[Campaign Journal/Story Hour]: Thorn's Chronicle

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Re: [Campaign Journal/Story Hour]: Thorn's Chronicle

Postby RobJN » Sat May 23, 2009 8:49 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...

We stepped out of the tent, and into a gently falling snow. The camp was abustle with activity, most of it towards the rear, where the horses were. There was quite a bit of jangling of tack and harness, but the chaos of the camp was orderly, almost disciplined.
I saw almost immediately what had drawn the guard to summon Aleena: In the hazy distance, shadows huddled amidst the swirling snows and gently lifting darkness. They did not move, but even at this distance, I could feel a chill in the air that had nothing to do with the weather.

Anna drew in a sharp breath, her knuckles going as white as the ash staff she held.

“It fractured its essence when it fed,” she murmured, glaring at the shadowy figures in the distance. “The fool of a bard has awakened them.” She spat something in Old Alphatian, and judging from the lay of the consonants, it didn’t sound like a prayer.

“Why don’t they draw any closer?” Gilliam asked.

“It looks as though they’ve reached the edge of their defiled ground,” Anna explained. “But, given enough time, like ants crossing water, they will simply pile one upon the other, expanding their reach.” She turned to Aleena. “You cannot just run away. They will follow. They must be destroyed.”

“We are twenty,” Aleena said, “and Immortals only know how many of them there are. The entirety of the town, perhaps. We cannot hope to win against such numbers. This is the Black Eagle’s mess, let him clean it up. We have accomplished our objectives here.”

She turned, calling for her sergeant and her horse, and with lingering glances at the menace lurking in the predawn shadows, we turned and found mounts of our own, abandoning the camp.


Aleena set a harder pace than her adversary, and by late morning, what had been dull aches from the saddle became jarring, jolting pains. She’d struck out to the south and east, cutting through the lightly forested hills, making for the Westron Road.

“So we make for the capital?” Varis called to her.

It was hard to see if she’d nodded or if it was just that her mount stumbled as we picked through the undergrowth.

“The Grand Duke’s men patrol it regularly, so we should encounter none of von Hendricks’ men, or his lapdog. It is faster to go by road through the cities, then to cut overland this time of— in weather such as this.”

I caught the frown in her voice, even though I could not see it. And none of us missed the correction, either. Knee-deep snows this close to the coast did indeed occur… but not until the deepest days of winter, and the season had but just turned.


The rest of the men, with salutes and wishes of best luck went west, back towards Radlebb Keep. The supply wagon, with two men, and Aleena’s sergeant were all of the company that accompanied us east.

Aleena’s grueling pace did not lessen. If anything, once our numbers were diminished, she pressed even harder. The sun was low in the sky by the time the low stone hostel came into view, and we were all stiff, sore, near exhaustion.

The sergeant took care of the horses, while the two men on the wagon, along with the dwarves, saw to getting the fire going in the hearth, and began preparing a simple but hearty supper of venison stew.
Rob
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Re: [Campaign Journal/Story Hour]: Thorn's Chronicle

Postby RobJN » Fri Jul 10, 2009 4:59 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...

First half moon of the Coming Snows (on or about Eirmont 9-22, 997AC)

I will spare you the details of the remainder of the trek to Specularum. Suffice it to say that when our teeth didn’t chatter from the cold, the jostling of the mounts’ pace did the work for us.

Aleena arranged for comfortable rooms at an out of the way inn in the merchant’s district, and we were all more than willing to simply stay put as she bid us.

Ana and Silva, it seemed, spent the entirety of their time in the baths. Gilliam and Varis mended arms and armor, with help from the two dwarves. And I slept, when I wasn’t busy transcribing my skeins.

Two days later, Aleena returned, with quite the mixed group for company — three men, two dwaves, their beards a darkest black, and plaited in such a way to make my fingers ache just considering the weavings. One of the Grand Duke’s own elvenguard was among the company, as well, willowlike, fierce-eyed, dark haired, like all his kind in the southern Karameikos woods. The last at first I thought a child, but turned out to be one of the small folk, a sight I thought never to see, especially not wearing the deep blue cloak of the Order of the Griffon, as were all those Aleena brought with her.

And these cloaks, they handed over to us, and thus we left as they’d arrived, all in file, hoods up, cloaks tight against the cold. Busy as the streets were — for the merchant’s quarter never slept, and seemed to pay the merest attentions to the weather — we were given a wide berth, and no more than a passing glance.

“Where is it you are taking us?” Ana asked. “And why the need for such subterfuge?”

“We are watched by many eyes, and most are not friendly.”

“Surely they will see through this,” Gilliam said.

“Those who do are the ones we need worry about,” agreed Aleena.


The young knight of the Griffon led us a winding path through the merchant’s guild, until we came to a warehouse, where we again met up with our “doubles” from the inn. We traded heavy blue cloaks for shabby ones of brown and gray. And we were off again, winding our way through the mazework of ramshackle homes and businesses I later learned was aptly dubbed “the Nest.” Oddly enough, I thought for sure Ana would wrinkle her nose at picking our way through trash and refuse-littered narrow streets. Rather, she would stop every now and then, kneeling by a woman or child huddling in a doorway or alleyway, murmur a few words to them. Very occasionally, I saw her slip a coin or two into a small grubby hand.

Aleena would pause, booted foot tapping on the uneven cobbles.

“They need to know that the Flame shines,” Ana said, unruffled by Aleena’s impatience. “Better to nurture the flames, lest they be snuffed by the shadows of despair.”

Silva watched our progress with a wide-eyed sadness. She, too, reached for the coin purse at her waist, but Gilliam put a restraining hand upon hers, and shook his head.

The girl sighed, and after the second or third time, gave up, and dropped her eyes to stare fixedly at her feet as we followed Aleena through the winding streets.

We finally stopped before a dilapidated inn, bearing a sign of a dog curled on its back, paws on its belly, snout open in an exaggerated grin.

She knocked, and another answered hers, which she answered with another pattern of her own. Only then did the door creak open. We did not miss the glint of steel in the shadows as we filed into the common room.

We went back, through the kitchens, and down a set of stairs to the cellars, where a table sat, in the clear space amidst the barrels, crates and casks. A single lantern, it’s flame barely alight, sat on the table, shedding light on a pair of gloved hands, but draping the rest of the cloaked figure in shadows.

“Aleena,” the figure said, with a nod. A woman’s voice, bearing a distinct Thyatian lilt.

“Your—” Aleena bit her lip. “Olivia, I have brought those you sought, as ordered.”

“You have done well, child. Please convey my greetings to your uncle when next you see him.”

Aleena nodded, and, taking the hint, turned on her heel and climbed the stairs.

“Please, sit.” The gloved hand made a sweeping gesture, indicating chairs and stools scattered about the room.

We took seats, Silva bobbing a curtsey before she settled on a low stool. Gilliam and Varis traded looks at this, then inclined their heads towards the figure.

“I’ll thank you for dispensing with the formalities,” the cloaked figure said, “and get straight to the point.

“I have received reports of certain… people… entering the Duchy in some numbers, numbers which — if my husband knew of them — would certainly make him nervous, as I am.

“However, upon unravelling some of the threads of this mystery, I see that they all lead back to you.

“Imagine my surprise when I should find that these… certain people… were invited here by one of my husband’s closest friends and allies. Were it any other baron, he would be called to account and stripped of his lands and titles.

“That my husband’s dear cousin should have his fingers in these events is even more cause for alarm. The reports from his lands, if they are to be believed, have grown steadily darker and darker. While the other baronies suffer poor harvests, Halag reaps a surplus, yet his people are as uneasy and dispirited as always, when their stomachs should be full.

“And then, there are the disappearances. Far too many to be mere coincidence, not when all those gone missing bear close to the same description.”

The hooded head turned, and the figure’s gaze set on Silva.

There was a long moment of silence and then the figure’s gloved fingers laced themselves together, and the figure leaned forward.

“So, before I advise my husband on these matters, I would know your part in these events.”

I was not so surprised when my companions’ eyes all turned to me, and I summed up our doings in these events as best I could. Kuric then gave a terse account of his part in events, leading up to the crossing of our paths in the Gap.

The figure sat in silence for long minutes after our tales had finished, a gloved finger tapping against the table.

“Very well,” she said. “You shall return to Threshold, and confer with these people that Halaran has invited, and you will instruct Halaran that he is to send me, at his earliest convenience, a summary of these meetings.”

We rose to our feet, and readied to return to the common room above.

“The girl, though, will have to stay.”

“Absolutely not!” snapped Kuric.

“Out of the question,” Durin said.

Silva glanced sharply back and forth, between the dwarves, and the figure still seated at the table.

The figure extended a gloved hand. “Come, child. We will protect you.”

Silva bobbed another curtsey, but stepped backwards, huddling behind the two dwarves.

“Very well, if that is what you wish,” she said. “But after conveying you to Halaran, understand that we cannot lend any further aid. Should you return here, the next invitation the girl receives will come with an armed company of the Duke’s guard and no option for refusal.”


The Grand Duchess Olivia did not dally in whisking us away to the north. From her tone, I would not have been surprised to find the royal carriage awaiting us outside the Laughing Dog.

Oh, it was a coach, unadorned and somewhat worse for wear, but it was wide and comfortable. When we arrived back at the inn, we found fresh mounts saddled and waiting, as well as a pack mule laden with supplies.

“The Lady seems eager that we should disappear,” Gilliam said, drily, lifting Silva down from the coach, and settling her on one of the ponies.
Durin and Kuric eyed the other two somewhat nervously before mounting with some difficulty.

Varis and Gilliam checked the supplies on the mule, and whistled appreciatively. Not only had we provisions for two weeks, but also several changes of traveling clothes, new boots, and sturdy woolen cloaks amidst the few belongings we had from our earlier travels.


It has been said that a man on a fast horse can make it from Specularum to the Duke’s Road Keep in eight days. Some, they say, have made it in six.

The task must have been accomplished in the height of summer, in a stretch of eight days without rain. This, we all know, never happens. Or has not, in any of the records of the weather that I have glanced through, which stretch back to my thrice great grandsire’s youth.

Making any kind of good time in weather fit for the middle of winter proved impossible. We were lucky to make it as far as the ruins of Krakatos before the sun sank too low.

Silva did not sleep well at all, amidst the broken columns and tumbled stones of what they say was once Halav’s capital. Did she perhaps, dream of the beastmen? Did the ghosts of Halav’s people haunt her, even these thousands of years later?


It took us more than a week to wind our way along the Highreach and Windrush rivers, and finally around the spur of the Black Peaks and into Threshold valley. We passed several woodsmen, as we neared the outskirts of villages, but ran into no danger on the roads. Only madmen or fools would be out in weather such as this. Madmen, fools, or exiles.


We arrived back at Tarnskeep only hours ahead of the first blizzard. We very nearly missed the turn in the road, the snows were falling so thickly around us.

The curtain walls of the keep took some of the bite from the wind and snow, enough that we could dismount with only a little unease. I’d had to take Silva from her pony, wrap her in blankets and hold her against me on the saddle in order to keep her warm enough, and I passed her with numb hands down to Gilliam, before nearly falling from the saddle myself.

The stablemen led us through the servant’s entrance, straight to the kitchens, where Halaran’s cook fussed and fretted and served us a most wonderful stew, with mulled wine to go with it.

Silva’s shaking hands got more stew on the table and down her front than in her mouth. Durin scooted closer, feeding her until her hands quieted enough that she could manage on her own.

The baron was a good judge of timing, for he arrived quietly in the kitchens as we’d finished a second helping, and most of the feeling had returned to fingers and toes. He inspected our hands and faces closely, checking for signs of frost’s bite, and looked especially close at Silva, but he pronounced us all in serviceable health.

“Well,” he said. “You have had a long and chilling journey. I will not keep you, there is nothing so important that cannot wait until morning. Ilsa will show you to suitable sleeping quarters. I am very glad that you have returned, and I will make more formal introductions tomorrow,” he said, nodding to the two dwarves. “I am glad to see you safe and reunited. And now, I will bid you good evening. Sleep well.”
Rob
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Re: [Campaign Journal/Story Hour]: Thorn's Chronicle

Postby RobJN » Fri Jul 10, 2009 5:11 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...

Waning half moon of the Coming Snows (on or about Eirmont 23, 997AC)

It was a trial, dragging myself from the blankets and goose-down comforter and dashing the room temperature water on my face the next morning, especially since the room temperature away from the hearth in the corner or brazier by the door was barely endurable.

One of the servants had laid out a fresh set of clothes near the hearth, and these I struggled into gratefully, enjoying the warmth of the fabric against joints aching from the cold.

Ilsa showed me the way to the dining hall, where I saw that I was at least not the last one awake this time. Durin was leading Silva by the hand through another doorway, nodding his thanks to the manservant who’d shown him the way.

We broke our fast with a hearty porridge, which the cook had flavored with honey and butter. As we finished, the baron ushered us into his study.

It hadn’t changed much from our last visit, save the low table between the settees — rather than cups of tea, it was piled with several stacks of books, and a sheaf of maps, one rolled into the other, so it was impossible to determine just how many there were.

Silva peered at the pile of books, stood on tiptoe to look over the top of one of the stacks. She reached for the maps, then drew her hand back, glancing up at the baron.

“Please, please, look!” he said, gesturing and nodding.

Silva bobbed a curtsey, then unrolled the maps — carefully, as several were old and cracked. She frowned at the topmost map, which I recognized as a depiction of the Duchy. I got her attention, then gestured all around us, and pointed to where Threshold would be on the map.
She nodded, and then traced our paths up until we’d met her and the dwarves in the Gap.

She let the page roll itself closed, exposing the next map, which was a map of the heavens around this time of year. Silva hummed the song she’d sung in the Korizegy orrery chamber, moving her fingers along the dots and circles marking in the wandering stars’ places in the sky. Her finger trembled as she reached the end of the song, though, as she looked where her finger rested on the map, along a blank expanse of sky.

Or, it would be empty this time of year, but for the bright blue star that we’d seen shining there. With her other hand, Silva slid a finger from where Risia was drawn on the map, to where her other finger held the empty space.

“Risia,” I said. “But what is this? What is here?” I pointed to her right finger, which she’d used to point out the different stars.

Atra Xoriat,” she said simply, slowly.

“That word again,” Kuric said. “My Lord Halaran, have you ink and paper? I would see how the girl writes the word.”

The baron rose to his feet, and pulled a sheet of paper from a drawer of his great desk.

“Silva, dear, come here, please,” he said, gesturing again.

She crossed the room, and he showed her the quill and ink.

“My dear, do you know how to write? Here, let me show you….”

He spelled out his name in the Thyatian alphabet, in large, bold strokes. “Sherlane,” he read, and Silva glanced back and forth between the letters, the pen, and the man with a nearly comical look of exasperation.

She took the quill from his fingers, dipped it in the inkwell, and wrote letters of her own. They were letters such as I have never seen, delicate, flowing, but stemming always from a bold first stroke of the pen, either across, or down. She wrote from right to left, opposite the manner of Thyatian and Alphatian letters and words.

“Sher-lane,” she read, pointing to the two marks she’d written upon the page.

I leaned forward, and began singing Silva’s song back to her. As I named the stars, she drew the likeness of their names in her strange, swirling script.

The signs astronomers today use to denote the stars’ on their charts are but crude, rudimentary depictions of the delicate symbols that Silva drew. But they were clearly recognizable to the baron and myself, (even viewing them upside down as I was) being familiar with astronomy and the keeping of such records.

When she drew the last sign, though, many different reactions happened all at once. Kuric and Durin both jerked their heads back, and made warding signs in the air. Sherlane drew forth his symbol of office, a silver amulet bearing a crescent moon, and kissed it with a muttered prayer.
Ana actually took the quill from the girl’s hand and scratched through the word.

Silva glanced around, her own brow furrowed at the reactions.

Samaam,” she said, sitting back in the baron’s chair and crossing her arms. “Etah evam Xoriat.”

“Do not be so quick to relieve the girl of her hands, for crafting the witch’s glyph,” came a woman’s voice from the doorway.

We all glanced up, somewhat startled.

“We would do no such thing!” Durin sputtered. “The girl surely knows not what she’s written there.”

“I would be willing to bet a sizable chunk of my estate, dwarf, that she has a very clear notion what it is she writes.” The woman was tall, nearly of height with Varis, with wavy, curling hair to match autumn leaves and the flames dancing in the hearth. I would have said her eyes were hazel, but they had far more gold in them than brown.

She strode into the room with the bearing of nobility: back straight, shoulders squared, an air of dispassion and detached watchfulness radiating from her as if her hair were flame, and did give off a tangible aura.

Kuric stepped around his brother, and stood in the woman’s path, feet planted firmly, hands on his hips. “To infer that this girl has intimate knowledge of demon summoning— that she would sully her— that she would have anything to do with —” He grew steadily redder about the face, and began edging towards purple before the woman stopped before him, bending at the waist and laying a long-fingered hand upon his shoulder.

“Be at ease, Master Kuric.”

“Not until you take back what you have said of Silva.”

The woman straightened, still glancing down at the dwarf, her lips quirked in a half-smile. “I can do no such thing, for I am bound to speak only that which is True. And this girl whom you call ‘Silva’ has such intimate knowledge — far deeper than any of you could possibly know. Far from having nothing to do with such things, Master Dwarf, she has everything to do with them.”

The dwarf’s hands shook at his sides, and he reached back an arm, and would have let fly his hand at the stranger’s face. Then Silva was there, her fingertips upon the dwarf’s arm. None of us had seen her move, though all our eyes were upon the dwarf at the time.

Not a grip, no hold, just the barest weight of her slender hand upon the dwarf’s wrist.

Astu, Koo-ric. “Aham’man’ye asti atra sahaayat.”

The woman dipped and flowed into a curtsey so low, her curls tumbled from about her shoulders, and brushed the floor. She held her eyes at a point in the floor just in front of Silva’s toes.

Namas’te, Amara‘Aatmajaa ap Andahar,” the woman said.


The warmth that had built up in the study fled as the name hung in the air between the girl and the woman bowing before her.

Had Halaran opened the two large windows to the blizzard outside, he could not have made the room so cold so quickly. It seemed the air froze in our chests, even as the flames in the hearth and three braziers roared to twice their previous heights.

The gem adorning Silva’s left arm flared and flickered in concert with the flames, shining brilliantly even through the two or three layers of heavy cloth that hid the webwork of silvery metal from sight.

Her face, half lit by that ghostly orange-yellow glow, had gone ashen, a sheen of sweat standing out across her brow. While our breath did not seem to want to move from within us, the girl breathed shallow, panicked gasps.

Saa kaa?” she whispered, through stiff lips. She wrenched her gaze away, fixing her haunted eyes on the baron.

Saa kaa, Hal-a-ran?” She pointed a shaking finger at the woman, who had not moved, hadn’t batted so much as an eyelash at the response her greeting generated.

Kaa iyam naarii?” The flames leapt at the question, as Silva added some steel to her shaking voice.

She turned back to the woman, and sank to her knees, then flopped — rather undignified — to her backside, gown tangled all about her legs.

Kaa tvam?” she asked, tears welling up in her eyes. “Bhavaan katham ajaanaat? Katham?

The woman still did not move, did not speak.

Kathayami!” Silva slapped her left hand flat upon the floor as she barked the command at the woman, and the keep rocked with the sound and force of a thunderclap overhead. The windows rattled, the stacks of books tumbled from the table. The inkwell jumped on Halaran’s desk. The braziers rocked, one coming dangerously close to tipping over, the flames leaping to nearly double again their height, seeming to pile higher as Silva’s fear and anger grew.

“Listelle, I think it best you answer the girl before she brings the keep down about our ears,” the baron said, his own voice shaking and thready.


At last the woman, Listelle, looked up, her golden eyes meeting those of silver, and the smile again quirked her mouth sideways.

Caellimi Listelle,” she said, as she sank from her bow, moving her legs in some impossibly fluid manner to suddenly be sitting before the girl, legs folded beneath her.

Asti ahd—” Her voice caught. “Ast—” Again, her voice seemed to catch in her throat, and she cleared it once, twice. “I am a teacher, and a weaver, from the Tower, in a land called Alphatia.

“Oh dear,” she said, the long fingers of her hand coming up to her lips. “It was supposed to last a bit longer than that.”

Silva blinked, and the hopeful look that had dawned as the woman finally introduced herself crumbled. Two large tears welled up, and slid down the girl’s cheeks. The fires in the room banked nearly to embers, and the gem on her wrist flickered and went dark.

There was a sharp pattering from the hallway outside, and another woman hurried into the room, her skirts drawn up in one hand, the other hand raised in a defensive-seeming manner.

There was another shift in the feel of the air, and a great shivering — as if being doused with icy water — came over me. Ana and the baron, too, shuddered, sucking in sharp breaths.

“My lady Listelle, I heard a crash, and then the fires! Are you—”

Silva scrambled backwards along the floor, her feet slipping for purchase as they tangled in her gown. She backed against my legs with enough force I needed to steady myself against the desk. She trembled nearly as hard as she had during the last few hours of our journey to Tarnskeep.

Kuric stepped to the side, coming between this other woman and the girl, and I crouched down behind Silva, taking her shoulders in my hands, and whispering to her as I would to calm an injured animal — and with just as much caution. With such unpredictable magic about her, we’d seen only a fraction of what she could do, and I, for one, did not want to see what she was capable of if these women tried to corral her.

“Nevinia, release your Power at once,” the woman Listelle said. “There is no threat here, just a very confused and frightened girl.”

The icy prickling sensation along my skin suddenly ceased, and a tension I didn’t know I was holding in my shoulders and neck abruptly released itself.

Silva, though, did not relax, and kept shaking, staring from one woman to the other.

Saa’te kaa?” Silva asked, glancing up at me.

I glanced at the two women. “I think she asks—”

“She wishes to know who we are,” the red-haired woman said. “Before that, she wished to know who I was, and how I knew who she was. Before that, she told the dwarf…” She frowned. “It is beginning to cloud, but she said… said… ‘Be at peace,’ and ‘I think she will help.’”

I looked up at the scratching sound coming from the desk behind me.

There was a crisp sound of parchment tearing, and Gilliam came into view, his hands held, one upon the other, and he was shaking them. He bent, and opened his hands, but kept them cupped. He held them out to the fiery-haired woman.

“What is this?” she asked, plucking a folded slip of parchment.

“The first question you’re going to answer,” Gilliam said. “With so many flying about, I thought it best to pluck them from the air, that we might get a handhold on them.”


“Well,” the woman said, after we’d taken seats upon the settees and other assorted chairs the baron pulled from this corner or that, “I’ve already given my name. I am a teacher of history, as well as certain arts in the weaving ways at the Tower, in Alphatia.”

“Which tower is that?” Varis asked.

“The Tower,” Ana said. “Where they snatch up girls off the street with any glimmer of magical talent and—”

“We do not ‘snatch them up!’” the other woman — Nevinia — snapped. Her back went even stiffer, and her hands clenched in her lap.

“Oh, that’s right. Girls of Alphatian citizenry are bought. It is the girls of other countries that are snatched.”

Now Varis’ back was the one to stiffen. “Is this true? Abduction? Slavery?”

Listelle rolled her eyes. “Calm yourselves, all of you. The girl paints a very stark picture, but her brush is rather wide. The Tower seeks to train girls who show ability in the proper use of their talents. The Empire pays a stipend to families that would endure hardship the loss of a daughter might incur. We have sisters wandering all the Known World, searching for others who show this same affinity for the weaving of the power of the Spheres, and merely seek to conduct them to the Tower, where we may instruct them. It is for the wellfare of the girls, their families, and the families around them that we do this. That kind of power, without proper control…. Well, the results can range from irksome to disastrous.”

“Tell them what you do to the girls that do not wish to go.”

The woman fixed her golden eyes on Ana. “What happened to your sister was regrettable. Tragic. But we were not at fault. If she had come sooner—”

Ana stood up, and stalked quickly from the room. I think we all pretended that the crackling of the fire drowned out the sound of her sobbing as she left.

The baron rose to his feet. “If you will excuse me.” He gave Listelle a long, searching look, and strode after Ana.

“The Tower is a school, not a prison,” Listelle said. “We do not force anyone to attend, but do our best to persuade them that it is what is best.”

Silva sat on the settee next to me, across the table from the two women from the Tower. She mostly stared at her hands, which she’d folded in her lap. After glaring at Listelle after Ana had departed, Silva had lost interest in the conversation, and she stared at the books now stacked in shorter stacks across the table. Or she would glance behind the women, at the hearth, and watch the flames. Whatever power she’d had over them earlier had diminished, for the flames were back at their proper level. The room was gradually warming again, and our breath, at least, was not clouding in front of us any more.

Gilliam leaned forward, and pointed at the woman sitting beside Listelle. “Your overprotective friend, here? What of her?”

“I am called Nevinia, and I assist the Lady Listelle in her teaching. Where she knows history, I know of the societies and cultures of which she would teach.”

“And you are also a weaver,” I said, remembering the icy tingle of her power against my skin.

“Yes, of course. All who teach at the Tower can do so.”

Listelle and Nevinia were a study in contrasts. Where Listelle was tall and fiery, Nevinia was small and earthy. Her hair and eyes were a brown so deep as to be nearly black. Her complexion was deeply tanned, as though she spent excessive amounts of time out in the sun.

Like Listelle, she bore no lines about her mouth or eyes, and appeared of perhaps thirty years, though they both carried a weight of years in their eyes that spoke of many decades more. I had heard that women who made use of the Power, tapping into the Spheres as they did, ceased to age after a certain number of years of using their gifts. Of those I’d heard who displayed their apparent age, it was usually said that they were the ones who drew from the Sphere of Entropy, and bore the touch of chaos in their ravaged appearance, hunched backs, and gnarled fingers.

Listelle leaned forward, and plucked another folded piece of parchment from the bowl on the serving table. She carefully opened the scrap, turned it over. The half-smile quirked her lips.

“You allow no room for any airs of mystery, do you, Master Gilliam?”

He shrugged. “Call it a dislike for being left to grope in the dark, if you would.”

She folded the paper again, setting it aside. “Nevinia and myself were summoned here by the baron to consult with him on several goings-on in the duchy in general, and his barony in particular.”

“And we’ve landed feet-first in the midst of such goings-on, haven’t we?” I asked.

“Indeed you have,” said the baron, as he entered the room bearing a tray with a teapot and several cups. He set the tray down on a clear spot on the table, and began serving. The first cup he handed to Silva, who took it with a dip of her head, and a whispered “Dhanyavaada.”

“The blue star Risia appearing a month and a half early, and holding the same place in the heavens when it should have moved over the course of the past three weeks causes me great concern.”

“Perhaps such is the will of the Immortals,” Gilliam said.

The baron frowned. “The Immortals do not interfere with the workings of the heavens,” he said.

“I seem to recall a legend that they turned the very stars in the skies, to remind men not to dabble in things best left untouched.”

“That is a legend grown of misinformation,” Listelle said, leveling her gaze at Gilliam. “Yes, it was a result of men treading the wrong paths in the wrong company, but it was men who brought down the disaster upon themselves.”

Varis blinked, slowly. “You’re speaking of the Great Rain of Fire? The work of men? Surely no mortal has the power to move the every star in the sky!”

“The Old Magic was capable of such things, and men in the days of Blackmoor had mastered its use. And they turned that power upon their enemies.”

“I cannot imagine being so desperate as to remake the very face of the world rather than simply surrender and —”

“There was no surrendering to the demon-tainted host of the Afridhi,” Nevinia cut in.

Silva gave a start, her attention snapping to the dark-haired teacher. Her tea came dangerously close to sloshing over the rim of her cup, and I set a steadying hand on her arm.

Uddizati na ap Afridhi,” she hissed, drawing her fingers across her mouth.

“It would seem she does not like that word, either,” said Varis.

“As well she should not,” Listelle said. “The Af— those people were an ancient tribe, mountain barbarians. What few records we can find indicate that they swept from the mountains, down through the lands surrounding Ancient Blackmoor, conquering all before them. In a matter of a decade, they had gone from a primitive tribe to a wandering army-nation of ironsmiths, charioteers, horsemen and archers.”

Varis’ eyes went wide. “Such change does not happen overnight.”

“They were also demon-worshippers, and their priests were warlocks of the darkest sort,” said Nevinia. “Their foul priests were given the secrets of steel, of the bow and stirrup. Their generals made to dream of advance knowledge of battlefields, and the tactics they were likely to encounter.”

“Such a force would be unstoppable,” Varis breathed.

“It very nearly was,” said Listelle. “If it were not for Blackmoor’s sacrifice, this world would have been overrun, and every generation since would have known naught but slavery, and pain, and suffering.”

“But... What can events of thousands of years ago possibly have to do with us?” Varis asked.

“Demons nearly broke the world, and Blackmoor stood against them,” Ana said. “Demons stir again, and it would seem that Blackmoor once again intervenes.” She stepped away from her place in the doorway.

“Impossible,” I said — speaking before the rest of my thoughts could catch up. I nearly sloshed my own cup of tea, and set it down on the table.

“The records are very clear — Blackmoor, the land, its people, all of it was obliterated, sunk beneath the seas.”

“Not so,” said Listelle. “The passages reads ‘Mountains rose where there were none, as others tumbled to become seas. The land and skies were rent asunder, the sun moved in the sky. It shone down on a world remade when the last of the fire and darkness fled.’”

“The druids’ histories read differently.”

“By the time the lore had passed down to your people, much had changed in the telling,” said Nevinia. “In some places, only a word has changed. A phrase. A missing passage. It is very subtle, but very deliberate. The gaps usually appear between Kingdoms. First and second, second and third.”

“Tell me, Thorn, have you studied any of the elven writings?”

“What has that to do with—” Gilliam started, but I raised a hand. Listelle’s question, while seeming to hit me from behind where I was not looking, gave me pause. It was not unrelated, there were strands, weaving it into the web of events in which we were all firmly snared. I closed my eyes, drew a breath, and paced back, back amongst the memories of my middle training years.

The elves are among some of the longest-lived peoples on the world. Some accounts put them at a mere six generations removed from the Great Rain of Fire, and their writings on events are some of the cleanest records that exist.

The most commonly known of the elven poems, of course, is that of the Last Daughter of the Lost Kingdom, set down some five hundred years ago, among the last of the writings before the elven homelands to the north went silent. Hard to forget, because of its haunting, terrible imagery.

Last Daughter of the Lost Kingdom
Keeper of Dreams, Waking Dreamer
Sleeper Wakened, Walker in Moonlight
Blood of Kings, Bane to Those Beyond
Her Life, the Prison’s Binding Chain.

“Surely, you cannot mean that she….” I said, staring at the girl next to me. Small and pale, with hair of gold and eyes that seemed to have seen too much. A girl who spoke a dead language, and bore newly minted coins from a kingdom gone for three thousand years.


Kuric only shrugged when I voiced my suspicions.

“Surely something such as this would not be beyond the men of the World that Was.”

“Thorn, you must ask yourself another question,” Listelle said. “Think not of how it was done, for that knowledge is surely beyond us.”

“But what should I…?”

The frown on Gilliam’s face suddenly lifted. “Why would the elves have any knowledge of one such as her?”

“Why indeed?” Listelle asked, with a satisfied smile.

“The elves of the north put down a demonic invasion,” Ana said. “Their workings of magic are of keen interest to those of my order, and the intricacy of the bindings are still not fully understood, even after centuries of study.”

“But how—”

“Thorn, the demons. They are the link. When they appear, she appears.”

“And what happens, once they are defeated? What becomes of her?” Durin asked.

I shook my head. “I know of no stories that tell that.”

Listelle shook her head as well, as did her assistant.

“I suppose we will find that out for ourselves, then,” Varis said.

“I wish we could just ask her ourselves,” said Durin. “I see that she would have helped us, warned us, many times, if we could but speak.”

“What of your weaving, earlier?” Kuric asked. “You could speak her tongue.”

Listelle shook her head.

“That was a… concoction, a potion, if you will. It took months to prepare, and many, many special ingredients. It is not something one can just ‘whip up.’”

“Well, start whipping,” Durin said, waving his fingers.

“The passes to the elven homeland are closed until spring,” Listelle said. “That was where the bulk of the ingredients were from. But if you were to go there, you may as well just bring the girl and try to find an elf, for her language and that of the oldest of the elven clans are very similar.”

The baron cleared his throat, and we all looked up at him, as he stood by the hearth, warming his hands.

“We may not see a springtime, at the rate this weather is going. It is Risia’s closeness which brings on this untimely cold, I am sure of it.”

“We’ll just climb a ladder and put that star back where it belongs,” Gilliam said with a smirk.


We adjourned for lunch, a hearty soup of chicken and vegetables, with more dumplings that Silva seemed to enjoy so much. Afterwards, Silva and I took up the roll of maps, and looked over them, using the baron’s large dining room table so we could look upon several at once.
Listelle had brought some maps from the Tower, these being very old, and the coastlines did not appear at all to be any I knew. Silva peered at some with intense interest, but ultimately shook her head.

I unrolled one, a map of the entirety of the Known World, and again, once I pointed out our initial location, Silva retraced her steps across the map, down to Specularum, near the coast, along the Westron road, up through Threshold and the Gap. She swung her finger sharply east, then, a winding route through the Black Peaks, up into the Altan Tepes, to southern Rockhome.

“Where next?” I asked.

She seemed to at least understand what I wanted to know, for she glanced over the remainder of the maps, but shook her head. So wherever it was she’d come from wasn’t covered on any of the maps. Which ruled out all the countries of the Known World, the Isle of Dawn, Alphatia and Bellisaria.

If Listelle’s wild notion that the girl was descended of Blackmoor worked out to be true, then that would place her homeland in the frigid oceans beyond Skothar.

The possibilities with the maps exhausted, we returned to the study, where the two women and dwarves were deep in conversation, the two no doubt grilling the dwarves for every kernel of information they could glean about the girl’s appearance and what went on in her time with them.

I went to the baron’s desk, where the parchment, quill, and ink still stood on the desk. I carefully scribed my name in every language I knew — which consisted of the Thyatian and Traladaran alphabets, a runic representation of the druids’ shorthand, and a clumsy attempt at old elven script, the glyphics of my name about the only bits of the meandering script I knew with any certainty.

Ana joined us at the desk, and added my name in the old and newer Alphatian alphabets. Then she handed the quill to the girl.

I pointed to each rendition of my name, pronouncing it, and then the letterings, which again caused the girl to shake her head in frustration.

Eiaoni zabda ‘Thor-n’” she said with a frown. Her pronunciation of my nickname was oddly worked, as though she wanted to roll the “r” and add another syllable to the end.

I took the quill from her, and wrote my other name, which until then, I hadn’t used since my Shearing.

“Marcu,” I said, showing her which letters made the sounds. It felt strange on my tongue.

This she seemed to grasp, and she drew two intricate characters, which resembled sticks and snakes. I could see shadows of the elven script there, but the lines didn’t add up to the proper inflections.

“Mahr-koo” she read, and Ana giggled at the girl’s exaggerated pronunciation.

Silva bent, and drew another quick sign, this one looking like rushing water.

“Ahna.”

“Andahar?” I asked.

She paled, glancing left and right, at the fireplace, and the braziers about the room, biting her lip.

The name looked remarkably like a sweeping hawk. She scratched through it after we’d gotten a good look.

I took the pen, and scribed my surname, pointing out the syllables and then pointing to where she’d scratched out her family name.

“Marcu Markovic,” I read, putting my first and last names together, then I handed the quill back to her.

She chewed at her lip for a good several minutes, shifting from foot to foot. I knew she knew what I’d indicated.

She dipped the quill, and scratched a series of sigils, but she did not read them back to us. They were spidery, suggesting clouds and light — that is the only way I can describe what the symbols looked like to me.

“You will not speak them?” Ana asked, pointing to the name, and then to her lips.

Silva shook her head. “Uddizati na,” she said, making the same fingers-across-lips gesture she had earlier.

I took the quill, and dripped ink over the string of characters, and the girl seemed to breathe a sigh of relief.

If she was involved with old magics, especially the kinds dealing with demons, then she was wise to keep her true name secret.

Best to play safe, and not pry too much more, then. I drew a single stroke on the page.

“One,” I said, holding up a finger.

She blinked, then dragged a chair over to the desk, as she’d been standing on tip toes the whole time. She climbed up on the chair, folding her legs beneath her, then held up one of her own fingers.

Ekka,” she said.

We traded the words back and forth before we were satisfied with each others’ pronunciations, and then I drew a second stroke on the page.

Dvha!” she said, putting up a second finger before I could.

We spent the rest of the afternoon learning numbers, and after a while, the dwarves joined in the instruction, so I began to pick up their language, as well.
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Re: [Campaign Journal/Story Hour]: Thorn's Chronicle

Postby RobJN » Fri Jul 10, 2009 5:17 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...

Waning half moon of the Coming Snows (on or about Eirmont 24, 997AC)
I went to bed that night to the sound of the shutters rattling as the wind clawed at them, the same wind whispering, wailing, and moaning against the stone walls.

The silence in the wake of the storm’s passing before dawn was jarring enough to awaken me.

When it became apparent after a few tosses and turns that I was not going to be able to return to sleep, I rose, washed and dressed. I was familiar enough now with the halls of the baron’s keep to make my way unaided to his study.

To my surprise, the fire in the hearth had been built up. Silva looked up from where she sat before the fire, huddling on the very edge of the thick rug. All I could see of her was her shining silver-gold hair and pale face. She’d enveloped herself in a large, woolen blanket, similar to the one I’d slept under.

“Couldn’t sleep, either?” I asked, taking a seat beside her.

Neh?

I pantomimed waking from sleep, and pointed to my ear, and then towards the windows.

She cocked her head, listening. “Na tat nizam,” she said, shaking her head with a frown. Then her eyes brightened in understanding. “Aa! Bodhat’te Thor-n.” She made a face as she pronounced my taken name, again, trying to roll the “r” and stifling the “n” sound.

We watched the flames for a bit. Twice, she turned to me, drawing in a sharp breath, as though to say something, and twice, she let it out with a sigh, resting her chin back on her knees.

“It would be nice to have a draught of that potion of Listelle’s,” I said.

She sat up, glancing at the doorway.

“No,” I said. “Listelle drank” — I mimed tipping a cup — “a potion that allowed her to speak to you.” I pointed back and forth between our mouths and ears.

“Listelle na mi’pratimaa,” she said with a glower.

I didn’t need a potion to pick up the girl’s dislike of the woman. I didn’t know if I liked her or not, either. I certainly did not trust her.

“I guess we don’t have to like everyone who helps us,” I said.

Silva stared blankly at me for a moment, sighed, and turned back to the fire.

A small hand worked its way out from the front of her blanket, and she pointed to the hearth.

Agni,” she said.

“Hearth?” I asked, pointing to the fireplace.

Nieah. Etah.” She pointed her finger within, at the flames themselves.

“Fire,” I said. And then, tried “Agni etah firni.

Her eyes lit up, and as she smiled, I could swear the flames licked higher in the hearth. “Saadhu, saddhu!” she said, clapping.

So there it is. My first sentence of Ancient Thonian.

By the time the household began to awaken, I’d learned the words for most of the items around Halaran’s study, and taught her the same in the Common tongue.
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Re: [Campaign Journal/Story Hour]: Thorn's Chronicle

Postby RobJN » Sun Jul 12, 2009 8:29 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...

Gilliam nearly spat his tea across the table when Silva said “Good morning.”

Her eyes went wide, as she started away from the coughing warrior. She turned to me. “Speak… not… right?” she managed, after thinking through the words.

I shook my head, smiling. “No. You just… surprised him.”

“When did she pick that up?” Gilliam asked, after he’d drawn a few deep breaths.

“We had some free time this morning,” I said. “She’s a bright girl. But it’s not as if we’d had time to sit down for proper lessons, up until now. Best watch what you say about her from now on.”

He grinned at me. “Maybe I should give her some lessons of my own.”

“She doesn’t need to learn those kinds of words,” Ana said, giving him a light punch to the shoulder as she passed behind his chair with a plate of fruit.

The baron was much pleased at his greeting, and breakfast was punctuated with Silva’s naming of various implements around the table. As she would name something, I would repeat to myself the words she’d taught me in her own tongue.

After breakfast, Silva made it clear that she wished to go outside. The skies were still gray and low, but there was no hint of snow in the air. So the baron made arrangements in the kitchen for when the girl wished to return, and then closeted himself in his study with the two instructors.
We made our way to the steps of the Keep, and Silva jumped lightly from step to step, seemingly unaffected by the ankle-deep snows piled up in the courtyard. She flounced about for a bit, tossing snow this way and that, flopping on her back and making a winged maiden.

Gilliam had followed her down the steps, but sat upon a clear place on a step, scooping the snow off in a pile at his feet. As the girl played, he calmly sat, packing snowball after snowball, until he had quite a supply built up.

He waited until she’d again exhausted herself enough to catch her breath, and then lobbed a snowball, his aim true, and it plopped onto the back of her head as she bent to catch her breath.

Her panting became a squeal of surprise, her head snapping up, nearly tripping herself as she spun to face her attacker.

And promptly caught a face full of snowball.

She blinked, sputtering, and sat down hard in the snow.

“Gil-ya—” she started, and another snowball choked off her accusing cry.

As he laughed, and lobbed another, Silva winked out of sight.

Gilliam watched footprints and odd indentations appear as if from nowhere, and when the disturbances stopped, he lobbed a volley of snowballs in the general area. His effort was met with more squeals, and there was a shimmering flicker as Silva reappeared, shaking snow from her hair.

She glowered at the tracks she’d made in the snow, then stuck her tongue out at the swordsman, and blinked back out of sight.

“I’ll still be able to see you,” he sang, and lobbed another few snowballs at the place where she’d disappeared.

They fell on empty space.

Gilliam’s smile faltered a bit, and he searched left and right, tossing and catching a snowball in one hand as his eyes swept the courtyard for signs of the girl’s passage.

I thought I felt the air grow faintly colder, and felt more than heard a whisper of movement behind me.

Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimmer of motion, a billow of Silva’s dark brown cloak and a pale flash of her gown, a flicker of purple-black radiance on her right wrist. But when I turned to look, nothing was there, and the whisper-feeling of presence was gone as well. Ana arched an eyebrow at me.

“Did you feel that? See anything?” I asked her.

“Glimmers. She has crafted illusions, and the Flame reacts to all such deceptions. But I read mischief in her manner, not ill intent.”

“So you won’t tell him she’s sneaking up behind him?”

Ana grinned. “And miss his expression when she strikes? Certainly not.”

Gilliam howled as the girl dumped an armful of snow on him from three steps above.

“Revenge is a dish best served cold,” Varis said to him.
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Re: [Campaign Journal/Story Hour]: Thorn's Chronicle

Postby RobJN » Mon Jul 13, 2009 11:46 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues

The cook was most displeased when we returned to the kitchens. She all but threw the rough cloth towel at Gilliam, and summoned Ilsa to take the sodden and shivering Silva upstairs for a proper bath.

“I can understand the little one looking as if she’d rolled around in the snow,” the cook began.

“Actually, she did. Several times,” Varis said, squatting down by the fire and rubbing his arms, the last bits of snow hissing as they fell to the warm stones.

“But you— grown men! — Should know better!”

I wrung out my cloak into one of the nearby waste-water buckets.

“She’s still but a girl,” Durin said. “And girls need to play, even far from home.” His beard dripped. “It was good to hear her laugh.”

“It’s a wonder you heard anything through the chattering of her teeth!” the cook huffed.

“I just hope she doesn’t use any of the words she learned from Gilliam in front of the baron or his guests,” Ana said, giving the young man a dark look.


A sound of clattering hooves and shouts interrupted our lunch. The baron rose to his feet at the sound, and his hurried steps quickened further at the thundering of a fist on the great wooden doors.

“Hear, now what is so—- Shades of the moon, man, quickly! Ilsa! Hot water, blankets! Quickly now!”

We were on our feet as the baron raised his voice.

He was gently lowering a man to the floor. The man’s hair and beard were crusted with ice and snow, the blood on his bluish lips crystalized as well. Ice cracked from his gloved hand as his grip tightened on the baron’s arm.

“Verge…. Retameron needs…” The effort was too much, and the man slumped, limp, his breath coming in sharp gasps.

It was a wonder he breathed at all, for he bore a deep wound in his side, perhaps from an axe. Two arrows were snapped off close together within his shoulder. Only the cold had kept him from succumbing to the wounds.

Halaran was already pressing his hands to the worst of the man’s injuries, murmuring quietly, his forehead creased with a mixture of worry and effort.

Ilsa and several other servants crowded in through the dining hall, bearing blankets, a large pan of steaming water, and a pile of clean linens.

Varis and Gilliam slipped out to the courtyard, to see to the man’s mount, and called for my help as the horse skittered away, eyes rolling in fear.

“Scared half to death!” Gilliam called, ducking away as he tried to grasp the bridle and the horse nipped at him.

I reached out, murmuring to the animal, gradually bringing it down from its panicked state, and could get close without it lashing out with hooves or teeth.

“Not frightened,” I said, running my hands over the horse’s muzzle. I turned it so the men could see the broken-off shaft protruding from the horse’s flank.

“Black shaft,” Gilliam said.

“And not dyed,” Varis said with a frown. “The goblins around here mainly use mountain pine. I would be able to tell more from the fletchings.”

“Something tells me we’ll be getting a chance to get up close and personal with whoever fired these arrows,” Gilliam said.

“It was beginning to get boring around here, anyway.”

They shared quick, fierce grins, and then I pressed them into service helping to get the horse to the stables, where I got to work removing the arrow.
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Re: [Campaign Journal/Story Hour]: Thorn's Chronicle

Postby RobJN » Thu Jul 16, 2009 10:55 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...

We found the baron, sitting by the man’s side in the kitchens. They’d set up a cot by the fire, and white wrappings could be seen peeking out from beneath the heavy blankets.

“How is he?” Varis asked.

“Through the worst,” the baron said with a heaviness in his voice. “We’ve closed the worst of the wounds, but the arrows had to be cut out.”

“Had to do likewise for his mount,” Gilliam said. “Nasty bit of work. Black shaft, triple-barbed tip of black iron.”

Halaran nodded.

“Not the crafting of goblins,” I said.

“No, there is only one smith I know that shapes tips thusly.” Halaran said.

“Such a man should be locked up,” Ana spat.

“He is,” the baron said. “His cell is just off to one side of the Black Eagle’s armory.”

“This man came in great haste,” I said. “He seemed to have a message. Was he able to deliver it?”

The baron shook his head. “Between the exposure, the wounds, and the ride…. It’s a wonder he lived to make it to my doorstep.”

Gilliam shrugged. “That’s too bad. Would be nice to know just what sort of trouble we’re riding into.”

The baron looked up. “I cannot ask you—”

“Then don’t. Just wish us a safe journey.” Varis said, folding his arms.

“I certainly hope you don’t plan on leaving without us,” Kuric said from the kitchen doorway. He set down the heavy pack. “We’ll need to stop by the town to pick up our weapons on the way out.”



“With any luck, Lord Kelvin will not dally in sending troops. At most, they will be only a couple days behind my messengers. My friends, I do not know how to thank you for this,” the baron said, seeing us off from the courtyard.

“Gold would be—”

Ana swept the haft of her scythe into Gilliam’s knee, and he bit off his words with a sharp cry, which sent his horse skittering sideways.

“Let us hope the few days this takes will be clear of storms,” Varis said, glancing nervously at the low, brooding clouds.



Varis set as steady a pace as we could manage from the mounts, given the depth of the snows. Some drifts brushed at our ankles, which put them nearly at Silva and the dwarves’ waist-level. More than a few times, we had to haul the ponies from particularly deep drifts.

The sun was setting rapidly as we rounded the gap in the pass up to Old Antilles’ Castle, and Varis was of a mind to call it a day and set camp within the walls of the old abandoned keep, but a stiff wind from the south brought with it a sharp tang of woodsmoke.

Varis stood sharply in his saddle, and then had the horse at a canter even before he’d settled back down.

“Double time, quickly as you can,” he shouted over his shoulder.

“Wh— what of the camp? Dinner?” Durin asked.

“Ride!” Varis shouted. “Verge burns!”
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Re: [Campaign Journal/Story Hour]: Thorn's Chronicle

Postby RobJN » Sat Jul 18, 2009 10:46 pm

Thorn's Chonicle continues...

Though the night grew steadily darker, our path only grew brighter, the closer we got to the burning village. The wind carried the snap and popping of timbers aflame, the cries of the wounded, the shrieks of the torch-bearing invaders.

The entire northern side of the village was engulfed in flames, and the winds blowing down through the Foamfire valley only served to stoke the flames higher, push them further and further into the town.

Varis and Gilliam spurred their horses to full gallops as we drew close to the bridge, making for a group of tall, gangling, loping figures. Flames silhouetted hunched shoulders and shaggy jackal-like ears and snouts. The beasts turned away from the knot of villagers they were menacing, turning their attention on the advancing fighters, a high, mad, laugh-like bark issuing from their barrel chests.

The two townguardsmen wasted no time ushering the two families they’d been protecting towards the bridge. Ana and the dwarves called, beckoning them to the safety of the far side.

To my surprise, Silva spurred her pony instead of dismounting with the two dwarves.

“Thor-n, agni! Fire! Stop!” she called as she raced past, urging the pony into a sharp turn, charging up river, towards the worst of the flames.


The heat was almost enough to make me forget that the worst of midwinter weather hovered above and around us. The air was heavy, thick with smoke and heat and ash.

Silva had abandoned her mount when it refused to go any closer to the burning houses, and I saw her struggling with the bindings on her left arm, hair and cloak whipping about her, banners of light and dark amidst the flames.

“You’re mad!” I called to her, above the crackling roar, as I pulled at the knots.

Agni,” she called, pointing with her other hand at the fire.

“I know!” I said. “Firni!

She nodded, flapping her arm to unravel the cloth faster.

“Thor-n harat’ti firni,” she said, making a gathering motion with her arms.

My jaw dropped. Of course. I’d been worried about extinguishing the torches in Korizegy’s tower by drawing too heavily upon them. Now that was exactly the idea. There was just one flaw….

“Too big,” I said. I gestured at the wall of flames, taller than both of us combined.

Silva smiled, and patted my hand.

Saaja?

She didn’t wait for my reply, but turned, and held left arm straight up.

The red stone was nearly at my eye level, and I saw it burst to life, a thousand glints of gold and yellow light dancing madly within the strangely-veined depths.

The metal lacework along the girl’s forearm caught the light of the flames, and became a mesmerizing pattern of orange, red, and yellow.
I blinked, and then realized that the metal wasn’t reflecting the light… It was answering the flames with a glow of its own.

And the flames had died to barely enough to wreath the first home.

I reached out to those flames, calling to the essence within the fire, the spark of life that hungered for something more to devour. I bent my will to the task, and instead of simply teasing out a hint of the flame, I pulled, hauling as the fisherman does his netting.

The fierce rush of energy nearly knocked me down. Earlier, I had taken merely a few drops, as if a small sip from a cup. The torrent of energy this time hit me like a waterfall.

Nadii, nadii!” Silva cried, pointing frantically towards the Foamfire.

I turned my attention to the river, reversing my pull on the flames, and went to my knees as the energy surged out of me. The Foamfire boiled, the steam billowing away as the thermals from the fire behind us caught them.

The world swam in my vision, and my ears rang and roared as I shook my head to clear it.

I blinked, and found Silva leaning over me, patting my back. I rose shakily to my feet, and the girl steadied me.

Ekka,” she said. “One!”

There were at least a dozen more buildings aflame.
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Re: [Campaign Journal/Story Hour]: Thorn's Chronicle

Postby RobJN » Sun Jul 19, 2009 2:26 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues....

The night is a blur, a shimmering haze in my memories. All my attention was focused on the fires, drawing them down, and then throwing the energy at the river. My head pounded, my lungs burned, with the heat, and exertion. My arms and shoulders ached, as if I’d picked up each home, and dipped it into the river, and then carried it back. And my hands, as careful as I’d been, still blistered in a few places.

As I staggered from blaze to blaze, leaning more and more heavily on my staff as the night wore on. Silva skipped, without a sign of weariness, her eyes wide and bright, shimmering with the colors of the flames, just as the bracer on her wrist did.

I do not remember ever finishing our task. At some point, I felt her small hand grip mine, and let her guide me. But it was not into the heat and glare of another burning building that we went, but the far side of the bridge.

A cup was pressed into my hand, and I drank, and water had never tasted so sweet.

“Slowly, slowly,” I heard Gilliam say.

I sat, and sipped, and stared at the hasty triage camp Ana and the dwarves had set up. Most families sat, huddled together, wrapped in the few blankets we’d brought with us. Several guardsmen stood at attention, around the perimeter, while another lay to the side, where Kuric and Durin were applying a splint to the man’s arm. He appeared to be the last of the injuries, and of those, there were not just a few. Villagers, men, women, children, lay as comfortably as Ana and the dwarves could manage, bandages bright against soot-stained clothing.

I turned at the sound of hooves on the bridge, and saw Varis and Gilliam, leading a contingent of townguardsmen, the men burdened with every scrap of cloth they could get ahold of.

A flash of white and gold in the corner of my eye diverted my attention away from the men distributing the blankets and cloaks, and I turned to see Silva ghosting silently to the far side of where the dwarves worked, where there were more bundles — the covered forms of those who hadn’t made it.

I pulled myself to my feet, shoulders, legs, back responding slowly, stiffly. Ana looked up as I passed her, giving my hands a hard glare.

“Thorn, let me—”

“A moment,” I told her.

Past the dull roar of quiet conversation, orders, and the weeping of families reunited, there came a quiet, hiccuping sob from further ahead. A few short, shaking breaths, and then more sobbing.

I picked out Silva’s voice, then, quiet but clear, murmuring with a low, steady, reassuring cadence. Though I could not make out the words, and wouldn’t have understood them even if I had heard them, the intent was quite clear.

Silva knelt beside another girl, arm about her shoulder, holding the girl’s head against her shoulder, left hand stroking the ash-and-soot-streaked blonde tresses. The stone upon her wrist flickered, the motes dancing angrily, and though her face showed concern, her eyes glittered in concert with the strange stone.

I stood back, not wishing to intrude, and gradually, the other girl’s sobbing quieted, Silva eventually slipped away, but not before draping her cloak about the girl’s shoulders. She took the girl’s hand, and led her towards me, and I walked with them to Ana.

Without a word, Silva placed the girl’s hand in Ana’s. The cleric’s eyes widened, and she drew in a short, sharp breath, and then quickly bent to the girl, taking her over towards where the soldiers were trying to organize the families.

The girl looked up at me briefly as they passed, and I recognized her through the tear-streaked soot as one of the girls with whom Ana and I had shared a cell those long weeks ago.

Silva watched Ana depart with her charge, then drew herself up, and stalked — it is the only word I can use to describe the total change in her way of movement — towards Gilliam and Varis and another man, with whom they were deep in conversation.

Pazu da. Aleva?

The three men turned, looking down at the girl. They glanced at each other, and then at me.

“I think she—”

Pazu eta bandii? Harat’ta pazu tvam? Aam?”

I pondered her words as the three men simply frowned. Silva glanced from face to face, her expression stern, as though she were addressing schoolboys, rather than grown, armed men.

“I think… She wishes to know if you have… taken…” I managed, and then lowered myself to the girl’s eye level. ”’Pazu’? Idam kim?

I could see the impatience flare briefly in her smoldering eyes, and she took a deep breath. “Pazu,” she said, and then hunched her back, hooking her fingers as if they were claws, and bared her teeth.

The man with Gilliam and Varis barked a laugh, and then swallowed it immediately as the girl turned her eyes on him. Her whole bearing thrummed with a tension, a tightness about her mouth, the corners of her slightly tilted eyes.

He bent, leaning, hands on his knees, closer to the girl’s eye level, but still causing her to look up to meet his gaze. “And why would you wish to know if we have one of these brutes prisoner, young lady?”

A flicker of frustration crossed the girl’s brow, and she turned to me.

“Have you?” I asked the man.

“One was wounded, and the smith gave him quite a knot on the head with a crossbeam. I had the men secure it in the cellars beneath the town hall.”

Nayaakemi,” Silva said sharply, pointing to herself, and then gesturing towards the village.

“My Lord Retameron,” I said. “I believe she wishes you to take her to your prisoner.”

The other man straightened, a frown etching deep along his brow. “I most certainly will—”

“I would advise you to take her there with all speed, m’lord,” Varis said.

“She is but a child! I will not—”

“M’lord,” Varis said, “she may look young, but she has knowledge, skills well beyond her apparent years. She wears my knife at her belt. She took it from me, and is more than capable of using it to defend herself.”

“Very well,” the man said, turning on his heel and walking stiffly across the bridge. “But if any harm comes to her, on your heads be it.”

“Silva? I’m more worried about the poor gnoll,” Gilliam whispered as we filed across the bridge.

Gilliam was right to worry.
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Re: [Campaign Journal/Story Hour]: Thorn's Chronicle

Postby RobJN » Tue Jul 21, 2009 1:00 am

Thorn's Chroncle continues


Lord Retameron led us to the large stone building in the center of town. One of his men followed us down the cellar steps, a torch aloft. A massive figure hunched against the far wall of the room, its overly long arms held above the doglike head by a pair of manacles secured to the wall by a large iron spike. Another spike had been driven into the floor, and it secured leg shackles of the same dark metal.

Silva looked for a long time at the beast, her anger temporarily overcome by curiosity. She watched the creature, its head hanging, eyes closed, the muzzle slightly parted as the thing breathed noisily. She peered at the arms, the broad chest easily as wide as the dwarves combined. She saw the hard, claw-like nails on the massive hands.

Satisfied she could learn no more from the creature just by looking, she stepped to within four paces of the thing, and clapped her hands sharply together several times.

We all flinched at the sound. Her small hands, combined with the stone surroundings made our ears ring.

Mildly painful for us, but an agony for the prisoner, who’s snout jerked up, its howl of pain adding to the din of the room, punctuated by the rattle of chains as it fought the manacles to try to cover its ears.

Kimarth’am atra asti?

The gnoll blinked, shaking its head. The thing’s ears twitched.

Silva repeated her question, and the gnoll still stared at her, silent. It shook its head, growling something under its breath.

Silva paced a semicircle, keeping herself within the gnoll’s field of vision. It met her eyes, the muzzle curling back, a growl rumbling deep in its throat. Silva held its gaze, and then she growled right back at the thing. But she wasn’t just growling. She was throwing inflections and stops into the sound.

Its eyes widened slightly, and it actually sat up straighter, barking its laugh-like bark.

Silva silenced it with another series of sharp claps, and snarled something at the beastman.

All of us glanced at each other, then back and forth from the girl to the gnoll as they snarled and growled. The tone of the conversation was clear: Silva would ask a question, the gnoll would try to evade it, and Silva would cut him off with a series of claps, causing the beast to flinch and whine. She would cup her hands slightly if it showed particular reluctance to answer, and that would cause the beastman to howl in pain, its answers coming shortly thereafter in a series of whining, groveling pants. Through it all, Silva never once broke eye contact.

Like the primus wolf in a pack, her every motion, her very bearing radiated a sense of dominance, of authority and superiority over the prisoner. I had a feeling that there was little need for the thing to be chained as it was, at the wrist and ankle. No doubt Silva would have had it cowering in the corner, tail between its legs.

She snarled one last question, and the gnoll simply growled, deep in its chest. She asked again, and the growl only deepened. The mood in the air changed, then, and the gnoll’s growl became a sharp, coughing bark, and its great shoulders heaved.

The spike securing the manacles to the wall came free with a grating shriek, and we flung ourselves to one side or the other as it hurtled past us, clanging as it bounced off the far wall and across the floor.

The gnoll snapped its wrists and the loop of dark iron chain fell over Silva, the beast hauling her towards its great gaping jaws with a heave of those long arms.

Silva threw her arm up before her face, right in the path of the gnoll’s jaws. Gnollls have been known to snap through bones of their victims, using their claws to dig the very marrow from those bones.

I lifted my eyes from where I’d thrown myself to the floor, I saw the white flash of fangs as they closed on Silva’s right forearm.

Varis and Gilliam were both scrambling to their feet, swords already drawn, poised to strike, but they paused.

There was no ‘crack’ of snapping bone, no cry, not a sound from the girl. Her eyes were still locked with the beastman’s.

Yudh’ya na.” She closed her left hand around the thing's massive hand, curling her fingers around the spot where the thumb connected to the rest of the paw.

Dráva na.” She gave a sharp wrench, breaking the thing’s grip and twisting its clawed hand back sharply. We very clearly heard joints popping, saw the thing’s jaws clench, its shoulder twist as it tried to compensate for the angle the girl forced its hand.

Mrya’ti na.” She clenched her right hand into a fist. A flare of purplish-black radiance burst from within the creature’s mouth, the light streaking out from between its knifelike teeth. Its jaw muscles bunched further, and every muscle suddenly went rigid, the beast’s dark eyes widened enough that we could see the whites. The deep, rumbling growl climbed to a high, whining, yelp of pain. Then that cut off in a choking gurgle as Silva wrenched her arm from its mouth.

The gauntlet flickered with ghostly chasers of purple, black, and blue-white light. The stone shed a smoky purplish-black light that seemed almost a non-radiance.

Trailing from the thing’s mouth, twined through Silva’s fingers, snaked around the length of her upper arm was a wispy, misty tendril.
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Re: [Campaign Journal/Story Hour]: Thorn's Chronicle

Postby Chimpman » Tue Jul 21, 2009 5:50 pm

:D It's getting good. I can't wait to find out what Silva learned from the gnoll... and what she did to it.
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Re: [Campaign Journal/Story Hour]: Thorn's Chronicle

Postby RobJN » Thu Jul 23, 2009 11:26 am

Thorn's Chronicle continues...

“Balls and garters,” Retameron breathed, his eyes nearly as wide as those of the gnoll.

The beast stood a head and a half taller than even Varis, and should have positively towered over the girl. Had it struck while she was unaware, no doubt the gnoll could have torn the girl to shreds with teeth and claws.

It cowered before her, squatting down on its haunches, cradling the mangled paw. It panted, drawing quick, wheezing gasps, its tongue lolling out to one side.

Silva breathed just as heavily. The dark stone flickered, purple bursts of light throbbing within the depths, like the beating of some dark heart.

The girl clenched her hand into a tight fist, and the beast howled, a high, trilling, ragged cry. A twist of her wrist sent the creature writhing, hunching, scuttling a few awkward steps sideways.

She lifted one finger from the fist she’d made, and the creature did likewise, the foreclaw of its undamaged hand uncurling, the muscles on its arm bunching, betraying its futile effort to fight the girl’s control.

The beast gave a whimper as Silva’s finger twitched but the slightest. The gnoll’s claw jerked across its body, gouging into its other arm, high up, near the elbow. It’s jaws worked, but the howl came out a strangled, choking cough.

“Evelina’ti jananii asti,” she said, and the gnoll’s finger raked across its arm, opening a deep vertical gash. Again, the beast let out a thready whimper.

“Evelina’ti janaka asti,” she said, as the gnoll opened another gash in its furred arm.

The gnoll’s clawed hand shook, and it wrenched its snout in our direction.

Nieah!” Silva barked, jerking her hand up, the light from the stone flaring as she did. A sooty, purple-blackness flickered to life in her eyes, and the silver swam into a shimmering blue-white, the color identical to what chased along the whorls and twists of her gauntlet.

She flicked her hand to the side.

The gnoll lurched that direction, the leg buckling, and it slammed into the wall with an audible crunching of bone, the yelp cut off as the breath was driven from it.

She turned towards us.

When those eyes fell upon me, it was as if a twisting, chilling sickness uncoiled deep in my gut. I shuddered, as if the night had suddenly gone even colder, and even still, sweat sprang up, over the chills.

Kiyat?” she asked, her attention on Sir Retameron.

The knight looked over at me, his face reflecting much of what I was feeling.

“She asks ‘how much’ or ‘how many?’ my Lord,” I said, remembering the question from our little game of sums and differences in Halaran’s study.

“How many what?” he whispered.

“Dead,” Gilliam said, his voice carrying the slightest of tremors in it.
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Re: [Campaign Journal/Story Hour]: Thorn's Chronicle

Postby RobJN » Thu Jul 23, 2009 3:05 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...

The knight swallowed, licked his lips, frowning.

“I do not approve of this,” he said. The white-knuckled grip on the hilt of his sword shook, whether with rage or fright, I could not tell.

“You’re more than welcome to stop her,” Gilliam said, forcing a chuckle.

Kiyat?” Silva asked again, her tone insistent. Her right arm trembled, and she tightened her fist. She frowned, in concentration, and a wave of nausea rolled over us as the unsettling light in her eyes flickered brighter.

Sweat broke out upon the knight’s brow, and he paled.

“No! You will not use your witchery on me,” he whispered, the words stiff, as if he could barely force them past his lips.

Kiyat? Namaan’taan.

“No,” the knight said, more a groan than a word. He took a step forward, his hand tensing on the hilt of the sword at his side.

The sickness washed over us like a tide, and I nearly went to my knees with the weakness and trembling. I heard Gilliam and Varis both gasp, heard the scuffle of their boots as they, too, were staggered by the sudden onslaught. There was a ring of steel on stone as Varis dropped his sword, and it sounded as though he was being violently sick.

Retameron’s skin had taken a decidedly greenish cast to it, but he managed to slide his sword free from its scabbard.

“Release my prisoner, witchling.”

The swirling of light in her eyes slowed, as she looked up at the man, and their eyes met for long moments.

Mrya’ti visravat,” she said, her eyes and tone hard with scorn.

She made a sweeping, dismissive gesture with her right hand and arm, and the wispy tendril streamed away from around her gauntlet, running between her fingers in a disturbingly snakelike fashion, to snap back into the gnoll with a nearly physical impact. It sank to its haunches, leaning heavily on the wall, panting madly.

Lord Retameron took another step towards the girl, raising his sword.

She simply stared up at him, the light flickering more and more weakly in her eyes, until they regained their cool, depthless silvery hue.

“My Lord Retameron,” I said.

“She is a witch, in traffic with demonic powers.”

“She is neither of those, my Lord.”

“She used witchery on a prisoner in my charge!”

“And she could just as easily use them on you, yet she does not. My Lord, please, lower your weapon before she sees you as a threat.”

“She—”

“She saved half your village from burning down,” Gilliam said.

“She has saved one of your villagers, before. I recognized her, from beneath Mistamere.”

“That girl lost her parents in this attack,” I said. “I think Silva has taken that personally.”

The tension eased a bit from the knight’s shoulders, yet he did not lower the blade.

“My Lord, if you won’t be reasonable, be practical,” Varis said. “The girl interrogated the beast. If you kill her, you lose that information.”

Adhi’taan aayat,” she said, pointing towards the gnoll, which hunched over its wounded arm, licking it. Then she pointed over her head. “Zhrna?” She pointed to her ear.

From the stairwell, the faintest of echoes could be heard: Laughing, cackling howls.

Dozens of them.
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Re: [Campaign Journal/Story Hour]: Thorn's Chronicle

Postby RobJN » Thu Jul 23, 2009 9:02 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...


We approached half a dozen men standing in a knot at the near side of the bridge.

“How many men are able?” the knight asked.

“Us, and another half dozen. They’re on the other side, moving the families further away.”

“It sounds like at least three, probably four warpacks,” Varis said.

“Four to one. I’ve gambled on a lot worse odds,” Gilliam said.

Silva had cocked her head, listening. She unsheathed her dagger, and began making lines in the damp ground.

Varis looked down, motioned for one of the men to bring the lantern closer.

Silva had drawn a rough outline of the village.

Pazu atra, atra, atra,” she said, marking spots some distance from the outlines of the buildings.

“Can she tell how many?” Gilliam asked.

Kiyat?” I asked her.

Gilliam held out his fingers. Silva counted off four of them.

“Four isn’t a lot,” Gilliam said.

“Ten,” she said, pointing to each finger.

Gilliam swallowed.

“Nonsense,” Retameron said. “How can she know that just by listening?”

Pazu kathayami,” she said with a glare at the knight.

“The beast told her,” I translated.

She stood up, looked past Retameron at the group of townguards.

Paryaapta na,” she said, shaking her head. She looked at the man holding the lamp. His greaves and gloves were coated with smears of blood.

Silva sniffed it.

“Sorry, m’lady. Didn’t have time to wash up. Bloody gnolls weigh a ton,” he said. “Nearly strained something clearing away the casualties.”

Kiyat?

“Had to be at least a dozen of them,” he said. “Maybe a few more.”

She glanced over at me, and I translated the numbers for her. She frowned, absently biting her lip.

* * * * *

Varis and Retameron were squatting over Silva’s scratched representation of the village.

“If we station teams in each building here, and here, and here, a fighting withdrawl might whittle enough of them down by the time we reach the bridge,” Varis was saying.

The knight nodded. “Risky, but it’s better than just waiting for them to come at us full strength at the bridge.

“I still don’t understand why you don’t use the keep,” Gilliam said, pointing towards the stone building, a shadowy mass atop the high slope on the far end of the village.

“Deathtrap in this weather. We’d never survive a siege. They’d swarm the walls. Better to run for the safety of Old Antilles’ keep. Much better defenses there.”

“If you don’t mind fighting your way through the monsters that keep squatting there,” Varis grumbled.

“The children could take on the goblins and kobolds,” Retameron said with a wave of his hand.

* * * * *

“Faster, Brother mine,” Kuric said, passing another blade to the dwarf.

“I’m working as quickly as I can, Brother mine,” Durin growled, dipping his fingers into the small clay pot by his knee. He sighted down the length of the blade, then began working the oil on his fingers along the length of steel in a swirling, looping pattern that my eyes could not follow.

“It feels no different,” the guardsman said, giving the blade a few passes in the air before him.

“It won’t, until you strike,” Gilliam said with a fierce grin. “Then watch out for your eyebrows.”

After several minutes, Durin handed the blade back to his brother, who in turn handed it back to another guardsman.

“I have just enough for a couple daggers,” Durin said. “Where is Silva? I’ll do hers first.”

They all glanced at me. As if I were her keeper for the night.

I glanced around. Ana was off towards the rear of the makeshift campsite, and had several girls cutting strips of cloth for bandages. I’d thought Silva was among them.

Durin stood up. “We’ve got to—”

“No time,” Retameron said. “Those warpacks are nearly through the treelines. I need you two with me, in the village.

“But—”

“I guess the witch only takes beasts on one at a time,” the knight said. “Let the little witch hide. She’d just be in the way, anyway.”

* * * * *

“Remember your part,” Gilliam said, from where we crouched on one of the rooftops.

“Yes, yes. Keep them from firing any of the buildings. And illuminate the larger threats.”

“Striking a pack leader sometimes throws them into confusion. The seconds have been known to squabble for the spot, should the primus go down. We can use all the chaos we can get.

“And stop looking for Silva,” he hissed at me, as I glanced about. “I need your eyes on that treeline. Maybe Antonic was right. With her out of the way, we can focus on the battle, instead of worrying over whether or not she is in danger.”

We huddled, cloaks tight around us, waiting for the gnolls to clear the trees.
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Re: [Campaign Journal/Story Hour]: Thorn's Chronicle

Postby RobJN » Sat Jul 25, 2009 1:29 am

Thorn's Chronicle continues...

Waning half moon of the Coming Snows (on or about Eirmont 25, 997AC)

“Motion,” I said, pointing to a deeper shadow within the darkness of the trees. Firelight from the picket fires Retameron had ordered built along the edge of the village glinted off metal and fang.

Below us, the soldiers’ armor jingled as they eased from foot to foot.

A glimmer from the very corner of my eye caught my attention, and I looked back, over my shoulder. But the light had subsided, if it had been there at all.

“Thorn! Eyes front! They’re on the move.” Gilliam hissed, laying a shaft across his bow.

The trees rustled, but it was a different sound than that of the wind. Harder, sharper. More deliberate.

A large group burst from the trees off to our left, from the far side of the village. I didn’t realize just how fast gnolls could move — the ones from the preliminary strike had merely loped along.

I raised my hand, but Gilliam restrained me.

“No, this is just a probe.” He gave a sharp whistle, and then rose, braced himself along the roof, drawing and firing in a smooth, practiced motion.

He and another archer two houses away took down half of the gnolls before they’d even reached the picket fires. The formation broke, the beastmen running for the trees with yips and whines.

Two more large groups of shadows broke from cover, and Gilliam again fired smoothly, almost mechanically.

“Four left!” he shouted.

“Three!” cried the other archer.

The beasts raced between the first line of buildings, and there came a yelp and sharp twanging, as if a great bow had been plucked.

Three gnolls went to their backs, gagging, panting, and Kuric and Durin were there, axes flashing in the dim firelight.

The fourth stopped short, turned, and made to sprint back to the treeline, and Gilliam dropped him with an arrow through the throat.

The sound of swords on shield and armor could be heard, and a harsh, barking yelp that cut off abruptly.

“Clear!” came a cry from several houses down.

“Clear!” shouted Kuric. He raised his axe towards us.

We huddled back down, trying to keep out of the stiff wind blowing down from the Foamfire valley. It smelled of heavy snow.

When the gnolls finally charged, it was in a long line that strung between three of the picket fires.

The gnolls in the front flung longspears, and Gilliam and I had to duck back down as several flew overhead. Another landed with a heavy thud, the tip sinking halfway into the rooftop support beam.

The volley of flaming arrows came next. I spread my magic as far as I could, intercepting the flames along the first three houses where we’d stationed ourselves, the streamers of flame shrinking and shrinking until the arrows merely trailed smoke as they fell home amidst the rooftops.

I sent the flames back at them in a long wave, and broke the leftmost length of the charge.

Gilliam’s arrows followed my flames, and he began dropping the first rank, sending other gnolls tripping over their fallen comrades.

More spears sailed up in long arcs, and Gilliam only weaved aside at the last moment, intent on dropping as many as he could from as far away as possible.

The gnolls ran in a hunched, stoop-shouldered gait, and it made it difficult to pick out which might be a warpack leader. They all looked huge and menacing, howling, their barking laughter giving their charge a surreal quality.

“Spearmen, brace! Shields front!” Retameron shouted. Below, we heard the tramp of feet as his men spread out between the three buildings we’d selected for our first line.

Looking at the size of the wave of slavering beastmen charging towards us, our small wall of resistance seemed pitiful.

“Halav, give us strength!” one of the soldiers shouted, and the others took up the cry.

I closed my eyes, reached out towards the picket fires, towards two of the distant houses which had caught fire from the volley of arrows.

By the time the gnolls raced into range, I was ready, and released the heat I’d gathered in wide band, settling it over the far edge of the charge.

There was a harsh barking, snarling, and yapping as the rightmost edge of the charge broke.

A cheer went up from the men, and then the gnolls smashed into the wall of shields and spears.

Gilliam charged to the edge of the roof, loosing arrow after arrow into the mass of gnolls.

At the rear of one knot of the beastmen, one larger than the others reared up, waving a great club in challenge.

I sent the heat in the air towards him, and called the air to my aid as well, and a hazy, reddish nimbus sprang up around the warpack leader.

Gilliam and the other archer both saw it, and they each took the great gnoll in the throat. It clutched at the shafts, its shout trailing to a gurgle, and then it fell into the howling mass of gnolls.

That pocket erupted in fierce yapping and snarling, and rather than fighting us, they began to turn their swords on each other.

“Fall back! Back to the second line!”

The men below began easing back, spears bristling from between the shields, and the gnolls howled, gathering to follow.

I drew a handful of fire from the air, and flung it at the gnoll’s feet. The oil they’d been tracking through burst into a wall of yellow and orange flames. As they yipped and yelped, the men broke and ran for the second defensive line Retameron and Varis had set up, another line of buildings halfway through the village.

Gilliam and I slid from the rooftops, weaving our way through the buildings to our second post.

We paused to fight off a group of gnolls that had managed to work their way through along the perimeter, my staff and Gilliam’s swords making short work of the three beastmen.

Gilliam leapt atop the wagon that had been parked by the home that was to be our second vantage point, and from there up onto the roof. It took me considerably more effort to haul myself up.

I very nearly fell back over the other side of the roof when I got to my feet.

“Petra’s tears,” Gilliam said.

“Halav preserve us,” I prayed.

“Are you sure you taught her the numbers right?” Gilliam asked. "That is a lot more than forty."

That many alone boiled along the streets we’d retreated down. Another large group could be seen swinging in from the far left.

“Two more warpacks at least,” Gilliam moaned.

“My brothers and I would play at Halav the Hero,” I said. “But I never once thought I'd ever really die fighting gnolls.”
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Re: [Campaign Journal/Story Hour]: Thorn's Chronicle

Postby RobJN » Sat Jul 25, 2009 5:08 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...


The men holding shield wall finally gave way, dropping their spears and drawing swords. It was close, deciding who’s shouts of fright and shock were louder as the swords burst into bright orange flame — the men or the gnolls.

The men, though, took advantage of the moment of shock the wreaths of flames along the length of their swords inspired in the gnolls, and cut down the first two lines crowding to attack.

Kuric and Durin were fairly outlined in great swathes of flame, as fast as their axes worked. Let it not be said that dwarves are slow, or clumsy. I could swear that Durin worked some magic in the paths his hand axes traced in the air, for though arrows occasionally flashed through the air, those coming close to him either simply missed when they should have hit home, or burst into flame and ash as they struck the glowing wake left by his weapons.

Another warchief roared, wading through the throng, and as they gnolls cowered from his path, I focused the essence of flames around him. Though I could take some energy from the men and beasts alike, the flames on their weaponry slipped through my grasp, as if they weren’t truly there. My fingers tingled with the effort of holding the flames around the gnoll, sweat beading my brow.

The men at the front line leapt to meet the great gnoll, and he batted them aside, leaving them bloodied, one clutching his face, another his sword arm.

Gilliam planted several arrows in the creature’s back, but it merely reached back, snapping off the shafts with a snarl.

And then Retameron was there, meeting the beast blow for blow, the ring of their swords carrying over even the din of battle around us. It readily became apparent just why the Grand Duke had bestowed knighthood upon the man. Even as he fought, he bellowed orders for his men to retrieve the wounded.

Gilliam and the other archer kept the gnolls from pressing the men as they dragged their fellow guardsmen back from the lines, and Varis was there, sword and borrowed shield in hand, keeping the tide of gnolls back.

I won’t say he was anything flashy — Varis’ style was efficient, a frugality of movement, knowing that he’d have to raise his sword again and again, and made the most of each thrust and chop. He rallied two more men to his side, and it became apparent that he was much more effective fighting as part of a group than on his own, as was Gilliam.

The gnollish warchief finally found an opening in Retameron’s style, and with a feint and spin, sent his blade deep into the man’s leg, howling.

It wasn’t a weakness, though, for Retameron simply gritted his teeth and drove his blade through the chief’s neck, turning its victory howl into a rattling gurgle.

As the knight staggered back and away from the great chieftain’s body, he called, his voice heavy with exhaustion, “Fall back! To the third line! We’ll hold them at the bridge!”


This time, we had barrels of oil, and men fired them, then poured them down the streets to cover our retreat.

We didn’t have as much time as we’d calculated, though, for it began to snow.

While it wasn’t enough to blind us, the flurries masked the movement of the gnolls, allowing them to slip closer and closer. By the time we reached the bridge, the fragile lead we’d had on the warpacks had shrunk to the distance of the market square.

Through the haze of snow and smoke, we saw at least three more warpack leaders, stalking towards the front lines, barking orders to the left and right. The gnolls began spreading out, breaking up from their clusters and packs as they’d come at us in the village, encircling the approach to the bridge.

“Why do they wait?” Ana asked, looking up from treating one of the wounded men. A silvery light shone from between her fingers as she spread them over the side of the man’s face. “They have us, why are they not charging, finishing this?”

Gilliam squinted through the snows. “It looks like the chiefs are arguing.”

As we watched, the larger among them slapped the flat of his blade across another’s snout, and two sections of the gnoll lines tensed, eyeing each other warily.

The larger chief then turned, gesturing towards the teeming beastmen, and they began to bark and yap, their eerie, laughing howls rising louder and louder into the night.

Then they began an agonizingly slow approach.

We’d lost at least four men between the first and second lines, and that many more were being treated by Ana. Retameron leaned heavily on another of his guardsmen. The two others adjusted the grips on their swords, swallowing nervously.

Gilliam drew his short swords, and Varis tightened the straps of the shield on his left arm. Kuric and Durin stood, their axes held in what appeared to be a relaxed position. Their eyes and shoulders indicated anything but relaxation, though.

I set my feet, where I stood at the foot of the bridge. Though I wasn’t much, I would have to hold off anything that got through at least long enough for Ana to gain her feet. Her scythe lay close at hand, but her attention was on the wounded men.


A howling from the rear of the gnoll lines halted their approach, the war leader straightening up, his snout jerking over his shoulder, his barking high, edged more with annoyance than concern.

When the howling continued, and only grew louder, he turned fully, roaring.

From the rear, off towards our left, the snows were lit by a ghostly, flickering blueish light. And the howling came from that direction, turning barks and yaps of surprise to the sharp snapping yelps and growls of combat. The line of gnolls wavered, and then it turned on itself, the gnolls beginning to gather and drift towards the disturbance at the rear of their lines. The steady ring of steel-on-steel indicated a battle joined, and heating.

Gilliam grabbed my arm, motioning with his chin towards the mill by the river, where the gnoll line had dissolved, leaving an opening.

“But the—”

“Come on, chronicler! Don’t you want a better view of this for your history lessons?”

“They fight amongst themselves, there is no mystery in that,” I panted, as he kicked the door open and hauled me through.

I followed him up a ladder, and through the trapdoor onto the roof. I nearly ran into him, as he’d stopped dead with two rungs to go. He scrambled up and do the side, hauling me up.

“Why did you stop?”

“Thorn, look,” he said, pointing towards the market square, where the action was taking place.

The gnolls were indeed fighting each other.

But the attacking warpack was limned with a hazy nimbus of light. Their eyes and mouths shone with a brilliant blue-white light.

As did the gaping wounds upon their bodies, blazing through the rents in armor and the hides they wore as clothing.

While the defending gnolls howled and barked in their fear and fury, the attackers were silent and fluid, deadly in their onslaught.

And standing in the midst of the pack, shrouded in a blue-white nimbus of her own, her eyes ablaze with the same cold, steel-edged light, was Silva.
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Re: [Campaign Journal/Story Hour]: Thorn's Chronicle

Postby RobJN » Sat Jul 25, 2009 9:29 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues....


A tracery of lines and swirls stood out stark against her pale, shining skin, painted designs running beneath her eyes, across her high cheeks. She’d continued the swirling, twining pattern of the bracers, the bright metal seeming to give way to whatever dark paint she’d used, winding up to her elbows, and working across her upper arms. Her ankles, too, bore a flamelike pattern of the dark paint, visible when the wind whipped at her gown, which blazed painfully white about her.

“Do not ask me to explain it,” I said to Gilliam. “This… this is even beyond legends.”

“She’s slaughtering them,” Gilliam whispered. I could not tell if his tone was one of awe, or fear.

Silva’s warpack fought with the dancelike grace that Silva herself had demonstrated on a few occasions. One blocked a gnoll spear with crossed blades, lunging forward, teeth clamping down on the throat of its aggressor, shaking, turning, letting the dead gnoll fall to meet another.

SIlva approached the fallen gnoll, her pack cleaving back the press of living gnolls as she moved, a wall of steel and fang and claw that kept a good half dozen yards clear around the girl. She knelt, her right hand above the gnoll’s sightless eyes. She drew Varis’ knife across the back of her hand, clenching her fist, her blood falling in a dark line across the thing’s furred brow. She drew her finger through it, then dabbed her fingers in the gaping wound at the thing’s thoat.

She swiped another line beneath each of her eyes, rising, extending her hand over the gnoll. There was a crackling of blue white along the gauntlet, the stone flared, and the blue-white fire began to flicker in the thing’s eyes.

I saw the girl’s lips move, saw her trace something in the air with her right hand, and the gnoll gave a shudder as the guttering blue light leapt to brilliance, flooding from eyes , maw, and the terrible wounds it had just received.

It flowed to its feet more than stood, took up its spear, and began a spinning dance of death.

The living hacked at the slain, to little effect. One of Silva’s gnolls lost its arm below the elbow. There was no spray of blood, the gnoll didn’t even pause, but thrust the stump into the maw of its attacker, hacking down into its neck with its good arm.

When one of her warpack was too badly damaged to rise, Silva knelt, lay her hand upon the thing’s brow, and closed its eyes. The blue-white flames flickered and died, and she found another of the slain upon which to bestow them.

The cries of relief rising from the bridge stopped as Silva’s gnolls hacked down the last of the living before them.

The ghostly warpack paused, briefly, and there was a long moment of cold, fearful silence. Then Silva turned her blazing eyes north, directing her pack’s blades against the living packs still milling about closest to the river. More and more of the living chose to flee rather than fighting.
Gilliam and I slid down the ladder. I don’t know how he could look upon the carnage. I took a few glances, and then promptly set my eyes on the river.

My footing slipped as we passed through the place where Silva’s army had paused before the bridge.

“Steady, there Thorn,” Gilliam said, grabbing my arm.

“I’m all right. But I slipped in something.”

We glanced down at a sizable pool of blood. It was dark, but not as dark as that of the gnolls.

Ana had crossed the bridge, and leaned heavily upon her scythe. Her features had a bit of a greenish cast to them as well.

She knelt, touched her fingers to the blood.

“Still warm.” She glanced ahead, and then to her right, where it marked a steady trail upriver. “We have to stop her.”

“She’s making mincepies out of those gnolls!” Gilliam said.

“This is hers,” Ana said, thrusting her fingers beneath the warrior’s nose.

“Nonsense. Those gnolls haven’t even laid so much as a whisker on her.”

Ana was already running. I followed, three or four paces behind.
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Re: [Campaign Journal/Story Hour]: Thorn's Chronicle

Postby RobJN » Sun Jul 26, 2009 8:51 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues....


The sound of battle seemed too loud in the cold air after the long, running stretch of silence as we followed Silva’s path of destruction.

We came to a stop at the edge of the village to find Silva’s pack engaged with another pack of large, dark-furred gnolls. The ground was littered with several corpses already, from both sides. As we watched, one of the larger gnolls swept a greatsword down in a powerful overhead chop, splitting a ghostly gnoll nearly clean down the middle.

Silva screamed, bending double as the gnoll under her power burst into a pillar of blue-white flame.

While it had the effect of causing the dark-furred gnoll to leap back with a bark of surprise, the blow left Silva down on one knee, clutching her side, coughing.

The handful of gnolls still under her spell closed ranks, surrounding her, swords up in guard position.

“They won’t last against those brutes,” Gilliam said, drawing his swords and charging.

“Fool of a man!” Ana shouted after him. Nevertheless, her grip on the shaft of her scythe changed, and she began chanting as she started to skip a complex pattern, turning, spinning, the scythe gathering light with every turn. By the time she reached the climax of her chant, the blade was a shining blur, and the collected light burst forth in a wave, falling over Gilliam, Silva, and the remains of her warpack.
It fell over the other gnolls as well, but they howled in agony, shielding their eyes, momentarily stunned by the burst of light.
Gilliam leapt into that opening, his own blades a-whirl, and he forced two of the huge gnolls back away from the girl.

Ana’s scythe lost none of its momentum, and between the sweeping blade and the end of the shaft, she’d pushed another two gnolls back as well.

Twin plumes of flame flew through the snow-touched darkness, and another of the gnolls howled as Durin’s axes buried themselves in the thing’s chest and shoulder. A shouted word from the dwarf, as he huffed up the trail caused the two weapons to burst into higher flame, and the gnoll’s scream trailed into a ragged gurgle as it began to burn.

I worked my way around Ana’s side, feinting enough to draw one of the brutish gnolls’ attention my way, leaving her only one to have to fend off.

Which meant that I was now its target, and my entire body thrummed as I caught the downstroke of the gnoll’s sword against my staff. I had barely enough strength to turn the blade away, and then it was bringing a huge fist around. It was more luck than anything that I ducked that blow.

But we’d taken the pressure off Silva’s pack, and they leapt to the attack again. They fought in pairs, leaping and slashing, moving round and round their quarry, one distracting, the other striking.

Ana came to my aid, striking the gnoll when his next swing at me left him wide open. Ana opened him further, mostly along the lefthand side. I staggered aside, and tried to keep the contents of my stomach from joining those of the gnoll as it hit the ground.

The last of the brutes fell to Silva’s gnolls, and they turned, returning to her side, kneeling around her.

Silva still knelt, her hair and gown clinging to her, her body shaking with sweat-damp chills. She clutched at her side, breathing in sharp gasps when she wasn’t coughing. The girl leaned heavily on her right arm, the gauntlet still wreathed in the blue-white flames. Those flames were reflecting off a pool of blood that was gathering under her right hand. Blood oozed and glittered along the swirls and twists of the gauntlet — every swirl, as if the each had suddenly grown razor sharp.

She caught her balance, and brought her right hand up to each gnoll’s forehead. She wiped her thumb through the blood she’d smeared there, and then drew her hand down over the blazing blue-white eyes, closing them.

The light flickered within the gnoll, and then seemed to leap back to Silva, chasing up and along the metal of the gauntlet, reflecting darkly off the rivulets of blood, before swirling into the purple-black stone set on the girl’s wrist.

The creatures simply toppled over, then, and the girl worked as best she could, arranging them with one good hand, crossing their great clawed hands over their barrel chests, breaking into another coughing fit as she hoisted a sword up to clasp a clawed hand around the hilt.

She would not accept our help, but worked slowly, steadily, until she’d arranged the last of the gnolls that had fallen around her. She laid her hand amidst the ashes and bones in the spot where the one gnoll had burned in the blue-white column of fire, head bowed.

Only then did she tear a strip from the bottom of her gown, holding it in her teeth as she clumsily wrapped her right arm, hissing as she pulled it tight around her bracer.

I dropped my cloak about her shoulders, and knelt down in front of her, holding my staff out behind me.

She smiled faintly, stepping over it, and settling against it, wiggling as I rose to my feet.

She felt much lighter than she’d been those long weeks ago outside Mistamere. I could feel her shivering, even though she radiated a feverish heat. I felt the rattling of her breath against my back.

Whatever magic she had worked, it had saved us.

But at what price had she bought our victory?
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Re: [Campaign Journal/Story Hour]: Thorn's Chronicle

Postby Chimpman » Mon Jul 27, 2009 5:41 pm

Rob - those battle scenes were great! The descriptions of Silva's blue flamed gnolls were some of my favorite. If I closed my eyes I could almost see the scenes you were describing. Bravo!
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Re: [Campaign Journal/Story Hour]: Thorn's Chronicle

Postby hihama » Mon Jul 27, 2009 5:57 pm

These is really getting better and better. I was not so enthusiastic at first but now I'm really waiting for the next part. I really should read the beginning of the story properly...
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Re: [Campaign Journal/Story Hour]: Thorn's Chronicle

Postby RobJN » Mon Jul 27, 2009 10:07 pm

Chimpman wrote:Rob - those battle scenes were great! The descriptions of Silva's blue flamed gnolls were some of my favorite. If I closed my eyes I could almost see the scenes you were describing. Bravo!


Glad you're enjoying it.

I'd been reading some stuff lately that had Big Set-Piece Battles(tm), and decided to try my hand at something a bit bigger than a dungeon skirmish. Good to see the results were satisfactory!

I was hoping I didn't go too far overboard with those gnolls. Amazing what you can do to a spell description with just a bit of glitter and paste...

Now, to come up with something to top that.... :evil:

hihama wrote:These is really getting better and better. I was not so enthusiastic at first but now I'm really waiting for the next part. I really should read the beginning of the story properly...


It took a while to loosen up and get thing going. More often than not, I feel like I'm getting better with each section I post. Glad you're sticking with it!
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Re: [Campaign Journal/Story Hour]: Thorn's Chronicle

Postby RobJN » Tue Jul 28, 2009 2:22 am

Thorn's Chronicle continues...

“Your horses have been saddled. I thank you for your help, and now ask that you return the way you came.”

Sir Retameron’s voice held fury beneath the ice.

“My lord,” Varis said, “perhaps—”

“Perhaps you should ride quickly, on your way away. Before I clap the lot of you in irons as her thralls.”

“My lord, the girl is gravely hurt, and—”

“Then you’d best ride with all haste to Threshold.”

“Now see here,” Durin said, “this girl has saved your village, and now your villagers. Surely—”

The knight’s temper finally got the better of him.

“The witchling used foul sorceries on a prisoner under my protection! She used the darkest of magics to raise the dead. She has used that magic to kill. Any one of those is enough to warrant a death sentence under the Grand Duke’s Law. It is only because she has saved my village and its people that I do not strike her down myself for her crimes.

“I spare her life for the lives she has spared here. The scales are even. I will not be in debt to such a creature, and I will not suffer the sight of her a moment longer than necessary.

“You will take her, and never return here with her in your company, or her life and your freedom are forfeit.”

Durin’s face went nearly as red as that of the knight.

“Her breathing worsens,” I said. “Sir Retameron is right. We must ride with all haste.”
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Re: [Campaign Journal/Story Hour]: Thorn's Chronicle

Postby RobJN » Wed Jul 29, 2009 11:16 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...


Silva jolted awake from the fitful doze, nearly tumbling us both from the saddle, so strong was the coughing fit that seized her. I spurred my mount up to where Varis rode point.

“I heard her all the way up here,” he said, looking down at the girl bundled before me on the saddle.

“She is so hot, the snow does not sit but a second against her skin,” I said. “And she shakes so hard it’s a wonder I’ve stayed on the horse. Varis, we must stop.”

“But it is only another two hours—”

Ana dropped her horse to a canter beside mine, leaning over. She drew her hand away from Silva’s forehead with a sharp hiss.

“She will not live those two hours,” Ana said. “She needs shelter. A fire. I have some herbs, and perhaps mixed with that tea of Durin’s…”

Varis glanced around. “Well, if we’re where I think we are, there are caves to the north, along the edge of the Black Woods. But with this snow, and the dark, it’s all I can do to see the trail.”

Ana drew forth her scythe, unwrapping the blade. She murmured a word as she rapped sharply against the metal, and as it rang, it began to shed a watery, silver light.

“It’s not much, but it’s the best I can do. And it might outlast the lantern.”

Varis guided us off the main trail, around a sharp spur of rocks, and down into a gently sloping vale nestled against the steep rise of the Black Peaks.

He passed several dark crevasses and two small, low cave openings before he finally dismounted, pushing scrub and clinging vines away from what looked to have at one time been a tomb’s opening. The arch had been squared off. Bas reliefs carved to the left and right of the opening were barely visible through the ravages of wind and time.

Inside, the floor had been done over in stonework, as had the walls and ceiling. More a long hallway than any sort of antechamber, a stone archway could be seen at the limit of the light shed by Ana’s scythe.

“Very well seamed,” Kuric murmured, running a hand over the stone blocks of the wall.

“And level,” said Durin, stamping a foot. Dust puffed, and the clomp of his boot echoed back to us. “Not too shabby, for human make.”

Varis led us back, and though a damp chill clung about the stones, the bite of the wind lessened to a mere nibble as we filed into the cavern beyond.

It was wide, and deep, and very high. And while it was dusty and strewn with cobwebs, they were nothing like the crypt under Mistamere.

Varis crossed to the left, along the curve of the chamber, taking the lantern with him. It illuminated several ranks of stone sarcophogai, draped in cobwebs and dust so thick as to be mantles. He set the lantern on one, stooped, and came back with an armload of firewood, which he brought to the center of the room. Someone had brought large rocks in, and made a circle. Judging from the amount of soot built up, it had been there for some time.

“Bandits?” Gilliam asked.

“One group or another,” Varis replied. “Had to flush out half a goblin tribe some years back. Got caught in a spring storm about a year ago, and remembered this place. Found it had aired out a bit, and someone was nice enough to leave a store of wood.”

I knelt, laying Silva down close to the ring of stones, extending my hand towards the makings of the campfire Varis had laid. I closed my eyes, gathering warmth, just a glimmer, from each of my traveling companions. I focused it, but it was barely enough to even call forth a candle’s radiance. I opened myself again, and touched lightly at Silva’s presence.

Heat and energy rushed at me in a torrent, and I fell back as a column of flame as wide as my palm soared up, flaring with fierce orange and yellow light, illuminating the chamber as if by a noonday sun. The flames nearly brushed the ceiling, which arched at least thirty feet overhead.

My shout of surprise was lost amidst those of the others.

Silva drew a deep, rasping breath, and thrashed, kicking the layers of blankets, crying out wordlessly. She fought her arms clear, and pushed herself up, hunching as she began to cough again.

Kim kuvran asi?” she asked, her voice a harsh, ragged whisper. She made a snatching motion with her left hand, and my link to her elemental essence winked out, the column of fire in my hand vanishing with a puff of hot wind.

Her bracer glowed with the light of the flame, sending spidery, flickering shadows across the room, dancing around us as the reflection of the moon would upon water, but orange and yellow instead of silvery-white.

Avyavasaaya,” she grumbled, giving me an exaggerated roll of her eyes. Then she leaned forward, and slid her fingers amidst the small stack of wood within the circle. There was a brief flash of tension about her eyes, and she gave a small shudder, and then the wood burst alight, as if it had been blazing for hours, rather than mere moments.

She shook the burning sleeve of her gown almost dismissively as she drew her hand away, and it and the bracer beneath it went dark. She watched the flames for a long moment, then nodded her head, approvingly.

“Thor-n? Idam kim?” She pointed to the flames.

Nearly frozen to death, burned alive by fever, done Immortals only know what to herself to make the dead walk and fight at her bidding, and she pauses to give a lesson in vocabulary?

Agni,” I said.

Saadhu!” She smiled, nearly as brightly as the flames, then doubled over with another fit of coughing. She took her hand away from her mouth, staring down at the flecks of blood.

Saadhu na,” she croaked, with a frown.
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Re: [Campaign Journal/Story Hour]: Thorn's Chronicle

Postby RobJN » Fri Jul 31, 2009 12:56 am

Thorn's Chronicle continues...

It took Ana and Kuric both to wrestle the girl back to the floor and cover her with the blankets. In all the time I’d spend with Silva, she never would tell me the meaning of those phrases and words that she spat as she tried to get to her feet, and then at least remain sitting upright. Several sounded remarkably close to such words as “mule” or “dog.” She blushed furiously when I asked about the words that sounded as if they might be the ‘action’ articles of her speech.

But I get ahead of myself.

Durin brewed his tea, and Ana added several herbs I recognized as fever reducers and those that would ease a winter cough.

“You keep a very thorough healer’s kit,” I said, as I helped the girl to grind the dried herbs into powder.

“The power of the Flame is not always able to cleanse all ills, nor should it be squandered on something as simple as a chill’s cough, or a passing illness. We are well schooled in medicinal concoctions.”

“So you think this a passing illness?”

“She spent the day rolling around in the snow. And then taxed herself — and you, I might add — in bringing the fires under control. And then to use so much blood—”

“Blood?”

“Thorn, what do you think that is she’s painted herself with?”

“I’d rather hoped it wasn’t all hers,” I said.

“I have seen the results of such injuries. She may be bright eyed and wanting to be up and about, but she will only make herself worse. She is a very stubborn girl.”

“Really? I hadn’t noticed.”


* * * * *
We slept fitfully, in shifts. Ana and I took the first watch — she the girl, and I the archway. She woke Silva twice, and had her drink more of the tea. On the second occasion, they bundled up and made their way out to the woods.

“No rockwolves this time, please,” I murmured as they passed. Silva glanced inquisitively at me, but shook her head as Ana scowled.

“This works just as well on druids as it does on wolves,” she said, thumping her shoulder with her scythe.

After they returned, I awakened the brothers, and then sank to my own bedroll. I didn’t think I’d be able to sleep, but it seemed a mere moment after I’d set my head down that a steady hand was on my shoulder, shaking me awake.

The stories that tell of the great feats of men and women of magic seem to always leave out the part about how exhausting and taxing it is on the body. My extensive work with fire had left my hands stiff, the skin blistered in places. And I found it hurt my eyes to look at the campfire. Pinpoints of light along the length of Silva’s left bracer glared and flashed in my eyes, causing what felt like fiery needles in the back of my eyes.

Durin sat nearby, painting a length of some tough, leathery cloth. He worked a layer of ink around the edges of a sweeping design he’d traced along the cloth with one or more oils. The pattern was mesmerizing, the designs as swirling and intricate and interlacing as the metalwork he said they were to cover.

Ana had repurposed the helm Varis had borrowed from Sir Retameron, and it sat by the fireside, steaming. As I watched, she wrung out the cloth she’d been soaking, and bent to scrub at Silva’s cheek. Apparently, the other had been cleaned while I still slept.

“Hold still,” Ana snapped, tilting the girl’s head to one side. SIlva scrunched her eyes shut, puckering her lips in distaste.

“Stop squeezing your eyes shut! I can’t get it all clean if you go wrinkling up like a prune!”

How I’d slept through that, I will never know.

* * * * *
Ana ran a finger along the edge of the bracer, turning Silva’s wrist and upper arm as she followed the twists and turns and curls. The skin was whole and mended beneath the crust of dried blood Ana had washed away.

“You saw her arm last night. It was a bloody mess,” Ana said, staring closer along the length of the gauntlet.

“That Bargle fellow gave her a pretty good slice,” Gilliam said. “And not long after we got her out of those manacles, her hand was whole, not even scarred.”

Ana peered closer at Silva’s gown, then frowned. She pushed the girl’s hair aside, and pulled the neck away, the frown deepening.

“How did you manage to paint yourself there?”

Silva shrugged her shoulders, trying to look innocent.

“Where else?” Ana asked.

Silva tried to huddle lower in her gown, and gathered it closer around her.

“That’s it. Out! All of you.” Ana started wringing out the cloth again.

* * * * *
The sun was well up in the sky, the cloud cover a bit lighter. Though it was still cold, there was no hint of snows in the air, and we made the most of our exile from the cave scouring the woods for fallen branches and such to replenish the supply of wood we’d used.

We weren’t more than five minutes from the cave, when… something… gave the hairs along the back of my neck a stir. A branch creaked, though it came between gusts of wind. Even in the cold, birds and small game were out and about, foraging in this brief respite from the snows.

Yet the Black Woods were silent. Hushed, as if holding a breath. I held mine, closed my eyes. Something was not right. It did not feel right. The woods were too silent. Watchful. I crouched, letting fall my armload of branches. I spread my hands through the mass of fallen leaves beneath the layer of melting snow.

“Thorn, what are you—”

I motioned Gilliam for silence. “Something is not right here.”

Durin and Kuric drew their cloaks tighter about themselves, hiding their axes beneath the folds. “Told you we wouldn’t need them,” the elder muttered.

There… the warmth and life of the woods, slumbering deep in this early and unexpected cold. The roots of the trees running deep. This was not the worst winter these trees had endured, and it certainly would not be their last. And then, it struck me: Not all of the trees’ roots ran as deep. More and more that I touched… slumbered, but were not of the forest at all. There was a reek of tortured earth around them, a whisper of subtle magic.

“We must depart,” I said, rising stiffly to my feet.

“Ana will cut off our—”

“Now,” I said, making my way through trees that were not trees. “A danger sleeps here, and the longer we are here, the more likely it will awaken. We must warn the baron.”

“No, I think you’ve done just about enough meddling in my plans,” drawled a familiar, oily voice behind us.
Rob
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Re: [Campaign Journal/Story Hour]: Thorn's Chronicle

Postby Chimpman » Fri Jul 31, 2009 5:09 pm

Oh... He's back again :D. This is getting very exciting Rob.
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