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  #31  
Old Nov 3rd, 2015, 04:50 AM
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Redemption
Each day was harder than the one before. During his first year of training, Omacui’s body had hardened up. He was used to the strict regimes, the long marches and heavy loads, the battles – both lethal and practise.

He found it hard to make friends – few of the others were of his people, mostly they were city bred or born slaves. Each however had a spark within them, something that someone had noticed, and had resulted in them being selected.

But since the incident with the shield wall and his punishment in the sands Omacui realised he had lost something. Sakhr had shown he was a friend. Well, a friend of sorts. He had introduced Omacui to pesh, and pesh had made everything right. When he was chewing it, Omacui could forget about the pains of his body. Forget about having no family. Forget the humdrum. Sometimes he wondered where Sakhr got it – and what he might one day want in return. But when the days got too hard, as they increasingly did, the pesh took away that worry too.

Now however Sakhr was gone. Omacui had expected something big, something dramatic. A gesture. But of Sakhr there was no mention at all. It was as if the man had never existed, and that worried Omacui. What also worried Omacui was that there was no more Pesh. Each day without it was longer. He could feel his strength fading and his vision diming.

The Areef knew there was something wrong. Abdul-Azim was a highly perceptive man. He knew there had been bad blood between two of his youngsters, and that it had very suddenly changed. He knew the signs of pesh addiction too, but little about how to counter it. Sweat it out of them, we’ll just push him harder was his thinking.

His squad mates also knew not all was right with Omacui. While never a figure of great popularity, he was respected for his skills and his upright if somewhat rustic beliefs. Of all the squad mates, it was Hanif who finally took pity on the young warrior-slave.
I know what you crave for Omacui.” he said, sidling up to Omacui while he was on watch. “But so long as you crave it, you will be a slave to it as well as the sheik. And the sheik won’t tolerate anyone as your master but himself.
The older man let his words rest on the younger for a minute. “Tomorrow is a rest day. If you would be free of your bondage to pesh, meet me before dawn on the hill top yonder.” – he pointed to a rocky crag with an oddly flat top. “Before Dawn Omacui.

Once his watch was over, Omacui slowly removed his armour and weapons. Everything took time and all his muscles hurt. “I must be sick, but it has been going on for weeks. And yet – no fever

He slipped into bed, wondering if the wonderful dreams of pesh would come to him that night. They didn’t. He was never sure if it was a dream, or a memory. A lady of fire. The blinding sun overhead. A cool kiss and the feeling of her breath over his face.
Omacui awoke, tired. It was not the feeling of the dream-maid’s breath on his face, but the pre-dawn zephyr that woke him. Slowly he rolled off his pallet and climbed to his feet. The words of Hanif from the day before came to him and as he was awake, Omacui padded outside and headed up to the crag.
There he found Hanif, prostrate on the flat rock. Gently nudging the man, Omacui looked around as the sky slowly showed the darkness being chased away. “You are here. That is good. Before I was a slave, I was a priest Omacui. A priest of Sarenrae. And within you I see her touch too. She is a god of many facets. The dawn, ne beginnings and redemption. She can take the cravings from you if you ask her to.
The priest waited for a minute as Omacui stood silent. “But nature hates a void Omacui. If the craving for pesh is to go, something must replace it.. something wholesome. If Sarenrae is to take the burden of pesh from you...what will you give to her?

It was almost too much. “Why can’t anything be easy?” came his frustrated cry. “I know your goddess. We have met before. I was marked by her as a youth – but somehow I think you know that already. What has she done for me since then? Nothing.” – he spat out the words.

Hanif smiled, not at all taken aback. “Maybe not, or maybe she knew you would be here and need her. Maybe that is why I, her priest, am a slave here. Whatever the reason Omacui, here is your chance. The dawn will break in a minute, and then – there will be a new beginning. A new day. Will you also begin anew. Will a new Omacui arise with the dawn?

Omacui looked up, his eyes at first on Hanif, and then at the brightening sky. “I can’t live like this...” he murmured, tears in his eyes.

As the dawn broke, Omacui caught fire. The pain was incredible. It felt like his blood was boiling. But as it boiled and burned, so too was the pesh within it. Gasping for air, Omacui hung for a second, transfixed by the suns first rays. Transfixed for eternity. Then he too was prostrate on the stone, sobbing, crying, and being comforted by Hanif.

Overhead the sun beat down, but on the top of that rocky knoll, two men sat and talked. And the heat of the sun didn’t seem to touch them at all.


Last edited by aerondor; Nov 3rd, 2015 at 04:51 AM.
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  #32  
Old Dec 3rd, 2015, 12:23 PM
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A Gift from Grandmother Nightmare

Alone
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Alone
Standing alone on the mist-covered mountain of Raappt's ribcage, Grak found himself naked and hairless, shivering as a cold breeze whipped through his body. Pangs of hunger wracked his massive frame, greater than any he had felt before and he knew a slow and painful death would greet him if he did not find food soon. As his stomach growled in protest, the scent of blood came to his sensitive nostrils, causing his head to shift to the right.

His teeth flared in delight at a beautiful sight, the torn and broken form of Kardswann. The genie's belly was torn from sternum to waist, his innards splayed out before him tantalizingly. His mouth watering with anticipation, Grak tried to reach out for the genie's tasty liver, knowing only the flesh of his greatest enemy would be enough to satisfy his ravening hunger. But he could not, his arms remained still at his side, for he was frozen with paralysis, mere inches away from the sumptuous feast.

Grak blinked his eye, his eyes!, as the still living Kardswann turned his head towards him, oblivious to his own extruding innards. To his shock and amazement, the sundered both of the genie rose, both hands casually holding his own entrails as he spoke in a jovial and playful tone. "You did well in exterminating your own tribe. Thanks to you, my plans are moving forward even faster than expected. The genocide of your clan, has ended the service of the only true worshippers of Lamashtu, which ultimately resulted in the death of Lamashtu herself." Kardaswann said, giddy with delight.

"But I know you would never believe my words, so perhaps you should hear it from someone you trust." he said, turning his blood stained head to a figure at his side.

Grak shifts his gaze towards the newcomer, a tall, wirey gnoll dressed in a shaggy purple coat with a large fanged spider embroidered across the front, the vestments of a priest of Rovagug. The face of the creature was covered with a gruesome flesh covered wooden mask.

Laughter erupts from behind the mask, husky feminine laugh brought forth a flicker of recognition. But before he had time to contemplate who it was, the priest removed the mask to show her face. It was Lakkur, the priestess of the Three Jaws who had been instrumental in accepting him into her pack. She smiled as him as she runs her finger through the fur on his head, whispering to him in her gravelly voice.

"You have been a valuable pawn, Grak'Ark, and far easier to control than I expected. Thanks to your efforts in destroying the Kulldis tribe, the last true worshippers of Lamashtu, we were able to weaken the goddess enough for Rovagug to feast on her soul. The Mother of Monsters is dead now, absorbed by The Rough Beast. And it is all thanks to you," she cackled, the truth of her words hanging over him like a cloud.

Her laughter continues as she stands back from the stricken gnoll, turning away only momentarily to speak with Kardaswann. "Come with me, my lover." she said, taking the genie's hand in her own. "This one has done all we wanted, he is useless to us now. Let us leave him in the mist, to live with the consequence of his own actions for all eternity." she giggled as the pair walk off together into the ethereal mist.

Grak watched the fading forms in abject misery, knowing the words spoken to him were the truth. Unable to cry out in protest or take his own life, he Remained unable to twitch a muscle, cold, starving and helpless. For he knew he was in a place far worse than what any punishment that could be meted out in the layers of the abyss or any of the nine hells.

He was godless and packless. He was alone.

Last edited by Squeak; Dec 3rd, 2015 at 12:24 PM.
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  #33  
Old Jan 1st, 2016, 05:28 PM
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Aunt Haleen

As Dullen embraces Haleen, a flood of emotion hits him. His dear old friend has been reunited with him and now he knows she was playing a ruse to be Kardswann's consort.

As the emotion subsides, a moment of clarity hits him as many tucked away memories hit him.

He sees his father in the temple of Irori, with the same mediallion around his neck. Haleen is arguing with him as they pace in the temple.

Harluun knocks over a sacrafice bowl off the alter to Irori, "I have been fed lies! The truth lies with the power I have discovered under Kelmarane. I will have ultimate power and glory. This so called perfection I have been striving for is within my grasp. There was no end to serving Irori.""

Haleen tries to reason with him, "Brother, you don't know what you speak, you are being controlled somehow. You are not the person I know and love. What about your wife and children? The madness you speak of renounces all you have been taught and to abandon your family to follow this unknown being that promises you things and powers that say will be granted quicker. This quick and easy way wil lead to your ruin." She puts her right palm on his cheek and looks into his eyes hoping to break through.

Halruun backhands her as she falls to the ground. "I have no family. Except Dullen, he has shown the gifts necessary to become even greater than I. He will follow me with my master."

Haleen runs out of the room, yelling: "No, I will kill off all your family before you have a chance to turn them. Any of them have the potential you speak since they are of your blood. You know I have the ability and will carry it out. There is no way that I will allow you to corrupt any of them to your evil ways."

"You are all talk, Haleen. I know you. You won't raise a hand against my family."
Halruun turns his back to her and heads back into the depths of Kelmarane. To his new master.

This was strange because Dullen didn't remember being present when this happened.

Later that day:

Next Dullen remembers helping Haleen moving bodies into their home. "Auntie Haleen, why am I helping you bring these bodies of that family that died of disease into our home."

"Dullen, there is a danger to your family. We must leave tonight and the only way I can guarantee the safety of the family is to fake your deaths. After we move these bodies, we must gather the children and leave."

"I don't understand. Surely my father will protect us."

Haleen replied, "Your father is dead. He died in the temple earlier today. No one knows yet. Hurry, time is of the essence. You can grieve later." She hugs Dullen as the young boy is overwhelmed over hearing of the death of his father.

They packed up and left, the last thing remembers is the glow of the fire of their home in the distance as he was helping the others get through the fields heading South. He thought he heard the faint scream of his father in the distance, but he thought that it was his imagination as Haleen had told him of his father's death.

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Last edited by ShinobiMaster123; Jan 1st, 2016 at 05:33 PM.
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  #34  
Old Jan 10th, 2016, 10:50 PM
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The Death of Harluun

**CRASH** **CLATTER** Items are flung from the alter as Harluun enters the Church and takes out his rage on the inanimate objects. Shamuta! Haleen that stupid, ignorant whore! She did it! I never thought that my sister would carry out such a a despicable act. My decision was right. Xuthlos, you are my guiding light to the power I seek!" Halruun lets out a manic laugh as the tears roll down his cheeks and then go dry.

A quiet voice resonates from the darkness, "Really, Harluun? Really?"

Harluun spins around to see a brown cloaked figure coming out of the darkened corner. Only one word comes out of his mouth, almost a stammer as fear reaching the confines of his soul are revealed. Oo-be-gon!

The Redeye Knight Master steps up to his pupil. Harluun, my pupil. See what your exploarations into cheating your way to power has gained. Irori, abandoning you.. your sister turns away, your wife and children dead! Your quest for power is destroying you.

Harluun, let your anger flow and make you stronger. He is the one that slew your family. Harluun hears the voice of Xulthos in his head.

Harluun pauses, then screams, NO!! YOU WERE THE ONE WHO SLEW MY WIFE AND CHILDREN, THE DARK ONE SPEAKS!! YOU LIE!! YOU WILL PAY FOR WHAT YOU HAVE DONE! Harluun lets the anger flow through him as he assalts Obegon with a barrage of swings with his sword.

Obegon expertly parries all the attacks. Harluun, Irori still is within your heart, you must push away this scheme of getting more power before you are ready. Continue on this path and I will have to stop you myself.

So be it old man! I have had enough of your lies. I have seen the way, the truth and the darkness. It has embraced me and I have accepted it. You don't realize the power of the darkness. Harluun sneers.

You have chosen and I tried to show you that there was still hope, but you refuse to turn. You have chosen your fate. I can't allow your evil to go forth with you still alive. It pains me my student, but you give me no choice."

The titanic battle rages through the night, climbing stairwells, jumping across roofs, the two battle through Kelmarane. Each parried blow, showered sparks into the air. A green glow surronded Obegon's longsword, as a red glow surrounded Harluuns. Each focusing the power of their patron through them.

Harluun was losing the battle for every 10 swings he was unleashing none would get through his master's defenses, while his master struck at least once every 10 blows. Harluun was feeling the fight slipping away from himself. He weakly called out to Xuthlos to come and save him, but sadly he did not answer.

Harluun's faith was waning as the red glow started to diminish. Finally Harluun throws his blade on the ground,

Okay, Obegon! You have won. I surrender."

Obegon stands in front of Harluun, his longsword pointed at his heart. I won this fight before it started Harluun, because I know the truth of Irori.

Obegon thrusts his sword deep into Harluun, cleaving through his heart. Harluun's eyes flutter as he can't believe his old master would do that. Harluun lets out a gurgle as he drops to the ground, dead.

Obegon, takes Harluun's sword. "You were trying to play on my emotions Harluun. We both know you would have delved back to the darkness. Now the darkness has set you freee.

Obegon arranges for Harluun's body to be burried far on the outskirts of the city in an unmarked grave. Hoping the dust diggers would feast upon his flesh.
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Last edited by ShinobiMaster123; Jan 10th, 2016 at 10:53 PM.
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  #35  
Old Jan 14th, 2016, 12:45 AM
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Entertainment on market day



After the dusty hills the sun-swept village looked shady and inviting. Omacui was honored to accompany his father into Iquit. Before them they drove half a dozen goats. It had been a good spring, and the family had done well. One of the goats had even had twins - a lucky sign indeed.

Nearby the air swirled in a lazy eddy as a small dust devil rose sending tumbleweed scattering over the well trod path.

"This way Omacui. The market will be in the village center, and that is where buyers will come."

Omacui kept a careful eye on the beasts, a stick in hand to dissuade any from either roaming or lingering too long. Ahead was the circular village common where several sparse looking olive trees provided meagre shade. Around the edge stalls had been set up, many with cloth coverings to provide shade for seller and an incentive for a buyer to linger. Crowded through the village were more people than the young Omacui could ever remember seeing, why there must be dozens of them!

Father and son led the goats into the shelter of a pistachio tree. The youngster looked up hopefully for the nuts, but a stern look from his father soon stopped him. Squatting in the scant shade, the two waited with their goats as the sun continued to climb.

"Father, others are selling goats over there. See? Hear them call? Why do we just wait?"

"Be patient my son. That man is anxious to sell and be gone. The buyer will see this and drive a hard bargain. Our goats are good, and they will sell well without us acting in an unseemly manner."

Sensing his son was anxious to look around Ishan gave him a gentle push. "Explore, but keep your hands in your pockets."

Omacui didn't need to be told twice. Standing up with the enviable ease of youth he looked around, before examining the closest stall first. No coin was in his pocket - the family had few to waste. The seller of sweetmeats kept a close eye on the boy, but the man knew Ishan and doubted his son would cause trouble.

Omacui moved on to the next booth, this one full of wooden carvings. Some of men, other of fantastic beasts. One especially fine carving was of a bearded man wielding a wooden scimitar. "It is the Warden Ichmael" smiled the seller.

As Omacui headed off to a third stall he noticed a general drift of people towards the other side of the village center. He followed along behind. A man knelt in chains his face a mask of terror as his arms were stretched out in front of him. Nearby was a small fire with a large blade sitting within, slowly turning red.

As the crowd gathered, Omacui wormed his way through them getting to the front, curious about what was happening.

"Please no. My children were starving..." begged the man in chains.

The crowd parted as a huge man, easily half a head taller than Omacui's father pushed through it. Grasping the hilt of the glowing blade he addressed the man.

"You have stolen, and broken the law of the Pactmasters. There is only one penalty."

The blade swung down and the mans right hand fell to the ground. As blood spurted, the swordsman pressed the glowing blade to the stump, causing the man to scream once and then faint. With a disdainful look the swordsman kicked the hand into the fire and released the chains from the unconscious man.

Looking around the man surveyed the village. "Know all that justice is impartial and fair. This is the fate of any who would steal."

The horrified Omacui could do little but look on, open mouthed as the crowd nearby broke out in cheers. A sudden heave of his stomach had the youth rushing for a quiet corner as his breakfast made a break for freedom. After a couple of wretched minutes he felt a quiet presence behind him. Turning he saw his father, one goat still with him.

"Come Omacui. The goats sold well, and I think you have had all the entertainment you can take for one day."

Ishan took a different route from the village, stopping at a small house. Omacui could hear wailing from within it. "Wait here Omacui" commanded his father as he pushed aside the door opening and led the last goat within. Quiet conversation took place, and even Omacui's keen ears could not make out what was said. Then his father returned with no goat and led Omacui out of town and back into the hills.

Omacui walked along in silence, the scene in the marketplace replaying itself in his mind again and again.

"Father. How will he feed his children when he has only one hand?"

Ishan walked on, slowly. "How would the man he stole food from feed his children if theft were permitted?" he countered.

"We live in a hard land Omacui. There are no dancing girls, no rivers of mead and honey. We earn what we have - we work hard for it. If we don't work hard, we go hungry - we don't make another man hungry in our place."

Omacui settled into his stride, walking now beside the towering figure of his father. The hot afternoon sun beat down on them slowly numbing Omacui from the horrors of the market scene.

"Who did you sell the last goat to?" he eventually asked, as much to break the silence as for any real interest.

"I didn't sell it. I gave it away Omacui. The land is hard, but a man need not always be so. To have compassion is sometimes even more important than seeing that justice is done."


Last edited by aerondor; Jan 20th, 2016 at 05:27 PM.
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  #36  
Old Jan 14th, 2016, 02:53 AM
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Remkah`ar has a part of his past he would like to keep to himself - for now
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Amid a sense-dulling haze of cinnamon, cardamom, musk, myrrh, and the more collective scents of coconut oil, grease, and fried goat cheese, a small buzzard perched on a crenellation of the wall isolating the Upper City of Katapesh between the Lower. Underneath this bird, the Nightstalls of the Lower City churned with saturated, stirring activity. Thrills, poisons, intoxicants, diseases, body parts of all kinds of beasts, even slaves, and bonds with devils were all up for sale for individuals who knew where to look, to be had for a wrangle and a struck deal. Even though the sun had submitted her existence and sunk below the sands hours ago, the city still sweltered with the lingering heat of the desert day and stewed with the hot humidity of thousands of figures exchanging goods and services.

It was from inside this grinding chaos that Remkah`ar surveyed the gnoll bitch in the Nightstalls. The Ifrit had seen this feral creature pass through for the past two nights, and as the gnoll stalked purposefully forward tonight, Remkah`ar’s curiosity was riled. Gnolls weren’t surprising in the Nightstalls, but a noticeably dominant she-gnoll striding autonomously was a bizarre sight for even such an anormal scene as this. Remkah`ar drew his cowl tighter, tugged at his cloak, and swept cautiously behind the almost seven-foot bipedal hyena, staying a dozen or so paces behind his mark in the bustle of figures. The she-gnoll stopped fleetingly before a tent, where she barked out a familiar Katapeshi phrase, proclaiming her presence at the opening and requesting consent to enter.

This is no vicious beast from the Brazen Peaks, Remkah`ar thought to himself, feeling validated in his earlier hunch that this particular gnoll believed herself separate from the more horrific and cruel ways of her kin. The Katapeshi drifter sensed some elusiveness prowling within the rough-furred being, but whether it was actually some aura of prowess or merely a divergence from the gnoll slavers of the mountains, he could not yet be sure.

Moments after the gnoll had entered the sandy, dry, desert-beaten tent, a sickly thin, genderless figure appeared, chewing something vulgarly. The gnoll followed behind. Remkah`ar was intrigued further, here was a strange pair. A skinny and rakish woman, her face gnarled by the harsh environments, wearing a battered hide shirt, and a tightly-wrapped turban shielding her head against the cool desert night; next to her, the hyena-like gnoll soared proudly, deep animal eyes vacillating around the neighboring tents, stalls, and market canopies.

Subconsciously, Remkah`ar knew he had been spotted. The gnoll’s eyes did not betray this, the disheveled fur was abruptly vibrant by crackles and snaps like static electricity. This quickly building tension was highlighted by a sneer of the gnoll’s black lips as she spoke to the back of her companion with a piqued whisper.

The mate gauntly smirked and glanced into the shadows where Remkah`ar hid. The she-gnoll tramped forward a pace and leaped at her stalker loitering in the shadows, who was trying to disappear deeper into the night. The leap flouted gravity, and the swiftness of movement was shocking, invalidating the reflexes of the shadow-walker. Suddenly Remkah`ar was struggling against the target of his curiosity, who held him in a grip that seemed fouled with magic. Although well-rested and vigilant, Remkah`ar felt suddenly sapped of his strength. Still, his lithe body overpowered his antagonist’s efforts to keep him controlled, and he slipped out of the mongrel’s grip with little effort.

“Stop, stop,” Remkah`ar said, laughing beguilingly while merely evading the commanding grip. At the same time, the gnoll recovered her footing and the hide-clad woman drew a scimitar and pulled a sickle from under the masses of pouches dangling from her belt. Remkah`ar drew his own scimitar in a move so swift as to give his opponents pause. Raising one eyebrow in a broad arc, he demanded, “Let me speak before we batter each other over a mistake.”

The she-gnoll snarled deep in her throat, a low rolling that rose up into a crisp bark of a word: “Talk!”

Remkah`ar relaxed his protective posture, but not his attention. He let the scimitar dangle deceptively to one side as he explained himself. “You’ll have to forgive my shadiness. I’m the indiscreet, bored type, fit more for robbin’ tombs than prowlin’ the Nightstalls.”

The open, turbaned woman put a hand on the gnoll’s shoulder. “Go on, then,” she said to the shrouded man in front of them. “Tell us why you were trailing my friend here all the way through the Nightstalls.”

Remkah`ar elevated both eyebrows this time and stared at the beastly gnoll before him giving her a judging look. The gnoll appeared to take this as a summons to speak.

“Tip for you: never stalk me. I detected you, yes. We savage creatures have powerful senses, plus I have a hidden pair of ears and eyes.” With that, the great, unkempt she-gnoll outstretched her arm. A plump, ridiculous-looking bird fell and landed gauchely on her forearm, ostensibly from nowhere, with its meandering neck throwing its small, boggle-eyed dome this way and that. The gnoll patted the back of its wings, and it flinched and ruffled, zipping its head backward to look reproachfully at her. The two twittered and screeched at each other in harsh gibberish.

Remkah`ar again laughed easily. “More to you than just a rough-and-tumble dissident that broke away from the pack,” he said, his voice approving. “Perhaps I could have a word with the two of you someplace a bit more private? The paths of the Lower City are swarming with punks, staves, charlatans, and traitors,” he said with a hint of satire and a glint, “but we can find a secluded booth and have a chat over a mutual hookah.”

The gnoll howled, and the hide-clad woman’s grin resurfaced. “That might just work,” she said, putting away her scimitar and sickle. “You’re paying, of course,” she added in a tenor that denoted that these discussions were not up for amendment. “And it’ll have to be a short meeting, as we have business to attend to tonight.”

“Naturally,” said Remkah`ar. “I’m Abdul-Azim Remkah`ar. Spent time on a ship in the Mwangi Expanse but my beginnings are in this city,” he said as the three started to stride through the chaotic warren of stalls, kiosks, carts, and tents of the bazaar. “I’m returned after a couple of years away, and I’m looking for some, shall we say allies,” he continued.

“Allies for what?” growled the gnoll.

“For the profitable trade of discovering and marauding ancient ruins,” replied Remkah`ar quickly, looking over at the gnoll. “I provided you my name. I request the two of you to return the consideration?”

“My name’s Pandrecha, and this here’s Gazouq,” said the turbaned woman, signifying the gnoll, who dipped in confirmation. “I spent some time on the waters myself, both oceans. What’s this about marauding ruins?”

“I’d rather wait until we’ve found our little booth of privacy to begin talking with you about that,” said Remkah`ar.

The group of three continued to talk sporadically until they reached a spacious tent of rich silks, festooned with streamers. “Alright girls, let’s have a smoke,” said Remkah`ar as he entered the tent, trailed by Pandrecha and Gazouq, who had to stoop her head considerably to enter the infamous den of pleasure.

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Old Jan 22nd, 2016, 04:18 PM
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Fatherhood


The trip back to the monastery of St. Vardishal had not been quick. Each step of the way his feet has felt like lead. For a while Omacui ibn Ishan had wondered if he was getting sick. The sun had beat down on him, merciless as he himself had been and he accepted the punishment readily.

With his urgent message delivered, Omacui squatted in the large courtyard of the mosque, keeping out of the way as the others bustled around making ready for their trip.

Omacui.. he could almost feel the voice in his head
Nynetjer? he asked in his head, but his shadow didn’t answer.

The ranger turned his head, wondering if his keen ears had just detected another calling him from elsewhere – but there were no raised voices amongst the efficient hustle and bustle of getting ready.

Slowly his eyes scanned the courtyard. It was empty apart from himself, and without even a breath of wind to stir the thick dust, it was still as a grave. Still, the hairs of the back of his neck pricked up. Danger? It was hard to tell. The canny ranger again scanned the yard, not focusing on anything, just letting them slip around, watching for movement.

Could it be one of the slaughtered monks yet haunts this once holy place? he wondered. Something told him the explanation wasn’t quite right. If there were ghosts, surely he would have met them earlier when tidying up the tombs where they had been slaughtered.
More likely the ghosts of the innocent young you didn’t have the will to protect – but Omacui knew that voice well. It nagged him constantly. He put the thought of ghosts out of his mind.

Then his eyes caught it: just the smallest shiver of movement in the middle of the yard. Slowly he stood. The late afternoon sun still shone brightly as he cautiously approached the bowl shaped middle of the courtyard. A smallest trickle of sand was moving.

Another earthquake? he wondered, quickly looking around the courtyard at the surrounding buildings. But they moved not at all.

The Eggs! realisation struck Omacui. He hurried forward and then knelt so as to not accidently step on them. Reaching forward Omacui’s large hands slowly brushed away the sand. There it was again, a tremor. Hands moved faster, but still carefully, digging out the egg that was all a tremor.

Wondering if this was how he would have felt at the birth of the child he would never have, the ranger squatted again, watching expectantly. It was certainly taking its time, but then again Omacui had no way to know how long this normally took.

Food! Surely the small bird would be hungry when it emerged. Leaving his charge for a moment, the ranger scavenged around the large courtyard. The rest of his time had been a constant battle to avoid ants and centipedes, but there were never any around when you needed them.

Eventually he spied a small sand-snake. Grabbing it was no real risk, and the ranger quickly broke its back to ensure it would be no risk to the small chick. Time passed, as the holy disk of Sarenrae continued its path across the sky. After what seemed an eternity the first crack appeared. Tiny, but a crack none the less. Then another, and then slowly the first piece of shell broke away and a head peeked out.

The snake, Omacui realised, while tiny was still far too big. He gathered up several ants that had come to enjoy the spectacle and dropped them one by one into the baby birds mouth. It gobbled them down greedily and then continued to break its way out of the shell.

Eventually the small, naked bird flopped out onto the sand, where the ranger gathered it up into his hands.

You’re Beautiful!” he smiled at the baby Geier.




Last edited by aerondor; Jan 22nd, 2016 at 05:50 PM.
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Old Jan 24th, 2016, 09:46 PM
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The death and rebirth of a packGrak marched the group of pups down to the Pale River, taking a quick pace. Understing the consequences of their action if they fell behind, the young gnolls kept up with him, even though what was a loping stride for the massive gnoll was a brisk trot for the youngsters. His jaw was clenched at the grim reality of the necessity in killing the pups.

He slows a bit and turns to face the wuta horrro, twelve curious faces looking up to the elder gnoll, wondering why he had taken they away from the town and towards the river. His eyes latch on to one of them, an older male no more than Gnolls come to maturity at 6. Comparably speaking, this would be the equivalent to a 12 year old human4 years of age, who stood protectively in front of two younger bitches, a silent snarl on his face as if he knew Grak'Ark's intent.

It was the defiant look of the pup and the desire to protect his packmate that gave Grak pause. It was like he was looking into a mirror, with a younger version of himself growling back. The truth of the situation hit him like a ton of bricks. They were like he was, victims of being born into a pack with heathen leaders and unable to do anything about it.

'Those responsible for betraying the Kulldis have paid for their blasphemy. The Rada is dead, except for one, and that one had never really allowed Rovagug into his heart.' he says to himself, a thought coming to his mind as he picks up his pace and changes direction.

He leads the group to a bend in the river, where the dismembered body of a female lay. She had been trapped here against a ledge with no chance of escape and had been literally torn apart by her attackers. Grak looks at the ripped form of Arrna without regret, knowing that the death of his former friend could mean the life and continued propagation of these young gnolls. He sees the bloodied footprints of her killers moving off to the north and knew his plan had a chance of working.

He escorts the pups into the corner of the alcove, trapping them between his massive form and the sheer stone wall. None of the young would escape. "I am Grak'Ark the Jackal, once of the Kulldis tribe. Your pack has been destroyed a punishment for their worship of Rovagug, a false god and enemy of our people. Gnolls were created by Lamashtu and she commands the loyalty of all who are gnolls." he to the wide eyed youth as the fetid stench of their fear fills the air.

"You will be given a choice today. If you wish to beg for mercy, fall to your knees before me and I will consider saving your worthless lives. But if you chose to fight rather than beg, then I will give you the tools to make it a fair fight. Make your choices now." he says as he pulls out his massive terbutje threateningly.

Two of the young gnolls, a male and a female, step forward trembling, falling before the Grak'Ark with a whimper. "Are there any others?" he asks, his question greeted by a chorus of growls and howls of anger coming from the youngsters. The powerful gnoll nods at their decision, glad that so many had chosen to fight.

Grak's wicked obsidian blade flashes out quickly, the single arc tearing both of the groveling pups in half at the waist. "They chose poorly. Lamashtu offers no mercy, the way of the Lamashtu is to fight or die,." he says as he steps back, holding his bloodied weapon aloft.

"I am not your enemy." he begins to the incredulous stares of the youngsters. "In truth, I wish for you grow and thrive, all for the glory of Lamashtu." he says as he wipes his blade on the corpse of the male pup.

"No longer are you a wuta horrro, you are a fatara. If you wish to survive the trials that you face, you will have to rely on each other for food, companionship and protection. If you do not work together, you will die." he growls.

"You, what is your name," he says, pointing his blade at the young pup who he had seen defending the two young bitches earlier.

"ArrArr" the gnoll barks in response, stepping forward with a look of hatred on his face.

"I name you, ArrArr, hadis of this fatara. You are responsible for the welfare of your group. Fail in your leadership and your whole fatara fails.

The corpse over there has a sword and a shield. Take them, arm yourself. You are the protector of the fatara. The rest of you will need to find your own weapons. It could be a rock or sharpens stick, but all must be prepared to fight.

There is food here, lots of food. Eat your fill and carry the rest.
"
he says, pointing to the corpse of Arrna and the two pups.

"The tracks you see there are those of Arrg'rah, the only surviving member of the Rada. Find him and ask hm to teach you the ways of the goddess. If he agrees, make him your Kai. Live together, learn from him hunt and thrive.

But if I find that you or Arrg'rah continue to betray Lamashtu, then know that I will return and kill you all, just like I killed the rest of your pack.
"
he finishes, sheathing his bloody terbutje and walking away from the pack.

It takes only moments for the sound of the tearing of flesh and crunching of bones fill the air. The youngsters had listened to his words and were following his commands. He did not know whether they would live or die, but he gave them all they deserved. He gave them a chance.


Half an hour later Grak'Ark returns to Kelmarane, where he makes his way towards Drusilla. He motions to his terbuje and spattered blood on his chest and growls at his new hadis. "It is done." he snarls at his new new hadis before turning away and begins his search for any the older, guilty Kulldis survivors to vent his rage.

Last edited by Squeak; Jan 25th, 2016 at 12:13 AM.
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Old Jan 24th, 2016, 09:48 PM
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The heart of the beastGnolls were not emotional people and Grak was no different from his kin. The heat of combat and the focus on his mission did not leave him the time to think about what was happening, he only had time to react.

But now that the danger had passed and he lay trying to sleep, he couldn't help but think about what had happened. So much had changed.

Kardaswann, the djinn who had subverted the pack of his birth, was dead. The Kulldis were no more, either dead or dispersed to the point where they would never be the same. His vow to the goddess had been fulfilled. So why do I feel as my task is not complete? he wondered, a bit unsure as to why he felt this way. He continued to think of what had transpired the day before, hoping to find answers to fill the empty feeling in his stomach.

Kabilla Farko. The bond of clan was ingrained into all gnolls by their creator and despite his history, Grak was no different. He felt the pull to his own family, but even stronger than that pull was his loyalty to his own goddess. Two parts of his soul had fought for dominance and he had followed the path of the goddess. He did not regret this choice, but neither did he find any enjoyment in the death of the Kulldis.

He thought about the young of the Kulldis tribe, young creatures born under the perversion of Kardaswann and Rovagug. He had considered putting them to the death as punishment for the actions of their parents, but he could not bring himself to end their lives.

It was not mercy that stayed his hand. Never that, mercy was for the weak. He let them live because he had been like them once, powerless against the sacrilegious ways of their elders. He sent them to find Arrg'rah, the one surviving member of the Kulldis rada, hoping his thoughts on his former packmate were right. He believed that Arrg'rah had never been in favor of the changes made by Kardaswann, but was not willing to defy his own flesh as Grak had done. 'Yes, Arrg'rah was weak, but he understands the value of the pack and will teach them the ways of Lamashtu. If the pups are able to find him, there is a chance they could survive. That is all that we can ask in these difficult times.' he decides.

His mind shifts away from the pups towards the recent battle. The Three Jaws tribe, who had accepted him into their fold, had betrayed him. 'No, not betrayed. I was deceived, for they never had accepted me in the first place.' he decides. They sent their champion against me, the Growler, just when the battle against Kardaswann and his kin had come to a head. The Three Jaws had shown the truth behind their actions, seeing him as a greater enemy that Kardaswann and Rovagug.

The battle with Growler was a short one, for the ravager had taken him unawares and laid him low in a matter of moments. If it had not been for the actions of the human priest Dullen, he knew he would be in a special hell that Lamashtu reserved for those who failed her. And where he had failed, the human bitch Drusilla did not, laying low the Growler in a matter of minutes. And it was her axe that laid Kardaswann low.

Questions raced through his mind now, flooding him with thoughts. But one question rose above the other, one that would tie together all of the thoughts that floated through his head. 'What is a pack?'

He knew that the Kulldis were not his pack, for the function of the pack was join their strengths for the mutual benefit of the whole. But the actions of the leaders of the Kulldis did the opposite and ultimately led to their destruction. Despite their claims to accept him into their pack, the manner of their betrayal showed that had never been the case. The Three Jaws were never his pack. They were simply opportunists willing to use him as a weapon towards their enemy.

But what about these humans? Could they really be my pack?' he wondered, thinking it through. They were different, hairless beasts who did not and never would worship Lamashtu. But neither did they try to force their false religion on him. They accepted him for who he was and what he was. And has he had seen in the recent battles, they worked well as a group. He remembered Rem's spells granting Drusilla a larger size. He remembered Omacui's arrows forcing Kadraswann away and into the range of Drusilla's axe. And he would never forget how Dullen had used his magic to pull him back from death's door when he failed against the Growler.

The gnoll nodded his head as he began to understand his unusual pack. They were a different group, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. He knew there would be fights and arguments among each other, but there was division in any pack. What mattered to him is how they acted when times became tough. They had united against their common foe, each lending their talents towards their common cause. He had a sense of them know and knew they would live together, work together, fight together and if need be, they would die together.

Because that is what packs do. he told himself as he felt the emptiness in his heart begin to fill.

Last edited by Squeak; Jan 25th, 2016 at 12:15 AM.
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Old Mar 17th, 2016, 05:25 AM
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Forging Steel



Forging Steel

Naked but for a loin cloth, Omacui bent low -the sweat running down his youthful body. Then up, hold, and down again. Up and down he went. His arms ached and his back ached. Even his back ached. The smith finished his piece and Omacui gratefully let the large bellows rest for a moment.

Knowing little in the way of village skills, Omacui had been put to work planting when he first arrived as a new slave boy. That too was back breaking work. But this morning rather than being put to the fields the slave master had instructed him to go to the smith’s forge.

One of the few actual buildings in the settlement, the forge was a magical place for the young boy. The smith himself was a massive man. Guff certainly, he was a man with high standards too. But not a man who was unnecessarily harsh or mean spirited.

Come here boy.” he had said “Have you ever worked the bellows?” Omacui shook his head, but it didn’t look hard.

That was several hours ago. What had been easy the first time quickly became hard when you had to do it again and again and again. Exactly right. If he sped up the smith swore at him. “You’ll make the fire too hot. Slower!” If he slowed down the smith cursed him “Quick or the iron will lose its temper!” Omacui was more worried about the smith losing his temper. One blow from those massive arms would sent him flying.

The smith finished quenching the horseshoe in a bucket of water and quickly tossed a skin to the boy. “Drink up. You’re no good to me passed out. ” During the morning Omacui had learned that the smiths previous boy had been reassigned. “I’d just brought him up to an acceptable level too. But you look like you’ll do. Back to work now. We have two ploughs to do before midday. You’ll get a rest then. No sane man works the forge in the middle of the day.

Omacui went back to working the bellows, using his whole body to keep the rhythm even. But as his body worked, his ears listened and his mind absorbed.

The smith was a man of wisdom, and had an almost mystical ability to take the blocks of iron and with just hammer, fire, anvil – and judicious application of Omacui’s own sweat, turn them into something new. As he worked the smith spoke, letting slip odd words of wisdom that the young man tucked away for the future. “You may admire a blade, but don’t respect it. Respect the man who wields it, or the man who makes it. A blade is nothing by itself.

That night Omacui collapsed on his pallet. He felt as if every muscle in his young body screamed. Tired, he ate his meagre rations, but even the effort of lifting the small portion to his mouth felt hard. He lay down on his pallet again, eyes open looking up at the night sky. Mind drifting, he saw again the flames of the forge. The sparks flying as the smith struck the glowing metal. He felt again the great whoosh of air and the accompanying blast of heat from the forge. Eventually he fell asleep, sleeping the solid sleep of those who spent a long day hard at work.

Even as the young boy slept, some of the words of the Smith came back to him, settling in the back of his mind as dreams tumbled past. Perhaps the smith really was a sorcerer. Or perhaps the words just settled on fertile ground – much of his message being broadly aligned with the words of Ishan ibn Asad which had been drummed into Omacui over his childhood years. The question that chased his dreams this night was different though.

Some day we all must make a choice. Am I the blade, or the hand that wields it?

As so the smith forged – not just iron, but also the body and mind of the young Omacui.


Last edited by aerondor; Mar 17th, 2016 at 05:29 AM.
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Old Mar 26th, 2016, 06:47 PM
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Coming of Age

“Promise me Drusilla. You will give Him the dagger, no matter what. No words, no tears, no emotion. Remember what your mother and I have taught you. Promise me.”

“I promise father.”

~~~~~

Of all the buildings in Westcrown, none is grander than the temple of Asmodeus. Sheer pillars of black basalt thrust skyward, as elaborate as they are massive, towering heralds that proclaim the authority of the Dark Prince over his infernal empire. The rich decadence of his church is everywhere, from spotless floors of polished marble the color of midnight; to an ornate altar of the blackest onyx, home to an immense leather tome containing the Asmodean Disciplines; to the otherworldly incense wafting, teasing, beckoning with the pleasures of an infernal temptress from Hell. Above, a grand fresco depicting The Archfiend himself, larger than life and larger than death, and altogether too terrible to behold; below, his ubiquitous symbol, a great crimson pentagram of inlaid rubies, garnets, and other precious blood-red stones. The opulent edifice inspires awe in all who enter, be they nobles or magistrates or seasoned travellers, and thirteen-year-old Drusilla is no exception.

She can feel their piercing eyes, probing and stabbing like needles into her soul, dissecting every aspect of her being as they assess her worthiness to participate in the ritual. She can hear the hushed whispers of the crowd, barely, over the incessant pounding of her heart, the steady assault of a battering ram that shakes her resolve over and over and over. She can see ... nothing, looking straight ahead, tight-lipped, eyes staring into an impossible distance, fixed upon the invisible goal of her parents. And she sees everything—especially the boy.

She desperately wants to turn around, to catch just a glimpse of her parents for support. But she knows she cannot. She must be strong. Her parents have sacrificed too much to give her this one opportunity to be seen and approved by the Chelish elite, to guarantee her future in a nation controlled by devil-worshippers. They have labored long and hard to give her a chance that other commoners can only dream of. She must not let them down.

Drusilla reaches the altar and looks up. The boy is dressed simply but elegantly, and has been carefully groomed and manicured—unlike the sacrifices of the savage races, only the very best will do for the Prince of Darkness, especially in the civilized society of Cheliax. His round face is blank and vacant, a small mercy courtesy of the priest's magic, but somehow his fate seems all the more terrible. The priest looks at her expectantly. Like the ring-bearer in a rather different Chelish ceremony, this is her moment.

Control. Discipline. Within a young girl rages a storm greater than the mightiest hurricane; without is the forced but fragile calm of its eye. Order over chaos. Reason over emotion. She looks at the long knife in her small hand: a ceremonial blade of gleaming silver, as sharp and fine as the line she now treads. How can an instrument of death be so beautiful? Necessary evil for greater good. Remember what we have taught you. She grits her teeth so tightly that she is sure her jaw will crack and crumble, then slowly extends her arm.

Silently, she hands over the dagger. No flinching; no trembling. Her parents would be proud.
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Old Mar 30th, 2016, 03:23 AM
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The half-orc hunched down by himself in the stall while he cast a hateful eye as his antagonists entered the tent. The three of them, allied took him by surprise. His bitterness rose swiftly. A familiar raging ire, at the prospect of them. Gazouq, that unctuous gnoll, and her scruffy half-breed friend. And the tricky Remkah`ar, so freshly reappeared from Gorum-knows-where, posturing himself around the Lower City suggestive of a Pactmaster himself, when his hand ought to have been cut off long ago for all the goods he had pilfered from Mol’s modest shop, and surely many other meager merchants vending what wares they could acquire. His hand should have been cut off ten times over; besides, he should have been executed, but he continually slithered away. He provoked the fears of plenty of struggling shopkeepers, but never was dispensed justice from the Pactmasters.

Mol’s rage was intensified, but he appeased himself, delving into years of experience. He breathed and regrouped; all of that had been years ago now. His orcish blood stuck to the rancor while his rational mind soothed the other half. A coherent scheming, cold and polished, came over his muscles and mind as he surveyed the three while they navigated to a sequestered booth in the faint creases and dancing candlelight of the rambling tent. Mol munched his qat, poached in his conservative ire, and schemed patiently.

Gazouq snorted as they sat down. “Did you see Mol?” she murmured to Pandrecha.

“Mol?” Remkah`ar peeped up. “Mol, the half-orc? That Mol?”

Pandrecha squinted lopsided at Gazouq. “No, I didn’t. He’s here?”

“In a stall, attempting to hide from sight,” said Gazouq. Turning to Remkah`ar, she said, “Yes, do you know him?”

Remkah`ar sighed rubbing the back of his neck. “I remember him more than I would like too! He holds a certain, shall we say loathing for me.” In pseudo-remorse, he quaked his head.

“Does he like anyone?” uttered Pandrecha.

“Indeed!” spurred Remkah`ar. “I can’t accept he’s opposed to you two as well — feasibly Katapesh isn’t as big as I recall!”

“Or maybe Mol looks for skirmishes with folks he recognizes he is going to loath,” suggested Gazouq, her bestial lips revolving up into a cynical smile.

Remkah`ar was stirred when he saw the gnoll ease enough to grin and winked at her. “What’s he have over the two of you?” he asked. “You decline to bargain some of those tin blades and statues he used to hawk?”

Gazouq wobbled her head. “No, not quite that,” she said and then went quiet and glanced at Pandrecha.

After a bit of reticence, Pandrecha spoke, “It’s maybe better just to say, at this point, that he considers us to be a little bit less than honorable. We’ve been on conflicting sides before if you get where I am going.”

Remkah`ar accepted. “Certainly,” he said as if he knew. “So, what do the two of you do, in this business of yours?”

The pair dithered to respond, then a savage grin extended over Gazouq’s snout as a server emerged through the flaps splitting their secluded booth from the rest of the tent, and meritoriously permitted them to escape the question, for now.

“We will come back to that,” jibed Remkah`ar, as they all spun their attention to the attendant. She was festooned in wristlets and a sinuous skirt, wearing a tight garment that exposed her midriff and pierced navel. Her eyelids were daubed heavily with dusky eye shadow, and a silver stud pricked her right nostril. “Good evening,” she offered in a voice dense with old charm. “What’s your toxin tonight? If your mood is longing, we’ve freshly attained an exceptional crop of flayleaf, sure to propel your sanities out into the Great Beyond!” The waitress grinned, her teeth were flawless and white, but her eyes were cynical with the loathing and bitterness netted from numerous years in this pathetic station.

“Great Beyond, huh? That’s a bit too far-out for my saviors,” replied Remkah`ar. He observed his two cohorts. “Either of you want to take a trip?”

Gazouq shook her head, her savage snout almost snorting in contempt of the thought. “Coffee, with a wallow of pesh for me,” she ordered.

“Pesh, really?” Pandrecha appeared shocked.

“A little now and then. You see, restraint,” Gazouq muttered, underscoring her feral smirk with a shrug of her shoulders.

Remkah`ar suggested that they all join in a searing pot of cabble-weed tea. Gazouq was amenable to this but still sought the coffee with pesh as well. Pandrecha said, “Sure, I would like some cabble-weed,” and the choice was decided.

After the waitress left the banter swiftly rotated back to Mol.

“He attempted to cut my hand off once!” laughed Remkah`ar. Hopeful to convince the two into revealing more about themselves, he let out some more particulars of his correlation with Mol. “He was committed that I habitually poached baubles from a stall he used to run — well, stall, ha, it was more similar a stained carpet spread out in the suburbs of the Nightstalls. Believe me, the brute had nothing that I ever wanted to take,” he said staunchly. Then he snickered.

“You’re a thief?” probed Pandrecha, her voice, and eyes showing distrust and doubt.

Remkah`ar grinned beguilingly and leaned in as if confessing in his two other confrères. “I’ll admit that I’ve filched a few trinkets in my time. My early years were rather distressed, and I spent them in the Nightstalls. In the end, I was taken in by the Duskwalker Guild, which permitted me to put food in my belly minus thieving it from merchants — rather a turning point for me.” He raised his shoulders feigning innocence. “I have found that the most remarkable people have at minimum slightly muddy and wretched pasts, don’t you two?”

Gazouq chortled crudely. “I can assert my piece of difficulties,” she said, then continued with a subtle tone wedged amongst self-deprecation and smugness, “I mean look at me, I am a gnoll, after all.”

“Really,” Remkah`ar warbled, endeavoring to lure the gnoll into partaking a bit of her past.

“Well I won’t talk for Gazouq,” interposed Pandrecha, “sure enough, I’ve done things I’d rather overlook some days. What’s done is done, of course, I’d be dishonest if I were to sell you on the path that piracy doesn’t hold some degree of allure. It’s mostly a starry-eyed sloppiness, though, and the truth is that it’s simple enough to forfeit your life or lose a limb or your senses when you keep the companionship of the debauched and gluttonous.” She paused. “Now the desert’s not a utopia, either, though. There is the sand and sun, and shoddier.” She contorted, then looked up as the attendant returned bringing their cabble-weed tea and coffee.

Remkah`ar tipped the cabble-weed tea in their cups. The liquid seethed as it plummeted in a flowing ribbon into the cups, its powerful tang saturating the air above their table. The soaking fumes smacked of sharpness and dirt.

“The stuff smells awful,” remarked Remkah`ar, “but finishes oh so satisfying.”

“It’s definitely a refined taste,” Pandrecha granted, rubbing her hands over her mug. Night had copiously settled into Katapesh, and even within the tent, the air was arid and frigid.

Gazouq sipped her coffee emotionlessly. Finally, she asked abruptly, “So what is this scheme that you have for us?”

Remkah`ar drank his hot tea, taking his time. After a minute spent gazing across the table at the gnoll, he replied, “Let’s talk some more about something else first. Tell me about yourself, Gazouq.” The Ifrit once again inclined forward, doing his best to ooze charm and assurance.

Gazouq appeared flummoxed and gave her cohort a sidelong cursory look. After a long pause, in which the gnoll savored the steaming tea, she repaid Remkah`ar’s questioning gaze. “Why don’t you tell me why you find me so captivating?” she said point blank, shadowed by, “Surely you don’t track every gnoll that you see in the Nightstalls. We’re not that unusual.”

Remkah`ar nodded. “I’ve been out of this city for a long time, in the Mwangi Expanse. Maybe I haven’t restored myself to the wonders and distinctive mix of life established in Katapesh.” He gave a fake a cough, fanning from the gnoll to Pandracha, then back to Gazouq. “But a premonition about you wedged my interest. A female gnoll, unaccompanied, her belly unscathed by numerous vicious births? You can’t fool me, that’s rare even in Katapesh.”

Gazouq laughed, the sound like rocks being milled together in her throat. “Reasonable enough,” she said, the words rolling out of her mouth on the end of the laughter. “But tell me, what were you thinking? Apparently you weren’t intending on being marked by my friend, the bustard. So what were you up to? Staking out Pandrecha’s tent?”

“You’ve got it wrong,” challenged Remkah`ar, his voice unfluctuating.

Then Pandrecha voiced, “Then what? Look, we value the tea and coffee. It’s justly welcome, but we’ve got drudgery to do. You summoned us here, supposedly with a goal, and now we’d like you to get to what you want if truly you do have something to offer.” The manifestation of the turbaned woman had twisted abruptly rigid as if her tolerance had been suddenly exhausted. “Or conceivably you just thought to buy yourself out of a jam?”

Remkah`ar said naught for an instant, simmering in the allegation. He glanced off to the side. Not having gotten the kind of evidence he hunted about the gnoll had curved his mood bitter. Besides, his ploy was undoing quickly. “Believe me, I was not in a jam,” he said brusquely, then instantly trailed this malicious proclamation with a question, “What do the two of you know about the Ruins of Kho?”

Gazouq spat, and coffee drizzled from her mouth. This fetched a hoot from Pandrecha, who retorted coolly to the Ifrit settled across from them.

“Oh, we’re aware of the Ruins of Kho,” she said routinely.

“Good,” answered the outsider across the table, who had hunted them and summoned them to this tent of drugs and other bodily desires. “See what you can discern of this, then,” he said, sliding a parchment with a map over the table near the other two.

As Gazouq smeared dribbles of coffee from her chin and Pandrecha grabbed the parchment, Remkah`ar positioned a reliable measure of silver and gold on the table. “That will cover our extravagances here, as well as pay the two of you for your time,” he stated to them as he stood and opened the flap that divided their booth from the rest of the tent. His farewell words to them were, “I expect to see you both again, shortly.” As he departed the booth, Pandrecha positioned the parchment on the table in-between herself and Gazouq, and they both beheld it with excessive interest after the Ifrit exited. A few seconds later, they were calculating the coins on the table, unscrambling out small piles of silver to pay for the drinks, and silently pinching several dozen assorted coins of gold, one or two of which were quite ancient and unusual.
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  #43  
Old Mar 31st, 2016, 09:01 PM
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Trevis

Shaking, barely able to stand up, Trevis lays trying to kick his addiction to pesh. My weakness, has stopped me from joining the others, I will make amends, I will make amends. Trevis promises to himself as he rocks back and forth. Back and forth. He continues rocking until he passes out into an unrestful slumber.

In a muffled, cloudy voice he hears his brother Brotis, ”Yes, my brother, it is true. While we were approaching Kelmarane, the gnolls turned on us and partnered with other members of the Kuldis tribe. We fought valiantly, but we lost Yesper, Kallien and Utarchus. My heart aches for revenge. We really could have used Trevis”
Hearing that his family members have died awakens Trevis with a start. He tries to scramble to his feet, but his legs don’t cooperate as they feel gelatinous and he does a face plant into the cold floor. Trevis groans as he turns his head.

He hears Dullen, ”Brotis, in Trevis’ condition, he would have done more harm, than good. All we can do is survive and be the best we can be. Before you start a fight with Grak, do me a favor and help with the clearing of debris from the temple area. You always was stronger than me.”
Trevis hears Brotis moving off. His brother’s words strike at his heart as if it were a hot branding iron sizzling in the shame. Trevis tries to sit up, but again the ground comes up to meet him. He pounds his fist on the stone floor, ”Weak.. Nothing but weak!” Darkness comes again as he passes out.
Father Zastoran, the small Halfling cleric, visits Trevis and administers him some liquid from a small bowl. ”Easy there, Trevis. This should help. ” It tastes like camel dung, but is very soothing. Again, Trevis drifts off.

The sound of vultures calling to one another over their next meal, awakens Trevis. He looks about and sees that his muscles ache, but feeling much better. It must be late afternoon as the sun is setting lo on the hills of Kelmarane. Trevis feels only an ache in his heart. One caused by letting his family down, and doing such he will never see three of them again. Tears fill his eyes as he can’t even imagine facing Brotis or Dullen. He picks up Dullen’s longsword he left and picks up his things and makes his way outside. Even at this time of day, the sun beats upon him. Luckily his many campaigns has built him up a thick skin, almost leather like.
Trevis unconsciously walks through the ruins of Kelmarane and comes to a familiar building. Only one wall still is intact, one that led to the master bedroom of this home. The doorframe charred but still the hash marks dug into the doorframe was present. His fingers caressed each nick, as he murmurs to himself the names of his brothers and sisters as he gauges their heights as they grew as children.

He pats the doorway as he leaves and heads south bypassing any of the members of Almah’s caravan crew and starts walking through the pesh fields. The smell of raw pesh is powerful and the Javeeves buzz and feast upon the pesh. Trevis, cured of his condition no longer desires to engage the additive substance again.
He casually hacks down some of the plants as he makes his way through the field. Then there is a rumble and some of the soil starts to shift. Trevis looks about carefully as he isn’t sure what is going on.

The ground shifts some more, then more, until a thorny tentacle raises from the ground and tries to grab his leg. Trevis was quick to react as he sees the dust digger. He chopped down with two hands the longsword biting deep into the tentacle. It retracts quickly seeing that it’s prey has some fight left in him. Trevis moves quickly trying to get out of the pesh field. Suddenly the ground opens up as the creature bites down him and takes hold intent on swallowing him whole. As the creature bites down, Trevis hears his spine snap and loses feeling in his legs. ”So this is how it ends?

Trevis’ mind races as he thinks back on his life and the things that happened in the last couple of days. Why did his brothers and sister die.. It was Dullen! He is the one that wouldn’t let him go, He is the one who hid him away as if ashamed he was his brother. He is the one that was picked and not him. He knows what he must do. He will get his revenge.

The dust digger starts to consume Trevis more as his body up to his neck is now inside the maul of the beast. Trevis makes a desperate plea to a god he has no business worshiping.
”Rovagug! Your forces have been vanquished by my Brother Dullen and his comrades! I loathe him and wish to get my revenge, save me and I will be your servant! Your other followers are been vanquished and you need more to replace them! Do it now!

The unthinkable happens. The dust digger explodes into a million pieces and Trevis crawls out of the hole. He now has feeling in his legs. He hears four words in his head, ”Come to the mountain”

Trevis looks down at his body as he sees the has also paid another terrible price. Allt he teeth marks on his body haven’t healed properly as he is scarred all over. In fact when the dust digger exploded many of the teeth scarred up his face making him almost unrecognizable.

Trevis looks up at the mountain. The Carrion King is there, but he is destined to go. Dullen… Dullen..

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Last edited by ShinobiMaster123; Apr 7th, 2016 at 10:54 PM.
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  #44  
Old Apr 22nd, 2016, 01:09 AM
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Threshold of a dream
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The rain plunged thunderously ... like a throng of clapping angels. When the rain stopped, the Spanish moss ... dripped, like freshly washed witch's hair. Destined to be wet, the swamps smelled of dampened life, alive with insects chirping, snakes hissing ... things moving. The water shifted ... splashes that left Remkah`ar wondering what lurked beneath ... he was in an alien land from the deserts he grew up in.

There in the underrated beauty, the marriage of greenery and liquid quiet ... lay the easiness of life. The slow progressing of the day ... pots brewing, scenting the air with the smells of gumbo ... or perhaps mumbo jumbo. Remkah`ar however, recognized every pot isn't boiling over with Shrimp etouffee, some pots ... cauldrons even ... are where remedies are steeped. Things hand-picked from the very waters that seemingly walked at night in mysterious myth and rooted belief ... the thin, translucent form of the mind's fears.

There in the lost paradise of the Mwangi Expanse... lies Bernice's shanty. Painted pretty in amethyst with white trim that's turned gray in the moist air. Shutters hung on by rusted nails committed to the facade of a sweet neighborly haven. Some would dare to be drawn to the uncharacteristically breath-taking pots of blossoms that line the pier leading to Bernice's front door, screened in by a small sitting area that looks frighteningly normal. They just might regret it, though.

Approaching and daring to knock ... Remkah`ar was greeted by the small framed woman ... still youthful in her rounded face and features. The contrast ... her whitened hair and a contorted body, bent like the branches that hovered over her one-story shack. Perhaps the reaping of spells cast that marched their way back to her door in the middle of the night after her protective candle head blew itself out. Upon entering Bernice's place ... Remkah`ar saw a world of difference in comparison to the unassuming look of hominess outside. Hanging everywhere were herbs and plants ... some dried and others growing and moving. Jars of preserved parts. Books old with yellowing and rippling pages ... fighting the binds ... written things eager to dance off the page and into the spirits of whoever dared to sit at Bernice's table.

“What I'm gone do for you, child?” she asked as she ushered him in to sit at the table. Remkah`ar had to be quick to speak, for when a pause is introduced ... it's all the moment she needed to read his REAL intentions. His heart's real worries and desires ...

“Oh, you want a mojo? ... you wants its bad. Hahaha ... I got something' for ya...” she'd said. She left to go outside, and a silence crossed over the shanty, like an eerie cloud on a sunny day. Remkah`ar was immobilized in his chair unable to move a muscle while a cold chill saturated the air.

Suddenly screams filled the house, and Remkah`ar found himself in another time in that same shack. He looked and could see a dim torch light sneaking out from under the rusted cellar door and hear the metal screech of a shovel hitting the stone floor as chains clattered over frantic pleas. A young child cowered quietly in the hallway corner, the hardwood floors cold under her bare feet as she pulled a blanket up closer around her head. She peeked around the corner and following her gaze Remkah`ar could see the Mwangi housekeeper, her eyes ablaze with fear. Tears streamed down her face, which shone in the moonlight creeping in through the kitchen window. She was still wearing her apron she put on after preparing dinner for the owner of the house and his friend just a few hours before, and Remkah`ar could barely make out a wisp of white flour glimmering on her cheek. The owner and his friend had just taken her sister Maria down into the cellar. The young child and housekeeper panicked as they heard Maria’s last blood-curdling cry. There was a loud thump and then all went silent in the swamps.

As quickly as the chill came, it left replaced by the rush of hot, humid moisture that drifted in through the open window. Bernice returned and after rustling through the old but shiny cypress box she carried in, she set it down in front of her ... she pulled out all manners of things. Stones, feathers, dried root ... even pieces of metal. Something to give you a spiritual placebo.

Remkah`ar knew ... she's wasn’t just a herbologist. She's was a medium. She's was a spiritually adept and psychically connected Mwangi witch. Past that ... living in that shack with those spirits she's fooled herself into believing her spells worked. She's convinced herself that her magic is black with deliberate fingers that prod it's intended. The truth is she's bent from the loneliness, the life of a pariah, ousted for her beliefs and love of all things supernatural. So when she hands you over the stone that reacts naturally to your clenched fist. Or the root that naturally soothes, or that concoction made more from focus and less, hocuses ... she's actually just giving you the power. You walk away ... into the bog's air with hope and conviction ... and your future changes just because of Bernice's shack. That little cabin in the Mwangi Expanse.

Bernice pulled out and lay before Remkah`ar a parchment, a map, a guide to his destiny. “Ah here is what ya seek young Ifreeti, a map to find ya what will link ya to yer destiny,” she lisped. She foretold of a great past in which genies rose to protect ancient lands and great cities from the wrath of the Spawn of Rovagug. Bernice told him his future has been lived before in the past. A history of great deeds and immense power that he would learn to capture in his future. But first, he must find his link to that past life, an artifact that lay in the Ruins of Kho. A ring that bound him once before and would free him of this meager life to do such great things again. She spoke nonsense he thought, or did she?
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There was a loud clap of thunder as the rain beat down on the roof once again and a mist flowed in through the open window and doors. Bernice disappeared as the swathing fog blurred everything from his sight.

A sudden flash of light – the fog began to take form. It became a dark smoke that withdrew into the middle of this new room he found himself standing in. A familiar room, he had been here before. The greenish haze came into focus, and he found himself in that room that started his journey so many years before. He felt the pain from the chaffing around his ankles caused by years of wearing chains. It was the night he broke those chains and went forth a free soul. The smoke hovered above the lamp on the pedestal and before him again formed the Ifreeti, the Genie. The one that granted him freedom. Once again he had words for Remkah`ar. “Go find this ring; it will lead you on the path that will meld your past with your future. Without it, you and this entire world may be doomed. Carry on my blood and do what you are destined to do.”

The smoke dissipated and turned to black – it quickly broke into a bright flash of light as his eyes shot open and he was blinded by the light, his breath robbed from him as he gasped for air.

As the light seared into his eyes, he gulped for air. Suddenly he became aware of the pain from the blinding light in his eyes while they adjusted and he began to feel the burn of the Kapatesh sun on his face. Slowly his senses returned as he started to get his wits about him, he recognized that he was in his room. As he sat up in his bed, he felt a sudden release of tension and let out an audible sigh liberating the air he had moments ago gulped down. He struggled for only a moment to find the thought, I had the dream again didn’t I, he concluded yes. As he calmly looked about, he caught the bitter reality, a resounding yes. He pulled himself up and leaned back against the wall keeping his backside solidly upon the blanket on the floor, he needed something to steady himself, and the wall was supportive.

He glanced around his room; the sack of his treasures from his previous life in the Mwangi Expanse was quite smaller than it was a few days ago when he met Gazouq and Pandrecha. During the time since he had also recruited a priest and his protégé along with a couple of guides that could lead them through the ruins even if they did make it across the Brazen Peaks. None of the others knew what precious treasure he sought, only Bernice and the Genie had ever mentioned it, if even only in his dreams. As far as they were concerned, it was a standard treasure hunt looking for loot. Today was the day that they would depart Kapatesh to make their way through the land of the Carrion King. He didn’t know what held more fear for him, the lands of the Carrion King or the Ruins of Kho. Both were mysteries to him as well as the tales and legends of great peril and excruciating deaths. He didn’t know why he had to recover the ring, but he knew his dreams would not proceed beyond where they stopped even this night until he found it.
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  #45  
Old Apr 22nd, 2016, 02:10 PM
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The Offering
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She towered above the young gnolls, her three eyes staring intently at the gnoll cubs assembled before her. The jackal headed woman was heavily pregnant, her feathered wings folded neatly behind her back, exposing her distended belly and hairy teats. Her taloned claws scraped the ground before her as she looked among the assembled gnolls, her lips licking with hunger.

Grak'Ark stood with three other gnoll pups, looking up at her with awe and reverence, while the others cowered before their goddess. The stench of fear wafted through the air, the scent acting like a sweet nectar to their goddess.

"I hunger!!! What do you have to offer me?!" Lamashtu asked the first of the gnolls, a large male. The gnoll quickly emptied the contents of his pockets before her, looking for something of value that might appease his goddess. He grabs the large ruby and places it at her feet, his groveling before her as he mumbles. "A valuable gem, my most prized possession." he says meekly, hoping it would be enough.

A snap of the goddess' tail showed her disproval, the powerful whip like motion connecting with the head of the male, dropping it instantly. She fell on the corpse, devouring the body of the fallen gnoll, the crunching of bone and sinew lasting only the few seconds it took her to finish her grisly meal.

Standing upright once again, the goddess moves over to the next of the pups, a small, intelligent bitch. "I hunger! What do you have to offer me?"

The wily female was ready for the question, responding quickly with the answer she believed her goddess wanted to hear. "I offer you my life, my queen. Do with it as you will." she says humbly, lowering her head before her creator.

The words were still floating through the air when Lamashtu struck, her sharp teeth ripping out the prostrate gnoll's throat. She pauses only momentarily to watch the light fade from the surprised gnolls eyes before she falling upon her meal, hungrily lapping up the gnoll flesh with relish.

She steps forward to Grak'Ark, the young pup looking up at the power of his goddess, doing nothing to hide his reverence for the power that stood before him.

"I hunger! What do you have to offer me?" she bellowed, the power of her voice nearly knocking the powerful gnoll pup to the ground with it's force.

Unlike the others. Grak did not worry about the proper way to respond, did not think about what she wanted to hear. All he knew what that his goddess hungered and needed food, and it was his task to provide it for her.

He did not hesitate as she asked the question, quickly leaping only other survivor The surprised gnoll bitch lifted her arms protectively at Grak'Ark's sudden onslaught, but the powerful male pushed aside her feeble protestation, his powerful claws grabbing either side of her head and twisting. The loud snap of her neck filled the air as the female crumbles to the ground, the light fading from her eyes.

Grak'Ark turns back towards the goddess, standing over his dead companion. "I offer you prey." he says, his eyes looking upward as he speaks, refusing to lower his gaze as the others had done, wanting instead to meet his death with his eyes wide open.

The goddesses head tilts her head back and howls in delight at the offering, a single taloned arms grasping the gnoll underneath by his armpit and lifting him into the air. Pain wracked his shoulder where her talons dug into his flesh, but he pushed aside the torment to focus on the words of Lamashtu.

Her three eyes stared intently at Grak'ark as she spoke. "I accept your gift, Grak'Ark. Go now, live and grow in power through the death of our enemies, and know that your offering has pleased me." she says, dropping her servant to the ground.

Grak'Ark hit the ground with a crash, his eyes fluttering open as he scans the empty room. A dream? But it seemed so real?! he said to himself as he began to push himself up, stopping as an intense pain flooded through him.

He reached up to touch his shoulder where Lamashtu's claws had dug into his skin during his dream. His eyes blinked twice as he stared at his stained hand in confusion. But if it was a dream, why am I bleeding?

Last edited by Squeak; May 11th, 2016 at 10:49 PM.
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