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  #121  
Old Nov 10th, 2023, 09:12 PM
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Zendra Zantir
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For a second, just a second Zendra almost missed fighting the hideous sand gremlins. At least that had been relatively simple; you attacked the evil imp monster and hit or not (more not in her case.) The current madness was just as mentally exhausting and infinitely more complicated.

Zendra briefly dragged her eyes from Strongwind's body to rest with equal horror and even more confusion on Redwaters own willing bloodletting. Such inexplicable self punishment baffled and repelled Zendra. Perhaps there was a certain passion to it that might appeal to the headstrong centaurs but any fool could see Devari had acted on her own judgement and that the centaurs had already gotten over the bramble summoning. Redwaters was certainly not at fault for the turn things had taken at least as far as she could see.

Think Zendra, think. You have to say something and pray he listens or that he likes blondes or that you're extra charming today or something She wracked her brains trying everything she could to remember something about centaurs. Anything, anything at all that might recover them from this appalling shipwreck short of simply handing over Devari (and truthfully a small part of her thought there might have been some justice in handing her over - that had been incredibly evil act.)

There was something there, a stray barely there memory hidden somewhere at the back of her mind that she jostled like a child waggled at a loose baby tooth. Something she had read about the Companions during the War of the Lance. Something about Darkenwood was it? A.... Forestmaster?

Unicorns wheeled and charged through her brain.

"Gildedmane!" Zendra called out, taking a step forward and holding her hands up with palm outwards to show she wielded no weapon beyond her words, and not in a way kin to Devari. "I beeseeh you please listen to me! I have read that the noble centaurs of the woodlands are guided by wise unicorns, the fabled Forestmasters. Is the same true of their desert kin? If so I beg of you let us make our case before her and you likewise. This business has brought a double tragedy. Let us allow a wiser being than either you or I to pass wisdom and perhaps judgement."

She was aware even as she spoke that she was making a lot of assumptions but she had to at least try.



 


 


 
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  #122  
Old Nov 10th, 2023, 10:12 PM
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Aric Armitage
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”Embrace this moment, remember
we are eternal, all this pain is an illusion.”
Tool, “Parabola”

Aric’s eyes were transfixed upon the blood. So much blood. He was impossibly aware of the centaur’s mad dash across the dunes, of the sickly finality of his leg breaking for good, and the pink splinters of bone jutting like splayed fingers from the muscle that had once sheathed them. He didn't want these visions. He could have lived happily for many years without having to see Strongwind’s throat slashed from ear to ear, of seeing the bright freshets of arterial blood splashing forth to darken the sand even further than it already was under the pall of this clear night sky. His eyes trailed upwards, just as the young centaur’s lifeless eyes now stared upwards, transfixed upon nothing, sightless. Dead. He looked at the tiny white pinpricks of light thousands of miles away and was aware of screams and shouts around him. He couldn’t make out the words; his ears were full of cotton, or perhaps his head was underwater, and he was drowning. The sky is really the depths of the sea and I am plunging downwards to settle forever upon the ocean floor. He imagined the stories he had heard of the Maelstrom which I believe? This is post chaos wars, yes? I probably should know that, but alas, my mind is a colander.had churned in the middle of the Blood Sea of Istar for ages. He wondered what it had been like to be on that ship with Tanis and Caramon and Raistlin and the others, the feeling of sinking, of the world falling away beneath them, of seeing the very depths of hell laid out before them like the gaping maw of the devil itself.

The shouting was getting louder, and he now watched as blood jetted from a self-inflicted wound in Redwaters’ arm. Redwaters, just like the Blood Sea, red like blood, red like-



He didn’t remember vomiting, or losing consciousness, but the centaurs were long gone by the time he woke up, and when he did, he had nothing to say to any of them; instead, he gathered up his things and moved a mile forward into the darkness alone, stumbling over sand and rocks, blind without the use of his light spell. It didn’t matter. Nothing mattered much right now, aside from getting away from the crimson sand and the memories of seeing and hearing and smelling the death of a young man who had made a terrible choice, and who had paid the ultimate price for it. He didn’t know if he could ever travel with them again, but right now the sheer horror and sickness he felt in his heart was enough to make him question whether he was cut out for this world. He didn’t recall untying his bedroll from the pack on his back, but he must have done it in a trance. He had no recollection of anything except for the terrible memory of cold steel slicing against warm flesh, the liquid gurgling sound and thick iron smell of pints and pints of blood as it was pumped methodically out through the young centaur’s neck. He realized at some point in the dark desert quiet that he had never let go of the wineskin that had been gifted to them by the pack of centaurs for the part they had played in scaring Aric and his friends. His cold fingers unfixed the stopper and mechanically raised the skin to his lips and drank and drank, trying to chase the cold in his heart away, but every sip just tasted like blood and so he threw the skin far out into the darkness. It had been uncapped, and as the skin spun through the air the liquid splattering of wine hitting sand sounded like the patter of blood drops, and no matter how tightly he closed his eyes the vision remained, seared in his mind like a cattle brand. He lay there amidst all the sand and wind and dark and tried to imagine being dead, tried to imagine no more pain or fear or hunger or sickness, tried to imagine not hurting anymore for the family he had lost, for the friends he had lost, for the small little world amidst the trees he had lost, and it was during this time where he imagined how comforting being dead must be that he finally fell asleep out there amongst the sand dunes and the faint light of thousands and thousands of cold, indifferent stars.

 
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  #123  
Old Nov 11th, 2023, 10:29 AM
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A long night
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Tegan could not believe the horrible outcome of the encounter with the centaur. He had lunged for Strongwind, hoping to hold him down despite the powerful effects of the spell, but he had been too slow. He watched in agonized horror as the full effect of the incantation took it’s toll. He stood in stunned silence as the centaur gathered around him. At the last moment, he realized what Gildedmane was about to do and looked around. He saw Aric staring straight at the developing narrative and tried to step in front of the youth’s vision. It was folly, but in his mind, he could prevent the youth from at least internalizing the imagery, even if he knew what happened. As he stepped he found, again, that he was too slow. He saw the hunter’s eyes glaze over, a blank stare coming over them. Tegan knew what had happened.

"Aric? Aric are you alright?"

There was no response. Tegan would have to talk with him later. There were cries and shouts quickly getting closer. " Witch. Witch. Slay the witch. Slay the witch!" Tegan withdrew Kanna as he turned and saw a plethora of spears and bows pointed at them. He didn’t have time to don his shield. His faith would be his only shield if these massive warbows were to release their volleys upon him and his allies. There didn’t seem to be an immediate attack and Gildedmane approached, shortsword in hand. Tegan followed on an intercepting path. Not aggressive enough to be seen as an attack, but this time he would not be too slow to intervene if the centaur chose to swing.

"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."

Suddenly, Gildedmane reared back with the sword posed to strike. Stepping in front, Tegan raised Kanna to parry the blow. The blow that never came. Tegan watched as Gildedmane launched his saber into the sand below Devari’s feet. The charge was laid. Tegan couldn’t help but associate this with a sick, twisted version of a knight’s honorable duel.

"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."

So the centaur would leave to mourn for three days, returning, in force, upon the fourth. They would find the companions and expect them to receive justice for the actions taken. To flee was to pervert justice and align themselves with a spirit of guilt. The only way to address this, in Tegan's mind, was head-on. To act like nothing was wrong would fly in the face of all he held dear. Yet he didn't feel a death sentence was justified here.

Tegan’s thoughts were interrupted by Gildedmane’s measured retreat. He calmly instructed his allies how to carry the body, and began to leave. Tegan found himself respecting the self-restraint and calm approach of the centaur leader. While he had dismissed his follower’s actions, he had chosen to act wisely in the end. Despite his movements showing a lack of interest in hearing what they had to say, Tegan knew where his bond lay.

"I do not seek to dissuade justice, although you and I may see it served differently. This is a difficult situation for me, but I give you my word as Tegan, squire of the Solamnic Knights, that we shall not flee. Our path is through the mountains, to the ruins of Hurim, by charge of the gods. I pray that Kiri-Jolith guides your path with courage and integrity – all of our paths. We shall see you upon the fourth day and be ready to discuss with you."

Tegan watched as Gildedmane continued to walk and stepped out of the intercepting path between Gildedmane and Devari. Sheathing his own sword, he ran his fingers through his hair, trying to process what just happened. His palm rested upon his forehead and he closed his eyes, trying to understand how they had found themselves yet again in such a trying situation. How could they deliver justice without trading a life for a life? There had to be an alternative but the warrior couldn’t think of it. As he opened his eyes, he could see the newcomer, Redwaters, now had the shortsword, still coated in the blood of the centaur, and was yelling after Gildedmane about how he had done this. Tegan’s brow furrowed – was this an exaggerative way of showing remorse? Tegan really had no understanding as to how Redwaters culture worked and he had only just met the man. What was he doing?

The query was quickly answered. "Something.... Terrible... has... occured here. But it was MY action that lead to the injury of the boy. Had I not brought forth the desert brambles, Strongwind would still be alive, so please, let me be the first to atone."

Tegan watch as the self-proclaimed medicine man took the charge upon himself. He must have some familiarity with the centaur culture and he was taking Gildedmane at his word, “Blood thirsts for blood.” Tegan was unsure if the centaur would accept this as remission of Devari’s sin, but he respected the newcomers commitment. Tegan watched as he continued into the unthinkable, plunging the blade into his own limb, clearly intentional in its bloodletting cut. Tegan flinched as he saw Redwaters lifeblood pour upon the sand.

"My Blood and a Boon, in exchange for Forgiveness, just say when."

Tegan was paralyzed in shock. How could this newcomer choose to sacrifice himself for this? It was bold, but how would they know that it would even sate the centaur’s needs. Tegan was looking for a response from Gildedmane, but knew he couldn’t wait long. Redwaters had been surgical in his cut, and he was going to die. Tegan watched as the strength seeped from the tribal man, and he sank to his knees. Rushing forward, Tegan grasped the man. He would not let this man die. Watching he could see Redwaters eyes begin to glaze over and knew he was losing sight as he passed. Tegan would wait no longer for Gildedmane’s response. Crying out to his god, Tegan felt tears spring to his eyes. "Kiri-Jolith. You love the courageous and those who seek justice. I see before me one who has chosen self-sacrifice in the face of a trial in order to appease the needs of justice. If you would bless your servant, please close this wound and give this man rest!"

Tegan couldn’t quite explain the feeling of the miracle. It was almost as if he was watching the scene from a birds-eye view. He could feel heat rising in his body as his cry was made to his deity. From his third-person vantage, he could see the bison horn was again in his hand. It had a soft, warm glow to it that became more luminescent as he prayed in fervor. The light grew stronger until it began to flow from the horn to the arm of Redwaters, a holy stream of refreshing water, coursing around the strangers arm. As the light wound around the wounded limb, it blocked the cut from sight, but the flow of blood was staunched. The light hung for a few seconds and as it faded, Tegan could see the wound was closed. The healing was not powerful enough to remove the massive scar upon Redwaters arm, nor restore all the vitality of the man.
It was enough to save him from death. Tegan put his arms under the semi-concious man and lifted him from the pool of blood that he was kneeling in. Bringing him closer to the tents, Tegan lay him prostrate and checked for a pulse. It was weak, but it was there. He would live.

Standing and turning to Gildedmane, Tegan looked to see if the leader had any response to the explosive scene.


As the centaurs left the stunned party, Tegan felt the adrenaline draining from his body and the lethargy setting in. The ebb and flow of encounters was exhausting, but he looked around at the group. Someone had stepped in to discuss the situation with Devari, which Tegan was thankful for. He wasn’t sure how to communicate with her at this point. Overall his feelings on the situation were quite confused. He knew that Devari was deeply scarred and that this reaction was in response to that, yet he didn’t think that even Devari knew the possible results of her actions. She must be wracked with guilt! Tegan had chose to do what he was good at. He provided as best he could, tending the fire, making sure that everyone had their rations, and kept an eye out for Aric. The youth had lost consciousness during the trauma of the centaur encounter, and then had awoken and stumbled away from the party. Tegan had considered intervening, but wasn’t sure how to delicately handle the situation, so he had tarried. Delicate situations, in general, were not his strong suit. So as Devari’s delicate situation and Aric’s delicate situation progressed, Tegan did the one thing he felt could help quiet his own soul.

Retrieving his prayer book, Tegan sat around the fire, head bowed in submission to his god. He spoke the praises and thanks of protection and salvation, but also wondered quietly about how to handle this situation. Guidance wasn’t immediately forthcoming, but Tegan continued to inquire for a while, then just chose to listen and see if he could hear Kiri-Jolith’s will.

With such a long exhausting day, apparently even Tegan’s piety was not enough to stave off sleep. The others, likely thinking he was absorbed in deep prayer, had let him be, as he eventually dozed off into a sitting sleep. He sat up abruptly, not knowing how long it had been, but knowing it couldn’t have been too long. Maybe an hour? The fire was still tended and the others were getting ready for bed. Tegan chose to patrol the camp and confirm there were no threats present. As he walked, he took stock of their situation, making sure that everyone had their things and their place to sleep. As he walked and rubbed the bleariness from his eyes, he realized Aric had not returned.

Looking up to the desert stars, Tegan chose to check on the youth. Seeing Isandril was still up, Tegan walked over, hoping not to disturb the magi too much as he studied his spells. Speaking softly, "Isandril, I am going to go check on Aric. It’s late and I am concerned about his judgement following today’s events. I am not sure how long I will be gone. Could you please make sure that a watch is kept in whatever way you see fit? The last thing we need is another situation coming upon us unprepared. Thank you!"

Tegan went into the stores of items the party had acquired along their way and retrieved the two spare blankets and an extra waterskin. He wasn’t sure how long he was to be out tonight and the desert got quite cold. As he prepared to leave the camp, he checked his arms and armor, confirming that no buckles had worn in the day’s journey and that everything was in good standing. Satisfied, he set off into the night, following the route he had seen Aric stumble out of camp with. Quickly, he struggled to see despite the moon’s radiance and he felt the urge to pray. Retrieving his bison horn, he prayed that Kiri-Jolith would guide his path. As he did, the horn began to glow, generating a warm light that allowed the squire to travel the dunes without stumbling.

It didn’t take long before Tegan came across a wineskin strewn across his path. Raising his eyebrow at this, Tegan found Aric not too much further along. He found the boy in an unremarkable spot, with his bedroll underneath him. He was shivering in the frigid desert air, his singular blanket not enough to rival the bone-chilling threat. Tegan thought about waking the youth to have a discussion with him, but decided that he didn’t really know what to say that would help. The boy had seen much and Tegan wasn’t the one who was eloquent with words to solve his problems. Likely Aric would have to battle his own demons and come out on top before Tegan could really bolster his resolve with words. He also considered trying to carry the unconscious lad back to the camp. He also decided against this. If Aric awoke it would be hard to explain, not to mention the potential explosive reaction. If he didn’t wake, he would be confused as to how he had made it back to camp and that could lead to feelings of vulnerability. No, neither option would do.

Settling on a course of action, Tegan prayed that the light of the horn would dismiss, so-as not to wake the boy. He also covered Aric with the additional two blankets, ensuring that he would be warm. Sitting nearby, Tegan chose to take vigil this night. Despite his exhaustion, its not like he would have slept after the horrors of the day anyways. At least he could make sure Aric was safe, pray, and keep watch.

 
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Old Nov 11th, 2023, 11:37 AM
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The power poured forth and Devari stood rooted to the spot, watching the havoc wrought from her rage. Strongwind’s body bucked, and he stood unsteadily, pulling free from Redwaters’ grip, before he turned and bolted away. He didn’t get far, however, and Devari watched his leg collapsing under him, mangled and useless. She knew that he would never run again.

The satisfaction which she had expected to feel never came. In fact, as she watched Gildedmane bestowing his mercy on the younger centaur, the only thing she felt was sick. Was this what she had wanted?

"N…no…" The words were barely audible as all around the centaurs were shouting. ‘Witch’ they were calling her, and baying for her blood. She should have been terrified, or defiant, she should have felt anything but this odd detachment.

Gildedmane threw his sword down at her feet and her eyes followed it automatically. He was saying something, pronouncing a death sentence upon her, but the words were distant, insignificant. Then she must have blinked or been otherwise distracted, because the sword no longer lay in front of her. She looked up to see Redwaters holding it, shouting after the centaurs and drawing the blade across his own arm, unleashing a torrent of red blood.

"Wait, what?" she said, suddenly coming back to her senses. "What are you doing? Why would you?"

She rushed forward and clasped the wound, trying her best to stop the blood from flowing out onto the parched ground.

"I didn’t want this!" She was shouting into the night now as the plainsman sank to his knees, Devari going down with him and pulling him onto her lap. "I only wanted justice! This is not justice!"

Tegan was there suddenly, and with a word the wound turned hot and the blood stopped flowing. Devari wept, still clutching the sticky arm.

"This is not what I wanted."

The words sounded hollow even to her.



Night descended and Devari stared into the fire. She had returned to her tent for just a moment, only long enough to remove her sword and armor. She didn’t want to sit in there, in the dark, alone with her thoughts. Not that she was exactly thrilling company right now. The others seemed to be alternating between pretending that she didn’t exist and talking about her, about what she should do, right in front of her. The best she could do was murmur a noncommittal grunt in response.

It was the accusatory looks in their eyes, more than anything. They looked at her like she was a monster, and who could blame them?

The flames were her friends, though. They shared their warmth with her, they danced and leapt just as they had always done.

Why had she done it?

"I knew what would happen," And to whomever else is sitting there. If anyone thinks their character would be there please feel free to respond.she admitted to the fire. "Well, part of me did anyway. I just…"

She just what? Didn’t care? That couldn’t be true, could it? She certainly cared now. She would carry the memory of that final snap with her forever.

"I wanted this power. I wanted it more than anything. If I could control the people around me I would be safe, you know? So now that I have it, how do I get the power to control myself?"

She passed her hand through the flame just slow enough for it to sting without actually burning her.

"I don’t want to die. But… maybe it would be the best thing? Better that than me doing this again."

She blinked the tears from her eyes and lay back, looking deep into the starry sky.

"Whatever happens, though, this is all on me. You all need to fix the soulgate, or whatever it’s called. I’ll face Gildedmane and his tribe. I’ll… I’ll just… explain…"

What? I killed him because I was angry? Because he made me feel weak and vulnerable and I hated him for it?

"I didn’t even bother to get to know him, I just decided that the only way that I could feel better about myself was to destroy him. And I was wrong about that too."

Far above the stars glinted. She still hadn’t got used to these new constellations, or these old constellations which had reappeared, but she had to admit that they were pretty, even if she didn’t know which one was Hiddukel and which was Habbakuk.

"I’ll offer to atone. It’s all I can do. And if they refuse? Well, I’ll see Amare again. It’s not so bad."

 
 
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Old Nov 11th, 2023, 04:09 PM
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Isandril Moonsilver, Wizard of High Sorcery
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Isandril managed to keep his composure as the series of unfortunate events unfolded before his eyes resulting in the mercy killing of Strongwind and Gildedmane's reaction that followed it. He had to admit, the centaur leader's response was quite a bit more measured than what he would have expected. And, truth be told, he found little to no fault with his words and sentiment. He demanded justice for a heinous act perpetrated against one of his own people, against one of the youths under his charge. Indeed, the elven mage had expected that he and his companions would have had to defend themselves as soon as Strongwind had breathed his last breath.

It was not, however, simply the self-control that the blonde-haired centaur exhibited that the wizard found most intriguing. It was his choice of words. His speech was somewhat archaic and elaborate, yes, but Isandril deemed his words carefully chosen as well. Blood for blood he had said. Devari would have to bleed at their hands before she would be allowed to leave this land. Bleed, not die. While the mage could not be entirely certain, he was not all that sure that what awaited Devari was an execution. Not necessarily, at least. Of course, what he was sure of was that it would most certainly not be a mere slap on the wrist. Then, perhaps...

As deep in thought as he was, his focus was all but shattered then by another shout, a scream almost. And more blood. He sighed as his eyes found the newcomer, Redwaters, who had just slit his own flesh open in an attempt to appease Gildedmane. Regardless of the reaction it elicited from the centaur leader, Isandril considered it misguided and, what is more, in vain. Blyne had already tried something similar, albeit with words rather than actions, and she had been rebuffed. Thankfully, Tegan and even Devari herself were quickly enough by the man's side, rescuing him from his own foolishness, well-intentioned though it was.

Others had their own way to deal with the consequences of the woman's action. Aric, for example, was all but broken by it. Tegan, on the other hand, faced the centaur leader's declaration of imminent judgement without flinching. The Solamnic would not shy from it, he would not run or hide. He considered Gildedmane's position just and thus not meeting it head-on when the time came would be dishonorable, cowardly even. As the squire's and the mage's eyes briefly met, the elf nodded in agreement.



"Power is seductive, yes." The voice, Isandril's voice, was coming from behind Devari. She had been too focused on the flames to hear him approach, it would seem. "Very much so. Especially when parts of you," he continued as he sat beside her, a thin half-smile on his lips, "or even parts not of you whisper in your mind's ear to use it. To wield it. Things will be easier then, simpler. After all, who can hurt one clad in armor of magic and power?"

He sighed. "It is admirable that you choose not to run from it. For you could, you know. But choosing to stand your ground and face it? Face the consequences brought on by an unfortunate act at an unfortunate moment? Well, you may find that others will stand with you." He raised a hand to forestall any words of protest. "Those that do, it will be their choice, just as this is yours. It would be unfair to deny them that choice, yes?"

"Besides," he added as he started to rise. Only now was the sword and scabbard in his hand visible, hidden under the folds of his robes while he was sitting. A shortsword decorated with moonstones. "Death may not be what your future holds. Pain, almost certainly. Blood as well. But..." He paused, his gaze moving to her head once full of dark hair and then to her eyes. "But I am more than certain that you are no stranger to either of the two."

He took a deep breath of the cool night air. "It may be presumptuous of me given what has happened, what you have caused." There was no malice in his words, simply a statement of fact, even if it did sting more than a little. "But during the fight with the mephits, some of them managed to get a bit too close for comfort. Would you oblige me?" He indicated the sword in his hand with a nod of his head. "And we can talk a little more. Or not. Besides, a bit of physical exercise, some swordplay, may help clear one's head. Or so I have been told." He shrugged. "It has been a couple of decades though."

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Old Nov 12th, 2023, 11:48 PM
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The Consequences of Anger
Redwaters awakens bolting with a spitting headache, feeling mentally and physically drained from his attempt at a blood offering. He immediately feels dizzy and collapses, finding that he is lain out in someone's tent with bedding he does not recognize, his arm treated and bandaged.

He recalls his last memories, staring into the cold, cobalt eyes Guildemane as he bled out, muttering "Crap" as he collapsed forward into darkness...

He is guessing his gambit did not work out. But he is still alive, and so the rest of them must be.

Curious, he has to woozily fight his way out of the covers and the tent, and spies a fire and some voices as he begins to stumble over. As a small mercy, the rest had allowed his hearing to recover to a dull ring. He can make out most of what was being said as he wanders into the light.

He has time to process Devari's confession and Issandril's reply as he steals a random waterskin set about nearby as he quaffs deeply without apology.

"I take it Gildemane did NOT accept my offering?" he asks, with a dry creaking voice. No other words need to be said, only nods. "Hrrm. A pity."

He gazes upon Devari in thought, concentrating on his own physiology to see if he is still feeling any symptoms of rage, but finds they too had bled out of him into the sands, which is a small relief. He is back to his sensible self. He suspects his own drastic actions were driven by emotion, so it does give him a position to relate to the bardess.

"There are lessons to be learned here, though I haven't pieced them together yet. But there are few things I have come to know in my relatively short 26 moons on our Krynn."

Oh god. Is he about to give a lecture? This sounds like a long wind up to a lecture.

"My own Grandmother survived the slaughter the Kee-Taw with only me bundled beneath her arm and just a handful of our remaining members of our tribe. And thus, you can imagine just how much that has twisted her heart toward the civilized settlers and dogmen of the mountains. And so, she declared a bloodwar against the two as she lead us all to the last place any would dare to go in the Direwood, for she would prefer the souls of the dead, mischievous fey and misty darkness than to ever face any other civilized or savage race."

He glances serenely into the fire with a slight smile upon his face as the flames dance within his eyes,

"Don't get me wrong. It is a hauntingly beautiful and spiritual place, and I had grown with many mentors. I wouldn't be the man that I am, and would not give it up for anything. But I digress."

He returns his gaze to all gathered. "She too had a deep hurt within her heart, and I watched as this once beautiful woman became twisted by her anger into a bitter crone, but still strongly loving all the same. She too felt helpless to prevent what had happened to us those dark dacades ago, and she too felt the desire to gain some control over others through dark magics and curses, taking a heavy cost upon her own soul. But lucky for her and me, she put her duty of being my guardian above her quest for vengeance, because otherwise I suspect she would have had the capacity to commit an atrocity upon a people who she deemed responsible for the loss of my Beloved Mother..."

He trails off as he takes another swig of someones wineskin, and glances back at the fire, his eyes flitting back and forth in thought, trying to remember his point.

"Fear and Anger took over the entirety of her life over the next 20 years, and all of her emotions turned inwards like a cancer. She did not absorb the same lessons of Chivlev as I did, and so the challenge of helping heal her soul was a long and arduous one. Ultimately, her hatred and sins claimed her. But happily, not before I was able to help her make peace within herself and accept the loving embrace of our Goddess. So, a bittersweet ending, I suppose."

Other than the part that her soul is now trapped between worlds of course. But he conveniently leaves that part of the story out for the sake of his parable.

He stoppers the wineskin, and sets it to the side, meeting Devari's gaze once more.

"Look. I know it's rude for a stranger to pontificate when not knowing at all what you've been through. But recently, I have come to know what anger is and what it could drive you to do, especially when death is involved. But it is easier to hurt then it is to heal. Violence should always be that last option, as it just keeps repeating itself, seeding bitterness and hate for as long as many generations."

"I beg you in the future to view your abilities as a gift, to be used wisely. And to seek to make peace with your fears and anger, before they destroy you.
"
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Old Nov 13th, 2023, 05:28 PM
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Talia Dawnstar
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Talia had seen quite a bit in her short life… most Kenders live at least 5 years worth of adventure for one normal year of a longshank life. Yet in all her travels and travails… she was not sure she had ever seen such a cascading tsunami of misunderstanding, misjudgement, and plain old stupidity. She stood, as she always did, on a rock, watching Devari screaming her short-haired, but still pretty little head off. The screaming was probably justified… Talia did it sometimes just for fun. In fact she once spent an entire day walking through a quiet town screaming as she pretended everyone else was whispering and she couldn’t hear anything. That was loads of fun until the sheriff threatened to drown her.

Yeah, the yelling was fine but the use of magic… well… that was cheating. Talia watched the young centaur break away, galloping to his death and her stomach fell. There was no honor in the centaur’s death… only the honor that Gildedman gave as an absolution to Strongwind’s pain and suffering. She looked at the rock in her hoopak, the one she had loaded to protect Devari. She looked at it and then with a look of sadness, she turned the hoopak and watched the rock fall to the sand.

Of course, that could not be the end. Instead Redwaters decided to somehow blame himself for the centaur’s death and that really confused Talia. Even as he slit his own wrist and his blood poured freely, the kender stood on her rock trying to make it all make sense. Yes… he had caused the brambles… that was true. But it was Talia that snapped the leg… and it was Devari that caused his quick demise. Talia looked at the half-dead newcomer, now collapsed in the sand and shook her head. She looked at her own wrist and then back at Redwaters.

“Nope.”

The centaurs, surprisingly, didn't attack immediately but it was pretty clear that they would be back soon. Aric had disappeared into the night… young men needed their privacy, Tegan had healed Redwaters… which was fine since without him, Talia could not play with the fox, and now Isandril sat with Devari around the fire as it blazed into the night. Talia did her usual sneaking about and she stood in the darkness listening as the wise elf imparted his wisdom to the emotional wreck. Of course Devari offered to die for her transgressions and in the darkness no one could see Talia’s eyes roll back so hard she got dizzy, lost her balance and then fell over backwards.

And then it was Redwaters, back from the dead, who also gave Devari his flavor of advice. Again Talia listened quietly, or at least she tried to before she threw her hands up in exasperation. “If you want some advice from a kender,” she called out from the shadows, “Just forget it… and by it… I mean everything! If you don’t remember that something hurt you… it can’t. Ask any kender about what’s hurt them in the past… you wanna know what they will say… nothing! Don’t remember bad things until it's the right time to… and that's only when it's time for revenge… so for you… about 3 more days.”


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Old Nov 15th, 2023, 08:15 AM
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Devari continued to look at the stars as Isandril appeared and sat beside her, philosophising about power and responsibility. Even listening with half an ear she noted his mention of external things whispering in your mind and frowned. Had she ever said anything that would imply that something was trying to tempt her? She didn't think so. So was this something that the wizard was dealing with himself? In a way it was nice to remember that other people had problems too, even with all that was going on right then.

"It is admirable that you choose not to run from it," he continued. "For you could, you know. But choosing to stand your ground and face it? Face the consequences brought on by an unfortunate act at an unfortunate moment? Well, you may find that others will stand with you." She shook her head and rose onto one elbow, but the elf waved her objection away. "Those that do, it will be their choice, just as this is yours. It would be unfair to deny them that choice, yes?"

"Well, no," she said, her brow furrowed, "fairness has nothing to do with it."

But Isandril continued on, expressing his hope that the centaurs may not wish her dead, and his conviction that she could bear any pain that they may send her way.

"Yeah, that's reassuring," she said sardonically, but the half-smile twitching at the corner of her mouth was the first that had graced her face since this whole sorry situation had begun.

Isandril seemed to notice the slight lightening of her mood, and he chose that moment to ask her to do some fencing practice. He probably thinks old Gildedmane will challenge me to a duel and wants me to get some training in, she thought. It probably wouldn't be a bad idea, but right at that moment she felt like it would take a fully-grown dragon to pull her to her feet. Her mind had only just started looking for a polite excuse when Redwaters arrived at the campfire with questions of his own, allowing her to just ignore the offer for now.

Redwaters told his story, how his grandmother had saved him when he was a child from the slaughter of his entire tribe, and how only her love for him prevented her from falling into a spiral of revenge. It was a nice story, and Redwaters told it reasonably well, allowing Devari to lie back down again and picture the plainspeople struggling to survive. The moral of the parable was obvious as well; don't let anger control you.

"I understand," she said, not looking anyone in the eye. "I'll bear it in mind if I get out of this alive."

Then suddenly Talia's voice carried in over the wind, with some advice from the point-of-view of a kender. Advice which boiled down to 'live in the moment'. She had always loved the kender spirit, their irrepressible nature, their boundless energy and relentless optimism. If she could have chosen to be reincarnated as any of the races of Krynn, it would have been kenderkind. But, for better or worse, that just was not her.

"I genuinely wish I could be more like you, Talia," she said with a sad smile.

How do you will yourself to forget? It felt like there were two Devaris; the sensible one who planned things out and tried her best to be good and kind to those she cared about, and to ignore those whom she disliked. And then there was the other one, the beast, the monster made of desires and emotions which would sometimes rise from nowhere and send her spinning off in any direction.

"For me the past isn't somewhere far away and remote. I carry it with me wherever I go. It's like, if you just drew one of your maps on top of another one. The new one would be clearer, but it would still be all mixed up with what was there before."

Did that make sense? She knew what she was trying to say but it felt like the words were betraying her, which was not exactly a common occurrence for Devari. Is this what if feels like to be Aric all the time? she wondered. No wonder he needed to have so much time alone.

The frustration had spread down her spine and her stomach was clenching. She felt like she had to move.

"Okay," she said to Isandril, nodding at his shortsword. "Can you set up some light while I get my sword?"

 
 
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Old Nov 15th, 2023, 10:11 PM
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Isandril Moonsilver, Wizard of High Sorcery
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As they moved to take their places for their mock duel, Isandril took off the more cumbersome outer layer of his robes and placed it neatly atop his other belongings. Now clad in a shirt, vest and pants of white and silver, he turned to face his "opponent", the sword in his hand still in its scabbard. As he unsheathed it, moonlight flooded the area around them, which, alongside the campfire, provided enough illumination for the task at hand.

"Pretty, is it not? Yet, much like any blade, it is still a sharp and deadly thing," he remarked as he felt the sword's hilt in his grasp. Awkward, yet not unfamiliar. This was not the first time he had used its like. "And not unlike any weapon, any tool for that matter, it is the skill and will of its wielder that directs it, that chooses its purpose and its target," the wizard seemed to conclude. "Now, shall we?"

Even though Isandril's proficiency with a sword seemed at least adequate and his movements graceful, it had been many a moon since the last time he had actually practiced his swordsmanship. Thus, the difference in skill between himself and Devari was not easily missed by anyone who watched their duel. For every thrust of her rapier he managed to parry, there was at least another that got through his defences. And try as he might, he was unable to score more than a couple of hits or three against her. Even though she was not quite as capable as, say, Tegan or Xihue in the art of melee combat, she was most certainly better suited to it than he was.

"That was... more enjoyable than I had expected," he commented as he tried to catch his breath after they had finished. "We should do this again some time." As he sheathed the sword once more, the light it had shed disappearing as soon as its blade was in its scabbard again, he turned to her. "Your power appears to be innate, Devari. And, at least presently, almost instinctive. As such, I would make for a poor teacher or advisor on the matter of how best to control it. However, I believe that someone who has proven herself a talented mystic and sorceress might be better suited to the task." He smiled a thin little smile and moved a little closer, his next few words meant for her ears alone. "We all have our secrets and our troubles, be they by choice or by circumstance. That much is true for me as well. And perhaps one day I will talk about mine a bit more at length than just the hint I let slip earlier. But even so, she still seems to outshine me in that regard." Taking a step back, he continued. "If you have not already done so, I believe you should seek Blyne's counsel. I may have my... reservations about her, but I do think she means well." His smile widened ever so slightly. "Generally speaking."

Their business concluded, so to speak, Isandril busied himself with other matters, such as keeping watch when it was his turn to do so and studying his spellbook when it was not. Afterwards, when it was finally time for him to relax, he slowly slipped into the elven equivalent of sleep, a trance that was as much about rest as it was about meditation. And it was the meditative part of it he sought this time. For it was time to perhaps start looking into that secret of his. And thus he turned his gaze inward, seeking that part of himself that was not himself. He felt a certain thrill as he did so that he could not deny. Just as he could not deny the fear that went hand in hand with it.

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  #130  
Old Nov 16th, 2023, 11:34 PM
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Blyne
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Blyne the human-shaped mystic and sorceress stood with an expressionless face in front of Gildedmane after the centaur had rejected her piety, and the exhausted irda did not know if she felt relief or despair when she learned that the words that she had spoken might have made for a death sentence if they had been taken seriously. In a way, both of those emotions were there, although Blyne couldn't explain either of them, and that they existed at all made her miserable. Meaning even more miserable than she was already feeling anyway.

But it was not the time for the last of the Irda to decipher her mental tribulations on that fated evening. Instead, the barbaric stranger's horse appeared to launch a stampede that Redwaters seemed to just barely prevent with his red-faced grunting, but Blyne only watched from the sidelines after Xihue and Tegan were already at Devari's side, and she who should have been a teacher and confidant to the vulnerable human woman was doing nothing, not even lifting a finger to guide Devari although she had been subtly aware how much the other mystic had been hurting for days.

The shaken sorceress observed out of the corner of her eye that Aric lay fainted on the floor. But even though a voice within herself told Blyne to look after the helpless youth, her attention was drawn by Redwaters as the man opened his own veins and bled into the desert sands as if in his rage he had not understood the least of Gildedmanes words or demands for justice. The fool! Does he seek death after my own sacrifice was rejected?!

Outraged and shocked as these actions left her, Blyne knew that she ought to rush to the man's side and immediately stop the bleeding. If she had been the woman that her mother would see her become, then there would have been no hesitation in the young irda to come to Redwaters' aid. But right then, part of Blyne wanted the man to die. Part of her didn't care that the gods had seemingly found a soul that would replace Pnoah and serve the spirits to find their way into the afterlife.

The larger part of her knew of course that such a feeling was evil and that her true self was much too bright to sincerely want him to perish like the fool that he was when he thought to become a martyr after even Blyne herself had been rejected. The distraught irda had let a similar feeling lead her astray before when she had almost allowed Tehar to fall at the hands of Sir Beran, so now she remembered that it was not who she was.

But before Blyne was able to find the truth in her heart that would have set her into motion to save Redwaters' life just like Kaylen would have in her place, Tegan was faster. No matter how Redwaters' arrogance and flawed emotionality had unwittingly hurt Blyne as if a mirror had shown her how stupid she had almost acted herself, in her mind it was clear at least what she would have needed to do to be perfect this time, how she could have made up for the myriads of her own mistakes that had led to this moment.

Neither Redwaters' nor Devari's actions were something that the sorceress was willing to take the blame for, yet she knew that it would have been in her power to prevent it if she wasn't a vessel that was as chipped and cracked as a capsized canoe. Blyne would not assume any blame for those who were her lesser and even more flawed than herself. But in the eyes of the gods and under the vigil of her long-departed mother, the young irda knew that she had only succeeded in the simpler one of the trials that day.

Alas, the more difficult one, the one that would have truly proven her as sufficient for the role that the gods had envisioned for her, that was the trial that Blyne knew she had failed. And the knowledge of her failure fueled her regret that Gildedmane had shunned her words instead of allowing her to achieve perfect brilliance as the one whom Mishakal would witness as the bearer of thorns in a way that only the goddess herself could have equaled.

The young irda blinked. As if in a flash, Tegan had preserved Redwaters' upsetting way of life, Aric appeared to have walked off from where he had lain on the ground, Gildedmane and his centaurs had left their company behind, and Devari had returned to her own tent. It would have fallen to Blyne to restore order and control, to give guidance and council. But without even lifting a single finger or speaking one further syllable, a sort of uneasy peace had returned to their camp and there were no more obvious flaws for the superior shapeshifter to correct.

Finally, Blyne turned her head and looked at Besimeh, who must have been waiting for her or even talking to her all this time. The khurish merchant hadn't spoken in the last minute at least, that much the young irda was sure. She couldn't have sworn the same to be true for the whole duration since the high-ogre had been standing there in that same spot. Still, Blyne was conscious of all the tribulations and challenges that she had already experienced that day, and the fact that her own mind appeared to have lapsed for a moment seemed like the least of her flaws and the easiest one to forgive herself for.

I could have broken today. But I didn't. That was not my fate. I am not that brittle. How would I ever be able to leave her side willingly, anyway? Blyne could see the pain in Besimeh's eyes, the reason why she hadn't been able to meet her friend's gaze since the sorceress had made her offer of self-sacrifice to Gildedmane. A part of the young irda knew that today she had betrayed the one who was special to her. But then again she had also betrayed her own mother, almost betrayed her piety and faith, and certainly she had let down the faith placed in her by the gods, and even if they were blind, also the faith that her fated companions should have placed in her. Altogether, it was just too much. Blyne wanted to do nothing but retreat and hide. And that's what she would do. She would return to the only person who made her feel safe on the ugly face of an ugly Krynn. The irda tried to keep her voice steady, but the unnatural hoarseness belied her wounded mental state. "Is it time to retire? Shall we?"
 
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Old Nov 17th, 2023, 03:08 AM
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Aric Armitage
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It wasn’t the cold that woke him, but the faint yet unmistakable sound of steel clashing against steel. Carried by the cool desert winds, the noise of Isandril and Devari’s duel was ever so faint. Of course, in the darkness, there was no notion of who was fighting – or why. Perhaps they’ve decided to execute her, he thought idly. He languidly opened one eye and realized that he was covered in several thick, warm blankets. Faint traces of footsteps around his body, as well as the blankets themselves, were the only sign that someone had been here. Aric closed his eyes. He knew it had been Tegan, knew it as he knew the sun would rise in the morning. With the departure of Kaylen, there were no others in their party that showed the same level of affection to the 16-year-old boy that this selfless knight-to-be had shown him. And the worst part of it was just how undeserving he felt of the Solamnic man’s attention. He cares for me so much, and I’ve done nothing to merit it. All I ever am is weak, and all he ever does is keep me going.

He pulled the blanket over his head as though to shut out the outside world. He could not gauge how many hours had passed since the bloody atrocity they had all stood in mute witness to. He vaguely thought of Soft-Eyes, the dead donkey, and how in its moment of ultimate weakness a carrion bird had come to peck at its eyes. Aric had reacted with violent rage at the bird in the moment, but he’d had days and days since to ponder that scene. To himself, it might have seemed like a desecration of the departed beast of burden, but to the vulture it was simply lunchtime. There was an order to things, and the vulture had simply been following that order. It wasn’t the vulture’s fault that Soft Eyes had been dead, just as it hadn’t been Soft Eyes fault that the griffon had decided it was lunchtime as well. Everyone had to eat. It was just the way things were.

The difference, he realized, was intent. The griffon had its reason for killing the donkey: it was hungry. It was horrific to witness, of course, but it could at least be justified. The situation with the young centaur was different. While on the outset it might have appeared as though the centaur was about to enact violence upon them, he had not intended to. The same was true for the actions of Redwaters and Talia. They had intended to trip up the charging man-beast as a way of preventing harm. There had been no intent there to maim the young horseman. As he had discovered - as they had all discovered, things never turn out the way they're supposed to. The fact was that it had been a collective effort in bringing harm to Strongwind, but it had not been a fatal injury – not until Devari took it upon herself to use the wounded centaur as a sponge to soak up all the pain and hate and fear that had been filling her heart in that moment. It might have even been alright had it just been words…

Aric blinked in the darkness under the thick fur blanket. It had just been words, and yet they’d been powerful enough to drive a creature with a broken leg to run himself to death. Such a power was as unnatural as whatever strange magics allowed Blyne to change into Blainneth. It was unnatural-

Aye, and what of your own magic?

The thought stopped him cold. He lay there panting in the dark, recalling how he had used the power of a shout to throw two men ten feet away from him. Could he explain that? He had vague ideas, but nothing concrete enough to say ”Yes, this is how I am able to make light from sewer moss, and how I can drive men several yards backward with just my voice. Step one:…” It just was.

It would have been so easy to keep thinking of Devari as “the bad guy” in the situation, but the truth was that the two of them weren’t as different as he might have hoped – and perhaps that’s why he couldn’t seem to fully cross the threshold toward hating her. She’d acted out in a moment of pain and weakness, and someone else had paid the ultimate price. The only difference between the two of them was that, unlike the vulture, Strongwind had been sentient. He didn’t know what exactly had happened to the two ladies in Pashin, but it had clearly left a mark – and he thought again of his notation in his journal to talk to her about what had happened. ”Carefully”, he had written. It was obvious that the experience had marred her, and if truth be told, the rest of them could have done a better job of seeing if she were alright. In that sense, some of Strongwind’s blood was on his hands as well. He sighed. One more to add to the pile. He already had the two vultures’ needless deaths seared into his heart. Then there was the matter of the bandit who had surrendered to him. Aric had shot him dead with hardly a thought, but the truth was that he thought about the dead bandit often. He’d killed him out of fear, but vengeance had been a close second. Watch that you do not become the very thing you hate, boy. Those words sounded so eerily close to his ear that he turned about to make sure someone had not scuttled up to him as he lay there amidst the dunes and darkness. It had sounded like

(father it sounded like father)

someone he had known. Of course that was impossible. It was just him out here, alone in the dark with nothing but his own thoughts to drive him mad. As sleep once more began to take hold, he departed from consciousness with one final troubling thought.

What if I get used to killing?

 
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  #132  
Old Nov 17th, 2023, 09:05 PM
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A Knight of All Souls
This was certainly an unusual night.

It was clear by Devari's bare response that her head was already overladen by the demons within her own mind, and his words of advisement were not quite taken in with the full gravity. And who could blame her?

It was clear the entire camp was divided, even amongst her peers. There was a weight hung about her neck. Not murder perse, but certainly involuntary manslaughter. And he wonders if he himself will ever be driven into making such a choice.

His conscience is clear up until this point. He has made many decisions to heal, to self sacrifice, to use his magics to let his Goddess determine outcomes. But he wonders himself if whether if pushed to the very edge, would he be capable of such drastic action?

But nothing in his life so far has ever indicated he was capable of such, even if he felt the physical symptoms of rage or sorrow or fear. He was fundamentally broken, and he always felt lesser as a human being for it. But so far, nothing he has seen in his life really envies the decisions people make because of those kind of emotions.

But he does find himself admiring the closeness between two friends he witnesses. When words fail, they still decide to clash steel against one another in a physical melee without intent to harm, a beautiful dance between one another in full trust.

He almost finds himself wishing to even want to know what that kind of closeness is like.

He digs out a small tobacco pipe and stuffs it with herbs, Druidcraftlighting it with his fingertip as he watches the Devari and Isandril clash in practice swordplay, calm smile upon his face as smoke occassionally bellows from him towards the open twilight sky. He finishes the last of the stolen wineskin water, before he announces:

"Everyone. Lend me your flasks. We have a long journey ahead of us to the mountains before we have to deal with the centaur. I cannot tell you what to decide once we reach that point, but I assure, Thirst will not be among out concerns."

To display his intent, he holds the random wineskin he stole toward the fireside, and it Create/Destroy Waterbegins to fill with water within his grip. He stoppers this with his other hand and then sets it back exactly where he found it, and coaxes others to give them their vessels to fill in turn. *(Filling all containers)

He has no more words of council to offer the group who are all clearly in the process of licking their own psychological wounds, for he has no answers himself.

But he does give a Druidcraftbrief prayer to Chislev, and can only offer a little bit of comfort from his Goddess.

"It's going to be a typical sunny day with temperatures ranging within norm. No clouds, and fair weather on our journey."
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Old Nov 18th, 2023, 08:37 AM
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Gildedmane was already trotting away, acting as the rearguard of the group of centaurs, when Redwaters’ almost unnatural scream made him halt and turn around.


"I DID THIS!!!"


Before the centaur’s eyes, the plainsman picked up the cursed blade Gildedmane had used to put an end to his friend’s agony and cut his own flesh. Blood gushed out of the deep wound, staining the man’s leathers and quickly forming a puddle of crimson beneath him. The centaur lacked his mother's knowledge of the healing arts but he had taken part in enough fights to know that unless immediately treated such an injury could prove fatal. Even as his knees gave way and the human collapsed to the ground, he sought to speak, his words faint but lacking none of the power that still resided in Redwaters’ spirit.


Gildedmane silently listened to what the plainsman had to say before he sadly shook his head.


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Gildedmane, centaur leader
"Thy deed is noble but misguided, man of the plains. Thou canst not wash away the guilt of another with innocent blood. I will not accept this. But I take note of thy sacrifice. It is my hope that thy companions will not allow another life to be needlessly lost."


Averting his gaze from the sands that were rapidly turning red, Gildedmane next replied to the blonde woman who had mostly remained silent up to this point. The sadness in his eyes was instantly replaced by anger mixed with concern.


"Thou knowest not what thou speakest of! The Dunesmaster is the sacred guardian of this land and her pure heart must not be sullied by the ugly deeds of either two-legs or centaurs. Even if thou dost seek her out, thou shalt do so in vain. The Dunesmaster appears only when she chooses to do so and has not visited our tribe since the moons returned to the heavens. It may be that many seasons go by before she does. Thou canst not force the spring to arrive before the passing of winter, traveler. To attempt to do so is to commit an even more serious crime than needlessly taking a life."


Striking the arid ground with his hoof to emphasize his warning, the centaur leader was ready to join the other members of the tribe, who had almost disappeared from sight, when Tegan too addressed him. Contrary to the others, he didn't seek to persuade him to change his ruling but reassured him that he and his friends would not try to evade justice. Gildedmane nodded, accepting the Solamnic’s promise with gratitude.


"Even we, the centaurs of this great desert, have heard of the honor of the Solamnic Knights. If Tegan remains true to his word, he will gain 1 Renown with the Knights of SolamniaI accept thy word, squire, and expect to see it fulfilled. Allow me to return the favor by offering thee a warning. Hurim is cursed. Nothing but ill luck and death can be found there. Know too that the passage leading to the valley has been blocked in the Drowning. The living are unable to enter and the dead are unable to leave. It is as it should be. Do not upset the balance, lest we all come to regret it."


Offering a final nod as a farewell, Gildedmane galloped away, the cloud of dust forming behind him and the darkness swallowing his form.


*********


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Devari and the flames
It was the middle of the night and Devari was still staring at the flames. Her weary mind told her that the others had either gone to sleep or left the camp for reasons of their own. She faintly remembered that she had gone to sleep too and yet she found herself right where she had been, admiring the flames that were dancing and leaping in front of her in a way that almost made them look alive.


This is a dream, she told herself.


It suited her just fine. She didn't want to lay in her tent, surrounded by darkness, alone with her thoughts that would inevitably take the form of nightmares.


The others had tried to understand and advise her and she knew that there was some truth and wisdom in their words. Some had been unexpectedly kind to her, which in a way almost made things worse. Their compassion was like offering coppers to a beggar. Such an act might have provided a starving soul with a halfway-decent meal, but it also emphasized the difference between the benefactor and the beneficiary. They were no longer equals, companions, and friends. They now looked down on her with pity, confusion, or revulsion.


It didn't matter.


They were not her and they hadn't caused the death of the young centaur. No one knew what it meant to be her right now.


Well, perhaps the flames did. Though they clearly registered her presence, sharing their warmth with her, they treated her no differently than they previously had.


The flames were her friends.


Devari opened her eyes with a start. Next to her were Isandril and the plainsman, Redwaters, both looking at her startled and confused. Her eyes were unfocused and full of tears, facing the campfire that was burning as cheerfully as possible in this darkest of nights.


"Just forget it… and by it… I mean everything!", a voice spoke from nearby.


Was the darkness talking to her? Was she losing her mind?


No, it’s only Talia, Devari concluded with relief as the kender continued to offer her advice.


Had all this been a dream? A vivid, fiery dream?


*********


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The Harikas Mountains
The sun rose from a veil of thick mist, accompanied by the cries of giant eagles. Even to those who had never taken the time to observe a bird in flight or weren't trying to rear a chick on their own, their cries sounded full of pain. Not of the physical kind perhaps, the one someone would expect from an eagle with a battered wing or broken leg, but an agony that was deeper, more heart-wrenching. Though no one said it, most thought of it as an ill omen.


The Harikas Mountains could not compare with their much larger brothers like the angrily rumbling Khalkists or the eternally snow-covered Kharolis ranges, but after the relative flatness of the desert, their steep slopes and the rocky fingers jutting out of the hard ground presented the companions with a sight that was both welcome and intimidating. The stones that littered the ground and the narrow, twisted paths that crossed between huge outcroppings made the journey dangerous and tiresome. The horses had to be led by hand and even Thunder had to be extra careful or risk breaking a leg. The mere thought made the mare froth at the mouth and it took Redwaters several minutes to calm the animal down.


Besimeh had promised that water and food could be found in the Harikas and those who had never before tried to go over a desert mountain had pictured a verdant paradise of thick foliage and rushing water. Nothing could be further from the truth. Bushes with more thorns than tiny leaves and hard grass that appeared more brownish-yellow than green were all the vegetation they came upon. It might have been an improvement in the eyes of the locals, but the companions were accustomed to lands much more fertile than Khur. Most of them almost didn't take notice of the pitiful plants that strove to survive in this hard land, sustained only by whatever water the mist that covered the mountains for a few hours before dawn could provide.


What certainly caught their attention, however, was the bleating of a wild goat high above a rocky ridge. The animal braved the craggy face of the mountain with almost supernatural grace, a few tufts of hard grass that seemed barely edible being the only reward for its acrobatic prowess. The goat looked at the people struggling among the rocks far beneath its high place with disinterest. They clearly presented no threat to it. The giant eagles were a different matter, however, so it kept watching the sky, even as it was munching the stringy blades of grass that grew upon the cliffs. Athletics or Survival check DC 15Capturing the animal would not be easy, but it would allow the companions to eat better than they had been able to do ever since leaving Jabbal’s caravan.


The rest of the day passed without incident, the companions taking short breaks to rest and have a few gulps of mostly fetid water only to resume their trek in this inhospitable land. The travelers were debating where to camp, since the sun had set at least an hour ago, and hiking in the light of the moons and stars was much more dangerous than during the day, when they heard the unmistakable sound of flowing water. All weariness discarded like a heavy fur cloak, the travelers rushed towards the clear voice calling to them. Its source proved to be a narrow mountain stream a kender might have leaped over without difficulty, but in their eyes, it appeared more magnificent and inviting than the great Thon-Thalas.


Plunging their hands in the refreshingly frigid water, the companions realized that a small area of relatively flat land next to the stream was giving off an eerily beautiful light, which was unlike anything they had seen in the wild before. Fearing a trap or another encounter with chaotic magic, the heroes cautiously approached. They were greeted by several patches of wildflowers with delicate, crystalline-like petals that radiated an almost mesmerizing glow.


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Shimmerweed


"Shimmerweed…", Besimeh spoke softly, as if fearing that a sound louder than a whisper might cause the fragile flowers to wilt. "I know the stories but have never seen them with my own eyes before. They are so beautiful." Her hand eagerly sought Blyne’s so that their fingers could entangle in an embrace that would last for eternity.


The land of Khur was hard and dangerous, but the natives always claimed that unparalleled beauty could be found in it if one knew where to look. Had the companions finally managed to discover it? Or was this just just another mirage in the desert, meant to lure them to an agonizing death?



Calendar14th Day of Aelmont (Winter) 422 AC / 38 SC, Evening

Solinari: 8/36 (Waxing)
Lunitari: 17/28 (High Sanction)
Nuitari: 6/8 (Waning)

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


 


 


 
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  #134  
Old Nov 19th, 2023, 07:01 AM
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Zendra Zantir
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Zendra could have wept with frustration. Her companions had completely ignored her and the centaurs had spurned her. As she watched Gildenmane canter off she had to fight down a sudden urge to hurl a rock at the back of his pompous head. That wouldn't have helped them of course but it might have made her feel better for several delicious seconds. Instead she just had to watch him leave before retiring to bed, exhausted in mind and body.

Maybe at least in her dreams she could shake off the dust of this terrible country and be somewhere cool and wet and full of green leaves.

Somewhere where the land itself was out to get you.




Zendra awoke to sound of screams. For half a moment there, still cossetted in sleep in the stuffiness of the tent she wondered if she was still dreaming. Half a moment more and her brain caught up with her ears and she scrambled for her crossbow. Someone or something was definitely crying out!

A flurry of fumbling footfalls and she was out of the tent scanning the land. No, not the land. The skies? She looked up through morning mist. Eagles and they had something on their minds. Maybe the Curse of Khur was gnawing at them too? Zendra lowered her crossbow but kept scanning the heavens for a moment, hoping to see a flicker of golden feathers.

Retiring to breakfast she addressed the others, trying to force herself to appear more jovial than she really seemed. "Before we leave I need to prepare some new elixirs, cremes and powders for the day ahead. It won't take long but," she added with a chuckle, "it is very boring so if anyone wants to help me spend twenty minutes looking for the right type of moss I'd be grateful."

Zendra didn't need the help - preparing 'Cure Wounds', 'Purify Food & Drink' and 'Faerie Fire' for todayshe knew her alchemy backwards - but it would help to keep her mind off her own frustrations to have a little company and it might even help them to.




The Harikas Mountains may have been as barren as an anchorite's home but there was something to be said for leaving the endless flatness of the deserts and plains. As they passed the goat high on it's ledge Zendra felt her stomach rumble a protest but she ignored it. She'd learned too well that nothing good came in the land of Khur, at least not for her, and if you saw something that promised relief it was probably a cruel trap.

I'd bet a hundred steel that that goat is a monster in disguise... or owned by a tribe of ogres so we'll have them after us too... or even just if we try and catch it will fall down a crevice and us with it. Khur offers you nothing. It simply takes.

Cynical perhaps but she'd suffered quite enough to mistrust any signs of opportunity. So maybe it was that healthy mistrust that alerted her to the dangers with the 'wildflowers'...

The dangers beyond the wildflowers!

"Stop!" she cried out, reaching out to grab Besimeh before the simpleton dove into the flowerbed. "The Shimmerweed! It's a trap! It will bewitch a weak mind - and if it doesn't kill you those lions will!"

With her free hand she gestured towards the spot where she had glimpsed the mother mountain lion and her cubs.



 


 


 

Last edited by RossN; Nov 19th, 2023 at 07:02 AM.
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  #135  
Old Nov 21st, 2023, 08:52 AM
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Talia Dawnstar
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There was nothing left to do but to move on… to move on from the needless violence, the suppressed anger and anguish… it was time to move on. Talia quickly moved into her familiar role, scouting ahead as best she could. The kender thought she would feel a sense of relief when the group finally came towards the towering mountains but she quickly realized that this would not be the case. The mountains were bare and forbidding and Talia worried about again snapping her ankle. She would have to pick her way forward carefully.

Talia’s ears perked up when she heard the calls of the goat, the sound echoing down through the rock walled canyons. She quickly loaded her hoopak as she tried to pinpoint the direction the bleating came from and once she did she scrambled closer, picking her way forward carefully. She tried to shield herself behind loose boulders but everytime she ducked down, she found that she lost sight of the goat when she popped back up.

Her stomach growling, Talia was about to give up the hunt when she spied the animal perched on a rock ledge, well within sling distance. As she loaded a stone, she saw Redwaters approaching the goat from a different direction. You're not getting credit for my kill! she thought as she quickly spun her hoopak around her head and whipped her stone towards the goat.

She heard a final bleat from the goat before it fell out of view but she was unsure if she or Redwater had dealt the killing blow. She scrambled forward, ready to help the strange man transport dinner back to the rest of the party.

It was later in the day, after the sun had set that Talia saw her first field of Shimmerweed. She stood transfixed as she stared at the swaying lights. They danced like stars against the black fabric of the night and she almost expected the Dawnstar to streak across the faux sky. Talia stood… lost in her memories of copying star charts with her father.

"It is all so beautiful.


OOC (No Aoo - fancy footwork)
 

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Last edited by Begon Ugo; Nov 21st, 2023 at 08:53 AM.
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