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Old 05-13-2019, 05:22 PM
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Part I • Chapter 2: A Dangerous Business

right-aligned image

May the roads rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rain fall soft upon your fields,
And, until we meet again,
May the gods raise you up into the light.

- traditional folk blessing

Axis, Society of Plots Within Plots

The capital city of the Empire was a shining beacon of civilization, or at least that was what the young were taught, and the image presented by the pristine army was in keeping with that, even when they were marching out to attack amassing hordes of demons. Learning was had by all, and what's more, the Emperor had several palaces within the city, all of which attracted both nobles in their glittering jewelry and silks and artists and performers as well.

Yet there was an underside to this city, and not just the usual smattering of pickpockets and con artists, either. No, in the bright halls and houses of the nobility there was a quiet war being waged, a conflict of words and secrets, the game of politics. Favor was sought by all. Power was the goal. Maneuvering to reveal a secret or slight an opponent at the right time would raise the chess player's favor among the other nobles. Even the Emperor was not immune to this, and though he played at an advantage, there were weaker points in the line of his defense which could be breached with the right stimuli. Every word had weight for and against those playing the game of political power, and sometimes the only way to win was to not play.


In four short days, the lives of five individuals had changed in ways completely unexpected. Demons were fought, people were saved, and honors were given. Hard truths were spoken, facts were laid out, plans were made. But it was not any of that which had consumed the evening and even the fitful sleep of the five. No, it was the secret entrusted to them which had caused more concern than being in the midst of battle. Her Royal Highness, Princess Maelona Dracorix, was to leave the capital city in what secrecy could be afforded her in disguise and with no entourage. Four of the five had had strange encounters the night before they were to leave, but it depended upon the individual how much the odd words of warning had impacted the general mental roar of worrying about all the angles of everything that was to go on that day.



Swordsday the 21st day of Rainmoot,
27th Year of Our Emperor Cyrian Dracorix

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The day dawned grey, the level of light the only sign that the sun had in fact risen. It didn't seem like there would be rain, or if there were, not much. There was no dark thunderhead to concern the five travelers as they rose to leave, only mist that clouded everything including their departure, making it that much less likely that the princess would be recognized. A gentle breeze plucked at cloaks and hair and made the lit lanterns flicker, throwing light and shadows everywhere. Even the guard patrol which simply nodded to the heroes as they were led to the groomsmen holding five horses as steady as possible in the street. Though the grooms did not look particularly wide awake at this early hour, the horses seemed in good spirits. Each had been tacked with good quality gear, the saddlebags already packed with the belongings of the travelers, courtesy of the guest house's servants. Also, as requested, there were two large bundles of arrows waiting for them, the bow already having been delivered to Levi the night before and handed on to Maelona. Once the travelers had identified their saddlebags, Levi could place the bundles atop the sleeping rolls behind the saddles on his and the princess' horse and tie them down securely.

As the travelers were introduced to their horses, given their names and any minor ticks of behavior or favorite treats, it became apparent that these horses were not as common as they appeared. Their eyes seemed to regard the travelers with curiosity, and the grooms' mention of their names received small reactions from each, varied but no less obviously a reaction. Even the largest member of their group didn't seem to be carrying so much weight that the groom at his horse's head thought it worth mentioning. None of the grooms seemed at all concerned, except for the proper treatment of the horses. They would reliably carry the travelers forty miles a day on the highways or most of that in the wilds south of Axis, as long as they weren't pushed too hard, or too long. The spring abundance made it unnecessary to carry food for the horses with them, but if they were headed for any areas that didn't have so much, they would have to consider bringing oats and grain to supplement their diets, and that could be purchased in most towns near roads. That was all the advice they could offer, and so they left the horses to their new riders and moved out of the way.

GMAnd we're off! I'm so happy to be writing with all of you, and I look forward to what your creative minds come up with. I don't want to rush the RP that will happen as everyone gets ready to leave, but I do want to explain the rules for the first types of mechanics we're going to use.

Firstly, we're starting a new chapter so you get your Icon Relationship rolls. You all get to roll a d6 for each point, and count 5s and 6s. A six means that at some point during the chapter you get to call in a favor, find something by pure chance, or similarly change the story in your benefit. A five means the same, except it'll come at a small disadvantage chosen by me. We talk any time you want to call in that favor, and work it out between us. You'll need a story how that particular Icon's faction is involved, whether you remember reading a book written by a paladin of the Gold, happen to find a spring welling from the earth that has been blessed by the High Druid, etc. If you're calling in a favor with a contact but only had a five, it's possible the contact will give you the information, but only if you do something for him, first. There's code to make the rolls easier posted in the dice thread.

 

Please also do me the favor of confirming that the stats below match your sheets (including all the places that magic items benefitted you). Thankee kindly.

 
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Last edited by Aethera; 06-05-2019 at 08:48 AM.
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Old 05-13-2019, 05:24 PM
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The Novelbuilding of She Who WritesThe Novelbuilding of She Who Writes
Shamelessly stolen from PIG's Hall of Fame game Legacy of Fire, in which he gave bonuses for Stories of the Past and Present, I would like to encourage you to write together, singly, or in any combination that suits you. Tell me what you all talk of around the campfire the first night you are out of Axis. Tell me a story that happened in your childhood which impacted your character development in some meaningful way. By taking these threads aside, we can continue with the main storyline without stopping for the time it takes to have a full conversation in however many rounds of posts. The only scene I would ask you not to write is the Battle of Aerilon, since that is technically covered in the main game thread, if briefly. It would also require my involvement on behalf of the demons, and I'm seeking your creativity. Within reason, this means you may write an Icon or faction member into your scene, but if you're uncertain how it would go, please ask. I'm happy to discuss the particulars so you can write it freely.

It would benefit me greatly if you would please number your stories relative to the current game thread (or pregame). My brain jumps to a flag such as [I.2.i] (Part I, Chapter 2, add-on scene one), [I.2.ii], etc, but if there is another metric you like better, by all means use it as long as you all use the same! (If the tag is added at the beginning of the title, conveniently this will be able to be alphabetized.) All I ask is that I can relatively link where in the overall story each thread occurs. If two ideas happen in an order that doesn't quite fit (one might have happened after you reach Horizon, the other before), it is close enough, and/or I am happy to edit thread titles to suit. Pregame stories may be labeled with a zero or a P instead of Part I if you would like, or again, some other marking that denotes prior to game start. Those may be even less easy to organize, but it'll be good enough. I will be trying to give you bonuses for these, but since 13th Age doesn't depend on XP for progression, I will be giving rewards based on the problems solved, primarily using a token system that hvg3akaek introduced me to, which grants you bonuses to rolls or other small boosts. You can read the details of those in the house rules. Particularly impressive stories may earn actual items for those involved; most granted items will probably be one-use things like potions, oils, and runes, but I will also be designing some like one-use scrolls with obscure spells. I wouldn't count on more than one granted item and a few tokens per chapter, but those will add up fast. And of course, you may surprise me, in which case my "probablies" matter not.

There are three stories I will post as [Story] [I.1.i], [I.1.ii], and [I.1.iii], those being the events of the night time meetings with the evangelist that first night in Axis. These scenes are far too good to keep them private after the fact, but I will wait until we're all finished. I trust no one will meta-game with anything posted as story material here, for the wrath of the GM will be immediate and absolute. Just so we're all clear on that.

Last edited by Aethera; 07-28-2020 at 10:12 AM. Reason: linking to evangelist encounters
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Old 06-04-2019, 11:52 AM
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Bazziox walks sullenly through the quiet, early-morning streets. He is not opposed to the early hour, in fact he finds the early hours to be some of the most productive, but they are meant for studying old tomes or basking in knowledge of a forgotten forest, not traipsing through city streets in preparation for sneaking out of town. Although, in retrospect, he had done that on occasion. Sometimes his knowledge seeking had resulted in some ... less than favorable relationships. The dragonborn remains lost in thought through the short walk to the stables. Despite his mind being elsewhere, Bazziox finds little difficulty in winding his way to the stables. When he snaps out of his own head, he chafes at the ease with which he was able to navigate the streets. It is long past due to leave the accursed walls of this city and find paths that are more seldom trodden - and especially ones that he has not walked before!

Bazziox is, unfortunately, the first to arrive, resulting in several vocalized curses of 'walls' and 'cobbled streets'. As the others begin to arrive, Bazziox greets each of the heroes with a detached indifference. When the Princess arrives, on the other hand, the dragonborn nearly bows to her as he would in the court. Their task suddenly rushes to his mind and he nearly wrenches his back out as he stops abruptly, giving a shallow, awkward bow instead. Feebly, he tries to recover by turning to the lizardwoman and providing a shallow bow to her as well.

Secrecy. Travelling companions. Responsibility. The weight of an Age carried on his shoulders. The dragonborn nearly bellows in frustration on the spot. A day earlier he would have given anything for freedom from the city. The contingencies of his current state of freedom, however, leave something to be desired. Somehow he refrains his temper tantrum and turns toward the largest of the horses. It has a name. The groomsman had stated it. Bazziox has already forgotten, nor does he pretend to care. The beast apparently has some favorite things ... or something. Bazziox stands inches away from the groomsman with his hand poised to take the reins. The the infernal man, however, continues to hold the reins and drone on. Bazziox has to refrain from snatching the thick leather bands from the man's hands. Instead he smiles politely, which appears more like a toothy sneer that takes the poor man by surprise. On the positive side, he does stop babbling on about things that the dragonborn finds more than a little pedantic. The first victory of the trip! Bazziox genuinely smiles at the man ... who nervously smiles back.
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Old 06-05-2019, 01:08 AM
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Emak the Meek and Guythraxix the Hungry
And let us not forget,
The magical beauty Queen Blue,
For if there is one you must have smitten,
with thunder or charm no one else strikes true!

So remember this, dragons Three,
Whenever you are in a rut -
At least you're not a giant worm
Sitting on your golden scaly butt!

The song swept into the stables shortly before the short lizard did, accompanied by three of the horses' caretakers - young men who were perhaps a little less sleepy about the ideas than they had been initially. Emak had run into them when out in the morning, dropping off her letters so they could be delivered. Were she asked, as she had been once already, she had been up early in order to find the messenger to hand off her letters! Excited, for good and ill, and ready to be, well, ready. She was fully packed after all, and even now in her travelling clothes, she kept Guythraxix at her chest, not letting him out of her grasp.

But honestly, her mind had been abuzz with thoughts of what that man had said, in the library. She had laid awake, sprawled out on top of the too oversized bed provided to her like someone had thrown her there through the air, thinking and whispering to her partner in crime. Her partner who had no recollection of the talk that was had, and the slight notes of genuine worry had forced him to drop the act - he remembered eating, but not the dinner conversation that had accompanied the meal. That was concerning at least in part because Emak had no idea what mind influencing magic could even work on a being without a physical mind, but also Mister Nga had seemed as surprised as anyone that whatever was affecting Guythraxix had. And that it hadn't been the first time it had happened.

She listened closely to the groomsman who had her horse, the smallest of the group, and nodded seriously with each told factoid about the beast. Horses weren't her favorite thing in the world, but she supposed she was a competent enough rider. Competent enough to know that she'd want every advantage she could get with this creature, which apparently included apples, cabbage, potatoes of all things, and not carrots. She did not like carrots, it seemed. That was fine with Emak, as carrots were a particularly overrated snack anyway.

However, when the moment presented itself, Emak moved to pull the others to the side, waving them over into a tight group before pulling out her last letter, a letter with no recipient stated on the outside. It was a letter for the group, after all. She turned it over, showing the seal to everyone but carefully watching the Princess and the other reptilian closely. "Do any of you recognize this seal? The most peculiar fellow stopped me yesterday night, and he knew a lot. More than I did that morning. Spoke of a lot of bizarre things too, but he helped me nonetheless?" She watched for a reaction, some glimmer of recognition, maybe something that one of the others could help her unpack this mystery with.

 
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Old 06-07-2019, 07:00 PM
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Scabbard of IronScabbard of Iron simply nodded as the groomsman informed him about the temperament of his horse. He had some experience riding on horseback traveling short ways, but for traveling long distances monks found they could travel fastest on their own two feet. These horses seemed like they would be fairly easygoing at any rate, quite well-versed in their tasks. Perhaps their intelligence could make them willful, but likely only when they knew something important that their rider did not. With luck he would soon come to an understanding of the creature, and it him.

When little excited Emak pulled the group to the side, the monk initially shook his head. The seal did not have any special significance to him. Upon mention of a peculiar fellow, however, he nodded. "I had a strange encounter last night as well," he said. "A holy man who also spoke many bizarre things, though I could not say that he helped me—even if that seemed to be his intent." Even the next morning Scabbard of Iron still did not know how he should feel about that man. The man certainly did not seem in the habit of granting straight answers, but the monk was convinced that there was something strange and magical about him—the question was what the magic was.
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Old 06-09-2019, 02:19 PM
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Emak the Meek and Guythraxix the HungryAt Scabbard's confirmation, Emak held up an index finger, pausing anything anyone else might say. That somebody else could confirm alone was good, good enough for what she needed, but it'd be best if they confirmed everything at once. She fished out a few pieces of paper and some sticks of charcoal before passing one sheet and a stick to the human, and offering the others to everybody else. "Please jot down their appearance and what things they said, for anyone that had such an encounter." She gulped a bit, Guythraxix under arm and silent, undoubtedly realizing what she was demonstrating.

"And please don't say anything further about it until everyone who is writing is finished," she instructed, quite serious and quite unflinching, now that she was working within her wheelhouse. Yesterday had been overwhelming, terrifying in scale, but now she had a problem in front of her. One she could work at, sink her teeth into.

She didn't move to write anything though, instead continuing to hold the tools aloft for the others. Slightly miffed, she fully realized how much taller they were - holding up the light items was tiring, and after a moment she lowered them back down to a more manageable level.

 
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Old 06-13-2019, 11:03 AM
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Bazziox glares reproachfully at the small lizard. Her early morning jubilance and requests are not appealing in the least to the dragonborn. "Find the solid qualities in your companions you can depend on, and make light of your differences of opinion." Bazziox snorts derisively as the words come unbidden back to him from somewhere in a dark corridor in the night. Is this one of those solid qualities? Or a difference of opinion?

Begrudgingly, Bazziox hands the reins back to the groomsman - who had been trying to subtly put some distance between himself and the dragonborn - and approaches the gathering of his companions. The small lizardwoman's words catch Bazziox by surprise. The monk's affirmation doubly so. It takes a moment for Bazziox to recover his senses, and then, slowly, he reaches for the utensils held before him. With astoundingly good penmanship, the large clawed hands race across the paper scritch-scratching in the early morning serenity. Finally, he hands the paper and chalk back to Emak. He stares at her a moment, "I am curious what you aim to accomplish, but I will let you keep your methods to yourself for now. I would know more of this man and his ilk. I have met another like him once. They both spoke of this Shehoorites," he pokes a finger at the parchment he had handed the lizardwoman, "but I have found nothing in any books that speak of such an entity."
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Old 07-10-2019, 02:58 PM
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The princess (now with dyed dark brown hair pulled tightly back into a braid hanging down her back and wearing the embossed leather armor and uniform of an archer of the Imperial Army) was not long in arriving after Scabbard of Iron, but her face was closed if not outright stony. She said nothing, though she did nod and attempt a weak smile when Bazziox made his jerky little bow. She moved closer to the horse she was given, listening to the groom with less than perfect focus, one boot tapping against the flagstones. If she didn't like her situation she apparently chose not to comment on it, at least for the moment. She asked the groom to help her tie her bundle of arrows behind her saddle, then pulled a small apple from her belt pouch to offer the horse. The mare happily took the offered treat, and even with a horse-slobbered palm, Maelona gave her first real smile. It was small, and faded quickly, but at least she seemed to like her mare and take well to the idea of riding. She did glance over at her three guardians with their heads together, but didn't seem inclined to join them unless asked.

The city was beginning to waken, even as early as it was, and though they were not in a part of town that would be baking or otherwise arranging the day's wares, the army did patrol near the Palace of War and all the nearby garrisons of officers and enlisted alike. Now that it was daylight, grey as it might be, there were also runners in uniform hurrying along to their business, the first signs of awakening soldiery, and anyone in service to army or palace was now awake to bring water, food, or other morning necessities to their charges. A neigh from the nearby stables made the horses raise their heads in curiosity, but it was just a friendly sort of sound, not indicating danger, so they returned to waiting patiently for their riders to mount. The grooms began to look a bit fidgety, perhaps feeling they were needed elsewhere but too polite or well-trained to say anything while still in custody of the horses. Birdsong and far off speech rounded out the morning as the temperature began to rise, predicting a pleasant enough day for travel, for all their secret departure was losing its secrecy the longer the heroes spoke amongst themselves. It was time to go, but they still numbered only four. Levi had yet to appear.

A young boy, perhaps all of ten but scrawny and in clothes little better than rags, came running into the courtyard where the horses and heroes were gathering, looking around before running first to the horses and saying something to the disguised princess then over to the heroes talking together and straight up to the lizardwoman to tap her elbow. "'Scuse me, miss, but yeh be 'Emak'?" He said the name carefully, as though he wasn't sure he was pronouncing it correctly. Once acknowledged, he straightened his shoulder, staring almost through her as he passed along a message with a local accent. "The archer said I was ta tell yeh that he'd catch up after leadin' someun astray, but y'should go quickly. All was well, 'e thought, but 'e said he wanted to be extra careful. If y'leave 'im 'is 'orse, 'e'll be along soonish, otherwise 'e'll follow as fast as 'e can." A blink brought the boy's eyes back to the current moment and he looked up at Emak, fidgeting a bit. It wasn't clear if he was hoping for a copper for running the message (though likely Levi had already paid him at least one to do so) or if he thought there might be a return message for him to bring back to Levi when the archer came for his horse.

GMAlright, let's move on! If you haven't already done so, please go post at least one idea for the skill challenge in the OOC thread, and select someone else's (please mention which so people don't end up ninja-ing each other with the same challenge response). You have a three day ride to Horizon, and you are welcome to place your event on any day you choose. I have started a roleplaying thread for you on the first night on the road, mostly in case you would like to make plans for your trip, or try to get to know one another a bit better. I don't want to interrupt the skill challenge, so that RP can go in that thread while you all tell me how the journey goes. The weather is gray but pleasant day one, sunny and nice day two, and a bit cool and drizzly day three (which you are absolutely welcome to complain about or RP after everyone has posted their skill check), unless otherwise decided by your skill challenge. I don't intend to include Maelona in skill challenges, but she will slowly open up to you all in RP moments, and she will try to take part in combat if necessary.
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  #9  
Old 07-14-2019, 08:57 PM
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Bazziox nearly strikes the boy as he rushes into their midst. With a heavy sigh, Bazziox stays his own hand. The tension over a mission that is secret but hasn't even started yet is already wearing on the dragonborn's nerves. Silently, Bazziox stands and takes in the boy's words. As soon as the lad finishes, he growls, "These are ill tidings. We must not tarry. If there are already eyes that need to be misdirected, then others are not far behind. Let us away with all haste."

Bazziox quickly separates from the others, handing his belongings to the man standing near his horse before reaching up to the towering beast. If they are to be together on the road, the least he can do is try to make nice with it. Yet, the beast shies away from his clawed hand. A low rumbling sound begins to roll out from the dragonborn, though it holds another tone as well, perhaps best described as a cooing. The proud head of the horse tilts slightly at the sound and its eye fixes on the dragonborn. "There now. We do not need to like each other, but I deem we should accept each other." The clawed fingers stroke the horse's neck. While the eye remains skeptically fixed on the dragonborn, the beast snorts. Bazziox watches the response. A soft chuckle slips out. Then a full blown laugh. "That's the way. You and I shall get along just fine. You mind your business and I shall mend mine!"

Without another word, the dragonborn mounts the horse. With a soft word and a flick of the wrist, Bazziox coaxes the horse forward.
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Old 07-24-2019, 07:02 PM
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So it was that four companions rode out of Axis as day was truly breaking. Absent one of their number, things seemed much less certain than they had the night before when Levi had seemed ready to lead them. Bazziox took up position next to the princess in her disguise as Imperial archer, leaving Emak and Scabbard of Iron to lead the way. At least for the first few days of their journey, they had an Imperial highway to ride along, there wouldn't be any concern of getting lost until they had passed Horizon. They hadn't had a reason to enter the city of magic before, but now it seemed they would have to do so in order to find someone who knew the way to Santa Cora from there, since they couldn't necessarily depend on Levi catching up in time. (In fact, it was hard to believe he could catch up at all with them riding at full speed unless he rode his mount hard, and that would end up worse for him in the long run.)

So what lay ahead of them now? The princess was not incapable of holding her own in any fighting they ran into, but she was less experienced in real world tactics compared to sparring, and if there were any combat, their level of secrecy was sliding. The south gates of Axis were open when they passed through, guards paying them little more heed than a glance or two, for what importance was a band of travelers? They likely saw many in the course of a day. Even the lone Imperial archer in their midst didn't really raise any interest, the army did what it did, and it was of little concern to the gate wardens.

The road stretched out as far as the eye could see, cutting a straight line through the grasslands around Axis. As they rode, they could see much of the city's farmland on their right, and once they'd ridden some distance, the bay on their left receded, leaving more flat land between it and the road. There was still some sparse tree cover here and there, but much of it had been cut back who knows how long ago to make room for farming. The farms would give way to mixed grassland ahead, but that would take them some time to reach. About all they knew was that there were way-stations along the road providing fresh water for people and horses, and that it would be three days to reach the City of Wonders. At that point it would be up to them to figure out the best path forward.

GMAlright, please roll your skill checks in the dice thread, and your Icon Relationship rolls if you have not already done so. Let's get back on track, I'm looking for 1-2 posts per week from you all, and hopefully I can get the solo scenes wrapped up fast enough to merge in the new players without a wait.

EDIT: I realize I failed to mention that three days by horse will bring you to the outskirts of Horizon, but it would be wise (at least some of you have wisdom scores enough to realize) to have a plan for what you're doing and how before entering the city. You may or may not meet one of the new PCs that night about there, depending on how swiftly we get through his intro scene.
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  #11  
Old 07-27-2019, 06:20 PM
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The flickering firelight dances in the quiet darkness. Bazziox sits with his back against a tree, the flames and the sleeping companions behind him. There is likely no real reason for watch to be held, yet he had insisted that they take extra precautions especially with Levi's note in mind. Perhaps it had truly been nothing, but perhaps there were already evil deeds at work in the Empire.

As he sits, the dragonborn turns something over and over in his hands, a stray gleam giving away the jewel-embedded object on occasion. An object of power, of might. An interesting portent should one prescribe to such folly. Bazziox's eyes remain fixed on the mace as his thoughts travel the path of unwelcome memories.
The answer is inside ... inside the Cathedral of Light?! No matter. It is important, he must retrieve it. The scraggly old man who had bore the news to the dragonborn has seemingly vanished into the night. Despite the abrupt disappearance, Bazziox is not put off from the new task. Santa Cora is not far, yet far enough that he can formulate a plan during the journey.
~~~~~~~~~
The bright shiny halo that is Santa Cora lays before Bazziox. In the rapidly dimming light of dusk, the clawed hands deftly sweep back and forth, thread following needle. Finally, with a glance at the result, Bazziox sighs. The last of the tears in his clothes is repaired. Now to enter the city and work his way into the Cathedral where his target rests in an all-too-peaceful way. He steps forward and
sssno-
-rt. Bazziox's mental wanderings are interrupted by a sound. Blearily, he glances around, half lost in his memory, the mace in his hands all but forgotten. At first he does not find the source of the noise, but then he catches the light reflected in a dark orb. A midnight black orb belonging to the massive black he had ridden. The eye is fixed on Bazziox. The horse snorts again. Immediately, Bazziox's senses flow out to the surrounding trees. At first all he hears are the standard insect and frog noises of the night. But then, faintly, the rustle of leaves. Bazziox's thick, clawed fingers curl around the mace. Surprisingly silently, the large mass of his body rises. Gently and with nary a rustle, his clawed feet step out the distance to the horse.

In the shadows, the rustling continues, but low to the ground. With an inaudible sigh, Bazziox relaxes slightly, letting the mace slide silently out of his grip to the ground. With a practiced, fluid motion the staff strapped across his back is suddenly in his hands. Two quick strides. Broad overhead swipe. Thwap A startled yipe. Bazziox is on top of the stunned fox before it can react. Several rapid rustling noises reach the dragonborn's ear as he plucks the helpless creature from the sack it had been rustling about in. "That is mine, youngling." The words are but a low rumble as Bazzoix holds the now struggling foxling by the scruff of its neck. The legs suddenly stop flailing as Bazziox raises the creature out of the low shadows and into the dim light cast by the fire. "I think you shall join me on my watch for this night. We shall decide your fate in the morning. A good lesson this is, young one. Even the slightest rustle in even these woods, will land you at the mercy of another."

Bazziox pulls a rope from a horse and wanders back to his previous perch, a young fox in tow with a rope tied securely about its neck. The dragonborn slumps back to the ground and clicks his tongue. The small nose shimmers in the firelight. Gentle, padding paws inch forward. The little one takes a nibble, then gulps the snack down ravenously. When it finishes, the fox tries to skitter away only to find the rope still securely tied around it's neck. It paces for a few minutes before finally lying down, a wary eye fixed on its captor. Bazziox smiles slightly before returning to his own thoughts.
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Last edited by Roekahs; 07-27-2019 at 06:20 PM.
  #12  
Old 08-02-2019, 07:18 PM
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The road between Axis and Horizon cut through vaste swathes of farmland, where the peasantry toiled to provide the food that fed the empire. Should the heroes prevail in their efforts, hopefully this vital work would continue to be able to be done in at least relative peace. War had a long reach though—even if the armies of the empire managed to keep roving marauders away from these heartlands, the demand for men to serve in those armies caused its own ravages. Though Scabbard of Iron liked to think that the Heavenly Valley would be safe from such desperation, the monks did not number many—calling up even just one able bodied man out of every ten would significantly increase the number of fighters the valley had for its defense. The strength of the monks was not the strength of the legions, however—their enemies faced a flurry of fists, not a wall of shields.

As the sun started to sink towards the horizon and the people turned from their toil, the Princess's party was stopping to make camp and ride out early the next morning. Tents had to be set up, a fire made and meals heated, the horses brought to water then returned and given fodder. It was as Emak came back with the horses that Scabbard of Iron noticed that more people were approaching their campsite; while they were close enough to the road for convenience, they were still far enough away that they were not being approached by chance. He looked at the men approaching him and saw gritted teeth, hands close to the daggers on their belts, and that the two up front had narrowed their eyes upon seeing that they were observed. That their blades were, for the moment, still in their scabbards was at least a welcome sign.

"What's your business here?" one of the two men up front demanded as soon as they had reached the edge of the camp. He looked to the Princess, still in her soldier garb, and the party's arms. "If you're thinking to rob this land then you've made a grave mistake."

Of course the people would be on edge. The Emperor did not send his heir flying from the capital in a country where no one felt a dread in the air—and in places the atmosphere was absolutely dripping with fear, even if no one knew why. If faced with an enemy that they knew how to confront, who wouldn't wish to strike first?

"We are no brigands," Scabbard of Iron said. He motioned towards the Princess, who did her best not to shrink back from having attention called to her a second time. "We ride under the auspices of the legion, and will be gone from here shortly."

The second man in front stepped forward. "And what Imperial detachment contains just one archer?" he asked. "I'll bet you she's a deserter!"

"Still in her uniform?" Scabbard of Iron asked. "As you said yourself, she only calls attention to herself whenever the eyes of her fellow legionaries are upon her."

Little Emak was able to chime in, saying that the party traveled to Horizon on the summons of the Archmage, and that the Princess was their escort. Scabbard of Iron joined the others in nodding in support of the story.

"You are not unwise to keep vigil," the monk said to the mollified and now slightly deflated men. "When the darkness comes, those accustomed to light see nothing unless they light a lamp." It was best that none accustom themselves to darkness.

That was it. The men, satisfied that their homes were safe and that they were very much alive, departed, and the party was free to continue to settle in for the night.
  #13  
Old 08-11-2019, 09:33 PM
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Emak the Meek and Guythraxix the HungryTravel was... interesting, to say the least. She was not one who moved with others often, and those times she did, it was typically large groups of folks moving as a heard out of convenience. This left the current situation in some unknown territory between the two situations she was used to, and that brought with it new experiences. For one, it gave her time to look over and really learn some weird tidbits about her companions - such as, for instance, that the rather prim and perhaps curt Bazziox and the strange Scabbard were both clearly not all that used to horse riding. The Princess was, though, albeit in the strange human way that she never quite understood - sitting perpendicular to the horse was quite fine, she thought, but that was contingent on having a tail to hold oneself on the seat with. Without the tail, well, she just wasn't sure how The Princess did it.

The small group also meant group chores, which was a bit peculiar. And perhaps a little unfair, it felt, when the more physical tasks fell to her to complete. Not that she complained, of course, because while she was small and delicate, to have those seen as weaknesses by the others just would not do! So instead she set to it the best she could, in this case hauling up buckets of water from a run down road-side well. Unfortunately, were she not so focused on the labors of life (and Guythraxix not so distracted chuckling at said focus), she might have noticed the creeping green vines that twisted their way through the grout of the well's wall, little rough, asymmetrical three pronged leafs poking out and running along the rim, stems winding down both sides of the well.

Very, very unfortunate indeed, because even her refined sense of smell and taste would certainly not be able to pick out the faint mixture of poison ivy oil in the water. It would be diluted, of course, less than what direct contact might give some poor unfortunate not-protected-by-scales fellow, but for anyone that might be a bit sensitive to the stuff, the water she pulled up for the entire group would cause a very itchy reaction that they were bound to suffer from. And that would be good for no one.


 
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  #14  
Old 08-12-2019, 01:14 PM
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GMI wasn't going to, but since AwesomeEli really went all out on that tainted water skill challenge, it seems appropriate to give each of you the repercussions. Not all skill challenges have potential attacks/traps, but we might as well get used to some of the fun the GM gets when you don't make those rolls. Perhaps some of you have come in contact with poison ivy before, and have a different reaction, but you all have about the same chances.

 

I'm going to post this now so I know what the results are, and then I'll work on the actual story post for you next.

EDIT: This tickles me. Emak failed the skill check, but the other two get to pay for it. Internal poison ivy is... unpleasant.
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Last edited by Aethera; 08-12-2019 at 02:07 PM.
  #15  
Old 08-12-2019, 04:05 PM
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It took them the first few days to get into the cycle of traveling, watering the horses, traveling some more until nightfall, and so on. Unfortunately for their moods, Emak failed to notice the poison ivy growing into the run-down hole in the ground that might charitably be called a well. On that mostly cloudy Moonday morning, three of the four travelers woke up with fierce sore throats, red lips, and all the cheer of taking a bulette to the face. Of them all, however, it was the princess who was furious. Quite likely she'd never been permitted close enough to poison ivy to know what it was like, or that what was making her uncomfortable was actually diluted quite a bit. And to top it off, both Bazziox's and the princess' horses were misbehaving, potentially due to the same cause. It was not the sort of morning to which anyone likes to awaken.

Traveling that day was harder. Most of the group had sore throats, and with two of the four horses acting up on top of that, they didn't make nearly as much progress as they had the first couple of days; that was saying something given how much aching was had during the second day for all those not used to horseback riding. Even the princess kept shifting position, switching from riding astride to riding sidesaddle with an ingenious support strap tethered to the saddle horn. They spent an hour which felt like a lifetime struggling to ride onward with mixed success. It took the princess sliding down to the ground in a less dignified dismount to stop them, and only then did it occur to Bazziox that the bottle she drew out of her bags was a healing potion, and that he had healing spells. He stopped her and suggested she put the potion in her belt purse for easier access, and then drew all the humanoid party members to him, casting healing spells for broad effect across the three who felt awful, and then the two horses. His magic wasn't usually something he applied to animals, but there was no reason he couldn't do so. And it would prevent some of the misbehavior of the horses to be freed of their discomfort, too.

The rest of the day passed rather uneventfully, though the black moods continued for some even past the healing of their allergic reaction. More people were visible the closer to Horizon they got, both in the fields and on the road. Numerous dirt roads crossed the highway, and the locals used them all. It wasn't until they could see the tiny guards at the northern gate that suddenly more of Horizon's lofty heights became visible above them in the clouds. The most obvious was the cobblestone road up to a floating rock up over the northeastern quarter, partly out over the nice drop-off from ground level down to sea level and the port town of Whitecliff. From there it seemed there were floating islands chained together, or not, ships that floated in the sky as easily as on the sea, layers upon layers of buildings, natural structures, and man-made platforms or craft all the way up to disappear into the clouds. It was generally known that Horizon was a city of wonders, but for strangers to get their first glimpse of what that entailed, many were speechless, the princess among them. She kept staring upward as night fell and the view grew less clear, no further sharp comments uttered.

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Understanding that if they entered the city without first agreeing on what they would say and what they would not they were likely to give away the whole secret mission, Scabbard of Iron and Bazziox found a space at the edge of a large campground just outside the walls of Horizon to set up the tent and put together some of the rations to make a sort of meaty broth. If the princess wouldn't let Emak fetch water, it was both failure and success; the princess did it herself. She still wasn't totally comfortable among the others, and was even more quiet with other small camps nearby, but at least she gave them tentative smiles and paid some attention to the conversation. It might have been easier if she had not, because as soon as one of the others raised the issue of hiring a guide from here to Santa Cora -- Levi not having returned -- she flatly insisted that they not enter the city, as they'd planned. Perhaps it was just that their plans had already fallen apart and she was just now beginning to fully realize it, perhaps not. Perhaps she thought they could afford to wait a day for Levi, see if he could catch up with them after all. She didn't speak her thoughts, just stated the plan was to avoid entering the city with a sullen gleam in her eyes. It was up to them to keep her safe, and to do so probably required planning.

GMSo here we are. Two of your new companions are within the city, one will meet you shortly thereafter. Emak knows an inn called 'The Blue Dragon' on the first floating level of Horizon that somewhat caters to the more monstrous or Drakkenhall-affiliated patrons. It's a large place, and perhaps they would know where you could locate a guide. As a starting point, it might be the logical one, unless Bazziox has other ideas.

I would like to know what your goals are here, and how you go about seeking them. Are you going to split up? Pair off? Stay as a group? If you run into someone you know (*cough*Bazziox*cough*) will you stop long enough to converse with them? How about the guide, are you looking for a horse for him as well, or is it time to get rid of the horses? The terrain ahead is going to get worse and then you'll reach the lands around the Abyss, and at that point it's not the terrain that's going to cause issues. You can lead horses once it starts getting harder to ride, and it is possible to take them all the way to Santa Cora, but I'm not sure I'd say it will likely all go well for you. You might want to discuss these OOC so that you can avoid twenty back and forth posts to work it out.
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