I think Winter's plan is not a bad one, though flying may be risky since it would rob us of all this tree cover. It might be best to go on foot and find Nolia's home to see if it is stil infested. Once there we will have a better view of what we face and can better plan. I do think making some run at the holy cavern might be a decent ploy but we should scout and see. It may be that we must needs to sacrifice ourselves and seal out fate within those stony walls as Winter has suggested and face what evil we might find, but we should learn first and decide after."

The angelic woman seemed eager suddeny, now that some course of plan had begun to seed. She carefully extracted herself from Mikhaela and gathered what things she had used the night before and what remained of breakfast as she had eaten quietly while they spoke.

"She's right. We need to Scout."

A voice erupted in their minds and movement from the entrance to the little magic hutd drew their gaze. Khole stood looking stern and cold and resolute.

"We should leave immediately."




Time flowed as the wayward Guardians traveled to what could very well become their final destination. The rain had not let up and now everything was wet as well as cold, though dweomers were to be had aplenty for their comfort. They did little, however, to improve the dampening view. Soon, Nolia began to feel a sense of agitation as she felt a low thrumming flow into her from the ground and recognized the distant sickly pulse of the Life tree as it spread its now dark pulse across the dying forest. They climbed a final rise and Khole lifted a single fist above his head as he scouted a ways ahead in flight.

"I hear something!

Now everyone heard the unmistakeable sounds of battle. A few more steps to reach the highest point and now they all saw clear across the Dryad Grove a single Treant surrounded by a Dozen Fiends which Nolia recognized instantly as the creatures Leilani had named Barbazu.

Leilani, drawing her bow, immediately recited her battle tactics:

"These are Bearded Devils. They are immune to Fire and resistant to cold, acid and all magic, though spells can affect them if you pierce their shield. Beware their wicked beards they can afflict you with a horrid disease that will weaken you over time. You can use lightning to attack them or hit them hard with weapons though Good or Silvered weapons would be best to hurt them. This should help."

Leilani pressed one finger to the small butterfly at her neck and whispered her prayer yet all could hear:

"Desna, lend us this day your strength of good and bless our weapons with your godly essence!

Leilani then touched each weapon in turn, including her own, and caused them to spring with holy light.

 
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  #12  
Old 02-14-2019, 03:52 AM
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Oota looked to Nolia as she spoke and it seemed like there might not be any help to find. He gave her a wordless nod, resolving himself to be hard enough to protect these, then looked to the Troll to see if he echoed the answer. But that answer was preempted by Lady Fairchild as she interpreted the Dryad's words to be devil-kind. But that revelation didn't mean much to the ogrekin, not after slaying the thing just outside Valejo. He was ready for devils, or so he thought.

Kurrhaaagn shook his head sadly and the bloodrager regarded him as he spoke, verifying what Nolia had told him. The troll was an outcast, and there were likely no tribes close enough that even a show of strength could sway. Leilani continued as she supported Winter's plan, cuddling with his friend as she did so. And she called for a scout, and that call was answered by Khole. Oota licked his lips and bent his long back in a courtly bow, "I will do my utmost to make your plans a success." And with those words spoken, the Bloodwatch stood and began to sterilize the campsite, so that nature wouldn't be disturbed by their presence.



Oota did his best to remain silent during their travels, though he ran several thoughts through his head as he watched the surroundings, 'Devils. I don't know much of them, save that many utilize magic. But we've fought something devilish before. The Lady Dragon spoke the name, but it wasn't Baatezu. What was it...?' Even though the rain was still falling, Oota didn't seem to notice, due to his gear which was originally provided to him to make him able to work more than many could.

Up ahead, Oota's red eyes saw Khole signal and his telepathic message resounded. Something was up ahead. And more than that, he could hear the sounds that signified battle. And over the crest of the hill, the ogrekin could see a giant tree-man fighting a dozen fiends. If it weren't for the seriousness of the situation and his new acquaintance with Nolia, Oota might have rubbed his eyes in disbelief. Leilani quickly the bearded devils and layed out what she knew of their qualities and Oota nodded along as he evaluated the terrain and the options, even as his weapon began to glow with a holy light.

With a more detailed plan in mind looked at the others. He smiled slightly, his blood starting to pulse faster as he felt good. The battlefield was his domain by right. He spoke to the others then in a more confident and authoritative voice, "Fighters, with me. Ladies, Sir Khole, stay behind and attack the weak points when they appear." He took the poleaxe from his shoulder and gave it a quick flourish as he continued, "Form a reverse wedge, Sir Kurrhaagn on the left end, I'll take the right end. Lady Winter, have Lena set the base with Sir Mitah and Mikhaela between. Surround them, don't let them past us."

Oota watched as the formation came together. The Troll seemed knowledgeable, as did Mitah, and Mikhaela he had trained for this. He listened to the arcane words of Winter and felt the alacrity that she had bestowed several times in the last few days. The moments began to stretch out as the preparations set and Oota closed his eyes to once again tap into the blood that he simultaneously revered and reviled. When he opened his eyes, the glowed in a wicked shade of violet and he roared as the familiar pain assaulted him, his limbs twisting like snakes as they lengthened... but this time, the change was more drastic, as the writhing flesh extended over his entire body and the already large slave suddenly doubled in size. One last thought flashed in his mind before the process of thinking became difficult, 'I hope that Nolia doesn't fear my beast side...'

"Forward! Send them back to Hell!" Oota shouted, knowing that if the devils had missed his roar, they would be hard pressed to ignore his shout. And he charged on the right side, expecting the others to follow his lead, even if a part of his soul wished they wouldn't. His bloodlust needed to be satisfied, and even in his rage, he valued his own life less than theirs.

At the end of the ogrekin's charge was blood and death. One of the fiends fell to his heavy blow, and at his side he could almost feel the heat emanating as the others made their own attacks. Even as the fiends tried to pass through Oota's monstrous arms, they were halted with heavy blows and at least four were left with gaping wounds left by his weapons. But his mind lacked the control to fine tune his plans any further. His breaths heaved in his excitement and his rage as he waited for arrows and spell to cull the devils weakened by the blows of the line.

 
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  #13  
Old 02-18-2019, 12:58 PM
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There was a measure of relief when it seemed that the others did indeed understand what Nolia had offered them up as the risk and dangers ahead, deeper still, there was a soft salve to her shattered heart that she was not alone. They were not Dryads, not her sisters, but they seemed all kind even if strange, something she was in much need of after the last months of her life. That Kole urged them all to move was also a relief, as the petite creature was not entirely confident that she could remain still for much longer, a sensation made worse now that she knew her sister yet lived and with it, the Dark Angel sought to draw her in.

If the day before and the meeting of the Dryad had revealed a tired, worn but curious creature, this day revealed further the level of restless energy she possessed. Their pack up to leave was only slightly hampered by her desire to see what everything being packed was, though she seemed to have learned that Lena would pick her up again if she actually started touching things. Once on the move it was far simpler to keep Nolia out of trouble, the lithe Dryad scrambling up trees, dropping back onto Kurr, climbing down the Troll, a dart here and there about the rest and back into the trees. It was almost dizzying if one stopped to watch her.




A cry of warning, though it came in the same moment in which Nolia staggered, a sensation, a sound she knew well. It was not a stagger birthed of fear, but the stumble of one who had been caught up in curious delight and now descended into the warrior she was, a memory and knowledge that while there was life with her, they had stepped into the world of death, disease and perversion of the life that had been the Grove. They had seen her move, seen her weapons, and yet each had only ever seen Nolia scream, mewl in reaction of the threat given, one that Khole and Mitah had summarily destroyed. That, that had been out of exhaustion, a weary weakness from which Nolia's limbs no longer could give strength to her weapon and mind too mournful to defend herself. Today was not yesterday. Nolia had slept, had rested, had eaten and was not alone, today she was not the weak and broken creature, she was a Dryad, Gaia's daughter, defender of Gaia's world and the late born, strange child of Gaia's grove.

Oota's instructions made a kind of sense, had Nolia known what ladies meant she would not have needed Khole to tap her arm, the wave of images explaining better what was meant by Oota's order. Her bow, not her fist was what Oota had requested, and thus her near dart forward was halted as deft fingers drew Ira and danced along the length of vine which served as her bowstring, a thing that any other save a Dryad, would have been sore pressed to fire with any force nor accuracy.

Oota charged onward, a warp and shift of his form that had the slight Dryad not been caught up on the surge of wild anger, she might have given pause to comprehend. It would be later she might think upon it, but for the Dryad, now it was upward in a whirl of violent malachite, flashes of tawny and crimson in a myriad of nature's palate on a canvas of feral wrath. As she had revealed somewhat on their meeting in her steps 'down' from Kurr's shoulder, Nolia skipped upward on invisible stairs, mounting the very air as Ira began to sing, arrows sent into the fray with rapid, deadly accuracy. A vantage point higher to fire from, the Dryad in the air as simply as Khole and his wings, though where the small Fey flitted and flew, Nolia danced and nigh ran, her fingers relentlessly sourcing and letting fly her deadly projectiles.

There was something in the silence, no war cry, no howl of rage nor screams, merely a dark and deep silence framed with arrow after arrow in search of purchase and death, and with it, defense of the Treent her entire world had narrowed upon. She must save them, failure, it had been failure upon failure from the moment the disease, the darkness had poisoned the Source Tree, but not this time, no, no Nolia would not fail again, not so long as she had those willing to fight alongside her.

 

 

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  #14  
Old 02-18-2019, 03:09 PM
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Winter was surprised they didn't run into more of the brain bane, but glad. That was the main reason why she had suggested they take to the air, and anything that preserved her magic for when they really needed it was a blessing. Nolia's behavior brought a sense of levity to the trip, and she was glad the dryad was finding things to keep her mind off of what she had gone through, and had yet to go through. Winter whispered a prayer to Gaia that they would be able to save her sister.

When they came across the battle between devils and treant, the sorceress placed a hand on Lena's shoulder and sent her magic into the tiger. Lena began to grow until she stood more than six feet tall at the shoulder. Another pulse of magic to haste all of her allies, then Winter sent the two-and-a-half ton creature bounding toward the devils. The tiger added her own roar to Oota's charge, and the first demon she pounced on ended on the ground, tooth and claw tearing at its throat before it had a chance to react. What followed could only be described as a slaughter as the guardians worked together like a well-oiled machine in defense of the treant and Gaia's grove.

While the short battle was waged, Winter walked closer, keeping her magic ready in case she needed to lend more to the fight, but it seemed that wasn't needed. She pondered the way Oota had taken charge, and the memory brought a smile to her face. Battle was a place where he could be himself, and she had the feeling that training grounds would be the same. She renewed her determination to see everyone safely home after the dealt with this threat, and to set her plans for the ogrekin into motion.

 

 

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  #15  
Old 02-23-2019, 01:56 PM
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Tragic TyrannyThis grove was a place of such resplendent beauty and beatific serenity that seeing it in such a sacrilegious state of decay and so infested with Fiendish Denizens filled Nolia's heart with no small measure of wrath and fury. Her trees, heartblood of her sisters and of her own self, shorn from mother earth and laid in sacrilege upon bare earth to rot, hurt her in a way she had not thought possible. When Oota unleashed from within himself the full storm of his fury and lay waste upon the creatures who had dared come to desecrate her holy home, she felt that this was right and knew she had come to the right place at her right time. The massive Ogrekin waded into the fiends with resplendent fury and committed their foul souls back to the Hell from which they had spawned.

Did such as these possess souls? Nolia did not know nor did she care as she let her own furious song spring forth from her fingers through her bow. She felt every arrow she streaked at her foes find its mark and paint its carnage upon her land and knew that this, too, was right. Winter drew upon her own ties to nature and bolstered her friend and companion Lena and unleashed her upon the denizens and watched as more carnage wrought itself upon the grove. All the while, Khole sang his own windsong of furious missiles and caught each fleeing festering fiend as it sought to break from battle perhaps to rejoin its allies elsewhere. Each one was denied respite, every one of the Barbezu met its earthly end upon this field of Battle as even Leilani let her arrows fly while Mikhaela watched quietly from nearby. Mitah waded in nearly as enthusiastically as did Oota, growing in size as his eldritch attire tapped into its own reserves of mana and lent his axe implacable brutish force that meshed perfectly with Oota's own ire and assaults. Even Nunataq participated, causing errant strands of grass to push through the slush and grime which covered this bleakened land and grasp those fiends which momentarily threatened to evade blows or missiles from the embattled Guardians.

The Treant, battered and chopped in far too many places, held himself upright and seemed invigorated by the unexpected succor, and lent his own might to the felling of the beast until, soon, it was over.

Every one of the denizens had fallen.

A few of the brazen beasts billowed smoke from rents in their fiendish flesh but none of them moved, not one had survived. The Treant, bowing from his many wounds, held himself by one long branch which braced against the slippery floor and took a moment to recover before heaving himself upright once more to face his saviors. There was a sadness in the large wooden carving which served him as eyes as he addressed the Guardians.

"Ashenfang thanks you, saviors. Nolia, it makes us happy that you walk still upon Gaia's earth. We heard the calls and the throes of our brethren and we came with the speed of wind and wood. We are sorry that we were too late. Far too late. So sorry, Nolia."

Ashenfang bowed his head and nearly fell from the weight of his grief and wounds. Nunataq stepped forth and bowed briefly before the ancient tree and swept his arm before himself like a slow breeze with fingers trembling like leaves in the soft wind.

"Ancient protector, we thank you for your swift arrival. We are also sorry that Nolia's family could not be saved nor your brethren who died to help them. We are glad that you still stand among us. Will you grant me the honor of touching you with Gaia's Blessing? It is a song you have heard before and I would bring her music to your ears to soothe your ails and bolster your ancient strength."

When Ashenfang nodded solemnly, Nunataq approached him and let the words of Gaia's song spill from his lips as viridescent life sprang from his fingers and danced upon his whim.

"Ashen bright, face Fiendish blight.
Unfurled leaves grasp for feeding light,
Another day to stand and bear this righteous fight."


His voice crescendoed in a dry bass singsong that was soothing to the ear as the healing strands of life wove themselves into the tall Treant and caused the many cracks and openings in his tree-like form to mend completely. Ashenfang straightened as the healing coursed through him and seemed to sigh as the full effect of Gaia's magic invigorated him. As the last of the green wisps of light faded from the tips of his branches, a low rumble became suddenly audible from a north eastern direction, a rumble which seemed to be growing steadily. Kurrhaaagn brandished his Greatsword and turned to face whatever new threat may be approaching, but Ashenfang lifted one tremendous limb in a gesture to soothe him.

"My brethren come. I called them when I felt the disturbance here and as I was the closest was alone to arrive but now they, too, come."

He stared in the direction from which the cacophony erupted and grew as still as the tree from which he had grown had once been and displayed the patience he had earned through eons of standing guard over his less animate brethren. Soon, it seemed as though the very forest itself came forth as trees near the edge of the grove sprang to life and sprouted limbs and faces of their own as the life giving force which animated the marching Treants worked itself into them and imbued them with temporary sentience. They seemed to part for the coming Treants, stepping aside and bowing subtly as far as their rigid spines allowed as though showing deference and respect to those who had stood guard for them for millennia. Thirteen of the elder trees emerged from the cold boreal forest, three of them standing half again as tall as Ashenfang and the forefront of them standing nearly twice as high. Ashenfang came to life once more as they arrived and swept his arm slowly before himself in the greeting he had earlier displayed.

"Thank you for answering my call, brethren. Gaia has need of our service."

The tallest of the Treants took a single step into the grove and turned his gaze upon the fallen Dryad-trees and bowed his gigantic head-like trunk as the gravity of the situation sunk in. When he turned to face the Guardians, a single thick line of green sap had spilled from one of his knot-like eyes and he settled his gaze at last upon Nolia.

"Nolia."

His voice rumbled through the grove like a soft earthquake that the Guardians could feel through their contact with the earth.

"There are no words... Sorrow... Grief... Love... We are so sorry... Oakenleaf offers respect and condolences for your loss."

Oakenleaf spoke with that same rumble with which he had first spoken but seemed to have modulated the volume so that it no longer seemed overwhelming to the smaller people who stood in Nolia's grove. The other Treants, though they did not speak, seemed no less full of sorrow at the sight they found here and each of them offered Nolia the sweeping gesture that seemed as much one of respect as it was one of greeting.

A screech tore through the serene moment that caused all the hairs of the Guardians' shackles to rise suddenly. Blood curdling as it was loud, it rang from the west and when all turned to face its source, they were greeted with a sight which caused their blood and sap to run as cold as winter. A sea of Fiends descended from the far reaches of the once luscious valley, black and scarlet, tall and terrible in both their numbers and their girth while hundreds of fliers soared low overhead as though to herald their inevitable coming. Every type of Baatezu seemed accounted for in that drove, with Barbezu and Gelugons most prominent among those shambling upon the low ground while Gaavs and several Ashmede soared above. Standing in stark contrast even to these, however, stood nine figures which caused Leilani's face to blanch whiter even than the snow. Nine Pit Fiends cracked their fiery lashes, urging their armies forth towards ruin, sending them forth towards destruction. For now, their numbers still filtered from the winding path which spilled forth from the mines and the way in the vast valley still stood clear of enemies, though this would not remain so for very long.
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