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Old Apr 23rd, 2023, 10:16 PM
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Aric Armitage
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Aric listened half-heartedly to the small, weak chirps of the baby bird from the dark, safe confines of his backpack. The sun was bright – (the sun, why, why did we leave during the day, this was a mistake) – and Aric had to protect the young hatchling from the powerful heat and light. He had rearranged his pack to accommodate the traded-for iron teakettle, and after lining it with the soft scraps of bedsheet he had placed the bird within, then put the whole mess into his pack. The baby vulture was as safe as he could make it for a trip across the desert. Or, he thought nervously, it would have been.

I was so distracted with everything going on with the elves, I didn’t think-

…didn’t think about the time of day. He had been talking to himself in his head and hadn’t realized he’d spoken aloud. But then, how could we have told what time of day it was from down there…?

You should have thought of that, you should have thought of that and said something before you left, why didn’t you say anyth-

”Riders!” Tegan’s strong, masculine voice boomed loud in the silence around them, silence broken only by their shuffling footsteps through shifting sands. Tegan was peering into the distance behind them, his sharp blue eyes peering toward a point on the horizon which Aric failed perception checkcould not see. A cold fist gripped his heart, and the fearful realization which had arrived too late to his mind made him gasp in fright. A talon of Dark Knights, riding armored horses… He looked feebly down at his longbow, at his assembled tools and other assorted items. I can do nothing, I am but a frail wraith. His eyes swept over the group. The boy, Hashem. The wounded Laramielle, sunblind along with her companion Naelathan. Xihue, dragging a burned leg stiffly behind him. Tegan, muscular and brave and well armored, but slow. He’d been felled only yesterday by the piercing bite of a spider – one spider. What would seven armored knights wielding lances do to him? Isandril, newly-ascended and garbed in the white robes, was powerful – but his magical talents had limits and he was only just accepted by his mentor. Talia was –

Oh gods, what now… he muttered dully, watching the kender turn about to face the oncoming septet.

”Run! I’m the dessert they cannot resist… chocolate with frosting… cherry on top. Let them come for me and before they even realize what they have… I will slip away. I am the Dawnstar.”

Aric didn’t know what in the seven hells she was talking about. Dawnstar? Spatially, he and the kender might have been close, but emotionally… About as close as Absalon to Lunitari. Any roll to recall what it means?He didn't know what a Dawnstar was, and she'd not deigned to say anything to him about it. Aric glanced over to the honorable Tegan. The man’s armor clinked and clanged, a brass band on legs. The man was not built for speed or stealth, and his armor was only half as strong as his honor. He’ll never let her sacrifice herself. Not without a more compelling reason to do so.

”Tegan, you know she’s right, if any of us can manage to slip away from them it is a kender. I mean, you saw me try to throw her into the river, I’m pretty fast and I couldn’t even get a hand on her. Besides, we can’t fight them as we are, and we need to protect the elves. And –“ He gulped. And you said you’d not leave my side.” He reached for the Solamnic’s hand. ”Please.”

He gave the man a few moments to think, before turning to run for the distant safety of the stony outcroppings.

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Old Apr 24th, 2023, 11:58 AM
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The Lord is my shepherd
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Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire
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The trip out of the sewers was nerve-racking for the young warrior. His blade, Kanna was held out, ready for action. Beads of nervous sweat inched across his forehead and into his eyes, which already stung from the grotesque stench. The need to be constantly prepared for the unknown, an unknown that may or may not materialize, was draining. It was not until they finally exited the stone labyrinth that the warrior was able to take a deep breath. He sheathed his sword, and checked on his companions. They seemed to have fared better than he, not having the thoughts of reliving the near-death spider attack.

They continued traveling, facing the draining desert heat head-on. Tegan's armor was making him weary, the heat doubly effective with his mail. He had to take his coif down, as it was getting so hot, it began to burn his skin even through the protective sheeting inside. Aric mumbled something that triggered Tegan's awareness to come back to full attention.

"didn't think about the time of day..."

Why had they left in the heat of day? Their companions likely wouldn't meet them until evening. Realistically it was a completely unwise decision that they would have to rectify moving forward. For now though, they were already in the open and would have to keep moving.

It was then that Tegan sensed the rumbling. Others seemed to be looking for a storm, but Tegan knew that it was no natural storm. He knew that rumbling. His mind's eye flashed back to the grand tournaments in Solanthus where knights using blunted lances jousted. He remembered the columns of warhorses marching in perfect order, their pride and prowess evident. Normally it would be comforting to remember, but to his knowledge there were no Solamnic Knights anywhere nearby. The only other conclusion would be...

"Riders! A Dark Knights mounted patrol. About half a dozen armored horses bearing knights, a talon probably." Tegan could see the cloud of dust generated by the horses. Their forced march would have to speed up. At this rate, they wouldn't reach cover before being discovered.

Xi cried out and pointed at a nearby group of stone outcroppings, but Tegan knew that the chances were slim. He was exhausted. He was carrying all of his gear. He was burdened by his heavy armor. The others began to run, unburdened by their light armor and clothing. Tegan tried to keep up, but he could only move so fast, encumbered as he was. He noticed that Xi was also struggling to maintain the group's speed. The other's began to reach the shelter and Tegan saw that they came to the same conclusion as he; Tegan and Xi weren't going to make it in time.

For a brief moment, time seemed to slow. Tegan thought of the stories of Sturm Brightblade. It was one of the most famous stories in all of Solamnia at this point. The Knights had been losing to the dragonarmies and had pooled their defenses at the High Clerist's Tower. Sturm had been made the leader of the youngest and least experienced knights. Sturm had used revolutionary tactics at the time, forsaking vain and hopeless charges to give the Knights the best chance of victory. He had helped orchestrate a trap with a dragon orb to allow for the Knights to try to level the playing field.

The problem was, the Knights were out of time. Kitiara, riding her blue wyrm, was wreaking havoc on the Knights. The palpable dragon fear was striking the most courageous heart to shake. Sturm did what no one else could. He faced the fear, and stood to challenge Kitiara and her drake to one-on-one combat. It was hopeless, but he bought the Knights the time they needed. He fell in that duel, but saved countless others in his honorable sacrifice.

Tegan realized then that this could be the same kind of moment for him. If he failed to reach the group in time, he wouldn't just get caught. He would reveal his friends and the elves via proxy. He would doom them to the Dark Knights torment. He wouldn't allow it. He began to stutter and he could see in the faces of his friends that they knew his intention. He nodded to Aric, a tear welling in his eye as he knew what he must do. For his friends, for the Knighthood, and for his honor, he would have to protect them and buy them time to get away. Maybe this was why he was called here?

The squire's visions of grandeur came crashing down at the hands of a Kender. Talia Dawnstar, the brave and defiant thief, was running back. She was commanding Tegan to keep going.

"Run! I’m the dessert they cannot resist… chocolate with frosting… cherry on top. Let them come for me and before they even realize what they have… I will slip away. I am the Dawnstar."

Aric called out to Tegan as well.

"Tegan, you know she’s right, if any of us can manage to slip away from them it is a kender. I mean, you saw me try to throw her into the river, I’m pretty fast and I couldn’t even get a hand on her. Besides, we can’t fight them as we are, and we need to protect the elves. And – And you said you'd not leave my side. Please."

Tegan was torn but had no time to waste. He was caught in an impossible situation, but decided that indecision doomed everyone regardless. He had to decide. Kiri-Jolith, give me strength and deliver us from these foes. Deciding that his best chance to protect the others, which was his primary motivating objective, was to reach the cover without Talia having to reveal herself, Tegan began to run. With a newfound vigor, Action to dash, Action Surge to dash again, Athletics of 18.Tegan launched forward defying the limitations of the heat, his gear, and his armor. He could feel his pumping legs straining at the restraints on his greaves, but he ignored it. If he didn't make it to cover, nothing else mattered. He didn't have to worry about sound - the thundering hooves covered that well enough. As he ran he waved Talia back. "We can make it! Don't sacrifice yourself in vain! What if they aren't taking prisoners!?" He realized that he may just make it, the burst of speed coming at just the right time. He reflected as he ran that sometimes it was easy to sacrifice yourself for someone in a moment. What was more difficult was to be a living sacrifice, putting yourself on the line for a continual timeframe to support another. It was completely different, and both held their honor, but until the time came, Tegan would be a living sacrifice for his companions.

Tegan just hoped Xi had enough left in the tank to make it as well. If worst came to worst, the squire would do his best to defend his friends.

1 Tim 1:12-17
There is no shame in defeat so long as the spirit is unconquered. - Praetor Fenix
A sword wields no strength unless the hands that holds it has courage.

Last edited by Tommyk382; Apr 24th, 2023 at 12:42 PM.
Old Apr 24th, 2023, 01:32 PM
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Xihue of the Alan-Atu
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A burst of light preceded the heat of arcane fire as the world around Hashem ignited. Without thought, the world spun as sewer walls, suddenly visible in stark relief, momentarily free from their customary gloom and shadow, reverberated with the sound of the Khurishman's voice. This man was as damaged as Aric and more dangerous for his apparent lack of control over forces that could have easily ended this cycle upon the wheel for Xihue. "Peace be with you, Hashem." intoned the shepherd as he rose and bowed briefly to the emotionally damaged boy. Isandril intervened and the son of the mountains was glad for the elf's calming presence. Magic was more abundant here than it had been back home. Whenever a man shall need a teacher, one will appear. The old adage echoed with the Ascended Master's voice. As long as that tutor wasn't an incarnation of death, there was hope for growth. Even when fatality arrived as an instructor, it gave a soul another chance to begin again with greater wisdom.

His belongings properly collected and incorporated into his attire, the Alan-Atu monk followed Naelathan and Larimielle from the sewer sanctuary.

Four Years AgoAll the unproven men in the clan were taken out onto the flatlands amid the tall browned grasses of late fall shortly after their decent from the mountainside camps of summer. They would be guided to an unknown, unmarked, lonely place, far from the safety and comfort of hearth and home. One skin of fresh water, one pouch of short rations, a knife and shield were provided each teenager. The three adult warriors who brought them to this place departed a few short hours before sunset. They would be watching tomorrow but could not, would not help. Their job was to chronicle this test for the bards who would sing life songs at the campfires during upcoming long winter nights.

If they worked together, all the boys would survive but the first to arrive back at the village circle would be given high honors. All the young women would be watching and the winner always had their comforting warmth to surround them at night. The victors were often the first to sire children and their names were known by the wise men and the women elders. Those who arrived last were always relegated to the least desirable jobs, latrine duty, or re-dedicated themselves to training for the next year's contest. Each man could compete twice in their lifetime.

Of the five present, Lihong was a year older than Xihue and, although he was a half-hand shorter than the shepherd monk, Lihong was the fastest boy in the village. The two were good friends. The other three "men" were younger and had never run before. Each of the five took turns trying to get some rest. It had taken them two days walking to get to this spot and they were expected to complete this challenge by sundown the next day. They would all have to run, find their way, avoid the dangers of the wilds, and outpace four of their peers. For now, they were friends with a common goal and shared expectation. In a few hours they would become competitors as well as clan brothers. Lihong was smart enough to know that his speed was only one advantage. The youngest boy of the five had the best sense of direction and Xihue had the best coordination of them all. One of the other two was the smartest and the last boy wasn't particularly special at anything but neither was he deficient in any way.

Early morning hours blinded the five young men within the inky blackness of a starless, moonless night. Bioluminescence of some mosses scattered among the scrubby, low profile trees and within the rocky crags of stone scrabble at the foothills provided the only hint of the surrounding wilderness. There was no campfire. There were no tents or shelters to protect these Alan-Atu youth against the inherently frigid, cooled climate of autumn. To have company in misery seemed something to be grateful for as they huddled together, customarily sharing each other's warmth. At least they didn't have to suffer the ravages of rain this year. There were times when the trial had been conducted under the ceaseless conflagration of endless lightning under a sky that screamed in it's booming voice and every feature of the land was clothed in wet shrouds of obscuring torrents or thick folds of seasonal fog.

Not one of them could tell the moment when darkness began to dissipate. One of the younger boys simply noticed that he could see features of the terrain that had been invisible just moments earlier. As soon as the horizon appeared and the hulking silhouette of the mountains materialized to the south, Lihong began to move and Xihue followed closely behind. Three smaller lads trailed them in silence. Predators hunted by scent and sound. They had all masked their scent with dirt and mud from last night's camp and placed sprigs of blooming plantlife behind their ears. Birds were fairly rioting by this time in full song as an overcast sky slowly transitioned into morning's muted glow. The boys moved faster with each moment of increased brightness. Lihong and Xihue soon left the other three behind and ran together toward home.

After six hours at a steady pace, they slowed for a light meal and to refill their waterskins in a clear spring that bubbled happily from the side of a rocky slope. There were many like it in this land. In another six hours, they could see smoke from the village casually ascending, a finger of artificial cloud that pointed the way. There was no true adventure here, only a long run between two friend until Lihong smiled a wicked grin, clapped Xihue on the back, and began his final sprint of the day. "Peace be with you, Xihue. I shall tell everyone that you will be along shortly."

Within a few minutes, the faster boy was hundreds of yards ahead of his friend. There was no fanfare. There was no grand adventure. Xihue was resigned to his fate and his pace slackened until he reached the final rise of the riverbank, about six hundred yards from the village. To his shock and surprise, he saw Lihong slogging through deep mud, bogged down and moving at a crawling pace. He had chosen to ford the river in the wrong place and was paying the price for that decision. His heart sprang back to life as Xihue sprinted with every ounce of vitality that remained within him. He could be the winner! The better crossing was only about thirty yards to the west but Lihong was close to regaining solid ground. Xihue shot past the other boy at full speed, wet with the spray kicked up from the riverbed, yet careful not to slip upon the smooth stones of the shallows.

Everyone from the village was clapping and cheering, calling him home. It was exhilarating! His strides lengthened like a horse extending from a canter into a full gallop. He had never run so fast in his life and he smiled with elation as the goal came into view. Seated upon his thin bench beside the small hut, the Master applauded Xihue and looked proud of him. Was there ever a greater feeling of achievement, of success? If so, Xihue could not imagine it. With less than 120 yards to go, however, Xihue realized that they were not cheering for him. Lihong had freed himself from the mud and had been rapidly gaining, and the other man passed Xihue with only 30 yards remaining, claiming the prize, the accolades and the glory.

Xihue finished a close second, a place that, had he not resigned himself to this very fate too soon, could have been Lihong's destiny. Exhausted and belabored by heaving breaths, Xihue collapsed at the feet of his Master who offered water and a knowing smile from behind the long white lines of his thin bearded face. "Congratulations Xihue, I am proud of you!"

"But... Master... <<huff>>... I lost!"

"Did you? Did you really?"

"Please... Master... <<huff, huff>>... Don't... tease me...<<huff>>... now! You saw Lihong pass <<weeze>>... me."

"Yes, I did. He was stuck in the mud but did not give up. He struggled his way free and used every skill he possessed to chase you down and pass you. Yet, you are here! You made him work for it. You arrived at nearly the same time even though Lihong is much faster than you. Perhaps you could have won if you had been running as fast as you did at the end when you first reached the river? It does not matter now. To the victor goes the spoils.", the old man began to massage the shoulders and muscles, arms and legs with skillfulness and every lingering fatigue was banished as the wrinkled old hands kneaded away pain and tension, clearing each chakra. "That was your second run. You will never have another chance to win that particular race but their will be other races. There will be other challenges in life. Peace be with you, Xihue. Look forward to your future victories and learn from losses and near successes. You have done well today."

Under a Khurish SunKnights of Neraka had become Xihue's least favorite people on Ansalon. They had tormented everyone they encountered with their totalitarian tyranny. They were violent, unrelenting, fanatical, and powerful. Xihue did not like to kill but it was becoming increasingly apparent that their eradication, as an order if not as individuals, might be a blessing to all sentient races upon Krynn.

"Riders! A Dark Knights mounted patrol. About half a dozen armored horses bearing knights, A group of seven Knights of Nerakaa talon probably."

"There!", Xihue spotted the dust cloud of the approaching cavalry before they crested the horizon and had quickly scanned the area for cover. There was an outcropping of rocks, barely within reach if everyone pressed themselves. The shepherd broke into a sprint that he hadn't experienced in over 4 years. There will be other races, Xihue. Pain hobbled the monk at first but panic was a familiar foe that had been conquered long ago. With inward calm and carefully collected breath, the strange man from the East closed his mind to the ravages of his body. Chakra's filled, unblocked and fluid with each mindful inhalation. As graceful as a gazelle, the young man overtook Tegan, traversing over 80 feet in less than 6 seconds, and gracefully ensconced himself behind the cover of the outcroppings.

From cover, Xihue turned to see either the bravest or the dumbest stunt that Talia had ever attempted in his company. She defiantly stood before the advancing horsemen with her sling-staff whirling dangerously above her head. Peace be with you, Talia!! If this works, I would proudly sire your children. thought the monk as a twinge of pain from his burn reminded him that he was still injured.


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Last edited by Black Jim; Apr 25th, 2023 at 09:12 PM.
Old May 1st, 2023, 04:58 PM
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Elanir Elanir is online now
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Through the Eyes of an Elf
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The sound of the Dark Knights’ horses galloping across the desert was nothing compared to the thundering noise of Larimielle’s heart beating so fast that she had the impression that it could burst at any moment. It was not the physical exertion that had caused the kirath to lose her calmness under duress. Even the time spent beneath Pashin’s sewers hadn’t fully robbed her body of its prowess and Larimielle had been known to perform incredible feats of speed, stealth and endurance, other, less experienced Silvanesti warriors, could never have hoped to match. Nor was it the blurry sight and the feeling of burning, as if two hot coals had been thrust into her eye sockets.

No, it was fear that made her tremble worse than when she had faced the wraiths of Lorac’s corrupted dreams. Fear that she would be captured by the Dark Knights And that she would be forced to betray her people. A quick death would be the only way for her to preserve her dignity and the fingers of her left hand wrapped themselves around the pommel of her dagger. All she had to do was plunge it in her throat and no manner of torture would be able to twist her and turn her into something she was not, something she was determined she would never become. Her right arm was still mostly useless, but she could manage that much with her left. All she had to do was bring the steel edge close to her throat and push, ignoring the sharp pain and the blood and the voice inside her mind that screamed at her not to throw her life away.

The elf turned her head to look at the others. Naelathan was right beside her, as was Isandril, half-pulling, half-dragging the human boy who had attached himself to him like a leech. Aric’s lanky form too appeared to have little difficulty following her, his long legs covering a greater distance than she could have thought possible. It seemed that not the whole of his body was affected by his ungainly manner. Even the kender was running incredibly swiftly for her stature, reminding the elf of a squirrel climbing a tree to escape a wild cat or some other predator. The knight, however, and the easterner -if his wildly exotic origin was to be believed-, would never make it in time. One was weighed down by his metal armor, the other hampered by the fresh injury of his leg - an accident, the Khurish boy had claimed, but one bound to happen when human children manifested powers they could not control. The two of them were doomed and they would doom all the others in turn, leading the Knights of Neraka to the elves and then…

My dagger…, thought Larimielle and pressed the pommel reassuringly against her palm, relishing the sensation. Just one swift movement and her agony would end. This is no defeat, she tried to persuade herself, this is a victory of a kind, the only victory that matters when the lives of so many of my kin are at stake…

The stone outcropping was right in front of her, growing larger with each step she took, promising shelter from her pursuers. With one last surge of energy the elven warrior reached the closest rock formation and with an elegant move dove behind it, disappearing from view. Pressing her back against the irregular stone surface and using the pain to focus on something other than the grim future she imagined, Larimielle attempted to slow her racing heart. Several gasps of surprise caught her attention and made her risk a glance behind, at the same time praying to the gods that the Dark Knights hadn’t already discovered them. What she saw renewed her faith in the gods of light and their providence.

Ignoring the weariness, wounds, heavy armor and whatever else was slowing the two men down, Tegan and Xihue were sprinting towards Larimielle’s hiding place with a speed she would not have expected even from the fastest Wildrunner. The distance seemed to melt beneath their feet and before she had even realized it, both were crouching next to her, panting heavily. Making more way for them to hide better, the elf moved further along the face of the rock, fitting inside a depression in the stone. Though ready to collapse, both the Solamnic and the Alan-Atu managed to control their breathing and remain as still as the rock itself, refusing to even wipe the sweat from their foreheads for fear that the movement might be detected.

Barely had all the companions hidden, the noise of the galloping horses grew so loud that a few of the travelers had to close their ears with their hands to keep their eardrums from bursting. A cloud of dust followed soon after, partially hiding the talon of Dark Knights patrolling the area around the city that they now considered their own. The riders didn’t seem interested in the stone formations to their left, but rather continued to the south, following the orders of their superiors. It took only a few minutes for the rumbling of the earth to grow so soft as to be almost inaudible and the dust to settle, but judging by the cramps in her limbs and back, Larimielle could have sworn that she had been hiding inside the close-fitting hollow for at least half an hour.

Reluctantly rising to her feet, she looked at the horizon. Her sight was too blurry for her to make out shapes, but the cloud of smoke was far enough to look like a smudge against the clear blue sky. Larimielle sighed with relief and for the first time since the companions had met her, she smiled.

"Well done, Solamnic. You too, Easterner. Had I not seen this feat with my own eyes, I would not have thought it possible. Swift of feet and stout of heart is a rare combination, but there is no doubt that you possess it. Now rest and have something to drink. No matter what Naelathan claims, I won’t budge from this place until the cursed Khurish sun sets. We were lucky this time, but if we keep on traveling during the day, even BranchalaAstarin won’t be able to keep us safe from the Knights of Neraka."

There were no arguments either from Naelathan or anyone else. It seemed that the elven scout had been caught unprepared by the increased frequency of the patrols and though he didn’t admit it openly, he quickly nodded his agreement.

Larimielle tried to relax, but every unidentifiable or unexpected noise made her jump to her feet and draw her long knife, always ready to stick it into someone’s chest or belly. She watched in silent disapproval as Aric scoured the rock formations and the area around them, hoping to find prey. The commotion had frightened all creatures away, making them either burrow deep into the earth, hide in dark cracks or take to the sky. Any experienced hunter would have realized it and given up, but the youth was nothing if not persistent, even if his cause was a hopeless one.

A part of her admired this side of the human. The older she had grown and the more companions and friends she had lost, the more practical she had become. It was not a bad thing, but in her heart of hearts she missed the excitement of her youth, the fire in her eyes as she announced to her captain that she would face without fear whatever the mad Speaker under the Dragonorb’s control had conjured. She had known so little then, but she had also been pure and dedicated to her chosen cause. Perhaps that was what the elves needed to drive the minotaurs out of their ancestral forest - a little youthful excitement…

When Aric came to see her next with a journal in his hand, she was surprised to realize that her anger had cooled down. She still hadn’t forgiven him for his thoughtless words, but she recognized that the boy was too simple to have wanted to offend her on purpose. He could do nothing about his inexperience or human nature and to see him stumble and blunder his way forward was endearing in a sense. She felt sorry for him and it was exactly this feeling that made her start speaking about her days as a kirath. She had only intended to tell him a short tale from her life, but his eyes had shone so brightly and his hand was writing her words down so rapidly that she felt inclined to continue. She told him another story. And then another and another until the red colors of the sunset spread over the land just before it was claimed by darkness.

Feeling much lighter than when she had been desperately seeking shelter from the Knights of Neraka, Larimielle dusted her trousers, picked up the backpack with her supplies and followed Naelathan. It wouldn’t be long now. She would soon reunite with her eternally sleeping brother and his faithful mount. And she would have justice. Or vengeance. In this case it was one and the same.

Calendar9th Day of Aelmont (Winter) 422 AC / 38 SC, Evening

Solinari: 3/36 (Low Sanction) - conjunction with Nuitari
Lunitari: 12/28 (High Sanction)
Nuitari: 1/8 (Low Sanction) - conjunction with Solinari

White Robes - | Red Robes +1 spell DC, ADV on spell attack rolls | Black Robes -

He/Him - I have taken the Oath of Sangus
Running Dragons of a Broken World: A Dragonlance (Age of Mortals) 5e DnD campaign

Last edited by Elanir; May 10th, 2023 at 12:52 AM.
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