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Old 06-10-2019, 07:06 PM
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Chapter 4: Invasion






Chapter 4: Invasion

“Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid, one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory." - Douglas MacArthur


TroublesA gentle breeze swept over the sleeping northern town of Valejo, casting an eerie predawn glow over the snow-covered rooftops as the first hints of light began to peer over the vast eastern forest of the taiga. Three ships rested uneasily in their moorings by the dockside as the rushing cold waters of the Nahanni steamed and frothed around them barraging their hulls with an endless stream of slush and ice chunks from the glacier upstream. A fourth ship sat awkwardly at a dangerous slant as its charred skeleton seemed to reach from the dark waters as its blackened masts jutted as if reaching desperately for the sleeping town to rescue it from the cold wet depths of despair. Signs of war marked nearly every corner of the snowy town, even if recent blizzards had done some work to shroud its wounds under billowy mounds of pure white snow. Several homes lay shattered on the white cityscape, their bricks shorn and twisted as their charred remains lay exposed to the relentless winter cold. No sign of life showed itself outside the darkened residences of the town save a single small bird which perched itself on the small branch of a skeletal tree which overlooked the only lighted window visible anywhere inside the city limits.

Anja sat in the cold, turning her little bird head first to one side and then the other to peer through the frosted glass of the window which showed her Mayor Ulfgar Strafgen's office. The Mayor stood behind his desk and seemed decidedly uncomfortable as a rather large fur-clad human stood red-faced before him seeming rather hard-pressed to contain the heat of his emotions. The mayor continuously shook his head in negation and waved his hands in front of himself whenever he spoke. Two other men stood behind the tall human, one of whom was bald and aging yet clothed in the finest velvet gold could buy while the other wore the simple black vestment of an Overseer. There was a tension between the bald man and the Overseer which Anja could detect even through the blurred image offered by this frosted window. The man in black turned his head slightly towards the window and though she could see nothing at all of his face through the shadows of his cowl, Anja felt the man's gaze on her and leapt from the branch and flew down and around the building towards the front steps. She glanced at the gaudy black carriage which waited out front and saw nothing but the four black mares which were still quietly tethered to their harnesses. She saw no sign of the driver and landed on the icy stone porch.

She assumed her humanoid persona and brushed a few errant flakes of snow which clung to her winter cloak, waited a moment, and knocked on the front door to the Mayor's house. A moment later a young human boy with blonde hair and plump rosy cheeks answered the door and blinked at her.

"Alright then. Ye must be the last of em. Come on then, get yerself out the cold, it's freezin' out their!" he said, speaking with the merest hint of a Dwarvish accent.

The boy stepped aside to let Anja enter the main foyer of the Mayor's home and saw several others already waiting inside.

The other applicants.

"Well yer only a lil late but I'm afraid the Mayor's had some unexpected comp'ny. Real sorry, folks, but should'nt be takin' much more time now. Can I get anyone refreshments? We gots tea or coffee and mayhap some biscuits? I'll go fetch some presently."

The boy bowed awkwardly and disappeared behind a door which ostensibly led towards the kitchen, leaving Anja to stare, and be stared at, by the others. Six others sat or stood in the large foyer though the first to draw her gaze was, of course, the massive orc which stood holding an axe too large even for his massive girth whilst mumbling to it under his breath. He seemed remarkably unclothed given the harshness of the weather outside though his face was partially hidden beneath some primitive-looking mask. His body seemed a complete tapestry of scar tissue and every inch of his exposed flesh seemed twisted or marked by some old wound which may or may not have healed right.

Next to him stood a small human girl who could not have seen more than eighteen winters by Anja's reckoning, though she was beautiful in a dark and brooding way with her long black hair which hung loose around her shoulders showcasing the striking streaks of white which coursed through it. She wore simple black leather pants and a tight leather jacket which clung to her like a second skin. Seated in a harness on her back was a small child of no more than five who seemed, at least for now, fast asleep. The child seemed a near exact miniature copy of the girl and Anja held no doubt that she was her mother. Seated on a sofa near the crackling fire sat an older gentleman in well worn clothing which seemed rather plain but utilitarian and Anja found herself thinking that his attire suited his well-trimmed appearance and white hair. Something in his eyes told her this man might be somewhat younger than he seemed, however.

The next figure to draw her gaze was a Dwarf, though he seemed more ashen-skinned than any Dwarf she had ever before encountered. He also kept his beard more trimmed than was customary for his kind and a striking scar ran down the side of his face from brow to jaw. Skulking nearby was an elven lady more conventionally beautiful than the raven-haired mother was and she had a near ephemeral quality which somehow defied description.

The black haired girl let her head fall to one side slightly as she seemed to take her measure of Anja. She smiled wanly and took a few steps forward, extending out her hand.

"Welcome," she said, her voice nearly a whisper.

"I'm Veronica. Do you often have bad dreams, Anja?"

Before Anja could produce an answer to the strange question, a roar erupted from behind a door down the central hallway leading from the foyer and the door burst open when the tall, fur-clad man stormed out of the Mayor's office. When he reached the foyer he turned suddenly towards the Mayor, who had been following behind, a look of grim resolve etched plainly on his dwarvish face.

"Ulfgar! I've had just about enough of your excuses! I came all this way to parlay with ye and you keep giving me this runaround! I'll hear no more of it! I came here for my kin's body and I'll have it! Now where are they! Where's Gerik and Greywolff's bodies, damn you?!"

The Mayor, shaking his head, pleaded with the tall human:

""Thorleif, I told you I don't know where they are! Greywolff came to answer my call and went out to solve the troubles for my town. He said some Trolls attacked them on the way here and his dad did not make it. I never saw his body! And Greywolff never made it back so I can't tell you what happened to him!"Thorleif, Ah tauld ye ah dunnae kinn whaur they ur! Greywolff cam tae answer mah caa an' went it tae solve th' troobles fur mah toon. He said some trolls attacked them oan th' way haur an' his dad did nae make it. Ah ne'er saw his body! an' Greywolff ne'er gart it back sae Ah cannae teel ye whit happened tae heem!"

The tall man spit suddenly on the floor at Ulfgar's feet and stormed towards the exit but stopped himself with his hand on the door and turned one final time to face the Mayor.

"This was your last chance, Strafgen. You want the war to go on, well you'll have your war!"

The man threw the door open and stormed out into the cold predawn light, slamming it shut so hard it near shook off its hinges. Ulfgar shook his head sadly and put his hand on his face for a moment but quickly brushed it off and turned to face the people waiting for him in his foyer.

""I'm right sorry you all had to see that. That was Thorlief, chieftain of the Barbarian tribes. I'm guessing we won't be signing our peace treaty then. Gaia preserve us in our time of troubles, lads. So, shall we talk about why I called you all here, then?"Aam reit sorry ye aw hud tae see 'at. 'at was thorlief, chieftain ay th' barbarian tribes. aam guessin' we willnae be signin' uir peace treaty 'en. gaia preserve us in uir time ay troobles, lads. sae, shaa we gab abit wa Ah called ye aw haur, 'en?"






Resolution



The Hobgoblin Ogrekin walked alone through the dark forest east of Northvale and felt utterly lost in the ocean of his thoughts. So much had happened recently, so much that had changed him forever. Some of these changes were for the better but so many had left their deep scars in him and he knew he would never be the same. He was lost again. The forest, the dark place between the wilds and the world at large was still wrong somehow. It should not be this way. They had won after all, in the end, and at what cost ─Immeasurable heartbreaking cost. The light of Gaia should have returned to this place yet here he was again, lost with the whispering voices. He let his thoughts drift as he walked in circles and though some dim part of himself knew that his steps led him nowhere, he could not muster the will to escape the prison of his own mind.

He relived that day again.

He was with Nolia, Winter, Lena, Khole, Mitah, Leilani, Mikhaëla and finally Nunataq. The remnants of the grasping plant life lay withering at their feet and their flesh still tingled from Gaia's touch as they made their way deeper into Gaia's Cradle. Oota felt as though he were entering some holy womb as he felt the power of the place resonate through him. Something was not quite right with that power and it rang within him like some discordant note that would not quite hit the correct pitch. It made him feel a deep unease that reminded him eerily of that place within the lost forest. A shiver sent its cold fingers up the length of his spine and he gripped his Poleaxe more tightly in his strong grip. Mitah had volunteered to take point and Oota walked just behind him. Soon the way became thick with plant-stuff as more roots, vines, grasses and blackened wilted flowers began to drape themselves to the earthen walls once more, some even crisscrossing their path as they advanced. Mitah hesitated for a moment when the first verdant strands blocked his path but before he could turn to Khole for instructions, the strand parted before him and cleared the way. It was this way all the way the heart of the cradle, the black leaves and lengths of vine opening before them and closing once more behind them after they had passed. None of them dared speak the fear which crested in their hearts when they felt the passage close behind them lest it be made to come true by its utterance: "Would they find their way out?"

No matter.

What had to be done had to be done. Despite their subterranean location, the Guardians did not find themselves in darkness. A faint viridescent glow seemed to filter through the plant life to show the way and now, as they neared the end of the long opening in the world, they saw that light intensify to a bright sickly green. It filtered through the branches and leaves ahead of them and left long green fingers of light poking through the spaces between. When the last of the cobweb-like vegetation parted and revealed Gaia's Inner Sanctum, Mitah gasped at the sight before them.

The heart of Gaia was in a vast open cavern whose floor was carpeted with thick sickly plant-life whose most striking feature were the large undulating roots which twisted and meandered away from the great center of Gaia's bower. These roots were as thick as a man was tall in places, growing as thick as six feet in diameter before tapering off near the edges of the vast cavern. The center, of course, was filled by the Life Tree. It climbed for hundreds of feet above them, twisting and undulating in a way that betrayed how sick it was. Its green bark, even from here, seemed a sickly black-green and dark sap oozed from ruptures in the tender wood-flesh in hundreds of places. It was as though the tree wept from every wound.

Then, they heard her.

A low moan, deep but female, mewled in obvious agony, but was largely muffled by unconsciousness. They realized then that the bright green light which suffused everything here was tainted near the life tree with a deep shade of crackling red and they saw that the base of the tree burned with deep pulsing embers. Lava flowed from these throbbing embers and pooled near the base of the tree, flowing back and away from their direction to form a large pool of magma behind it. Black insects buzzed a flitted all around the Guardians as they stepped slowly from the passage and they heard bones crunch underfoot as they walked. They saw, to their complete horror, that thousands of small animal corpses littered the ground beneath the web of dark foliage and it was their bones crunching underfoot that they heard now as they advanced.

They saw Adèlédané. She was exactly as their vision had foretold. Naked and impaled in several places, large roots not unlike the ones which had assaulted them earlier piercing through her green flesh, pinning her to the Life Tree. The appendages throbbed visibly as some thick substance passed through the foul conduits, filtering through the dying Dryad and into the Life Tree. Adèlédané's head moved slightly to one side.


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"Dané! No!" Nolia cried as she began to run towards her sister.

"Nolia, be careful!" Winter cried her warning but the Dryad would not heed it and sprinted through the dense dead carpeting of this bower while tears streaked thickly down her face. Mitah tried to grab her as she passed, but the deft Dryad leaped onto the air over his head as though a breeze carried her and she continued to sprint towards her sister. The Guardians all ran after her. Khole flew above the others, whose dweomered boots would not help them through this impeding foliage, and caught up to her just before she reached the tethered Dryad.

"Nolia, we have to be caref─"

Khole did not finish the sentence. Blood gushed suddenly from his mouth before a thick stump protruded in a gory spray through his chest. His wings fell limply to his sides as his mouth worked soundlessly through his spilling blood as though he would speak even as his life escaped his lips. A long branch, more vine-like than it should be, began to pull him back away from the crying Dryad who stood in momentary shock at the sight before her. Mitah fell on them. Furious and screaming, Khole's friend and servant threw himself at the large appendage and tried to free him. The tendril ignored him as he clung to it and flung him back and down into the pool of frothing magma. Mitah did not even scream as it consumed him, though Khole's eyes had already gone dark by the time his flesh touched its impossible heat, sparing him at least that agony as his body disappeared in hissing steam and smoke beneath the roiling lava. Khole fell over in a heap.

More screams and more tears as the Guardians wailed for the loss of their dear friends.

"You are not welcome here."

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The voice, deep and booming resounded from behind the Life Tree, somewhere up in its lower twisted branches. A creature emerged from behind it, swollen with blackened roots which protruded from it in a dozen places, long roots which undulated and roiled from him and into Adèlédané. The creature seemed vaguely humanoid under that mass of rotting plant-life, with patches of red scales, and something in the shape of his face, suggesting that he may once have been half Red Dragon. The long appendages carried him down and around until he stood a few mere steps from Nolia, towering over her with his near nine feet of height. His arms and chest bulged with muscle and with undulating, vein-like roots, his eyes shining with a sickly amber sheen which pulsed with the steady cadence of a thrumming heartbeat. His wings, impossibly large, flew out suddenly from behind him as he raised his fists and roared his fury at the gathered intruders. Fire burst forth from his mouth and engulfed the Guardians and tortured their exposed flesh with Dragon fire. Nolia withered on the ground as she rolled to quench the flames, but Oota let himself burned and raised his weapon high. He felt the fury roil within him and he knew what he must do. The creature, still attached to the dying Dryad behind him, met Oota gleefully and managed to close the distance by parrying his vicious blows with the long length of his wings.

They fought.

The others threw themselves into the fight, Lena biting and clawing at the creature with all that she was worth while Winter hurled her spells at it and did all that she could do boost and bolster her friends and allies. Nunataq hurled his own magic at the thing while Leilani launched her volleys of arrows and wove close when she could to provide healing where it was needed. Even Mikhaëla recovered from her lethargy enough to assault their foe with furious blows of her own but the creature would not succumb to terror and would not fall to the Guardian's implacable blows. For a time, it seemed like they might actually beat it. Blow after blow the creature took, but it gave more than twice than that which it was given. Several times Oota was battered aside and had to raise himself from the corpse-littered ground and return to the fray before Lena or Mikhaëla could fall. Leilani would drop in and imbue them with her healing magic and it seemed like the tide would turn as the terrible wounds on the large Half Dragon, Half plant creature seemed to take their toll. But then another creature showed itself from the heights of the Life Tree.

"Saur'Koth! Don't you dare fail me!"

Its voice was nearly strident as it was screeching as a much smaller figure jumped from the heights of the upper branches and landed some distance behind the battling behemoths that were Oota and his greatest adversary. The creature stood maybe six feet tall and had yellowish skin and eyes and was adorned in mail which could only be described as gaudy. In one hand he held a long sword made of shiny silvered metal and in the other a rod which seemed crafted of twisted metal which wrapped itself around his hand and protruded above and below it in dangerous-looking points.

The massive creature ceased its fighting for a moment and turned towards the other creature, which the Guardians now believed could only be Githyanki.

"Stay out of this Ta'Hau'den."

The creature turned back to face Oota to grace him with a sudden powerful back hand which sent him sprawling once again.

"How dare you speak to me this way, Saur'Kauth! I am in charge, here!"

The Githayanki's voice rose into a screech which became a scream as he raised the rod in his left hand and pointed it at the massive plant-infested Half-Dragon.

"Obeeeey meeeeee! Kill theeeem!

A pulse of purple light flashed from the upper tip of his rod and struck Saur'Koth square in the back. The giant creature staggered for a moment and arched its back as he roared fire into the air above himself. The purple light enveloped him and he trembled as if in agony. Oota rose from his place in the dense foliage nearby and stared as Saur'Koth began to grow even larger than he had been before. Soon, the beast stood fifteen feet tall and his eyes gleamed with evil purple light. He flashed forward suddenly and Kicked Lena hard as she was preparing to pounce and sent her reeling end over end across the wide expanse of the cavern until she splattered hard against the rocky wall some eighty feet behind the Guardians.

"Lenaaa!"

Winter's face contorted with rage and as the Sorceress called upon the mana reserves stored within herself, she was struck suddenly by a second jolt of purple light. Blue light erupted from her eyes and fingertips as if to counter its effects but soon her cry of raged twisted into a scream of pain as she fell to her knees and began to disintegrate.

Winter vanished in a cloud of purple dust.

Lightning streaked suddenly and brightly from up above and drove down into the figure called Ta'Hau'den and caused him to spasm wildly behind his servant. Nunataq took a single step forward as he lowered the hand which had called the lightning and burst suddenly into the form of a massive Polar Bear. Leilani cast a spell which caused the Nanuq to grow to even greater size and she tapped his rump gently as he sprang forward towards the mad Githyanki. The giant beast Saur'Koth moved to intercept, but Oota's long arm grabbed him while his other brought his poleaxe crashing down hard, nearly knocking the behemoth down. Again, they rained blows upon each other while the Nanuq barreled into Ta'Hau'den and ripped a large morsel of yellow flesh from his chest and shoulder. The Gith screamed and began to stab the Polar Bear over and over with the sharp end of his rod, but the Druid would not let go and began to tear him apart with fangs and claws. Suddenly, a bright purple flash exploded from beneath the form of the large arctic bear and Nunataq reeled back from the mangled shape beneath him. He turned towards Oota and Leilani while thick red slobber poured from his half opened mouth. He seemed staggered as he took a single nearly comical step towards them before falling in a heap of dust which quickly scattered at the base of the Life Tree.

Ta'Hau'den stood, with great difficulty as blood gushed from his face and poured from his many slashes and wounds. He raised his rod to point it towards Oota. His hand began to glow with lurid purple light as his face contorted into a grisly grin from what was left of his mangled face. Oota was being battered by the massive Half Dragon Plant Gith and his faithful Axe was knocked finally from his grip by a powerful blow from Saur'Koth's wing. Oota fell to his knees and two wing tips plunged suddenly into each of his shoulders provoking a loud grunt from the Ogrekin. Meanwhile the light in Ta'Hau'den's fist swelled brighter and brighter along with his repulsive grin when suddenly, his hand was gone, chopped off at the wrist.

Mikhaëla, crouching low among the foliage, had made her way behind him and had lopped it off with her twirling Ashanderai. She swung it around and over her head in one smooth motion and as the Githyanki's eyes flashed wide with horror, she chopped off his head with one clean blow. The rod, still entwined within his detached hand, ceased glowing while the dead Gith's body twitched as it died. She turned towards Oota and saw the deep trouble her friend was in and made a decision. She leaped into the air, bolstered by her mental powers, and slashed at one of the long conduits which connected Saur'Koth to Adèlédané. The vine-like tube erupted with black, tar-like goo as it began to snake back and forth after she severed it clean from the Dryad. Adèlédané groaned and her head moved again to the other side. Her fingers twitched. Saur'Koth roared in fury, leaving an opening for Oota who pushed him back furiously, removing the cruel wing spikes from his shoulders as the giant Gith staggered back. Mikhaëla smiled, wickedly. Leilani flew in beside Oota and used the last of her healing spells on the terribly wounded Hobgoblin, revitalizing him one last time. The spell had not been enough to close all his wounds, but it had lent him enough strength to continue fighting. Leilani drew her bow again and fitted an arrow to it, taking aim at Saur'Koth.

Saur'Koth ignored her and Oota and turned to face Mikhaëla, who was preparing for another of her daring leaps. She flew into the air, brandishing her Ashanderai wide and high but as she began to bring it up and forward to strike a blow against another of the long conduits, Saur'Koth barreled into her and sent her flying into the Life Tree. She hit a spot just below the Dryad hard and felt something snap in her back before she slumped in a heap at the foot of the tree.

"Enough!" Oota cried as he launched himself at Saur'Kauth again, having regained his axe in the moment when the beast had turned his back on him. Oota understood, now, what had to be done and while he brandished his weapon at Saur'Koth to defend himself, he focused his attacks on the long appendages which dangled around him now that he stood between Saur'Koth and the dying Dryad behind him. One after another he severed the conduits and each elicited a screech of fury from the Half-Dragon until only two vines remained. Finally, Saur'Koth caught Oota's poleaxe with his impossibly powerful hands, the sturdy axehead between his fingers. The giant Gith grunted with fury and tremendous effort and Oota's shoulders slumped when his weapon shattered in his foe's impossible grip. Oota drew a dagger from his belt and threw himself at his enemy one last time, but impossibly strong talons gripped his head and pushed him down and into the ground. He felt tremendous pressure squeazing his head then and Oota knew this would be the end of him.

He had lost.

Oota felt his skull cracking and closed his eyes as he continued to strain with his own hands to repel this great beast. His arms shook. The beast had made a mistake, however. He had ignored Leilani. The half-angel had flown around them and now stood near the Dryad with her bow in hand. She released two arrows at once which severed the last two conduits clean. Saur'Koth staggered back from Oota, releasing the killing pressure before it could crush his skull. Oota opened his eyes and saw his enemy reeling with short, stalk-like tubes flailing loosely all around him.

"Rrrraaaawr!!! You think you have won, half-breed? You think this means I am defeated? You are wrong! I am not done with you yet! When I am finished with you and the upstart bitch over there, my people will come for your precious little town of Valejo! You think this will be the end? It is merely the beginning!"

Saur'Koth launched himself at Oota but before he could take a single step, Adèlédané's eyes opened and her hand shot out. She had fallen from her place on the tree when the last of the conduits had fallen and she stood now next to Mikhaëla and Leilani with her green hair flying wildly all around her as pure green light burst forth from her every pore. Vegetation all around Saur'Koth shot out and grabbed his arms and wings and pulled him back, causing him to roar. He gasped and was about to unleash a great torrent of Dragon fire in Oota's face but more vines flew out from the ground and pulled his head back and up causing his great spout of fire to erupt in a blazing arc over his head. Oota stood, Ta'Hau'den's rod firmly grasped in his hand. The metal twisted in his grasp and enveloped his hand and began to glow with pulsing purple light. Oota lurched forward and raised the rod high above his head and came down hard towards Saur'Koth's heart. The giant managed to snap the vines holding his arm, however, and grabbed Oota's arm at the wrist before he could plunge it into his flesh. Saur'Koth's face twisted into a foul grin as he felt Oota's bones snap beneath his implacable pressure. He snapped more of the vines holding him and grabbed Oota's other arm who had been coming down to punch him. Saur'Koth heaved his arms wide and began to pull Oota apart. The Ogrekin felt the tendons and sinew strain as the the Gith pulled at him.

"Enough."

Adèlédané said the words calmly as she took a single step towards the battling giants. She raised both her hands and spread her fingers wide as she lowered her head as if to concentrate. Her arms trembled with tremendous effort as bright green light exploded from her fingertips. The light seemed liquid as it pulsed around her hands and streaked suddenly into Oota. The light pulsed and throbbed as it connected the Dryad to the Ogrekin in a strange echo of the manner in which she had been connected to the Half-Dragon Gith mere moments ago. Oota felt a change in himself. Tremendous power coursed immediately through his veins and he felt himself resisting Saur'Koth's pull immediately. His flesh oozed with green light of his own as his face contorted with effort and he began to reverse the contest of raw strength which he had been utterly losing a moment before. Oota felt all his wounds closing as he strained and watched in fascination as the giant Gith crumpled to his knees under the weight of his newfound might.

Something snapped.

It was Saur'Koth's back. Oota had pushed him back and down until he had folded the Gith backwards on himself and now he crushed him into the ground and killed him. He let him go, staggering back, panting heavily. The foliage all around the corpse came to life suddenly, lashing out at the Half-Dragon's body and pulling it completely apart and scattering the pieces around the cavern. Oota turned to see Adèlédané stumble and fall into Leilani's arms as she caught her.

It was over.

Nolia had survived, as had Mikhaëla, though her back was broken and she could not walk. Leilani had remained completely untouched through the whole encounter though she was nearly as spattered in gore as Oota was from having rushed in and out of the battle so much to keep them fighting with her healing spells. Nolia woke and threw herself at her sister and cried and fussed over her though for now, Adèlédané remained unconscious. Leilani said she thought she would make it. Nolia insisted on carrying her sister herself while Oota picked up Mikhaëla carefully as they prepared to exit the cradle and see what awaited them outside.

The world stopped.

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Oota looked at Leilani and Nolia frozen beside him and frowned in confusion. A low thrum and a rising haze of bright green light from behind him caused him to turn from the passage that would lead them out and face the Life Tree. As his gaze fell upon the scene in Gaia's Cradle, Oota gasped as his eyes grew wide. Millions of flowers had bloomed throughout the tree's foliage of every conceivable colour and kind. The base of the tree was glowing with impossibly bright emerald light and the raw embers which had been consuming the massive trunk had fallen away leaving a swiftly mending, raw-looking, wood flesh which was visibly closing as he watched. Oota blinked at the brightness and marveled at the frozen birds and insects which had frozen in mid-flight as they stormed from the branches of the Life-Tree. He saw a silhouette forming at the very heart of the light which solidified and coalesced into the shape of a beautiful, Dryad-like female. As she stepped from the base of the tree, the light dimmed and Oota was at last able to gaze upon the perfection of Gaia.

The goddess had everything about her that was beautiful and possessed every characteristic which was motherly. She had heavy breasts and long braided green hair which wove itself around her shoulders and down her chest to present a more modest appearance than perhaps it should have. Oota sensed that the Mother had done this not for modesty but for Oota's own sense of propriety and comfort. Her face seemed a composite of every beautiful face Oota could ever have imagined yet was more perfect even than those. Her motherly hips swayed as she walked slowly towards him, her arms raised as if to embrace him. Oota felt a peace rise in him that he had never before experienced. A serenity which completed his soul somehow. He felt safe and loved and complete. Gaia came to him and Oota felt the tears as they graced his cheeks when she put her arms around him and embraced him. It was the tender perfect hug of a mother to her child.

At last the Mother pulled away from him but kissed his cheek tenderly before taking both his large hands in hers. Somehow, he did not feel diminished though he could feel the strength of them as they held him. She smiled for him and he sobbed. He was crying. He wept for Mitah and for Lena, he wept for Winter and Khole and for Nunataq. He wept for himself for some small part of him still felt as though he had failed.

"You did not fail, Oota. You fought with all you have, all that you are and no one could ask more of you, not even yourself. It was enough. Do not diminish their sacrifice. They came here willingly and died so that so many more could live. I am so deeply sorry for your loss. I wish that I could reverse their sacrifice but I could not do so without undoing the spirit of their sacrifice. What I can do, my child, my great and mighty hero, is extend to you my humble thanks. You saved my daughter. You saved the Life Tree upon which the world rests. All of my creation would have fallen with it had you not prevailed. I could not intervene since the balance was still preserved and Entropy must have His chance. For now, we have won, thanks to you. Yes! YOU, Oota, my love, my child, my beautiful creation. I do not have much time. I must return lest I upset the balance. But I have time to offer you a simple gift as thanks for your mighty struggle. I would replace for you the weapon that you lost at the hands of this foul Beast. It is only fitting that a Champion should wield his weapon. Would you accept my gift? Would you let me touch your spirit and change you? Would you become my Mortal Herald, Oota? I would call on you again if you would have me, but if you would preserve yourself and take another path I would not begrudge you and would offer you my Gift regardless and leave you to your fate and life.

Will you be my Champion, Oota?"





He had accepted, he remembered that much. He had felt the change come over him then, as Gaia watched him with that patient look of perfect love etched deeply on her olive face. His arms had grown and thickened to fit the girth and length of Gaia's Gift. His flesh had hardened and veins had wove their way beneath his skin which took on a greenish tinge and his eyes, when next he gazed at his reflection in a nearby pool of spring fresh water, had held a greenish hue where once they had been white. Time had released him then from that frozen moment and Gaia had been gone. They had left the Bower of Gaia's tree while it continued to mend and grow. Outside the battle raged on and for many days Oota fought the foul menace which encroached upon his Gaia's lands and nine days later it was done. The Dzid and the Guardians of the North had prevailed and repelled the dark forces of the blight. The clouds had parted when the tree was healed and now sunshine basked upon them as the Dzid worked to clear the carnage from the valley floor. Oota came to learn that this Northvalian valley had never before been touched by winter and only blight had made it feel its icy touch. Now, it became a temperate paradise and Oota felt Gaia's breath on the wind as the breeze graced his cheeks. Mikhaëla, ultimately, had been restored by Gaia and each of them had been touched by her as She had done for him. Delvron told him he would stay here with his wife Helena and rebuild the great city of Northvale above Gaia's falls. Ancient ruins still rested there beneath the verdant see of plants and growths but he would uncover it with the help of Dzids and rebuild its splendor. Gaia had given them leave to do so and so they would build here a bastion against the coming storms. Delvron seemed to know that this would but be the first of many waves of troubles that would come and the world would need a place to flee to as they spread. Leilani and Mikhaëla, as well as Nolia and Adèlédané would stay behind and help rebuild. The Dryads would help restore the area to its former splendor and Oota's oldest friend could face the prospect of returning to Valejo.

In the end, it was Delvron who convinced Oota to return.

Oota felt his measure of the man and knew him to be great. He, too, had been touched by the Divine and Oota felt this man's greater Purpose driving him towards the future.

"You must tell them what is coming, Oota. These armies were the work of Baalzebul but there is something even darker pushing through to our world. We don't know what it is, but it terrifies me."

Somehow, the fact that this man was terrified sent a chill down Oota's spine and made the day grow a shade darker.

"You said the creature in the Cradle threatened Valejo directly with an army of his kind. What kind was that? The Gith he was beneath or the foul shell of blight which had taken him? We can only hope it is the former... If it is the latter that comes for us so soon, we are all doomed, I fear. The people must be warned and told that there will be a place for them. Even now the Mad Emperor in Dusk tightens his grip of power on the people and pushes them to war. Conscriptions have escalated and the Gith spread across the land. I have seen the bowels of their home on Origin and their numbers are staggering already. Kaine would fight them and conscript every last citizen the empire has to spare to repel them. I think another way must be found, though we may have to fight yet."

The man wiped his face with a hand which barely trembled but Oota's new eyes saw it.

"Tell them, Oota. We will build something great here, where free men can be free to fight if they must, but I don't think war is the answer.

Again, Oota accepted. Duty and honor. He must obey and obligations beckoned to him from Valejo.

Delvron had taken the rod Oota had used to kill the beast in Gaia's cradle. He remembered now. And now, lost alone and hungry, Oota felt himself awaken. Something had happened. A light ahead of him through the trees, an earthen star amidst the darkness of this eternal night. A silhouette he had seen but once before... She beckoned softly with her fingers, her emerald hair dancing on ephemeral wind...

He knew the way, now. He had found himself. Soon he arrived in Valejo and discovered that a year had passed since last he left! One year! More time had elapsed in the void of that lost forest than he ever could have thought possible... He had a tale to tell and warnings to foretell... Hopefully it was not too late...




Oota came to the Mayor's house and saw Hiram's carriage waiting outside. He saw the tall man burst from the door and storm out into the night beyond. He looked up and saw his master looking at him from the window which looked into the Mayor's office.

He was home.

Oota climbed the steps and knocked. The door flew open and Ulfgar himself stood there.

""I knew you'd change your mind, you half-wit..."Ah kent yoo'd change yer min', ye half-wit."

Ulfgar stopped in mid-sentence and blinked several times at Oota, entirely dumbfounded.

"Oota! Whit in th' nine hells happened? Gie in haur!"

OODM
 

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Old 06-10-2019, 10:28 PM
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Scissors of Black and Blue
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Sharp wing.
Little flyer.
Maker of mud houses.


The swallow's mind is too small for me. I almost settle. Take wing, collect, and build under the eaves of the mayor's house. Wait out the winter in the warmth of that space; feathered, tight, and mine. Until spring, until I can attract a mate and tend to my own young little flyers. But I am not completely the swallow and something inside me makes me turn small eyes to watch Others until the black man finds me. He sees and I see him. He is not right. Something in him is wrong. Even as a swallow I know this and I fall from the tree's arms into the air to be away from him.

I am a tight flyer. Brisk. And this is the danger of such a shape. So free. Open air. Open wing. Open life.

I bank in flight low along the ground, the tip of one wing grazing the soft top of the snow as if I was caressing the face of the world. I cannot contain the bird's warbling as I feel the cold air stream past my small body and I rise up abruptly above the steps of the house. It is still in my throat as I find myself again and change, feet upon the wooden steps, heart beating madly in my chest as the boy opens the door. I don't hear his words. The sounds are there but I am still singing of winter in my head as I step through the door into the warmth. For a moment, I am surprised and shake the snow from my feathers.........from my shoulders.

I am not whole until the girl's voice wakens me. I meet her and move close until our eyes are level. Her eyes to mine. She has told me her name and knows mine without my breathing it to her. Which is important.


"You share space with so many. Rabbit. Eagle. Bear. Ram. Salmon. Dryad," Seti asks. "It is......uncommon."

I stop turning over my treasure, small squirrel hands calm, and look at him with black shining eyes. I must change to speak with him and look forlornly down at the acorn I had retrieved from my secret place. It is much smaller when I hold it between my forefinger and thumb. But no less remarkable.

"I become one of them first and let them find my eyes. Let them look inside me and decide," I say shrugging. "Sometimes I am worthy of them. Sometimes I am not. But scars are just as important. And then I try again until they see me."

Seti laughs and shakes his head. And I laugh with him. We Nanuc are stubborn. A calm heart requires it, as does understanding.




The girl and I share our eyes for a moment. It is too short a breath and I cannot find her shape. Cannot become what she is. It is too complicated without her showing me the way. And that is too soon for the both of us. If we are ever ready for such a thing. Instead, I offer my hand, palm up. Not for her to shake in greeting, but to take and hold. Mine are cold and oddly callused. I dig a lot.

A roar intervenes. And men. I tilt my head oddly at the bright living, some mannerisms slow to die, and let the noise settle before turning back to the girl. We had seconds still and that was plenty enough time.

"Only when its Dark Veronica. Only when its Dark," I say with a crooked smile in response to her question, waiting and wondering if she will take my hand. I am still unsteady and prone to flight. Her hand would be welcome for the strength of it. The swallow is still in my blood, it's freedom to live and die without burdens. A thing so powerful it would consume me if not for Dreams and stubbornness.

Memories are of little help against the pull of such living. And I've forgotten the most important of them anyway.


 
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Old 06-11-2019, 01:16 AM
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Lady Chrysis Viridula, The Golden Angel
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The day dawned, and with it brought the end of her time. She was something, she was nothing. As the golden rays touched the skies the Golden Angel fled, becoming herself. Whatever could be called herself. The coiffured crown that was her silken hair blended with leaves and rose as well as gold and pearl. Feathers dangled from her earrings, matching the fringed curves of her dress, itself seeming to cling to her idyllic form by more magic than means -- dancing a line between imagination and revelation with a precision decades in honing. The tenuously thin folds of silk the color of the noonday summer sun melded with the billowing cloak that dangled carelessly about her bared shoulders. The picture was sealed with a sprinkling of sparkling diamonds like the last crystals of ice still airborne the first dawn after a blizzard.

Her gaze -- a dove-grey so shrouded in misty white as to leave it almost lost -- drifted across the window. It lingered for only a breath to catch a reflection, reassuring herself with a noble's offhanded smile that she was perfect, as always. Perfect for who she was today. Swirls of color matching the rose and her own glossy lips curved down from each eye, a style common for her family but as ancient as their name itself, finishing the strangely naturalistic counterpoint to her otherwise courtly attire. It took no mastery of observation to tell that her choice of clothes seemed in utter mockery of the cold, with a disdain only possible for someone used to bending the world to her will, and not the other way around.

She had arrived as befitted a lady -- punctually. Peasants humored themselves that being late was fashionable: it was not, unless your fashion was to be an ornament upon a man's arm. Those whose names held purport knew their time held value, and measured it with hawkish precision. Had she been here as someone other than herself, such arrival would have different. The Golden Angel was always early, so as to know what lay before the time at hand; a common barmaid would be late, slowed by the tire of a busy tavern night.

Such was how she lived. For now, her own name and skin would suffice. The lot around her seemed, in truth, comfortable enough in theirs...not that some of them should have been. It always surprised her how little some people cared for appearances. Truly she relished the wild abandon of The Golden Angel, but even that abandon was as careful as anything. But perhaps that was just her. When one is formless, form becomes a matter of great concern.

Each person occupied her mind for a moment. The call had been wide, the hour and day for the Mayor's audience well known. That others would seek a share of whatever they hoped to gain from aiding this town was a fact she knew well. Those drawn in were strange in bearing and body, perhaps, but more a curiosity than anything. She liked oddities -- it was such a welcome change from the near uniformity with which the influential of the Empire ran their pathetic lives. There were stories to each face and form. She liked that.

Each of them had gazed upon her at least once. Such knowledge was less a certainty and more of a calm awareness. Knowing when people were watching was a keystone of her trade. What they thought of her was something of a little guessing game that kept her busy when there was little else of purport to do.

As the Barbarian stormed out, she contemplated extending one precariously spiked heel of her boots out just far enough to catch his shin mid-stride. Such mischief was out of the question, of course, but the thought of the indignant rube tumbling down because of a mere lady's shoe drew the corners of her lips upward slightly. A server boy ushered in another curiosity of the rural -- no, of the wild...such was painfully obvious from this late-comer's bearing -- and asked about refreshments.

Though unnecessary, she still appreciated food and drink. Her only acknowledgement was the raising of two slender fingers. Her voice dripped like the audible manifestation of the subtle perfume that wafted around her. "Tea, please. Bergamot, lavender, and honey, if such you have."

The young lady's child addressed the newcomer. Not the introduction of friends, but rather an abrupt and mysterious query. The fact was filed away behind her veiled gaze as carefully as everything else, but Ulfgar appeared in the room suddenly, preventing further observance. Upon his comment, she roused herself catlike, purposefully yet slowly from where she had been leaning upon the furniture like a prized mare asleep in the bridle -- both ready and relaxed.

"So long as I may take my morning tea, I see no reason for delay, my dear sir."

OOC
 

 

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Old 06-12-2019, 09:45 PM
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Dorran Stoneroot
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The pale dwarf who had entered some time ago stood by the hearth seemingly soaking in the warmth, a small solace from the cold nights in Valejo. Adorned with rough spun but durable cotton intermixed with the occasional leather paddings, the man seemed still save for his red eyes. Those bloody orbs took in the room and its inhabitants with more than a passing observance and little subtly. Numerous satchels and pouches adorned the man's waist and a sturdy backpack rested comfortably across his broad shoulders. While at first glance one might suspect him to be a passing merchant, the notion was quickly set aside as one began to count the pale dwarf's numerous scar's across his exposed forearms and face. An exquisite shield composed of intricately carved bone and ivory wavered lightly from its clasp at the man's side though the shield's numerous animal claws encircling its rim gave it a slightly more primal style. Across the man's chest rested near a dozen vials of unknown liquids secured in a sturdy bandolier. Save for the two nondescript dagger's at the man's other hip he appeared unarmed though clearly he was no stranger to conflict.

The brief talk of minor sustenance from the young assistant boy seemed to rouse the pale dwarf from his observations and after the immaculately comely elven woman had made her request the man let out a slight gruff if only to signal the boys attention before adding. "Coffee if you have some boy. No worries if it is a little grainy. A little texture in one's drink never killed anybody.Coffee if ye hae some lad. Nae worries if it is a wee grainy. A spot oh texture in one's bevvy ne'er killed anybody." The man's voice was thick, but there was a distinct lack of the accents common of dwarve's out of Golden or even those down from Soarta in it. Even his annunciation seemed clearer and more precise despite the obvious grammatical butchering of his words. Perhaps his was an offshoot of some relatively minor clan. In any case, the man seemed content to wait and as the black haired girl approached the newcomer the man tilted his head aside slightly at the curious choice of introductions. Both women seemed to not miss a beat however and with the faintest of shrugs the pale dwarf dismissed the odd greeting.

The tepid energy within the room quickly grew to a steaming boil as a sturdy looking man burst out of the mayor's office threatening war. Seeming unable or unwilling to listen to reason, the man's threat of war brought a discernful gaze cast his way from the pale dwarf though even as the dwarf began to move forward to seemingly lend a word the man had stormed off. A slight bit of sympathy could be seen flitting across the man's gaze as the mayor returned and apologised for the abrupt interruption. "Don't be. Its not like young ones losing their patience is a rare occurrence. Just a right shame to hear the leaders anger might cause your town even more trouble.Dornt be. It's nae loch yoong ones losin' their patience is a raur occurrence. Jist a reit sham tae hear th' leaders anger micht cause yer toon e'en mair trooble." Crossing his arms more out of comfort than out of concern, the pale dwarf nodded. "Why don't we hear the first troubles that had you calling folks hear before we worry about new ones.Wa dornt we hear th' first troobles 'at hud ye callin' folks hear afair we fash yerse abit new ones."


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Old 06-13-2019, 05:35 AM
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Oota the Beast - A Long Awaited Homecoming
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Oota felt doubt as he wandered the whispering forest. This kind of place encompassed his own personal hell. Lost with himself, one of the things he had always hated the most. Lost in the painful memories of losing his new friends and he wondered if anyone else would ever stop to see who he truly was again. His encounter with The Green Mother gave him solace, but even that began to twist as the time passed and he trudged along and his thoughts grew dark...

'Maybe it never happened. Maybe I am really in the Nine Hells, being tortured for my failures. Maybe it is what I truly deserve after all the corpses I have left behind. The rumors may be more true than I ever realized...'

Despite such dark thoughts, the feeling of Gaia never left him. He remembered his oldest friend, Mikhaela, and how she had become so mighty. He remembered how the Dryad Nolia and praised his strength as 'of the Earth'. He remembered the simple acceptance of Nanataq, the support of Khole and Mitah, the comforting presence of the tiger, Lena and the gentle way of the angelic Lady Leilani. And he remembered how Winter always grew angry with him if he belittled himself. Such reminders nearly brought him to tears, and brought on the memories of their deaths to replay in his mind's eye. But they also pushed him onward.

Without warning, something flashed in his mind and the whispering of the woods was silenced. And his red eyes saw the silhouette that he would never forget. It beckoned to him and he knew that he was home. He moved steadily away from the forest and moved toward the walls of Valejo and he wondered how long he was lost. As he approached the gate, he could see the figures move on the wall. A voice called down and he could hear the surprise in it, "Oota, is that really you!?"

Oota looked up, his green tinged and ugly visage impassive as he yelled back, "Let me in, Sir Henrik! I have news for the Mayor!" Oota waited patiently for the gates to open and found that Henrik had come down to see him personally. The man fidgeted in his presence, as he usually did, as he moved through the gates and the big slave spoke softly, "It's been a while."

Henrik nodded emphatically as he signaled for the gate to close behind them. His eyes were wide and incredulous as he blustered, "An entire year. Everyone thinks you and the others failed and probably died!" Oota was somewhat surprised to hear that a year was gone, but when he had glimpsed the figure in the woods before, he thought it may be so. He offered Henrik a quick bow and muttered something about time being short and Oota stalked off toward the Mayor's house. He hoped that he wasn't too late.

As the tall ogrekin moved quickly and gracefully through the town, he could feel eyes upon him and he even thought he could hear the whispering voices. It all made him very uncomfortable and the doubts came unbidden. He knew that he was no more accepted than he ever had been. He even wondered if it would be worse than before.

Oota approached his destination and even from the street he could hear shouting. The distinctive voice of Mayor Strafgen and another from a person named Thorlief. But what the warrior noted was the name Greywolff. Of course Ulfgar couldn't produce the body of a living man. He quickened his steps as he passed Master Hiram's carriage. He watched as a tall man burst from the residence and he looked up and met Hiram's eyes. And he moved to knock and was immediately greeted by the Mayor's blunt words. Oota bowed respectfully then spoke softly, "Yes, Honorable." He paused and bit his lip quickly then spoke again in a louder voice, "I heard the shouting, Honorable. And I know that Greywolff is not dead. He gave me his farewells when I set off for home." The voice was much too loud for just the Mayor, but his hope was that the tall man would hear him too. Oota suspected that the Ulfgar would realize that.

Setting aside Thorlief in his mind, he followed the Mayor into the home and toward the room where he thought his Master would be, not knowing what was going on. But what ever it was, he had dire tidings to bring. And as he entered the room, he was surprised by a larger group than he had expected. Among those, Wuzruz, Veronica and Vivian waited to his surprise. He wondered what they thought of his changes, as his deformities had only grown more pronounced, the veins under the stone grey skin were now visibly green and his red eyes floated in a similar sea of green. Offering a quick bow to the strangers, then looked to those he knew and he spoke in a wry tone, "I'm home..."

 
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Old 06-13-2019, 02:54 PM
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Wuzruz the Bringer of the Word

A Year Prior
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Wuzruz found himself alone in his room, sitting up on his bed as though he had only recently awoken, though him sleeping was something that almost never happened. When it did, he was filled with the glorious symphony of clamoring gods and howling souls. This night was different though, this night his mate had visited him, in person or in a dream, he could not tell which, and did not much care. He felt broken and lost, afraid of what was to come, and of losing his family, and while her confirmation of a place beside him comforted him, her lack of love for him cut deeper than any blade possibly could.

Wuzruz's hurt and sadness quickly turned to anger in the room that night. They turned from pain and sadness to rage and hatred. After all, everything that had happened was Hiram's fault. It was he who intruded upon them that night, and he who introduced his mate to the tall orc, the one she burned for. But the tall orc was honorable, honorable and truthful. He would make a good convert, but that did not stop Wuzruz from wondering if he should be killed first. But Hiram..... Hiram would die. He would die with Wuzruz holding his heart in his hand, devouring it in front of him to take his power and his soul. He would banish Hiram to the darkest pits of the void, where he would forever be a slave for the Crimson King, digging in the endless pits as Wuzruz himself had once done. But for Hiram, there would be no escape.

As these thoughts traveled through the mind of the mad orc, his anger and rage only intensified, to the point that no amount of training could hold back the flood of it. When the damn burst, his hands had been clenched so hard that his nails had drawn blood from his palms. He then stood up and hurled his bed against the wall with a bellow of anger, rage, and hatred. The bed shattered into pieces, and Wuzruz fell upon it with a fury that was terrible to behold, his eyes mad with rage and the tendrils squirming beneath his skin granting him strength beyond one of even his stature.

His fists impacted the remains of the bed over and over again, each strike hitting the environment of Hiram. He had stolen his love, deprived him of freedom, and would die a slow and horrible death when the time arrived. Strike after strike hammered the wood and metal of the bed, breaking and dismembering Wuzruz's hands as he did so, and spraying blood all across the room in a beautiful pattern of pain and suffering.

Eventually, there was naught left of the bed but splinters and cloth. By then, Wuzruz's rage had subsided, and his anger been diminished. Exhaustion set in, and Wuzruz collected the dismembered pieces of his hands carefully, cradling them in the ruined, bloody messes that were left in their places. He walked slowly to the center of the room, and sat down slowly. The tendrils beneath his skin then began a slow rhythmic pattern, as he sat and stared into the pool of blood forming beneath him. His mind clear at last, he let the pain and agony of his hands sink into himself, and stared into his reflection in the blood, as it flickered in the candlelight.

Wuzruz then slowly began to draw incomprehensible symbols into the blood with his misshapen hands, forming a circle around himself as the pool of blood grew slowly. When he looked back into his reflection however, he was not alone. A great eye was directly behind him, and it opened as he looked into it, the great eye of Yog Sothoth.

'Fear not my child, the bride has yet to be wed. The way is clear now, and the little red queen will rise. The jester king will dance his play across the empire. We come. Hiram will play his part, and the void will become what is reality, and the fledgling force will surpass the mountains of the gods themselves. When the twin tailed comet flies through the night. We come. Go now to the base of eternity, and bring forth the world spirit into temptation. Drag her down to the depths and show her the way. We come. Open the gate with the key given, and the deliverer will rise from the seas. Go now Bringer of the Word, go now my child and find the key. We come... '

Wuzruz bows his head at the words of Yog sothog, grimacing as the tendrils withing spear out and draw in the broken pieces of his hand, reforming skin and mending bone and muscle. When his misshapen hands have become whole once more, he whispers slowly to the blood beneath him; "Yes great father, it will be done."

Wuzruz then looks up in time for his evening sermon, the tendrils squirming back into his eyes once more, consuming the eyes of the simple orc, pushing him back to the farthest reaches of Wuzruz, a lost cause soon to be devoured. In it's place, Wuzruz, the Bringer of the Word stood strong, his back straight, and the sermon of fire and brimstone prepared by the voices in his mind so he knew what to speak. He used his pool of blood to decorate his body in the symbols of those from before, and then left to meet his faithful, the future of this misbegotten world...

The room he left covered in his blood, with a large pool of it in the center of the room. The fire of the candle slowly burnt down, and then there was not but darkness and whispers in the room of Wuzruz, only insanity awaited there.

The course of the year:

Over the course of the next year, Wuzruz followed his chieftain unerringly. He kept the faithful in line, and any slaves that got out of line were quickly brought into the ranks of the faithful, or had unfortunate accidents. The faithful proceeded with morning and nightly services as their duties allowed.

Wuzruz kept his teaching up with Vivian, caring for her as a father would, and teaching her lessons prepared by the voices in his mind, and the gods themselves. They covered topics from advanced mathematics, astrology, and biology, to cosmic entities, new worlds, and differing forms of orcs known to Wuzruz. The end of every teaching session ended in a fantastical story from the beyond, the time Wuzruz spent in the void with the gods of old and the worlds connected to them.

Wuzruz was puzzled by Vivian, and only pressed her upon the strangeness once. Her fear concerned him, and he wanted to help, but she would not share with him her suffering. So he watched and he waited for the time that she would trust in him her confidence. The bride had not yet been wed after all, there was still time...



Current Time:

Wuzruz left his room early in the morning, never sleeping as was usual, and came to see his flock. He gave a sermon of hope and glory, that the great gods were coming, and that it would be the faithful that were to inherit the world. The faithful alone would stand among the victors, and they would shape the lands in their vision, and eternity would be theirs.

When this was complete, he was met by Hiram, personally. Without guards. He couldn't fathom why this coward had met him alone, but had no reason to suspect foul play. It turned out however, that he had earned a spot on a special team that was to clear out some evil that had penetrated into the south. Wuzruz accepted, and was given his ax and equipment back, what little there was. He wanted to strike Hiram down right there, but the voices spoke of caution and waiting, his time had not yet come. So Wuzruz waited. Patience was not his strongest suit, but the gods willed it and it would be so.

He arrived to the meeting early at Hiram's request, running on foot behind the carriage. He came up to the mayor's mansion, and entered to wait with the others. Vivian had rode in the wooden box with wheels, as had Veronica. But he held his jealousy back, and ran, easily keeping up with the carriage through the town.

Those that arrived could see Wuzruz easily. He wore no clothes but the scars and tattoos upon his body. They made a grand tapestry that caused an ache in the head of those what looked upon it. His eyes had small tendrils floating within them, and they glowed a soft blue at the time. He was nearly eight feet tall, and was wide and well muscled. His chiseled muscles rippled every time he moved, accenting the strength that his massive form held. He had two large tusks that jutted up from his bottom jaw, ensuring that anyone not completely assured of his heritage, knew he was an orc, and not some half breed. The ax standing beside him was set down upon its pommel. It stood straight and was a solid piece of adamantium inlaid with the flesh of some unknown being. Two massive eyes looked around from the head of the ax, staring from person to person in an unnerving and highly unnatural manner.

When he stood there, he watched the exchange with the mayor happening unconcernedly. As the nord ran from the place in anger, Wuzruz watched with much more interest as a world child appeared before him. She was a bird, and then she was not. Wuzruz liked birds, and he liked children of the world.

When she holds her hand out, Wuzruz drops down to a knee in response, the full weight of his body coming down upon a single knee caused the board beneath him to crack from the blow. He then holds his hand out to her with his palm up, and speaks in the language of the world; "Greetings child of the world. I would request the blessings of the world mother. I am Wuzruz, the bringer of the word. I will offer you the blessings of the void in return if you wish. I hope that we can work together in the future, and prepare for the second coming. I would like the world mother to stand with us, rather than be trampled underfoot...Saúdos fillo do mundo. Eu pediría as bendicións da nai do mundo. Son Wuzruz, o que trae a palabra. Ofrézolles as bendicións do baleiro a cambio se o desexa. Espero que poidamos traballar xuntos no futuro e prepararnos para a segunda vinda. Gustaríame que a nai do mundo estivese connosco, en lugar de ser pisoteada ..."

Wuzruz keeps his head down and his palm upturned for the child of the world, not noticing the tall orc as he walked into the room, though the eyes of the herald both zero in on the tall orc, watching him carefully as he enters.



ooc


 


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Old 06-13-2019, 09:52 PM
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The Danger of Unfamiliarity
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Anja is a great owl perched high atop an unoccupied tower of Vallejo's city walls. She is the color of winter, white and brown. The wind ruffles her feathers as she looks out over the rooftops. She had thought she would hate towns and cities. The treeless expanses of rock, wood, and mud. The stink. The cacophony of Other's living. But she had not. She found them full of life. Tumultuous and wide in the pulse of survival, but no different then the wild forest, the high steppes, the frigidly cold mountaintops. Dense and dirty, yes. Dangerous. Certainly. But she could not hate them no matter how the trees and rivers spoke of them. No matter what the wolves saw in them. No matter the grumblings of hill gaints.

In the end, they were just as much the creation as everything else. And there was a beauty of balance in them that defied explanation. Like the mesmerizing center of a flower, the streets of Vallejo spread out in a dizzying array, made to disperse its own form of pollen into the world. For better or worse.

Hearing the young guard putting arrow to string, Anja's head swivels and she peers down at him through her owl eyes. She does not move. She had nothing he needed. Nothing he could use. Shooting her would be for pride only so he could speak the words of the deed. How he had shot a great owl that perched upon the walls from a remarkable distance. Anja knew he could do it. His eyes were as sharp as hers. But she would not move. She could sense something in him. A measurement of who he was and what he would become. For a moment, he almost raised his bow, but then his hands halted and he just watched the great owl. A quiet moment that found him shaking his head in wonder and un-notching the arrow.

Anja let out a screech as she dropped from the tower to spread her great wings. Swooping along the wall's edge, she banked and flew around the guard along a narrow ellipse causing him to pirouette on his feet until he almost fell over. Out over the roofs of Vallejo she flew until finding a small alley into which to fall and find her shape again. She leaned against the damp stones of the close set houses, catching her breath and finding herself, before stepping out into the street. Briefly, she looked back to the curtain walls and found the young guard leaning over them and looking out at where she as an owl had disappeared. Then his eyes found her walking from the alley. In that distance, she knew him and he knew her. She watched him take one or two tentative steps away from the edge of the wall as understanding settled into him and Anja smiled. He would make a good man.

Take only what you need brother.
And She will repay you the kindness.


Anja was unaccustomed to Others. How they walked. How the talked. How they were among each other. She had no experience of such things. She was Nanuq and had lived long in the North. But, she had traveled among them now and then as she moved south, searching for where she needed to be. She need not have done so in the beginning as there was nothing the world did not provide, but she did anyways. Out of curiosity at first. And interest. They were living things and she wished to learn the shape of them. And eventually something spoke to her that she would find where it was that she must be from these people, not from forest or meadow, fox or bear. The wind would not tell her nor the rain. So she had need to be amongst them more and more, to take risk even if she hid her true shape, her real face and the color of her spirit. Or she knew she would be lost just as much as those that did not return from a change.


"This is beer," Anja asked, peering wondrously at the golden liquid. "I've heard of it."

"Heard of it," Ihrin, the little dwarf woman who owned the Shallow Trough, said. "You've not had beer girl," she continued laughing.

Anja shook her head but her bright eyes stayed upon the glass tankard. Then she lifted it to her lips and drank the whole bit in a single breath, slamming the tankard down as she had seen the rough men along the tables do. Her smile was broad and her lips tinged with foam.

"It is good. Not strong like Airag. But good," Anja said until she noted Ihrin's surrounding quiet. Nanuq only go that quiet when they anticipated violence. Settling her hands flat on the table, Anja looked up into Ihrin eyes, the points of claws already bleeding through the flesh of the tips of her fingers, her lips beginning to bulge with teeth too large and sharp for her mouth, her breathing changing to a rumble in her chest. But she found something unexpected written on Ihrin's face and eyes.

"Airag," Ihrin whispered. "That is not a word spoken here. Few, if any, but ol'Ihrin know the drink. An none this far south have ever tasted it. Where you from girl," Ihrin asks, already knowing the answer.

"North" Anja replies, returning to a softer shape.

World's Daughter"Dieťa sveta", Ihrin says with equal parts reverence and fear. "You are forgotten. Come. Ihrin tells you what secrets to keep. I've a room you can rest. The Calling is tomorrow. That's why your here no?"

"Yes," Anja says. Certain that whatever Ihrin speaks of is where she is supposed to be but uncertain of what Ihrin names her or why.


It is a mistake. For both of them. Nanuq do not approach each other or the living so loudly. There is danger in such ways and Anja reacts in the only way she knows. She has not been with Others long enough to understand them. They can not change. And, if she were honest, the sparrow is still more in her blood than it should be. Something unnerves her spirit in this moment as Oota arrives and Wuzruz makes it worse, startling her and her innate wildness. She doesn't understand Wuzruz's intent until it is too late. She only sees his movements and hears his loudness in the shaking floor against her and Veronica.
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She changes. That is how to meet a threat. The loud approach of an attack. The uncertainty of such noise.

You make noise of your own. And then let be what would come of it. Sometimes you agree to separate, giving life to the noise only. Finding balance and understanding that neither mean the other real harm. Sometimes the noise becomes other things. In a breath, Anja becomes a stone troll. Skin hard as granite. Chest half as wide as she is tall. Hands the size of oxen. Eyes the size of olives. Temper the size of mountains. Her head grazing the ceiling as she grows making her stoop as she gains her full size and looms over Wuzruz. One massive hand falling on his head and the other grabbing his outstretched arm.

There is a moment here when Anja is not herself. When she is completely the stone troll. When crushing an orc's head, eating his brain, and gnawing his bones is her only desire. When protecting Veronica, this new met person, is all she sees and feels. Until she roars spittle over Wuzruz head so loudly the room shakes and "Child of the WorldFillo del mundo' filters into her. Ihrin said similar words in her own tongue. The meaning was the same even if the naming was different.

A gasp rumbles amid the dust dislodged from the rafters by the sound of her making as she realizes the wrongness of her reaction. Anja finds herself holding the Orc's hand in her own, head bowed until her forehead is against his knuckles, body and shape so much smaller than his as she regains a semblance of herself. Her bones shake and tremble for a few seconds. She sighs.

I offer apologies"Ofrezo desculpas", Anja says, lifting her head from Wuzruz hand, but keeping her own upon his, perhaps to forestall anger. "I am uncertain here. I meant no harm. I've acted foolishlyNon estou seguro. Non quería dicir mal. Actuou tontamente," she adds looking around as if waking from a dream until she understands the rest of Wuzruz words. What he asks she cannot give. What he threatens she doesn't understand. She knows Gaia. She is her child.

"I am not a Mouth of the Mother. I cannot give you blessings even if your shape deserved them." she says in the common language. "Please. Accept my name instead. It is all I have to give. I am Anja-Birgit. Some call me Mestet-Jente. But they are not here in this place. I am here for a Calling. Is this Calling yours?"
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Old 06-14-2019, 12:52 AM
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Lady Chrysis Viridula, The Golden Angel
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It was, in truth, hard to surprise Chrysis. Part of her holy -- or unholy, depending on who you asked -- doctrine was to seek out all things secret for her own advancement, amusement, and aid. Such meant that much that was strange had been known to her, rendering real surprise a rare thing indeed.

Anja came as close as anyone had to actually achieving this feat. As the room was filled with a sudden explosion of uncouth muscle and noise, an audible sigh escaped her lips as she was glad once more for having remained in one corner. Given her skills, she was used to uncouth muscle, noise, and sudden explosions...and more importantly, she calmly checked a box on her mental notes for Anja. Thinking her wild was an understatement. The girl dances the line of being feral.

The thoughts were not in contempt. Life was each one's own, an eternal treasure bound in earthen vessels. If Anja seemed curious to her, The Lady in the Room would have her learn what secrets she could rather than condemn the self-will of another. Chrysis was unharmed, and thus the cardinal rule had not been broken.

Anja's actions, however, read like pages from a book with its binding lost -- slipshod and prone to irrational scatter. Or perhaps, she thought, it is better considered a manuscript, bound in no order save that in which the creator has set it, and more authoritative than all later forms, if less refined. The orc, too -- he was another such oddity, a settling of bizarre intelligence within the shell of stupor, like when a serpent's smooth skin lay shrouded beneath a sheath of sordid dead scales. Just as form meant everything, so it meant nothing. Such she knew, for such she was.

As soon as the incident happened, so too it passed. The tension remained, for such moments though brief in time last for ages in the mind. Social tension, however, was a matter at which to be laughed. She was present, and thus all things social must first bow to her approval...and at this moment, she wanted her mission and her tea.

Her boots tapped softly with each step to the rhythmically perfect cadence of her gait, itself a motion like that of a ghost that moves yet somehow touches not he real earth. Her clothes flex and pull across her body as if resisting the temptation to simply drop any pretense of coverage, while the cloak floats out behind her like ripples where a creek is broken by stones. In cloud of rustling fine fabrics, she draws to a stop, angled between Wuzruz and Anja. Her words are meant for both, though she addresses Anja first. The tone has touches of both distant mirth and the casual warmth of someone for whom awkwardness is impossible.

"Come now darling, we must not be so serious. Life is joy and joy is life -- your actions are already lost to the past like leaves in a river. I'm sure our lovely Void Prophet will agree. And do not worry about uncertainty or foolishness...those are both things cured with time alone."Veña querida, non debemos ser tan graves. A vida é alegría e a alegría é a vida -- as túas accións xa se perden no pasado como follas nun río. Estou seguro de que o noso querido Profeta Void estará de acordo. E non che preocupes pola incerteza ou pola tolemia ... estas son as cousas curadas co tempo só.

As she speaks, her mouth parts into a cheerful smile, pulling her full lips like the limbs of a drawn bow to reveal the perfectly white teeth beneath. With a half-turn she scans the rest of those in the room -- including the oddly greenish newcomer -- before switching back into Imperially polished Common. This did not begin as her conversation, but at this time the man who was to be their benefactor and connection to adventure was left waiting. Such was not a state in which Chrysis was pleased, and thus though this was not her conversation once, it most certainly was now. Nevertheless, over this lay still the easy voice of someone used to putting theirs to use. "And I, my dear, am Lady Chrysis Viridula. I believe I can speak for all of us when I say that we are all here for the calling...specifically the calling of the charming but beleaguered Mayor here."

With a turn of speech as natural as breathing, Chrysis focused her attention onto the Mayor, not quite pausing long enough to let anyone else interject. A slight step left her somewhat centered in the room, a subtle deed to render her the focal point and anchor point for events...something she was managing surprisingly well considering those other figures in the room. Despite her height and size there was a strange depth and mass to her...perhaps it was the boots adding notably to her height, or perhaps it was the cloak which now spread around her like the billows of a griffon's mane, or perhaps it was some unfathomable quality not so easily identified. For a fraction of a second one would have almost called the slender half-elf intimidating, but the off-handed cheerfulness that seemed to pervade this figure left her words couched behind an expression as languidly benign as a preening thrush in the spring sunshine. "And speaking of which, Ulfgar, before Anja so courteously decided to ensure we were all most definitely awake at this early hour, I believe you were preparing to speak to us precisely of that call you had issued to us? That, of course, and ensure I was fetched my tea."

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Old 06-15-2019, 09:51 PM
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ProvocationShe took the offered hand and though it was cold it did not feel such to her. She felt a spark when their skin touched and her eyes darted straight to hers and locked there as her breathing stopped. Anja felt Veronica's hand on hers but she also felt, for the barest moment, what she was feeling. Wonderment and some small amount of fear but it was not the mortal kind, but the people kind. Anja could feel the force that was Veronica like the surf crashing against the stone shore and she could not for the life of herself understand why such a one would feel this way among these others, yet the feeling was there palpable like the wind on her face in the storm. When Wuz knelt to take the hand proffered for her, Veronica did not wince at the cracking wood as she might have but she seemed instead to ponder Anja's answer for a moment.

"The dark is one of the few safe places, Anja. It is the light that shows the horrors. The dark is a place for hiding."

She seemed sad when she said this.

The one of elven blood seemed so entirely in her element, especially so in contrast to Veronica's quiet discomfort and, like the scarred Dwarf Dorran, exhibited some impatience for events to unfold. Veronica did not think she would be so eager if she knew what was coming for them, if she had seen what she had seen in her dreams last night. When the Gray Dwarf asked to hear about the troubles, his answer came in the form of a knock.

Veronica released Anja's hand then and immediately went to Vivian and took her from Wuzzie and held her tightly against her hip. They made for a strange sight since the mother was so petite and the little girl had grown so tall that they did not fit together as they once had, babe to hip and mouth to breast, but the girl cooed softly nonetheless and nestled herself at her mother's neck. Veronica knew it was not the big man coming back but what she saw left her stunned.

"Oota!"

She screamed the thought inside such that all those around her felt the hairs at the napes of their necks stand slightly from the force of it and their ears began to sing in that shrill way they can when silence feels too heavy. Veronica's face blanched if such were possible and her eyes became wide mirrors in her lovely porcelain face. And then Oota spoke the words from her dream and she felt the blood drain from her fingers and her legs. Something at her throat began to squeeze and suddenly she could not breathe.

"Greywolff... the name from the dream... So it begins today..."

Veronica's shoulders straightened and all trace of trepidation which Anja had been made to glimpse evaporated from her and a low fire began to burn in the black pits of her almond eyes.

"Whatever comes, I will be ready."

But she was not ready for Anja's sudden brutal transformation nor for the subsequent shame which came from it. Veronica was not accustomed to surprise and she had already experienced two this morning. Words were spoken which were intended to diffuse the tensions but they only escalated in Veronica.

Oota was here, alive and breathing, but changed, in a fundamental way. She saw the green of his eyes and the swell of his arms and the green veins which traveled their entire length. She saw the cold steel peek from behind his back and knew that this was some new element for her friend, some gift he had recently received though from whom she could not see. She tried to touch him in her way but found that she could not and grew curious. She let Vivian slide to the wooden floor and stepped forward towards him, her black eyes locked to his green ones, and before she could stop herself she was on him, throwing her arms around him though they could not make it very far at all.

"You live. You are here. We are saved."

She sent the thoughts for him alone to hear and Oota knew that she had somehow seen what he had seen and perhaps more. She pulled away from him and spared a glance for Wuz and then for Vivian and for the others allowed herself to say:

"Welcome home. We are happy to see you."

Vivian flew to her place at Wuzzie's shoulder and began to pull on one of his long tusks but not in such a way that was insistent but instead seemed loving somehow in that way she had.

The Mayor brought his hands together once, loudly, dispelling the moment and giving life once more to reality. The human, despite Oota's weight of voice, had not returned.

""It is done, then?"It is dain, 'en?"

Oota nodded but before he could elaborate, explain or regale them with the tale of what had happened, the man in flowing dark robes came from the Mayor's office and strode into the foyer. Hiram followed from behind but stayed a few steps back from the man as if in deference for his station. When he spoke, the voice which manifested from the folds of his shadowed cowl made blood run like ice through shrinking veins and parts which could shrivel did and hairs which could stand stood at full attention.

"I have waited long enough, Ulfgar. I need your answer now. Will you comply and allow me conscript your men? We must evacuate and soon. They are coming."

The Mayor's face first blanched and then reddened and he seemed to screw all courage which he had to face the Overseer.

""I will not abandon my town! We've been through too much to give up now. What force is it you say now stands against us? What are these Gith you spoke of in your letter? Abomination from beyond this world? Why care they for my little northern town? Why is everyone after what is mine? By this, I mean my people! They are mine to protect and care for! I will not abandon them and lead them to some other war of the emperor's choosing!"Ah wulnae abandon mah toon! We've bin ben tay much tae gie up noo. Whit force is it ye say noo stands against us? Whit ur these gith ye spoke ay in yer letter? Abomination frae beyond thes warld? Wa caur they fur mah wee northern toon? Wa is a' fowk efter whit is mine? By thes, Ah pure techt mah fowk! They ur mine tae protect an' caur fur! Ah wulnae abandon them an' leid them tae some other war ay th' emperor's choosin'!"

Spittle flew from the Mayor's bearded lips as he spoke but the dark man seemed entirely unfazed by the ire in the Dwarf's speech. He loomed silently, towering over the mayor, then unleashed his slippery voice once more in its husky whisper.

"I have your answer then. You will have no aid nor succor in what is coming. You are giving them the north and all your people. You will all die for nothing, Ulfgar. I've given you your chance. This will be our final goodbye then. Our Lord might send a force to retake the north some day, but you will all long have burned and be ashes among the rubble of this town. Good day."

His cowled head nodded only slightly before his hands clasped each other in the folds of his opulent black robes and suddenly the air around him seemed to thrum with power. Those in attendance felt their teeth grind in their mouth for a moment and then space itself seem to fold towards the Overseer in the Mayor's foyer. The black robe vanished with a loud pop which had all their ears ringing suddenly and a gasp of air rushed to fill the void left by his departure.

Ulfgar's hands began to tremble visibly and he seemed suddenly to find a moment of weakness which took the strength from his knees. He swooned for a moment and sat himself in a nearby chair, clasping his face in his hands. He sighed and looked at them once more.

""My people have been fighting Trolls and Thorleif's men for going on three years now. We've bled and we've died for this town. I cannot give up now, not to follow some forlorn emperor on some mad crusade. I have to fight for my people, damn him!"Mah fowk hae bin fightin' trolls an' Thorleif's men fur gonnae oan thee years noo. We've bled an' we've died fur thes toon. Ah cannae gie up noo, nae tae follaw some forlorn emperur oan some radge crusade. Ah hae tae barnie fur mah fowk, damn heem!"

The Mayor stood then and seemed to find the fire in his heart once more. He pounded his fist in his hand hard and turned to Oota.

""You say that Greywolff is alive? What of the others I sent? We could use strong warriors now. Will you tell us what happened? Will you regale us with your tale of what has come for us to drive the Trolls to madness and our lands to foulness?"Ye say 'at Greywolff is alife? Whit ay th' others Ah sent? We coods use strang warriors noo. Will ye teel us whit happened? Will ye regale us wi' yer tale ay whit has come fur us tae drife th' trolls tae madness an' uir lands tae foolness?"

Oota told them then of the Darkness from beyond which came from Hell to take their world and lead it to its fires. He told of the Life Tree and Gaia's Cradle and the Behemoth he had fought and killed. He told of the mad Gith and his warnings though in truth they had been more like threats. He told of Nolia's courage and of Winter's grief. He told of Khole's sacrifice and Mikhaëla's pain. He spoke of dying friends and swelling grief and spoke of the green lady which had touched him... Oota spoke of Delvron's message of a place to be rebuilt in the north for northerners, a place of safety in the coming storm. But Ulfgar shook his head.

""I cannot accept his invitation any more than I could this black man's from the capital. What do city folk know of home and hearth? I remember Delvron. He broke bread with me and mine and spoke brave words to me then. I am glad that he lives and the world may have need of his kind yet. Let him build his refuge in the north but I must stand and fight."Ah cannae accept his invitation onie mair than Ah coods thes black man's frae th' capital. Whit dae city folk ken ay haem an' hearth? Ah min' delvron. He broke breed wi' me an' mine an' spoke brae words tae me 'en. Ah am glad 'at he li'es an' th' warld main hae need ay his kin' yit. Lit heem build his refuge in th' north but Ah main stain an' barnie."

Ulfgar turned then to those who had answered his final call and seemed to resign himself to ask what he felt he must.

""You have answered my call. It seems the source of the troubles to the west has been found and counted. It seems the troubles are not done with us, not here, and a new foe comes knocking at our door. These Githyanki have come with some army from the south to take our homes from us. Will you stand and fight with us? Thorleif storms away huffing and puffing about war when our true foe come breathing down our neck. We've found his kin and word from Oota that he lives. Will you go after him to the north and stop his march to madness while he pounds the drums of war? Tell him this foe comes for him, too, and all his people. I've heard tell of what they do and they don't leave no spoils to plunder when they leave. They will come for Thorleif too. Tell him about Greywolff's refuge and what stands to be won by fighting side by side against these rabble from beyond the void! Will you go and rouse Thorleif and his peoples and then stand with us and fight?"Ye hae answered mah caa. It seems th' soorce ay th' troobles tae th' west has bin foond an' coonted. It seems th' troobles arenae dain wi' us, nae haur, an' a new foe comes knockin' at uir duir. these Githyanki hae come wi' some army frae th' sooth tae tak' uir homes frae us. Will ye stain an' barnie wi' us? thorleif storms awa' huffin' an' puffin' abit war when uir true foe come breathin' doon uir neck. We've foond his kin an' wuid frae oota 'at he li'es. Will ye gang efter heem tae th' north an' gonnae-no his march tae madness while he poonds th' drums ay war? Teel heem thes foe comes fur heem, tay, an' aw his fowk. I've heard teel ay whit they dae an' they dornt lae nae spoils tae plunder when they lae. They will come fur Thorleif tay. Teel heem abit Greywolff's refuge an' whit stands tae be won by fightin' side by side against these rabble frae beyond th' void! Will ye gang an' roose Thorleif an' his peoples an' 'en stain wi' us an' barnie"

A slow clapping sounded from the hall to Ulfgar's office and all gazes turned to fix upon Hiram who leaned lazily against a wall while he brought his hands together to make a most contemptuous sound.

"A most rousing speech, O Mayor. Well done," he said in his oily snake merchant's voice.

"I suppose you will be wanting to solicit both Wuzruz and Oota now that he's returned? I suppose I might be amenable to allowing it. You can take the girl, Wuzruz. I am growing rather bored of her. A man can only have a girl so many ways before hers tears grow pondersome. Have you had your taste of her yet? Quite delicious!"

Veronica's eyes burned as her gaze flew first to Oota then to Wuzruz. Her breathing heaved her chest as something in her eyes seemed to break, then.

"You said you wouldn't say. You said you wouldn't say!"

With every word Veronica stepped towards the casual Hiram and her voice rose in both pitch and volume.

"YOU SAID YOU WOULDN'T SAY!"

The last she screeched up in Hiram's face, her fists clenched to her sides, her hair flying madly with her fury. Papers began to shift and float from shelves and table and books tumbled to the floor while the windows shook in their moorings.

Hiram struck her violently with his fist, sending her down hard on her rump where blood began to spew from her shattered nose.

The boy came from the kitchen then, carrying a tray set with steaming tea and coffee with several biscuits arranged neatly on a plate.

"Tea and Coffee?" he said, oblivious.

A voice, moist and rumbling deep in Wuzruz's consciousness, roused itself from somewhere deep and dark and slithered languidly towards his thoughts.

"Kiiiiiiillll Hiiiirrraaaaaam..." It whispered.
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Old 06-16-2019, 01:06 AM
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Lady Chrysis Viridula, The Golden Angel
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This...

Her chest rose and fell in time with a pair of deep breaths. Her nerves held as one hand ran absently along the side of her head, staying the attempted escape of one rogue hair. She had seen illegal clubs for gambling, fights, and prostitution run with more order than this supposedly formal meeting. It truly did not deserve her presence, but for its own thankless sake had been granted the rare blessing of such social prowess nonetheless.

The Overseer threw words around like one for whom they are merely means to an end, missing entirely the glorious art that she had made so central to her life. Small words they were. The fact that words themselves are no more solid than the air upon which they float seemed lost to him, given the stony chill that pervaded his speech. She did not yield her hold on the center of the room for him, forcing the man to adjust his step ever so slightly past her when he and the Mayor were facing off. It was likely subconscious, and nothing most would see. She noticed, and appreciated it. Perhaps it meant nothing, but she had made multiple fortunes off of less than even this. The little nothings of life were often everything.

The...hobgoblin?...was yet another fitting display for this cabinet of curiosities collected here. The connection between him and Veronica was tangible. She possessed skills, of that Chrysis was certain, but their use was amateur at best, despite whatever additional magical potency she wielded. For a hovering moment the Calistrian Priestess wondered if she could divine a drop of elven blood in the dame...the Church could always use talented acolites, and this young one could use the training. The hobgoblin's voice drifted through these thoughts, the important details of the story not escaping her notice. His bearing and diction, too, caught her attention. There was the seed of true nobility planted in that gnarled plot of greenish grey sinew.

The Mayor. She found herself pitying the man, and not merely because sharing his sympathies would aid in her social standing. He dared to pursue the life he chose for himself in spite of hardship, and his sheer willful determination and endurance was an act she herself would have praised in her Order. A part of her wanted to aid him simply for that alone...perhaps such gratification would add more savor than usual to her originally plotted gains.

Hiram. She'd come across the name before, but never had the chance to meet him. He seemed...overdone? The word she sought escaped her. It was as if he was a living stereotype. It was the sort of thing that could be reduced to nothing more than a single facet of a single act she would do in a single night. A mass of overly prideful derision. His type were common enough in the Imperial Court. Some used it as only an act to shroud their more devious minds behind, while others were as superficial as they seemed.

The exchange that happened next supported the second statement. His words rang of talk fit only for a room lined in leather, laced with exotic smoke and liquor, and filled with naught but cheap testosterone. It took all her training to keep the upper corner of her lip from rising in disgust. Veronica was justly irate, and his response only worsened the situation.

As the server entered the room time seemed to slow for her as her thoughts entered high gear. With hawkish focus her eyes traced lines from those to whom Veronica had glanced to the bleeding woman and despicable man. Her peripheral vision absorbed the lay of the room and other people present. With the tactical precision for which her House was famous she
Dice Perception:
1d20+17 (17)+17 Total = 34
gathered the relevant details:

The Hobgoblin was emotionally tied but had the demeanor of a servant to some or all of these.

The Orc had partially tensed, with a half-distant bearing such as one toying with distant thoughts. He was not jumpy, but his words before were ones of a person used to wielding decisive power.

The Axe...freakish monstrosity that it was...had eyes fixed on both the Orc and Hiram.

Veronica was stunned momentarily, but the strength of that humiliation and pain would not be doused so easily. She had exhibited a power that could break bonds.

Hiram seemed unconcerned. He had controlled or at least subdued Veronica's power, and that spoke for something about what he himself possessed.

The room had points of both escape and hiding easily. She could reach anywhere in a moment if she needed to.

Plenty of objects for weapons. Serving tray, dishes, furniture...

Dice Initiative:
1d20+8 (14)+8 Total = 22
In the next instant she had formed her decision. Without even glancing at the boy, she followed the unmistakable scent of the tea she had requested to the right one, her fair hands snatching the saucer from the tray. Cradled at chest height in her off hand, her right hand pinched the china's fragile handle between two fingers, others extended in a relaxed half moon, and took a dainty sip of the steaming brew.

With the cup still held in front of her lips,
Dice Sleight of Hand:
1d20+15 (8)+15 Total = 23
Chrysis paused as if savoring the sweet floral aroma of her tea. During this pause, Wuzruz instantly heard a voice roiling with a rippling power honed into a single twisted whisper so quiet only he will hear...coming from just behind him.

Aklo:"Do not speak or act right now...only lower your weapon, lest harm befall Veronica, yourself, and all around. Now is not the time."
**Using Intimidate: {10 (Take, with Skilled Familiarity) + 28 (Base Skill) + 2 (Skilled Familiarity) + 4 (Social Grace) = 44DC}**
Nu vorbiți sau nu veți acționa chiar acum ... doar aruncați arma, ca să nu vă răniți pe Veronica, pe tine însuți și pe toate. Acum nu este momentul.


As soon as that was said, the teacup was lowered soundlessly to its saucer and she cast a disdainful gaze across the room to Hiram, **Adjusted response on her first round due to Intimidation not resolving**then back to the orc. He was not doing as she commanded. She clicked her tongue disapprovingly...clearly something far outside the ordinary was at play here, but that was simply another matter filed away to be dealt with later. Apparently some creatures were of such low breeding that they caused scenes like this in the presence of a Lady. A quick scan told her that she was not between anyone involved and the others, so at least she was not going to be concerned. A wry grin sprouted across her lips as she sent a knowing look at first Ulfgar and then Hiram. "I'm sure you were excited by my visit, but morning tea and a drama? Come now, you are too lavish for such a rural town..."

Despite her protests, this was going to be an amusing bit of morning chaos.

After all, at least she had her tea.

She calmly took another dainty sip.
 


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Old 06-16-2019, 05:34 AM
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Oota the Beast - A Long Awaited Homecoming
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Oota watched the room with mild surprise. Wuzruz didn't notice his approach as his attention was focused on a dark haired girl. That part was easy enough. His surprise came as the girl seemed to panic and transformed briefly into a troll. He could perform a similar feat, but not nearly as effortlessly. But after the terrors he had seen, it wasn't too frightening. And the girl, Anja-Birgit, seemed to be embarrassed by it. Some in the room seemed surprised, including Veronica whose wide-eyed look was torn away from him by it. But the golden haired Lady Viridula did not seem surprised.

Before he could even begin to process his thoughts of it all, he was surprised again as Veronica rushed him and wrapped her arms around him. Oota couldn't help but stiffen awkwardly, as he was not used to being touched often, but he patted her back with his large hand as he listened to her mind-speak. Though he wasn't so sure if she was right. He nodded when she welcomed him, but he didn't believe that everyone felt that way.

He could feel Chrysis' eyes upon him as the Mayor asked him if it was done, but all he could do was nod before another man began speaking. Oota wanted to silence him, as he felt that his news was more important than what the others might say, but he knew he had to do what was expected. As he listened, he remembered Delvron's words about Emperor Kaine and he was saddened to find that it seemed true. The man's final words rankled Oota's nerves but the ogrekin remained silent, even as he disappeared from sight. He also listened to Ulfgar speak of fighting for several years and the need to protect his own town and Oota silently agreed. But he also wished that the wars and battles would stop, at least until the dire problems were seen to. The dwarf then turned to him and asked after Greywolff, the other former Guardian's and the tale he had come to tell.

Oota looked at everyone briefly then began to speak, "Greywolff was in Northvale when I left, above Gaia's falls. Delvron and Helena, along with him, Lady Leilani Fairchilde, Mikhaela Lathrond stayed to rebuild the city along with the survivors of those who battled the darkness. The others who left Valejo with me perished..." The tall slave sighed sadly as he remembered them again. He continued to speak in a solemn voice, "At Gaia's Cradle we faced the forces of Baalzebul and Hell itself, which Delvron fought as we headed to the World Tree, us along with the brave Dryad named Nolia. The World Tree, the foundation of this world, had been corrupted by forces of Entropy and several of us, including myself, nearly died getting there. At the tree we faced a behemoth like a twisted half-dragon and a mad gith..." Oota told the tale of his great battle and the great sacrifice that was given that day. He spoke of his encounter with Gaia herself. And he finished by relaying Delvron's last words, "... There is worse coming and I don't know if the world will survive if it comes to war, though preparations should be made if necessary. But Northvale will be a refuge for the Free Peoples in the North, where they can fight against the darkness if they wish. And where they may be safe from the coming storm."

The big slave listened to Ulfgar's response and nodded slightly, knowing that it wasn't his place to argue with him. Then he listened to the dwarf's speech and call to action though Oota remained silent. His path was practically set, unless further word from Gaia reached him to change it. He was intent on waiting for the others thoughts.

Then a voice he knew very well spoke and Oota turned and bowed to Hiram. Though the words of his Master triggered a bit of his anger, with the dismissive statement about his friend. He looked at Veronica, trying to make her see that he didn't think less of her, but she reacted strongly to Hiram's words. And her words served to lower the internal respect he had for his Master. Which fell further when he struck the woman.

Oota knew that it wouldn't be right to strike at Hiram, no matter how much the entire display hurt and angered him. So he responded simply by picking up Veronica and placing her behind him. He muttered a few arcane words and his hand glowed green as her nose healed and the bleeding stopped. He glanced briefly at Chrysis who remained calm and even spoke about drama, though he wondered if there was more to the noblewoman. And a small part of him wished that the others would strike at Hiram but he was also enraged at the entire situation and he began to speak in a tone harsher than he often used, "Master Hiram... It was you who taught me that it is bad form to punish a slave within another man's domicile without speaking to the other first. And Master, such sudden strikes sadden me, as a strap would be more appropriate. But we all need to work together... I nearly gave my life to save this world and this is the display I return to? Maybe I should have just let it all die." His green and red eyes practically glowed in his anger, and uncharacteristically much of that glare was aimed at his own master.

 
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Old 06-16-2019, 11:45 AM
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Among the Currents
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Anja blinked as this Master Hiram punched the woman named Veronica. She was still holding the Orc Wuzruz's hand and, at the sound of that violence, she unconsciously gripped it tighter. She was connected to Wuzruz in this moment. She would feel his intent and gain some measure of understanding of what was expected normal among these Others. But she already knew inside that this man was wrong. Even as a swallow, she had felt Hiram's mean-ness.

Whereas Anja-Birgit's action was just posturing and noise to forestall actual aggression, Master Hiram calmly attacked Veronica as if it was his right. An entitlement owned by him due to his station or person or some exploitation of the societal norms these people followed. Anja felt it was likely the latter. That Master Hiram used custom and laws as a reason and justification for actions that should not be tolerated and would otherwise be seen as wrong but were deemed allowable and, even, expected. He manipulated social convention, or simply benefitted from his society's ideology of subjugation, to support and display his aggression upon others. As if claiming his mean-ness was not evil, but right and good.

Anja knew of history. She knew of slavery. She knew how those like Wuzruz and Oota were treated regardless of their character. And although it was a history these people may cling to, it was not her history, unless it be as one of a people who also suffered by it.

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She was not just the eagle or leopard. She was not only the stone troll or wyvern. She was mountain, and fire, and water, and air. A creature of Gaia. And as Hiram's mean-ness was allowed to manifest, Anja did not make noise or posture. She prepared to harm, maim, and even kill. Or protect. She was quiet and calm.

A breeze begins to stir around Anja and Wuzruz adding to whatever is created by Veronica's fury. It circles them pulling bits of dust and dirt from the floor and ceiling until tiny things caught by the air’s power begin to move around the orc and the nanuq in a lazy dance. Small points of light begin to crackle and pulse amid the swirling. Anja's eyes turn the color of an open blue sky and her hair begins to wave and flow around her face. She has yet claw or canine. But those too would come if killing took precedence over preserving.




 

 

 
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Old 06-17-2019, 04:17 PM
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The Herald of Insanity
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Wuzruz holds his place as best he can as the bird orc got really big and had stony skin, like a stone orc. Wuzruz did not mind however, he could become large too, and have skin like an iron orc. This almost made them like siblings. Wuzruz decided he liked this strange bird orc.

Wuzruz was preparing to get up with the bird orc's hand held, and he reached back grabbing his axe as he did so, but just as he managed to stand up, Hiram walked in. Wuzruz instantly tensed at the man's coming, and a low hatred could be felt by the bird orc from Wuzruz, his aura blackening as his anger rose at the man.

Then, the man did the unthinkable. Hiram confessed to his sins and the violation of Wuzruz's mate. He told for all to hear of his depravities and sins. Rage billowed up within Wuzruz then, a raging fire of hatred and rage, barely kept in check by his devotion to his gods, and the protection that they had thus far placed upon this wretched soul, deserving of nothing more than rotting in the deepest pits of the Crimson King.

Wuzruz gripped the bird orc's hand like iron as his rage flowed, and then something dark entered the room. A sliver of something that should not exist in the world, a small inkling of what lies beyond the veil. A whisper of darkness sings through Wuzruz, his axe, and Anja; 'Kiiiiiiillll Hiiiirrraaaaaam...'

A second voice echos through the minds of Wuzruz and Anja by proxy; 'The protection has been lifted, and the Crimson King calls for his due..'

Then Wuzruz grips his ax tightly as his muscles tense in preparation for his long awaited kill, a small voice speaks in the back of his mind. A small voice that caused him to stop, to freeze and be unable to move. His hand still held a death grip on Anja's, but another strange event occurred. The veins of flesh on the ax he held swiftly drove themselves into Wuzruz and wove their way up from his hand, through his arm, and into his head.



Tendrils seem to squirm and flail beneath his skin, and one of his eyes turns solid black as they do so. A voice then echos through the minds of all in the room, a conglomeration of every language, but is understandable by everyone; 'Your time is at an end Hiram, your soul has been weighed over the last year, and it has been found wanting. The protections afforded to you are now lifted, and your desecration of the Bride has come with the sentence of an eternity in the endless mines of the Crimson King, glory be his name. May the King in Red have mercy on your black soul...'

With that, Wuzruz pulls his hand away, and pushes off rapidly towards Hiram, while the tendrils beneath his skin begin to wrap around his muscles and amplify them. He lunges forward as the Herald, seeking to bring justice to the wicked this day.



ooc


 


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Old 06-17-2019, 10:17 PM
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Dorran Stoneroot
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Words and events picked up beyond what Dorran would have expected in such a small town. The arrival of the ogrekin Oota seemingly known well enough by the mayor to show genuine concern and shock, the questionable sane of body and mind orc Wuzraz, and the half elf woman who suddenly shifted into a full blown rock troll all brought internal thoughts to mind Dorran wisely kept silent lest he set any one of these hulking beings off. It was not so much that the pale dwarf feared them, but more so that Dorran felt such a small dwelling would fair poorly should anything go awry. Their words too all seemed so cryptic yet telling. Talk of the mother seemed to suggest a common trend, but then when foiled against Wuzraz' talk of the void Dorran wasn't entirely sure what to make of it.

Of course there were others of like mind to Dorran who wished to proceed to business. The immaculate Lady Chrysis seemed to try to sway things away from the awkward to some success before the mayor's office door flew upon and out stepped a flesh and blood Overseer. The very sight of such a being this far north let alone this close to Dorran sent an unconscious shiver down his spine. His time in the military had not been short by any means but even he had heard enough rumors of the power of the Overseers that he felt no need whatsoever to give this one a reason to so much as cast an eye upon him. The dialogue once again took a turn for the strange albeit more realistic than otherworldly. The general gist of the Overseer's request was quickly picked up and as Dorran watched the Mayor decline with a bristling gusto he was forced to place a hand over his mouth to smother a smirk. Ulfgar certainly had dwarf blood pumping through his veins and despite the Overseer's ominous warning Dorran felt little trepidation at such proclamation solely due to the Mayor's own strength of spirit.

Of course it took more than the threat of war on two fronts and a visit from an Overseer to keep a good dwarf down and the Mayor quickly proved why the man had remained in charge as long as he had. He had endurance and without waning into sorrow or worry he pushed onward right back to business. As he turned the dialogue over to Oota Dorran found himself utterly mystified by the ogrekin's tale. Minions of hell, battling beings of corrupted flesh and vines, and low and even setting foot before the Life Tree itself. Such things had always been talk of legends and rumors, but yet Dorran felt no sense of dishonesty in the man's words. Almost subconsciously the pale dwarf took a few steps closer to better overhear Oota's words and by the end of his tale Dorran knew why he had been called so far north. An invading darkness that even Gaia herself was threatened by........ the gravity of the revelation nearly took the strength from Dorran's knees before he managed to steady himself.

Finally, Ulfgar proclaimed his reason for calling out to those gathered. He declared the wars that were coming and nearly begged those standing within that very room to step forth and plunge themselves into a vicious and unrelenting storm full well knowing what was coming. Dorran felt his heart beating a few paces quicker as he wondered just what he had gotten himself into. His thoughts were shattered by the sudden clapping of a man Dorran had not noticed previously. The man's voice grated on Dorran like salt against skin and in short order the man proved himself no decent man by any stretch. His personal revelation and attack against the woman whom Dorran could only assume had some as of yet unknown connection to him took hold of the course of dialogue and caused a notable tension to rise within all those gathered. As his fist struck the woman down, Dorran felt his muscles tense but his reaction was cut short as Chrysis seemingly ignored or witheld any act simply to acquire her tea. It was such an unexpected reaction that Dorran almost wondered if the woman was mocking the man or the woman he had struck.

Nearly in unison to Chrysis, the ogrekin Oota who seemingly had some deep connection to the woman stepped forth and Dorran for the first time realized part of the connection to this crass man whose voice and demeanor reminded him all too much of his youth. Oota was this man's slave and by the mere way in which the powerful warrior spoke to the man Dorran knew this man held power over Oota. Not all master's held the same sway over their slaves, but almost all slaves had some manner of understanding to recognize those masters whose power was of the mind and those whose was of the body. Just what power this man had to force this ogrekin Oota to obey was yet beyond Dorran, but he knew it had to be something potent. Even Oota's own words seemed to lend credence to Dorran's thoughts. Each word seethed with withheld anger Dorran could almost taste and he recalled hundreds of times similar words had parted his own lips in past days.

Dialogue was never something Dorran was particularly eloquent at, but as his senses tore him away from the unfolding scene with the sounds of wind rustling and churning about the half elf woman named Anja, Dorran began to wish his tongue could melt gold with a mere syllable if it would calm to tension that had mounted. Such dreams only amplified tenfold as the pale dwarf's eyes shot to Wuzraz, yet another person of apparent strength bound to the slave owner. This one however held no such illusions of civility or control as Oota seemed to. This Wuzraz was a walking storm and as his unnatural axe suddenly begin to creep tendrils through the orcs flesh Dorran found himself contemplating seriously whether his arrival might have been better off had it been some time later. It was then that Dorran felt a chill run through his mind. A voice not of mother Gaia nor any natural creature of the realms pierced the sanctum of Dorran's thoughts and as it did he knew something was terribly wrong with this orc Wuzraz.
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Old 06-18-2019, 04:53 PM
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DisasterA single drop of blood swelled at the tip of her shattered nose and threatened to break free. It was a deep scarlet colour, much too dark to be entirely human by any reasoned evaluation. Everything had become muffled and only the rasping sound of her own intake of breath remained audible to her through the deafening cadence of her own beating heart. A strong copper aroma overwhelmed her palate entirely as blood pooled up from her throat as she gasped.

Everything slowed down.

The elfin socialite sipped her tea. Veronica heard the fragrant liquid as it aspirated between her barely parted lips. Those lips wielded sounds as one might a blade and she felt the measured power behind her words as she cast them across the room to Wuzruz's ears. She witnessed their effect on her Orcish friend, his pupils dilating and the intake of breath which triggered flight or fight. She saw how the words had been measured to effect the precise desired response, to elicit panic and subdual.

She knew what would happen next, of course.

The axe took him.

Instantly Wuzruz was no more and in his place stood the Herald, provoked to action by its master's failure to heed the holy words. What cared such a one for words of fear or menace?

Wuzruz became vengeance.

Somehow, Oota's voice was the one to reach her. Defiance of a kind, to the limit of which he was capable.

"Maybe I should have just let it all die..."

Despair in those words. Weariness, yes, but resignation in the face of absolute futility. The words broke her heart as he spoke them. Vivian lived in this world... it must not die... She wanted to scream at Oota, shake him, to provoke him back to life. With each implacable step Wuzruz took towards Hiram she felt the swelling inside her. It rose within and she gasped as some unfelt gust assaulted her suddenly from nowhere. Her hair blew back and danced wildly with her rising fury.

Everything stopped.

The axe never fell. The herald struck but the condemned had been displaced somehow. Hiram had vanished from his place in the hallway and now stood by the large frosted windows by the entryway.

He laughed at Wuzruz.

"So you want to play, do you? Let's play!"

Hiram's eyes turned an eldritch shade of black and purple, suddenly crackling with unbridled power. He raised his hands which splayed before him like straining talons as some effort caused his arms to tremble. The thick corded muscles of his forearms bulged from the half-length sleeves of his black satin shirt and veins of black fire shot down his arms and into his fingertips. The room thrummed with vibrations from the forces drawing into him before he unleashed a pulse of blackened liquid fire straight into Wuzzie's backWuzruz takes 64 Force Damage*. The shock of the impact staggered him forward but before he could recover another pulse rocked into himWuzruz takes 19 Force Damage* , turning him in a clumsy spin which had him suddenly face his purveyor of doom. A third pulse lanced from Hiram's fingertips and tore into the Orc's rippling chestWuzruz takes 17 Force Damage* and now agony found its way to his panicked mind. Even from his place deep beneath the Herald, Wuzruz felt his flesh being shorn from within as though their very fabric were tearing itself apart.

Hiram brought both his hands together as even more energy pulsed from the core of his being and flowed down his heaving arms and shot out one last beam of unrelenting power. The beam struck Wuz in his face, melting the flesh exposing muscle, bone and sinew. The power flowing from Hiram enveloped him completely and he felt his entire body breaking down from the implacable force which threatened to tear him apart.

Wuzruz growled under the assault, but immediately felt himself begin to wane. His legs buckled under him and he fell to his knees. The Herald clinked to the floor, escaping his grasp as Wuzruz prepared himself to die...

"No."


A simple word of negation and though it barely rose above a whisper, all those assembled here heard the pronouncement and felt it echoing through their minds. Veronica floated from the ground and rose into the path of Hiram's power so that it enveloped her instead. Wuz collapsed back onto the floor, instantly gone as oblivion swallowed him. Instantly Veronica became wracked by an agony she had never known before. Her flesh began to shred from her arms and face as she lifted them slowly towards the slavemaster, heedless of its effect on her. Hiram grimaced now for the first time as the beam of power intensified.

"I'll take you instead, she-bitch!"

At last, Veronica's hands found their way before her and she marveled as the flesh was gone from them and only bone and sinew held them up.

"No."

She said the word again and the world around Hiram exploded backwards suddenly through the Mayor's large bay window. The floor and half the wall exploded outwards into the cold snowy night allowing a terrible wind to inflict itself on the room's occupants. Veronica slumped forward, her flesh melting in long rivulets from her face, arms and chest, but at last, the room was quiet but for the shrieking wind.

"Mama!"

Vivian threw herself at her mother and tried to hold her but her skin kept peeling off her and the little girl could not get a grip at first. Suddenly it stopped and Veronica began to heal. Before their eyes her flesh began to knit itself and close around bone and muscle.

The mayor ran to the edge of what was left of his wall and peered out into the night to look for Hiram. He saw the slavemaster standing on the dock some sixty feet away. The man's clothing had been shredded on him and he was bleeding from a plethora of wounds. He began to advance towards the mayor's house his fingers curling into fists.

""Enough, Hiram! You've done enough! Be gone from here! You know who guards me now leave before they come! Go!"Enaw, Hiram! Yoo've dain enaw! Be gain frae haur! Ye ken fa guards me noo lae afair they come! Gang!"

Veronica held Vivian for a moment but then turned towards Wuzruz who lay unconscious on the bloody floor. It was her blood he lay in. This was her fault. She should have made him keep the secret!

With Vivian still clinging to her, Veronica placed a trembling hand on Wuz's destroyed face. A tear spilled from her eye and coursed down her own healing face to splash undramatically onto his. She closed her eyes and lowered her head allowing her hair to drape over Wuz's face like a torn black shroud. A shock pulsed through her hand and she felt herself suddenly connected to his every living tissue. She felt her consciousness weaving itself into his flesh and with every bit of will she possessed, Veronica began to stitch Wuzruz back together. She pulled muscle fibers together, causing them to fuse with the power of her thoughts, she mended ruptured blood vessels and grafted skin in places where he had ruptured. She felt herself draining more and more yet still she wove and stitched and healed until, finally, Wuz was whole again, or nearly so.

Veronica opened her eyes and when she did, Wuz's eyelids pried themselves open and his eyes locked onto her own. Veronica smiled and collapsed on top of him.

Ulfgar had watched the spectacle of Wuzruz's healing with astonished fascination once he had turned away from the empty night but now that Veronica collapsed and Wuz confirmed she was still alive, he turned to address the group.

""The slavemaster is gone, but this is by no means over. It seems clear to me now that Hiram meant to provoke this attack, and knowing him, likely planned this all along. He does not seem to want us to go after Thorleif. What nefarious plot of his we have delayed I do not know but I dare say we've not seen the last of Hiram Dabun. I know four of you were legally his, but I've have a mind to nullify his claim and free you here myself, but such would not be lawfully recognized. Hiram hereby stands accused of treason and must face his own brand of justice for what he's done, and soon, Gaia willing. For now, I'll grant a writ of transfer if you'll consent to become mine until such time as you can be tested and set free. Will the four of you accept? I'll not ask nought of you but what I have already, but it's no more than I'd do myself were I not beholden here. Know that when the time comes, Ulfgar's axe will stand beside you on the field of battle when the promised siege arrives. What say you Oota, Wuzruz, Veronica and Vivian? I know the lady rests but she will have the question put her her anon. What say the rest of you? Will you find Thorleif now and fetch him to his reason?"Th' slavemaster is gain, but thes is by nae means ower. It seems clear tae me noo 'at hiram meant tae provoke thes lat at, an' knowin' heem, likely planned thes aw alang. He disnae seem tae want us tae gang efter Thorleif. Whit nefarioos plot ay his we hae delayed Ah dah ken but Ah daur say we've nae seen th' lest ay hiram dabin. Ah ken fower ay ye waur legally his, but i've hae a min' tae nullify his claeem an' free ye haur myself, but sic' woods nae be lawfully recognized. Hiram hereby stands accused ay treason an' main coopon his ain brain ay justice fur whit he's dain, an' suin, gaia willin'. fur noo, I'll grant a writ ay transfer if yoo'll consent tae become mine until sic' time as ye can be tested an' sit free. Will th' fower ay ye accept? I'll nae ask nooght ay ye but whit Ah hae awreddy, but it's nae mair than eh'd dae myself waur Ah nae beholden haur. Ken 'at when th' time comes, Ulfgar's axe will stain beside ye oan th' field ay battle when th' trysted siege arri'es. Whit say ye Oota, Wuzruz, Veronica an' Vivian? Ah ken th' quine rests but she will hae th' question pit 'er her anon. Whit say lae ay ye? Will ye fin' Thorleif noo an' fetch heem tae his reason"

Veronica raised her head suddenly, gasping.

"I accept," she said and Vivian giggled.

The wind gusted and they shivered as snow whipped through the foyer and caused the oil light to flicker madly against its insistant pressure.
OODM
 
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Still here. Will catch up when I can.
"Why should I play the Roman fool and die on mine own sword? Whiles I see lives the gashes do better upon them." ~William Shakespeare, Macbeth.
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