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  #106  
Old Oct 31st, 2023, 07:59 AM
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Zendra Zantir
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Zendra was vaguely aware that others kept pestering her while she was trying to fill the grave back in. Some part of her mind was distantly aware of the fact they were probably trying to help but she wished they'd go elsewhere. Couldn't they understand that if she wanted help she'd ask for it?

She did feel a little bad when Aric stalked off. Later, much later, she'd have to have a talk with that one.

The Plainsman - so far from home! - was new. Zendra didn't feel like making small talk much after the mental and physical and spiritual exhaustions but she forced herself to greet the newcomer. "Thank you for your help... uh, Redwaters is it? I am Zendra Zantir of Flotsam."

She extended a slender hand for him to shake, unsure exactly what the custom might be among his tribe. With an effort she even smiled.

Before they set off - and gods would she be grateful to leave this place - Zendra moved over to Isandril. If she noticed the elf's dismay over her re-burial of Samira's books and rod she gave no sign but instead rustled in her traveller's bag and after some time Cure Wounds on Isandril, restore 5hpproduced a vial full of green liquid smelling lightly of mint. "Drink this and try not to nearly die next time. They're hard to make." That may have been a joke.

At which point Redwaters made his suggestion of an excorcism. It was enough to shock even Zendra out of her funk. After a long moment of hesitation she stepped forward.

"I speak Khurish. I'll help lay these spirits to rest." A rueful smile appeared on the blonde woman's face. "To tell you the truth I'm not even sure I believe in souls and life after death but, I can't deny there is something here... and if they are really trapped souls I'd hate for anyone to get trapped in Khur for eternity. Besides as a scholar I'll have to take notes."

She flicked her hazel eyes to Redwaters. "What do I have to do?"

Once informed Zendra picked up her shovel and set to work unearthing the rest of the fire blackened remains. It was hardly pleasant work especially since this was the second time she had to undergo the activity just today but Zendra had to admit this was her forte. With great care and respect she removed the bones from the soil and placed them to be properly reinterred once Redwaters had performed his ritual. She stood ready to translate into and from Khurish if needed.

The last item and certainly the saddest she unearthed was a cloth doll. After a moment holding it and blinking back tears she reunited it with the small bones and the skull where Aric had tenderly laid his feather. "I think this belongs to her and should stay with her."

Zendra's voice was heavy with emotion and she had to take a step away by herself to compose her nerves before returning.



 


 


 

Last edited by RossN; Nov 7th, 2023 at 06:02 AM.
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  #107  
Old Nov 1st, 2023, 09:27 PM
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Xihue of the Alan-Atu
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Xihue
Tegan's offer of peace, healing and his outstretched hand were gracious gifts that Xihue readily accepted. "Peace be with you, Squire Tegan. I seem to be leaving more of myself upon these sands than would continue to be prudent." There were still small red, sticky puddles in various places where the remnants of battle had yet to be reclaimed by the sands and dust of this place. It would not be long before even the broken black glass would become only memory. A soothing power flowed like cooling water to wash over the newly applied bandages as Tegan prayed to his deity. The chill that ran along Xihue's nerves tingled soothingly as the hairs upon his arms stood in waves while the sensation passed over them. "My people respect the powerful beings you call gods and Kiri-JolithQu'an, the Warrior, although he has been gone from us for generations, seems to watch over you. I shall join you to meet the strange man."

"All right, Xihue?", Aric approached. "Peace be with you, Archer Aric. Sir Tegan's blessing has improved my state but I fear that I have a significant amount of recovery before the wounds of this battle have fully healed." Xihue's hand reflexively brushed over the remnants of the minotaur's goring puncture in his side. That wound had almost fully resolved in only a day! Something strange was happening here that the Alan-Atu man didn't understand. Such a regular diet of injuries would have him torn into strips and pieces soon. Purhaps it would be better to avoid battle for a while, at least until his brutalized body had enjoyed some true rest.

That had been their intent in coming to this place, to find a campsite for the evening. Instead, they had found chaos, battle and unsettled souls.

Xihue retrieved the music box, closed it's lid and carefully stowed it away again. the song had done something amazing once more and the heavy weight of invisible aethereal, ghostly presence subsided for a while without fully relenting from its ominous and prevailing oppressiveness. The trio of martial men walked the short distance to where the newcomer stood, holding court with their companions. Talia ran off to play with the cactus fox spirit, Devari and Isandril made their introductions and Besimeh and Blyne soon arrived in turn.

"When it comes to the Will of Chislev, nothing is ever left to chance," Redwaters excused himself for a moment as the center of attention to assist Zendra although she seemed focused and complete in having accomplished the task that had dominated her intentions in this place. Her Uncle was laid to rest but remained unsettled, as did all the spirits here. Even after the soothing ministry of Quinari's Song, it was clear that something more was necessary, something beyond their immediate ability to resolve.

With Zendra and Redwater's return, and the hour of the fox completed, the 10 travelers reassembled and the newcomer caused a fruit-laden plant to grow. It's blessed bounty was a welcome restoration to Xihue as his body took another rapid step towards fully regaining its vibrance and health.

Zendra and Redwater proposed to "free" the restless souls which confused Xihue.

"The soul is what continues after death. It must have a place to go when it leaves life and so we have children to provide the opportunity for the soul to continue its journey toward Ascendance. The simplest way to allow these souls to move on is to provide them with a new life to live. Zendra, do you choose Redwater to sire that new life? That would only help one soul.

This place is inhospitable. There are few living creatures here.

Beyond that, have you not noticed that each of us is followed by someone who was important to us in life? I am beginning to believe that something is preventing reincarnation, preventing those who pass from moving into their next turn on the wheel of life. The possibility is disturbing as it would prevent any further growth and interrupt the journey toward Ascendance."


The monk sat down to watch what they would do.


With the sun rapidly setting, the group sought out a new campsite. Along the way, Xihue took a moment to engage with each companion in turn.

Talia seemed sullen. She was a little depressed that all the fun with the spirit fox had ended and so she seemed resolved to take on her scouting duties with an extreme dedication. "Peace be with you Talia. While you are scounting, would you please try to find dragon scales? During my meditation, I had an experience that made me wonder if this place had once been plagued by those dreaded lizards."

Blyne and Besimeh traveled close to one another and they seemed so focused, one upon the other, as to have little need for the rest of the world. Xihue had to admit that both women were inherently attractive and he did not begrudge them their romantic choice of one another but this was not something that the monk had ever encountered before. Blyne was a magical creature. She could reshape herself into anything which made Xihue wonder if Blyne could sire children for Besimeh. What a wonderful thing that might be! She could potentially be a mother herself and a sire too. Could she sire her own children in this way? The concept was fascinating. Unfortunately, the shapeshifter remained in a mood that made her seem inapproachable and Xihue respectfully kept his distance.

Foothills began to rise and fall as the soaring peaks rose before the group that approached them. Although there was a hint of melancholy, a homesickness of sorts, Xihue's spirit was lifted. Devari seemed to notice and the beautiful woman approached him with questions that accentuated his Ilquarian reminiscence.

"What was it like?" she asked him. "Did you ride goats? Did you learn to balance the way you do by standing tiptoe on the peaks as you watched your sheep?"

Xihue laughed lightly and doubted that the woman was serious, "Peace be with you, Devari. You jest at my expense." the monk smiled warmly at her. Her head was well formed and the lack of hair did not detract from the exotic allure of her near-perfect face. Full lips and high cheek bones complimented the deep, vibrant eyes that hovered above them. He shared a few stories of his youth, the mountains, goats and sheep, his training, and the Ascended Master until she was comfortable enough to openly express envy. Xihue had never considered himself a worthy vessel for Quinari's Song.

"I was relieved to hear that melody within the Key. I am no longer dependent upon my own rudimentary talents to bear it to Hurim. Should I fall, would you take up the burden? Considering the battles of these past days, I am less certain of the years allowed to my fate upon this turn of the Wheel."

Then, like a lightning bolt from the clear sky, Devari said, "...when you opened the box… I saw things. Dragons, maybe. Dead ones. Even they were stuck, like the other souls. No matter how powerful they might have been in life, now they are depending on us. Us, a group of near-strangers, stumbling around a strange land with hardly a single clue between us. I mean, that must really be hard for them, huh?"

Xihue stopped so abruptly that Devari's own gait carried her forward another step or two before she realized that the monk was no longer beside her. He stood with statuesque stillness, gazing intently at the woman to see if any hint of jest still remained upon her. The air around them seemed to coalesce with power, an ancient presence that echoed from beyond the Khurish desert sands to encompass everything from the endless heavens above to the abyssal depths within the rock beneath them.

"Lady Devari, I must share something with you. I welcome the insight of your experience to help me make sense of my own."

Xihue's words were no longer a matter of casual banter and idlily regurgitated memories of childhood, philosophy or flirtation. They were serious and ominous, accentuated by an almost draconic presence that emanated as an aura from the mountain man.

Metalic MeditationI sat upon the warm sands beside the campfire last night after my fight with the Minotaur. I remember how focused I was, having completed my evening kata and still in considerable pain from my injuries. I began to count each grain of sand beneath my crossed legs as I allowed my conscious awareness to expand, to hear Aric's snoring while his bird kept watch over him and Tegan's deep breaths were smooth and relaxed. Talia was talking about a pet dog in her sleep. Zendra was alone in a tent, shivering as if the desert night would freeze her without someone to share warmth with her. You were on watch and the female couple were talking with one another as usual. Isandril was turning pages in his daily study of magic, jotting satisfying notes to himself as if he had discovered something new.

My thoughts drifted onto the music box and my hand must have fallen upon it as I fell deeper into a trance, more deeply than ever before. There were elves singing Quinari's Song. I could hear them. A full choir of men, women, children and something else, something more powerful. I tried to find the strange, rich voices that turned that simple melody into an arcane orchestration of pure goodness. The voices were ancient and pure and it was as if I had left my body, fallen into a river where the stars spun in the sky above my head.

The sun flashed across the sky but it was going the wrong way, as were the stars. They blurred into spinning lines overhead, flashing light and darkness in equal measure. It stopped to place me in the skin of a past life and I stood upon a dry riverbank alongside the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. I loved her. I knew that as surely as I knew my own name was Vishuval, that I would die for her. I had been sent by Kitiara uth Matar from my home in Claren Elian to kill this woman, but I could not. I loved her. I watched from her side as the Dragonarmies drowned at Margaard and flights of copper and silver dragons flew above the roiling waves that swallowed them. I saw armies flee before currents of the Vingaard, routed. But one red dragon had spotted my beloved.

That lone malicious creature shot down toward her, out of the sun where none below could see it coming but the sun upon the waters surrounding Claren Elian are bright with sunlight and the Ran-Eli were used to that blinding brightness. I had only moments to grab a lance, leap into the basket of a seige engine and I threw my heavy mace at the arm that released its reserved strength at just the right moment.

The shock of air against impossible speeds made my eyes tear and I soared like a ballista's missile, small and powerful, to intercept that incoming dragon only 300 feet above the woman's head. It was already drawing dire breath with which to bathe her in ferocious flame and I entered its gaping maw. I flew into the heat of conflagration with the spear to pierce it's hatefully hot heart. Thus, I saved her and redeemed myself to defend the life of my sworn enemy, the Golden General, Laurana Kanan.

As I died, my soul was once again beneath the spinning sky but there were dragons around me, shining Gold, Silver, Bronze, Copper and Brass. The flashing strobe of the sky made the light scintillate across their mighty forms as they caught me and set me down in a place that I had never seen before.

The melody of the music box suffused that place and these were the voices I had sought. I found myself in spirit at a small sandy beach. Above us, a gigantic eye watched patiently from the sky, one created by the conjunction of the three full moons: Solinari formed the white of the eye, Lunitari formed the iris and Nuitari, the pupil. The sea parted before me and I found myself walking without fear. I was Xihue again.

I soon approached a gigantic arch made from various metals, gold, silver, bronze, brass, and copper. It was 100 feet tall and 100 feet wide and glowed with a soft light that soothed me, brought true peace and banished every pain. Passing through that portal, I walked calmly to where I was intended to be, within a ring of stone pillars arrayed like some prehistoric monument. Huge altars at each point of a star that spanned the interior of that outdoor cathedral held the gigantic skulls of five ancient dragons, their eye sockets glowing with a soft light. The dragons were gone but their song remained.

Disembodied voices began to speak to me. They repeated a singular litany again and again: "Come, Bearer of the Key. Help us. Save us. Forge anew the broken link." I understood them instinctively as they spoke in their native tongue. I was now spiritually connected to them.

With great reverence, I prostrated myself before them to touch my forehead to the sand.

"I thought I must have fallen forward, dreaming in my meditation as I found myself, embarrassingly, on my face beside the fire, back at our camp. I had thought it to be a fever dream caused by the minotaur's wound.

Devari, if the dragons have called to you too..."
the shepherd's voice trailed off as if some grand enlightenment had been confirmed.


Xihue didn't talk much until the camp had been set, tents pitched and he was about to prepare a hot meal for his companions from his foragings when a loud commotion pulled his attention away from the fire. Another threat was stampeding toward them. Another challenge in a tirade of seemingly never-ending misfortunes took the shape of several young centaurs.

The Alan-Atu recognized this game. They were playing "taunt-the-tiger". Although tigers were fearsome creatures, they were smart. They would not readily attack a group of five or more armed humans unless they were trapped or guarding their children or near starvation. The bravado was so familiar to Xihue that he began to laugh.

As the others shouted threats, prepared for battle, tried to bargain or diplomatically engage, Xihue watched as a spectator with a huge smile on his face and began to chew on an edible cactus leaf as he decided to enjoy the ensuing entertainment.

Once again, the monk sat down to watch what they would do.

 
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Last edited by Black Jim; Nov 2nd, 2023 at 09:53 PM.
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  #108  
Old Nov 3rd, 2023, 03:39 AM
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Aric Armitage
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It was a relief to see that Xihue was not in immediate danger of bleeding out, but despite the monk’s legendary toughness and seemingly unbreakable will, his propensity for receiving grievous flesh wounds in quick succession left Aric feeling gravely concerned for his mentor. Tegan seemed to have done… something… to the monk, for the wound that had been spurting blood now appeared more like a trickle. Even his gore from yesterday looked like it had already gone pink with healing flesh. How had the monk healed so quickly? Aric looked curiously at the Solamnic knight (to hell with splitting hairs calling him a squire, he was a knight in Aric’s book). He’d seen the blonde-haired man perform curious miracles before – the battle with the broodmother down in the sewers was the most fascinating example – but then he paused. We’ve all had strange, inexplicable things happen to us since we came together. I just had an arrow – a regular, plain broadhead arrow – turn black and smoky. Weird stuff has happened to all of us.

He next turned to look at his other mentor, the elf Isandril, who had taken to examining the arrow with a curious look on his face. Aric still thought of him vaguely as his mentor, though if he were being perfectly honest, that particular avenue seemed to have narrowed, as the elven magus found his time and attention occupied with more pressing issues – the Khurish boy mage who had been saved from the cocoon, followed in short order by his mentorship under Lady Shaylin Moonborn. A lot of changes had taken place for Aric and his companions (friends?) Were they friends? They had been through many an ordeal in their short time together. If struggle didn’t make them friends, it certainly made them familiar, and that should have been enough.

And yet…

He looked over at the two distraught women, standing near the remains of what had once been a sheen of black glass – a mirror etched into the sand itself. He looked at the merchant woman, Besimeh. She was shaking with sobs, her hand dropping the dagger to the dirt. That seemed real. Besimeh had clearly never faced this sort of threat before – not that Aric had either – and her reaction appeared to be a genuine response to an unanticipated trauma. For all the doubt he might have held about her choice of traveling companion, he found himself strangely commiserating with the broken merchant. Only I don’t think she’s really broken. Bent, maybe. That was the key takeaway here. Every single one of these people appeared to be dealing with loss, appeared to be carrying a massive stone on their shoulders. None of them had broken thus far, and for all the questions of trust he might have had about some of them, he could not deny that they had looked adversity in the face and not shied away from it.

Aric rubbed his temples. The strange magical poison seemed to be ebbing some, but he still found the racking shudders impacting everything he tried to do. He took a moment to kneel and grabbed his waterskin. It was still hot out, but nearing the Harikas mountains there was at least some semblance of a breeze. It wasn’t much of a relief, but it was better than nothing. He took a drink, swished a sip of water around his mouth and spat out some grit that had been carried by the wind and adhered to the skin’s spout. It wasn’t particularly cool, but nonetheless, it was a relief. He stayed there, squatting on his haunches and looked down into his open pack. Kay was resting comfortably, her small red body lying still and helpless in the dark cool safety of her kettle nest. He closed his eyes. Bless you, Habakkuk, bless you for your mercy. I still cannot undo the wrong I have done, but I will spend what time I have to give this young bird a chance at life. He wondered what it would be like to fly. He imagined soaring up above all this grit and heat, feeling the updrafts lift him higher and higher, the sun dappling against his back. He imagined flying through a cloud and feeling its clingy moisture pepper his face. He imagined the rush and roar of wind flowing at great speed past his ears as he dived down toward the earth, only to pull up at the last moment with an exhilarating whoosh of wings. He smiled faintly at this pleasant little dream, then put the cap back on his waterskin and stood up.

In the distance, amidst the ruins of the black mirror, Besimeh had suddenly stopped, and was looking down at an object in the dirt. Aric was shouldering his pack again and getting ready for their little group to disembark once Zendra had finished laying her family to rest. As he adjusted his pack, he saw the merchant woman now staring curiously at the ground. Blyne had gone back to see what was the matter, and Aric, now feeling a growing sense of both curiosity and unease about the mirror, watched the shapeshifter approach the object hidden in the dirt. Perhaps, in another universe, in another timeline, it might have been a hunk of gold, or a cluster of gems embedded into stone. Aric wished it might have been that timeline, but they had no such luck. It was a skull. As he closed the distance, to check on the two women, Aric recognized the unmistakable curve of jawbone, the empty hollows of eyesockets and the thin roundness of forehead, and knew that it was too small to have belonged to an adult. A child had died here. He looked past Blyne and Besimeh, toward the darkened area that had once held a mirror, and suddenly
Dice * History of black mirror, disadvantage:
1d20+2kl1 (13)+2 Total = 15
1d20+2kl1 (16)+2 Total = 18
it clicked. Gods, he whispered, his mouth full of cotton. Gods, but it was the heat, the heat from a flame, a dragon’s flame, my gods, it- it burned them to death, it scorched the very sand-

He gagged suddenly, picturing the sound of screaming, of burning flesh and burning clothes and burning hair, the sudden screaming, and then nothing, nothing but the crackling, meaty pop of flesh and bone cooking and sizzling under a desert sun. Or had they even had the time to scream? He prayed it had been quick, that the heat of the flames had been hot enough to suck away the oxygen and keep them from having to hear their family members’ final cries, that the flames might have charred their eyes black and useless before they could see their family dying all around them. Aric clutched his roiling stomach and spat a wad of bile into the shifting golden sands. How…? why…? The words of a child who does not understand. But he was beginning to. Oh, yes, he was learning quickly about this world.

He took a minute to gather himself, then, after taking a few deep breaths, he found he was steady enough to press on. Might as well, he thought. Either press on, or lie down and join the dead. He walked over to where the two women stood, surveying the ancient carnage.

”Had to be dragonflame,” he said dully. There was a lump in his throat the size of Xihue’s fist, but somehow he was able to press on. ”I don’t know if this is why the weird sand things came out of the ground, but I don’t see any other possible explanation…” He trailed off, unsure of what to say. He thought of his dream, of flying above the clouds, of being free, and he realized that, much like the voices that had been heard inside the standing stones, these spirits must have been trapped as well. He wished for perhaps the thousandth time that Kaylen had been there. She would have known what to do, he thought with certainty. It always felt like she had the right answer. He hunched down, staring vacantly at the field of charred bones and blackened sand. If only they could just fly away…

Well – why couldn’t they?

The thought made him start, and he very nearly pitched backward onto his bottom. The words had come unbidden to his mind, like someone standing behind him had whispered it in his ear. They couldn’t fly away, they were just bones. Right? Silence. No, not silence. A thin, delicate squawk seemed to echo from inside his pack, and he realized that he must have jostled Kay awake. He unslung the pack and undid the leather cord keeping the pack tied. The tiny vulture was certainly awake, and probably hungry. He gave a thin smile at the bird. ”I’ll see what I have for you, little one,” he said softly. In truth, he wasn’t sure exactly what he had to offer her. There might be a little bit left of the snake meat that Xihue had killed. It wasn’t exactly clean, but then vultures subsisted on carrion, so he imagined that Kay wouldn’t care very much. He took a moment to grab the last little hunk of snake flesh. He had taken to chopping up chunks of it at a time like a long section of sausage, then cauterizing the end on a hot stone in the campfire to keep the bleeding end from gushing too much. It was not a pretty sight, but then there was little in this world that was.

Aric took the section of snake meat and laid it flat on the head of his father’s axe like it were a cutting board. The other hand gripped the handle of the butcher’s knife, which he used to mince the meat into a tacky red paste. He absentmindedly began to hold small pinches of meat out for the growing bird to feed upon, while his eyes seemed absorbed by the curiously vibrant red of the bird’s feathers. So pretty, he thought, brushing gently at the bird. The little thing was one of the most vibrant things out here, surrounded as they were by the leaden blue sky and shimmering hot sand. Everything was so pale, and yet here was this small creature, so full of life-

He had been feeding her with one hand and brushing her with the other and realized that he had
Dice * Sleight of Hand (pluck feather from Kay), disadv:
1d20+3kl1sch10 (11)+3 Total = 14
1d20+3kl1sch10 (19)+3 Total = 22
unwittingly pulled out one of her feathers. Fortunately, the young chick did not appear to have noticed – or, if she had, did not appear to be perturbed in the slightest. He fed her the rest of her minced supper, then pinched the thin red feather between his right thumb and forefinger. It felt almost electric, the vibrant red of it. He stared at the thin tufts of red vane – and this was the strangest part. It felt like gentle hands were prodding him forward. You know what to do, he thought he heard, though it might have merely been the wind.

Aric stood up. He stepped carefully past his pack and the young bird contained within, past his father’s axe and the old butcher’s knife he had taken from his home so long ago and stepped forward into the orb of dark desecration that had been left like a cancer on the surface of the desert. He walked toward the two young women, and toward Redwaters. The Abanasinian had also approached and seemed to view the blasted land as proof of why he had come. He was speaking about something called a mass exorcism and was asking for volunteers. Aric wasn’t sure entirely what the plainsman was on about, but he felt he knew how best to help. He found where the small child’s skull rested, charred and silent, and knelt in front of it. With one hand, he held the small red feather; with the other, he gently cupped a small bowl of dirt out in front of the tiny skull. He placed the bright red feather in the small dirt bowl he had made, and then gently covered it over again.

”Fly away now,” he said quietly to the ghost of the child.
Dice * Religion (spirits to rest), disadv:
1d20+2kl1 (18)+2 Total = 20
1d20+2kl1 (16)+2 Total = 18
Fly away. You’re free now, you and all your family. You’re not trapped here anymore.


He stood up, and then, because he didn’t know what else to do or say, quietly retrieved his pack and weapons, and began to trudge slowly off in the direction of the Harikas mountains. They would catch up to him in time, he knew, and it made sense as scout to be at the front of the party. Mostly he just wanted the quiet solitude, broken only by the crunching of sand beneath his bootheels.



He’d stopped to rest for a few minutes and dump some sand from his boots when the rest of the party finally rejoined him along the trail. There had been a lot of thoughts rattling around in his brain while he’d walked, and as he had waited for the others to catch up, he had pulled his dogged old journal out of the pack and set about writing up something of a list.
Code:
Questions:
-The mirror demon: why did it look like Blyne?
Well that one might be easy, actually, he realized. A mirror reflects, and Blyne was the first one to look at it. If Tegan had looked at it first, it probably would have looked like him, right? Theoretically, yes, it was possible, but it wasn’t like he could replicate the experience to find out. I’ll just have to trust that it was simply the nature of whatever dark energy was stored in that mirror, and not anything to do with our walking talking chameleon. He put a checkmark next to the question.
Code:
-What is the nature of Blyne’s ability?
That one would be tricky. For as verbose as Blyne was, she was also evasive and incredibly tight-lipped when questions shifted in her direction. He put an ellipsis at the end of this question, then wrote ‘Isandril?’ after it. I’ve never seen anyone like her, but if anyone knows anything about anything, it would be our resident magus. He tapped the quill against his chin in thought.
Code:
-The Dawnstar: just what the hell is Talia talking about?
He immediately put a grumpy face at the end of that question. Talking to the kender was always a mentally and emotionally taxing experience. She’d gotten “better” in recent days, and he had to admit, he much preferred her blathering on about being the Dawnstar to ragging him for his virginity. That thought made him instinctually think of Dove – Kishra – and he immediately felt his cheeks flush. He still remembered the curve of her legs, the swell of her-

Stop it! he growled, and the thoughts were chased away as though splashed with cold water. He focused on making the grumpy face look angrier and tried to ignore his desires for the half-elven woman. I don’t even know if I’ll ever see her again, he thought glumly. They’ll kill me on sight if I show my face near Pashin – and who knows how the city is even doing now, after Blainneth and Veralyne – sorry, Devari and Blyne – left. Didn’t Devari say there was some kind of uprising? The thought made his heart grow cold, and he tried not to picture what might have happened to the fiery-haired temptress that had so taken his heart. I hope you’re alright, Kishra. I hope you were able to get down to the sewers and hide with the elves. He added another note to his list.
Code:
-Ask Devari more about what happened when they were leaving Pashin.
He wrote the word ‘carefully’ after this question. He recalled that the beautiful woman had been pretty shaken up when she’d rejoined the party in the aftermath of their assault on the bandit encampment. He was concerned about Kishra, yes, but he wasn’t about to go about bludgeoning Devari with questions simply to assuage his own fears. He circled ‘carefully,’ then put a line underneath it. She seemed okay, but then so many people put on a brave face while they were crumbling inside. And he certainly didn’t dislike Devari, not by any means. She didn’t have fists of steel like Xihue, or a magical spellbook like Isandril. She didn’t have a big honkin’ sword like Tegan did, or even Talia’s weird little… sling… thingy. She had her wits and her beauty, and when the damned Nerakans couldn’t – or wouldn’t – take her life, they tried to settle for taking her hair. He remembered the hurt look in her normally bright brown eyes, and that hurt look made him ache for her. She was still beautiful. He jotted that down.
Code:
-Tell Devari she’s beautiful again. Tell her every day until she gets her smile back.
He’d tried to say something similar
Quote:
”I don’t really believe in new beginnings, but I think things will be better moving forward. We understand one another more than we did yesterday, and I’m sure tomorrow will be better than today. Just like you and your hair, Devari. They may have taken your locks, but…” He closed his eyes, thinking of the words he had only so recently come to know. He slowly moved his finger in a slow, dancing arc in the air and quietly whispered ”Corona florum.” Above Devari’s bald head now circled a small crown of ethereal red roses. He gave her a smile. ”Just because they took your hair doesn’t make you any less beautiful.”
the day before, but didn’t know if it had registered with her in the midst of her shock and grief. He could understand. He’d spent the last decade or so feeling numb. He’d actually embraced it, if he was being honest. The numbness was like a shield, a defense against all the hurt his father tried to lay on his only child. Just because his father hadn’t been able to process his own pain of loss and betrayal, that didn’t mean that Aric should have had to suffer for it. But that was what had happened, and there was no changing it. There was only forward. He thought quietly, tapping the quill against his chin again. This one was a toughie.
Code:
-Standing stones. So: are the dead really trapped? If they are, is it because of the stones? Or are 
the stones just… some sort of ‘thinness’ to the world where their voices can be heard more easily, 
like putting a drinking glass against the wall? Would breaking the stones free them?
He put a half-dozen question marks at the end of this, then, just below it, he added:
Code:
-Is my father’s soul trapped? And how do I free him if he is?
He looked down at where his pack lay still on the earth and stared at the rusted and weather-beaten axe that had bore the brunt of hundreds of hours of abuse, felling trees in the forest in the gnarled hands of Robert Armitage. Oakgrove had been a logging camp that turned into a village, and, until he’d turned into a desert nomad, it had been the only home Aric had ever known. His father had built their little hut with his two hands. Aric tried to picture his father’s face, how the man had looked before he’d been maimed while trying to defend his wife, but every time he thought he was close, it slipped away as though it were cloaked in shadow, the lines and features blurred like grease on a lens. Had his father ever even smiled before? Aric sat there quietly, trying so desperately to remember. It was like… it was like trying to distinguish something obscured by fog. He had been so young, only five when his family was destroyed. He closed his eyes, willing the memories of youth to appear before him, as though they could be whipped into shape like a farmer might drive his ox to plow. He pressed his fists against his temples, feeling the pulse beneath his scalp. There was nothing there now; every grab only made the image pull further away. He let out an exasperated sigh. He knew there must have been happy memories buried in there somewhere, but time and trauma had buried them with the same grim efficiency as a gravedigger. Maybe in a dream, I might remember, he thought with a faint hope. Next to the question on the page, he drew a little picture of his father’s axe.

By that time, he could hear voices approaching in his direction. He saw seven of their number moving slowly toward the small, flat boulder where Aric had chosen to rest. Talia was off scouting somewhere, he imagined – or perhaps she was playing with the strange fox creature that had accompanied Redwaters. Aric tried to listen in. Xihue was talking to Devari about something, something very serious it seemed, but he couldn’t quite make out what was being said from this distance. Every now and again the wind would carry fragments of a word to his ear, but they were jumbled and confusing, and he tried to ignore them. Eavesdropping is impolite, he remembered his mother saying once. He had snuck out of bed and had been listening in at his mother’s bedroom door. Why do I remember her so easily? he wondered. She had been humming something, and it had awoken him and made him feel happy, but apparently, he had broken the moment. He thought back to that warm memory, and it made him recall one last question for his journal.
Code:
-Ask Xihue about the song.
He drew a little quarter note next to this last line, then blew quickly on the page so that the thin lines of ink would dry faster. When the words were dry, he closed the journal, capped the small vial of ink, and gently placed his writing accoutrements back in the safe confines of his pack.

”This seems as good a place as any to rest,” he said quietly when the rest of the party had all rejoined him.



Time passed. The party rested. Aric stared absentmindedly at the space where a crackling campfire might have been, had they any wood to burn. Even if we did, we’re still on the run. A fire would only draw our foes to us like moths. He picked at the small, tart cactus fruits that Xihue had gathered on his travel across the desert. It was a wonder anything could be this moist in such an arid landscape. The sun had sunk low, shrouded behind the distant mountains to their west, and now the stifling heat of day had been replaced by the biting chill of evening. The sand doesn’t hold heat the way the waters do, he repeated to himself. The shock of cold at night was a surprise every time it snuck up on him, for it was such a dramatic swing from the unforgiving heat. He drew himself further into his leathers and shut his eyes, waiting for the dawn. I’ll sleep at some point, but not yet. They had wanted to get as far from the grim darkness of the black mirror, and Aric had not faulted them for this, but there were still miles to go yet. We’ll have to press on far into the night if we want to make the mountains, he thought dolefully. He hadn’t been wounded per se in the battle, but the memory of his poisoning was still felt very fresh. He was feeling better-ish now, but his appetite was touch and go. It was the thirst more than anything else that was getting to him, like his body had sweated out all the liquid in his body while trying to expel the poison, and now he was wrung dry like a sponge. Of course, having drank all that liquid…

He stood up. ”I gotta go write my name in the sand,” he said to no one in particular, and headed off in search of a private dune to relieve himself. He could have sworn he was getting even colder, as though moving away from his imaginary fire had somehow chilled him. He quickly did his business and was turning to head back to rejoin the others when the sound of voices and the pounding of hooves or feet broke the tranquil quiet of evening. Aric felt his blood go even colder somehow. Not now! We just fought something! And, on the heels of that – Xihue! His friend was still hurt – not mortally, but he certainly wasn’t about to go toe to toe with a minotaur anytime soon. He sprinted back to the others and was about to alert them of what was coming when a man crested over the dune, charging straight for Tegan. Or… no. No, it was a horse. No, not a man or a horse, but a
Dice * Perception:
1d20+3 (8)+3 Total = 11

Dice * History:
1d20+2 (6)+2 Total = 8

Dice * Insight:
1d20+1 (10)+1 Total = 11
centaur. Aric didn’t give a damn what it was, it was still charging his friend. Only…

What? He looked around. Unlike the fight with the bandits, few of his companions seemed to be viewing the centaur as all that threatening. In fact, was that a ghost of a smile on Xihue’s face? Aric didn’t understand. He knew Tegan was tough, but this thing was charging at quite a clip. Aric had his bow out… but no one else seemed to be setting up to fight. He looked around blankly. Is this a game of some sort? If it is, I don’t think it’s all that funny. He watched the centaur move ever closer to his friend. An idea came to him, and he reached his hand out to point at the encroaching beast-man. His finger moved with a sort of cast True Strikemagical precision, as though it were somehow mapping out the best point for him to put an arrow. If it comes to that, he thought worriedly. He hoped it wouldn’t, that this was just some sort of prank he didn’t understand. If it was a prank, he sure didn’t find it funny.

 
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Old Nov 3rd, 2023, 01:49 PM
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The Dangers of ”horsing around”



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This could have been Devari’s fate
Few sights were as terrifying as a fully-grown centaur galloping towards an individual as fast as the wind, intending to trample said individual beneath their hooves. Tegan uth William, squire of the Knights of Solamnia, had been taught how to properly respond to such a charge. He had to lower his pike so that its sharp end would aim towards the horseman’s chest, while its butt end found purchase in the earth, holding the long piece of wood as steadfastly as possible, and, what only someone trained in the art of war could ever hope to succeed in, stand his ground. The Solamnic didn't carry a pike or a similar weapon that could have effectively stopped the charging centaur, but he would have stood his ground nonetheless, determined to defend his friends and companions from the savage creature. At least that had been his intent until Devari bravely -or foolishly- stepped in front of him.


The young woman was tired of being pushed around by people who were stronger and crueler than her. She who had given voice to Harr omel and had dared to defy the Knights of Neraka at the height of their power would not meekly close her eyes and hope that others would protect her. She had been through too much, sacrificed too much to be afraid of wildly screaming bullies. She would not bow before this four-legged brute or anyone else for that matter. Not now, not ever.


Adopting a look of contempt, she challenged the centaur in the only way she knew, using her words as both sword and shield. Her voice came out clear and powerful, though her heart was racing and she placed her hands on her hips to keep them from trembling.


"This is what you send at us? Pfft!"


Her show of bravado made the centaur momentarily slow down, a look of surprise eroding his wild glee. Their eyes met and she hoped to find respect in them, possibly even a hint of fear. All she saw was lust.


The centaur's wild screams made the blood in her veins freeze, but it was now too late to hide behind Tegan’s shield. She stood fully exposed, watching paralyzed as the distance between the two rapidly grew shorter, eaten up by horse-like hooves that seemed to almost fly over the rocky ground.


Hasn’t Mama played the role of a maiden who was abducted by wild centaurs?


The memory came to her unbidden and the terror she felt in her heart grew. It had been a comic play, full of singing, raised skirts, and pig bladders used to give the impression of breaking wind, and though the centaurs on stage had simply been humans with garish costumes sporting large wooden “tools” to make the spectators laugh at their absurdity, at the heart of the play there had been a simple truth: centaurs were rumored to abduct beautiful young women…


Did she qualify as a beautiful young woman even now that she had lost her hair? The fire in the centaur's eyes gave her the answer she dreaded. Yes, she did.


Suddenly the sand in front of her shifted and dozens of small stones were displaced as a multitude of thorny vines, cacti, and long grasses almost erupted from the ground, forming a barrier of sorts between Devari and her savage attacker. The young woman stared at the vegetation, not daring to believe her eyes. Was this the doing of the plainsman who had just joined their group? He had mentioned Chislev’s name, who as far as Devari knew was one of the old gods that had recently returned. Was she responsible for instantly turning the wilderness into a jungle?


The centaur sneered. Brambles and vines might have been able to stop the weak, two-legged races but never one of his kind. He further increased his speed, intending to jump over the prickly vegetation, grab the hairless woman, and carry her away before the bearded man behind her had the chance to act. He would have succeeded too, had not a lasso appeared out of nowhere, the noose tightening around his hind legs and making him crash head-first against the cacti that hadn't been there a moment ago.


The shouts of the centaurs instantly ceased as the man-horses watched their friend cry out in pain, a piece of broken bone jutting out of his torn and bloody skin. The sight was nauseating, especially since everyone present knew that even if the bone was properly set and the wound allowed to heal, the injured centaur would never be able to run again.


normal image without text wrap
Gildedmane, leader of the young centaurs


"Enough! Enough! Cease this folly lest even more suffer harm without need. Your brother requires your ministrations. Tend to his wounds and pray to the spirits that they shall heal cleanly."


From among the group of centaurs, an almost regal figure emerged, his back straight, his eyes as bright as the sky on a clear summer day. Long blonde hair framed a face that was both youthful and strong, full of concern and pity. The centaur leader sported a short beard that had been dyed blue to match the color of his eyes and bore no decoration other than a pair of leather bracers and a wide belt with an assortment of beads and feathers.


Slowly approaching the companions, he placed his right hand over his chest and bowed his head to Devari, who for once was left speechless.


"Prithee Madame, forgive my brothers’ uncouth manners. They are like foals, biting and kicking each other, but they mean no harm. I give thee my word, thou art in no danger from our group."


Having apologized to Devari, the centaur turned to Redwaters next, mistaking him for the leader of the companions since he was the one who had addressed him.


"I greet thee with open hands, Sir. I am Gildedmane, named thusly for my golden hair by the elders of our tribe. Redhide, the chief of the Whistling Cliffs is my sire, and wise Stareyes the one who bore me. We were wandering the lands east of the Harikas Mountains and came upon thee and thine by mere chance. It is ancient custom for the males of my tribe who have not yet been graced by a female’s attention to set out to prove their worth for a full cycle of the silver moon following Dark Day. All are eager to perform great deeds of valor and daring and write the songs they will sing to woo the mistresses of their hearts. Misled by passion some return with injuries or not at all. It is my duty to ensure my brothers’ safety and I fear that in this instance I have failed miserably."


The centaur leader turned his head to watch his badly wounded companion being supported by two of his friends. Each time his broken leg was jarred by accident he grimaced in pain and it was only through sheer will that he didn't cry out, gritting his teeth instead.


"Still, this is my failing, not that of thee and thine. I should have known that the fire burning in the hearts of young men is hot enough to consume them."


Gildedmane sighed deeply and his face grew darker still. The ways of centaurs were not those of humans, but he seemed to take his duty as leader of this group of hot-headed young centaurs very seriously. Turning towards another member of his tribe, a youth with short chestnut-brown hair and a lower half of approximately the same color, the blonde centaur raised his hand. Losing no time, the youth approached fast and handed him over a large wineskin.


"Kind Sir, allow me to offer reparations for my brothers’ misconduct. This is our own wine, made from the fruits of the white-flower cactus. It is strong but well capable of lifting the spirit. I gift it to thee and thine and pray that ye shall drink it in Strongwind’s health."


Barely had Gildedmane made his gift, another centaur approached the young leader, this one with hair as red as the apples of Goodlund before the coming of Malystryx.


"Master Gildedmane, brother Strongwind’s injury is grave. The healing potions ease his suffering, but they cannot mend the broken bone. I fear that only thy Dame is capable of saving his leg. Wilt thou send me to bring her the ill news?"


Gildedmane looked at the horizon, which was growing darker by the minute now that the sun had set, and shook his head.


"Nay, good Brightspark. I shall bring word back to the Whistling Cliffs myself and fetch my Dame as soon as possible. I shall make preparations and depart within the hour. Inform thy brothers of my decision."


Turning back to Redwaters, Gildedmane bowed before the plainsman, making sure that his head was lower than that of the human.


"If a loved one of thine hast ever been in need, I ask this boon of thee. Prithee allow my brothers to wait for sunrise here, next to thy camp. To force Strongwind to walk this night would be cruel. Come dawn, my brothers will start looking for another shelter nearby. I give thee my word that they shall behave properly as custom demands."



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

Solinari: 7/36 (Waxing)
Lunitari: 16/28 (High Sanction) - conjunction with Nuitari
Nuitari: 5/8 (High Sanction) - 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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  #110  
Old Nov 3rd, 2023, 10:52 PM
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It's clobberin' time
 
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Aric Armitage
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Truth, as it seemed, was stranger than fiction. What had looked at first glance to be the violent charge of a wrathful centaur turned out to be little more than the misguided actions of a lustful young man. Aric lowered his hand and watched as a series of events carried the charging beast-man into a tumbling crash into a magically conjured patch of cactus. Aric looked over first at Devari, whose sensual body and scornful tongue had ended up drawing the attention away from Tegan, next at Redwaters, who had seemed to summon the plants from nothingness, then to Talia, who… wait, when did she get a whip?? - and then back down at the writhing, screaming creature on the desert floor. He lowered his hand. Clearly there was no further need for violence. All traces of aggression seemed to have left the wandering horsemen with the same suddenness as the popping of a soap bubble. Immediately there was movement to check on the wounded centaur by his own people. Aric turned to his own friends, but aside from what wounds remained from their battle at the mirror, no one had been harmed.

”Enough! Enough! Cease this folly lest even more suffer harm without need. Your brother requires your ministrations. Tend to his wounds and pray to the spirits that they shall heal cleanly.”

Aric had a good set of ears, but his pale blue eyes were even sharper. The sound of bone snapping had been partially drowned out by the centaur’s roaring charge, but there was no mistaking the sight of the compound fracture. He winced. It was certainly something of a learning experience, he imagined.

The blue bearded one who had called off the others now trotted up to Devari with a look of remorse in his face. He begged her pardon and offered up an excuse that seemed to boil down to “centaurs will be centaurs.” Aric had never had friends in Oakgrove* that were children – it was little more than a working forestry camp, after all – or he might have understood the sort of shenanigans that a group of boys could get up to. To him, they just seemed stupid and brutish. He might have said as such, but… well, it didn’t really seem like more admonishment was necessary. The transgressor was now suffering and, if the injury was as severe as it appeared to be, there was a decent chance that he would lose the leg without proper medical attention. Justice seemed to have been served.

The blue bearded one now turned his attention to Redwaters who, for some reason, he seemed to view as their leader. Aric almost corrected him, but then stopped himself. Redwaters might not be our leader, but neither is anyone else. Tegan, maybe. Possibly Isandril. The thought of who was “in charge” had never really occurred to him before; it just wasn’t that kind of dynamic. Instead, he stood there and listened to Gildedmane continue to make excuses for his group of centaur boys. The thought of a group of running in to perform the act of coitus on a strange female while fourteen other centaurs looked on whooping and hollering was nothing short of the craziest thing Aric had ever heard of. I guess shame and privacy aren’t a tenet of their people.

It was about that time that a younger centaur rode forward and offered up a skin of wine for them to partake of. ”Kind Sir, allow me to offer reparations for my brothers’ misconduct. This is our own wine, made from the fruits of the white-flower cactus. It is strong but well capable of lifting the spirit. I gift it to thee and thine and pray that ye shall drink it in Strongwind’s health.” No sooner had this gift been offered that another centaur rode up to inform Gildedmane of the true severity of Strongwind’s injury. With a look of resignation, their elder stated that they should stay with their brother while he alone rode on into the night.

And now the guilt started to set in. Aric wasn’t about to disregard the anger he had felt at the sudden attack, but given the way that things had turned out, and the absolute contrition that the centaurs were showing after the fact, the anger could not last. He felt stupid, and foolish. I completely misjudged that situation. I could have shot that young guy, and then his people wouldn’t have an injured brother, but a dead one. The thought made him feel sick. He had reached for the wineskin and had but a small sip of the proffered wine, but now he felt as though it were he who should offer up something.

”I’m… sure he wouldn’t have harmed my friend, but…” He paused. Was he really going to do this? He took a breath. ”I don’t mind if Strongwind and his brothers rest here, and I’m sure my companions do not either, but… sir, you shouldn’t go out alone into the desert. It’s not safe. There are

(nerakans minotaurs demons)

threats out here that no one should have to face alone. And what if you were hurt along the way, or killed? This… Dame… she might never hear of Strongwind’s need. I am unwounded, and good with a bow, and though I am young, so too are your charges here. I can take one of our horses here so that we may move with haste, and I can also use this as an opportunity to get the lay of the land for the rest of my party. We are going to travel… through? the Harikas?” The statement had turned into a question because he realized that they had decided no such thing. The mountains offered up food, water, the possibility of shelter, and most certainly a break from the heat. The choice seemed obvious to him. He continued, ”so please do not feel like I make my offer because I feel obligated. Everyone makes mistakes, I just don’t want to see two lives destroyed because of one bad choice.” He paused, then, almost as an afterthought, threw in, ”And perhaps you could teach me how your people make that wine. It’s really good!” It had been ages since he’d thought about his small little quest for recipes. Wine would be a great get, he thought. I wonder if Kishra likes wine.

 
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  #111  
Old Nov 4th, 2023, 10:29 AM
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The moment stretched on and on. Devari had realised her mistake, and in the wild eyes of the approaching centaur she had seen her fate. She was helpless, a scared little girl with tears streaking her face and all that she could do was to scrunch up her eyes and wait for it to be over.

Something had happened, though, the centaur had come crashing to a stop and she was left standing, uncomprehending, while he was writhing in pain. Had she done that? But no, she had not felt the thrum of her power, it had to have been one of the others. She knew that she should have been grateful but instead she felt only numb. She watched him thrash, gazed at the wound which would have been an instant death sentence on a horse, and willed herself to feel something, anything. Satisfaction, horror, disgust, something, but it was like she, Devari, had disappeared and been replaced by a statue.

"Prithee Madame, forgive my brothers’ uncouth manners." The voice drew her attention away from the injured centaur, up to another standing over her. "They are like foals, biting and kicking each other, but they mean no harm. I give thee my word, thou art in no danger from our group."

'They mean no harm', he had said. No harm! Feeling was coming back to her now and Devari found her stomach heaving. She turned away from the handsome centaur with the beautiful words and stomped towards her tent, where she sat in the blankets with her knees up at her chest. Some part of her was still listening to that deep, sonorous voice, aware that he was still out there and that he was completely dismissive of the idea that what his 'brother' had done could have been wrong.

Why are you surprised? some part of her wondered. This is how it always is. Nothing has changed.

Nothing ever changed. She would always be that little girl, and they would always be bigger, stronger, imperious. It was the way of the world.

It doesn't need to be. This voice was cold, quiet but determined, and it reminded Devari of Lady Romira of the Knights of Neraka. She would never have stood for something like this. The thought jolted her. Romira was her enemy, the one person in all of this land that she hated more than any. Why was she thinking of her with something approaching respect?!

She offered me power, she thought. She looked into my heart and saw that was what I wanted more than anything. Power over men like these.

But she already had power, didn't she? Not just this elusive, trembling, fickle thing in her gut, but her wit and her tongue too. Both had got her out of more scrapes than she could even count, had allowed her to best men twice her size. That was why Romira had tried to recruit her, she was already powerful.

"She saw herself in me."

The words had spilled out of her mouth before she even knew what they would be and seemed to linger in the corners of the tent like stale sweat. She refused to acknowledge them, instead turning and lying face down on her bedroll, clutching the blanket to her face, every sinew in her body taut, and screaming until she had no breath left.

Without thought she found herself back on her feet and through the tent flap, back out into the twilight and striding towards the fallen centaur with murder in her eyes. She saw that Redwaters was crouched beside him, his hands red, manipulating the centaurs leg while some others held him down.

"WHAT GIVES YOU THE RIGHT?" she was shouting, her face an ugly mask. "You think you can just take whatever you want? Hm? Just because you are bigger and stronger than me? I DON'T BELONG TO YOU! I DON'T BELONG TO ANYONE!"

She could feel her power through her whole body now and crackling on the end of her tongue, just waiting to be unleashed. She didn't care, these things had to be said and damn the consequences!

"Casting Dissonant Whispers on the injured centaur.I never want to see you again! You hear me? Get away from here. RUN!"

 
 
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Old Nov 5th, 2023, 10:51 PM
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The Bluebeard Centaur came forth to offer his myriad apologies, and somehow Redwaters as the Newcomer to this band of strangers has been identified as the reasonable one.

There is a lot the new one says, but Redwaters can only focus on the unintentional suffering he has caused. He only meant to slow the adolescent. But his own ambition combined with Dawnstars surprise wrangling really did an unforseen number on the poor buck.

"Nice Roping," he says to Talia. "Mind if I borrow that?" he asks referring to the lasso.

The rope is still located to the now fractured femur of the horseman. The other end he ties to the neck of his equus companion.

"When I give you the signal, I want you to pull the leg hard and taught until I manage to pop it into place, no matter how much screaming you hear," he advises Thunder.

"Just tell me when to stop pulling. Humanoid screams are my lullibies," she snorts happily.

This causes the shaman some pause. "You worry me sometimes," he whispers to her.

To the blue-haired centaur, he mostly dismisses, explaining: "As I've mentioned; I've seen these people are capable and NOT to be meddled with. But no: I do not know them. I am simply travelling alongside them for now. I am a passing force of the Godess Chislev."

As he goes to set wounds of Swiftwind, he does hear the outcry of Devari. There is a lot of pain, a lot of hidden history behind her words. He knows her animosity comes from somewhere personal. Somewhere deep. He suspects she may have even been ssaulted in her past, given her visceral reaction.

"Look," he whispers to her as he makes his way to his patient. "All of us species exist somewhere between the ascendant ape and the fallen angel. These testosterone filled savage members of these horsemen may lie on the lower spectrum, but their leader at least is trying to be better," he explains.

And so. He ignores all questions presented by the handsome blue haired centaur to the others gathered. He is but a young shaman from the ass end of the haunted woods after all. What does he truly know?

"Okay Thunder. Go!" he instructs, leading the horse to pull on the V-fractured leg, much to the agony of the young, traumatized buck, until a sudden, sickly *click* could be heard trhought the sandy valley as he presses hard upon the joint to set it properly in place...

Quickly, he braces the fracture with the necessary materials firmly.

In spite of how painful and messy this bone-setting was, the circumstances were ideal.

Swiftwind will run again.

He is immune to Guildemanes sweet talk. He just constantly refers him to talk the others as he ensures the best care he can to the foolish horseboy.

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  #113  
Old Nov 6th, 2023, 08:57 AM
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Talia Dawnstar
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Talia saw the centaur charging and there was a niggling thought in the back of her head that maybe the equine figure wasn’t as dangerous as he was attempting to appear. The kender’s companions didn’t seem all that worried… but still. Everyone was tired and sore… it would probably be best to err on the side of caution… right?

Talia sure thought so, I mean… she already had her rope out and spinning through the air. It was only an easy toss to wrap it around the thin lower legs of the centaur… and so she did so. The rope landed directly in front of the galloping horse-man and before he could stop his forward momentum, his front hoove stepped into the circle of rope. The small kender cinched the noose closed on the centaur’s leg and what happened next was completely unexpected.

Talia never would have expected to hear the crack of bone… to see the centaur fall so completely out of control. Nothing played itself out the way she had expected it to in her mind… not at all.

Everything that came next passed by Talia as she sat in a haze next to the fallen centaur. She just wanted to slow the man down but she now realized that she had grievously injured the centaur version of Aric. As the leader of the centaur’s spoke Talia half-listened as she fished around in her bag for anything at all that could help the injured young man… she had nothing. She looked at her group with hopeful eyes when Gildedmane asked for the group to stay the night.

“Since I caused the accident, I should get to decide!” Talia said forcibly, agreeing with Aric’s position. “I want them to stay! And if Aric goes scouting… I’m going too!"

Talia was ready to argue her position, her regret quickly turning into misplaced anger but even her steaming temper was soon eclipsed by an explosion from Devari. The woman’s pent up anger, fear… whatever came exploding from the beautiful woman and she screamed in a magic tinged fury that had Talia scrambling backwards.

“Oh crap,” Talia mumbled sadly as she saw Redwaters gamble with his life by trying to explain Devari’s emotions to… Devari. He must be a virgin too, she thought as with a heavy heart she slid a stone into her hoopak.


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Old Nov 7th, 2023, 06:31 AM
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Zendra Zantir
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Zendra had been unbelievably glad to leave Samira's Rest and if her heart did not exactly sing - she'd never be truly feel safe until she left Khur - something had shifted in the universe and she felt slightly better. At least they were continuing their journey, moving onwards to hopefully brighter futures.

She'd been looking forward to sleep which she desperately needed almost as much as she needed a bath and fresh clothes and a bottle of something cold and alcoholic. When they had started setting up camp all Zendra wanted to do was to crawl into her bedroll and wake up on the morning of a day where she would not have to dig up any bones. Then the riders came.

No, not riders. Centaurs.

Zendra had heard of centaurs, read about them, even seen sculptures of them but she had never actually met one. Suddenly the exhaustion and grief fell away. Centaurs! Gods for the chance to meet and talk with them, the strange and fabulous horsemen and women of the lonely places of Krynn. What a romantic thought!

Her enthusiasm survived the disastrous first meeting with the centaurs and if anything grew when the chieftain stepped forward (the rather handsome chieftain Zendra couldn't help but notice, feeling her cheeks flush).

"Greeting Gildenmane," she said, stepping forward and immediately feeling self conscious. "I fear this first meeting has not been a success but we need not remain enemies. I know how to make healing elixirs and if we can wait till morn I can-"

She got no further as Devari began to cast her magic. Even with no sorcery or wizardy of her own she knew what was about to happen. Even if she couldn't quite believe what was going to happen. "Devari you idiot..."



 


 


 
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  #115  
Old Nov 8th, 2023, 12:55 AM
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Success and a newcomer
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Tegan had never seen a centaur. Looking at the charging creature's face, he wasn't really exuding an attitude of danger or rage - maybe for sport. Tegan felt this confirmed as Devari slipped herself between himself and the charging horse-man. Clearly she had some experience with them... or so Tegan thought.

Suddenly the whole picture went wrong as the intentions of the centaur became clear. Then in the spread of a few moments cacti grew, a lasso was thrown, and the centaur came crashing down. Having worked with basic first aid in training, Tegan clearly heard the fracture. Wincing Tegan stepped forward, his compassion for the centaur muted by it's grotesque intent. Assuming a protective pose as he intervened in front of Devari, shield raised, Tegan eyed the approaching 'leader' with discernment, trying to understand what weird game was being played.

Gildedmane spoke with a tongue that was formal, reminding Tegan of some of the more extreme Knights of Solamnia. What didn't remind him of the Knights was his immediate excuse of his subordinates actions. A leader took responsibility for their followers 'folly', yet this man (horse?) acted like nothing was wrong. As Tegan saw the action brushed aside as 'no harm intended', he felt his face flushing red. He turned to speak to Devari to see her already retreating and entering her tent. He would have to catch up with her soon and see how she was handling it.

While the Squire considered what to do a centaur follower approached with a report that the youth's leg was indeed broken - badly. Breathing in deeply, his nostrils flaring as Tegan cooled himself, he followed as Redwater led the way to the injured youth. It was clear that Redwater had more skill in the medicinal arts, so Tegan let him do his work. Tegan was not sure if the miracles of Kiri-Jolith would aid him as he fought frustration in the face of these odd people.

Tegan looked up and saw Aric nearby. Beckoning, he whispered to him "Can you please check on Devari? That must have been horrifyi -" His words were cut short as a flurry of action presented itself. Devari had returned, the wrath in her thundering steps evident as her eyes blazed with rage. Tegan had seen the power of her voice firsthand at this point and knew this wouldn't end well. As Redwater was attempting to set the bone, Devari screamed in rage. Tegan heard the authority in her voice as she roared "Get away from here, RUN!" and realized this incantation would be brutal on the youth.

Despite his frustration, he didn't desire further damage, just to settle the issue and be done with the centaurs. Tegan lunged for the centaur, trying to keep him from reacting to the spell and retreating on a wounded leg. Yet, despite the wound hampering him, Tegan saw the fast-twitch muscles of the equine legs begin to move too fast for him. Trying to stop it, Tegan commanded "Stop him!" Was it too late? Tegan's mind rushed to concern over the immediate reaction of the centaur's fellows. Perhaps they were neutral before, but would they now be forced into yet another fight? After one so recently? Against such odds? Kiri-Jolith - give us courage.

It was time to see if Gildedmane was really in control and really as proper as he let on.

 
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  #116  
Old Nov 8th, 2023, 03:42 PM
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Xihue of the Alan-Atu
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Realization washed over Xihue. He had wrongly supposed that the centaurs had been playing a familiar game from his own childhood. So many aspects of their actions had mirrored those of the young Alan-Atu mountain men who took unnecessary risks in order to prove their courage, strength, their bravery, or virility. The resolution was short but brutal and, before the monk could gain his feet, a wall of desert thorns and a Kender lasso had ended the wild charge. The sickening snap of brittle bone clapped with finality as the half-horse fell to writhe upon the ground.

Xi had heard of centaurs. It had been said that they were a civilized race, as knowledgeable and evolved as any human society. That was part of the reason that Xihue had assumed their "game" to be a version of bravado. The aftermath address by Gildedmane seemed to confirm it. "Prithee Madame, forgive my brothers’ uncouth manners. They are like foals, biting and kicking each other, but they mean no harm. I give thee my word, thou art in no danger from our group." he had said to apologize directly to Devari. Tegan, Redwaters and even Aric, Talia and Zendra were disarmed, or at least, beginning to relax, and planning ways that they could normalize interaction with the centaurs. It looked as if Redwaters was going to successfully attend to the injury at the adjacent camp that the other youthful half-men were preparing.

Something broken, a vengefulness that could not be contained or withheld, erupted from Devari. Historic harm was projected within her lustrous voice in one vitriolic command as she casually discarded Guildedmane's conciliatory words. Xihue could feel the dissonance that the bard ejected with her malicious command. Although the young centaur had never touched her, had never harmed Devari, although Guildedmane had explained how their ill-fated decisions had been driven by whatever cultural norms were practiced by alien semi-equine culture, Devari reacted with extreme, revengeful pain that was almost maniacal.

Xihue ran to interpose himself between Devari and the object of her vindictiveness. He placed a firm hand upon each of her shoulders and tried to directly catch her eyes in an intensely personal stare as he stood with concerned countenance before her.

"DEVARI! PEACE BE WITH YOU!"

 
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  #117  
Old Nov 8th, 2023, 11:10 PM
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Blyne
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Blyne was exhausted. The light on the horizon was that the swelling in her ankle had almost entirely subsided by the time that the evening hours were upon them. Still, ever since she had fallen of the roofs of Pashin, the young irda had suffered quite a few other injuries during their track through the desert. One of them at the hands of a fiend who had worn her face, yet the others even more invisible, hidden in Blyne's psyche where none could aid and none could look.

In a way, the shapeshifting sorceress had been reunited with her mother again. Blyne was desperately aware of her own flaws, her insufficiency as an Irda, and her insufficiency as her mother's daughter. Only the guidance of the older irda would ever be able to set Blyne on the path that was as well her birthright as it was her duty.

Yet whenever the tense mystic looked to her side and observed the equally strained visage of the most important person she had ever met, Blyne was reminded how no human would ever be able to join her on a path that only an Irda could walk. Then the dread that had accumulated ever since one horrific realization had followed the next would grasp Blyne's heart and make it feel silent when that's not what she wanted it to be. Oh Besimeh...

As the party of fated companions began to set camp, Blyne absentmindedly fumbled with the shard that she had kept on her person and hidden within the folds of her dress ever since they had left the remains of the black mirror and Zendra's family behind. At the memories of what had transpired there, the young irda's heart didn't sing.

Blyne was painfully aware how far she had exhausted her magic, how only the most minor sorcery remained at her beck and call, and how empty of power she otherwise felt. She had succeeded at the test that had been put in front of her. Victory had been hers. But what had she been rewarded with? Mother. Death. More death. And then death, following on my step until I put all the spirits to rest...

Although she had done her best to regain the self-control that was to be expected of the last of the Irda, Blyne could feel that she was fundamentally not alright. She knew that she was a bad daughter. The tired sorceress could feel it in every one of her bones, as well as in every fibre of her current appearance that she had wrought to please Besimeh and to feel more similar to the khurish merchant and the other humans who now shared her destiny.

And yet all of Blyne's efforts were just a mistake. She still needed the guidance of her mother. What sort of daughter was only longing to give her mother the rest she should have already found, especially when it included becoming separated again? Blyne didn't consider the notion seriously, but part of her felt like the monster that had slipped out of the mirror until she had put it down with the might of the flames that she had controlled and tamed. I love her. I do. Why can't I just be like her? Why must I be so flawed?

Even though she had been even more distant toward her companions than in the past, Blyne had been able to feel their eyes upon her during their track to this new campsite. They still judged her, of course they did. Blyne knew that she ought to remain calm, earn their trust and confidence, and give them the guidance that they needed even more so than the young irda herself. But in her current vulnerable state, Blyne couldn't help but withdraw. She needed to. And she needed nothing else but herself and Besimeh. Only that wasn't the destiny she was allowed to pursue. For the first time in a while the pious mystic felt sad that the attention of the gods was on her especially.

Just as she had been looking forward to bring this awful day to its conclusion by exchanging a few more words between herself and Besimeh in their private tent, their gathering of prospective heroes was interrupted just as they had been discussing whether they would circumvent or cross the Harikas Mountains, and whether those who had been sealed beneath the black mirror would be granted their freedom earlier or later. But the trampling of hooves cut that conversation short.

Blyne was rightly shocked when the centaurs made their rowdy appearance. Maybe her nerves were still worn out by all that had occurred earlier in the day, but fear had immediately overcome the unstable irda's heart when she had thought that another band of bandits had found them at a time when she was at her most vulnerable and weakest.

Even when she had realized how young these centaurs were and that they weren't taking their apparent assault on them entirely serious, Blyne had not been able to get her emotional turmoil under control. She wasn't sure what the centaurs intended to do to their party, only that she knew nothing to do that wouldn't have her humiliating herself. And thus the helpless sorceress simply stood frozen as she tried to get herself under control, failing miserably at the task.

It didn't give Blyne any reprieve when her fated companions as well as the human called Redwaters combined their efforts to not only further provoke, but then also cripple the one centaur who had charged them for whatever foolish reason had him launch an attack without even drawing his weapons. In her own state of distress, the shapeshifter in khurish garments failed to give any of the guidance that her lessers might have needed for them not to overreact. But at least the situation did not require the input of an irda when finally the leader of the centaurs approached and apparently settled whatever dispute the night could have brought. Or so Blyne had thought.

Although she hadn't felt very appeased by Gildedmane's words, the frustrated high-ogre was too embarrassed to raise her own voice and show the world how untamable her emotional condition was that evening. Blyne was quite glad that her allies negotiated a night of peace with the centaurs. She already thought to withdraw to Besimeh's tent just like she had seen Devari retreat to hers, just when she heard the nomadic mystic shout out her own frustrations, muffled but loud enough for those nearby to hear. I... Neglected to look after her again. I should see her first.

Just as Blyne had excused herself from Besimeh and approached Devari's tent, the furious human already erupted back into the chilled desert air and stormed past the stunned high-ogre, leaving her standing perplexed in her spot. On that evening Blyne did not feel any of her usual brightness, since all of her light and sorcery had been drained from her heart due to chaos and death. Thus she simply stood still and looked on from afar as Devari's power of the heart flared up in a way that the high-ogre mystic had never thought her, and belatedly Blyne understood the catastrophe that was unfolding due to her own negligence. No!!

It wasn't fair. The world, the gods, and her own mother were all expecting too much from her. Blyne wasn't ready for this. Maybe she could wield her own sorcery to raze the evil that would stand in the way of their shared destinies, but in no way did the young irda feel ready to take the role of this group's matriarch. And it was simply unfair that her lack of giving Devari more attention than she had was now resulting in a meltdown that brought hate and harm over all those who were present. With desperate steps the young irda had started to run to Devari's side, but both Xihue and Redwaters had stood far closer than her, and only midway Blyne came to a sluggish halt, the sound of her mother's voice in her thoughts as she remembered how an Irda ought to handle even such a matter with dignity and grace.

The rain that douses the bushfire. Not the wind that fans it... Blyne just felt so drained and empty as she turned her gaze away from Devari and toward the centaur leader with the dyed beard. She knew that she was a flawed daughter. She also knew that Mishakal wouldn't have wished her to stop. Yet she had. Devari still needed to be saved. Though Blyne's greatest weapon in this instance wasn't her pitiful physique. It was her superior mind and eloquence. I can still bear the thorns if this fails. It is a godly-given task. Mishakal may guide my words.

Not quite certain how much damage Devari's outburst had done to the already injured Strongwind, Blyne steered herself toward Gildedmane, leaving it to her allies to handle Devari when the more pressing task required what only a high-ogre with a clear presence of mind could do. The human-shaped mystic had lost all of her power and knew best that the calm in her demeanor was a pristine facade that was only hanging by a thread. Nonetheless she approached the centaur leader and addressed him before matters escalated even more than they already had.

"Master Gildedmane." Blyne thought that her voice must have sounded hollow instead of soothing. But even if she could not evoke the semblance of Tanis Halfelven that the Herald had told her about, not with how she was in her current state, the silver-tongued schemer could only proceed her charade in an attempt to maintain peace. Everything inside of her screamed that they should surrender and make a show of their non-aggression, but as a dignified irda, this was maybe the better defense.

"We just fled Pashin, where the tyranny of the Knights of Neraka rules." Blyne hoped that the centaur could still be reasoned with after what Devari had done. But even if talking to the leader of foolish barbarians would turn out futile, the pious irda knew that she owed her efforts to all the lives that possibly hung in the balance right then. "My friend whom Strongwind attempted to steal had been held in the Dark Knights' dungeons, where she was abused, mutilated, and traumatized. She is not in her right mind."

"In this case as well, her horrible actions are my failing, not that of herself or your band. My own exhaustion kept my thoughts lame and I did not predict this. I do not know how to repair the harm that she has done, but I am willing to bear any punishment in her stead." Blyne's hazel eyes were clear, but tired as she looked up to hold the gaze of the blue-bearded centaur. A large part of the irda sorceress felt that she was not in the right mind as well. But Mishakal would reward her for taking Devari's burden and mistake upon herself. Forgive me, Mother. But I will suffer in her place if I can.
 
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  #118  
Old Nov 9th, 2023, 03:01 PM
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Isandril Moonsilver, Wizard of High Sorcery
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"This was indeed an accident," Isandril said not unkindly as he placed a hand on Talia's small shoulder. "And one not entirely of your making," he added, having listened to the one called Gildedmane's words. "Even if Strongwind sought only to... play, so to speak, it was a foolhardy decision. For a game with players that do not know they are playing can prove dangerous indeed." He gestured towards the scene unfolding before them as a number of their group, Redwaters among them, were tending to the centaur's grievous injury. "A fact we can all plainly see."

Even so, despite the unfortunate fate that had befallen the... foal, things appeared to be going much better than expected, thanks in no small part to Gildedmane's measured reaction to the whole thing. And between him and the wizard's own companions' friendly responses, it seemed that they would be able to put it all behind them. But, alas, it was not to be, courtesy of a furious Devari and a power she was unable or unwilling to contain, at least in this particular situation.

"This, however," he said to the kender, "is no accident." The Ergothian woman had cast a spell, one that not only hurt the already wounded centaur, but would also compel him to try and put as much distance between himself and his assailant as he could. On a badly broken leg. "This is quite a bit more... complicated," he continued. His tone sounded impassive, cold even. Yet the narrowing of his eyes as he looked at Devari and the slight tightening of his jaw at what was sure to follow betrayed his true feelings. Had he been able, he would have stopped her. Or at the very least he would have tried to mitigate the damage her spell was sure to cause Strongwind. But he was not fast enough. Detachedly he pondered if perhaps his earlier attempts at manipulating the River of Time were now exacting a price by having him observe what was happening while unable to do something about it.

He shook his head, chasing the thoughts away. It did not really matter. What did, however, was how the next few moments were going to unfold. That and what spells he had at his disposal. He had a feeling that, barring a veritable miracle, he would soon need them.

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  #119  
Old Nov 10th, 2023, 05:17 AM
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Justarius, referring to Raistlin Majere
”We pity him. We hate him. We fear him - all because there is a little of him in each of us, though we admit it to ourselves only in the darkest part of the night.”



The cry that caused an Avalanche
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Pickle Earwig, a kender
"Ahmmm, Mister Herald… You must be wrong about this part. Devari would never have said or done anything like that!"


The unfamiliar, piping voice caused all murmurs inside the Inn of the Last Home to cease abruptly, as everyone tried to locate the one who had the courage to say aloud what had been in their thoughts. They didn't have to look far. Sitting on a high stool next to the bar, precariously balancing with her dangling feet the huge backpack strapped on her shoulders, was a kender girl. They could not recall exactly when she had entered the common room but no one was particularly surprised by it. Keeping kender out of inns, shops, and even private homes was as impossible as keeping out dust.


"Don’t feel bad", the girl continued, "old people often mix things up. It’s not really their fault. They are just ooold."


The emphasis on that nasty word made the Herald frown. He opened his mouth to respond but Laura Majere proved faster.


"Who are you, child?"


The kender jumped off her stool, which collapsed behind her with a clattering noise, gracefully landing on her feet, despite the great weight she was carrying.


"Oh, I’m no child, though I can see why you would think me one when comparing me with the Herald. I am a wanderer and adventurer, explorer and map-maker, musician and singer, acrobat and dancer, and of course a finder!", the girl proudly announced, swiftly rearranging her many pouches before confidently heading towards the proprietress of the inn with her hand outstretched. "Pickle Earwig’s the name, nice to meet you."


All customers inside the inn instinctively made sure that the contents of their wallets and bags were intact and that no rings were missing from their fingers. All but Laura. She knelt and earnestly shook the kender’s small hand.


"Nice to meet you, Pickle. Why do you say that the Herald is wrong about this?"


The kender grinned confidently. Wasn't it obvious?


"Because Devari is a hero. In fact, she is my favorite hero - right after Tasslehoff Burrfoot and Uncle Trapspringer, that is. And the Dawnstar. I love the Dawnstar!"


Laura and the Herald exchanged glances. There was a sadness in their looks as if they knew or had experienced something the kender had not.


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Laura Majere
"Have you heard of my father, Caramon Majere?", Laura asked, and Pickle nodded vigorously. Of course she knew the tales about Caramon Majere and all the other Heroes of the Lance. "Do you know that my father grew angry every time someone called him a hero? There are no heroes, he used to say, only people trying to do their best. Sometimes they succeed. Often they fail and make mistakes. Big mistakes that end up hurting themselves or others, usually the people they love. A hero is someone who realizes their mistakes and tries to correct them. It’s not always possible but that doesn't mean that they should stop trying."


The kender looked at the innkeeper dubiously. "Are you sure this isn't simply the Herald’s fault?", she whispered loudly enough for her words to be heard even inside the kitchen behind the common room. "He does look a little… senile. I bet he is at least forty. Fifty even!" Pickle’s eyes grew wide as she struggled to comprehend what it must be like to live long enough to reach such a ripe old age.


Laura smiled but there was no joy in her expression. Pickle had never seen a smile that looked more like a frown before.


"Have you never done anything you regretted later, things you weren't proud of?"


The kender opened her mouth to respond but no words came out of it. There was that incident in Haven with the boy who had been throwing stones at her. Borrowing his clothes while bathing and forcing him to walk home through the busy streets of the Lordcity stark naked had definitely been amusing, but the boy had cried so hard she had felt a little sorry for him. Perhaps she regretted her action. A little.


"Why don't we see how the story goes?", Laura suggested, kindly escorting Pickle back to her seat, righting the high stool and helping the kender place the heavy backpack next to it. "Sometimes all one can do is show kindness and understanding. It’s like lighting a candle in the darkness. It won’t banish the night but it always makes a difference."


*********


Devari’s words echoed like thunder, splitting the air and making everyone grimace in agony. It wasn't so much the pitch of her scream that was so distressing. It was the passion in her voice, the raw, tangible pain behind the eyes that were burning with anger. It was the primal power that surged out of her slight body like the gigantic waves that had devoured so many lands and cities during the Cataclysm. No high walls built by mortal hands could have resisted the fury of the gods and no mortal mind could have shielded itself from the young woman’s unexpectedly strong mystic magic. Like an avalanche, it carried away everything before it, burying it in the debris of dark memories, festering wounds, and the intense longing Devari had tried to hide beneath false smiles, revealing dresses, and bawdy songs.


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Strongwind the centaur
Strongwind’s face contorted as he felt the tremendous force of the young woman’s emotions completely overwhelm him, scattering his thoughts and deadening his will. He was no longer an individual but a tool, fully controlled by the hand of another. Every muscle in his body screamed at him to ignore the woman’s words, but such a thing was no longer in his power.


With a sudden move, Strongwind rose, startling Redwaters who was still in the process of bracing the broken bone, his three good legs sustaining the weight of his body. The plainsman was knocked down as the centaur pushed him by accident, trying to keep his injured leg from buckling beneath him. Tegan, standing nearby, ready to assist Redwaters in case his help was needed, tried to restrain Strongwind but he proved a moment too late. Just like Aric and Isandril, all he could do was watch as the events unfolded before him, utterly incapable of influencing them even though he knew what would come next.


"Get away from here. RUN!"


There could be no misinterpretation of Devari’s command. Strongwind understood perfectly what the human woman wanted from him. And he complied, ignoring the protests of his own mind.


His powerful muscles contracted and his legs moved, ignoring the pain he experienced. His hind leg ached as if on fire but the centaur would not stop. On the contrary, he pushed his body harder, increasing his speed. His limbs complied, even as a glistening sheen of sweat formed over his youthful skin. Strongwind raised his head and tightly shut his eyes. He would run, faster than ever before, knowing full well that this would be the last time he did so. His joints creaked and his tendons grew as taut as a bowstring, granting speed and power to his limbs. His injured leg quivered but held, a testament to Redwaters’ healing hands that had set the bone so expertly. Though it seemed impossible, Strongwind galloped freely, as he had done so many times before, his body almost lifting off the ground. For a moment he almost flew and he relished the feelings of accomplishment and freedom, mixed with agony and the sense of impending doom.


And then the unbraced leg bent unnaturally and gave way.


The centaur fell, collapsing on top of his injured limb, shattering the bone and mangling the flesh in a way that only Mishakal’s touch or that of her Blue Crystal Staff might have been able to undo. The skin was forcibly torn open and bloody pieces of bone burst out of the gaping wound, painting the ground red. All witnessing this new injury held their breaths, their shocked silence disturbed only by Strongwind’s screams of unimaginable agony.


The members of the Whistling Cliffs tribe immediately ran to their wounded brother, their nervous hands trying to offer him comfort and support. To no avail. The screams would not cease, the blood would not stop flowing. All could see the truth, though they would not go so far as to accept it in their hearts.


Gildedmane left Aric’s side, his steps measured, his face a pale mask of grief and determination. The younger centaurs parted before him and he lowered himself next to Strongwind, gently placing his arms around his upper body, supporting it.


right-aligned image
Gildedmane, centaur leader
"Brace thy heart, young hero. Allow no pain to mar thy great deeds. Thou art Strongwind, child of the centaurs of the Whistling Cliffs. Thou bear the wind in thy name, its strength in thy heart, its swiftness in thy body. The agony shall cease and all shall again be well."


Did Gildedmane believe what he said? Did he expect Strongwind to accept his reassurances? Perhaps. Or perhaps it was his way of presenting his friend with the only choice that he had.


"Mercy", the wounded centaur said in a voice as hoarse as that of a child that had been crying for hours. "Mercy, Gildedmane. Grant me mercy."


"The sound of thy laughter shall never die out, brother", the centaur leader promised as he gently cradled Strongwind’s head with his left hand. "As long as the tribe of the Whistling Cliffs endures, thou shall live on in our hearts. Wait for me, for I shall soon join thee and then we shall fill the heavens with our cries as we gallop side by side among the stars."


Sharp steel was pressed against Strongwind’s throat and with a swift move the skin parted as Gildedmane’s blade was stained with the centaur’s warm blood. The golden-haired leader didn't shy back, allowing his friend’s blood to flow over his hands and chest, holding Strongwind’s head and whispering in his ear words that his friend could no longer hear.


Sorrowful cries came out of the throats of the rest of the centaurs, guttural and as primal as pain. With each new cry the shouts gained in anger and intensity, growing harsher and getting mixed with words.


"Witch. Witch. Slay the witch. Slay the witch!"


Spears were brandished and arrows quickly taken out of the quivers strapped on the centaurs’ backs and placed on well-crafted bows as large as a man was tall. Gildedmane too rose, making no attempt to calm his fellow tribesmen. Slowly he moved towards Devari, who was half-hidden behind Xihue’s strong arms, her face a riddle of conflicting emotions.


The centaur leader stopped, looking at the human woman sternly. Was there hatred in his eyes? Disgust? Horror? Though obviously angry, he said nothing until he heard what the witch’s companion suggested. At Blyne’s offer to be punished in her friend’s place, he pointed at Devari with the tip of his bloody blade.


"No innocent shall suffer for the sins of another. Thy heart is kind but misguided, Madame. It is the law of the desert: Blood thirsts for blood. Blood brings blood. Thou, Devari, shalt not leave this land before thou hast bled at our hands. Those who call themselves thy companions may choose. Should they put justice over friendship, they shall not be harmed. Should they choose, however, to stand by thy side, their blood shall stain the ground too."


With a sudden move he raised the shortsword in the air. Believing that the centaur was about to attack, Tegan immediately placed himself between Devari and the horse-man, even as his companions tightened their grip around their weapons. But Gildedmane didn't attack. Instead, he threw the bloody weapon at Devari’s feet.


"Thou deservest death, but I have given thee my word that thou art in no danger from our group. I shall keep my promise, though my heart rebels in my chest. We shall return our brother to the Whistling Cliffs and mourn him. Then we shall return to claim thy blood so that Strongwind might know rest. Surrender and no one else shall bleed. This I swear in my brother’s memory. Thou hast three days to find in thy heart the courage to do the right thing. On the fourth day, thou and thine shall face the wrath of my entire tribe. No matter where thou hidest we shall find thee."


Not waiting for a reply, Gildedmane turned his back to the companions and their camp, instructing the rest of the group on how to better carry their fallen brother. All that remained behind was the sword he had used to grant Strongwind the mercy of death, the young centaur's blood still warm on the metal.


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The sword that ended Strongwind’s life



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

Solinari: 7/36 (Waxing)
Lunitari: 16/28 (High Sanction) - conjunction with Nuitari
Nuitari: 5/8 (High Sanction) - 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 Nov 10th, 2023, 06:46 PM
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JonnyGulliver JonnyGulliver is offline
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Hurt People, Hurt People
The moment Devari unleashed her unholy scream, Redwaters too nearly buckled under his previous injury, clasping his ears in pain.

In his momentary lapse, his hands stopped treating his young patient. His current ward, for all intents. Had his hands remained firmly upon the young stallion, perhaps he could have stopped Devari from unintentionally (or fully intentionally?) ending his life in the most undignified way possible.

"Swiftwind. Don't," he warns in his usual detached monotone, but the horror of seeing what is happening before his eyes, his medical knowhow knowing just what kind of damage and agony this patient is suffering under the the compulsion, and knowing full well it would end in a nasty mess of pure puply tattered viscera by the time he collapses in a halt, causes Redwaters to physically tremble as his arm reaches helplessly toward the youngling. For a four-legger, be they horse or centaur, a broken leg is a slow and painful death sentance in the Wild.

Holy ****ing ****... Thunder nays dryly as she too watches in shock as bits and pieces of Swiftwinds flesh, bone and hide are sprayed across the desert in his screaming wake. Her previous jest about about loving to hear the screams of humaoid creatures took a nightmarish twist. The fact he is half horse really cuts to the bone.

Redwaters collapses while trembling, experiencing something new. Trusting Thunder being the more emotionally experienced of the two, he begins liating his own symptoms for diagnosis.

Increased heartrate. Trembling body. Hot temprature. Gritted teeth. Clenched fists...

But before he cqn finish his self report, she is already screaming RAAAAAAAAAAAAGE!!! in angry, furious bellow as she stampedes toward Devari in full fury of her own, intent on trampling down the bardess.

Time slows for Redwaters, as he he begins to assess the advent of this new emotion, the tragedy, and the chaos about to unfold.

His body seethes. His every physical impulse wants to let Devari come to harm, even to the point of physically assaulting her himself.

But what point would that serve? he thinks, mentally detatched from his own emotions. This is why war perpetuates. Why humanoids keep killing each other, ad nausemm, So on, back and forth. Hurt people, blinded by wrath, causing others the same pain, starting the cycles anew.

Nope. I don't like this. Not one bit. Anger is a stupid emotion,
he reasons. He needed to stop the endless cycle of violence.

His physical symptoms continue to occur, and his mind struggles to communicate properly as his very blood seems to boil.

Thunder, STOP, he struggles tosay to her through clenched teeth. This is all my fault! I did this...

He finally has the strength to rise to his feet and scream to the sky for all to understand.

"I DID THIS!!!"

The Wild Mare's own eqqiune justice is tripped up in confusion as she slides to a halt before she could overrun her mark, spraying Devari in a small tsunami of sand. She has never heard him sound so... Passionate.

"GUILDEMANE," he replies hoarsely through an involuntarily tightened throated, red-faced tension. "Wait. You are right..." he stumbles forward, fighting his impulses to hurt the bardess, "Something.... Terrible... has... occured here." his strained neck cranes as he cricles his head to release the tension. He has to physically open can close his jaw a few times to relax his speech, though there is little he can do about his bloodshot eyes.

"But it was MY action that lead to the injury of the boy,. Had I not brought forth the desert brambles, Swiftwind would still be alive," he breathes in deep to try to calm himself, and stoops down to pick up the sword. "So please. Let me be the first to atone."

He uses his own knowledge of medicine to level the blade upon a vein he knows will flow heavily and cause him to bleed to death, unless given proper treatment. He stares at the centaur leader and slashes himself without flinching, letting the blood flow onto his lands as dictated by their tribe's law.

"My Blood and a Boon, in exchange for Forgiveness," he explains, as his life essence drains from his face onto the desert. "Just say when," not breaking his gaze as he slowly dies before the horseman, eventually sinking to his knees in the soaked crimson sands...
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Last edited by JonnyGulliver; Nov 10th, 2023 at 09:38 PM.
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