It had been a trying night for them all. If it wasn’t a hard march across much unknown terrain, it was battling afflicted werewolves and heretical fanatics of Shar that would put a damper on their travel plans. The arrival of a stranger, Dylan Geiling had held both initial suspicion and then salvation for one of the member’s of the expedition. It had been decided that Bartholomew, the patron of voyage should be saved from the possible horrific end awaiting those possibly infected with the curse of lycanthropy.
Bart had originally thought to object, but the resolve of those around him would only see his refusal as insult to their character he feared, and so he graciously accepted the draught and swallowed the contents. The rest of the night was spent not in quiet contemplation or recuperation, but in song and dance remembering those who had been lost, and the making of new promises to keep their morals high, reunite with Elesia, and finish this quest.
The Moon hung high in the sky as Linnix took her first leap in the direction of faith and newfound purpose, giving herself freely to the dance as her fair skinned fingers entwined with Aelistae’s coal hued digits, and they danced the night away until exhaustion and sleep finally came.
Xaris, exhausted from his overexertion had passed out and would miss the spectacle that danced and sang around him, but in his own mind he was engaged in a vivid dream which held his mind in its powerful grasp. He was back home in the forest of his birth, his family and friends prancing and laughing about him, a much missed, almost forgotten sound to the forest-gnome given the truth of the matter. He stood there basking in the warmth of the sun as it penetrated the boughs of the canopy and bathed him in its glow. The bird’s were singing, the fauna unafraid of the forest-dwellers who shared their home, and respect for all it inhabitants.
Xaris let out a sigh of simple contentment, and those around him conversed with him as though it was years ago, before his transformation or the struggles and death that would soon come, and come it did. A gnome, Xaris’ second cousin came running through the foliage screaming a silent warning, and once more was struck down before Xaris’ eyes as a familiar fletched arrow protruded from his back as he was put face down in the dirt. In Xaris’ head the screams and sounds of terror and death resounded clearer and stronger than it had in many months. And in his mental reconstruction of the events he found himself replaying it exactly as it had happened so many times in his nightmares. First he tried to mount a counter offensive, but the Green Dragon Brigade was too many, too strong with their arrows of death. He heard their calls of quelling the goblin insurrection, he heard his own words of objection and warning fall on deaf ears, and as he cut a pair down, two more simply took their place, like a never ending stream of devils in metal armor and blades of death. Then, though he cried out as if to change the events of the past his feet were moving of their own accord, and he was fleeing like he had that fateful day so long ago.
Through the trees he ran, and the enemy gave pursuit relentlessly they chase him. Over roots and branches he ran, and over the same mound of dirt and leaves he went, his foot catching under an upturned root and down he went, in a tumble and a roll right down through the weakened earth of a series of tunnels his kin had built for extracting the fluids rich in nutrients from many of the tree roots which grew down through these tunnels, without ever marring the splendor and beauty of the surface structure. When successfully harvested, their druid would simply heal the tree, giving as much of herself as they had taken, and collapse that potion of the tunnel that the trees might continue to grow and build new root structure.
Now, the burrows and tunnels of their harvesting would prove a sanctuary for Xaris, as his position was hidden from view, and the pain in his injured leg would keep him from moving and being found. It would also see to it that he was as far as he could painfully remember, be the only one to survive that fateful day.
Hours passed in his dreamscape, and he painfully hauled himself from his hole, and when he returned to the village, only death and flame met his gaze. In that instant, what was left of the sweet harvester and hunter Xaris was replaced with something deeper, something greater. He turned his hatred and anger into fuel and energy, and with a roar that echoed through the scorched tree-line Xaris the barbarian hunter was born, running through the undergrowth in pursuit of one thing…. Revenge.
Day came, easily for some, not so much for others, but it came none-the-less, the warmth of the sun a welcome reprieve from the dark of night. Breakfast was made, but it was obvious that Bartholomew had switched into rationing what supplies he had left, as the untimely removal of Elesia had taken some 70% of their provisions. Morning meal consisted of fruit compotes and hard tack, water, and a thin slice of cheese for each. The lack of meat if disheartening was masked by those around, and the stench of burnt wolf and flesh still hung faintly in the air.
Camp was taken down, mounts mounted, with Dylan riding on the back of Tock’s wagon for the trip to the Shrine. Thankfully, there were no interruptions to their early morning ride, and shortly after Highsun the group entered a clearing bearing many years of neglect, and as the rubble strewn, and overgrown clearing became more noticeable, so too did their doubts of finding salvation.
As they neared however, it became apparent that a figure sat cross legged on a large stone slab atop two other diagonal slabs leaning against each other, sheltering a staircase leading down into the earth. The slabs both bore the marred and damaged markings of Deneir and Oghma etched into their stone surfaces.
“Welcome welcome!,” came a voice from the figure before them, a short fellow, smaller than even Xaris, draped in long ragged clothing that seemed a few sizes too large for his frame. It shoul be noted that the voice was not heard as though spoken, but resounded directly in the minds of those gathered through a form of telepathy. The man bore no distinguishable markings save for an ornate gold pendant around his neck with a small red stone embedded in its center.
“Greetings and well met travelers, for today is your lucky day! Tymora smile upon us all for crossing path’s here and now. I am Firin Ranklefoot, Merchant I said Merchant Extraordinaire!” With that, he stood atop the rocks, placing him head height of around 8’, and with a flourish and a flip of his wrists, his cloak was pulled open revealing pouches and potions, wands and trinkets of all kinds lining his cloak’s inside like some seedy timepiece dealer found in the back alley’s of larger cities. There was something different about this fellow though, and his words were spoken with a confidence that seemed to demand acceptance of his proclamation of greatness, and that simply no other term would do.
“Now my good men and women and … children with skin conditions what can I do for you hmm? Potions? Adventuring gear for tempting the temple danger’s below? Perhaps some sunscreen or ointment for the wee one so he doesn’t burn?”
While Talus recited to himself his half-remembered song, Dylan contented himself to set about tuning his violin. It was proven indeed that the second sheath at his side contained none other than the bow to his instrument.
After much fussing and squeaking of notes, Dylan finally announced that he was somewhat satisfied with the sound pulled from the strings and set to work on playing slow, sweet, and somewhat sorrowful ballad. Then Aelistae and Linnix were ready to dance. He sat and watched the dance for several moments, until he set his instrument to his chin and delicately let bow touch to strings. Watching for a second more, he began to play a tune he felt fitting for the rhythm of the dance, the percussion of those feet against the forest floor.
For only two hours did Dylan sleep that night. Normally he was hardly one to wake up so soon, but he felt the need to take over the night watch. There existed few people, he thought, who deserved a full night of rest than these people. He located himself a pleasant spot, not too near the pyre, to take up his watch. When dawn finally came, he had scarecly moved for the previous six hours, wrapped up mostly with thoughts of the upcomming temple, the people he had chance encountered, and the new song he was working out.
As the others stirred from their much-needed sleep, Dylan got to his feet and threw his arms to the sky to stretch his lazy muscles. He then allowed his arms to drop to his sides and he shook himself out vigorously. Then he took a great, slow breath, rising his arms above his head as he did so. At the apex of his breath, he released, allowing his arms to once again descend, though with much more control than previously. This excersize he repeated a few more times, then moved on to warming up his voice.
"Dooooooooooooooooooooooo," he called out in a strong, low voice. Then, he moved onto the full scale, "Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So-La-Ti-Dooooooooo." He allowed the top note of the octave to ring on for several moments. Then he returned to his watch post and closed his eyes and hardly moving again. Occaisionally he would hum quietly, but otherwise he sat for the next fifteen minutes. At the end of this period of meditation, he stood up quite suddenly and moved to join in with the breakfast, taking a slice of cheese but nothing more for his breakfast.
Later, as he took himself a seat in Linnix's cart, he thanked the woman. "I must say though, if this keeps up, I'll grow fat and give up travelling altogether."
Dylan rode, as often as not, with a song on his lips about the passing countryside. Occaisionally he would be forced to suddenly break off when he realized that his beats didn't add up or his rhyme was lost. Also, he would caution himself to allow his vocals a rest so that they didn't abandon him suddenly, leaving him unable to voice his strings.
When confronted with the obviously neglected ruins that were the temple he had been venturing to, Dylan nearly gasped. This strange creature, this Firin Ranklefoot, standing high on his rock displaying his wares was the only sentient creature within sight. The singer stood in the cart to address the small one, "My dear fellow, I would like one thing very much, before even I glance to your wares. I would know what misfortune befell this temple to which I have spent the better part of the last tenday journeying to. Do you have such knowledge?"
Aelistae was not an accomplished rider, but even she could feel the Daisy’s unease as she rode atop her. The white mare whinnied forlornly from time to time and her whole massive frame seemed somehow smaller in the morning light, without Elesia.
“Udos orn kyorl ilta 'sohna,”* she whispered into the horse’s ear.
She did not know if her words had an effect, but by the time Dylan had sung his first note on the road, Daisy’s sprits seemed to have lifted. Her ears swiveled about as if possessed with a life of their own, and it was all Aelistae could do to prevent her from breaking out in an excited canter.
The drow priestess smiled. ’If only all out spirits could be lifted so easily.’
“You sing well,” she remarked after a song sung by Dylan’s deep timbre voice came to an end. “Do you practice bae-queshel or…‘song magic’? I think that’s what it would be called in the trade tongue.”
[OOC: I’m happy to backpost if you’d like to reply Sibby]
The hours wore on, and when the fiery Sun was still at its apex, they finally reached their goal. Except that even Aelistae could deduce from under the hood of her cloak that the temple had long since fallen into ruin. The earth had been blackened by fire, and the area was strewn with twisted chunks of rock. The only structure still standing was a crude archway that framed a doorway that led deep underground.
“Welcome welcome!” a strange-looking figure shouted from atop a pile of rocks. The large drapes of cloth it was clad in made it impossible to tell what race or sex it was. And it was only as the creature explained it was a merchant that Aelistae realized that the voice she had heard had not been shouted at all, but had been communicated as a thought, straight into her mind.
Aelistae slowly dismounted from Daisy, as Dylan inquired about what had happened to the temple.
Her eyes carefully scanned the area over which the rubble of the temple had been scattered, but she could see no one else hidden away in ambush. And the creature itself seemed too small to be an illithid and too thin to be duergar.
“We will trade with you, but first let us create some rules. No drawing of weapons, no ambushes, no spells – other than that to determine the value of an item, and no tricks of the mind. Are we agreed?”
[Presuming that the terms are acceptable to him:]
“We came here for healing, because many of us have been bitten and now carry the curse of the ze-illrin – lycanthropes you would call them. Do you have anything that could help us? We would also need some rations. We have gold, gems and items for trade in return.
“You sing well,” she remarked after a song sung by Dylan’s deep timbre voice came to an end. “Do you practice bae-queshel or…‘song magic’? I think that’s what it would be called in the trade tongue.”
Dylan cocked his head back and considered the question for a moment. For a breif second his mind left to ponder the idea that he was engaged in idle chatter with a drow elf. Not a moment too late, he came up with an answer, "To me, music and magic are analogous with each other. To answer your question better, however, I do indeed bring forth magical effects from my songs, beyond what your average performer may evoke."
Posted on 2008-07-30 at 04:45:16.
Edited on 2008-07-30 at 04:46:33 by Sibelius Eos Owm
“Nyuh?” The sleep deprived warlock rubbed his eyes, unsure of whether the scales were being sung by someone up this early, or if it was some fragment of a dream spilling over into his barely conscious mind. “What time is it?” he mumbled into his bedroll. Somewhere overhead a bird cheerfully answered that it was indeed a beautiful morning.
“Too, too early.” He told his makeshift pillow as he tried to force his eyes open. Over the years of traveling, Talus had grown accustomed to a highly fluid schedule. If the day’s travels were easy, he might well continue walking well into the night and sleep almost till noon the following morning. After a hard day of difficult terrain, he’d go down with the sun and rise at a more conventional hour. Combining both the previous day’s grueling pace and the late night of fighting and festivities, he would have been perfectly happy sleeping until the sun was on its way back down again.
Thoughts of the encounter with the werewolves reminded him just how important is that they make the shrine well before nightfall. Still unable to get his eyes to open on their own, he groped around for his backpack and began fumbling with the thing trying to find the main flap. After getting one of the shoulder straps hopelessly tangled around his arm he finally got the pack open and reached inside, feeling for the crystal orb that made these unreasonably early mornings tolerable. The object had buried itself down in the very bottom of the pack, stubbornly resisting the first few attempts at being pulled free, and eventually Talus gave up trying to rest it free of his pack. Sending a mental image of himself to the ball through his tenuous grasp he simply triggered the crystal’s powers without continuing his losing battle with the backpack.
The crystal emitted a barely perceptible pulse and instantly he was wide awake, all hints of dreariness were gone. With his eyes open the problem of the backpack became clear, he had failed to unhook the main closure and had weaved his arm through and around one of the straps, under the main flap, and then down into the bag. It would probably be impossible to duplicate this maneuver while fully awake.
The remainder of the morning went smoothly compared to its rough beginning. Talus fell into a routine that he had known for over a year, packing up his belongings almost mechanically and allowing his thoughts to drift. The only break came with Bart’s offer of food and drink, which he turned down knowing that he had enough to sustain himself indefinitely, while the rest of the group (excepting maybe Dylan with his ring) might soon be hard pressed for perishables.
The ride north again found Talus’ thoughts wandering, though not to anything coherent. Birds. Trees. Wolves. Sobek.
He was far away when the conversation with this peculiar person had started and so he stayed out until he could pick up enough pieces to know what was going on.
Silvara and Zorana, truely believing that the spectral entity, unseen but definately felt was some sort of a guide, or sign decided to follow the apparition as it weaved like a breeze through a newly opened door.
Cautious, not willing to accept the 'guidance' as a boon just yet, they followed, slowly opening the door and proceeding through it. There, before them in the room was a small antichamber, only about 10'x10' square, with walls lined in a chaulky white substance like talc, floors untravelled in ages, and a ceiling caked in a thick layer of dust and cobweb some 10' above. Across the room lay another door, which opened seemingly of its own accord once more, and so onwards, carefully tapping the floor ahead of them with the spear the women went.
Through this door they entered another hallway, which wound around to the left some 80' before ending in a door much different than the others. This barrier though exceedingly tarnished though not rusted seemed to be coated in a layer of gold, perhaps the entire door was solid gold. Through the dust and the webs could barely be seen etchings and carvings of the symbols of perhaps some religious importance; an open book, above it a candlestick leading to an open eye which gazed out at the women before it.
As the group of potential customers flocked before Firin, his confidence bolstered with each step they took, and each question they would ask of him. To Dylan's inquiry he could only mentally project his answer with added enthusiasm in the form of flailing arms and mimicry.
"The civil war saw many things of beauty and worth reduced to rubble, and it is said this monastary was one of many such sites that bore the wrath of conflict upon its broad stone shoulders, but in the end could not weather the burdens of war and collapsed into ruin. Now obviously that's a broad analysis of the past events, but if it interests you I have available a telling of the war on account of a Captain Isaiah Marshal, who once stayed at this very monastary with his forces mid conflict. Perhaps it tickles your fancy?"
Firin turned to Aelistae and scratched his forehead, his fingers covered in dirty bandages in lifting a portion of his dep cowl revealed much of his face was bandaged as well aside from his two beady little eyes.
"Tricks? no tricks, only low low low discount prices and the best in customer service is what I offer yes yes!"
"Potions? Healing? Rations of course!" What healing do you need? Curatives, restoratives? ointments to give life back to the dead? I have them all and much more yes yes!" Rations? I have all manner of simple provisions, or magical suppliments and trinkets that render the need to eat unnecessary. Let's make a deal?"
(This is where he'll converse over pricing and what not, in the interest of saving a little time, in agreement of selling the trinkets and the artwork plus the staff, he has agreed to give you 4200gp for the lot)
Posted on 2008-07-30 at 17:56:23.
Edited on 2008-07-30 at 19:40:20 by Kaelyn
Aelistae nodded as Dylan spoke, even though her understanding of the speech of humans did not stretch so far that she understood fully all the words that he had used.
“I have never met a human or…” Aelistae shook her head and left the thought unsaid. “What I mean to say is I would be honoured if you could teach me some of the songs you know. I have never learnt anything of how the edain sing.”*
[*Edain=Elvish for humans. Aelistae is using the elvish here since the (Underdark) drow for humans is a little too rude. ]
A warm smile broke through Aelistae’s guarded exterior, as Firin first rattled off the various potions, scrolls and curative salves that he possessed, before showing her his wares.
“Falduna l'Jallil,”* she half-sang and half spoke as she easily picked out the 3 potions and 2 pieces of parchment that would ward off the curse. “May the Moon smile upon you, friend,” she added with a pat of the merchant’s hand.
“Now let’s arrange a price for these…”
In the end the potions and scrolls were not the only thing Aelistae haggled over. Firin, it seemed, had a wealth of trinkets, weapons, and more mundane items crammed into a host of magical (or what seemed to be magical) bags. Some Aelistae recognized, and others…others were so exotic and strange to her eyes that she had to wonder where the small merchant had obtained them. The one thing that caught her was a small, dun and ecru diamond that fitted neatly into a small depression in her armour above her chest.
“Can I speak to you in private?” Aelistae inquired, after Firin had just completed his latest transaction with her companions. “I want…I need to buy information if you have it. Is there anything you know about a man called Nash Lambert? Some call him the Cardinal…”
The drow priestesses voice trailed off. She did not know what to do with the memories she had of Nash – to cradle them as treasured moments or bury them as harbingers of pain and loss. But before she could do either, she had to know what it was that had taken him from her.
[*“Praise the Lady.”]
Posted on 2008-07-30 at 20:21:24.
Edited on 2008-07-30 at 20:21:41 by Ginafae
Even while he was speaking with others, the telepathic abilities of the halfling merchant enabled him to link his thoughts with Aelistae be she willing on a level that enabled simple communication, and nothing more.
" I deal in all manner of goods and services my dear, information is but one of them. And yes, everyone has heard of the Cardinal, though few would know the name of the man behind the beast. I have information regarding him, but what you wish to know will determine what price you may need to pay for such is the way of things, and in this particular case, the answers you seek required more than a minute abount of risk for my own well-being in acquiring."
Firin’s thoughts echoed in Aelistae’s mind, but the crystalline clarity of his thoughts did not make her own any more clear – even to herself.
“I don’t know exactly what it is I want. How he became this way? What is it that possesses his body? How do I fight it, and free him from its control? All those are thing I want to know, and yet…I’m not sure the answers will fill me with any joy.” “I’m sorry,” she added with a shake of her head, “I don’t think I’m making much sense. If there’s anything you can tell me about him, or how I might save him, I…I’d be willing to pay anything.”
"This Cardinal, hunted by many, feared by even more, and yet you speak with the urgency and conviction of someone who does neither, perhaps contrary, holds compassion for the man?"
Firin, mid negotiations with others strokes his chin, though his bandaged fingers meet only bandages upon his face as well.
"Information is not free, but I will tell you this. I can answer you this, How he became what he is today, Where it is that he became it, and if I read your eyes correctly, most importantly, a possible way to free him from his curse, but I can tell you now my dear that each offering of information is more expensive than the last, with the first starting at 10 gold pieces, the second, 50, and the third, 100 gold pieces before I begin. I assure you however, my sources are the best there are, for they are checked by none other than myself for authenticity"
Aelistae scooted forward, not intending to be rude in her dealings, but the urgency in which she desired the answers to her questions pushed her onward where she handed Firin his requested fee. He nodded gleefully, though his expressions were masked, and began to mentally impart the knowledge paid for in full, stopping occasionally to presumably speak to another customer.
”Nash Alexander Lambert, first-born son of Sir Alexander William Lambert paladin and Chaplain for the Knights of the Silver Chalice here in Tethyr, had followed in his father’s footsteps as quite the prodigal child. Every test, he passed, every pupil of his age or class he surpassed, and it was said that he was destined to become one of Tyr’s champions much like his father. Upon his seventeenth birthday he was induced into the Order as the youngest initiate ever to be granted this most prestigious honor. At twenty one, the Civil war hit, and much like the rest of the country the Order of the Silver Chalice was thrown into the throes of conflict and battle, their ranks being scattered across the land to dispatch evil where they may and bring peace once more to the kingdom to which they served.
It is said that Nash’s father had found clues to an artifact buried deep in the Omlarandin Mountains one that could supposedly vanquish evil in a single use of its mighty, holy power and set off to claim it in the name of the light. Nash, eager to be by his father’s side in this trying time raced after him, pushing himself nearly to the brink of exhaustion to cross Tethyr as quickly as possible to meet him. What he found when he got there however were Wyvern’s Displacer beasts and all manner of fell creature but he would not be halted. legend says he single handedly cut a swath of holy wrath through the denizens of darkness as he descended into the depths of the largely abandoned mountains, for the rare Omlar gems to which the mountain is accredited its name had run dry centuries before. Now this is where stories differ, but I shall share with you the truth as I know it to be.
It is said when Nash pushed to the deepest reaches of the mountain, he came across his father holding a black and red mirror, whose surface rippled like liquid silver within its strangely ornate frame. It is said that as Nash entered the cavern, his father held aloft the mirror and called forth its power to quell all who would stand against him and the order, and the mirror granted him his blessing, but not in a way he had anticipated. A being, an entity trapped within the mirror for centuries had been freed, and taken Sir Alexander as a host.
Nash, instantly knew that his father had been corrupted by some sort of fell entity tried to persuade him to seek help, and cast out the newfound power, but as we know well from histories especially one as long as your own my dear, power is a seductive lady. Refusing to give up this newfound power, it is said Nash and his own father came to blows, a battle which shook the very foundation of the mountain, until in the end, Nash struck down his father.
In his anguish, Nash swore revenge against the evil that had swarmed Tethyr, that had caused his father to venture to this place, and to the beast which had cost him his life. In a cruel twist of irony, that same beast, requiring a form to do it’s own tortured bidding left the still warm body of Sir Alexander and entered Nash, who it is said fought valiantly against the intrusions of the Vengeance Demon. But exhaustion from traveling and battle had wore heavy upon the knight, and his mind eventually gave way to the assault of the once imprisoned demon, who claimed the young and vibrant youth for her own.
Corrupted, and yet in an eternal struggle trapped in the prison without walls against his keeper, Nash, his morals and ideals taken to a level of zealotry and fanaticism left that mountain and reentered the war on a rampage, cutting down scores of enemies, and once allies alike that would get in his way from some personal goal not known by any. It is then that the church cast him out and the Cardinal was born. The rest as they say, is history.
Ah yes, but how to fix this little problem yes? Well, I happen to know the location of the very mirror which once imprisoned the vengeance demon within Nash. But I will warn you now to claim it will require the risking of far more than your purse my dear. For new residents have taken hold of the Omlar mountains, a group of fanatical cultists which give worship to the very demon which inhabits their leader…the Cardinal. One would have to acquire the mirror from deep within their grounds, and confront the Cardinal long enough to capture the vengeance demon within the mirror once more. Unfortunately, the only means of removing the demon from a host I fear, is to kill them…”
For a moment Firin imparts a feeling of sadness and concern, but then just as quickly his demeanor changes back into the optimistic merchant.
“…so you might want to stock up on some scrolls of raise dead yes yes!”
Posted on 2008-07-30 at 22:04:10.
Brianna Not Dragon Mistress Karma: 105/32 2282 Posts
Silvara made her way into the small 10x10 room testing each step. Finding another doorway out Silvara and Zoranna move doe and lon hallway the turned to the left she counted some 25 paces until they came to a door tarnish by timed. It could be coved in gold leaf or even solid gold but this was not what they had come for. Silvara was focused on finding the Lantern of Truth that Zoranna had come to find. Later she would have time to look about
Silvara stopped to study the runes on the door. The candlestick, the book and the open eye that stared at them were all symbols she had seen before in this place.
(Knowledge Check: Religion)
"Zora do you know which Deity'e symbols these represent."