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  #76  
Old Oct 6th, 2023, 10:28 AM
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Xihue of the Alan-AtuA VEIL OF TEARS -

There had once been a young man in Xihue's clan who loved the taste of aromatic roots. In small amounts, those tubers lent a delicious flavor to foods prepared with them. There were several different varieties of them that grew on the mountains and in the fertile lowlands. Onions, ginger, garlic, and radishes were fine accents to the Alan-Atu cuisine but the nameless lad had enjoyed them as raw supplements to his eccentric diet. The consequence of that habit was an ever-present odor that surrounded the lad as he sweat out fragrances that were not normally associated with people. His breath was intolerable and no one could carry on a conversation with the boy without risk of reflexive regurgitation.

The mephit's breath wasn't as bad as that, Xihue was fairly certain that it was more nuisance than it was toxic, but it produced a fine grit that once again blinded the monk.

As tears streamed down the shepherd's face, he struck out toward the three creatures that were beginning to surround him, hoping to connect or keep them at bay. The whistle of his crosier's clean sweep through empty air did nothing to advance his assault upon these miniature demons but it kept them at bay long enough for tears to clear his eyes. Salt water uncontrollably streamed down his face in cascading rivulets.

The unfocussed world before him finally cleared but only in time for Xihue to watch the incoming counter-attack about to strike him. At least Zendra was able to disengage. Maybe that would be consolation enough should this encounter end in his own weeping death.


 
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Last edited by Elanir; Oct 12th, 2023 at 10:24 AM. Reason: Many thanks to Mindsiege for her advice! Black Jim’s original post was recovered in its entirety.
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Old Oct 6th, 2023, 11:29 AM
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The Newcomer

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Listening to the wind
The wind would not stop howling.


It was not the kind of wind that raised clouds of dust and tousled the long dark hair of the Abanasinian plainsfolk. Neither could it make the blades of grass dance or the tree leaves shiver. The shamans Qué-Taw, the only ones who could hear it, called it the ‘spirit wind’ and considered it an ill omen. It was the wind that had blown during the Great Storm, the very same that had carried the growls and fierce cries of the gnolls as they came out of their hideouts in the Eastwall Mountains. It was the wailing of the world as Krynn herself mourned for what was to come.


The wanderer listened as only one who knew the ways of the goddess could. He could hear the shifting of the sands beneath his horse’s hooves, whispering words that were incomprehensible, but no less dire. He could detect the sickeningly sweet smell of death in the air, decades old, but still marking the place like a bloodstain that could not be removed from a dead man’s clothes. He could feel the thundering of his mount’s heart, fear and repulsion as tangible as the feather fetish the wanderer always carried with him.


To the East…, the goddess’ soft breath had bidden him and he had obeyed. Not just because she wished it so, but because he felt her anguish in his bones. Her body was mangled and scarred, her spirit aching. He didn’t know if it was within his power to soothe the pain, but by her sacred name he would try.


Thunder snorted and the wanderer gently placed his hand on the beast’s muscular neck to reassure her. Soft words were exchanged between the two and promises made. Thunder looked at her rider and nodded. She understood why he had to do this. She didn’t agree, but would respect his decision. He had to try and heal the festering wound in the desert. It was his calling. She, however, would not tread on tainted ground. Every fiber of her being told her to gallop as far away as possible and never return. And yet, she decided that she would wait. For him. To carry him to safety, if the need arose.


Nimbly dismounting, the wanderer moved as quickly as possible towards the source of the corruption, while still remaining silent. The unmistakable sounds of battle soon reached his ears and the young man’s hands reflexively closed into fists. His combat experience was sparse, though he recognized that fighting was a part of the natural world. He too had been fighting in his life, though in a very different way. Taking cover behind a large rock, he tried to comprehend what was actually happening.


It seemed that a group of travelers, most of them humans like him, though he could also spy an elf and a kender among the rest, were being attacked by a large group of small, winged creatures the wanderer had never seen before. The unnatural beings appeared to be made from swirling sand and had in his eyes as much of a right to be alive as did the dolls the children of his tribe crafted by weaving together blades of grass and small twigs. Even as he was observing the fight, five new such creatures started forming from the sandy ground before his very eyes. His hand instinctively reached for his feather fetish, the name of the goddess never far from his lips. What manner of creatures were they? What purpose did they serve in the world?


The young man’s gaze slowly drifted away from the small, imp-like creatures to stop at what looked like a roughly circular area of the desert that resembled black glass. Half of it appeared to be covered by a thin layer of ice, despite the intense desert heat at midday, while the rest glistened eerily in the sun. The wanderer’s grip tightened around the feathers of different lengths and colors. There could be no mistake. This was the reason for the goddess’ discomfort, the open wound he sought to close. A chaos scar, he knew instinctively, a mark left behind by the Father of All and of Nothing in his attempt to utterly destroy creation. It was a place where the laws of nature held no sway, a place of supreme evil.


The buzzing sounds of large insects with leathery wings drew his attention back to the fighting. These he recognized immediately - stirges hungering for the blood of their victims, though finding them here, so far away from the marshes and forests they usually frequented, was strange. One of them Aric is dealt 5 points of piercing damagesuccessfully attacked a youth wielding a bow, while another was already draining the blood of a robed elf. Their prey retaliated, killing the insects without much difficulty, while the kender swiftly took care of the last one, striking it with its strange weapon, a staff topped by a slingshot, and actually turning it to ice before shattering it to pieces. Magic!, thought the wanderer, recognizing a similar power to the one the goddess had blessed him with.


Though the stirges had been dispatched, another more serious threat took their place. One of the winged creatures attacked a heavily armored warrior, while another tried to strike at a Khurish woman from behind. The warrior, however, proved that he possessed the reflexes of a leopard as he blocked with his shield first one, then the other attack, leaving the little creatures jarred from the impact. Things definitely looked worse for the travelers who had become separated from the main group. A human fighting with a shepherd’s crook as well as his hands, feet, and even his bald head, was surrounded by three of the creatures Xihue is dealt 9 points of slashing damagethat clawed at him every chance they got, much like the Isandril is dealt 4 points of slashing damagecouple of creatures attacking the elf, who had just freed himself from the stirge. The wounds they sustained didn’t seem to be deep, but a multitude of small cuts could bring down even the largest of bears.


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The ‘Fiend’ finally revealed
Another Khurish woman, this one even more strikingly beautiful than the one who had been attacked by the small demon, raised her arms that were immediately surrounded by fiery tongues. The sorceress took hold of the flames, taming them easily, and cast them towards… nothing? Though there was no one there, two of the three fiery missiles obviously struck something, for the flames appeared to swirl around their intended target, revealing a form that was human-like in size and shape. A horrible screeching sound resounded, making everyone in the area grimace in anguish, the high-pitched voice leaving them deaf to other sounds for a few moments. Whatever was there had apparently been badly burnt by the sorceress’ fire.


The third missile of fire missed, however, striking instead the black glass close to the edge of the unnatural area. The flames sizzled and hissed before being instantly quenched, but not before giving birth to a cloud of dark smoke that surrounded the travelers’ main group, as if guided by invisible hands. Thicker than the thickest fog the wanderer had ever seen in the Dire Wood, the blackness seemed to literally swallow the travelers, everyone within the area of the smoke suffers from the blinded conditionfully robbing them of sight as long as they remained a 20 foot-radius-sphere of smoke centered on the point between Besimeh, Blyne, Tegan, and Zendra like the 1st level spell fog cloudin the area.


Cries of surprise and confusion succeeded the unholy noise made by the invisible menace. Once more the ‘fiend’ had managed to disappear. Whether hindered by stinging dust or black smoke, the companions’ eyes had proved unreliable in detecting the sinister enemy that was stalking them. And yet, it was all they could do. Somehow they had to deal with this supernatural threat and forever close the portal to the Abyss. Time was running out. Soon enough they would be completely overwhelmed by an army of mephits. All the ‘fiend’ had to do was wait for them to succumb to the little creatures and then emerge to claim its prize - Blyne’s soul. Unless the newcomer’s arrival could turn things around.


The gods would not abandon their champions. Not as long as hope still remained.



Calendar13th Day of Aelmont (Winter) 422 AC / 38 SC, Noon

Solinari: 7/36 (Waxing)
Lunitari: 16/28 (High Sanction) - conjunction with Nuitari
Nuitari: 5/8 (Waning) - conjunction with Lunitari

Boons/Penalties:
White Robes - | Red Robes +2 spell DC, ADV on spell attack rolls | Black Robes +2 spell DC, ADV on spell attack rolls


 


 


 


 
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Old Oct 7th, 2023, 01:36 AM
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Xihue of the Alan-Atu
Flaberghasted"But that's not fair!" Xihue argued with a look of absolute incredulity at his serene Master's grinning face. "You can't expect me to do THAT! It's impossible and, besides, I haven't had dinner yet. How do you expect me to even try without being properly nourished?"

The young monk seemed to be grasping at any plausible excuse to avoid the trial he had just been assigned. It was complicated. The Master had set a raw egg on each of five stands. One was on the ground, two were a little over three feet to either side of Xihue's waist and set upon the top of two fence posts, a fourth was on a taller post at height a little above his head, and the fifth egg dangled precariously from a knitted nest of string suspended from the end of a 10 foot long reed. That one moved around unpredictably as the wind caught the frail structure. It swung to and froe like a dancing butterfly, just out of reach. "Collect the eggs without breaking them before the rock hits the ground. If you do not do this by the end of three attempts, you shall have to dig the new latrines for the village after you bring the herd back from the pastures this week. The old waste sites will be full by the end of the week. If you succeed, I will assign the task to Lihong and Quifan."

Xi looked at the rock in his right hand. It wasn't anything special as rocks go. It was a little flat on one side and, although its weight wasn't insubstantial, the young monk could easily juggle it with dexterous control. A smooth, purposefully drawn breath, momentarily held and released slowly, almost as if it were a prelude to meditation, initiated Xihue's first attempt. He stooped low and swung himself up, vertically, into the air while swinging the hand holding the rock with great force, launching it high into the open blue, cloudless sky overhead. That now-empty hand quickly replaced the soaring stone with the suspended egg while the other hand reached out, nabbing the one upon the tall pedestal. The action had been perfectly timed. As he fell back to earth, the eggs were rapidly stowed within his robes and nimble arms swung out once more as Xihue's graceful pirouette twirled his body beautifully. The well muscled, graceful lines of his extended limbs spun about to retrieve both of the eggs that were sitting upon the lower poles and, again, both were drawn in to be tucked away.

One more remained on the ground at his feet but as Xihue reached for that last egg, a dull thud announced the return of his malicious missile to the earth. He had been only a moment too slow.

"Well done, Xihue. You did well. Try again." The Master took the eggs from Xihue, examining each to see that they were still intact, undamaged. Once each was replaced upon its proper "nest", the master gave the rock back to Xihue and stepped clear to observe.

Again, Xihue launched himself. Again, he collected four eggs and had actually touched the final egg as, once more, the flat-sided stone thumped to the ground beside him.

"Amazing Xihue! That is as close as I have seen anyone ever get to completing this task on their second try! You have done better than I did on my own second attempt back when my Master imposed this trial upon me in my youth."

"You have done this trial, Master? And succeeded?"

"Indeed, Xihue. I know this challenge can be accomplished because I have done it myself. Each person has a unique set of talents. Usually, a leader should not ask someone to do something that they could easily do for themself but this is a lesson. Think, Xihue. Concentrate. You have one try remaining."

Once more, the young shepherd monk focused. The Master's confidence in him was inspiring, his praise was motivational and Xihue knew that he had almost succeeded on the last attempt. This time, the rock would need to go just a little higher while Xihue would need to move just a little quicker.

Xi could feel it as the rock left his fingertips. The toss was powerful and perfect. The egg in the sling practically rolled directly into his hand while the one on the tall post seemed to jump into the other outstretched palm. He spun perfectly and more quickly as he drew both arms in close to fling them out once more for the waist-high targets. Those collected, Xihue could feel the thrown rock descending rapidly back toward him as his open hand shot to collect the last egg at his feet.

Fingers closed upon the remaining egg. Success seemed assured. The rock struck the egg as Xihue began to lift it. Yolk and albumin splattered across him and the stinging pain on his fingertips announced the return of that hateful stone and the boy's failure.

"NO!" Xihue cried. "I told you this was impossible! You lied to me! How could you lie to me?!"

There was only a moment's pause as the master's face became calm and the smile vanished. His gaze lingered upon his distraught pupil's face for two or three long, silent seconds before the Master gathered five eggs and placed them once more upon their nests. The old man bent over to collect the flat-sided stone. "Peace be with you, Xihue." the master intoned. He bowed respectfully to his student and casually tossed the rock over the edge of the cliff before recollecting the eggs. A few seconds later, the sound of that rock reaching the bottom of the mountain ravine echoed up to them.

Slack-jawed realization dawned within Xihue's newly illuminated mind. He stood straight, bowed deeply to his master, and resolved himself to dig the best latrine that the village had ever seen.
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Xihue

The monks cheeks were still wet with tears as he quelled the sensations of pain and regained his composure. He could see for the moment. All three mephit grinned with gleeful certainty that they would soon kill this nearly naked man and then move on to do the same to his nearby companions. Combat was not a game to the Alan-Atu. There was no emotion in it. Succeed or die. Success allowed the victor to learn and continue upon this turn of the Wheel of Life. Failure was a slower lesson that would bring meaning to the next life.

The deadly dance began anew as Xihue swung the staff of his crosier down upon the head of the mephit to his right causing it to explode in a cloud of fine sandy dust. Familiar with this problematic denouement, the agile warrior did not let his gaze linger in that direction. Instead, Xi's attention turned to the second, least injured opponent. His fists struck downward, like two hand axes, to each side of the monster's neck and the left hand continued down, into the body, nearly cleaving the creature in half. The force of the blow drove the mephit down, onto the ground, crippled. Another cloud of grit burst into existence where the imp used to be.

Where there were three, there was now only one badly injured mephit before him. It looked as if it were about to explode too.

More dust devils were spinning into existence between Xihue and the others who had gathered around the black mirrored "pool". Only Devari and Aric remained separated like himself. Each one of these creatures that he could kill or distract was one fewer that the others needed to worry about. With his life's blood spilling out onto this forsaken sand, Xihue would offer it to the last drop to ensure their success against what seemed to be an even greater threat.

 
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Last edited by Black Jim; Oct 9th, 2023 at 01:18 AM.
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Old Oct 7th, 2023, 10:37 AM
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While Zendra pushed forward to help the others, Xihue had been left defending her rear and faced three of the little sand creatures on his own. Devari hesitated, hand half-way to the hilt of her sword. She had tried steel already and it hadn't worked too well, but at least it had been better than her magic. Before she could decide what to do Xihue had spun around and somehow taken two of the creatures down with the usual explosions of dust and grit. That left just one, but it was behind him and preparing to strike!

Without thought Devari reached into her boot and pulled forth the dagger which she had hidden there, tossing it at her foe with one fluid motion. The blade flew true, hitting the small devil in the back of the neck and causing it too to explode, showering Xihue once again with sand.

"You okay?" she asked the shepherd before any more enemies had time to reach them. "Tegan was saying something about a fiend over at the mirror. Maybe defeating that will stop these things. Let's go!"

Although that was easier said than done, as a cloud of black smoke had engulfed the battlefield in that direction. More to the point, I know two are on the map, but I believe one of them is obscured by the smoke.another one of the little creatures was forming close to Devari, so she would need to get past it if she was to be of any help to the others. With dancer's steps she slid past the coalescing whirlwind, all the while scanning for something which looked like it might be the boss of these tiny terrors.

 
 
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Old Oct 9th, 2023, 12:54 AM
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Chislev, take the wheel
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Redwaters and Thunder have been steadily watching the battle between the humanoid and the desert denizens among the blasted landscape of this world scar, not really being able to determine which way or another whom to side with.

On one side, seems to be natural guardians facing off against humanoids. Dust memphits and stirges protecting these ground, which he has yet to determine if they protect the natural deserts or the cursed blasted scar. And the others, either humanoid heroes on an unknown mission or assailants slowly trying to claim lands they do not deserve.

His cookum has always warned him against civilized folk, especially this far out into the Wilds. They seek glory and power and conquest of lands that do not belong to them, not seeing the true value of Krynn, seeing her as a mere resource and not the provider of all Life.

And so they wait behind their hidden rock outcropping, to see which way the tide of battle will turn.

Thunder has already made her wager of course, upon the desert denizens, seeing how handily they are mopping the floor with the mortals, because she has the spirit and biases of his grandmaw and knows how to hedge a bet. She claims a few apples and praise for a week if she wins. Redwater, smiling in acceptance agrees to bet upon the underdogs, for a few apples and praises are a simple payment. But should his humanoids win this encounter, she must cool it on her trademark sass for the same time period.

The winds of destiny wail loudly in this nexus of energy. Spirits waver in and out of his perspective though mists, wild magic, and in the darkness that consumes the majority of the humes. It's starting to look like he will lose this bet if he does not interviene soon, and the voices are far to loud and confused to give him any sense of which direction to lean to.

But still, fools rush in. Until he knows who is aligned with the Will of Chislev, he is content to just watch from afar astutely looking for any clues, and try to negotiate with or defeat the winning faction. He sips water from the sidelines, staring upon the melee with mild dispassionate interest as he shares a waterflask with the wild steed.

But it is Thunder who begins to waver upon her own determination as the battle rages, doubting herself and her opinions as she sees how valiantly and nobly the pinkskins try to protect each other.

"You know there is an easy way to determine whom the Earth Goddess favors, right?" her heart growing more sympathetic to the humanoids as she watches. "Let the spirits decide on Her behalf," she lowly snorts, nudging his side pouch.

He caps the flask, surprised the idea has not occurred to him first. But spirit-seeds. They are so very rare, and he avoids their use. It has taken him years to acquire the three, and that was only by the goddess's blessing he found them. Who knows when he will find his next one.

But Thunder does have a point. What is the point of a blessing if hoarded, unused.

He sees the humanoids struggling, and realises there is truth to her words. Soon, they may be beyond the opportunity to know who is in the right or wrong in this conflict. And as a faith based man, he should always defer to a higher power.

"Alright Thunder," he whispers behind their cover. "But this will mean our bet is off," he warns.

The horse, staring on at the battle ahead, shakes her head in defeat.

"Just ****ing do it," she snorts.

Redwaters smiles at her, happy to see she does have a sense of empathy, perhaps one greater than his own. "I'll still give you apples," he assures her, as he places a holy acorn into the sands.

"Earth Mother Thy will be done," he prays, as suddenly the sands begin to snake outwards to their destination, raising a narrow branching mound as underground roots reach their destination.

Suddenly, near the elf and the memphits, a strange cactus creature bursts from the sand, the form of a large desert fox, snarling at all creatures within it's vacinity. A strange, perhaps unusual sight, had things not already been quite odd already.

As to whom the creature will strike is up to the Goddess herself.

"Now we wait and see," he whispers to Thunder as he places the waterskin away.


 


 
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Old Oct 11th, 2023, 02:11 PM
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Talia Dawnstar
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The darkness surrounded Talia and she crouched low to the ground, her icy hoopak held horizontally in a blocking tactic. She could not see a thing within the ink black cloud but that did not mean the dust devils were similarly affected. Realizing that the majority of the danger existed in every direction except across the shattered ice to her left, the kender closed her eyes and dashed away.

Her little feet scampered across the uneven ground, her balance rivaling a mountain goat’s. She was enjoying running in the dark so much, Talia almost forgot to open her eyes when she felt the sun once again shining on her face. As she opened her eyes, two things immediately came to Talia’s attention. First, she frowned angrily as she realized that the invisible demon had ignored her wicked taunts. She took pride in her individually crafted personal insults and to waste them was quite annoying.

Secondly, as she opened her eyes, she saw Isandril surrounded by dust demons and… a fox?

Talia blinked her eyes and wavered as she was not sure what the hell to do… hit the devil thing… or the fox… or… Whoa! The kender’s attention was ripped from its dilemma by a jet of flame originating from Beef/Blyne that soared past her until it apparently hit the invisible assailant. A wave of heat washed over Talia and she looked back at Blyne with new found respect.

Well… Blyne it is, Talia thought as she pivoted from the fox, who she wouldn't hit because it was too cute, to the monster to the south of Isandril. With a skip of glee, Talia darted close and swung her newly coined, Icicle, at the mephit. Already anticipating the explosion of ice to follow, she closed her eyes as the dirty demon disintegrated into a shower of sparkling shards.


OOC23 to hit mephit south of Isandril: 21 damage total (No Aoo - fancy footwork)
 

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Old Oct 12th, 2023, 03:08 AM
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Isandril Moonsilver, Wizard of High Sorcery
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White robes stained red, Isandril nevertheless stood his ground against two of the mephits. He knew that if he tried to flee he would leave himself open to more attacks, more injuries. Instead he chose to trust in his magic. His magic and his dagger, his only weapon. Indeed, just as one of the creatures had struck, so had Náre, its fire almost setting the little monster ablaze. But the creature had some life in it still. Though, it would appear, not for long.

The last thing the elven mage saw before being struck blind from the mephit's explosive death throes was a strange beast, almost like a cross between a fox and cactus, rising from the sand and striking at his enemy, destroying it. Though glad he had one less foe to contend with, blindness was a new problem in itself as it effectively robbed him of his main source of both offence and defence. Thus, taking a deep breath and with his lessons in swordsmanship a somewhat distant memory -a fact he rather lamented at the moment, given his predicament- he resolved to simply defend himself as best he could and let his magical dagger do the attacking.

And then... then the second of the two mephits apparently also exploded, if the sounds were any indication. Sounds of the creature perishing and of a kender giggling. And... a sensation of cold?

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Old Oct 12th, 2023, 07:38 PM
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Zendra Zantir
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Zendra wept openly as the darkness cloaked her yet again. The only mercy she'd found yet in this terrible place was that no one could see her sheer despair and white hot rage. Gods would she never be free of this awful, clawing failure and misfortune that had shackled ever since she'd foot in Khur? Maybe that was what this awful fog was, the very embodiment of the sheer malice this country held for her.

Once many years before she's fallen overboard from a ship in the New Sea. Zendra could swim well enough but the currents were against her that day and as she felt the thousand and one hands of the brine drag her beneath the surface she'd struggled to the last even though she'd known it was the end - known up until the moment strong sailors dragged her up have alive from the talons of Zeboim.

Khur felt like that, that same kicking against forces too powerful to be troubled by mere mortal flailing.

With an inhuman scream of rage Zendra pushed forward through the smoke, grasping, gasping fumbling. She had to get free. One of the hideous bat winged abominations loomed suddenly before her, gigantic and misshapen and barely glimpsed in the fog. There was no time for clever tactics or to use and of her magic items (not that she trusted them here) so Zendra fell back to her dagger, slashing and stabbing at the monstrosity without skill, grace or hope until finally she felt her blade connect with something.



 


 


 
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Old Oct 13th, 2023, 07:54 PM
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The Fetch
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Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the prettiest of them all?
"Do I look pale, mother?"


Lady MarThasal looked at her daughter as if seeing her for the first time. Where had her little girl gone, the very same that had been unable to embroider a handkerchief without pricking herself with the needle at least half a dozen times? The little girl who had cried each time her father and brothers left to deal with the last pockets of resistance to his Holiness’ rule - the few remaining ogres high up in the Khalkist mountains or a smattering of small tribes of goblins hiding in dark forests still untouched by the light of the Istar. The young woman in front of her had little in common with the almost wild creature the lady remembered. When had she turned sixteen?


"You look fine."


She did. She looked more than fine in fact. She looked beautiful. Glistening dark hair, as black as the raven’s wing, reaching all the way to her waist and a face that belonged in a masterfully woven tapestry of gold and silver brocade. The girl did not meet her mother’s gaze, far too preoccupied with the concerned visage that looked back at her from the large mirror she was standing in front of.


"I must look perfect. He will be there!"


Lady MarThasal tried to hide an amused smile behind her stern expression. Not that her daughter would have noticed, since her eyes were glued to the looking glass. He was of course the main reason why she wanted to look her best. Young Liran had been her husband’s squire, but he had earned his spurs half a year ago, having claimed the heads of no less than a dozen dark dwarves worshiping that hammer and pliers-wielding demon the dwarves knew as Reorx. Having successfully passed his Knight’s Trial, he now belonged to the Order of the Crown, but that wouldn’t be his fate for long. He was the scion of the Peres family, a bloodline almost as ancient and respected as the MarThasals, and would soon be rising through the ranks to become a Knight of the Rose like the lady’s husband.


"Remember what the Measure teaches us, daughter. Sir Liran does not care for outer beauty that wanes as the years pass. He is only interested in virtue in his future wife, the one thing that persists and remains unchanging under any circumstances."


It was a lie, but a well-meaning one. Not even the most stalwart follower of Paladine’s teachings was immune to a pretty face, especially in their younger years. Even her esteemed and most honorable husband had barely been able to restrain his… passion when courting her. It all seemed so long ago, however, now that they had adopted the roles of a model knight and his lady wife, always measured, always proper. Some might think their lives tedious, but not Lady MarThasal. It was all she knew, all she ever wanted. Her daughter too would be happy at her husband’s side, even after his proud mustache had grown gray and his hair sparse. It was the way of things, Paladine’s grand design for his beloved children.


Since her words didn’t seem to make an impression on her daughter, Lady MarThasal approached her and firmly placed a hand upon the girl’s shoulder.


"Enough, my love. It would be unseemly for your father to entertain high guests without the ladies of the house present."


A reluctant knock on the door made Lady MarThasal turn. It seemed that her lord husband had grown tired of waiting for his wife and daughter to finally appear.


"My Lady."


The voice coming from beyond the thick wooden door was muffled, but Lady MarThasal immediately recognized Trevon, her husband’s seneschal.


"Yes, Trevon?"


"His Holiness’ emissaries from Istar have just arrived, my Lady. The Master requests your ladyships’ presence as soon as possible."


Lady MarThasal sighed softly. The Istarans weren’t expected for at least an hour. They had no doubt chosen to appear early so that they could catch the entire household unprepared and then complain about it to His Holiness. Though theoretically both the Knights of Solamnia and the Knights of the Divine Hammer were servants of the gods and the Kingpriest, their chosen representative on Krynn, the tension between the two knighthoods had been rising since their founding over two decades ago. Her lord husband had secretly shared with her that the upstarts who had replaced the much older knighthood as the main protectors of Istar, secretly plotted to take control of Solamnia from the Orders of Crown, Sword and Rose. She had assured him that Paladine would never allow such a thing, but she too could see the signs. The gods were not pleased, some whispered, though Istaran eyes and ears were ever-present and such words constituted blasphemy.


"Thank you, Trevon. You can assure Lord MarThasal that we will be there presently."


Her grip on the young woman’s shoulder grew tighter and the girl was about to protest when she saw the dark look on her mother’s face.


"Enough!", Lady MarThasal said again, this time with much more emphasis and less compassion for her daughter’s anxieties and obsessions. The girl immediately realized that she would have to comply. She couldn’t be the reason for her family’s humiliation in the eyes of the Kingpriest’s men, especially not on her birthday.


"Forgive me, Mother. I am sorry for having disappointed you."


It was exactly the words that her mother wanted to hear and she immediately loosened her iron grip. The lady looked at the younger woman and irritation gave way to bittersweet regret. Taking the girl’s face in her hands, Lady MarThasal planted a kiss on her forehead.


"I am sorry for putting such pressure on you, daughter, but you are no longer a child. You are a woman and a lady and as such you must accept the duties that come with your new station in life. Worry not. Soon enough you will have a lord husband and children of your own and the right to order them around as much as you like."


The tension between the two vanished instantly and the two women laughed. They looked so similar now that Branchala’s gift had dissolved the illusion of the always measured noble lady, like two slightly different portraits of the same person. Mother and daughter slowly walked towards the door when suddenly the girl cried out in a very unladylike manner.


"My amulet, the one father gifted me for this special day! I cannot meet His Holiness’ men without the sacred sign of Paladine around my neck."


Lady MarThasal frowned, the signs of irritation, even anger on her face, returning with a vengeance.


"Blessed Mishakal, grant me patience."


She gave her daughter a thoroughly searing glare, but the young woman paid her no attention, having already rushed to the large chest next to her bed, opened it and kneeling over it, started to frantically rummage inside it. That chest was a kender’s wildest dream, Lady MarThasal knew, holding everything from clean linen and her daughter’s fur cloak to tiny knights made from twigs. Her sons had given them to their only sister when they were boys and she was keeping them still. She was like that. There was little hope that the girl would find her pendant anytime soon.


"Gods above, I cannot leave your father alone among wolves!"


She immediately regretted her words, but it was too late. Thankfully, there was no one inside the room other than the two of them and she doubted that her daughter was actually paying attention to anything she said. Taking a deep breath Lady MarThasal tried to calm her thundering heart. Rumors abound that the Kingpriest considered evil thoughts of being equal to evil deeds. How severely would His Holiness have punished her for calling his men wolves, had he heard about it? What would His Holiness have done, had he been able to read her most secret thoughts? The standards set by the Kingpriest were impossibly high and she was merely a mortal. How were she to cope?


Fighting the tears that threatened to drown her, she tried to regain her composure. Thankfully, she had decades of experience to rely upon. Straightening her back, she put on the mask that marked her as the lady of the household and respectable wife to her knightly husband. Her hand, as steady as an archer’s, reached for the latch. Within moments the door was open.


"Join us as soon as you find your amulet."


The lady’s voice was calm, measured. She was again in control. She was always in control. It was what was expected of her. Slowly she stepped out of her daughter’s bedchamber, silently closing the door behind her.


left-aligned image
Paladine’s symbol
A cry of pure joy heralded the amulet’s discovery and the girl triumphantly raised it high, as if wanting to display it to the god himself. As simple as the virtues Paladine espoused, it resembled a perfect triangle, all of its sides having the same length. Made of the highest quality platinum, the metal immediately caught the light of the candles burning inside the room and seemed to shine as brightly as a star. Gold suited her dark hair and pale skin better, she knew, but platinum stood for purity and was thus more valuable in the eyes of the god, her father had explained to her. It was as precious as she was. Those had been his words.


Quickly donning the fine platinum chain around her neck, the girl ran to the mirror. Such a beautiful gift! She would never take it off as long as she lived, she promised herself. Thus she would never be parted from her god and her father. She turned her face this way and that to admire it from all sides and once more her gaze fell upon her pale skin. She looked like a ghost, she decided and started pinching her cheeks to give them some color. To no avail. They looked gray, as if covered with ash, and her eyes sunken. Had she always looked like that or was it due to her anxiety of meeting so many dignitaries from all over Solamnia and even beyond? She closed her eyes, trying to convince herself that she was beautiful. Liran claimed that she was the most beautiful woman in the world. Even if he was exaggerating, she had to be pretty. A Knight of Solamnia wouldn’t lie, after all!


Opening her eyes, she looked at her visage once more. She looked practically sick, her lips cracked, her skin thin and stretched over bones that were far too prominent. Perhaps she was coming down with something, she reasoned, and frowned. But her visage didn’t frown as well. The sickly girl in the mirror smiled instead, revealing hideous, yellowed teeth.


The girl cried out in panic and took a step back, her hands immediately reaching for the amulet around her neck. Her reflection did the same, only she took a step forward and her hands wrapped themselves around her living counterpart’s neck. The girl tried to shout for help, but no voice would come out of her lips that were beginning to turn a livid blue. The pressure was too high and she had difficulty breathing. She felt cold, intense cold, and as her tears started flowing down her cheeks they turned to ice and fell on the ground. No, this could not be! Her father, her mother, her brothers, everyone was downstairs. So many brave knights and holy men, so many servants and men-at-arms. Someone would come for her, someone would save her. Liran would, she knew with certainty. He was a knight, her knight. He would enter the room any moment now and free her from the fiend’s clutches.


Paladine, protect me!, she prayed to the god more fervently than she had ever done before. She carried his holy symbol, one blessed by the hand of the Kingpriest himself. No servant of the Dark Queen could touch her. No minion of darkness could resist Istar’s holy light!


Trevon knocked on the young lady’s door for the third time, receiving no answer. He was certain that Lord MarThasal’s daughter was inside. Her ladyship had left her inside, looking for her pendant, and none of the servants had seen her downstairs. He was growing concerned.


"My Lady, forgive me, but I am coming inside."


The door opened silently and without resistance. The elderly man reluctantly entered the room, keeping his eyes on the floor out of discretion. Perhaps the young lady had decided to change her dress or perhaps she was not happy with the way her hair looked. If so, he would quickly send one of the maids to assist her. Since no one said anything about him having entered the room uninvited, the seneschal slowly raised his eyes and looked around. There was no one inside. It seemed that the young lady had already joined her family, though he couldn’t tell how she had managed to do so without him seeing her. Relieved, he turned around to leave when he spotted something out of the corner of his eye, something shiny. He knelt, suppressing a sigh when his back and joints loudly protested, and picked up from the floor an amulet resembling a perfect triangle, its thin platinum chain broken.


The servant shook his head in disapproval. The young lady really had to take better care of her things. He took note of the open chest and his frown deepened. Such disorder was unacceptable in the house of a Solamnic Knight. He would send a maid to take care of the mess the young lady had left behind her. And he would find a goldsmith to repair the girl’s amulet, though he would not get the chance to do so before tomorrow. Safely placing the pendant inside the pocket of his coat, he surveyed the room once more. There was truly no one there. With a final shake of his head, he closed the door behind him. The Master had been so looking forward to seeing his gift gracing his daughter’s neck. Trevon had no doubt that he would be utterly heartbroken by her thoughtlessness. With slow steps, the elderly seneschal returned to the banquet. He had so much to do.


*********


The fiend hissed as the uninvited memory invaded its thoughts. It felt familiar and at the same time alien, as if recalling a dream one couldn’t consciously remember. Had the young woman of its memories been one of its victims? It couldn’t tell. It didn’t care. The girl was of no consequence. The only one of importance was the woman the fiend had come to claim. Her face was the one engraved in the fetch’s being, the one that shaped its very essence. It would not leave this insufferable world of blinding light and deafening noise before making her soul its own. The hunger it felt for her life-energy was indescribable. All-encompassing, it utterly decreed its thoughts and commanded all of its senses.


There were others near her, it knew, living, breathing individuals. It could hear their hearts beating and the blood singing in their veins. An elf was just a few feet away from it. The fiend could have easily strangled the life out of him and carried his body through the portal, had it cared to do so. But it didn’t. The elf’s life-force wasn’t the one it had left the Abyss to claim. The fiend’s insides longed for another. Her. Blyne!


The Voice had called out to the fetch, directing its attention towards the land of Khur. It hadn’t belonged to Her, the fiend’s mistress, but it was a similar one. Powerful, commanding, knowledgeable. It had obeyed willingly, but even if it had fought against it, it would not have prevailed. The fetch had seen no reason to fight against the Voice anyway. It was hungry, always hungry, always looking for prey. And the Voice had generously provided it.


Through the black glass it had observed her. Her features were perfect, too perfect for a living, breathing person. She was like an ideal painting of what beauty should look like. She was delicious!


But she was also powerful. She commanded magic the fetch hadn’t encountered before. The black glass gave her strength, incredible strength. It could feel its power as keenly as it felt the impossibly bright sun in the sky. The elf too commanded magic, but it was of a different kind - measured, dim, negligible. The two of them were fighting against it with lightning, fire and ice and the fetch had thought it prudent to retreat and hide. It had to wait just for a little while, ignore its hunger only for a bit. Soon all would fall and it would be free to feast. Their faulty eyes could not detect it, they could not see what was right in front of them. Not even she could - Blyne. The fiend was far away from any reflective surface that could have betrayed its presence to her. Surrounded by a black cloud of her own making, she was as blind to it as the rest. But soon enough she would see. See the darkness as it truly was. See as only the fetch could see, feel the Abyss inside her, allow it to fill her with its essence until she was something else. Something more.


"I can see the fiend! Follow my flames!"


Blyne’s unmistakable voice startled the fiend. The victims it had claimed had always been fearful of it, not the other way around. It looked towards the voice and saw the woman holding a piece of black glass in her hand. No, she had tricked it!


normal image without text wrap
The Fetch wearing Blyne’s face

Three bolts of swirling flames flew towards the fetch, the fire so bright it blinded it. The fiend tried to evade the missiles, hiding behind the rock next to it, but it proved too slow. Fiery tongues surrounded it and acute pain surpassed even its gnawing hunger for the woman’s life. The flesh it had sculpted to imitate her started melting as fire consumed the fiend’s hair and face and clothes. Its limbs hung uselessly from its body and the fetch fell to the sandy ground, croaking something that no one managed to hear clearly.


"Forgive me, Mother. I am sorry for having disappointed you…"


The black mirror shattered into as many pieces as the grains of sand surrounding it, showering everyone with tiny shards that glittered in the sun. The ice that had covered it instantly melted and the black cloud of unnatural smoke dispersed. The shifting sands of the desert finally grew calm and the spirit wind stopped howling. Even the dust mephits started slowly dissolving, the sand that had shaped them slowly falling off their small bodies, though that did nothing to temper their ferocity.


With pitiful growls the mephits attacked the companions, even though their wings beat more slowly with every moment that passed, seeking to take to the grave as many of their enemies as they could. Even though the power that had formed them could no longer sustain them, their existence had been marked by Chaos’ taint and that only true death could undo.


Beneath the glittering dust that had once been the black mirror, strange, irregular shapes could be seen, static and fused together, though they obviously had not originally belonged to the Khurish desert. What secret lay beneath the once shiny surface of cool black glass?




Calendar13th Day of Aelmont (Winter) 422 AC / 38 SC, Noon

Solinari: 7/36 (Waxing)
Lunitari: 16/28 (High Sanction) - conjunction with Nuitari
Nuitari: 5/8 (Waning) - conjunction with Lunitari

Boons/Penalties:
White Robes - | Red Robes +2 spell DC, ADV on spell attack rolls | Black Robes +2 spell DC, ADV on spell attack rolls


 


 


 


 
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  #85  
Old Oct 14th, 2023, 04:31 AM
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Devari had been trying to edge around the worst of the fighting, hoping for an opportunity to help without exposing herself to the claws of the small demons, but she had been brought up short when Blyne came stumbling out of the cloud of smoke holding a shard of black glass and cast some fire at something ahead of Devari. Whatever that thing was, it screamed such a horrible wail of anguish and pain that Devari had to cover her ears and shy away. Finally, as the last echoes were fading, she looked back again to see the smoking corpse lying twitching on the ground.

"Is… is that it?" she wondered. "Did we win?"

She had expected Isandril or perhaps Blyne herself to answer the question, but instead it was one of the winged creatures, even as it seemed to be melting back into sand, that answered it by launching itself and her face, claws swinging wildly. Devari fell back a step, raising her hands to ward off the deadly talons. Somehow she managed to hold it at bay, grabbing its thin wrists and recoiling at its sulphurous breath.

"Why are you bothering," she growled, her words taking on that discordant tone that she had discovered earlier. "Look at you. You're nothing. Just dust in the wind."

 
 
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Old Oct 14th, 2023, 07:18 AM
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Zendra Zantir
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Zendra barely noticed what was going on somewhere behind her and truthfully she barely cared. All her fury and grief was bent on attacking the horrid, grinning sprite fluttering in front of her, it's repulsive half-glimpsed face personifying everything thing that had gone wrong for her since she had set foot in Khur. She lunged with her steel dagger for an attack -

And the smoke was gone.

Near overbalancing Zendra's stopped her slash with the dagger before she could follow through. It was all she could do not to fall face first in the sand.

Her hazel eyes grew wide with astonishment that the imp seemed to be disintegrating before her very eyes, losing form as parts of it simply turned back into dead sand. Dimly, some small part of her mind not befogged by red fear and anger and despair registered that magical creatures could be unstable like that in the physical world. And if that was happening... had they just won?

No we hadn't won. Someone else did that. All I did was graze a mephit and I couldn't even do that a second time. The anger and bitterness returned with a vengeance and she glared at the dust imp and with a scream of rage she plunged her blade into it's dissapiting body.



 


 


 

Last edited by RossN; Oct 14th, 2023 at 09:47 AM.
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Old Oct 14th, 2023, 09:15 AM
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Xihue of the Alan-Atu
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Change radiated upon the dry desert air that robbed the area of its oppressive sense of foreboding. Xihue glanced briefly in the direction of the horrid scream that announced the fiend's demise. It is to be victory then, thought the half-dead and once more wounded monk.

"Peace be with us." intoned the youth as he dashed the few feet between himself and Tegan, flanking the closest mephit who's impending decomposition was already apparent. The crosier snapped laterally, nearly 8hp damagebisecting that creature.

Xihue intended to strike as hard and as often as necessary to prevent any further injury to the others but he had lost too much blood already and his blows, although accurate, did not carry the same crispness because of his own injuries. The flurry of blows worked their way from east to west to impart their 4hp and 6hp respecively depending upon survival or death of the easternmost mephitlethal effect. Devari's voice still lingered within the recesses of his combat-focused mind and her encouragement returned to the shepherd to almost magically re-direct the last slacking strike of the masterful martial artist's assault. He was prepared for a dust explosion, if it came, and Xihue's narrow eyes narrowed even further in preventative anticipation of the blinding blast.

Tegan rallied as his sword also connected in support as both warriors began to march in defense of their comrades.

 
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Old Oct 17th, 2023, 12:08 PM
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Only for a moment, and that moment's gone...
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Redwaters gives a nod to Thunder, who knows well enough to stay out of the direct line of combat, and instead she circles wide around the fray to keep an eye out for stragglers and hidden ambushers.

Redwaters himself emerges from his hiding place as he grabs his feathered rattlestick from alongside his hanging dagger as he wades into danger, his primal shield held cautiously before him as he casually gazes about the battlefield.

"Aren't we all just dust in the wind?" he replies to Devari, briefly capturing the bard's gaze with a smile of his own, before he whistles to the cacti-fox nearby and points out it's next target with the wand. He then begins to chant and wave the jujustick about, causing a blast of arctic winds towards another memphit, causing the desert to briefly cool down for those near the creature, giving them temporary reprieve to the sun's melting heat.

"Please don't attack myself, the spirit, or the steed," he nods toward his own companions. "We are friends."


 


 
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Old Oct 17th, 2023, 03:00 PM
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Aric Armitage
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Nearby, one of the mephits exploded close to Aric. He was
Dice * Dex save, disadv:
1d20+3sch10kl1 (8)+3 Total = 11
1d20+3sch10kl1 (15)+3 Total = 18
barely able to turn his head away from the blast, and he looked over in the direction of where the killing blow had come from. He'd been so focused on getting as much distance between himself and the strange black mirror that when he looked back he saw that the creatures they had been fighting appeared to have been nearly all destroyed. And, more surprisingly, there was another figure standing near them - no, not standing, riding. Aric walked forward, slowly, his stomach still roiling with the strange, sickening magic that pervaded his body. He looked over toward Blyne, who had seemingly been the source of his malady, then turned back to the mephits. One was near Zendra, and
Dice * Attack (Longbow, Disadv) vs yellow mephit:
1d20+7kl1 (20)+7 Total = 27
1d20+7kl1 (20)+7 Total = 27
Dice * Damage:
1d8+3sch9 (5)+3 Total = 8
Doubled to 16.
this was the one he targeted. The shot was like something from a ballistae, and whatever energy was holding the mephit together dispersed in a heartbeat.

"Got 'im," he called out to the archaeologist.


 
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Old Oct 17th, 2023, 03:38 PM
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Talia Dawnstar
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Talia had closed her eyes for just a moment to avoid the explosion of icy shards when she whacked the mephit. Now, as her eyes opened, she saw that her companions were systematically whacking and destroying the remaining sand demons.

To her utter delight, she saw the cute fox joining in the fun and she clapped her hands in excitement. She wanted a dog… she had said as much. Maybe everyone would let her have a fox? But then she saw the stranger… all paint and feathers and inside she knew that the fox would never be hers.

The halfling frowned even as the stranger joined the battle, Probably another basket case, she thought as she darted towards the mephit harassing Besimeh. Her momentary disappointment was cast aside as she skidded to a stop and closed her eyes again, anticipating yet another icy explosion.

Of course she should have waited until she swung before closing her eyes… but this way was more fun.


OOC20 to hit black mephit: 10 damage total (No Aoo - fancy footwork)
 

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