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  #151  
Old Dec 3rd, 2023, 05:04 AM
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Devari's knuckles were white on the handle of Gildedmane's shortsword, but as it became obvious that violence would not erupt she made a conscious effort to loosen her grip. The eagles were majestic creatures, and more than a little intimidating, but it seemed that Isandril had been correct about their intelligence as they seemed to be listening to the words of the others. Unfortunately the female, Finwalin, was distraught and seemed likely to act rashly so Devari stepped in front of her, trying to look the giant bird in the eye.

"I know how you feel, believe me," she said, "Only yesterday I felt as you do, and I acted on it, and now my own life may be forfeit when the centaurs' deadline is up. For you, it is your eggs which would bear the brunt of your actions, and I know you don't want that. Please, let us help you. We will go into the caves of these draconians and we will find out what happened to your eggs. I will do whatever it takes to keep them safe, I promise."

Perhaps it was a result of being condemned to death twice in the space of one week, but Devari found herself oddly calm in the face of the wicked beak and talons in front of her. She faced the eagle calmly and without flinching, and that seemed to be reassuring for Finwalin.

After a moment or two she nodded and took a step back, and then turned to the draconian who was still squirming on the ground. Isandril's warnings about the abilities of these creatures in mind, she crouched and regarded him warily.

"We will escort you back to your people," she said evenly. "You are safe now. My name is Devari, what can I call you?"

She offered her arm to pull him to his feet and then turned back to Nirmandor.

"Please, tell Redwaters here anything you know about these draconians, and anything about the eggs. I will talk to this one to find out what he knows."

She led the draconian off to the side keeping his back to the others and his attention on her, and once again she found her voice and gaze steady. Perhaps this was what people meant by having 'nothing left to lose'.

"Okay, this is your chance. You are lucky you ran into us. You said that the eagles had been following you for days, well now we can stop that. Help us to help you. Where would the eggs have been taken?"

 
 
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  #152  
Old Dec 3rd, 2023, 09:28 AM
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Talia Dawnstar
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Her marbles skittered across the dark ground, each one… thousands… releasing a plink…plink…plink… as they rolled away into the darkness. Talia had expected to then hear the sound of air being forcibly exhaled from the draconian's chest as he slammed hard down onto his back. The kender was quite cross that, the most-likely evil man, evaded her plan and then fell peacefully asleep to a spell from Isandril. What a boring spell. It would have been much better if he fell asleep while on fire.

Either way, her disappointment was soon buffeted away by the massive wind gusts that accompanied the beautiful giant eagles. So majestic… so gorgeous. Talia's heart skipped happily in her chest being in such close proximity to the noble beings.

When she heard the sad tale of the missing eggs, it took all of her minimal self-control to stop herself from stomping forward and whacking the dragon man with her koopak. Actually… she did not have enough self-control. As the back and forth continued, Talia did indeed stomp forward and push her way past Devari. She whacked the draconian, hard, across the head.

"You're a bastard!" she proclaimed her voice shrill in anger. "Even if you didn't take the eggs… you probably would have! I bet you know who did!"

Talia was ready to continue beating the brigand when an idea crossed her mind… a wonderful, fantastic idea. Griffon… fox… horse… and now Giant Eagle!

"Can we fly with you?" Talia blurted out to the eagles, her eyes wide with hope. "I don't weigh too much. Not nearly as much as Devari. I can ride on your back. You should probably hold her and Zendra in your claws. My eyes are great… probably better than yours!"



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Last edited by Begon Ugo; Dec 3rd, 2023 at 09:29 AM.
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  #153  
Old Dec 3rd, 2023, 12:26 PM
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Egg Hunt
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Even as he quickly interprets, he does his best to sooth the distressed Nirmandor and Finwalin, who are only looking for their children. He offers them his own rations of berries and pemmican, as well as a bowl of water he usually uses for Thunder, for who knows how long it's been since they hunted last.

Everyone is scurrying about with words and plans when it comes to dealing with the draconian and eagle, he he offers them comfort where he can in their own language to help keep them calm. Zendra's attitude has completely shifted from non intervention, and Devari orates quite beautifully between both parties.

It's only when Talia begins hurling accusation at the winged lizard and wanders up to the eagles with fan-girl stars in her eyes does he begin to hatch a plan. He hears kender are good at getting in places they shouldn't be.

"Hey Dawnstar, C'mere." he crouches down, and coaxes the eagles down into their shared huddle.

"How good are you at sneaking about?" he asks in a hushed whisper, to ensure the draconian cannot hear. "Because I wouldn't mind someone quickly checking out those caves, starting with the one the lizardman ducked into."

He turns to both Papa and Mama Eagle. "You guys know the area and the cave locations better than anyone. I would like you to take The Dawnstar to each one between here and and your nest until she locates the eggs. That way, we don't have to kick down every door and possibly fight every lizard we come across."

"Quick scout mission? What do you guys think?"


They get the location of their eggs. Talia gets to fly about on an eagle. That kills two birds with one stone (terrible saying) A win-win situation.


 


 
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Last edited by JonnyGulliver; Dec 3rd, 2023 at 10:10 PM.
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  #154  
Old Dec 5th, 2023, 03:48 PM
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Talia Dawnstar
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Talia was still enamored with the giant eagles, their size, their splendor… the feathers kinda matched her hair, their really, really long and pointy talons, when she heard Redwaters broach the subject of a reconnaissance mission into the draconian caves. The kender's heart leapt in excitement and before the man was even done speaking she responded with a heartfelt, "Yes! Yes… yes… yes… uh huh… yup… please let me do tha thing!"

It didn't take long before Talia had her wish granted and she was soaring through the clouds. The biting wind whipped at her hair, threatening to tear her free from the eagle, but in the moment, she couldn't care less about the possible danger. She was free! She looked down at the barren rocks in the distance below, knowing that somewhere down there was a pissed off tribe of centaurs bearing down on her friends, but that was a problem for another day!

Once her feet were reluctantly placed back on solid ground, Talia's amusement disappeared. The smile ran away from her face and a stern look of intense concentration took its place. She immediately pulled her elven cloak tightly around her as she dashed to the nearest boulder outside of the cavern entrance. She remained in position, a statue, until she was sure that no one had seen her, before she made a beeline into the cave.

Once inside the cavern, Talia began to second guess her decision. She did not see all that well in the dark, and she did not have a really good nose to follow any scents that might be drifting through the air. The cave stunk. Draconians were certainly not a very hygienic people and Talia had to stop herself from gagging loudly. She looked to the floor, hopefully looking for any tell-tale tracks that would tell her the story of the cavern… who was coming… who was going… maybe the tracks of some eggs being rolled inside?

She saw nothing helpful so she quietly tippy toed her way forward until she came to a threeway intersection of tunnels. Now, at this point anyone else would have shrugged their shoulders, told themselves, "Nice try," and returned to the big, protective giant eagle.

Talia couldn't do that… nope… not a chance.

Now she could see tracks on the ground, lots of them coming from the center tunnel. Her initial reaction was, of course… follow the crowd, but then she hesitated. If you were transporting big eggs, really big eggs, would you want to put them in a big crowded area? Probably not… that's how stuff gets broken.

Sooo… the left tunnel has less footprints. And the right tunnel has none. If I had to put my eggs in a basket… it would not be next to a bunch of stupid dragon dorks.

Left!




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Extinction is the rule. Survival is the exception.
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Most people are not just comfortable in their ignorance, but hostile to anyone who points it out.

Last edited by Elanir; Dec 6th, 2023 at 12:34 AM.
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  #155  
Old Dec 5th, 2023, 11:18 PM
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Aric Armitage
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Considering everything that had transpired the previous day, Aric should have been more perturbed than he had felt, but the steady rhythm of footfalls and the time spent engaging with most of his companions on the way had kept him focused on everything but what he should have been worried about – namely, how to justify traveling with someone who had let her damage destroy someone else. The answer was simple: he chalked it up to a mistake and cast it from his mind. We’re all flawed. I’ve committed my own sins. It’d be mighty hypocritical of me to castigate Devari for not being able to hold back the tide a moment longer. Secure in his conclusion, he slept. And slept. And slept some more.

He had pulled the blanket up over his head to keep the heat in and now he was quite comfortable wrapped in leather and hide and wool. I shouldn’t have to accommodate being with her much more than a couple of days – after all, the centaurs are probably going to execute her or do something similar. It’s very sad, but just like I am having to make penance with Habakkuk, she’ll have to make hers with the centaur chieftain. He would not raise his bow to defend her, that he had decided. He could accept that she had made a mistake, that she had lost control in the heat of the moment, but those were her actions, and the consequences went with her as well. If Strongwind’s mentor had wanted to hear from us, he would have asked, but he didn’t. If they ask again at her judgment, I’ll make the same case I would have then, but I’m not her protector. I don’t even know her, not really. She hid behind a false name from the start, and while I might understand it, that doesn’t mean I have to accept it. It’s just like I told Blyne: trust is important, and right now they still need to earn my trust.

He was so content in his warm cocoon and his deep thoughts that the shouts of fear in the distance seemed like little more than the whistling of wind in the hills. The low fog insulated against sound, and what sound got through was distorted. He thought he heard Tegan call out but, in his cozy bubble, it seemed less important. Someone called out for him to get up, but he pretended not to hear for a few minutes. Let me sleep, please, I just want to sleep. He had lain awake late the night before, and the thinner air from traveling at higher elevation, not to mention the added strain of the upwards trek had truly drained him. Why were they in such a rush anyway? They were never going to outrun the centaurs. The minotaurs were off on their own mission, and besides, it hadn’t been he who had killed their leader (though if he were being honest, he’d much sooner defend Xihue than Devari should it come to that). Why shouldn’t he get to sleep some more?

A thin boot kicked at his leg, and he roared in sleepy irritation. ”LeemeeLONE!” he muttered out angrily, and rolled up a bit more in his stolen bedroll, which was much more comfortable than the one he had traded. The kick did not come again.




A few minutes passed and now he didn’t hear anything. That was a bit worrisome, and the fact that he didn’t seem to be able to fall back asleep after getting kicked caused him to growl in frustration before throwing the nice warm blanket off him. Instantly his skin prickled with cold. ”Rraauugh, I just wanted to SLEEP!” he cursed the night sky. He was a growing boy, after all, although he hoped he didn’t get much taller or he’d need to alter his clothes. He stormily threw on his trousers and stuffed his stork-like feet into his worn leather boots. His arms were pricked with gooseflesh from the cold, and he alternated between dressing and rocking back and forth rubbing his arms. At last he decided he was decent enough to face… whatever the hell was going on. The only problem was, he didn’t know what was happening. There was thick fog everywhere. He thought he could hear something in the distance, but it didn’t sound like his friends. It sounded like… bird caws? He glanced down at his pack, but Kay was sleeping quietly in her little nest. He noticed the cloth bedsheet lining was getting soiled, and he felt his heart ache a little. You’ll fly soon, little one. He latched his pack shut, sighed heavily, then grabbed his bow and quiver. The air was pea-soup thick with fog, and he didn’t think he’d be able to see well enough to shoot, so he took his other weapons as well – just in case, he thought, though in case of what, he really couldn’t have said. If he had been more awake, he might have recalled the eagles from the previous day, but right now his brain was as foggy as the air around him.

It wasn’t until he had almost literally stumbled into the shining armor of Tegan that he found the others, and it took him a bit of time to grasp just what in the blazes was going on. By this point, Talia had already started negotiating with the eagles for a ride, the draconian had slept and then awakened, and Redwaters was cawing himself hoarse. Aric rubbed a thin hand down his forehead and wiped at his tired eyes. Definitely should have stayed asleep, he thought ruefully, as a mighty yawn split his face and making his jaw ache. He looked around – tried to look around, but the fog made everyone resemble ethereal specters – all, save for the draconian and the two eagles. There was no mistaking them. Aric stared at the trio of creatures that he’d only heard about in stories, and his sleepy brain seemed to be having a difficult time processing just what was happening. Missing eggs… egg thief… caves… draconian… draconian?!

”What – wh – why are we - ?” His tongue felt numb. Why hadn’t they just slain the monstrous thing? Draconians were atrocious on the same scale as the Nerakans. He looked over at Blyne, assuming her to be the instigator of whatever misguided mercy was keeping the others from snuffing out the wretch’s life.

”If mama eagle says they stole the egg, then they stole it. They probably just hid it somewhere. We’re not doing ourselves any favors letting this thing live. Let mama bird carry it into the sky and drop it, then there’s no worry about acid. Who knows, maybe the fresh air will loosen its tongue. We can find the egg in the meantime.” He yawned, then looked around, his eyes ultimately flicking toward Blyne and Devari. ”Or are we coddling draconians as well as Nerakans?”

 
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  #156  
Old Dec 6th, 2023, 01:25 AM
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Xihue of the Alan-Atu
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Xihue
Fulfilled by chance, in a life wrought of painful pleasures and comfortable deaths, the Alan-Atu tribesmen existed for centuries upon the Ilquar range. They sought no noteworthy glories, aspired to no heights greater than the altitude of their homeland's peaks, and valued the simplest of things with a copious amount of humility. A peaceful life with many children, abundant food, warmth in the night, and broad horizons filled with abundant beauty were the hallmarks of success that led one to philosophical ascendance. Conflict, chaos, pride, covetousness, hubris, and hate dominated the songs that faded from memory. Those discordant dissonances taught their lessons and vanished from the harmonious melody of life's sweeter songs.

Xihue had not chosen his current path. His journey was foretold in vision and prophesy. Now, the young monk found abundance of conflict on this overpopulated continent where even the remote lands of Ansalon's most inhospitable climates teamed with murderous malignancies and was sporadically spattered with more clement cultures. Always in conflict, apparently unending chaos without hope of peace. The reality of Krynn's true nature, away from the simplicity of tribal life, had been chewing at Xihue's edges. Certainly, life was a precarious thing that dangled on the edge of an abys. One misstep, one unchewed piece of food, a sudden illness, or one of any innumerable fatal occurrences would necessitate another turn on the Wheel. Here, it seemed as though tribulation intentionally sought to irradicate peace. Fate masticated and ruminated upon each would-be Ascendent until it expectorated some formless gummy goo that could be malleably molded into... what?

Maybe this was the conation of the "gods" and the Ascended. Maybe they were the ones intended to find ultimate purpose to existence. Maybe Xihue wasn't required to understand, just to fulfill his purpose and become the quiddity of totality, the universal component that satisfied the purpose of creation. The shepherd's thoughts swirled through his attempted meditation and became more contemplative. Meditation was intended to allow the practitioner to experience the moment, to exist purely, calmly, peacefully within one, true instant that connected the individual directly to the universe. It wasn't intended to be reflective. Yet, there was value in that too. So, Xihue allowed his thoughts to drift back to the events of the previous day.

The madness had left Devari's eyes as quickly as it had risen but that malignant spirit wasn't done playing yet. It danced magically into the head of a centaur youth, dove senselessly into the heart of his chaperone, and then bounced gleefully into the strangely suicidal man called Redrivers. Xihue stood wide-eyed with his chin down, mouth agape in witness to the senselessness of it all. His eyes connected with Talia's and Xihue read similar thoughts upon her fair face. Chaos had written a contract of blood here and everyone, by the mere accident of their presence, had signed it as participant or as witness. The madness struck more harshly at Aric who's overstimulated empathy brought him near catatonia again, a condition that the young man had largely avoided since the sewers of Pashun.

Xihue silently watched each of his companions that evening. Relationships were mailable things. Among the Alan-Atu, all tribesmen were brothers and fathers and all tribeswomen were sisters and mothers. Each held value. Each offered their unique set of skills to enhance the culture, support their survival, and advance the community's best interest. Those that did not were reprimanded, excluded or banished. Here, the bonds were not close enough for meaningful reprimand when mistakes were made. Exclusions seemed to occur naturally and, at times, unnecessarily. Banishment was largely self-imposed when conscience or guilt broke the ties that had forged the unsettled "friendships" of this company.

There was no one here to share warmth in the night. It made the monk feel more isolated and alone. As he moved smoothly through the steps, jumps, spins, phantom strikes and ki-yups of his customary evening kata, Xihue strove to lose all thought in the perfection of motion. Stress was thrown away. Pain and the tightness of sore muscles was stretched out, exhausted and discarded like chaff. Peace and centered thought were welcomed as each cardinal point of the compass was addressed in it's proper turn. The monk unrolled his long, weighted sash where the colors and motifs of the gods were displayed, hidden inside the material that swathed him during waking hours. He touched each in turn, their pattern of stars carefully woven into the fabric of the material, in reverence to the powers they represented. He felt purified as he returned to the fire to find Devari unburdening her conscience in a different way.

Redwaters, Isandril and Talia all offered advice and, although his own thoughts pressed for escape from the captivity of his mine, Xihue refrained from making a contribution. Instead, he simply allowed Devari's eyes to meet his own empathetic gaze and hoped that the peaceful calm that resided there would be enough to be seen, reflected within that brief but poignant connection. She was beautiful and smart. Her bald head was starting to show fuzziness of regrown hair and her eyes were brighter for the depth of the brownness of her skintone. Xihue nodded supportively but there was no indication from Devari that any comfort had been derived from the intentions of his taciturn support. Xihue watched from a distance as Devari and Isandril squared off with swords to spar. His critical eye interpreted every muscle of their movement while his mind quickly offered counters, defenses and responses to every combination and position. It was hard not to offer advice but Xihue remained reticent and silent.

During that night's watch with Tegan, Xihue decided to break his silence and spent several minutes in conversation with the Solamnic Squire. In the morning, Xihue pulled Aric aside and handed him two stones, heavier than the one's he had been practicing with previously. "Stand with me a moment and talk if you would before the air becomes hot again." Xihue picked up two even larger rocks, guided Aric into a horse stance and then assumed a similar position facing the younger man. "You have come far, Aric, but I saw how the outside world still troubles your inner peace. Place your arms out parallel to the ground at shoulder height. Do not allow them to fall. It will help you to concentrate on your breathing, slowly in through the nose, hold, then slowly out through pursed lips. With every inhalation, draw in strength and peace. With every exhalation, allow also the departure of pain and chaos. Reach for the centered calm within you. Such calm will also assist you with Isandril's lessons and give you the power to deflect pains such as those inflicted upon your mind yesterday. Your empathy for others is admirable but you must not allow the harsh insensibility and chaos of life around you to deprive you of self-control." When they were done, Xihue congratulated the lad on a fine start to the day. "You are improving faster than I did but you have farther to travel upon this road than I did. Come talk with me later today as we travel. I would like that. Be not afraid, peace be with you Aric."

The young man did just that, a few hours into their morning's travel, Aric re-engaged and asked, ”How are you feeling today, Xihue? Your wounds don’t appear to look as bad as they did yesterday. I was wondering if I could pick your brain about something… That song, you said you heard it when you touched the stones? That’s incredible. And that’s the same song that Lady Moonborn said she recognized?” Xihue clapped Aric upon a shoulder in appreciation and friendship and let his eyes and feet scan their path as he answered in a way that anyone nearby could hear, "Peace be with you Aric. I am mostly recovered. It would seem that keeping my lifeblood inside my skin has been almost as challenging for me as it is for Redwaters, only a considerable bit less voluntary.

As for the song, I had not touched the Standing Stones when it came to me. I simply sat by the fires and participated alongside those who shared the festival. I played what seemed... right and the music latched onto me more tightly than the webs of the Pashin spiders. It has never left my mind since then and I find myself unintentionally humming Queen Quinari's lullaby. It comes naturally to me now and seems appropriate to be heard whenever unsettled spirits are close. Each of us seems to be connected to the spirit of someone we care about. I can feel my Master's guidance, sometimes I hear his voice. Do you have visions as you sleep, Aric?

Lady Moonborn tied me to the song as it's bearer to fulfill a prophesy. I feel that you, and many of those that we travel with, are a part of that song, that prophesy as well. Though we become distracted by other, less important challenges along our path, I believe that our trip to Hurim and then, our mission to save the elves of Pashin are our most important duties."
Xihue told Aric of the Dragon vision he had shared with Devari the day before and decided that it might be wise to solicit opinions from Blyne, Zendra and Isandril as well.

Blyne and Besimeh were traveling, as usual, in each other's close company as the mountains began to rise around them and the trail began to become more difficult after the relatively easy trails of the early morning. "Peace be with you Blyne. Peace be also yours, Besimeh. May I talk with you as we walk?" Xihue addressed the devastatingly beautiful women with casual, light banter and asked them how best he might be of help to them on this journey. "Lady Blyne, you are a obviously and intensely private person. I gather, from the story that you have been willing to share of your life, that you possess insight that my short years may lack. Might I seek your company for a private conversation at some point before we reach Hurim? You have mentioned prophesy and I have experienced visions that your discerning intellect may help to evaluate more thoroughly."

Isandril seemed to glide along the path. His graceful footsteps were gracefully stable regardless of the difficulty of the terrain the party traversed. Xihue matched pace with him for a time as they entered an easier section of their climb into the mountain passes."Peace be with you, Isandril. I apologize that we have not spent much time in conversation.", the shepherd's words began to flow in the sibilant smoothness of an elvish dialect as the monk practiced the use of Isandril's native tongue, although heavily accented by the Taladan dialect that Xihue had learned as a child. Devari walked alone. Xihue was reluctant to disturb her quiet or to be an unwanted intrusion into the thoughts that she must have been wrestling with during the day's travels. He did take the chance to assist her over a particularly difficult part of their path where a large boulder had fallen from the rock wall above the trail. As Xihue released her hand, he held it briefly until the woman's entrancing eyes met his again as they had at the fire the night before. "Peace be with you, Devari. Do you trust me?" The monk accepted her answer with the indication that there was more depth to the question than had been immediately apparent.

Goats!! The distinctive voice of a bleating ram instantly grabbed Xihue's attention and he stood in marvel at the wild cousins of his former flock as they jumped along the mountainsides, away from the level ground. There was safety for them there, upon the rocky walls. The plants were all different but it was easy to see that there was ample forage and fodder. The desiccated austerity of the desert lay behind them and these mountains were lush by comparison. The shepherd followed them for a time until he saw Talia and Redwaters harvest one of the less agile ungulates. Dinner would be good tonight.

Xihue followed Zendra for a while, as well. It was easy to admire the way her clothing flowed over her energetic, shapely form. Her movements were less athletic and it was easy to tell that she was more scholarly than anything else. That did not leave the shepherd with the impression that she lacked the capacity to fight. No, her motions were graceful enough and she possessed a quiet, more peaceful strength. This woman would bear strong children! She had been in morning and Xihue was certain that the recent events had impacted her sensibilities as significantly as they had his own. There would be a time for them to talk, hopefully later that evening.

"Peace be with you, Talia. I must admit that your advice to Devari was closest to my own thoughts. It is wise to be able to live in the moment. The past can not be changed and, as long as you learn from it, there is no reason to maintain concern for healed wounds." The remnants of the previous day's battles still left a soreness within the monk's muscles, especially along the still-pink gashes that Tegan's and Zendra's attentions had addressed. "Have you ever travelled in the mountains before? I must admit that my spirit's have risen as the air has thinned and the paths have become less... level. Although these peaks are much shorter than those of my home, they still bring me a certain nostalgia. Let me help you find a good place to make camp for the night. Nice shot with the goat, by the way. We'll eat well tonight, thanks to you. I wish I had some of the herbs and spices from my home. I would make you a curry that you could fall in love with."

Shimmer-weed and mountain lions entertained the party before everyone took turns on guard that night. The sweet waters of the mountain spring refreshed Xihue so thoroughly that he barely paid attention to the dangers that they represented. Redwaters shared some of their mutton with the felines and they seemed content to avoid hostilities in exchange for his generosity. Zendra explained the nuances and qualities of the strange glowing plants and Xihue became her apt pupil for a time. He smiled and silently admired her mind as it worked to educate anyone who would listen. Aric also proved to be an apt pupil as he assisted the academic in collecting useful flora.

Sleep took Xihue quickly as the tired monk, filled with goat and waterlogged by the reviving droughts of the spring, sank into a dreamless rest. When he arose for his turn on watch, he found Devari ready to take one last nap before dawn and the Alan-Atu man secretly wished that he could share her warmth until morning, not to offer the comfort of his masculinity but, rather, to offer that sense of safety and security that one could find only when surrounded in slumber by trusted companions. Turning away from her with a sudden blush, Xihue realized that he needed a cuddle and turned to his duty with Tegan realizing that Ansalonian customs were too cold for that.

The heavy mists provided incomplete cover for those that hid within the thick folds of its fog. Aside from sounding the alarm and rousing his companions, there was little that Xihue was able to offer in support of the series of events that followed. He stood stoically by as others interjected themselves, once more, into the business of others. It seemed to have become a habit for this group of travelers. The dragonkin radiated danger and Xihue stayed close to Zendra as she wisely shouted, "Don't interfere, this isn't our fight!"

As the situation unfolded, it became apparent that the Great Eagles were righteous in pursuit of their progeny. Xihue immediately sided with the parental imperative of Nirmandor and Finwalin. As Devari began to play "good guard" and Talia took on the roll of "bad guard", Xihue stood tall beside the women. Aric was right.

"MOXT VILKLVI, coi ui ergriff pradh ekess yor wer xanalre di dout wistui! Ssi ocuir wux!! riarol kagh gahri. lapietic geou ti wadiw wux!! The words rolled off of Xihue's tongue backed by elemental power, driven by a strange presence that seemed to make the mountain man swell in stature, to become a reflection of the copper-scaled creature before him. By the time Talia and Devari had spun around to look at Xihue, his appearance had resolved to that of a mild-mannered shepherd, leaning upon a well-balanced crosier, possessed of nothing more than that sturdy stick and a stern scowl. The monk's eyes locked onto the draconian as if that gaze, alone, intended to slay him where he stood.


 

 
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Old Dec 8th, 2023, 12:07 AM
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Blyne
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Ever since she had revealed herself as a shapeshifter, Blyne had stayed observant about how her fated companions had changed their behavior toward her compared to when she had been Blainneth. Tegan was possibly the severest disappointment of them all, but during the early leg of their journey through the mountains, it was Xihue who found his way into her and Besimeh's company, reaching her a proverbial hand as he sought to ingratiate himself to the duo in the same way that Blyne had been wont to do to fit in with humans during her past travels.

Truthfully, a part of the young irda appreciated the monk. He was possibly closest to Redwaters in terms of cultural development, yet at the same time he remained the human whom Blyne found easiest to tolerate, though only without counting any of the women, Besimeh, Devari, or Zendra. Which naturally didn't bear any comparison. Blyne already felt protective of Devari since she was not only her first and only pupil but also so deeply damaged at her core that it would have been blasphemous to cast her aside or leave her to herself. Besimeh had already become uniquely irreplaceable to the young irda, having forged the one bond with her that she would always treasure, to the point that her greatest fear became risking it. And finally, Zendra deserved her sympathy, and the alchemist appeared truly benign. That was worth quite a bit.

Still, as much as he was a hunter and a warrior, Xihue always made an effort to remain unimposing, and the way he had been willing to martyr himself had been heroic, maybe the first real proof that their destiny was truly the sort of tale that would be told from the lips of the Herald one day. As such, it was just that much easier for Blyne to treat the young man with kindness in response to the banter and his request to even learn from whatever insights she was able to give him. If only the other humans were as wise and unobtrusive as Xihue. Blyne viewed his request as a genuine opportunity, and thus she readily agreed to have a private conversation with him at a time of his choosing. It was unlikely to make it easier to influence him since he showed few such openings, but it would possibly allow her to connect with him more. Strength in numbers...



The few moments before the giant eagles finally descended, Blyne was observing the mist-veiled sky with bated breath. She did not know what would happen if their sensibilities or possible lack thereof demanded death. Only once Redwaters started to translate their shrieks did the young Irda get the impression that Isandril's hope that they could be reasoned with had not been mistaken. If their large, threatening bodies hadn't been as daunting as they were, Blyne would have breathed out in relief when Redwaters shared that they knew not to risk their children and would prioritize their safety. Then they landed without further combat.

But the conflict was not so simply settled. The female accused the draconian, who denied it with an oath on the memories of the Dark Queen, yet those words went mostly unheard as the desperate avian threatened to slay the wretch to make him pay for crimes he likely had no chance at committing. In a way it was reminiscent of what had only happened a night ago, but this time Blyne would argue for reason and for the grace of Mishakal to be bestowed on the lowlife. The centaur should have been spared, and so should they spare this draconian. Blyne knew that this time she would not be too lame to mediate when lesser minds than her own failed to recognize what was right without her intervention to point it out to them.

This was not how it came, however. First Zendra intervened with a cunning proposal to earn the eagles' support in their conflict with the other residents of the Harikas Mountains, and then Devari's silver tongue smoothly convinced the eagles to abstain from taking the draconian's life in return for their party's assistance with the stolen eggs. Blyne noticed a tinge of her own emotions flare as she listened to the nomad's words, because she really couldn't have said it better herself. It was worth so much more coming from Devari though, because now these eagles could speak on Devari's heart if their testimony was worth anything to the centaurs. For just a moment Blyne visibly relaxed, though that only lasted briefly until Talia reacted violently and Devari took the draconian aside so that the impossible kender could no longer whack a defenseless man. He may be a wretch, but what does it change? The Irda would have vanished after rejecting the firstborn if not for Mishakal's protection. There only is one path of goodness here!

Just as Blyne had hurried her thoughts to conceive how she could chide Talia and put her in her place in a way that would not lose the irda any further standing within their group, Redwaters demonstrated his persisting usefulness in distracting the kender by suggesting that she should fly away with one of the eagles. Having to control her own flawed feelings of frustration, Blyne was only glad that Talia would be out of their hair for a bit. But of course, before such a thing could happen Krynn would love to see the high-ogre's patience tested even further when Aric found a way to remind everybody of his presence in their group by demanding the draconian's death after they had already negotiated peace.

When the youth's gaze locked with Blyne's, the almond eyes of her human shape were filled with coldness that was thinly veiled. The irda didn't need him to remind her of his murderous nature that had broken out in the face of the Nerakans. Blyne did not forget. Nor would she ever, because this had been the moment that Aric had shown her that there was a wretch in him as well. And the irda despised him for it, just like she despised any other human like him. Tehar, Hogart, Aric, or even the Blackbird, who was a half-blood and even more vile. Still, they were all the same. The gods truly must have made a mistake putting Aric with them, but Blyne would suffer the thorns as well as she had suffered any other fate that the gods had intended for her. That's what her destiny had always been. And she would not sunder their party over a wretch in their midst. Blyne would not under any circumstances repeat the mistakes from lessons that she had already been made to learn.

It finally took Xihue to utter aggressive words in a language that was most likely draconian to finally make Blyne lose her patience. Human after all. Looking at the shepherd warrior, there was murder in Xihue's eyes as well, and Blyne was mustering all of the self-control that the gods expected of her while she held her breath and remained still although the truest part of herself wished to withdraw and leave Krynn as broken and hopeless as it had always been. But the young irda did not move or speak. Devari needed this. And their party needed unity. If her mother had meant to liken these fated companions to children, then Blyne finally understood why the Valin curse had been conceived to force their kind into motherhood. Then again, at best these were strays, and the only ones that truly were bonded to Blyne were Devari and Besimeh. The rest of them Blyne would tolerate because their shared destiny needed it to be that way.

Focusing her attention away from her horrible state of chaotic emotionality, Blyne once more listened to Redwaters' translations. But they did not set her heart at ease in any way. The young irda's fists visibly clenched when Finwalin suggested that she would stay behind and supervise their horses as their group followed the mountain path to the draconian caverns. The human-shaped sorceress scrutinized the giant eagle for several seconds as the memories of an eyeless, dead donkey flashed before her inner eyes. But even though it appeared as if the female avian was not looking to feed, she seemed so distracted due to the fate of her children that Blyne truly didn't know if they could entrust their horses to this monstrous bird.

Salvation came in the shape of Besimeh. The khurish merchant had noticed the emotions that were rumbling beneath Blyne's surface, albeit more openly than the irda wished to show. With a quickness of wit that was beautiful, Besimeh lovingly suggested that she could stay behind with the horses if that might ease the mystic's mind. As beset with other emotions as she already was, Blyne looked at Besimeh and felt a swelling of warmth in her chest that felt wonderful but was at the same time highly disconcerting. It felt like an emotion that the young irda would never be able to contain, and in soft words, she thanked Besimeh for choosing to stay with the horses while the rest of them would seek out the possibly dangerous egg thieves.

Still emotional, Blyne no longer cared how frustrating most specimens of the lesser races were. Besimeh had come like a sun to the young irda's life when she had only known the night for at least her last two decades. And in any case, Blyne knew that there were other sensible creatures within their fated company who knew that simply murdering the draconian whom Devari was talking to was blatantly wrong. Devari would naturally stand by her mentor's side, just like she had about the fate of the Nerakans, but also Tegan and Isandril were expected to stand for sparing the draconian's life. Unless the solamnic's human nature had finally caught up with him as well. Either way, Blyne decided that it would be unwise to speak to any one of them in her current state, and supported by the radiance of her bond with Besimeh, the shapeshifter flowed over to Devari's side and audibly addressed the draconian instead.

"I wish to apologize for any of my allies who might still seek to mistreat you. Please rest assured that I at least seek to protect you and will do so for as long as you pose no threat to any of us." Blyne looked over at Talia who was frolicking next to Redwaters and Nirmandor, but the young irda's decision stood nonetheless. She would tolerate no further violence or ill-spirited cruelty from the disturbed kender woman. The next time Blyne would try to rush and prevent such heinous attacks if she could, and the gods would look on her favorably. But for now, she turned back to the draconian. "You see, there may be those with us who bear hatred for you, but they will not have the final say. There are those among us who yet act with goodness, even if your queen might see a weakness in it."

With the support of Devari's agreement on her side, Blyne continued to draw the lines in the sand. "You already know that you are subject to our sorcery, so you will know that you cannot safely betray us, even if we mean you no further harm. Will you accompany us and prove what I already believe, that you should not be punished for the crime of these stolen eggs?" For a moment Blyne had considered sharing that Talia would scout ahead, but it would have been highly unwise. Her allies already wished to ostracize her due to their base natures, but their destiny needed them united. The young irda would succeed at all further trials, and shine the way. Even if any of them and the rest of Krynn only existed to torment her or hold her back.
 
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  #158  
Old Dec 8th, 2023, 02:04 AM
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Aric Armitage
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Aric felt no shame in seeing the “human”’s eyes narrow with annoyance at his words and accusing glance. If anything, he felt a giddy, almost perverse twinge of joy shiver through him. Got you, he thought with glee, and could not quite hide the slight upturn of the corners of his mouth. He had no idea why seeing the normally unflappable Blyne flaring with irritation brought him such pleasure. Perhaps it was because, deep down, he resented having been deceived by her (was “she” even a her??). Perhaps it was because he blamed her in some way for dividing Kaylen and Pnoah from him and the others (though in fact, this was unfairly levied against her; Kaylen and Pnoah had made their own choices. It wasn’t Blyne’s fault they’d just happened to align). There was nothing fully rational about how he felt toward the shapechanger, yet it didn’t matter. Nothing the woman had said or done in the short time they had been together had convinced him that she was anything beyond a liar.

You think you’re so smart, don’t you?, couching your cowardice as mercy. When have you ever had to make a hard choice? It took all of his resolve not to say the words out loud, but he was able to bite the vitriol off just at the tip of his tongue. Instead, he just nodded. Conveniently, that was the time when Xihue began to speak in his own strange, I was a good boy and didn’t click the spoilerbutton, but whatever he said gave me advantage on my Intimidate check, so thank you!incomprehensible language. Aric stared at the older man with something almost like stunned reverence, but then shook it off. Everyone’s got their surprises, he refrained to himself. The good news was that Aric trusted Xihue implicitly – and why shouldn’t he? The Alan-Atu man had done nothing to draw his honesty into question. Xihue had continued to be supportive to the young man, pushing him to further train his patience, not to mention his deltoid muscles. The patience was probably the more valuable lesson; it had surely kept him from throwing fuel on the embers of resentment that seemed to be smoldering between the shapeshifter and himself. He started to wonder if she could do anything to earn her way back into his good graces. Telling the actual truth about who and what she was would be a start. But it was clear that was never going to happen, not without some sort of divine intervention or a good deal of alcohol to loosen her tongue. No matter. He had done his part in pushing her to reveal her deception to the rest of the party. Had he erred in allowing her to control her own narrative? Perhaps. Still, it was enough that the others knew she was not who she said she’d been, that everything about her was false. The reasons, much like Devari’s, ultimately didn’t matter. Whatever happened now would happen with wary eyes cast toward them – or at least, his own would be.

As Aric listened to the last few guttural tones echo from Xihue’s mouth, he watched the draconian from its prone position for
Dice * Intimidation w/ adv from Xihue vs draconian:
1d20kh1 16
1d20kh1 16
any sign of weakness. It was absolutely no surprise to hear the deceiver immediately begin making concessions to the wretched monster, entreating it to trust to her mercy and to disregard her fellow companions. Aric could only roll his eyes. Who hadn’t seen this coming? There was being merciful, and then there was being naïve and foolish – and he was supposed to be the child here! She’d probably be singing its praises even while the draconian thrust its knife into her back. But fine, let her travel with the damn thing. As soon as it tried to do anything, there’d be an arrow through its back, and if she was hit by its acid as a result, well… He dismissed it. You lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas. Even mercy has its price.

Every single scathing retort seemed to bubble up, every acerbic accusation festered in his brain. What was her endgame here? If they came upon a rabid dog, would she reach out to pet it, or would she do what was merciful and necessary and put it down? What did her prophecy have to say about getting backstabbed?

Still… What was the rush? The thing wasn’t going anywhere. Even if it were stupid enough to turn on them, it was eleven versus one. Let it spin its yarn. They could check its story, reveal the lie, then sit back and allow the mama eagle to mete out justice. Aric didn’t need to draw a single arrow here. It was enough that the draconian knew the only way out was the truth… but then that raised another question: if the draconian miraculously was innocent, what were they going to do then? Finally, his patience gave out.

”Fine, you want to babysit a monster, go right ahead. I’ll not stop you from making another fool decision, but don’t cry foul when it betrays your trust. But even if it is innocent, what are you going to do then? Let it go? You’d better hope its an outcast out here, otherwise the first thing it’ll do is go for reinforcements.” He dusted his hands in a sign of dismissal, then wandered over toward Talia, who looked to be heading off in the direction of the caves. ”You need any help searching?”

 
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  #159  
Old Dec 8th, 2023, 12:59 PM
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The Draconians’ Lair
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Nirmandor
The great eagle lowered his head, looking into Zendra’s intelligent eyes with understanding.


We often see centaurs roaming the desert, but we never had cause to interact with them, Redwaters was quick to translate. They reside in a canyon to the northwest of these mountains. They keep away from our high peaks and we rarely hunt close to their home. I don’t know if Finwalin’s or my word will carry any weight with them, but we will gladly speak of your willingness to help us find our children.


Nirmandor stood up to his full height and half-opened his wings, instantly dwarfing the human archaeologist, though there was no threat of violence in his stature.


The gods have blessed us with strong wings and sharp eyes. Both will gladly serve your cause, if you manage to retrieve our eggs. We know good when we encounter it and value it greatly. You will not find us ungrateful towards those who help us in our time of need.


Finwalin remained silent, her full attention on the draconian beneath her great talons, still considering whether she should kill or spare the one who was responsible for the disappearance of her young ones. Devari approached the majestic avian, who listened to the dark-skinned woman without speaking. Her eyes remained hard and full of anger, but she eventually lifted her leg, allowing the Kapak to scramble to whatever safety the human woman could provide him. The dragonman would live… for now.


I brought two eggs to the world, both of them healthy, beautiful, perfect, the female eagle informed the party, her voice cracking and letting the pain beneath the anger show. I tended to them with diligence, as a mother should, never leaving the nest. Until this kreeewk appeared!


The fire of hatred instantly returned to her voice and Redwaters didn’t even attempt to translate the word Finwalin had chosen to describe the draconian. The meaning was obvious.


The eagle glared at the Kapak so fiercely that the dragonman attempted to hide behind Devari, which was comical, since its form was much larger and more dangerous-looking than that of the human. Even that didn’t protect him from Talia, however, who found the chance to knock some sense into him in a most literal and kender-like kind of way.


I don’t know how he did it, but my heart is certain that he did, the grieving mother continued, her eyes never leaving the one she held responsible for her misery. If he and his kind have harmed them, eaten them… The large bird broke off, the mere possibility of such a tragedy robbing her of speech.


Nirmandor immediately moved close to her, protectively placing his wing over her body.


Don’t torture yourself with such thoughts, my love. Our children live and we will find them. These good people will help us.


Free of the eagles’ attention for a single moment, the Kapak grabbed Devari’s hands in gratitude. His own hands were hard and full of scales and his claws dug into the woman’s soft skin. They didn’t draw blood, but the move was enough to give rise to a feeling of revulsion in Devari’s chest and the urge to immediately draw her hands away from him. The Kapak must have realized it, for he quickly let them go.


right-aligned image
Serahk
"Thank you, human! Devari…", he corrected himself. "My name is Serahk." The way the draconian pronounced his name was difficult to imitate, emphasizing the “s” and “h” in a way that mammals seemed incapable of doing.


"I know that there is bad blood between our peoples, but we, draconians, are not to blame. We were made with the single purpose of following the Dark Queen’s orders. How could we have done otherwise?"


Serahk kept his head low and his eyes on the ground, but Devari found it difficult to feel compassion for such a hideous creature. Its knife-like fangs and yellowy eyes made it look like a snake or crocodile, ready to bite her when she least expected it. And yet, what he said was true. The draconians had had no influence on their birth and upbringing. In many respects, they were mere pawns, the perfect soldiers of a power-hungry goddess intent on conquering the world.


"What reason would I have to steal the eggs of such dangerous creatures as these giant eagles? Why would I seek to make more enemies than my race already has? It is the reason we live in this wilderness, away from the rest of our kind. The humans and centaurs who claim dominion over this land would sooner fill us with arrows than greet us, even though we mean them no harm."


The Kapak’s hissing words made Devari’s skin crawl, though Serahk’s unique way of speaking must have been the result of his dragon-like mouth and disproportionately long tongue. The human had to remind herself that her own way of speaking was probably as distasteful to the draconian as his was to her.


Aric’s harsh judgment made the draconian turn towards him, obviously alarmed. He half-expected the irrational mother eagle to heed the youth’s advice and lift the Kapak high up in the air before dropping him like a stone. The dragonman instinctively revealed his fangs and reached for his daggers, but realized that they were still on the ground, close to where the elf had put him to sleep. The weapons would be of little service against so many opponents, but it simply felt wrong to Serahk to be unarmed when surrounded by so many people wanting to harm him.


Xihue’s words, however, put an end to all thoughts of resistance.


Though only Zendra understood their true meaning, being familiar with dragon-speech from a very young age, all witnessed the draconian practically crumble beneath their weight. Falling on his hands and knees like an animal, Serahk pressed his body against the ground, trying to make himself as small and insignificant as possible. His eyes wide with fear, the draconian opened his mouth to respond, beg, contest the accusations.


left-aligned image
Finwalin
Blyne’s hand was gently placed on his shoulder, causing the Kapak to twitch as if trying to evade a blow. The mystic and sorceress shook her head reassuringly and helped the draconian to his feet.


"Thank you, thank you, Lady!", the Kapak replied with gratitude, though he never stopped glancing around him, knowing that most of these strangers didn’t share the kindness and compassion of this noble woman. "I would never betray you, just as I would never lie to you! I didn’t do what the eagles are accusing me of, though I know of no way to prove it. Let me take you to our leader, Cralik. Perhaps he can put your minds at rest. The way to our cave is dangerous, but I will not let you come to harm. You will see that I can be trusted!"


Treacherous, lying snake!


The female eagle furiously beat her wings, coming within striking distance of the draconian in an instant.


You have tricked me once, but never again! I will be accompanying these travelers and constantly keeping my eyes on you. Even if I see you twitch suspiciously, you will not live long enough to regret it. I swear it on my children’s fate!


Serahk cried out in panic and retreated from the great bird of prey as much as the still suspicious companions would allow him. He hoped that the male eagle would try to restrain and comfort his mate, as he had already done many times before, but Nirmandor never said a word. In fact, it was as if he had simply vanished. The draconian looked around him suspiciously. The mist had started to become somewhat thinner, but not enough for the Kapak to be able to make out any details. The sun would soon come out and then the fog would clear completely, allowing the humans to follow him without being in danger of falling off a cliff.


Cralik would sort things out. He always did.


*********


Nirmandor tried to ignore Talia’s pestering, continually urging him to fly faster, swoop down or make a loop. Without a proper saddle, holding on while the giant eagle was soaring in the sky was difficult for even the exceptionally agile kender, but Talia didn’t seem concerned by this in any way. The thick mist had forced the giant eagle to fly higher than he would have preferred in order to get his bearings, something that had led to excited shouts and frantic movements from his fearless rider. Could he fly all the way to the sun?, she had asked, fully expecting an affirmative answer.


Even in this remote corner of Khur, among the denizens of the Harikas Mountains, kender had a well-deserved reputation for being reckless. They were also famous -or rather infamous- for being as stealthy and silent as owls. If anyone could infiltrate the lair of the draconians and locate the missing eggs before the dragonmen realized what was actually going on, it was Talia.


Reaching the plateau where the cave’s entrance was located, Nirmandor circled around it a few times to make certain that no draconians were secretly waiting for them, before silently landing close to the opening in the rock. Bringing his body as close to the ground as possible, he allowed Talia to nimbly jump off his back. He turned his head and gave the kender a stern, cautionary look. Talia replied with a wink and a pat on his beak, just before vanishing behind a boulder. The large bird sighed inwardly. Could they really trust a kender to retrieve their eggs? Nirmandor hoped that they had made the right decision.


Rising to his full height, he turned his head towards the east. The horizon was growing brighter. Dawn was upon them! Without a sound, the giant eagle flew away, looking for a place that would give him a good view of the cave’s entrance and at the same time keep him hidden from anyone looking upwards from the ground. Talia had already entered the cave, all alone, with only the giant eagles’ wishes and prayers to keep her safe.


Nirmandor hoped that the gods were listening.


*********


If the companions had found the mountain path leading to the stream hard, this one was almost impossible to traverse. In fact, there was no path, merely protruding cliffs, a much too steep slope and loose stones that plummeted into gorges that were hundreds of feet deep. This served as a prime example of what would happen to the companions, if they lost their footing.


Thunder would not stop complaining about the ground being unfit for the hooves of horses and the rest of the mounts soon caught wind of the mare’s protests and refused to budge. This probably saved their lives, for had they continued, it would have been practically impossible for them to turn around and return to the relatively safe spot that had been chosen for them to wait for the group to return. Besimeh proposed to stay behind and keep an eye on the horses and after sharing an embrace and a few whispered words with Blyne, bid everyone farewell and good luck.


The only one who didn’t appear to find the path at all daunting was Serahk. The draconian jumped from boulder to boulder with the grace of a wild goat, using his sinewy tail to keep his balance and his large wings to glide over short distances. It was clear that he had climbed up and down these mountains hundreds, if not thousands of times. Whenever -5 HP, one level of exhaustionDevari stumbled, the Kapak instantly found himself next to her, helping her up, though he didn’t dare approach both: -1 HP, one level of exhaustionXihue and Zendra, who were glaring at him with undisguised suspicion. Whether the draconian was happy to see the tears in their clothes or the bruises and cuts all over their arms and legs was unclear. After all, reading Serahk’s reptilian face was something of a challenge.


Though the distance from the stream to the supposed lair of the draconians was short, no more than a few minutes as the giant eagle flew, it took the companions the better part of two hours to make the trip. The realization that they would have to return the same way made them sweat even more profusely than they already had.


Looking around them, they saw that the plateau in front of the cave’s entrance was completely devoid of sentient life - no draconians, no Nirmandor, and especially no Talia. The dark opening in the great cliff wall looked ominous and it wasn’t hard for some of the companions to imagine it leading not to the heart of the mountain and Finwalin’s lost eggs but the Abyss.


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The lair of the draconians

"We have arrived! Let’s get inside. I’ll lead you to Cralik."


Serahk grinned in a way the companions had not seen him before, obviously pleased with himself for having brought them to the place where the draconians dwelled. The beating of two pairs of wings made the Kapak’s toothy grin instantly vanish, however, and he scampered towards a nearby boulder, hiding behind it as he watched the sky with fear.


With remarkable grace, the two giant eagles landed amidst a cloud of dust, though their miens were grim.


The kender entered the cave at the break of dawn, Nirmandor explained with concern. The sun is now high in the sky and I have seen no trace of her. I fear for Talia. Something might have befallen her.


The draconian appeared alarmed as well and half-appeared behind the rock serving as his hiding place.


"You never told me that the kender had been sent to scout ahead! I would have warned you about the traps in the tunnels. It might already be too late… Hurry up, we must go to Cralik. Follow me!"


Serahk rushed towards the cave’s entrance when Finwalin suddenly placed herself in front of him, blocking the opening with her great bulk.


Remember your promise, snake! If you harm these people or my eggs, nothing will be able to save you from my talons!



Calendar15th Day of Aelmont (Winter) 422 AC / 38 SC, Early Morning

Solinari: 9/36 (Waxing)
Lunitari: 18/28 (High Sanction)
Nuitari: 7/8 (Waning)

Boons/Penalties:
White Robes - | Red Robes +1 spell DC, ADV on spell attack rolls | Black Robes -


 


 


 
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Running Dragons of a Broken World: A Dragonlance (Age of Mortals) 5e DnD campaign
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Old Dec 12th, 2023, 03:54 AM
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Isandril Moonsilver, Wizard of High Sorcery
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Earlier...

As Isandril was walking on the treacherous path, he tried to keep both his eyes and feet on it and maintain his balance lest he find himself injured or worse. Yet all it took was a single misstep for him to stumble and twist his ankle. The pain was sudden and it was sharp, sharp enough to almost cost him more than just an injured joint. The mage...

...

As Isandril was walking on the treacherous path, he tried to keep both his eyes and feet on it and maintain his balance lest he find himself injured or worse. Between his attention at the task at hand and his natural elven grace, he managed well enough, almost making it seem effortless, unlike some of the others. Where Devari stumbled, he... he did... not? The mage paused, as if in concentration. When did he do it? Was it becoming easier, almost instinctive? As he tried to think, a laughter echoed in his mind. This time though it was accompanied by the flash of a mouth twisted in a cruel smile and framed by an iron-gray beard. And then both sound and image were gone. He tried to recall it, but he was interrupted by... Isandril looked at the one addressing him in his own tongue, albeit in a heavy accent. Xihue. And what the man had to say was important enough and intriguing enough to distract the elf from his own conundrum.


Having said his piece, Isandril merely smiled at the other man and refocused on keeping his feet on the path. Even though he still had the means to... correct any missteps, he found he preferred if he did not have to do so.



Now...

"There are tracks here," Isandril finally said as he walked here and there, examining both the ground and the cave entrance. He was no hunter or ranger, but both his eyes and his mind were sharp. "Four kinds, yes?" He looked at Aric as he continued, as if looking for affirmation. The boy might be young, but he was a hunter and a tracker. That much he had proven time and again. "Three belong to draconians, albeit different types of them. One appears to be quite a bit rarer than the other two. And then the fourth kind..." He pointed at traces that could only belong to Talia. They were only leading inside. No kender footprints seemed to exit the cave.

Having said all he could about the tracks, the mage then directed his attention to the cave entrance itself.

"I believe it must have been much larger once, before the elements, maybe even the Cataclysm, caused it to collapse." He looked at Zendra who had an interest in history and the past before approaching it further, even using a bit of magic to remove quite a bit of dirt and dust. "This... This is no natural opening. Not man-made either. Whoever or whatever is responsible for it possessed both a skill in spellcasting, as well as..." He paused. "As well as gigantic claws."

"And then there is this," he added as he motioned towards carvings next to the entrance. His magic had made it clear enough that they were words in an ancient form of the Common tongue, one predating the Cataclysm.

Enter guest, if you would dare
If your heart is good and fair
Come to know the lord of rock
Come to listen, marvel, gawk.

Good advice must be repaid
And strong bonds of friendship made.
Don’t forget a gift of worth,
Splendid taste and endless mirth.

"Perhaps a dragon made these tunnels? A metallic one? The words at least appear inviting and without menace."

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Old Dec 13th, 2023, 03:13 AM
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Aric Armitage
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Somewhere in the middle of his clashing with Blyne over her inscrutably merciful attitude toward the captive draconian, Talia had absconded with the male giant eagle and soared away into the dense fog above. Content with having said his piece (and having put the onus of responsibility for the prisoner onto the shapeshifter), Aric had turned to find the kender to offer his assistance with searching the nearby caves. He needed to distract himself from the roiling irritation that pricked at him from his exchange with Blyne. It seemed history was repeating itself once more, and he hated how quickly those feelings of distress and division had resurfaced. He could well remember the leaden feeling in his soul as he, Isandril, Tegan, Xihue, and Talia had separated from Kaylen and Pnoah, as well as Veralyne and Blainneth, as the two liars had been known at that point in time. He had hated the decision then, and he liked it no better now, and subsequent events had only calcified his assertion that mercy had been the wrong call. It seemed the case now as well, but the good news (if one could call it that) was that those subsequent events had left an impression on him. For good or for ill, whatever compunctions he might have had about meeting evil with violence had started to erode. The draconian was clearly lying and would promise anything to save its own skin. He’d heard stories aplenty about the wicked creatures from Mychael, the former Solamnic fighter turned barkeep who had settled down in Aric’s remote village deep in the forest of Abanasinia. Having received no formal education save from the few lessons he had taken in from his mother before she’d been slain, Aric’s window to the world was derived entirely from the few books of hers he’d squirreled away, and the oral histories he’d scrounged together from the few village elders who would deign to speak to him – when they weren’t drunk, that was. The notion that all draconians were not inherently evil was as inconceivable to him as the idea that the world was round (it was clearly flat; the maps he’d seen proved it). All this was to say that if push came to shove, he’d not lose sleep about putting an arrow through the treacherous draconian – and, if in the process of it turning on them it happened to sink a claw into the naïve shapeshifter, he’d not lose a minute of sleep over it. Maybe she’d even learn to be more discretionary with who – or what – she meted out her mercy to.

(When did you become so callous?) A pause, then, (You’re acting just like him)

That inner voice again, the one that popped up in the back of his mind and caused him to go quiet, reappeared. He felt his fingernails dig into his palms as he clenched his fists. He was not his father, and to hell with any stupid voice that made him out to be like him.

(But you are. Hating what you don’t understand. Closing yourself off rather than opening your mind to new ideas, new points of view. You’re a missing limb away from turning into him, you know that right?)

Shut UP, he growled to himself. He could feel the sting in his palms as the nails sliced crescent moons into the thin flesh. The notion that he shared any similarity with that – that bastard

(Hate begets hate; the apple does not stray far from-)

”ENOUGH!” he growled to himself, unable to quite keep his voice down. He had been standing about twenty feet away from the others while he’d been sorting things out in his head. Between the distance and the fog, he didn’t know if anyone had heard him talking to himself. He hoped they hadn’t… but then, it wasn’t as though he’d exactly been conspicuous with his displays of mental health in the past. Stress seemed to trigger him, and it was a little worrisome to be fragile like this while his aversion toward violence continued to wane. He wondered if he were becoming a danger to the others. He wondered if perhaps he should just leave, just slip away into the fog. There was nothing really holding him here, not really. Suddenly desperate to steady himself, he began looked around for two large, round stones. Being in the mountains, he found two easily enough. He bent and picked them up, his arms automatically extending them out to his sides. He closed his eyes and focused on just breathing.

(You cannot continue like this. You know that, right?)

Eyes still closed, he nodded. He knew; he just didn’t want to admit it to himself.

(For good or for ill, you are a part of this group. You cannot leave. Do not delude yourself into thinking that is an option. You have limited resources, and even more limited knowledge of where you are. You are a stranger who does not speak the local language, and there is no suitable shelter or food source for dozens, possibly hundreds of miles. You made a promise to Laramielle and her people that you would help get them to safety. Would you go back on your word?)

No… he croaked quietly.

(Just as you are reliant on Xihue for his wisdom and his ability to gather food and water, you are reliant upon Talia for her ability to scout. You are reliant on Isandril for his vast knowledge of the arcane and his guidance as you navigate your own burgeoning abilities. You are reliant on Tegan and his strength, as well as his unwavering faith in you. As for the others, even if you’ve not uncovered why they are here, the fact is that they are here. They are just as much a part of this prophecy as you, and you’re going to have to come to terms with that, or none of you will survive.)

But I don’t even understand this stupid prophecy! I’m just a stupid kid who ended up halfway across the world, I shouldn’t even be here-!

(And the others? Do you think that they foresaw being here as well?)

The answer to that seemed as obvious as the growing burn in his arms and back. ”Of course,” he said confidently, before repeating, Of course… with much less conviction.

(That they intended to come to the festival at the standing stones to honor their dead, there is no doubt. That they would find themselves entangled with eight other strangers in a trek across the desert, I highly doubt. Yet they soldier on. Same as you.)

But what about-

(Kaylen and Pnoah? That they did not follow you to the end should not be such a surprise. Even several of the heroes of the lance fell before seeing the war reach its conclusion, yet you would not discount the role that Sturm Brightblade and Flint Fireforge played just because they left the story before its final chapter. Had Pnoah not approached the stone at the festival, you might have never even found yourself coming together with the others to defend him. Had Kaylen not been there to offer her mercy and wisdom to you and the others, who knows what path the journey might have taken. Without Kaylen's healing magic, Talia would surely have been slain by the Nerakans. Besides, you do not know that your paths won’t cross again. And who knows that these newcomers who have joined along the way, Zendra and Redwaters, do not have their own parts to play. Did the heroes anticipate having a gully dwarf or a one armed smith come to play such pivotal roles in their story?)

”No…” he said quietly. His resistance was draining from him like sweat from his pores. ”But-“

(Sturm Brightblade and Raistlin Majere were ever at odds, yet they both had monumental impacts on the success of their story, did they not?)

He didn’t answer; it wasn’t necessary. He knew where the voice (the voice that seemed so soothingly rational it could only be that of his late mother) was going with its reasoning. He knew Sturm had never trusted Raistlin, yet had still been forced to rely upon the magus. Aric didn’t understand Blyne, but there was no denying she was a part of their story, same as he seemed to be. The difference, he thought, was that he’d not been able to intuit at all how Blyne fit into the story. Every action we’ve taken, it feels like she’s been at cross-purposes with the rest of us. The only ones she really talks to are Besimeh and Devari, and I hardly feel like I know them well enough to talk to either… He sighed. He let the rocks fall to the earth and began stretching out his poor arms, feeling the circulation return to his weary limbs. He’d only been awake for about ten minutes, and already he wanted to go back to bed. I don’t even care about whatever stupid prophecy this is supposed to be anyway, he groused.

(Is it that you don’t care… or that you don’t understand?)

And for the first time that morning, he had no response.




The draconian had buckled under the pressure that Xihue had put on him – whatever it was the shepherd had said – and they were now marching toward the cave that allegedly held its kind. Aric was dubious but kept his reservations to himself. He was ruminating as they walked, trying to will himself to engage Blyne in a civil conversation. It seemed a monumental task, and he was already approaching it with the mindset of failure. She already hates me, he reasoned. At best, she discounts me for being a child. It wouldn’t surprise me if she thought I was an idiot as well-

(And what evidence have you given her to make her think anything contrary to that?) Again, that maddening, perfectly reasonable voice.

Rrragh, shut UP! he growled quietly again to himself. He was walking about ten feet off the pace from the others, unwilling to drag them down into his little bubble of self-chastisement. The thing that bothered him the most was how, because each mental barb came from within him, every strike against him was on point, every accusation or smidgen of self-reproach easily finding its way through the gaps of his armor. He felt raw and irritated, but at least the walk up the mountains afforded him another in a seemingly endless array of opportunities for heavy physical exertion. The endorphins offset at least some of his misery. He was panting slightly by the time he said To hell with it, and walked up to the shapeshifter.

”Blyne,” he said flatly. It wasn’t a question. This already felt like a mistake, but he’d already put his foot in it. ”This prophecy. Wondered if you could… talk more about it.” Words were also coming at a premium because he needed his breath for the hike. He didn’t know if she’d respond favorably, if at all. He hadn’t pulled out his journal yet. ”Might… write it down later.” If it’s not complete and utter horsesh*t, he thought but did not say. At best, he’d have a clearer explanation for why they were out here; at worst, he’d have something funny to laugh about later – a punchline to a joke he hadn’t expected to be a part of.




They had found the cave, finally, and the draconian had eagerly led them to the entrance, as though its willingness to obey might serve to exonerate it for their role in the theft of the giant eagle’s eggs. The cave was large, larger than he would have expected, yet
Dice * Perception (cave entrance):
1d20+3 (10)+3 Total = 13
apparently the entrance had once been larger? It appeared to have partially collapsed, something which Isandril noted right away. The magus’s keen elven eyes appeared to have picked out some sort of inscription, and he was reading the words out loud to the rest of the group. Aric, however, wasn’t fully listening. He’d been lost in thought, his eyes staring downward, unable or unwilling to meet the eyes of the others. per OOC conversation, it sounded like Blyne would have at least been amenable to discussing the prophecy with AricBlyne’s words continued to rattle around in his brain. He wanted to discount what she’d said wholesale but was seemingly unable to. For whatever reason, his misgivings toward the deceiver were not enough to nullify the rightness of what she had to say. He’d always seemed to feel on the periphery of their merry little band – a burden due to his youth. The notion that he might truly be a part of something had started to take hold in his mind like the root of some mighty, towering tree, and no amount of denial appeared likely to uproot it. This changes everything…

So lost was the young man, that he’d nearly walked right through the imprints in the soft earth before his mind could process their existence. He stopped short and stared, following each trail with his eyes. Three of them were clearly draconian in nature, though they differed in size and shape. He knew there were multiple kinds of draconians, but I don’t know if he’d be able to determine which kinds they are based on what he’s seeing. Would a nature check actually allow him to make that distinction?as for which tracks belonged to which species, he couldn’t say at this time.

Dice * Survival (dracs tracks):
1d20+3 (20)+3 Total = 23
He did know with utter certainty that the fourth set of prints belonged to Talia.

”She went in here,” he pointed out quietly. ”But no return set. She’s still in there.” Isandril came over quickly and nodded in agreement. Aric, meanwhile, now stared sullenly at the draconian. The kender had once again rushed into a situation without regard for her safety, and the ultimate consequences were hers to bear. That did nothing to assuage his anger toward the draconians should she come to harm, or his anger toward the kender for involving him once again in her ridiculous shenanigans. He felt his blood pressure begin to rise –

(Peace be with you, Aric)

- and then forced himself to put the anger aside. The situation was what it was, and now there was nothing for it but to man up and proceed forward.

Godd*mnit, he growled. Just because he knew the path forward didn’t mean he had to like it. He turned to the others. ”Well I guess I’m going in after her. Damn it.” He kicked at the ground in irritation. He stared into the darkness of the tunnel. Can’t see without a light, can’t sneak around with a light. Can’t use a torch, they’ll probably smell it… I could probably just cast light on something, but I don’t have any way to limit it to just where I am… He was mumbling to himself, unaware that the others might actually be listening in to his rambling stream of consciousness. Inspiration suddenly struck, and for the first time in what seemed a good while, a bright smile split his face. ”Aric, you freaking genius.” He pulled out an arrow, fumbled in his reagent pouch and pulled out a small pinch of phosphorescent moss which he’d had the presence of mind to gather while down in the sewers. Lux he said quietly as he rubbed the moss along the arrowhead, and the tip of the arrow began to glow with a cold white light. He held the arrow in his hand then pulled the sleeve of his clothing over it so the only visible light was like holding a flashlight up your sleevefocused before him in a narrow beam as afforded by the opening of his shirt cuff. This setup limited the amount of ambient light given off while affording him easy control on where to focus the beam. Having settled on how he was going to see moving forward, he turned back to the others. ”Single file, and stay quiet,” he said softly.
Dice * Stealth:
1d20+5 (15)+5 Total = 20
He was already creeping cautiously forward, his eyes focused on the tiny set of tracks that led toward their wayward companion.

 
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Old Dec 13th, 2023, 06:50 PM
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Zendra Zantir
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"Gods damn it!" Zendra swore as yet another loose rock seemed to magically appear beneath her boots. She'd already twisted an ankle on the trip up this mountain and though she knew nothing was broken it didn't make this climb any easier or more enjoyable. By the time the party had actually reached the top her humour was far too foul to enjoy the view.

The prospect of meeting a band of draconians, allegedly peaceful or not did little to raise the archaeologist's mood. Oh she was aware not all draconians served the late and unlamented Dark Queen but she'd read too much about the War of the Lance and the Blue Lady's War and spoken with too many who remembered those days to easily see them as just scaly people. Besides there was another aspect to them unsettled her on the few occasions Zendra had met them. She had too much experience of true dragons and the sorcerous creatures just felt off in some undefinable yet strong way like nails on a chalkboard of her soul.

The worst part was she couldn't even complain to the others. This errand had been her idea in the first place more or less. Which only showed you were thinking got you.

I should have become a swordswoman. All I'd have to know was how to hit things with swords which must be wonderfully therapeutic and would probably let me climb mountains without huffing and heaving like a Flotsam gale.

Another tumble or two later and they eventually reached the cave. Whether due to her irritation or exhaustion the tracks meant little to Zendra but she did glance up in surprise as Isandril explained the significance of the tracks and of the carvings.

"It is a good theory," Zendra admitted. She looked at the carvings again and a smile tugged at her lips as she thought of her sister Mirathamoun. "Those words at least are reassuring. Perhaps a Brass or a Copper? They bought enjoy conversing with humans - and elves. From what I have heard I think this country too dry for Bronze or Silver Dragons and I'm not sure 'mirth' is a word Golds understand, though I confess I've never met one."

A dragon! Here in Khur the armpit of Ansalon! Oh likely long gone now given the age of the carvings and how few of the great wyrms had survived the dragon purges. Reverently she reached out and touched the carvings, closing her eyes as she traced them with her fingetips. Ancient, timeless, history.

The Aesthetics of Palanthas spoke of Time as a river, an ever moving thing following a steady course from origin to end. Zendra could never see it like that. Time was more like a mighty ocean stretching from horizon to horizon with islands dotting the surface marking present and past, today and yesterday and tomorrow. All existing but separated from each other by the salty brine. Sometimes though - just sometimes - on the clearest day you could look out and catch a glimpse of the next island.

People spoke of how marvellous it was of soothsayers to be able to see the future but Zendra always thought the ability to see through the mist to the past was every bit as spectacular.

She opened her eyes and withdrew her hand, reluctantly returning to the present of a swollen ankle and a cave full of draconians and a missing kender.

Zendra was already reaching into her pouch to retrieve a seemingly plain brass ring that Magical Tinkeringshimmered with light when the enchantment was spoken when she saw Aric perform his trick with the moss. "Oh well done Aric!" Zendra said in surprise and admiration. She grinned at the youth.

"You'd make an alchemist yet!"


 


 


 
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Old Dec 13th, 2023, 08:09 PM
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Schrödinger's Elf
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Redwaters is quick to gather the daggers of the draconian as the public trial of Serahk commences, and returns to the side of Mama Eagle.

As the heated debate between both Blynne and Davari vs Aric and Xihue continues back and forth, the confused and tempestrous Finwalin caws and chirrups her concerns and confusion, it is the best Redwaters can do to assuage her doubts, despite his own misgiving of the group's cohesion or even basic morality. He is an optimist, after all.

"They are a baseline good people. They are on a righteous mission, and there is a strange alchemy at play here, I assure you. They may bicker, but I know that Chislev has bound us all together for a purpose. If they chose to keep the lizard alive, it is because he serve purpose in finding your children."

Absently, he pats her beak in comfort, as it is settled that the Kapak is ultimately the Sorceress's responsibility.

"Pardon me, sky maiden. It would seem they have decided to let him live."

He parts from her toward the draconian, now that the dust has settled. This is where he formally introduces himself.

"Congratulations, Redwaters can surprisingly pronounce his name properlySerahk. You've managed to make your case. Be at ease, and let me treat your wounds. We wouldn't want to be inhospitable, after all."

Just as Tegan takes his duty as barrister seriously, Redwaters takes his duty as medicineman to heart. They have a very rocky journey ahead after all, and it would be cruel to make the draconian walk the mountain in an injured state. Besides, the kapak had stated things earlier that he could relate to and made him curious about the winged lizard.

"You know, I can relate to your plight." he begins smalltalk as he begins to concoct healing balms and starts Roll made in private thread, Medicine 23. Serahk is feeling Groovydressing the draconian's wounds. "My people too were driven out of our homelands by the civilized humans, while we just wanted to find peace. I find myself being the sole envoy of the Qué-Taw. No one knows my tribe nor their motives on the world stage, and so the task falls upon me to be the best representative I can be, to make our case. In fact, my entire People's lives depend upon it. And it would seem you find yourself in the same position."

There is a firmness and sorrow to his voice, a well measured learned behaviour to convey much more empathy than he is capable of feeling, as he now begins to dress the kapak's wounds with numbing bandages to ensure he can move about comfortable as possible.

"I hope you can be trusted," he gives a final warning as he tightens the final bandages.. "Because otherwise you are leading a small apocalypse to your cave. I've not been with these people long, but I know the destruction they are capable of unleashing. One tribesman to another, please. Take caution."

"And also," he states, as a bush miraculously grows above his extended hand, and he +5 HP, 5 berries saved for laterplucks 5 berries from them. "Take five of these and call me in the morning..."
____________________________________

Throughout the journey, Redwaters is able to spy some choice earths and mosses that he happily scoops up, and absently begins to concoct into a useful balm, as he is generally a bit of a busybody, and one not to let his hands go idle. The rare earthy scents he distills into his mortar could prove useful further on in their adventures, as a 4 doses of scent nuetralizing ointmenthunter's boon should the need arise. But their journey truly commences when Thunder stops and protests they can no longer carry on upon four feet. And indeed, as Redwaters looks upon the rocky, icy terrain he once more concedes to the wild mare's intuition. It will be a rough go from here.

"Make sure you keep a very close eye on Thunder," he warns Besimeh, though not in a manner you would expect. "She could easily start a small rebellion."

The mountain climb is treacherous. Redwaters himself takes slow and ample time to navigate the rocks and the crevices as dictated by their untrustworthy ally. Through winds and cold and slippery surfaces, he endures, though he see others fail.

But through spirit-sight, there is a brief moment where he sees the elf Isandril fall to his apparent doom with a scream, only for a brief second later to appear where he was before, two of them existing at once briefly simultaneously, before the more fortunate mage solidifies and continues on unabated.

This causes the shaman brief pause in awe, his breath caught in his throat at the temporal anomaly. He looks around to see if anyone else has reacted, but it seems as if everyone else is more focused on not falling themselves. He is sure he has witnesses some kind of magicks he is unfamiliar with, but now is not the time nor place to contemplate such. The climb is much too treacherous.

Devari constantly falls, but is always caught by the Draconian. An act that Redwaters notes, she being the one who he cares about the most. He could have lead them down a deathpath, but it is clear he cares enough to try to keep those safe who had valued his life. Perhaps Zendra as well, had not Redwaters offered the alchemist aid himself. Others fall here and there, but always Serahk waited and aided where he could. Unbound, and capable of flight, the draconian could have fled at any moment. Perhaps a testament of his altruism?

Or perhaps a calculated move to offer their lives to his Dark God.

Regardless, eventually, they make it to the collapsed cave.
_______________________________

As they reach the new plane, Nirmandor decends and offers his desperate intel. The information causes Redwaters' heart to stop a beat. For it was him that had even proposed the mission to the kendar, hpoing she would know the limits of her capabilities to decided whether or not she was able to succeed or not. He should have known better. Given her maturity, offering to fly on an eagle was like offering a kid candy. Of course she would say yes.

He doesn't feel guilty, per say, as such dark emotions were beyond him. But he does feel a duty of responsibility to correct his mistakes.

Isdandril does his arcane thing, and detects things hidden, which shed a new light upon their path going forward. The overall vibe was friendly, but there are mysteries abound with the setup.

For one, all indications point toward a dragon, which is not to be unexpected when we have a flourishing race of dragon kin. But the collapse of the entry raises several questions, and he concludes one of three outcomes.

1) Either the cave is ancient and the founding dragon is long dead
2) Either the dragon is trapped underground, and the dragon kin are his minions interacting with the world
3) Either the dragon has collapsed the entry and is in hiding from outside enemies, using the dragon kin as his vassals.

Number two seems unlikely. If the dragon created the den with powerful magick, surely a cave collapse would not hold them back.

Number one and three are most likely, be it a dragon, or some powerful draconian leader. But the message at the entry makes one think powerfully clear: They must offer gifts or sacrifice to speak to their leader, Cralik, whoever he is.

"It sounds like anyone one who speaks must provide offerings. I am willing to give what little I have to negotiate for the eggs and the Kender. Be warned, like with the centaur, the rules of engagement are very precise. Do not speak unless you have gifts." Redwaters warns.

He eyes the kapak, who seems suspiciously giddy as they approach the entryway, Failed private rollwhose motives he cannot ascertain as he rushes to the cave.

The mother eagle, Finwalin, is quick to block his way, filled with full fury and intent that Redwaters barely needs to interpret. Her concern is not without merit.

Calmly, he takes Serahk aside next to one of the alcoves of the cave entry, and whispers yet another concerned warning, pressing him against the wall in private discretion.

"Look. I ask you once more. If you are genuine and sincere, we would like to speak to your Lord. But if this is an ambush, I do not think this will fare well for your People. As an advocate of Life, I would like to see all parties prosper. But if this a trap, I will still give you an out. Just say the word, and I will have an eagle fly you to the nearest settlement, no questions asked. You can make up any story you like."

Finwalin still guards the entry as Aric makes his heroic debute forward. Redwaters screeches at her to stop him.

"Hold up, Hero," he shouts to him, as he awaits an answer from the kapak.

He continues to whisper to the draconian.

"BUT... you know how suspicious people are given the history of the draconains. This is you chance to prove everyone wrong. Take point, navigate us through the traps, and take us to your leader. How wonderful would it BE if YOU were the one that were to create a lasting peace with the outside world?!?"

But there is a certain earnestness to his words. In a world filled with destruction and violence, less souls lost to needless death is Redwaters' ultimate goal, for he knows they are only doomed to wander, lost. Hopefully in time, he will even convince the centaur against needless death.

But that is neither here nor now.

 


 
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Last edited by JonnyGulliver; Dec 14th, 2023 at 10:31 AM.
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Old Dec 14th, 2023, 06:31 AM
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The climb was a hard one, especially since Devari wanted to stick close to Serahk, who was much better able to traverse the rough terrain. She lost count of the number of times that she slipped on loose stones or stubbed a toe on an obtrusive rock, and by the time the group reached the cave entrance she had picked up a number of cuts and scrapes and was feeling decidedly grumpy.

Despite having championed mercy for the draconian, his frequent mention of the Dark Queen was making Devari uneasy. Still, so far he had seemed cooperative, and his apparent alarm at not being able to save Talia from the traps within was surely in his favour.

"If he was going to betray us he would have been best not to mention the traps at all," Devari mused. Unfortunately things were happening too fast to allow Devari to properly gather her breath after the climb, with Isandril and Zendra breaking off to examine some carvings, Aric playing with an arrow in his sleeve, and Redwaters pinning Serahk against a cliff and talking intensely at him. Devari made a move to intercede between the plainsman and draconian, but just then Aric entered the cave.

"Wait," Devari said, hurrying after the hunter and putting a hand on his shoulder. "We are supposed to be here to talk to the tribe. If we go sneaking through their tunnels it will look more like a raid."

She looked down, noticing the bright light shining out of his sleeve and realising what he had been doing before.

"Oh, nice trick. Isandril was teaching you, wasn't he?"

She looked Aric in the eye and realised that she had still been thinking of him as a boy and how unfair that was. He's not that much younger than me after all. And he's been through a lot.

"What do you think? Is there a way of keeping the element of surprise without losing their trust if they do turn out to be friendly?"

 
 
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Last edited by Lazer; Dec 14th, 2023 at 06:32 AM.
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Old Dec 14th, 2023, 01:17 PM
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Black Jim Black Jim is offline
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Xihue of the Alan-Atu
Wretched Ones
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The Ilquer mountains were honeycombed with hollow places, both natural and excavated, that drove deep boreholes into the very roots of Taladas, of Krynn. From the lightless bowels of soaring, sun-washed peaks, belched forth foul beings and monsters. Their corruption had been birthed in the staleness of stagnant air, volcanic flame, and an absolute darkness only tempered by lava's glow, bioluminescence or magic. Here, the goblins thrived. Their beady, obsidian pupils, ringed with golden iris circlets could perceive every nook and cranny. They could see every bottomless pit, loose rock, stalactite, stalagmite or cave pearl. Their large, bat-like ears and nostrils further attuned the vile race to the tunnels of their home. Ages of lightless life had sculpted them. They were now, not ordinarily ugly, but either absolutely hideous or ludicrously grotesque both in face and form.

The early songs of the Alan-Atu remembered that the Wretched Ones had once lived above ground like most of the other sentient species. Something called to them as they dug and delved. It was hinted that some great treasures or magical beast had irresistibly lured them away, so far away that the goblin's souls could not find new homes. Over time, they had become soulless, unable to reincarnate, grow or ascend. Whatever was true, every resident of the mountains knew that to venture into a cave was to court death. The Alan-Atu were as unwelcome within the mountain as the Wretched Ones were within the meadows, banished from the surface.

"AQ'XIO HAS BEEN TAKEN!!" The alarm rang out from a young shepherd girl as she ran back into the village, a tail of four or five obviously frightened sheep trailing behind her. "The wretched ones took one of the goats and he chased them! I saw the goblins swarm over him and drag him into the cave along with another two of our flock!"

The waif panted as much with exhaustion from having run down from her pasture as from the obvious pain of the witnessed tragedy. Xihue and four other tribesmen and one childless woman grabbed their long-knives and shields, raced to the cave entrance. Its gaping maw waited with menacing intent to swallow any Alan-Atu unfortunate enough to
openly venture beyond the jagged stone lips.

Within less than 50 feet, total darkness engulfed the rescue team and the gullet diverged into three possible paths. Torches and candles seemed to do little to illuminate their way as the group followed un-concealed goblin tracks downward until a blood-soaked chamber banished all hope for success. The trail continued but the severed head of the lost shepherd had been left behind as either a warning or a gruesome marker. Either way, further death was senseless and the dangers would only multiply if they continued.

With great sadness and deep-felt loss, the clan gathered to morn their loss. The cave entrance was marked and guarded, along with other known, active portals to the goblins warrens. Life was short and hard. The Alan-Atu celebrated their fallen in song and looked forward to that soul's rebirth, to another chance in a new life. The songs remembered.

Xihue remembered too.

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Xihue
For a man who had been born upon and raised on mountain slopes, Xihue felt embarrassed by his inability to match the dragonborn's mastery of this terrain. Admittedly, the monk had sacrificed his own safety repeatedly as they climbed. He had caught everyone excepting Redwaters at some point on the way up. This left Xihue uncharacteristically exhausted and slightly injured at the gateway into the lair.

"It is unwise for us to trust this creature. It is foolish for us to march, willingly, underground into their home where their numbers and our ignorance become deadly liabilities."

Xihue did not compound the warning's direness by complaining of his own suboptimal constitution. Stoic, as always, the monk stood tall and protective. He would defend these people with his life but believed this venture to be a fool's errand. He held slim hope that all would survive and none that they might emerge unscathed. Yet, he resolved himself to do whatever Tegan thought best.


 
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Last edited by Black Jim; Dec 14th, 2023 at 02:49 PM.
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