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Old Apr 25th, 2022, 11:42 AM
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Dark Day, the Standing Stones
Rising Tensions


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Khurish Camp


Few men would have failed to be impressed by “Veralyne’s” directness and charm, and even fewer by the curves she revealed while changing into something more -or possibly less- appropriate for the occasion, but the grim Khurish captain seemed to be one of them. Neither gawking at the woman like most of his men did, nor averting his gaze out of respect or shame, he remained vigilant and silent, a brusque shake of his head the only reaction to the dusky-skinned beauty’s attempt at introductions. Whether it was meant as permission to pass through or annoyance at her coquetry, was anyone’s guess.


Where the young lady had walked a fine line between friendliness and flattery, with an almost imperceptible touch of flirtation, the elf tried a more “proper” approach. For millennia the Silvanesti had treated the other races with a kind of reserved dignity that made them appear equally polite and cold. The recent loss of their ancient homeland had shaken their belief in the superiority of their kind, but still, old habits died hard - or not at all.


Isandril seemed to be the exception to the rule. He appeared humble and perfectly willingly to comply with his hosts’ wishes and stated said intention in a brief, precise manner that left no room for misinterpretation - and he did so in the native speech of Khur. For an outlander to learn the language of the desert nomads, more difficult to pronounce than any other human tongue, it was claimed, was a great sign of respect. And yet the reward he received for his efforts was a venomous look of such intensity that for a moment he feared that the captain would simply raise his spear and skewer him through without any warning.


Thankfully that was not the case and the elf was allowed to place his dagger next to Veralyne’s weapons without incident. Barely.


The strange man that followed, a man the captain could neither place, nor did he care to try, seemed to receive a somewhat warmer reception. The lines of anger in the middle-aged warrior’s face lessened somewhat and the knuckles of the hand around the haft of his spear gradually stopped being white. One of the guards snickered as he saw Xihue remove about a dozen darts from every possible place on his person, but a stern glance from his superior instantly silenced him. It seemed that even the guards were unwilling to provoke the captain’s ire that day. The shepherd’s bow was reciprocated by the slightest of nods as he too was eventually allowed passage.


While no one could have guessed where Xihue came from, Tegan’s origins were obvious. His impressive height, golden hair and soft brown eyes marked him as being of Solamnic stock. It was said that the men and women of Solamnia were as fair as the virtues they stood for, though to be honest, this was mainly said by those very same men and women. Whatever reputation the Solamnics might have had, Tegan seemed to live up to it. Despite his reservations, he was quick to place his sword, shield and hand axes on the ground and was ushered through by the captain with a beckoning movement of his hand. It appeared that the Khurish warrior was slowly losing patience.


This was partially due to Talia’s loud, if not unreasonable, protest about being called an “outlander”. Most people believed that Krynn had the form of a large disc, neatly placed upon Paladine’s great shield, thus any “outlander” would be in fear of losing themselves in the void or colliding with the stars and planets. Talia’s father would have laughed at such a naïve perception of the world, as would his daughter, but this was not the time for lessons of astronomy. Nor was it the right time for “borrowing” one of the weapons that awaited their rightful owners. At the kender’s suggestion that a couple of fine, multipurpose daggers could be traded for only one, far too large and probably unwieldy scimitar, the captain flew into a rage.


"Thieving magpie - in KhurishSerik alilaq! Keep your filthy hands to yourself or lose them!"


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Khurish Captain


The threat did not appear to be idle, for the captain’s still sheathed scimitar was very capable of cutting the poor creature to pieces - assuming of course the man could actually catch her. Despite their many flaws -in the eyes of the other races- kender were remarkably agile and extremely resilient to all kinds of “mishaps”. It was how the race had survived ever since being touched by the Graygem. Even Malystryx’s fire had been unable to wipe them out, though the Great Red had come closer to achieving this goal than anyone else before her. She had scarred them, yes, changed them in ways no one had thought possible. But they survived. Underestimating a kender was one of the two greatest mistakes one could make - ignoring them, being the other.


Kaylen knew this and she saw how a kender’s natural curiosity could complicate things for all those who sought to take part in the festival of fire and song. Stepping forward, her voice as soft as the touch of the goddess she served, she introduced herself to the kender, gently drawing her attention away from the lone scimitar and the other assorted weapons. As she offered the blessings of her goddess to the Khurish warriors, they all touched their foreheads, some hastily, some more reverently. Elir-Sana was a goddess mainly worshipped by women in Khur - healers, midwives and mothers. Men usually offered their prayers to other gods, more warlike in nature and more likely to grant them wealth, fortune and fame than the Healer-in-the-Home. And yet, despite any personal preferences, no one would have dared insult even the meekest of the gods. They knew what they were capable of when angry. They still remembered the Drowning, as the Cataclysm was known to the desert nomads, that had sundered the vast lands of Dravinaar and given birth to Khur. It had been a mixed blessing and a constant reminder that honoring the gods was always a good idea - even in their absence.


One of the guards, a young man not yet of twenty winters, if his lack of facial hair was any indication, appeared to be more touched by the dwarven cleric’s blessings than the rest of the group. He closed his eyes as he touched his forehead with his left, “clean”, hand and softly murmured something imperceptible. When his eyes opened once more, they remained glued upon the Daewar’s face, desperate for contact. Had circumstances been different, it was obvious that the youth would have eagerly approached Kaylen, though the reason behind such a move was unclear. As things were, he hesitated, possibly remembering the captain’s reaction to his colleague’s snigger.


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Young Khurish guard


Gnomes were extremely rare in Khur, the climate not agreeing with them and their inclination towards experimentation -and explosions- not agreeing with the locals. The captain’s disapproval of a tinker gnome seeking to join the sacred festival was mirrored by the unease in the eyes of his subordinates. The Standing Stones had been standing, for hundreds, possibly thousands of years, and if anyone upon the face of Krynn was capable of changing this, it was probably a gnome. Pnoah was not aware of the Khurish warriors’ misgivings, which was probably for the best. Acting with the utmost civility, the young inventor not only did as told, he even made every attempt at educating the humans about things as important as the natural properties of the different kinds of wood. Unsurprisingly, they didn’t seem to care. Pnoah didn’t blame them. It was hard for the other races to follow the workings of a gnomish mind, the movements of the gears constantly turning inside their heads far too complex for most people to understand. They were not at fault for having been born “defective”. It was simply nature - crude and imperfect.


Imperfection seemed to be a universal rule, a blemish that marked all people who lived under the sun or deep inside the earth. Those able to perceive their flaws sought to correct them -or hide them from others- each in their own way. Some took the persona of a different individual, a person blessed with everything they wished they had possessed. Some devoted themselves to the only Art that could surpass the frailty of mortals and grant them power enough to challenge reality. Some sculpted themselves anew through discipline and meditation, empowering their body and mind in ways that seemed almost supernatural. Some sought perfection in service to a worthy goal or virtue, knowing that only pure good could ever be perfect. Some walked the same paths the gods themselves had once walked, following in their footsteps and knowing that if they were able to simply keep on going they would one day ascend. Some strove to make right the world around them, reasoning that an efficient, orderly world would give birth to just the right kind of individuals - ingenious, industrious, immaculate. And some simply did not care about perfection at all, preferring to experience the world rather than attempt to change it.


A few, a very few, however, were actually born without the blemish that was the birthright and curse of the mortal races. These few were from the moment of their conception to their very last breath perfect, truly perfect. One such rare and blessed soul found herself on the foothills of the far reaches of the Reorxcrown Mountains. She found herself among lesser beings, though all were hoping for the same thing. Blainneth her name was, or at least one of her names and she too addressed the Khurish captain hoping that she would be allowed to learn the secrets of the Standing Stones and benefit from the mercy they were supposed to be able to offer to restless spirits.


The elf, strange and unique, stood with confidence, but not arrogance, before the middle-aged man who glared at her with the full fury of the midday Khurish sun. She spoke and as her words filled the air between them, the fiery sun in the warrior’s face began to set. The searing intensity of his unexplainable wrath lessened and water-bearing clouds gathered in his eyes, softening his gaze, making it more compassionate, more understanding. As the sun slowly disappeared in the horizon lines of worry and sorrow appeared, revealing his true nature beneath the anger’s fiery glare. A nature that was as flawed as that of the people that the warrior seemed to hate so much. Why such anger reserved for strangers he had never seen before, strangers he would in all probability never see again? Was it due to the failings of nature?


Nature’s failings made themselves apparent in Aric Armitage’s case too - at least according to his late father. His arms were scrawny, his face too much like that of a woman, his skin fair, far too fair for the fierce Khurish sun that was supposed to be milder during the winter months, but didn’t seem to care about the expectations of mortals. The boy was frail. This was not so much a result of his tender age, for men and women had ruled nations at fifteen years. Ariakan had even planned the conquest of the whole continent in his teenage years. No, Aric’s frailty was a result of his upbringing. Trim a young tree too much and it never grew out of its stunted form.


A boy on a quest he had already failed, though through no fault of his own, seeking something he didn’t really understand, following someone he didn’t know. "Foolish as a kender", his father would have said, or something along these lines, something probably crueler. Was it foolishness that had led Aric to cross the unforgiving desert without properly preparing for such a journey? Was it the frailty of a body that hadn’t been given the chance to develop properly and had been unable to cope with the extreme heat and lack of water? Or was it the will of the gods, who had something in store for the boy no one could foresee? Whatever the reason, after months of constantly fighting against the world, Aric’s body had reached its limits. The boy grew dizzy and fell. And did not get up.


The boy’s sudden illness caught everyone by surprise, none more so than the stoic, grim-looking captain of the guards. From the very moment the strangers laid eyes upon the man, he had been moody, impatient, even aggressive, glaring angrily at the outlanders as if the travelers had been personally responsible for some great harm that had befallen him. Judging by his previous behavior, one could have expected that Aric fainting would have been another cause of annoyance for the middle-aged warrior.


Nothing could have been further from the truth.


The captain’s eyes grew wide and for the first time the strangers saw something other than the fires of anger in them. They saw concern bordering on panic. Whether it was fear of breaking a sacred taboo or something else entirely that motivated the man of Khur was unclear.


"Don’t just stand there! Help the boy! - in KhurishHat tafiq humik farhat! Misabar il-saabi!", the captain cried out and two of his men immediately made for the boy, until they saw that the kender and the gnome were already standing next to young Aric, though they seemed more concerned with his belongings than his well-being.


"If he dies, you all join him." The warrior looked squarely at the male elf and though his threat surely included all strangers present, for some obscure reason it was Isandril Moonsilver the captain had singled out to blame for the boy’s condition. It was true that the Silvanesti had been responsible for many of the ills that had befallen their race, but to accuse them for whatever malady now afflicted the young Abanasinian wasn’t only far-fetched, it was completely unreasonable.


True to the vows he lived by, Tegan uth William, squire of the Knights of Solamnia, gently supported the boy’s head with one hand and used the other to carefully remove the sand and dirt from Aric’s face, hoping that whatever invigorating powers the tepid water in his waterskin had would be enough to awaken the boy from his unnatural slumber. Whether that would satisfy the Khurish captain remained to be seen.



Calendar3rd Day of Aelmont (Winter) 422 AC / 38 SC, Dark Day

Solinari: 33/36 (Low Sanction)
Lunitari: 6/28 (Waxing)
Nuitari: 3/8 (Waxing)

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


 
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  #17  
Old Apr 25th, 2022, 01:37 PM
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Pnoah Seheppen
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Pnoah managed to be both abashed and flabbergasted when it turned out that the young man in the sand was not dead, merely...suffering sun stroke? Poisoned? The sudden crowd that gathered around the young man all began offering different theories and solutions regarding the young human's condition. Though Pnoah was no healer, he wasn't entirely certain that crowding an unconscious person, blocking out air and kicking sand all about was perhaps the best possible solution. Still, it was his experience, albeit limited, that when crowds of other, taller races began gathering (and arguing), gnomes such as he tended to be ignored with extreme prejudice.

He also ignored the less-than-implied threat from the captain. Gnomes faced death nearly every time they built just about anything; the source of the death was almost immaterial. And since he'd left Mt. Nevermind, he'd become accustomed to humans screaming threats at him when he worked. He found he rather enjoyed the cadence of a good, thorough cursing, so long as the insulter was well-versed in the art and could keep a steady rhythm. Rather like humming while you work, and Pnoah had indeed learned some fascinating words on his trip, as well as interesting ways to apply them.

Instead, as everyone debated the varying degrees of death-or-nearly-so, Pnoah opened his pack and began pulling out gears, a bit of string, an odd-shaped funnel, a small simple wooden frame, a spool, and a small hand crank, setting them out on the young man's chest (so as not to get them dirty by laying them in the sand, of course). He began to fit the parts together, his slender, clever hands moving quickly to attach the gears to the frame, then wind the string around and through. Attaching the crank, the gnome quickly wound the crank until the string wrapped tightly around the spool. He used the funnel to connect the gadget to his waterskin and removed the crank.

The small device immediately began unwinding, the negative pressure pulling water from the skin into the funnel and spraying it in a fine mist over the young man's face, cooling and wetting him down. As the small misting device worked, Pnoah looked over at the cleric, clearing his throat politely to get her attention. "Pardon, my lady cleric, but if you happen to find any bite marks anywhere, I believe I can fashion a small vacuum to assist in removing the poison. And have no fear, I've corrected that silly oversight concerning the vacuum's pressure, and the last recipient is recovering quite nicely...and it only took three pints to replenish him!"

Seeing that the spool had run its course, he re-attached the crank, winding the device up again. "Just let me get this started again, and I can check to make sure I have enough tubing in my pack. If not, we could possibly make do with the stalk of a reed plant, though obviously that would be less than optimal." Glancing around at the sand and rock, he left unsaid the status of how 'optimal' conditions were for...well, just about anything other than picking sand out of one's hair and clothing.
OOCNoQuarter19 probably doesn't need it, but he gets an additional d4 to his CON save from Pnoah's Guidance cantrip.

 
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Last edited by Andor; Apr 25th, 2022 at 01:39 PM.
  #18  
Old Apr 25th, 2022, 05:31 PM
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Talia Dawnstar
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The pressing crowd of people milling about the collapsed man were doing nothing for Talia’s attempts to catalog the man’s belongings. It would be a shame for the man to recover from death itself, only to find everything he owned stolen by thieving dwarves and humans.

The kender squatted next to the gnome, swatting at anyone who came too close to the pair as she watched him begin to tinker with… something. The kender was all set to begin helping when she heard the sacred site greeter yet again overstep his bounds.

"If he dies, you all join him," he said in an overly threatening and bossy tone that Talia did not appreciate at all. She saw the tribesman staring directly at the elf and she wondered what that was all about… but only for a moment.

“That’s a load of crap if you ask me!” Talia announced loudly as she stood up to her full unimposing height. “Why should we be punished for the weakness of that guy?” She pointed at the unconscious form on the ground. “Let’s be honest… a stiff wind could blow that guy down and look where we are… in the middle of nowhere. How did he even get this far?”

The kender brought her hand to her chin and rubbed it thoughtfully as she pondered the scenario. Her eyes went wide as she quickly connected the dots. “Oh… oh… I get it! This is a shakedown… a scheme used against unwary travelers. You have someone pretend to die and then threaten everyone else! Very clever indeed... but I'm on to you. So tell me, how much of a cut does the damsel in distress get... hmmm?”

Talia grasped her hoopak in her hand as she seized up some nearby stones, looking to find some good ones to whip into the greeter's skull.

“That’s why you took our weapons… ain’t it?”



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Last edited by Begon Ugo; Apr 25th, 2022 at 05:32 PM.
  #19  
Old Apr 26th, 2022, 12:55 AM
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It's clobberin' time
 
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Aric Armitage
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When he came to, he came to with a terrified scream.

”N-N-NO! D-DON’T, please!” Aric shouted hoarsely, curling into a ball away from the touch of the large blonde man. The sun had beaten down on his eyes and washed all the color from the world. He could not see, but he could feel, and he felt the strong, muscular hands of his father trying to grab him by the neck and finally do what he’d slurred he would do on a few drunken occasions. He's finally going to scalp me because I look like mother. Or maybe this is it, he’s had enough of me and he’s just going to snap my neck like a dry twig in the fall. He closed his eyes against the sun’s harsh glare and prepared for a burst of pain followed by darkness.

It didn’t come. There was no pain beyond that radiating from his reddening skin. The arid tunnel of his throat was suddenly awash as someone tipped a waterskin between his parched lips. He drank greedily like a newborn babe at the teat, not even minding that the liquid was lukewarm, only appreciating the restorative liquid’s effect on his parched membranes. Aric’s own waterskin had been emptied and hung limp and forgotten at his side. His eyelids fluttered open again, and now he could see there were figures crouched over him, and more nearby. And none of them were his father.

”O-oh. Oh my g-god.” It couldn’t have been his father he had felt; there had been two hands, while his father only had the one. Also the man was dead. The dawning realization that he himself was not dead and nor was he alone was breaking through the clouds of his consciousness, and he looked up dazedly at the washed out faces of those around him. The first face he saw was that of the blond man who he had followed across half a continent, a man who he did not even know, a man he had only vaguely inferred as being "good." The man was muscular and strong and heavily armored, but his touch had been gentle, and Aric instantly regretted his instinctive flinch. To the man’s right was a stout looking woman with beautiful red hair who was wiping her eyes and checking Aric for wounds. His eyes widened.

”M-m-“ he started to say, almost rasping the word mother. As his vision cleared, he saw it was not Myrrah Armitage. The wishful mind of a young man had looked upon this stranger’s red hair and placed a memory for him to see. He saw twin tracks of damp on the woman’s face. The isolation of his small village of Oakgrove was such that Aric did not immediately place Kaylen as a dwarf, for dwarven travelers hardly ever came to his little corner of Abanasinia; to him, she was just a short human. He reached a bony arm out and took her hand in his own, gently clasping it with his long, pale fingers. ”Don’t c-cry. I’m alright, just h-hot. Where-?”

He had been about to ask where he was, but his face was suddenly spritzed in a spray of water that splattered across his dry face and mixed with what sand had not been brushed away by the gentle blond man. Aric blinked instinctively at the unexpected spray of water which seemed to be directed right at his face and nose and eyes. ”What-?” his stunned mind tried to process what was happening, and he forced himself to roll to a side away from the unexpected spray. To his surprise, he found himself rolling onto a small creature that looked like a little human? A creature the size of a boy, but clearly not. Gnomes had never entered Oakgrove, certainly not that Aric could remember. He realized there was something that had been placed upon his chest that had been spraying him in what could only be described as a deluge, and in rolling away from it he had begun to squish this small creature.

”O-oh! Um, s-sorry,” he rasped again. The water had loosened his throat, and he coughed a wad of phlegm and dirt from his airway. ”Sorry,” he said more clearly after clearing his throat. He rolled onto his front and pushed himself up off the ground. Or, he began to; the sunstroke had done its part to make him dizzy, and it took him a moment to shake the lightheadedness he was feeling. He closed his eyes, focused his breathing, and took a deep, greedy lungful of air. The gray spots that had been swimming in his vision a moment before began to recede, and he pushed his way up to a kneel before taking another look at his surroundings.

There were faces – a dozen at least, including the gruff looking guard who had warned him to remove all weapons. His eye flicked over to his sad little pile of clutter that had made the trek with him, before flicking to the guard. Gone was the grim countenance that had greeted Aric when he’d first arrived; what he saw now was concern giving way to relief as Aric slowly recovered his wits. The embarrassment, the shame, of falling down around these strangers, of making a spectacle, a fool of himself – it was a gathering weight on his psyche. He felt a dullness in his chest and wished the sand would swallow him up. His eyes and face drooped. ”Sorry. Sorry if I worried anyone. I- I got hot. Didn’t mean to make anyone worry. I’m o-ok, no bites, not that I think. Just hot. Thirsty.” He put his hands on his thin legs and pushed himself to a half kneel. So far, so good. Now for the next leg. He began to raise up again, and that swimming feeling fought to return. He swallowed another lungful of air and forced it away. He was still swimmy, but the splashing water had awakened him quickly, and that coupled with the anxiety of his collapse now had his pulse racing. He forced himself to stand and noted at least two sets of hands helping to steady him as he did so. Now that he was awake and alert, he finally began to focus in on where he was. A quick look around told him that this was some sort of… festival? Gathering? A memorial? He looked from face to face, seeing a variety of expressions ranging from Tegan, Kaylen, and the head guardrelief to Devari, Isandril, Xi, Blyneseeming indifference, and even Talia, who else?irritation? He wasn’t sure how to respond; it had been a long, strange trip.

”Um, anyway, hi. C-could one of you maybe tell me… where we are?”

 
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  #20  
Old Apr 26th, 2022, 05:45 AM
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It happened sometimes. Not everyone was affected by her charms. There could be a number of reasons why; they were burdened by an unnatural sense of duty or loyalty to someone else, some event in their past had given them an unreasonable and overriding envy of those whose beauty and charisma outshone their own, or perhaps they were simply blind. Whatever the reason Devari had found it best to cut her losses and move on whenever she could, and so when her guard had sneered in derision at her flattery she had passed him by with every appearance of being entirely unaware of it and had striven to put some distance, both literally and figuratively, between herself and his stuck-up, tasteless, horse-smelling presence. She was above such petty concerns.

She had casually approached the bonfires and then nonchalantly looked around so that she could take in the rest of the visitors to this festival. Everywhere she looked were more Khurish men and women, but she paid most attention to those who had followed her during the long climb up on to the plateau. She had been aware that they had been behind her but hadn't thought much of it at the time, but now that she was here and had discovered that they were the only 'outlanders' present, and just how much she stuck out, they had taken on a new importance to her.

As the others took their turns to talk to her guard she watched his reactions with interest. It was gratifying to see that nobody else had seemed to get through to him either, not the silver-haired elf nor the strange exotic man, nor the tall blonde warrior, and of course the kender and the gnome only made the man appear ever more angry. She was glad to be beyond his reach if things turned to violence but at the same time she realised that she was surrounded by hundreds of tribespeople and it would not be too easy to talk her way out of the mess if these people brought Khurish wrath down on all of the outsiders. With a sigh she started to walk back the way she had come.

A friendly smile was just beginning to lighten her lips as she approached a small group which had begun to form but the smile froze as she saw the elven lady now entreating the guard, and how effectively her honeyed words seemed to affect him. She stopped where she stood and her eyes narrowed as she took in the fine silks that the woman was wearing. The very same garments which Devari had lusted over only a few weeks earlier worn by a blonde human woman in the caravan which had taken them both southwards. Had this elf bought the silks from the human? Somehow that didn't fit at all with what she knew about elves, and even if she had, with such a complex costume it seemed unlikely that two people would wear it exactly the same way. There was more, too. The way the woman moved, her mannerisms and her mode of speech; Devari was certain that it was the same person.

A chill ran down her spine at the thought. This elf could choose to look like a human! Or… was it the other way around? Which guise was the real one? All Devari knew for certain, having some experience in the matter, was that no mundane disguise could accomplish this transformation.

She stood, arms crossed and foot angrily tapping, as she waited for the woman to move on so that she could confront her, but before that could happen a boy collapsed and the area fell into commotion. Devari watched her guard as he completely forgot about the imposter. He was worried, genuinely worried. Perhaps there was a way to get into his good graces after all!

The boy was immediately surrounded by some of the others and Devari gracefully stepped past onlookers, moving ever forward. The boy was getting shakily to his feet now and Devari ducked under some of the hands helping him up and came up under his right arm, pulling his hand down to keep the arm tight over her shoulders.

"Now don't you worry at all," she purred, "everything will be okay. We'll just get you somewhere comfortable to sit."

The gnome was spraying a fine mist of water at them which was odd but strangely pleasant so she just smiled tolerantly at him. The kender, on the other hand, was looking to cause trouble and was threatening to start throwing stones at the guards.

"Hi!" she said brightly, looking the little woman in the eye to make sure she had her full attention. "You might be right about these guys but we won't know for sure unless we catch them in the act. Just pretend you believe them, come with us behind this rock over here, and when we're out of their sight you can be our lookout to make sure the guards don't touch our stuff."

She waved away any offers to take away her burden, although the boy was surprisingly heavy considering how stringy he was, possibly because he was so tall that he was leaning right down on top of her. She knew better than to let her pain show, however, especially as they stepped past the two elves, and suddenly she wondered if the male elf was part of the charade too. Had he been in the caravan also? How would she know? Maybe he just had the sense to change his clothes.

As she passed Blyne she glanced up, catching the woman's eye with a narrowed gaze which said very clearly; 'I'm on to you!'

"Um, anyway, hi." the boy was now saying blearily. "C-could one of you maybe tell me… where we are?"

Sunstroke, she thought, remembering back to when she and her little sister had first travelled the roads and Amare had been struck down with it. No wonder he was so confused!

"We're at the Standing Stones in Khur," she said simply, assuming that the rest would come back to him. "The festival is about to begin so we need to find a space. And, if you're going to throw up please let me know. I like this dress."

 
 
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Last edited by Lazer; Apr 26th, 2022 at 05:51 PM.
  #21  
Old Apr 26th, 2022, 05:49 AM
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Isandril Moonsilver, Wizard of High Sorcery
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The look Isandril gave the guard captain in return, brief though it was to avoid further angering the man, was one of puzzlement. As a Silvanesti he could certainly understand to a degree his mistrust of outlanders; his people had practically written the book on such sentiments. Still, the mage had been fully cooperative and respectful, even using the man's native tongue. It could not have been mere xenophobia, he reasoned. Something must have happened to him at some point in his life. Something that involved perhaps some wrongdoing perpetrated by an elf? Whatever the reason though, he was not about to address him anew himself. There were those, however, whose words had been better received. And, given the kender's outspoken nature, would probably be a good idea if they spoke up again.

Noticing how the youth had returned to consciousness by the time Isandril was finished with his thoughts, he approached him and his current caregivers. Standing right next to them as if to also check on the boy, he instead turned to the dwarven woman first, now a cleric of Quenesti Pah it would seem.

”The boy seems to be in no danger,” he said softly before his eyes turned to indicate the kender. ”She, however, may be awfully close to not seeing another sunrise if she keeps angering that already unpleasant man. May I suggest going to her aid once more?”

”Your words, alongside my kin's over there,” he continued, this time nodding towards the elven woman, ”seemed to have had a somewhat more positive effect than the rest of us'.”

He then finally turned to the one who had fainted, sparing a nod of acknowledgment for the Solamnic man and the dark-skinned woman as well. Taking his waterskin out of his backpack and holding it with his left hand, he put his right palm on it and softly spoke a single word in Magius, the language wizards used for their incantations and spells.

”Dingin.” The word for cold.

The water-filled container turned considerably cooler and then he handed it to the young man. ”Drink, then hold it against your forehead. It should make you feel somewhat more comfortable.” He glanced at the gnome before adding, "It should also be considerably less... wet than other attempts."

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Last edited by FCastor; Apr 26th, 2022 at 06:17 AM.
  #22  
Old Apr 26th, 2022, 11:49 AM
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Kaylen Nightstone
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"If he dies, you all join him." Kaylen registered the words through her impotent grief and flashed a look at him that could melt iron. How dare he threaten any of them?! She caught the gaze of the young warrior behind him who seemed devout and moved by her blessings of Elir-Sana moments before. That soft look cut through her anger. She was a raw nerve on edge with the life of this boy in her impotent hands. Somewhere deep in her rational mind knew it, but she couldn't stop the emotions any more than she could stop an avalanche. Rolis haunted her waking life now and here was another boy, hurt and in need and she couldn't help him either. Would I even have been able to help Rolis? What kind of mother am I?

She turned her attention back to the gnome who was assembling a small gizmo on the chest of the boy. Her first instinct was to stop him until she realized he was doing more for him than she was. Instead she watched in fascination as a device was created out of nothing and began spraying the boy's face with mist. She vaguely heard Pnoah offer his help at sucking out poison if they found a bite. Kaylen nodded dumbly.

Then the impossible happened and the boy stirred as if waking from a nightmare. She wiped her eyes but the flood of relief and guilt made her fall back on her butt. Kaylen felt all her strength leave her and the chains of her mail settled down over her to root her in her spot. "Don't c-cry. I'm alright, just h-hot." But she couldn't help it. He took her hand to console her! What kind of healer am I? Poison? Why had she jumped to that conclusion? Was this the way it would be? Useless? She watched him struggle to his feet and suddenly Veralyne was at his side, helping to steady him. Good. Someone competent should help now, like her and the blonde knight. She couldn't even look at him now. What look might he be giving her! Instead she clumsily tried to help Pnoah pick up the pieces of his tumbled device and kept her eyes on the ground.

"The boy seems to be in no danger. She, however, may be awfully close to not seeing another sunrise if she keeps angering that already unpleasant man. May I suggest going to her aid once more?" It was the voice of Isandril, carefully devoid of the judging he was probably feeling about her "healing". She raised her head up at the Kender who was looking around for rocks and spouting nonsense. The Daewar's teeth ground in her mouth as her jaw set in misplaced anger. Feeling her strength return, she struggled to her feet again and pounded over to Talia as only a Dwarf could. She came straight up to her and came very close to trying to knock the stones from her hand. "Enough! Is this what you came here for? To stir up trouble? Was he asking for money? No. Night is coming and I didn't come all this way just to be thrown out so you can have your Kender sport at all our expense. And you!" she spun on her heels and faced the captain, her face knit in anger. She spat at him in Khurish "Aren't you here to keep the peace in this holy time? Instead you threaten war on pilgrims who have come to honor their dead? Shame! Kaluk nabir ashai ta lahn? Ona maliq halem a dar hajji de maralaq? Bech!" Switching to common she waived her hand toward the Standing stones and the immense bonfires placed nearby. "Stop me here if you will but it is time these people make their way to the ceremony. Go on," she said to the other outlanders. Her eyes met the young Khurian again and she fell silent, but her face remained iron. Again she waived the others on as if her word was enough.

 

Last edited by Hayar; Apr 26th, 2022 at 02:15 PM.
  #23  
Old Apr 26th, 2022, 03:53 PM
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Pnoah Seheppen
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Pnoah nearly toppled over in surprise as the man he was treating rolled over toward him, knocking his device over and pinning him into the dirt. "Oh...I do say! Glad you're...*wheeze*...feeling better, young...oof...young man!" he gasped, giving the human an encouraging pat while desperately trying to shift to make sure nothing got broken, though tools were of far higher priority than bones, for this human seemed to be one of the lighter specimens, thank Reorx. "Perhaps you might benefit further...*wheeze*...from a bit of light exercise. Might I...ohh, do be careful of that flask!...might I...uff!...suggest standing up?"

Thankfully, the young man shifted and began the process of rising, and Pnoah scrambled to his feet, dusting himself off. As he stooped to gather up his device, the dwarven lady came over to help him. "Oh, many thanks, my lady!" he began cheerfully. "No harm done that a quick brushing and maybe some adhesive won't...oh, dear, are you alright??" For some reason, the cleric seemed upset, though Pnoah hadn't been paying enough attention to understand why. Before he could get an answer, she stormed off to give a verbal lashing to kender and human guardsman alike, and Pnoah judiciously decided that his attention was better spent in cleaning up, rather than focusing on the dwarf. He'd been on the receiving end of a dwarven tongue-lashing before, and if human cursing were akin to the harmonious humming that occurred when one was happily busy, a dwarven cursing was akin to driving a nail to hang a picture and having the entire castle fall upon your head. He did not wish to repeat the experience.

Instead, he turned his attention to the young lad, who appeared more visibly refreshed. "Feeling a bit more steady there then, lad?" he asked encouragingly, though he wasn't sure it was truly a 'lad' at all. Human ages were notoriously difficult to estimate, in his opinion, partially as a side-effect of their being so large. Could most people guess how old any particular hill giant was? Of course not, case in point! "You may borrow the use of my quarterstaff, if it would help, though I daresay it's a bit more like a cane for you. It should still serve its purpose, and if you have any issue with using it on the sand and rock, just say the word and I'll work up a base to attach to the bottom lickety-split!" He beamed happily, offering the Actually, it's a buck-and-a-quarter quarterstaff, but I'm not telling HIM that!quarterstaff as though he were Duncan Ironweaver offering the Dragonlance to Huma Dragonbane himself. "And we'd best be on our way quickly, I suspect, before any further attempts at diplomacy bring the entire mountain down against us."

 
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Last edited by Andor; Apr 26th, 2022 at 03:57 PM.
  #24  
Old Apr 26th, 2022, 07:04 PM
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Talia Dawnstar
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Talia was in mid-tirade when the dwarf stomped over and laid into her. The kender’s lower lip began to slowly tremble as she meekly dropped the jagged stones in her hand down into the dirt. One by one the rocks fell, soon followed by warm tears coursing from Talia’s eyes.

“No… Kaylen... he didn’t ask for money… but he was very mean and ugly too,” she sniffed sadly before blowing her nose loudly and obnoxiously into a blue and white checkered handkerchief.

“Eww… I got sand up my nose.”

Talia gave the tribesman one last nasty glare as Kaylen set him straight as well before continuing her blubbering as she allowed the dwarf to lead her away. The kender took a couple of deep breaths… in through the nose… out through the mouth as she regained her composure, one step at a time.

Seeing the gnome still helping the fragile, if overly dramatic human, Talia skipped closer, weaving her way through the taller travelers. A smile crept upon her face as she whispered to Pnoah. “He he he… did you notice that the kid only woke up after I exposed the grift? Perfect timing don’t ya think? A little too convenient if you ask me.”

Talia roughly patted the gnome on the shoulder, “Don’t worry though… I’m going to keep my eye on him and the tribespeople. Us poor travelers have to stick together you know.”



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Old Apr 26th, 2022, 08:36 PM
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Blyne
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As she kept herself calm and composed and utterly graceful, Blyne studied the khurish captain well while she implored him to be patient with her, and hopefully with those other outlanders as well, seeing as they gave many more reasons that one would have to be patient with them than the young Irda in her current elven shape. And even then, as she was saying the right things with the right amount of respect to the man and his people, she could still see how part of his mind meant to reject her outright and only her own patience with him allowed the anger to clear from his eyes as he slowly allowed for Blyne's words to reach him. At first the female high ogre wondered if it was the warrior's uncouth nature that had made him predisposed to all the rage he uselessly fostered against unassuming travelers, but then she recalled his reactions to the other outlanders and she recognized his behavior to be targeted. Elves. His problem lies with them in particular. He seems affected. This vileness in him, it is sprouting from some manner of seed that's been planted in his past.

Once again Blyne felt offended that there was simply no doing right in this world. She knew from experience that elves weren't the optimal choice of race for being treated well. They were followed by similar prejudice and jealousy as the Irda, enough that a good portion of Ansalon rejoiced about how the elven kingdoms had been trampled down and claimed by marauders. In adopting an elven appearance as often as she did, Blyne left herself open to being treated as badly as them. And although she could have freely done without such headaches, she had refused to let it affect her decision so far. She already couldn't walk these lands as an Irda. There certainly had to be a limit to how much she had to demean herself just to get by. But now she found herself back at the same conclusion she'd arrived at when she had spotted Devari. That today of all days, starting the day as Blainneth had been entirely detrimental to suit what she meant to accomplish.

But Blyne didn't let herself get stuck on being offended by the outside world being responsible for having placed her into this situation. And the khurish captain did listen. He did hear out her conciliatory words and he did not reject them. Whatever seed or flaw there was in him to drag everyone down with him, it was possible for him to overcome it. That's what she read from his eyes and his face as it changed right in front of her. And the young Irda knew herself as bright and eloquent. And if there was a way to unravel this man and ease the mental anguish that he brought onto himself and all those that had to interact with him, she saw it as an aspirational circumstance that one as capable as her would lend her aid in leading him away from all this anger. Or at least that's what she had hoped to achieve just before the situation began to unravel instead.

The reason that Blyne had offered all these conciliatory words for her own sake and that of the outlanders was because she discerned the khurish captain's rage and his underlying weakness. A weakness of the mind that would have him turn his unchecked emotions against these outlanders, paired with a disposition to ease his own anguish by turning it into violence. The sanctity of this festival was very likely just as much a pretext as it was a reason for leading his men to hold this group of outlanders up like he had decided on. Surely guarding the khurish customs was important to him as well, but he clearly was harboring the potential to take this encounter into a conflict that it needn't be. And Blyne saw herself capable to lead him to such a shared understanding, at least up to the point before the unassuming human youth fell flat on his face by some manner of illness. And this swiftly robbed Blyne of what little connection with the khurish captain she had been able to build. And it only turned worse from there.

The young Irda watched in awe as kender and gnome quickly found an excuse to profit from the ill boy's misfortune, but even as the presence of the Solamnic knight made their misdeeds unlikely, the khurish captain was shocked about the possibility of death on these sacred grounds. And although the dwarven healer immediately rushed to help the knight in tending to the youth, the anguished warrior quickly turned his fright into anger and his anger back on the ones he hated. It was only due to the impression that Blyne had left on the human before that it was the Silvanesti elf and not Blainneth who bore the brunt of the violent repercussions that the man immediately threatened all the outlanders with. Oh, why! Why must this be so difficult! Blyne wasn't sure what was upsetting her more, if an Irda even could be upset. Either that the human youth had fallen ill in such a compromising moment, although that was a matter she wouldn't fault the boy with particularly, or the circumstance of this hardly corrigible man who suffered from a past that now made him project his own beloved that he must have lost in the past onto the fallen youth. Both of them required tending to. But one of them already hated her visage based on the race she had chosen and was making no idle threats to seek revenge on those he could blame unreasonably, and also for whatever misfortune had occurred to him in the past.

It helped Blyne greatly that the other outlanders relieved her of the added responsibility of tending to the sick human youth, but as they were raising as fuzz in the background and eventually managed to get the tall boy back on his feet, the tender girl whose stealings had been thwarted twice now returned the offending tone that the khurish warrior had threatened everybody with and escalated one absurdity into the next as she called the captain a highway robber and armed herself with her kender weapon. And if Blyne had seen herself conflicted before, now she truly was reminded why her mother had chosen a life on a forgotten island instead of joining the destinies of men and elves.

The Irda were the ones that had emerged among the most beautiful of the races. The high ogres had been the most gifted of all the three ancient races that had been placed on Krynn, and they would have remained in that position hadn't they been so base to squander their birthright and to waste themselves away until their accomplishments were wiped out by human hand and the rest of them turned into mongrels. The Irda hadn't shared that fate because they were simply better. They knew that being base and following greed, desires and emotions was a corrupting poison that weakened what made them so supreme. The Irda knew that following the gods of good was the path to preserve themselves as the epitome of civilization. Blyne didn't need to have been alive for long to understand all of that perfectly.

All of this ran through the young Irda's mind in that very moment because she would but turn away from it all and watch fool attack fool as she accepted them all as fallen before their flawed natures; as they escalated a conflict that would't exist if everybody just knew to behave themselves rationally and were to be mindful not to cross any boundaries that existed with good reason. But of course, kenders did not understand such concepts. And angry, hurt human warriors who came to mourn rightly ignored anything reasonable even if it presented itself to them as peaceful or as helpful as a wandering elven silk weaver that hadn't done anything to be drawn into this conflict. She had merely arrived, trying to do the right thing for the one restless soul that she had brought here with her. And she had even extended a hand verbally as she had shown an effort to help everyone involved in this troublesome encounter.

Blyne was rightly flustered at all these misfortunate circumstances. A deeply suspicious charmer had seen her in two skins and would potentially defame her. A wounded man came in anger and meant to punish those that he could find an excuse to punish. A kender refused to hold her tongue when she had nothing to contribute but sowing strife. And finally the single other elf who might have naturally been on her side showed himself as a wizardly caster of indeterminate origin, which rightly placed him in the corner of people that she felt the need to be wary of. It was as if the deck of fate had been stacked just to keep her out of this festival at the last step of her journey. The young Irda was rightly tempted to steal herself away, assume a less hated identity and then attend in the absence of any conflict. But the reason Blyne didn't do that wasn't that it also sounded difficult. It was because it was base, and also a sign of giving up. And it didn't fit at all with the gods' teachings.

When even the cleric of Mishakal exploded with emotion and left a peaceful resolution to the throw of a coin, demanding that everyone pass the khurish soldiers as if they could simply be ignored like that after all the enmity that had already spread into their minds in this conflict, it was the last straw that Blyne had needed to resolve herself to sacrifice her own personal peace to ensure everybody's safe passage all by herself. And if she would face a spear by becoming involved, she would have to rely on her magical abilities to find a way out. Though the young Irda was determined not to let it come to that.

Before the dwarven woman had stepped in, Blyne had already arranged the words in her head for stepping in herself. Stop it, Kender! Your obsession with material possessions doesn't extend to us! It has no place on this most important day, this festival of spirits! But seeing as the cleric managed to swiftly get that particular troublesome element under control, Blyne forwent dealing with the kender girl at all and instead resolved to focus on the captain again. The other outlanders had done what they could to make this more difficult, but the anguished man was truly the one who decided if he would let Blainneth pass to the Standing Stones in peace.

In the absence of knowing the language of Khur, Blyne had no way to know what the dwarven woman had said to the khurish captain in her anger. The only thing the attentive Irda could infer from her tone was that it was most likely some sort of chastisement. Or worse, she could have chosen to insult the man and spit on his culture. I'll just assume a Mishakal priestess to have more sense, even if it was bleared by dwarven sensibilities. And so Blyne attempted to make herself heard once more as the voice of reason, trying to intervene before the Silvanesti or gnome also found opportunities to additionally set off the aggrieved captain.

Wounded and saddened men acted more like beasts. Or at least that was the impression that Blyne had gotten. And while she had little enough experience with beasts and was somewhat glad about that, she certainly seemed put into a position where she had to get better at handling them. But at least she was the first sensible enough in this gathering to understand that avoiding provoking this particular beast any further was rather desirable. With the death of the fragile-looking youth seeming to have become unlikely and with the kender having been handled already, Blyne saw the first immediate triggers for the captain's wrath alleviated, but that certainly didn't mean that a man like this warrior had been appeased. And even the young Irda wasn't certain if she actually would be able to find the words to appease one who was deeply afflicted at the root. By stepping in she was possibly trying to hasten what only time could achieve, yet as the one to be in this position, Blyne would not be ignorant or craven to back down in front of this suffering. Even if her current appearance was one likely to inspire the same deep-seated ire that he already displayed before.

"Warrior, please! I beg you to listen!" Blyne felt slightly uneasy stepping into territory that would pull her back into this conflict, one that could still ignite at any moment. But her thoughts on the matter had been settled and now she would pull through with it. It felt right. It felt important. And most of all the young Irda felt like it shouldn't be avoided. "The boy is fine. He's an outlander like us. Far from his home has he wandered to attend to the spirits, just like us." Obviously she didn't know this about the youth at all. Blyne simply told the captain what she thought he needed to hear. "And in braving this journey, he is still foreign to your lands. It is as I said. There are those of us that need guidance before they know not to offend; before they know how to act in ways that they do not upset this festival."

Blyne heard from listening to herself that making her case now was much more difficult than when she had overcome the captain's first impression. Yet there was no other choice than to proceed speaking reason in ways that the human male might comprehend despite his emotions. "You were right to give us warnings, as you did. Because now we can heed them, as best we are aware. Please forgive the kender stories that you've been made to listen to, but to me it is clear that you're an honest man that has stepped before us with honest intentions. And for this I am grateful."

There was a brief pause where Blyne attempted to let her words take effect, before she proceeded to guide the conversation. Because while the man was withdrawn and too angry to have patience for speaking himself, she could see him respond to her through his eyes, for the merit or the demerit of it. "We've all lost those that we've come to say farewell to today. In all that we differ, to visit the Standing Stones on the Dark Day makes us all the same in this. All that we've come to give is hommage, not trouble. All that we've come to take is solace, nothing else." In this it was difficult to speak for all the outlanders, but Blyne ignored the discrepancy to what had already happened. All that the young Irda had said was true for herself, and she would try to extend the same grace to the lessers that she had been thrown in with.

For a moment the gifted sorcerer hesitated, wondering if she dared to delve deeper into what concerned her opposite. The anguish in him was almost palpable to her, and although he had done nothing to deserve her attentiveness, it was what proved her excellence that she didn't require him to have deserved it. And so she made the attempt, knowing that she wore the worst face to make it. "My cousin and I... We are uninvolved with things that have happened in the past. And today we are only to involve ourselves with things that are sacred to you. Because they appear as sacred to us as well. Or else we'd never have made our journey here." Blyne's eyes were firm and earnest, seriously meeting the captain's gaze as she dared to say as much as she would. "We share anguish for the ones that we've lost, the ones that we're now left to help on their way to the beyond. We would never mean to add to these souls, nor can we be expected to be held responsible for others that have done so. We've arrived in peace, and that's all we could do to honor the spirits that are dear to us, and to you. So please forgive our presence today, because our involvement in your life will be of a finite existence. The peace that I seek to find, I wish for you to find it as well." And it occurred to Blyne that this was true as well. She did seek peace for her mother. If only it would not be denied to her just because of such creatures as imbalanced as these standing around her!
 
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Last edited by Mindsiege; Apr 27th, 2022 at 04:44 AM.
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Old Apr 27th, 2022, 11:28 PM
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Before the Moon's Rise
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Oppressive heat still lingered upon the plateau where a dozen Khurish Tiger Clan gate-keepers carefully scrutinized each person who approached. The sacred Standing Stones and bonfires still waited in the foothills above this place to greet Xihue and others who had travelled here for the Festival. Having been admitted without incident, Xi counted himself among eight others who's appearance and manner or race identified them as "outlanders". The acrimonious captain seemed increasingly irritated by the arrival of each non-khurish celebrant and his mood was particularly hostile toward the regal-looking elf that had preceded Xi to this place.

The air here was still and so unmoving that the bright banners that marked the path hung like wilted leaves upon their poles. There had been strong winds in the lowlands earlier in the day which carried the red sands into uncomfortable places. The swollen mid-day sun relentlessly breathed its golden, molten breath down upon this scorched land like some escaped elemental causing sweat to collect sand and dust from those winds. Had it persisted, Xi would have found himself chaffed and excoriated in a way that could have made his travels significantly more uncomfortable than they already were. The arid nature of this place, however, caused perspiration to evaporate rapidly. After only a few moments of standing still, Xi was able to easily brush the accumulated abrasives from his body.

The shadows of the Western mountain range raced toward the plateau with promise of shaded respite from the relentless daytime heat but twilight had not yet arrived as a tall, yellow-haired man in armor marched up the path. Xi could only imagine how much more sand had accumulated beneath the warrior's chainmail. Rather than relief, the man seemed to express an emotion more akin to regret or despondency at the prospect of having to leave his weaponry with the Tiger Khurishmen. Even more curious was the man's reaction to the green-dress woman as he scrupulously avoided watching the presentation of her beauty as she changed clothes. He remained armored, red-facedly demure, and seemed more inclined to solicit the attention of the elf as he joined the others past the checkpoint.

Xi had almost completed his exfoliation and dusting when the children began to arrive. No, not children! These were beings of a kind that Xi had never seen before and his curiosity consumed his attention, even drawing it away from his awareness of Veralyn's seductive comeliness. First, a nimble, slight-formed female tumbled up the path like some miniature cyclone or daggered dervish. The rapid-fire staccato of her words rattled Xi's ears as he fought to keep pace with the verbalized stream-of-consciousness with which she greeted the Captain's demand and the subsequent task. The diminutive woman seemed to narrate her every action and it was both fascinating and amusing to Xi. What an entertaining paramour this woman might make! thought the monk and, as she made reference to Veralyn's ample mammaries Xi was compelled to contrast the amorous possibilities of each choice. The women of Xihue's homeland were smaller of frame and proportion too. Could this race bear a human man's child? Would it even be possible for such a union to occur without causing significant injury to her? The children would be spectacularly agile and likely much smarter than Xi. Such considerations were probably academic in light of the verbose vixen's lust to acquire some of the other weapons arrayed before her. It was clear that her passions of the moment resided with more material concerns.

A third woman arrived calling herself Kaylen. Xi was immediately drawn to her motherly nature. Her presence and deportment generated pious respect from those she passed as she offered apparent blessings in the local language. Xi didn't understand a word but the impact of what she said was obvious. Xi respected the gods. Each one was an extremely powerful entity and that demanded acknowledgement at the very least. Kaylen expertly guided the miniature woman away from the piles of weaponry and then engaged in casual conversation. Her polite tones further endeared her to the shepherd. "I am Xihue of the Alan-atu. Please call me Xi. I have only just arrived and do not know anyone in this land. Which gods do you serve?"

Life had three primary purposes for those who sought ascension into enlightenment: Firstly, since life is short for men, there is so little time for one to obtain all that must be understood in order for one to achieve his optimal state of being. To reach the goal of perfection that all must strive toward who wish to awaken into full awareness, one must meditate. Perfect meditation leads to openness. Openness exposes truth. Truth reveals the path. The path must be followed to its perfect end. Secondly, although no one person is possessed of all blessings, anyone may become their best self. A man must recognize his talents and strengths and then constantly develop them. Observation of and awareness of the strengths of others provides the individual with a way to compare their own abilities against the ones possessed by others. By drawing knowledge from outside oneself, one may improve. Other beings possess the seeds which must be cultivated in the mind and soul to enable a man to grow into his best self. In this way, a mind is like a carefully tended garden of experiences. Learn from all that is seen, felt, revealed, and given to become one's best self. Finally, the spirit may return many times through unsuccessful lives before achieving ultimate perfection. Each time, the soul must relearn what it has forgotten but prepare for failure. This requires procreation. A man must produce as many new lives as possible to allow a home for the souls of those who would succeed. Although Xi hoped to someday ascend, it was his duty to other souls to give them a chance to live again so that they, too, might attain enlightenment.

Yes, young lives, especially those that Xi might create, were more valuable than any other coveted material possession. A youth, no older that Xi himself had been when he had left home, arrived. The lad seemed frail and confused but readily complied with the captain's orders and, as he did, another two individuals followed closely behind him. Another lad, as fast talking as the covetous petite woman and equally as prone to introspective soliloquies, quickly divested himself of a few weapons and congenially addressed the rapidly growing assemblage of non-Khurish "Outlanders". Pnoah seemed single-mindedly manic. It was amusing to Xi that this child-man was so vibrantly quick minded that the headlong pace at which his thoughts advanced could almost be witnessed. Xi bowed to Pnoah and responded simply with his name, "Xihue".

The last arrival was swathed in silk but those clothing did little to hide the perfection of her female form. Throughout all the world, across unknown distances, Xihue had never seen an elvish female as unattainably beautiful as this creature. Here was a reflection of perfection personified! The timbre of her voice was that of liquid song. Her pure, unblemished face framed turquois eyes that seemed larger as imagination of their depths drew even a casual glance into them. Here was the epitome of an archetypal beauty that would surely advantage generations of her progeny. Xi could hear the wisdom of her words as she petitioned the Captain for tolerant forbearance toward the nine extravagantly dissimilar people who's only seeming commonality was that of purpose. They were all here for this unique event. In that, Xi realized, they were all united.

The frail teenager fell heavily to the sand and several of the others ran quickly to his side. While the small man and tiny woman seemed to assume that the boy had died, the stocky dwarvish priestess, and the protective armored man ministered to him as best they could. Mechanically talented Pnoah assembled a contraption that moisturized the air, the cleric prayed, and the strong man seemed to try to will the pallid juvenile back to consciousness. Something stirred within the Captain's paternal sensibilities, or was it some unknown fear that drove the horseman to menace the Outlanders. "If he dies, you all join him."

They succeeded but the cost of it was a blood curdling shriek that caused Xi to wince reflexively as he instinctively assumed a defensive stance which quickly relaxed into a more casual posture. He supported his weight lightly upon the balls of his feet, aware that the Captain's threat still lingered on the precipice of nightfall. The pretty, diminutive lady seemed to be angered by the warning and momentarily stopped her efforts to itemize the stricken boy's belongings. Xi was confused by the theories that she proposed and began to wonder about the degree of corruption that should be expected from the people in this strange land.

The youth regained his senses, under the ministrations of those that provided water to the desiccated waif. Water was the source of life. It was taught that each drop contained a world of it's own and that the spirit was restored by the energy transferred through them. Energy was lost as water left the body. Sweat, tears and even urine deprived a person of life-giving power. Unless that power was somehow replaced, a person would die within a few days. It was a great honor to share water with someone. The practice took on many forms, from the mundane to the intimate.

As the boy was whisked away by the voluptuous human, up the path toward the bonfires and the Standing Stones, events resolved quickly. The blonde knight followed the entourage toward the festival grounds and took the stoic elf lord with him as the sylvan offered the boy some magically chilled water. That was a generous gift, indeed! The dwarven cleric calmed the cute girl who's stick was apparently a weapon as effective as his own crosier. The blonde knight followed the entourage toward the festival grounds and the tinker trailed after them, still offering to manufacture beneficial implements.

Xi had learned the lessons of stone. Tall trees had once forested the land of his home. Throughout the forgotten ages, they had risen, fallen, rotted and disappeared until there were only steppes of grasslands filled with the Uigan, archer horsemen of the plains and their Purgi and Pureshk vassels. The nomadic Kazar people of the Panak Desert and Il-quars were much like these Khurish men. His own tribe of Alan-atu were mountain people who remembered the forests that the other tribes had forgotten because the Alan-atu listened to the mountain stones that told of such long forgotten histories.

Horses here were as prized as those of Uigan stock and Kazar stock, although the Kazar preferred other mounts. Beneath the tents that protected the valuable livestock from the solar ravages in mid-day heat, Xi had passed several stands of exquisite equestrians. Were he of another tribe, he might have lingered in rapturous adoration of the local breeds. Celebration of honored ancestors and the resolution of his dreams were the more pressing geas that controlled Xi's present purpose. The Ascended One, The Great Master, called for him to be here.

Short minutes passed before Xi found only himself and the Perfect Elf Princess remained with the Captain of the Tiger Clan contingent. The monk stood witness to her wisdom and absorbed her abundant, yet logically conciliatory words. This being was a diplomat of peace and a gifted orator. Xi appreciated the empathy through which she achieved her purpose and looked forward to the potential for private moments with her. There were greater purposes that could be served. She had her philosophy almost aligned with his own.

We are our past. It is ever part of us. We share our present. It simply is. We become the future. In so doing, we choose what will be. To Xihue, there could be no greater purpose than to become perfect or populate the world with potential for perfection through the creation of the next generation. Existence was not finite. Immortality was achieved through legacy.

The monk stepped forward to the elf woman and offered her his arm and then, his water flask. "It is time, my lady. Night approaches with relentless certainty and this man has achieved his duty. May peace be with them. We must make our way to the fires. Would you accompany me?"


 
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  #27  
Old Apr 28th, 2022, 02:30 AM
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Aric Armitage
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Now that the immediate peril of his sun-stricken exhaustion had been abated by the ministrations of several of the nearby strangers, Aric looked upon those around him with new eyes. Clarity had – for the most part – returned to his mind, and though his purpose here was not the same as that espoused by the verbose elven woman, he didn’t seem to be pressured to explain himself. That suits me; I’m still trying to make sense of it myself. He sipped the water that the male elf had handed him, and his eyes popped open when his lips felt the delicious coolness.

”Oh that’s – that’s wonderful! How did you do that?” he asked the male elf whose name he’d not yet caught. The dampness to his skin from the small man’s device had soaked into his clothes and wet the back of his neck; add to this the sensitivity of his skin from the hours of walking under the sun and the coolness of this kind stranger’s water, and suddenly Aric felt a chill shake his body as his core temperature dipped a few degrees. The verbose elven woman was imploring the captain to stand down, assuring him that the gathered outlanders meant no harm. "The boy is fine. He's an outlander like us. Far from his home has he wandered to attend to the spirits, just like us."

Aric looked at her in surprise as his mind took in her words. ”Spirits? Like g-g-ghosts?” he asked, his voice suddenly chattering as the chill worked its way through him. He blushed as he heard the stutter, thinking the others would assume he was afraid. ”I don’t know about any festival, this just looked like a place I might be able to take a little break. It sure seems nice though, I really like these – um – banners that are hung up all around. I have to say, I don’t exactly know what some of these are, certainly we didn’t see them in the forest where I grew up. I like the stripes on this orange one! Wow, those are some big teeth!” His youth shone out like a beacon as he spoke, his natural curiosity coming to the forefront now that he had been able to somewhat reclaim his stamina . ”Well I don’t – um – I don’t really know – um – what some of you are… sorry, but my name is Aric and I’ve never been to a festival before. Is it like a party? Is there cake?! I had cake before, back when my mother- back when I was younger. She- she made it herself.” He went quiet for a moment. His mind was working behind the scenes, taking in the faces of those around him. It certainly didn’t look like anyone was here for a party.

”Um… I – I’m sorry. I can – I can go if I’m not allowed here. I don’t want to upset anyone.” The fact that he’d followed the blonde man to this point and might not be able to go any further settled into his mind, and for the first time in his long journey he began to fully grasp the distance he had traveled, the chasm of miles he was from his home and those few people who still knew he existed.

His eyes were burning; he turned away, not wanting anyone to see the hot tears that were beating on his eyes like invaders at the gate; he would not let them through. He took a deep breath and wiped both eyes with a palm still gritty with sand. He forced it down, all of it, and swallowed hard, the jagged mass of emotion being pushed down his throat and into his chest, an intangible tumor he refused to excise in front of these strangers.

”I don’t know what god this festival is for, but… I was brought up… kind of… to follow Habakkuk. I think, maybe I might like to say something about my mom if it’s alright for me to come in?” He paused, feeling a rumble in his stomach that had nothing to do with sadness.

”Of course, if there is cake, then oh boy do I want some!” he said with the first grin any of them had seen on his face.

 
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Old Apr 28th, 2022, 05:55 AM
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Devari let the boy, Aric, talk as she looked for a good spot to sit which hadn't already been claimed by a tent or a group of tribespeople. Somewhere close to the fires, but not too close, in the lee of a bigger rock to get out of the wind. Unfortunately it looked like the Khurish people had arrived early with the express intent of staking out the best places and they guarded their territory with steely eyes, even if their 'weapons of metal' had been left behind.

Aric's weight was beginning to be a real burden so she stopped abruptly in a space between two groups.

"This looks good!" she announced, and allowed the boy to slip down onto the ground. She hunkered down, looking him in the eye and noticed that tears were threatening to roll down his face. What had he been saying? Oh, right.

"Sorry, I doubt any of these guys even know what cake is," she said with a sardonic grin. "but there might be food. I was kinda hoping for something to drink, to be honest, but I don't see a bar anywhere. Maybe some of these folks have something?"

She looked expectantly but not hopefully around the group of outlanders but somehow they generally looked as ill-prepared for this festival as she was. At least she had heard about the spirits, though, unlike Aric. She looked at him again, her brow pursed slightly.

"You didn't know about the festival, huh?" she said, a teasing note in her voice. "You just decided to walk through the desert and chanced upon this place right as it's about to start? Well, you're either the luckiest guy I've ever met or…"

She trailed off to allow him to fill the silence and finish the thought. Why had he come all the way out here, right out in the middle of nowhere, without even the slightest bit of preparation for the journey? She could see that he was young and definitely naive, but it would take more than dumb luck for anyone to find themselves here right now.

 
 
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Last edited by Lazer; Apr 28th, 2022 at 05:57 AM.
  #29  
Old Apr 30th, 2022, 12:58 PM
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A boy in need... of cake
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Events progressed quickly in front of the festival grounds. The panic started as the cleric was suspicious of poison. Tegan's head yanked back in disbelief. She can tell he was poisoned already? As events progressed he passed that off due to the nerves related to the situation. Maybe if the guard hadn't threatened their lives, the cleric would not have felt so flustered. In fact, when the guard captain made his statement, Tegan felt his own skin flush. He was an honorable man, to be linked together with this type of potential malicious behavior was ridiculous. Tegan forced himself to inhale deeply and exhale slowly. He felt his heart rate slow, no longer hammering in his rib cage.

The boy awoke. Tegan jolted back onto his heels as the boy screamed. Tegan saw the recognition in his face. The boy had reacted to him. Tegan's touch and presence had greatly disturbed the boy. Do we know each other? For the second time Tegan racked his brain, but no answer was forthcoming. It was at this moment that Tegan had yet another surprise. The gnome that he had originally pushed past had some kind of creation that shot water. Tegan, of course, was unaware. As he thought deeply for a moment he was again shocked as a spray of water hit him in the face. He reacted, then paused. It was actually quite refreshing.

With the help of the woman in the green dress, Tegan lifted Aric up. He was confused as to why she seemed to be pulling the boy's weight onto her shoulders and off of his. The elf handed the boy some cool water and the boy started asking questions about the festival and confections. Behind him, Tegan saw the elven woman and the young man hanging behind to settle things with the guard captain and talk to eachother. Tegan shook his head at the young man. He had seen his wandering eyes quite a bit already. First with the Veralyne, now with the elf. It just felt improper. Tegan would have to keep an eye on him. He likely wasn't knowledgeable enough to know his debaucherous ways were wrong.

The dwarf, kender, and gnome followed after them, with the elf wizard in between. Tegan had seen wizards before in Solanthus. He had respect for them but little understanding. His father and grandfather told him tales of when the moons had been present and wizards honorably declared their intentions with their robes. This wizard did not. Tegan wondered at that. He knew little of Magus besides that. Interesting.

Seeing that the conversation between Veralyne and the boy had died off, Tegan interposed. "I am called Tegan. I am a squire of the Knights of Solamnia, at your service my lady." Tegan bowed his head at her and turned to face the boy, "I understand your perspective. I know little of this festival as well. It was just a couple months back that my grandfather and father passed. Yet I have felt the unrest of my father incessantly in my dreams. Through the will of the gods, I have found myself here. Apparently this is a place where we can help the souls of the departed reach their destination. It's a strange business, but with the return of the moons, I don't know what is truly strange anymore. I mean, look at this - nine outlanders all arrive at the same time and the same place? I think the gods have a sense of humor, Habakkuk included. I just hope that what I yet seek will be found here." While he spoke, Tegan's studious brown eyes were clearly focused on the boy. The boy interested Tegan, especially his reactions to Tegan, whom he had never met. Not to mention that Tegan was to be a knight, if fate allowed it, and he was called to help those in need. This seemed to be that type of situation. Tegan was anxious to see how the boy's reactions progressed towards him. Was he afraid of Tegan? There was something there, but Tegan couldn't pin it.
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  #30  
Old May 1st, 2022, 07:13 AM
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Dark Day, the Standing Stones

Whether by gnomish ingenuity, kender cunning, elven mastery of the arcane or simply some good old sense, the boy‘s death appeared to have been permanently averted. Aric woke from whatever strange dreams held his consciousness captive and looked around him confused. There were so many people, so many strange people who had taken an interest in him, who wanted to… help him?


Youthful slender arms wrapped themselves around him and he felt himself shiver. Was it dizziness, hunger or perhaps the touch of perfect dusky skin that made him react in such a way? Others came to support him, comfort him, ease his mind. How in the name of the returned gods had he managed to become the center of attention?


The boy‘s “miraculous” recovery did not offer a sense of calm to the Khurish captain. If the suddenly ruddy color of his cheeks was any indication -though one could not really tell in the poor light, especially with his long beard- he seemed more embarrassed to have overreacted than anything else. Was it that nagging sensation of having made a fool of himself that broke the magic of the elven maiden’s words? It seemed likely. One thing was certain - the connection between them was lost, the moment gone, never to return.


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Khurish Captain


"Enough talk, grass-walker in Khurish, derogatory term used for elvesnajel-wukk. I am not your wet nurse in Khurishmurdihal. If you want to know our ways, keep your eyes and ears open. I will not offer your kind anything, neither advice, nor my breath."


How strange the mortal heart is, how many conflicting emotions can dwell there at the same time. Anger, sorrow, ache, hatred, hopelessness - each one a terrible dragon slowly devouring what an individual had once been. Loss can do that to a person. Loss had done that to the nine foreigners who faced the heartbroken captain, not realizing that they were more alike than they could have imagined. Or perhaps it was only he who did not see it.


Kaylen’s words made him finally face this truth. Hard as rock and fiery like the touch of molten metal, they cut through the anger and like one of Aric’s arrows pierced his heart. And the captain wept -inside him-, the tears cooling off the inferno of his rage, leaving him beaten, exhausted.


A nod and the guards behind him parted, letting the foreigners proceed.


"Forgive me, mother. You are free to proceed - in KhurishSamila, Ummah. At harun qi almandii qashmal. Pay your respects to those who are lost, but not gone. And pray for me - in KhurishWan alehum el."


*********


Some relieved, some offended, some simply curious, the nine travelers slowly walked towards the great bonfires that burned brightly, if not cheerfully. Nine separate threads that slowly became entwined, forming loops and knots, but still the pattern could not be discerned. Was this the will of the gods? Or perhaps that of some power even greater than the deities who watched over Krynn? Had this moment been already recorded in the Gilean’s book, containing the High God’s design for the worldTobril at the beginning of time? No mortal could know and if the mysterious stones surrounding the nine had any insight, they kept their secrets to themselves.


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The Standing Stones


The Standing Stones.


The name was apt, for how else could one describe such formations of rock? The stones seemed to have grown out of the ground or perhaps fallen from the sky. It was hard to tell, with each monolith being as unique as the people who stood before them in wonder. Small and large, column-like or thick as boulders, reaching straight towards the stars or leaning precariously over the people who walked beside them, the monoliths reflected the light of the fire much like obsidian did, though they seemed to be composed of a rock similar to granite. Their surface was irregular but the lines and angles did not seem to have been caused by sun, wind and rain. These flaws gave birth to the strange impulse of touching their rocky skin, exploring it with bare hands, following each curve with curious fingers - but was such a course of action wise?


As each traveler approached the mysterious stones, they had the impression that the temperature dropped suddenly, unexpectedly, as if the monoliths were draining the warmth from their surroundings. Those sceptical of mere things of rock being able to do anything more than just stand in silence, realized that they could actually see their breaths the closer they got to the monoliths, small clouds forming before them as they exhaled, their teeth almost chattering from the cold. Was this why the Khurish nomads had gathered around their bonfires, seemingly avoiding the Standing Stones altogether? Were they afraid of them? Could the Standing Stones actually harm them?


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The Festival of Fire and Song - Khurish nomads around a bonfire


The seven huge bonfires, each one built by one of the Khurish tribes, appeared to be keeping the dark and frigid influence of the Standing Stones at bay. Around them were hundreds of Khurish men and women, some young, some old, all of them thoughtful, or even grim, silently staring at the flames, listening to the singers.


The singers…


They too were as dissimilar as the people they represented - young girls who hid their tender beauty behind thin and colorful veils and old men with long beards that touched the sandy ground, middle-aged women thin as reeds and men in their prime, their backs straight and their limbs strong. Some moaned and wailed, filling the hearts of those that heard their elegies with sorrow and their eyes with tears. Others sang to the stars, their melodic voices accompanied by traditional Khurish instruments like the stringed aud and the mournful naar, along with the intricate qarhun and the proud kimanjah, each with their own story to tell. As one voice faded another rose, telling the tale of some other soul that had left the world scarred and blooded, tragedy marking its passing. Those who understood the nomads’ speech heard the stories of children who lost their parents and parents who lost their children, young lovers separated forever by illness or a father’s wrath, great heroes who succumbed to poison, steel or a woman’s treachery. Those who didn’t understand the songs were affected all the same, the sorrow behind the strange words the same in every language spoken by human, elf and dwarf, the stories of broken hearts and hollow eyes very familiar to each and every one of them.


Though all bonfires were surrounded by dozens of nomads, three of them seemed to be calling to the mourners as irresistibly as the candle’s dancing flame attracts the moths. The largest of them, easily double the size of the smallest bonfire, seemed to have drawn the attention of the most diverse crowd. A man who could still be called young, perfectly groomed and wearing richly decorated clothes, skillfully played the oud as a dark-skinned girl next to him sang in a voice that made even the hardest of hearts tremble at its sound.


Some distance to the left of this unusual pair, next to a bonfire of moderate size and surrounded by men of all ages and stations, was arguably the most beautiful woman any of the foreigners had ever seen in Khur. Though her voice was sweet, it was the graceful movements of her arms and those of her vibrant body that seemed to draw the attention of those that flocked to her, eager to be the target of one of her glances. The woman did not seem to pay her admirers any mind, her half-closed eyes obviously seeing something beyond the fire and the shadows it cast.


And finally, surrounded mostly by those whose skin was marked by time with innumerable wrinkles and age spots, was a female singer who looked more like a giant toad than a human. Dressed entirely in black, with the exception of a purple headgear that did little to disguise her ugliness, the elderly woman still had a sonorous voice that could put to shame those of half her age. Each time she finished a song she tightly shut her eyes and appeared to be softly mumbling something to herself, possibly gathering her strength before being able to sing to the spirits again.


Were these singers the answer to the travelers’ prayers? What could their songs really accomplish? What had the travelers been expecting from a Khurish festival anyway? Or was it the Standing Stones that could offer the spirits rest, even as they seemed to crave the warmth of the living? What power did they have and for what purpose could this power be used?


So many questions, so few answers. But despite this fact, the time to act was now. Even if only baseless rumors and ill luck had brought the nine to the Standing Stones, it was up to them to make the most of it.



Calendar3rd Day of Aelmont (Winter) 422 AC / 38 SC, Dark Day

Solinari: 33/36 (Low Sanction)
Lunitari: 6/28 (Waxing)
Nuitari: 3/8 (Waxing)

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White Robes -1 spell DC, DIS on spell attack rolls | Red Robes - | Black Robes -


 
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