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  #226  
Old 04-10-2019, 06:40 PM
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Alys
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Why does EVERYONE keep telling me to run? It had become a running theme.

Their next day of travel was a welcome reprieve and Alys let some of the memories she'd accumulated fade toward the back of the mind. She felt she understood some of these people a bit better. Cyprian, at least, had shown her a surprisingly human side. Talia was a recurring issue, seemingly able to sneak past her and take or plant things at will; Alys got her revenge by chasing the shifter around, turning it into a game for them both when Alys did manage to catch her.

When they finally settled in along the ravine, days of travel still ahead, Alys was grateful for the chance to relax a bit. So much sustained travel was still a novelty. To her surprise, however, she found the midnight watch even more enjoyable. The sound of the waterfall was soothing and it felt like a connection. Her eyes were peeled but her mind was elsewhere. Her ears were tuned in, and her conscious mind barely even registered as her attention shifted to the haunting voice.

There was a word there. A message. What...? What was it? That song.... Alys stood and left the wagon quietly, moving toward the source. That brief moment of reflective collection was lost.
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  #227  
Old 04-11-2019, 04:06 PM
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A twig snapped behind him and Confire whirled round, stump raised protectively in front of himself, but it was only Alys. "Quick, get the others…" he started to say, but she wasn’t listening to him. She kept walking, eyes focused somewhere behind him. "Alys? Alys! Come on, listen to me!"

The blue-haired girl kept walking, even when he tried to step in front of her she was easily able to slip past. "Dammit!" he growled and made a bonfire spring up in front of her then snatched at her arm.

"Alys! It’s the song! It’s magic. Don’t listen to it!"

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  #228  
Old 04-12-2019, 06:35 AM
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Ronald ‘One-Bone’ Devyn
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Ron’s dreamless slumber is broken when Confire shouts. He sits up quickly, banging his head against the axle of the wagon, only then remembering he bedded down under the wagon. Cursing, he grabs Ronda with one hand and the thick leather belt he usually wears with the other before rolling from underneath the wagon.

He then stands confused for a moment, trying to understand what’s going on. Confire shouted a challenge at someone and appears to be standing next to a large bonfire holding Alys’ hand, talking about magic and songs. With no apparent threat in sight, Ron straps on his belt and walks towards the pair with Ronda in his hand.

”What’s going on?” he asks, peering into the darkness, trying to see any threat to the small band of travelers. And the animals. He quickly looks to see if Cow and the two horses are still there.

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  #229  
Old 04-12-2019, 03:46 PM
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The Rocky FoothillsCow and the horses seem to not notice the enthralling music. Confire’s booming challenge and the ensuing bonfire and commotion do seem to disturb them, however. Ninazu, who had been standing still with his head down and eyes closed, suddenly throws his head back and looks in Confire’s direction. Cyprian’s mare stands from where she had been lying and begins to step about nervously. Cow does not bother to get up, but she does raise her sleepy head and turn toward the noise, her large horns arcing through the air around her.

The melodious voice that had called to them from the ravine falls suddenly silent. Several minutes spent listening and peering into the darkness reveal nothing more. Throughout the rest of the morning, Alys remembers the song longingly, hearing the wordless melody echo in her mind. Despite now recognizing the danger she had been in, some small part of her wishes she had found the source of the lovely music.

Dawn in these mountains is less satisfying to Ada than watching the sun make its dramatic appearance on the horizon of the Lucidian Ocean. Here, the rocky peaks obstruct the morning rays, forcing the faithful cleric of the Dawnfather to content herself with the spreading orange light above. They have been traveling down through small passes and ravines for over an hour before she catches a glimpse of the morning sun cresting the Peaks behind.

Traversing a plateau near the edge of the hills, the vast, grassy expanse of the Dividing Plain opens again below them, north and west. Seen from this height, the sheer immensity is finally apparent. Rolling lands of grass stretch to the horizon, broken only here and there by tiny “islands” of trees. Til now, they have been skirting the coastline of this great green sea. Now, they mean to cross it, fully exposed to its dangers, both natural and unnatural.

The Dividing PlainThe comparatively soft soil of the grasslands is a welcome change from the stone mountains. The horses step more freely and Cow seems in high spirits during a grazing break.

The grasses here are several feet tall, swaying in the light winds that cross the open space. Ada, sitting atop the wagon’s seat, sees a tuft of yellow fur moving amongst the tall green grass about fifty yards to the left. And another up ahead, larger! Some kind of animals stalking through the concealing plants. About a mile further on, she catches a better sight of one of them as it sprints across a bare patch of ground. Hyenas!

Ada thinks back to when she came through here on her way to Stilben. The caravan master had said something about gnolls, but Ada had been recording notes on a new brew at the time and she cannot recall the specifics of what the man said.

Those of the party who travel afoot have a hard time spotting them, but Ada and Talia from the wagon’s seat and Cyprian and Doc from horseback see the occasional dingy yellow furred humanoid loping on all fours to either side of the Silvercut Roadway. But they never seem to come closer than about fifty yards or so.

Ahead, a mule-drawn cart is stopped at the side of the road, next to a formation of rock surrounded by grass trampled low in a circle. A stick is wedged between two of the rocks, and perched atop the stick is a clean, white, canine skull, it’s empty sockets and prominent teeth on full display.

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A man digs around in the cart, looking through sacks and bags. He is wiry and old, bent over with worn clothes and a large-brimmed hat to protect him from the sun as he drives his uncovered cart through the open landscape.

Looking up at the approach of Cow and the large wagon, he waves a casual greeting. "Morning. Don’t think I’ve seen you lot come through here before. Most of us what travel the Silvercut know each other some. But none of my business, a’course. How’s the road through them hills today? Any rockslides or washouts?"

Finding the sack he was apparently looking for, the old man smiles a toothless grin. He pulls out three steel arrowheads. Then he grabs a small sack of what look to be wild onions. Laying the sack and the arrowheads on the rock formation under the skull, he says, "Don’t forget to leave somethin’ for the Dust Paws. Filthy beasts, a’course. But they’re a damn sight better‘n those Ravagers!"

Last edited by 4eyedBadger; 04-12-2019 at 03:51 PM.
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  #230  
Old 04-14-2019, 11:56 AM
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Ronald ‘One-Bone’ Devyn
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Two days after the near-death experience Ron had with the undead, and his subsequent encounter with the lovely Asdis, Ron is nowhere near any conclusion about just what had happened. She had told him she liked how he had fought, and that was pretty good, but the enforcer isn’t sure why. Was it because he was fighting to save his friends? Or because he stubbornly refused to die despite the odds? Thinking about it hadn’t gotten him anywhere and in the end made his head hurt. She had told him that men like him rarely live long lives, and that’s something he’s long accepted. The question he just can’t puzzle together is what he needs to do to get her attention again when his time comes.

In the end, Ron gives up thinking about it. He just can’t figure it out and thinking about it more isn’t getting him anywhere. So he just stops. He’s good at not thinking overly much about difficult things. It’s a skill he’s built up throughout his short and eventful, if relatively terrible life. Not thinking about miserable things has made some of those things more bearable.

Instead, the stoic thug walks next to Cow, doing his best to keep pace with the humongous bovine. When he’s pretty sure the others aren’t listening, he sometimes speaks with the beast as it labors next to him. Asking it what it’s seen and what it’s done, telling stories about his life as an enforcer associated with the Clasp. Associated with, but never a member. Probably never will be, he explains to the draft animal. Cow never answers, but Ron is pretty sure it likes it when someone talks to it.

When Ron has finally grown accustomed to looking at the mountains, trying to spot the huge flying creature he saw the first day, the peaks give way for what seems like an endless plain of grass. Ron isn’t sure which is better. It’s easier to walk on the grass, and Cow seems to like it, but the tall grass could hide dangers. When the others tell him about the furry humanoids, Ron tightens his grip on Ronda and stays closer to Cow. He’s not going to let some furries kill and eat Cow. He likes the massive animal, and the others like sleeping in the wagon. Besides, if Cow dies, Talia will have to walk, and she is clearly not a fan of that idea.

As they come upon the other wagon, Ron is initially suspicious, but when he sees the teamster he relaxes a little. He doesn’t seem like the type to lay an ambush for a group of armed people. He lets the other answer the man’s questions.

The seasoned enforcer immediately picks up on what the merchant is doing. Protection money. Dust Paws, that sounds like a gang or something. And this is clearly their turf, so they need to either pay for the passage or get roughed up. Or something like that. Once the others have introduced themselves to the man and answered his questions, Ron speaks up. ”What do you reckon they want?” he asks, eying the arrowheads and onions. He yanks one of a pair of axes from his belt. He has occasionally had to throw one or both at fleeing fools, and he’s used them more than once to dismember a body. But he doesn’t really need two, and if the Dust Paws like steel arrowheads, they might just like a steel hatchet. ”I got this here axe they could have. You think that would be enough?”

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  #231  
Old 04-14-2019, 12:21 PM
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The Dust Paws TollThe old farmer looks at Ron’s axe through squinting eyes. "Hmm," he says. "Might be. Them gnolls of the Dust Paw tribe are savage brutes, but they ain’t dumb. They know who’s got stuff to pay and who don’t. What’s good ‘nuff for one group, may not cut it for another. ‘Tis a nice axe though." He climbs back onto the driver’s seat of his cart. "I can tell you one thing. They don’t put much stock in coin. Leastways no more than any other trinket. And it’s better to have the gnolls leave you be. They do a fair good job of keepin’ the Ravager orcs away from the road, so most of us don’t mind payin’ a bit." He clicks his tongue at the mule and lays a thin stick lightly across the beasts back. "Fare thee well."

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  #232  
Old 04-15-2019, 03:11 PM
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Ada
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Happy to be out of the mountain passes, Ada hums a tune to the methodical clinking of their cow's harness. ...and across these dusty plains we ride, hi-ho hi-ho, hi-ho! As she comes to the end of the chorus, she spots a rustling in the grasses just as Cyprian and Doc turn their heads. Talia points in a separate direction, and within a few seconds, another rustling. This time they both see a shape on all fours, covered in matted fur. The locals? Hopefully just scavengers..

As they approach the rock formation and survey the scene, a man greets them after leaving a few things at what seems to be an altar. "Just travelers making our way across the Plains sir, and no, weather n' roads were fair up there. We might recommend you don't spend the night in the hills though. Strange goings-on, nature or magic, we're unsure."

She listens to the man's explanation and Ron's questions. I imagine coin does them little good all the way out here..

Ada lets Cow graze a bit while she strips the meat stuffs from a few of her ration packages. Being careful not to let the scent get into the wind, she rewraps the meat with spare parchment and leaves the lot of it on the rock. I would have liked those supplies, but I can make due until we hit Westruun. I wonder if they still serve that beef flank platter at Tall Aryn's Cellar? The thought alone made her stomach grumble. Finally, she added an empty glass bottle and five gold pieces.

At very least, they'll have some options to think over.. she thought as she scratched her head and looked off into the distance.



 
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  #233  
Old 04-15-2019, 03:45 PM
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Talia
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Talia eyed the man but said nothing, with words at least. One of her daggers was in plain sight being flipped over and over, and then it would be gone, only to appear again to do the same thing.

On the question of rockslides or washouts, she merely said, "Nothing too serious we couldn't handle."

She had seen the gnolls around them as they came to this place and followed Ada's gesture, leaving some meat behind as well from her rations. Like sailor's who toss a coin overboard in tribute at certain places on the seas, this was a small price to pay.

As she left the meat she said, "Know what they say... better the devil you know, than the one you don't."

She got back atop the wagon quickly, liking the vantage point from which to see the gnolls should they approach.


 
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  #234  
Old 04-15-2019, 05:45 PM
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Alys
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Alys spent the next day's travel in a foul mood. She'd been lured almost to her death and had been the only one stupid enough to fall for it. After all her boasting and begging just for a chance it had been an embarrassing failure.

No one seemed to hold it against her, which made her feel worse. If it hadn't been fore Confire's spell she might very well have taken a jump off a cliff. Combined with the tall grasses making walking inconvenient, a very displeased Alys spent most of their travel through the Dividing Plains sullenly silent in the back of the wagon.

She poked her head out when they came to a halt. The old man with his cart was talking about...tribute? Alys snorted, her temper still stoked from the night before.

"I don't see why we're giving them anything," Alys grumbled. But the rest of the group seemed to be going along, and Alys wasn't about to mess up again. Instead, she dug in her pack before pulling out a small, dented steel mirror. She laid it on the rock beside the other offerings before making a rude gesture with both hands out at the surrounding grassland. Waste of a good mirror.
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Old 04-16-2019, 04:29 AM
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Bellamy's heart thrilled a little as they made their way through the tall grass of the plains. It was something she read about some time ago and as they walked, she did her best to recall everything she knew of the Dividing Plains,
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bringing a warm hand to her temple to help her focus. It was a sight that a part of her had always wanted to see - an ocean of waving grass as far as the eye could see.

Ninazu's worried whinny alerts her to the presence of the furred beasts that walked near them long before her own eyes did. She shares a brief look with Cyprian as they were both horseback, but she says nothing. Several tense minutes pass before it becomes clear that whatever those animals were, they didn't want to engage with them. At least not yet.

Doc narrows her eyes when it comes time to leave something at the altar. It would be foolish to go against the grain now - others had already made some sacrifice. Why make theirs go to waste? "I'm with you," she says to Alys with a grunt, but she goes into her healer's bag and removes a vial of dark, brown liquid. Anti-venom. She rests her gift gently against Ada's well-wrapped victuals before
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giving the skull that marked the altar a closer look.

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  #236  
Old 04-16-2019, 02:25 PM
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The Dividing PlainsLooking out over the grasslands, the wealth of stories and history Doc read in her childhood about the region come flooding back to her. As a girl, she often sat in the library of Mother Lucinda’s, wondering at the tales of centaurs gathering proudly from across the vast grasslands to the Archeart’s Throne. She could almost see them in her mind’s eye, thundering in a mighty herd, their thick plume of kicked-up dust rising into the air. For generations, they had defied the gnolls and orcs to challenge their dominion over the grasses.

She’d read tales of lost cities and haunted barrows. The basin of Foramere, where Errevon the Rimelord had ruled a frozen kingdom, would be to the southwest. The salted ruins of Torthil, where King Warren Drassig had met his fateful end over three hundred years ago, lies out there somewhere, beyond the rolling hills.

All this, and more, she remembers. It was one thing to read of it in books on the third floor of an isolated manor. It is quite another to see the stage on which the history of the continent had played out for a thousand years!

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Old 04-18-2019, 01:38 PM
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The Dividing PlainsDoc is finishing her examination of the skull as Cyprian steps next to her to lay a simple dagger on the rock. The skull is canine, but too large to be a hyena. Almost certainly this was a gnoll. A big gnoll. Probably a male. There are gouges and microfractures in the bone that indicate a life of violence, but none of these wounds killed this gnoll. And he certainly didn’t die of old age, judging by the healthy condition of his teeth.

Cyprian watches the dagger, and Talia, closely as the company moves away from the rock. He had placed it prominently next to Ron’s axe for just that reason. Once they are far enough away that he is certain even the sly shifter cannot appropriate the blade for herself, he returns his attention to the surrounding landscape.

Several minutes later, the sound of snarls and howls rise up from behind them, as the gnolls apparently argue over who gets what portion of the tribute. But it is settled quickly in the way of the beasts and the journey continues in relative peace for the day.

They camp within a small copse of trees that night. The thick ash in the stone rings mark it as a popular spot among the Silvercut’s regulars, but this night they have it to themselves, save the occasional barks and yips of a Dustpaw band in the distance.

The next morning, the sixth of their journey, is bright and clear. Already, the sun crests the Summit Peaks many miles behind them. The day is warm. The welcome coastal breezes do not penetrate this far inland. The dust kicked up by Cow’s large hooves sticks to the sweaty flanks of the trailing horses. Large grasshoppers, some nearly a handspan in length, fly up to the sides before disappearing back into the dense grass.

It is mid-afternoon when the wagon crests a rise and a shallow valley in the grass opens before them. A long line of green, a belt of riparian forest, winds from southwest to northeast across their path. The road bends down to meet it up ahead. And at that spot is a structure.

Or rather, several structures, joined by a wooden palisade wall running around their exterior between the buildings, forming a sort of fort with a central courtyard and garden. Approaching closer, a coaching house, stables, and a blacksmith shop become evident. The ring of the blacksmith’s hammer carries across the valley.

The wooden gate to the coaching house grounds stands open, seemingly unguarded. A large wooden sign arches over the entryway: ”The Grassy Gnoll”
And below that: ”Welcome”

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  #238  
Old 04-18-2019, 09:42 PM
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Alys
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The nearly immediate noise from the altar where they'd left tribute convinced Alys that she really, really needed to learn to be careful.

The trip continued in peace after that, for awhile. Alys had been traveling with these people for days now and was beginning to get a sense from there, when she could. She spent her time pestering Confire in retaliation for his lack of helpfulness, and occasionally trying to figure out knife tricks by watching Talia. They were tricky things, but fun to watch.

The next day when they arrived at the...fort? Alys looked around to see what the plan was. A night's rest that wasn't in the back of a wagon or underneath it was tempting, but Alys had slept in worse places. More interesting was the chance for entertainment, maybe a chance to spend some of her hard earned coin. Still...this wasn't Westruun, and Alys was anxious to be on her way to an actual city.

She glanced at Cyprian out of habit. The human seemed to be the leader, or she looked to him often enough. "What'd you think, should we stop?"
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Old 04-19-2019, 03:29 AM
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It appeared that they had made the correct decision- or at least succeeded in not making the wrong one - in regards to the gnolls of the plains, as they were left in peace after their 'offerings' at the altar. Bellamy was glad of it. She could do with less violence. The quiet of the journey was broken only by the distant sounds of animals, perhaps gnolls, and the sound of the wind running over the waving sea of grass. That night as they made camp she once again prepared for sleep
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by examining the Spireling's book, clearing her mind with her dark magics. It was becoming a bit of a ritual for her and not one that she didn't enjoy.

The next day their journey continued along in peace until they came upon a small settlement. Doc dismounts and walks up to the others as they regarded the scattering of small buildings. "I wouldn't be opposed to a night out from under the stars," She says a little grouchily, but makes no further move towards the buildings.

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Old 04-19-2019, 07:45 AM
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Ronald ‘One-Bone’ Devyn
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Sweaty and dusty from the hike, Ron is getting bored with traveling. The monotony of it all starts to set in after nearly a week. Even Cow seems less interesting now. The large bovine doesn’t answer him when he talks at it, but she still seems to like someone talking around her.

The afternoon sun is scorching the back of Ron’s bald head when they see a small town, or, rather, what appears to be a small fort out here in the middle of nowhere. As they get closer, the sounds of human activity make Ron think of Stilben. He scratches his head a little when he stutters his way through the name of this outpost. Grassy Gnoll. He wonders what that means. Out here, people can’t make bodies disappear into the swamp like he could back in Stilben. Perhaps they bury them under the grass. Or leave them out for the gnolls to eat. He wonders if that’s the point of that name. Warning people that if they don’t behave the people here will put them in the ground or feed them to the gnolls. It’s safer not to ask, but he slowly caresses Ronda’s haft, slung over his shoulder, as they walk through the gate.

”Are we stopping here, boss?” he asks Cyprian. ”A cooked meal and a nice brew would go down nicely. Wouldn’t say no to a bed either,” he says, hopefully.

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