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

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

Postby RobJN » Sat Jan 10, 2009 1:21 am

Thorn's Chronicle continues...

Varis made to follow them, but I gripped his arm as he passed.

“Ladies’ business,” I said. “I don’t think they need nor would appreciate your presence.”

The young man’s jaw clenched, and then relaxed, as did his arm, as understanding lit his features. “Perhaps, yes….” He coughed.

A howl split the whistling of the wind. It didn’t even taper off before one after another joined it.

Gilliam slid across the width of the table, swinging his cloak about his shoulders, juggling a bow and quiver all at the same time.

“Come on!” he shouted, making for the door the two girls had gone through. “Those howls were close. Too close!”

Varis and I were on our feet, following him. Durin pushed his brother back to his seat by the fire.

“You’re not going anywhere on that leg,” he said. “Stay here with Master Seth and have that stew ready when we get back.”

Kuric made to reply, then buckled back into the chair with a curse as Durin pressed a fist into the wounded leg.

We were through the door in half a dozen strides, and found ourselves in an anteroom of some sort. A patch of gray-and-white fuzziness was visible through an archway across the dark stretch of the chamber. We crossed at a run, spilling through the archway into another hall, a stiff wind blowing ice and snow through gaping holes in the far wall.

From beyond those came another chorus of howls.

“How bloody far did they have to go to make water?” snapped Varis.

Two screams came from further within the ruins. We made towards the sound, somewhere off to our left. The wind and more howls quickly swallowed the girls’ voices.

A streak of white came at us, Varis barely checking his swordarm as Silva plowed straight into him, sobbing and clutching at the edge of his cloak.

“Ana! Ana shavar. Etia nie rhie! Ana nie rhie!” She was tugging furiously at Varis’ cloak.

“Wh— I don’t—”

“It doesn’t sound good whatever it is,” said Durin, shouldering around Varis, and gripping the girl’s shoulder. “Where?” he asked her.

She tugged at the dwarf, but he shook his head. “No, missy. You stay here.” He pointed to her, then at the floor.

A howl from the direction the girl had come ended the argument as we all charged up what looked to be some kind of short hallway.



A dim flicker was all that was left of the torch Ana had brought with them. It was barely enough to illuminate her form, which lay unmoving.

Shuffling about the edge of the weakening torchlight was a hunched form in the shadows, the low gurgling growl and ticking of claws upon the flagstone flooring leaving no doubt what it was we were dealing with.

Varis closed to the torch, picking it up gingerly, the flame wavering at his touch.

“Looks like she did a number on you,” he said, stepping foward as the beast tried to slink around to flank him. It shrank away as the torchlight fell upon it, and we all saw one side of the thing’s face was charred, the fur singed away, only one dark eye left to glare at us.

I knelt by Ana’s side, trying to find the extent of her injuries. It looked as though the thing had gotten a good bite in on her arm. Her hair was slick, damp with blood, and I whispered a prayer as I felt along the back of her head.

“Thorn, is she—?” Varis asked, keeping his eyes on the creature skulking in the shadows.

“Alive,” I said, pressing at the good sized knot on the back of her head, trying to stop the slow trickle of blood.

Durin breathed a sigh of relief.

The beast slunk back, melting into the shadows. Then it howled. Several of the answering howls sounded as though they were coming from within the boundary of the ruins.

“Rock wolves,” the dwarf said, his voice something of a moan.

“Hungry rock wolves,” said Varis, backing towards us, torch held high.

“Hungry rock wolves that smell blood,” Gilliam said grimly. He had his back to us, facing he way we’d come, arrow nocked. The wind carried the sound of panting growls.
Rob
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Re: [Campaign Journal/Story Hour]: Thorn's Chronicle

Postby RobJN » Sat Jan 10, 2009 3:30 am

Thorn's Chronicle continues...

“Varis, I need your knife,” I said. Ana’s surcoat was of an exceptionally thick weave, I could not tear through it.

“I only have two hands,” he barked, waving the torch to keep the burnt rock wolf at bay.

The sound of tearing cloth came from behind me, and I turned to see Silva ripping strips from the hem of her gown.

“Thank you,” I told the girl, taking two of the long strips. I straightened Ana’s arm — nothing seemed broken — and bound the makeshift bandages over the worst of the punctures.

Gilliam’s bow sung, and from the darkness came sharp yelps.

“Three more coming around,” said Durin, and the twin axes in his hands flashed as he set his feet, spreading his arms. “Hurry with that treatment!”

The torch flared as Varis swung it, and again the rock wolf jumped back. The growl didn’t dip into a yelp this time, though.

“He’s getting brave again,” he muttered.

“I think they all are,” said the dwarf. He waved his arms, the axe-heads flashing even in the weak torchlight.

“Can’t you make them glow again, like we did with those goblins?”

“I could, if I had my kit with me. And the time to inscribe the proper patterns on the blades. But we don’t have that kind of time.” He yelled as he swung one of the axes, driving another wolf back.

Gilliams bow sung twice more. On the second shot, another yelp echoed through the ruins.

The torch guttered, and the singed wolf lunged towards Varis. He danced back, but caught his foot against a broken flagstone, and his knee buckled. The beast leapt for his throat.

And was hit in the middle of its leap by a fist-sized chunk of rock. I glanced away from Varis to see Silva reaching for another stone.

The foiling of its leap was all the opening Varis needed. He brought his sword up and around, the blade sliding cleanly into the thing’s chest. He used the leverage of its fall to get back to his feet, kicking the wolf off the end of his sword.

Gilliam dropped his bow, backing up a couple steps and drawing his swords. “I picked off as many as I could but…”

At least a dozen points of reddish-yellow light bobbed and flickered in the darkness beyond the torchlight.


Silva thrust her left arm before me. “Tithemini,” she said. It didn’t sound like a request.

I shook my head. “I do not —”

Tithemini!” she said again, pointing to the knot in the binding by her elbow. She mimed an unwinding motion.

I began working at the knot. But blood-slicked fingers made it difficult, and I could hear the men behind me shouting, clanging their weapons. The rock wolves would have nothing to do with being frightened off, though.

The first loop of the knot slipped free, and I heard more snarling and yelping. Varis cursed, and Durin shouted something in dwarven that I think I am glad I could not translate.

Finally, the knot came loose, and the girl darted past me, unraveling the cloth from about her left arm. She held her arm up in front of her, hand clenched.

Varis leapt back to avoid a mouthful of slavering teeth, nearly colliding with the girl. He twisted away from her with a curse. She gave a sharp cry, ducking as the wolf lashed out at her.

“Get her out of the way!” Varis yelled, smacking the beast along side the head, drawing it away from the girl.

She gave the delicate bracer on her arm a disdainful look, then took up another rock, and hurled it sidearm, connecting with a solid “thud” on the rock wolf’s flank.

She did not revel in her success, but stooped and picked up another rock, turning, and using the momentum to send the stone whizzing between Durin and Gilliam, to strike another of the wolves that was about to lunge for an opening.

The beast gave a yelp, and Gilliam slashed it across the snout. It slunk back, shook its head, and the fight seemed to leave it. It turned and bolted.

After a few more feints and swings, the other rock wolves did the same.

Varis did not allow time for any of them to catch their breath. We made a makeshift litter of a couple cloaks, Gilliam’s bow, and Varis’ sword, hurrying with Ana back to the great hall so we could better treat her injuries.
Rob
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Re: [Campaign Journal/Story Hour]: Thorn's Chronicle

Postby RobJN » Sun Jan 11, 2009 1:08 am

Thorn's Chronicle continues...

“It just leapt from out of nowhere,” Ana said. “I was lucky to get my arm up, or it would have taken me by the throat.”

“Gave him a good whack with the torch,” Varis said, around a mouthful of stew.

She shook her head. “I dropped the torch when that thing bit me. Silva must have hit him after I fell.” She glanced over at the girl, who was running a pale finger over the swirls of silver that ran up her other arm nearly to the elbow.

Ana had awakened shortly after we returned to the great hall, as Durin had been cleaning the wounds on her arm with a hot, damp cloth. She gritted her teeth, occasionally pointing out when he’d miss a spot. She then directed him to grind a few herbs from her pack into a poultice, and pack it over the bite before he rewrapped her arm with fresh, clean bangages.

She brewed herself a cup of willowbark tea to ease the ache in the back of her head.

“Its nothing, just a bump. I had worse than this growing up,” she said. It made me wonder just what sort of childhood she’d had, if a lump the size of a robin’s egg was ‘just a bump.’

Gilliam and Varis had been debating whether or not the rock wolves would return. Varis seemed to think they would, since they bothered to show up in the first place. Gilliam argued that they had been hungry, and the corpses of their fellows would give them an easier feast than battering down doors of ironwood to get to us.

Kuric nodded in agreement with Gilliam. “If the rock wolves around here are anything like the kind we have back home, then they’ll go for the easy meal. If they attacked out of hunger —”

“And if they didn’t?” Varis asked.

“They are animals,” Gilliam said. “They are not the best hunters — I think they stumbled upon us by chance. Or we upon them. Sure, they hunt in packs, but they rely on mob tactics, rather than coordinated assault like a real wolf. You saw what happened once we took down the strongest of them. They lost their nerve and broke. They won’t be back.”

“I still say we set double watches,” Varis said, crossing his arms.

“Darokinian in a thieves’ den,” muttered Gilliam.

“Better wary, and a hand on the dagger at your belt than content, and a dagger in your back,” answered Varis.

The excitement of the evening acted better than any sleeping draught. I slept deep and dreamless until Durin shook me awake for our shift at the watch. Silva slept undisturbed through the night, not even stirring when Durin carefully rewrapped the bracer.

Waning half-moon of the Leaves’ Turning (on or about Sviftmont 25, 997AC)

Dawn came bitterly cold, but the snowstorm had blown itself out over the course of the night. When the ladies arose and made to leave, Varis had to be almost physically restrained from following them. Ana brought her scythe, though Varis grumbled about her ability to wield it properly.

This time, it was Old Seth’s cries that we found ourself responding to, grabbing weapons and charging through the ankle-deep snowfall that had piled up in the rooms exposed to the night’s storm.

He’d tucked the horses and wagon into another of the ruined chambers, and it looked like the rock wolves had indeed made a feast.

“Come along,” Varis said, heading of the girls as they approached. “The wolves got to the horses. We’ll make better time into town on foot anyway.”

The sky was still low and leaden as we filed from the ruins, following the ghost of a trail that lay buried in a foot or more of snow.

Risi,” Gilliam said, pointing to a drift of snow, and shaking the woolen stockings at Silva.

But she kicked when he reached for her foot. “Nieah!

“I’m fairly sure that means ‘no,’” I said.

“Why? Why do they have to be so difficult? Ana, you try.” Gilliam handed her the stockings.

Ana took them, then lifted the leg of her breeches, showing her that she wore similar woolens.

Silva merely frowned and huddled in a ball, her gown pulled down to her toes.

“Please?” asked Anna, but Silva shook her head violently in the negative.

Gilliam snatched the woolens back. “Fine,” he said to the girl. “Then you can walk in that.” He pointed to the snow filling the courtyard, where the rest of us waited.

He took two steps out, then turned, waiting for the girl. She set a foot in the snow, and the stuff came up, past her knees. She jerked her foot back, shaking it, beating the clinging snow from her gown.

She held up her arms to Gilliam. “Haltimi.

“What was that?” he asked her, turning to me with a frown.

“Help her?” I guessed.

Gilliam turned back to the girl. “Nieah,” he said slowly, trying to get the pronunciation right.

She glared at him, her hands on her hips. “Etah risi,” she said, pointing to the snow. Then she held up her arms again. “Haltimi.

“I don’t understand,” he said, showing her an exaggerated shrug. Then he turned and took another few steps towards us.

“Gil-yam!”

He turned again, and she was still standing with her arms out.

“When you travel a lot in the mountains,” Varis said behind me, “you sometimes get to see the roundhorns going head to head. They’ll just clash and clash until one finally batters the other into submission. This reminds me a lot of one of those bouts.”

Gilliam shook his head, and turned back to us, saying “Come on, maybe she’ll have learned some sense when we return with the horses.”

“You can’t just leave her there!” said Kuric.

I trudged back to the girl, and reached to pick her up. She backed away. “Nieah,” she said, pointing past me. “Gil-yam.”

“I think she’s taken a fancy to you, Gilliam,” Varis said, clapping him on the back.

“Well, she can keep it,” he spat. “You tell her to put on some hose and boots and follow along, Thorn.”

“I know ‘hot’ ‘cold’ and ‘no.’ None of those seem to be of much help here.”

I thought for a bit, then swung my staff around behind me. “Here,” I said, lowering it to her. “Sit there and I’ll carry you on my back.”

She must have gotten the gist of it, or given up on the hope of Gilliam carrying her, because she stepped between my back and the staff, and I felt her settle on it gingerly. Two small hand clasped themselves just under my chin.

“Ready?” I asked her.

Neh?

I hoisted her up and she gave a small yelp in surprise, nearly choking me as her arms tightened about my neck. I leaned forward, and she squirmed about, the pressure easing from around my throat.

“Are you settled?” I rasped.

When she finished her wriggling, I took a few steps. After a few more, I felt her relax against me, and the tension smoothed from her arms by the time I’d reached the rest of the group.

Gilliam gave me a sidelong glance. “Pushover,” he said.

Judging from the sound the girl made from behind me, I assumed she was sticking her tongue out at him, and Gilliam returned the gesture.
Rob
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Re: [Campaign Journal/Story Hour]: Thorn's Chronicle

Postby RobJN » Sun Jan 11, 2009 11:02 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...

An hour into the hike through snowy fields, I was regretting my decision. Silva had fallen asleep, and my back and shoulders burned. Yes, she was small, just a handspan taller than the dwarves. She was slender, but not scrawny, but certainly not weightless.

After another hour — my legs having turned to lead, it seemed — a walled manor house came into view, and Old Seth struck off for it on his own. The rest of us continued into town, Varis and Gilliam surrendering their swords to peacebonding. The guards looked askance at Ana’s silver-bladed scythe. Rather than turn over the weapon to the guards, she removed a few pins and slid the blade free, handing it to them, leaving herself with a long staff of birch.

“Is that cheating?” asked one of the guards. Ana merely smiled at him.

The dwarves were reluctant to give up their axes, but Varis assured them that they would not be “accidentally” given to the wrong person.

“You two don’t exactly blend in with the rest of the townfolk,” he told them, “nor will your weapons resemble any of the others kept under lock and key.” Durin beamed at this.

Varis wound his way through town, across the main market square, to an inn bearing a sign of a short-bladed axe and farmer’s sickle.

“Oh, I like this place already,” Kuric said.

The barman looked up, clearly not expecting any business this early in the day, and certainly not of such a motley group as we must have presented. Still, he seemed to know Varis, as they clasped arms and patted each other on the back. I found a chair close by, and deposited Silva in it as gently as I could, sinking onto the nearby bench.

“Now you see why I didn’t volunteer for that,” Gilliam said with a smile.


We loitered about the common room for several more hours, and were taking a noontide meal by the time Old Seth clomped in, kicking snow off his boots. He, too, greeted the barman familiarly, handing him a rather large pouch, gesturing in our general direction.

“Your packs and personals are all in the stableyard,” he said. “Your pay, as promised,” he said, producing a few more pouches, and parceling them out to Varis, Gilliam, and Ana.

He turned to the dwarves, handing Kuric yet another pouch. “A gift, from the baron. Enough there for you two to see a tailor and get some fresh clothes, since most of your belongings were lost when we had to abandon your cart. There’s also an allowance in there for the girl to get a proper gown. I think maybe Ana should see to that. That is, if you don’t mind?” he asked the young lady.

“Certainly not,” she answered. “Perhaps, if the seamstress could meet us after a bath…?”

Old Seth nodded, then clapped the two dwarves on the shoulders as he rose.

Kuric finally found his voice. “Thank you, friend Seth. We are in your debt, and the debt of your baron friend as well. If there is—”

“Oh, there is,” Seth said with a smile. “He will send a man around to fetch you two after you’ve had a chance to settle in here. He is keenly interested in your situation—-” he held up his hands to forestall Durin’s remark. “No, not like our friendly bard in Highdell. The baron has friends in various places, though, and he may have some information for you.”

The dwarves clasped Old Seth’s hands.

“Right, enough of that then. I have other business to attend to. Varis, Gilliam, if I ever have need of guards again on another damn fool mercy mission anywhere, you might just be the first two I contact. Ana,” he bowed. “I thank you for your cooperation. Your company was certainly more bearable than those two oafs. Best of luck on your journeys.

“And you, Thorn, keep out of trouble.”

I nodded.

He squatted down next to Silva, at the end of the bench. “You keep those two out of trouble, you hear?” The girl looked from Old Seth to the dwarves, then back to the old man.

Neh?

He patted her on the head, then turned and left, whistling an old marching tune.

We finished our lunch in a somewhat more somber mood, after which Ana and Silva retreated upstairs with a seamstress.

I retrieved my belongings from the stableyard and retired to my own room at the inn — graciously arranged by Old Seth and the baron, the innkeeper told me. I meant only to sit on the feather mattress for a few moments, but must have dozed off. I awoke to a setting sun and someone pounding on my door.



“What is it, Gilliam?” I asked. “Surely, the supper is not that good that you must —”

“Kuric and Durin, have you seen them?”

“Not since shortly after lunch. Why?”

“The barman says they left with the baron’s man around the middle afternoon.”

I rubbed the stickiness from my eyes. “And..?”

“And the baron’s man has just arrived, apologizing for his tardiness.”

I grabbed up my cloak and staff, and followed the other man down the stairs.

Varis was pacing the length of the common room. He bustled us out the door, and into a waiting carriage bearing the mark of the wall and tower. I barely recognized the two ladies sitting opposite us — Ana wore her hair swept back, and was in a white gown edged in silver. It was nothing terribly dressy, but it certainly suited her much better than the jack of scales, breeches and tabard.

Silva sat next to her in a plainspun long-sleeved robe over what looked like a matching gown of white. Her tangled hair had been combed and plaited in a thick braid. A woolen cloak dyed white and lined with a coarse fur was clasped about her neck with a heavy crescent-moon pin that matched the silver-gray of her eyes.

She glanced at the door when it shut behind us. “Koo-ric? Do-rin? Alevati?”

The carriage jolted into motion, and she flung herself towards the door. “Aleva Koo-ric? Aleva Do-rin?”

Ana reached for her arm, but the girl shook her hand away.

“We don’t know,” Gilliam said, taking Silva’s hands as she groped for the door latch. “We don’t know where they are but we will find them.”

She sobbed against Gilliam the entire length of the trip to Tarnskeep.
Rob
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Re: [Campaign Journal/Story Hour]: Thorn's Chronicle

Postby Dave L » Mon Jan 12, 2009 9:55 am

RobJN wrote:“The barman says they left with the baron’s man around the middle afternoon.”

I rubbed the stickiness from my eyes. “And..?”

“And the baron’s man has just arrived, apologizing for his tardiness.”

Darn, didn't see that coming! :)
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Re: [Campaign Journal/Story Hour]: Thorn's Chronicle

Postby RobJN » Wed Jan 14, 2009 2:51 am

Thorn's Chronicle continues...

I must say, our arrival certainly could not have been what the baron was expecting, and I give him credit for being such a gracious host in the worst of possible means of introductions.

His smile dissolved as the coach door opened, and I could have sworn I saw tears brim in his eyes as Gilliam stepped from the confines of the coach, bearing the girl.

“Is she hurt?”

Gilliam shook his head. “No, your Lordship. Upset.”

The baron nodded, hurrying up the steps ahead of us. He’d finished giving curt instructions to the seneschal by the time we filed past into the greeting hall. The baron motioned for us to follow him into a side room — a spacious study, dominated by a long table littered with books, but also containing two cushioned settees flanking a low serving table. A maid had just finished filling mugs from a steaming teapot, and she measured a pinch of something into the last mug.

“Please, sit. There is tea, or something stronger if you like. I have added a little something for the youngest lady, to calm her nerves.”

Once Silva looked up from Gilliam’s shoulder, she swallowed her hiccuping sobs as best she could, wiping her red and puffy eyes. Her face was red from the cold air, and the fit of sobbing, but it flushed deeper as she slipped quickly to her feet, eyes downcast, and offered a deep, fluidly graceful curtsey. Instead of immediately rising, though, she held herself at the dip, letting go the corners of her gown and sweeping her arms to cross over her chest, her hands resting before opposite shoulder.

We stared, as did the baron. We all moved to bow, or kneel, or offer similar --if late-- obeisance, but the baron waved us up. “None of that,” he said. “Bowing and scraping is for ceremonies before the Duke, not in my home.”

Silva had not moved. She stood perfectly still, like a statuette of palest marble.

The baron’s brow creased for a moment.

“Your Lordship,” I said quickly, “she does not speak the Common, nor any language any of us know. She does not mean disrespect.”

A smile creased his face then, and he chuckled. “Oh, no,” he said. “Far, far from it. I have only read of ceremony such as this, many, many years ago. Let me see if I remember how to properly close it.”

He bowed before the girl, stooping quite low to bob his head at level with hers, and took her right hand in his left as he straightened, touching the knuckles to his forehead, before straightening fully. This drew Silva back up to stand at her miniscule but nonetheless full height. She stood, hands clasped before her.

The baron motioned somewhat exaggeratedly for her to sit, which she did with another slight curtsey. He handed her a mug of tea — moving the spiced one to the side-- took up a mug himself, and they sipped in unison.

He patted himself on the chest, and told her “Sherlane Halaran.” He repeated it when she frowned, and she seemed to turn it over in her head, and then nodded.

Namas’te Sherl-ane Hal-ah-ran,” she said, stumbling slightly over his name. “Eiao Mel—” she stopped herself, biting her lip. After a pause, she said “Caellimi Silva.”

“Whatever that was,” Varis murmured to Gilliam, “it certainly did the trick in snapping her out of it.”

“What that was,” the baron said, retrieving a chair from the other side of the long table and placing it between the two settees before sitting down, “was a ceremonial greeting reserved for the meeting of kings and queens and emperors.”

“I have never seen its like,” I said.

“I highly doubt you ever will,” the baron replied. “The ceremony is so ancient as to be extinct.” He glanced as Silva, who had her mug of tea in her lap, and was kicking her feet slowly back and forth as she glanced around the room. “Or perhaps I should say, it is timeless. And suddenly, the fragments of information I was to pass on to the dwarven brothers shine with a whole new light, revealing other avenues I must explore.”
Rob
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Re: [Campaign Journal/Story Hour]: Thorn's Chronicle

Postby RobJN » Thu Jan 15, 2009 3:50 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...

“Dreadful,” Baron Halaran breathed, when we’d briefed him on the situation. His blue eyes, which had been soft and on the verge of tears themselves when he met us at the coach hardened into chips of ice. “Of the lowest, most cowardly — I should have clapped him in irons the instant he showed his face in town.”

“Who is this villain—”

“‘Villain’? No, do not be so generous in calling him that. He is a sneak, a scoundrel, a weasel of a man who does the bidding of a certain other baron in the west, along the coast. This reeks of his handiwork. Kidnapping is just his style. I fear Stefan’s cousin is better informed than I suspected, as this latest move of his agent attests.”

“M’Lord,” Varis started.

“In the Common, Halaran, please. From the beginning?” finished Gilliam. “‘This agent,’ you mean the bard we encountered?”

The baron made a sour face. “A bard? Is that what he tried to pass himself off as? Your friends may be in graver danger than ever, if they ask to hear him sing. Bargle couldn’t carry a tune even if he used both hands.”

“Bargle the bard?” Varis asked. “It does have a certain ring to it…”

“The only ring that man is involved with is the Iron Ring,” Halaran said coldly. “If he hasn’t already sold your friends to one of Ludwig’s mines, he no doubt will once he’s done using them to get his greasy hands on this girl.”

“Ahh,” said Gilliam. “Now you’re speaking plainly!”

“What is so important about one girl?” Varis asked.

“Varis,” Ana said, causing Gilliam and I to start. She’d been so quiet the entire time, she practically disappeared. “Think about it, given what we know, and what we’ve seen here.”

Varis sat back, arms crossed, brow creased. “It makes no sense to me,” he said. “Do they want her for some kind of ransom, perhaps?”

“Well… that is certainly one possibility,” the baron said. “If anything else, she is worth twice her weight in platinum for the sheer curiosity value. I can think of at least two princes in Glantri — ah, but now I get far afield of myself!”

“Our first priority is rescuing Kuric and Durin,” said Varis. “You seem to know much of this knave of a bard who might be holding them. Where is it that he lairs?”

The baron chuckled. “I know of Bargle mostly by his reputation, and it is quite appropriate that you should refer to him as some sort of beast. If he is in this part of the duchy, then he most likely is holed up beneath the ruins to the north. Either there, or the caves west of town.”

“Well, that settles it then. We split up, and —”

Halaran held up a hand. “No, Bargle is too crafty. He is a sneak and a coward, and going at him in numbers is most likely your best tactic. I will send what Townguardsmen I can spare to root out the second lair. Strike both, and if he should flee, he will encounter one or the other of the teams.”

Varis' eyes lit up. "Two prongs. Yes, I like it..."

Varis and Gilliam discussed tactics and possible layouts of the two hideaways for nearly an hour, and I found that the tea and soft cushions of the settee worked as if it had been my tea that had been spiced. I stifled a yawn, and the baron rose, ringing for a chambermaid.

“You will all sleep here. I will have one of my porters return to the Hook and Hatchet to retrieve your belongings. When you are ready to retire, as Master Thorn seems to be, ring the bell and Ilsa will show you to suitable quarters.”
Rob
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Thorn's Chronicle sidebar: Whispers in the wings

Postby RobJN » Thu Jan 15, 2009 6:31 pm

"The Known World is a stage, and we but players thereupon," -- anonymous and ubiquitous Darokinian playwright and scholar

The world continues to turn, people going about their businesses and lives, great and small. The eyes of the Immortals are never fixed on one person for more than a blink, or the span of a breath. But do we even know if the Immortals need to breathe as men do? It shall be the first question I as the first Immortal I encounter. Or perhaps the second, after 'What was I thinking when I married that shew?'. -- the same playwright, in his journals. (We told you he was ubiquitous)

"History is all-knowing, most unfortunately, entirely after the fact." -- the Druid Willow, in the introduction to "Know it or Repeat it, Vol. VII"

While the Immortals' eyes were fixed for a breath upon the wanderings of a group of strangers-become-friends, the Baron of Threshold sent a number of letters to friends and colleagues throughout the Grand Duchy. The Grand Duke Stefan certainly approved of the baron's ideal, of making a center of learning for the adventurous of heart, even if he did not entirely approve of those the baron had contacted to do the teaching.

Several of the letters have survived for historians to add to the great tapestry of events past. One such is as follows:

My dear Listelle.

I am most gracious for your offer to teach at the place of learning, but fear I must impose upon your services far sooner than expected. Do not worry, the plans for the Academy are still in place and moving quite smoothly. But recent events have moved well beyond the bounds of my admittedly limited knowledge of history and peoples.

I was visited this night by a most peculiar guest. Pale of skin and hair and eye, she spoke a perplexing dialect, one which I have never before heard, yet held.. I can only describe it as echoes of words I feel I should know. She exhibits habits of which I have only read in legends.

She looks to me to be perhaps of eleven or a dozen years of age, yet it seems she knows more beyond those years. If I believed in fairy tales, I would say she is one of those elven bogey men crept from the depths of the earth to sow discord and sorrows. The timing of her arrival certainly coincides with a series of dire events to befall the duchy. But surely one girl cannot cause crops to fail and the mantle of winter to descend months earlier than it should. Nor, I think, could she have the power to shift the stars in the heavens, or to cause a star to appear where there was no star before.

Yes, I have looked up in the few clear nights we have had and seen that the sky is not aright. Perhaps the early storms and overcast days and nights are but a cover to obscure the movings of the heavens? Or are they related? There are too many questions to which I cannot answer to begin to speculate.

I do not wish to think ill of this strange guest. Indeed, she is very charming in a wide-eyed, lost-lamb sort of way. But you know what they say of wolves in dress of their prey.

I am in need of you and your sisters’ assistance in unraveling this knot that has now grown even more tangled. I am sure the Grand Duke will understand the necessity of your movements within the duchy once we can put more pieces of this puzzle in place. This mystery holds dire implications not just for the duchy, but for all the world, Known and Unknown.

I await your reply, and remain,
Halaran
Rob
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Re: [Campaign Journal/Story Hour]: Thorn's Chronicle

Postby RobJN » Fri Jan 16, 2009 6:17 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...

Last quarter moon of the Leaves’ Turning (on or about Sviftmont 26, 997AC)
A deep night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast at the baron’s table had me feeling like a new man. Gathering the barest of essentials into my battered pack and taking up my staff, I descended to the greeting hall, and then went out to the stableyard. The others were there, and it sounded as if the argument had been going for some time.

“I have said ‘no’ and I am not changing my mind!” Varis shouted. “She stays.”

“By bringing her, we risk her being hurt. Or worse, her capture by the very man we’re trying to keep her away from,” said Gilliam.

“Better we should take her now than have to keep looking over our shoulders for her following,” said Ana. “We don’t need that kind of distraction.”

“And she won’t be any less distracting if she is with us,” Varis said. “Its hard enough when a scrap breaks out having to watch out for your own hide, I don’t need to be tripping over hers as well.”

“I seem to recall that if she hadn’t been around to trip over, you would most likely have been a meal for a rock wolf,” I said.

Varis gaped like a landed fish.

“I do not think you have to worry much about her own safety,” said the baron, leading a pony from the stable, atop which sat Silva, kicking happily at the side-saddle. She was garbed in a long woolen robe, deeply hooded, slit to the knee on each side for ease of movement. “She allowed me to examine those fabulous accoutrements you seem so keen to keep under wraps. They both radiate very strong defensive and offensive magics. Neither one holds any hint of evil that I was able to detect, so it is safe to assume that they are not fueled by a bound presence. Or if they are, it is not of malevolent intention. Also, there is this.” The baron gestured at his throat, and Silva reached into her robe and produced a pale yellow-gold stone, mounted in silver, dangling from a delicate chain about her neck. The stone seemed to glow slightly, light tracing along veins of silver deep within the gem.

“What is it?” asked Gilliam. “I have never seen a stone such as that.”

The baron nodded. “Nor have I, and I have made a bit of a hobby of gemcraft. It is the same with the two stones adorning those bracers she wears. Strange, how we seem to keep saying that of this girl, ‘I have not seen its like.’

“But observe,” the baron said, and swung his fist at the girl.

We leapt to restrain him, then stopped. Though he stood right next to her, his fist swung wide. The girl flinched, but did not jerk back overmuch from the strike. By all means, it should have connected. There was no possible way he could have missed. She swam out of focus in my vision, and I blinked.

“Did you —”

“She just—”

Ana was peering intently at the pony. “Its…. As though my eyes simply don’t want to see her. They look everywhere but straight at her….” She even cupped her hands about her eyes, but we saw her head bob this way and that.

“I have never—” she said.

“—seen its like,” we all finished, more or less in unison.

When she swam back into our vision, Silva was blushing. She tucked the stone back under her robe.

Daar it nidaar,” she said with a shrug.

“Very well. But I know I will regret this decision,” Varis muttered, and we headed out, back to the fortress ruins to the north.



Mistamere looked nothing like I’d imagined it, days ago in the fading light of a growing snowstorm. Bleak gray stone walls tumbling to ruin around the edges of the keep made it look more forlorn than imposing, a sad reminder of glory long past, if the stories of Gygar held much truth.

As we passed through the halls, barely a sign of our previous visit could be seen. The rock wolf corpses had vanished. Varis led us off to the right, into the room opposite that where we’d battled the beasts to save Ana. Through the northern doorway was a corridor that ended to the east in a weather-eaten set of stairs that yawned into darkness below.

“Good thing the coin-spin indicated we go left, rather than right,” Gilliam said. “Imagine tumbling down those in the midst of all that snow.”

Varis coaxed a torch alight with flint and steel and started down the steps, torch aloft, sword drawn and ready in his other hand. Ana lit another torch from Varis’, and we filed down the steps after him: Gilliam, Ana, Silva, and then me.

Gygar’s dungeon was as cold and gray as the ruins above. We descended into a large chamber, the edges of which we could barely make out at the edges of the torchlight.

Gilliam moved quickly to the door to the south, pressing his ear against it, listening for several heartbeats. Varis was doing the same at the north door. Both the doors looked half-rotten, and it was a wonder that neither man’s breath caused them to collapse in heaps of splinters.

“Anything?” Varis asked in a whisper that carried through the chamber as if he’d shouted.

“Quiet as a tomb,” Gilliam whispered back. “Which way?”

“One way is as good as another,” I said.

“We go left,” Ana said, making towards Varis.

“What makes you chose that direction?” Gilliam asked. “I have a perfectly good coin we can spin.”

“So spin it, then,” Ana snapped. “Be quick.”

“Halav, we go north, words, we go south,” he called, tossing a royal with a flick of his thumb. He caught it in midair, slapping it to the back of his hand. Halav’s profile greeted us when he lifted his hand.

“North it is. Varis, the door if you please?”

Ana bit her lip. She looked pale.

“If we do this at every turn, I will go mad,” she murmured.

“Could it be that you are not comfortable underground?” I asked her.

“It could be. But we are here with a purpose, and I will see it through.” She took a deep breath, giving the room a sweep with her wide, blue eyes. They lingered on the ceiling, and she swallowed nervously. “Somehow.”

Varis shouldered the door open, and it gave way with a puff of dust and a series of sharp cracks.

“Sorry,” he whispered.

“We’re in a dead wizard-king’s dungeon, not your grandam’s parlor,” Gilliam hissed, stepping over the wreckage. Varis drew a breath to reply, but Gilliam brought a finger to his lips, pressing himself against the wall just before the corridor branched off to the left. He made a “stay here” sign, then eased around the corner.

We heard the dry rustle of his boots and a clinking of the swords at his waist. There was a pause, and then the sounds repeated as Gilliam reappeared.

“I hope you weren’t trying to sneak up on anyone,” Varis breathed. “I’ve heard quieter troops at the parade ground. At full march.”

“I thought I was in your deaf grandam’s parlor,” Gilliam whispered back. “Ten strides down is another chamber, reeks of old grease and mutton.”

“Oh, so its your grandam’s kitchen, then?”

“There was movement, scuttling,” Gilliam said after a long look at Varis. “Sounds of chewing and growling.”

“Rock wolves?” I asked.

“Nothing so pleasant,” Gilliam said flatly. “It was pitched wrong for goblin voices. My guess would be —”

“Kobolds!” Varis hissed.

“Good guess,” Gilliam said.

“No, behind you,” I said, shifting the grip on my staff and crouching in a defensive stance.
Rob
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Re: [Campaign Journal/Story Hour]: Thorn's Chronicle

Postby RobJN » Wed Jan 21, 2009 3:33 am

Thorn's Chronicle continues....

They huddled at the edge of the torchlight, one of them sniffing, as though tasting something in the air between us. The other had a hand on the hilt of a shortsword at his waist, but its posture, as well as the look on its doglike face suggested curiosity rather than aggression.

The one that had been sniffing nudged its companion, and said something that sounded like a combination of a bark and a growl.

After a few barks and growls back and forth, the one with the sword beckoned towards us, indicating something hidden around the corner from it. Which could only be Silva.

“Be you bring more slaves for Master?”

“Slaves?” Varis asked. “We most certainly did—” the rest of what he was going to say left in a wheezing rush as Gilliam struck him hard in the side.

“Silence!” he barked. “I hired you to hold the torch and keep those two in line. Now hold your tongue or I might just throw you into this deal as well.”

Varis glared, rubbing his side.

“Yes,” Gilliam said with a nod. “Show us to him at once.”

I felt a hand at my shoulder, and Ana handed me the shaft of her scythe. She slipped the blade into a leather sheathe and slid it behind her back, concealing it under her dark woolen cloak. Gilliam gave Varis another nudge in the ribs, giving the fighter’s sword a long look. Gilliam sheathed his own swords slowly, and gave the kobolds a nod after Varis’s sword slid home in its scabbard.

The kobolds bobbed their heads, then turned and padded down the corridor. We followed them into a good sized chamber which was cluttered with three long trestle tables, each flanked by low benches. The tabletops were a mess of wooden bowls, tin plates — most of them dented — and lumps of what at one time could have been either bread or meat. The floor was similarly littered, with the addition of many gnawed and broken bones.

The kitchen they led us through was worse than the mess hall. A cauldron taller than the kobold cooks bubbled atop a large fire. The cooks barked and yapped at each other, one of them hopping atop a rickety crate and tossing what looked like a snake into the pot. The hissing had nothing to do with liquid sloshing over the side and dribbling into the flames.

Our escorts turned left halfway through the room, taking us through a door that looked to’ve been replaced recently — the carpentry was hardly first rate, but at least it blocked out most of the stench from the kitchen cookpot.

An overly large kobold sat upon what looked to be a cheap imitation of a throne, set upon wooden dais. It looked up at our intrusion, mouth full of what I hoped was mutton, the rest of the haunch clutched in its large hand.

Its question — no doubt something to the effect of “Why have you disturbed my meal?” judging from how our two escorts cowered — came out a thunderous, throaty snarl.

They yapped a bit, beckoning towards us, and Gilliam pushed Ana towards the center of the room, then gave Silva a shove. She stumbled and fell, looking up at Gilliam with a hurt expression. She made to rise, but he winked at her, and motioned with his hands for her to stay down. She sank back to the floor.

Varis and I tried to look as imposing as we could. Well, I tried. Varis didn’t have to give it much effort, with his height and broad shoulders.

Gilliam gave a flourishing bow, mimicking the general motions of Silva’s curtsey to the baron the night before, but not waiting for the burly kobold to return the gesture before he rose to his full height.

“Behold!” he said, gesturing towards Ana and Silva. “I bring these two as tribute, to show you the fine quality of the rest of the slaves that I have brought with me from the far corners of the duchy.”

The kobold had kept chewing through Gilliam’s introduction — choking a bit at the bow. It swallowed, then reached for a dented silver goblet, taking a deep draught, wine dribbling from its jowls and trickling over the mismatched leathers and other bits of cobbled-together armor. It unhooked its leg from over the arm of the throne, motioning at the girls with the half-eaten leg in his hand.

Ana looked convincingly frightened, and sidled meekly forward, dragging Silva behind her.

The big kobold sniffed at her, then pushed the hood of Ana’s cloak back. He’d taken a bite of the leg, but spat it out half-chewed at her feet. He barked a laugh as she jumped back with a small squeak.

“That one is no good,” the kobold rumbled, shaking the leg at Ana. A gobbet of meat fell to the floor with a ‘plop.’

“What is wrong with her?” asked Gilliam, in a shocked tone. “She’s a healthy girl. A bit skinny, sure, but those are some fine childbearing hips.” She turned, eyes wide, face going red.

“Not what the Master wants.” He fished about in a pouch at his waist, producing two coins. He flung one of them at Gilliam, who caught it in midair.

“Is her hair the color of that coin?”

Gilliam turned the coin in the torchlight. It shimmered between gold and silver, depending on how he looked at it. I felt something flutter in my stomach.

“Well, no, but look how it shines in—”

“Master does not care for shine!” the kobold barked. “So R’ytik cares not for it!” It rummaged in the pouch again, producing a tangle of twine. He shook it vigorously until it unraveled, then held it out at arm’s length next to Ana. The tip of the twine brushed against the floor, and the kobold held the other tip, the length coming to well below Ana’s shoulder.

“Too tall! Master does not want taller than the rope!”

“Perhaps we could just take her off at the knees —” Gilliam started.

“No!” the kobold and Ana spoke at the same instant. She swallowed quickly, bowing her head in apparent meekness.

“No no no!” the kobold continued. “Master insists she is unharmed. Master hit R’ytik when last one had tender spot on arm. So R’ytik beat kobold that squeezed it too tight.” The kobold nodded assertively. “No tender spots or R’ytik maybe beat you, too?”

Varis snorted and Gilliam shot him a grin.

“Oh, no, Great R’ytik, we certainly can’t have that!” Gilliam said with an almost-convincing quaver in his voice.

But the kobold’s attention was again on Ana, this time peering intently at her face, pawing aside some of her hair to get a better look. He had to reach up slightly to do that, even standing as he was on the raised wooden dais.

“No, no, no!” he shouted again, and I saw Ana’s breath quicken as bits of the kobold’s meal flew as he shook the haunch. Several bits bounced off her. “Eyes not right either!” The second coin spun from his fingertips, but fell short, bouncing and spinning across the floor. Torchlight flashed on the silver coin as it spun.

The fluttering in my stomach stopped, but only to settle with an almost physical weight. My grip tightened on the ash staff I was holding for Ana.

The kobold squinted at Gilliam. “Even R’ytik can match looks to charcoal scribble, even if other squiggly lines do not make any sort of picture. Even Kr'rvies can make match,” the big kobold pointed to one of our escorts, and that kobold straightened. “Right?”

The other kobold made a show of appraising Ana, its snout inclining as it looked her up and down. “Errrrum… not match?” it croaked, looking to its companion.

The escort not under the bigger kobold’s glare shrugged. “All pinkskins look alike, just like they all taste alike.” Its stomach growled.
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Re: [Campaign Journal/Story Hour]: Thorn's Chronicle

Postby Chimpman » Wed Jan 21, 2009 6:41 pm

Lol! I love the kobolds!. Anyway just posting to let you know I'm still here and still enjoying the story immensely. That Bargle is some piece of work I tell you, and I think you are capturing that nicely.
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Re: [Campaign Journal/Story Hour]: Thorn's Chronicle

Postby RobJN » Sat Jan 24, 2009 1:48 am

Thorn's Chronicle continues...

The big kobold turned his beady eyes upon Silva.

“Stand up,” he growled. When she didn’t move, he repeated himself, barking the words. He glanced over her head, at Gilliam.

“You bring me one that has no ears?” the kobold asked.

Gilliam laughed. “Skittish as a doe, she is.”

R’ytik straightened up, puffing out his chest. “As she should be,” he snarled, taking a great bite from the haunch. He repeated his order for her to stand, but this time gestured with his free hand, the twine bobbing.

Silva rose slowly to her feet, the top of her hood coming even with the big kobold, standing atop the wooden dais.

His snout split into the doglike equivalent of a smile, as he held the twine just above his eye level.

“This one is the right size,” he said, giving Ana a scowl. He dropped the twine, reaching for Silva’s hood. She flinched back, just out of his reach.

“Be still!” he barked, reaching again. He tipped the wide hood down, his snout less than a handspan from Silva’s nose, which she wrinkled as he breathed on her.

“Good, very good,” he growled. “This! Shiny like silver, shiny like gold. Yes.” He held a lock of her hair, let it trail through his greasy fingers. Had he a tail, I’m sure it would have been wagging.

He caught her chin in those same greasy fingers, and tilted her bowed head. His eyes narrowed and the smile on his snout slid into something closer to a smirk.

“Eyes of the moonlight,” he hissed, and Silva scrunched up her face against his foul breath. “Master will reward me well for this!”

He raised his head and let out a howling cry.
Rob
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Re: [Campaign Journal/Story Hour]: Thorn's Chronicle

Postby RobJN » Sun Jan 25, 2009 5:54 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...
The kobold “king’s” audience chamber had an extraordinary amount of doors — another along the wall in addition to the one through which we’d entered. A door behind us, two on the wall to our right.

And it seemed like all of these doors burst open at the exact same moment, flooding the room with short, yapping doglike kobolds. A good number of them had short-swords. Many had clubs of some sort or another. One, coming from the direction of the kitchen, looked to be wielding a mop.

They gave us very little time to react. Gilliam and Varis had their swords out, but a line of dogmen two deep streamed through the room, cutting us off from the two girls.

“Thorn!”

Ana’s cry snapped me to attention, and I tossed the ash staff towards her, then had to turn my attention to the ring of kobolds closing on me.
They were all kicking feet and swinging clubs and yapping snarls. There were too many blows to block all of them. For every one I blocked ahead of me, two more rained down on my back and legs.

Judging from the cursing Varis and Gilliam were doing, they were having the same luck I was. The kobold pressed at us like a rising tide. Some thuds and yelps indicated Ana was having somewhat better luck than we were.

Suddenly, above the clamor and chaos, the kobold R’ytik roared, the tone indicating both surprise and outrage. I felt a chill at that howl — he was expected to bring Silva to her fate unharmed. Had the kobold mob struck her?

The babble from before the throne and dais went from snarling to whines and yaps of confusion, like a pack of hounds suddenly off the scent.

“Silva, run!” Ana shouted. Anything else she was going to say was cut off by a sharp cry, and we saw her sink to one knee. The kobolds swarmed over her.

Gilliam, Varis and I tried to wade through the press of kobolds, to reach the girl, but there were too many crowded between us. A cudgel struck my knee, and it buckled. I could not catch myself in time on my staff, or if I did, a clever kobold managed to kick it out from under me. The torchlight in the room went dark, obscured by kobold after kobold as they leapt atop me, pinning me down. A clawed foot swung at the limit of my vision, and pain exploded behind my eyes. Another kick, and the yammering kobold mob was swallowed in silence as awareness fled.

-------
Shorter than I'd expected, but these last two bits got the job done, I think.
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Re: [Campaign Journal/Story Hour]: Thorn's Chronicle

Postby RobJN » Tue Jan 27, 2009 1:43 am

Thorn's Chronicle continues...

Last quarter moon of the Leaves’ Turning (on or about Sviftmont 27, 997AC)

I awoke to darkness, punctuated by a rustle and clank of chain. Somewhere behind me, a soft cough and muffled sobbing. I tried sitting up, and quickly found that to be a mistake, as it felt like the floor was tipping out from under me. I quickly sank back to the cold stone floor, fighting down a nauseous dizziness.

“Lie still. Deep breaths and it will pass.” Ana’s familiar voice drifted from somewhere beside me, and I felt a hand pat my shoulder.

“Where—”

“Still below. Deeper.”

“Are you all right with—”

“Its not so bad in the darkness. I will weather it.”

“Shh!” came another voice from a corner. Unfamiliar. “They’ll punish us again if you keep talking!” the voice whispered, and several other voices joined in a chorus of “shushes.”

A heavy bang sounded from the door of the room we were in, a sound like a tree crashing against the metal of the door. The sound filled the room like a physical presence, and the chorus turned to shrieks of fright.

“QUIET DOWN IN THERE, UNLESS ONE OF YOUSE WANTS TO BE MY BEDTIME SNACK!”

The voice boomed louder than the fist against the door, causing the door itself to shake on its hinges. The pronunciation of the words was heavy and slurred.

“Let that be a very big, very drunk man,” I whispered.

“Ogre,” Ana whispered flatly. “Caught a glimpse before they locked us in here.”

“Shhhh!”

I rolled onto my back and from there managed to make it to a sitting position. The floor stayed where it was, though red and white lights burst in my vision with every heartbeat. The nausea settled as I rested my head against my knees.

With nothing better to do, I closed my eyes against the darkness, and drifted in a doze, waiting for whatever it was that was to happen next.



We were jolted from sleep by the harsh rasp of a bolt being drawn. The door screeched open, and torchlight flooded through the room, casting the figure in the doorway in shadow. The figure was tall and lean, something familiar in the posture.

The girls scooted as far back from the doorway as the chains about their ankles would allow, some wide-eyed and shaking, others glaring fiercely at the figure in the doorway.

“I should thank you,” the man in the doorway said, “for saving me the time, trouble, and expense” — he leaned heavily on that word — “of tracking you all down and bringing you here the hard way.

“I should… but I won’t. Do you know why?” His tone was so nonchalant, so conversational, that for a split second it seemed entirely natural to converse with bound prisoners in this manner. Of course, from what little I knew of this man, Bargle, this could very well be normal.

When neither Ana nor I answered, he slapped his leather gloves against the door, causing it to ring sharply.

“Do you know why?” he repeated, this time an edge of anger creeping into his tone.

“Could it be that you still haven’t managed to find a lone little girl wandering your maze of a dungeon?” Ana asked.

The bard stood for a moment in silence, his posture pensive. “All right, that, too.” He leaned back, looking over his shoulder.

“Grodeg! Get up those stairs and tell that simpering king of a kobold that if he doesn’t find the girl soon, his head — crown and all — will be the garnish on your next meal!”

“Find girl or head is guh- guh-….” came the slurred response. “What is that word means, Master Bargle?”

The man in the doorway sighed heavily. “‘Garnish’ is a decoration to make a meal pretty.” He spoke slowly, making sure Grodeg soaked in every word.

“But, Master Bargle, kobolds not as pretty as younglings. So that make meal not as pretty.”

“Just go, and tell him to find that girl!”

“And Grodeg not like kobold. They is stringy. Not plump like younglings.” Several of the girls cowered against each other, sobbing.

“GO!” the bard shouted, pointing down what was apparently a hallway outside. Then he turned quickly back to the cell, squatting down, and making calming motions with his hands.

“Shhh, shhh, there now. The big nasty smelly ogre isn’t going to eat anybody,” he said quietly.

“What about Lispeth?” asked one of the steely-eyed girls.

“She’s gone home, just like I promised.” The smile seemed to slither onto his face. “You’ll all go home just as soon as we find this one, troublesome and very irritating young lady. In fact,” he said, his face brightening, “these two, as well as their other friends in the room down the hall, know where that slippery little wench is hiding. Maybe you can convince them to tell me, and then we can all go back home in time for supper.”

“And our two royals for the trouble?”

The bard stared blankly at the spokesgirl. Then he beamed. “Right! Yes, two royals apiece for this unfortunate mix up. And remind your mums and dads not to go showing that off to the Grand Duke’s tax collectors!”

“Best make it three royals,” Ana said. “We could be here for a good stretch, while he and his kobolds play ‘foxes and rabbit’ with our friend.”
Rob
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Re: [Campaign Journal/Story Hour]: Thorn's Chronicle

Postby RobJN » Sun Feb 01, 2009 7:42 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues...

We were left to sit in darkness. Some of the girls had taken up sobbing again, and we heard others doing what they could to calm them. Eventually, the girls settled down — it could have been minutes or hours, time had very little meaning in that cold, black cell. I think I drifted off to sleep for a brief time, for I started in shock at the sound of the bolts on the other side of the door being drawn sharply back.

The bulk of the doorway was obscured by a great hulking figure, lit from behind by what I can only call a ghostly light, bright as a candle, but not the familiar yellow-orange flame. It was more like the bluish-silver of moonlight, shot through with flickers the purple-black of moonlit shadows.
Ana’s hand tensed on my arm.

“Have you ever…” her voice drifted in my ear.

I felt myself smile. “No,” I said, rising stiffly to feet — cold and partially numb from sitting for so long — felt as if they weren’t my own as I took a few steps toward the doorway.

There came a tug at my tunic. “What are you doing? Don’t go out there!”

I patted the girl’s hand, gently disengaging it. “It will be all right, this can only be our friend, come to find us.”

The girls were not as convinced, and they scuttled further from the doorway than when the man Bargle had appeared before us.

Ana and I made our way to the doorway. The ogre Grodeg took a lumbering step back, staring at us with dark eyes, its face slack of any expression. His skin — a bit yellowish to begin with — looked almost waxen in the strange blue-white-purple glow.

One great arm lurched towards up, a ring of keys held between its thumb and forefinger. I took the keys, working my way through them until I found the one that matched the shackles around our feet. I moved into the cell, freeing the other girls as quickly as I could, and while they rose to their feet once freed, none was eager to set foot outside the cell.

“He’ll eat us for sure!” one girl moaned.

“Its a trick,” another said.

“He’s only freeing us so he and the others can have a feast!”

I looked up from the last shackle, which was giving me some trouble. “Others? You mean there is more than one ogre down here?” The lock finally turned, and the girl kicked her foot free, scrambling to her feet, backing away from the door, pressing her back against the far wall of the cell.

There came the metallic shriek of rusty metal-on-metal, and the protest of rusted hinges. “Thorn!” Ana called, “I need those keys!”

I tossed them to Ana once outside the cell, hearing a babble of voices — familiar and unfamiliar — coming from within the second cell. One by one, Varis, Gilliam, Kuric and Durin filed out, rubbing their arms and wrists.

We kept our reunion brief, handshakes, nods, claps on the back.

“But where is Silva?” Durin asked.

The ogre took another lumbering step, a jerky motion to the side, revealing the girl standing behind it, her right arm outstretched, the wrappings about the gauntlet in tatters. The gem on her right wrist glowed with the blue-white-purple of moonlight and shadows, bright as a handful of candles. A hazy webbing of misty strands drifted from along the metallic tracery of the gauntlet, over her right hand, and trailed across the floor to somewhere along the ogre’s back.

Durin rushed over to her, nearly bowling her over with the great hug. Indeed, she seemed totally unaware of him until he’d wrapped his arms about her. She blinked, as if waking from a doze, then pushed insistently at the dwarf’s shoulder with her left hand.

Tithemini!” she squeaked, with what little breath his hug had left her. Durin flung his arms wide, backing up several steps, his joyful expression crumpling into one of confusion.

As she appeared to awaken, the stone pulsed with an angry purple flash, and the misty webbing began to dissipate. The ogre’s face went from slack to a snarl, the eyes brightening in fury as the brows dropped.

It pushed itself away from the wall with a growl, reaching for one of the braver of the girls who’d just stepped out of the cell. She screamed and ducked, huddling in the doorway,

Niamat!” Silva shouted, her right hand outstretched, hooked in a grasping gesture. The gem on her wrist pulsed blue-white, and the light seemed to reinforce the wispy strands linking her to the creature. Its arm froze.

The anger on its face twisted into pain, then fear. It roared again, the great muscles of its body bulging as though it strained against chains of thickest iron.

Tyagami!” Silva clenched her fist as she said the word, the blue-white light flaring now, rather than just pulsing. Her eyes seemed to glow as they reflected that light. It chased its way through the misty webbing, like tiny bolts of lightning amongst clouds. The creature roared again, this time more of desperation than anger.

The roar tapered off into a growl, and then the ogre’s expression sank back into slackness, arms dropping limply to its sides.

Silva’s arm was shaking, her grip white-knuckled. She was breathing as though she’d arm-wrestled the ogre physically. Her pale lips were set in a grim line, her eyes locked on the ogre, her brow creased in intense concentration.

Light flared, orange-yellow, down the far end of the corridor.

“By the Immortal’s fury, Grodeg, you’d better have a very good reason to be bellowing at this hour. I was in the middle of a particularly good dream, and —”

Bargle’s voice stopped as he rounded the corner, torch aloft, the light gleaming in his eyes gone wide. For a moment, his expression was as slack as that of the ogre.

“Well,” he said with a weak smile. “Isn’t that the most amazing thing?”

He threw down the torch, turned, and ran back the way he’d come.
Rob
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Re: [Campaign Journal/Story Hour]: Thorn's Chronicle

Postby Chimpman » Mon Feb 02, 2009 5:19 pm

RobJN wrote:“Well,” he said with a weak smile. “Isn’t that the most amazing thing?”

He threw down the torch, turned, and ran back the way he’d come.

Heh, gotta love that Bargle. :D
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Re: [Campaign Journal/Story Hour]: Thorn's Chronicle

Postby RobJN » Tue Feb 03, 2009 3:10 am

Thorn's Chronicle continues...
Varis practically had to tackle Gilliam to prevent him from chasing after the cowardly bard.

“He’s getting away!” Gilliam protested.

“Think, Gilliam! Right now he is the least of our worries. We have no weapons.” Varis said.

“We can’t just leave these girls to fend for themselves," Ana said. "We’ve got to get them back to their families.”

“They say there is more than just this one ogre roaming around down here, too,” I added. “So, unless you can do this trick of Silva’s, you’ll be fighting them bare handed.”

Gilliam’s shoulders slumped in defeat. “Fine,” he said. “At least let me take a look around and see if there isn’t something laying around we can use.” He followed the wall a ways until he found another doorway opposite the cells, probably some sort of guardroom.

Ana and Varis busied themselves with getting the girls into two lines.

“They look to be in fairly good condition, all things considered,” Ana said as she ushered another girl into place along the wall.

“Oh, that scoundrel made sure we were all fed, and had plenty of water,” Kuric said. “To have done otherwise would have been bad for business, I imagine.”

Durin spat. “I still can’t believe he planned to sell us, like we’re nothing more than… than… cattle!”

“Moo,” said one of the girls, and a few around her giggled. Ana smiled a faint smile at that, and I noticed that her gaze strayed from the ceiling, which she’d been glancing up at repeatedly, nervously, as if expecting a great stone block to come crashing down atop our heads at any second.

“Relax,” Durin said, patting her arm as she passed. “The stonework here is solid. Not as solid if it had been worked by my kind, but still quite serviceable.”

Kuric elbowed his brother in the ribs. “You really need to work on your reassurances, Brother Mine,” he said.

Gilliam appeared, his arms laden with weaponry and bundles of cloth.

“I feel like Father Yule,” he said, as we gathered around to reclaim our weapons and cloaks. He’d also procured cloaks for most of the girls. He gave his own to one of the girls who didn’t have one, and Varis donated his to the other girl who was without.

Varis was giving the girls their marching orders, and Ana drifted back towards where I kept a nervous watch over Silva and the ogre. I also kept an eye on the end of the corridor, expecting Bargle to return at any minute. But not another sound came from the far end of the hallway, and Silva and the ogre Grodeg seemed content to simply stand in place.

“Thorn, Silva, we’re ready to go,” Ana said, giving the girl as wide a berth as the ogre.

I pushed away from where I’d been leaning against the stone wall, and Silva stirred, blinking as if clearing sleep from her eyes, though they’d been open before, staring intently at the ogre.

“Do we even know where we’re taking these girls?” I asked.

Ana shrugged. “Up the stairs, then we’ll have to blunder along until we find someplace familiar, or another route to the surface.”

“Not much of a plan.”

“What else can we do?”

Kshanem kri!” Silva blurted. We turned, and she said it again, a touch less insistently. She flushed, her mouth working to speak, but not knowing a word of our language. She snapped her mouth shut and made a growling, frustrated sound in her throat.

The ogre did the same.

We stared immediately at the great creature, and the ring of steel being drawn down the hall indicated that Varis and Gilliam had both heard the growl as well. But it hadn’t moved. Silva was staring at the gauntlet, watching wisps of the vapory tether drift around the complex pattern of loops and swirls that seemed to flow from the oddly-shaped gem, which kept the steady blue-white glow.

She looked up at the ogre, making a soft jerking motion of the wispy connection. “Kathayatemi,” she said.

Some tension returned to the ogre’s face, but all it did was glare at the girl, making an effort to keep its great mouth shut.

Kathayatemi!” she said, making the word more a command than a request. She emphasized it with a snap of her wrist, and the ogre paled as it flinched.

“Grodeg knows a way out,” the creature slurred, the words coming out almost a moan. “Grodeg can show youse.”

“How can we trust you?” Varis asked.

“We don’t,” said Gilliam. “We trust Silva. He would dance a jig with every girl here if Silva commanded it of him.”

“It couldn’t be any worse than dancing with that brother of yours,” one of the girls whispered, and several of them giggled.

We all turned back to Silva and Grodeg, and motioned for her to take the lead. Gilliam turned it into a sweeping bow which drew more titters from several of the girls.

As the ogre passed, the distance between it and Silva was as if a patch of the winter storm had been plucked from the other night and wound into a hazy, smoky web of threading. I shied away from it, chilled both along my skin but also somewhere deeper inside, as if someone had run a cold finger up the back of my neck.

I never thought I would pity an ogre, but I shuddered to think of how it must feel to Grodeg.
Rob
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Re: [Campaign Journal/Story Hour]: Thorn's Chronicle

Postby RobJN » Tue Feb 03, 2009 5:41 pm

Thorn's Chronicle continues....

We rounded the corner, and ascended roughly-hewn steps. Grodeg led, Silva walking slowly behind him, her steps like those of a sleepwalker. Varis and Durin followed her, then Gilliam and Kuric and Ana interspersed through the group of a dozen girls, and I brought up the rear of our column.

Four torches had been given to the girls, and it was something of a relief to be out from under the cold light of Silva’s stone.

Varis had us pause at the top of the stairs. “Remember,” he whispered. “Not a word. We move as quickly and quietly as possible. If you can’t do that, then just turn around and go back to Bargle now, because I won’t have any of you dragging the rest of us back there. If there is trouble, you get as close together as you can and let us surround you. Heads down. Is that clear?”

A dozen heads nodded. More than a few swallowed nervously. I saw several hands join and squeeze between the two columns of girls.

“Right. You are all very brave. Halav be with us,” Varis whispered, kissing the hilt of his sword. He set a hand on Silva’s shoulder, nodding. She gave her hand a twist, and the word “Iya” echoed back to me. The ogre took the last few steps up, and we followed as quietly as we could.

Grodeg led us to a meeting of corridors, and turned into the right passage after a brief pause. Judging by the wrinkling of noses as we rounded the corner, I wasn’t the only one who noticed the steadily growing stench.

The ogre alone was unaffected when it let us around a bend in the corridor and into a room heaped with refuse. Despite Varis’ warning of silence, a chorus of choking coughs sprang up. Varis tried to silence the girls, then finally motioned for them to cover their noses and mouths. He secured a scarf around his own face, then wound a strip of cloth from one of his sleeves around Silva’s lower face.

The ogre shuffled through the middle of the room, stepping through piles of rubbish that were ankle deep on it. It got to the doorway and stopped.

Iya,” came Silva’s muffled command. But Grodeg looked over his shoulder, its teeth bared in a snarl.

“No,” he said, his voice coming through ragged breaths. Sweat stood out on his great yellowish brow.

Iya!” Silva barked the word, clenching her right fist. But the light coming from the stone was flickering between the blue-white and the blackish-purple.

“NO!” The ogre roared the word, stomping one great foot as it did, and across the room at the back of our column, I could feel the tremor through the floor.

There came a chittering and scratching from within the refuse, piled high along the walls, and ankle-deep most of the way along the floor. And then there was a sound like a rushing of hundreds of wings.

But it wasn’t wings, it was tiny, clawed feet. Hundreds of them, maybe thousands, stirred into motion by the ogre’s resistance:

Rats. A great, black and brown tide of them, closing on us.
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Re: [Campaign Journal/Story Hour]: Thorn's Chronicle

Postby RobJN » Fri Feb 06, 2009 3:07 am

Thorn's Chronicle continues....

The screams began almost immediately, and Varis didn’t even bother to try to quiet them. He was too busy kicking and slashing about.

Not all was lost to the girls, though. As Varis had told them, they were attempting to bunch together. The girls with the torches had the sense to wave them about, driving most of the vermin back, and were touching off the refuse about them, forming a semicircle of flame.

“Well done!” Gilliam shouted. Within moments, he and the dwarves had found makeshift torches amidst the debris, lighting them and adding to the girls’ circle of fire.

I motioned to the two torchbearers closest to me, even as I kicked at the squirming carpet of rats.

“You two,” I called, “open a path. We go back!”

They nodded, wide-eyed, one of them crying, but they waved their torches so as to create a breach, calling the others through.

Being of one of the scholarly orders of druidkind, the workings of magic were not a particular strong point of mine. Still, we were taught the basics, and I focused on drawing upon the spark of elemental fire that dwells in myself, calling also to that of the torches, and even of the girls and my companions as well.

Focus the mind, harness the will, speak the word to call the element to your bidding.

Fernath!

I spoke the Word of Fire, and felt a rush of warmth flow through my arms as twin flames, bright as the torches leapt to being in my hands.

I didn’t have time to appreciate the “oohs” and “ahhs,” but immediately flung the flames downwards, aiming for the spots where the ring of flames was dying out.

“Thorn, Durin and Kuric, keep those girls back!” Varis shouted, “Ana, Gilliam, Silva needs us!”

Silva had brought the ogre to its knees, but as before, it appeared as if every one of its great muscles was bent on pulling it away from the ghostly hold that Silva’s magic had worked upon it. Its great mouth was open, as if in a scream, but it made no sound, save for its ragged breathing.

She sat, panting, leaning heavily on her left hand, the right held clenched, close against her heaving chest. Her face was drawn into a fierce grimace, her hair in complete disarray.

Varis and Gilliam both made to strike at the ogre, but Ana stayed their hands. “No! We do not know how tightly bound they are. Striking one could harm the other. Killing one could kill them both.”

Ana sank to her knees beside the girl, but stopped short of touching her. She seemed intent on observing the gauntlet, the gemstone, and the misty webbing. After a long moment, she looked up at the two men.

“Be ready. I am going to try to break this connection.”

“Be ready for what?” Gilliam asked.

“I don’t know,” Ana replied. “Anything. She does not look to have much time left.”

She rose, chanting, stepping towards the ogre. The cadence rose and fell, and I recognized it as the same spell she’d used the first night we met, a warding against evil.

Ana’s voice rose in the last of the incantation, and she cast her arms open, one palm towards the ogre, the other directed at Silva.

There came a flash of silvery light, and Silva and the ogre both let out cries that set teeth on edge even as my blood seemed to turn to ice. The ogre collapsed in a heap, filling most of the far dooway. Silva, though, gave a sharp jerk, as though she’d taken a physical blow, and fell back into a pile of moldering garbage.

Gilliam rushed to her side, propping her up as Ana bent to check on the girl.

“Breathing,” she said. “But her lifebeat is very dim, and her skin is like ice.”

I let out a breath, not realizing that I’d been holding it. I heard whispers of “Shes all right” pass back along the string of girls. Then from one of the girls crowded back along the corridor’s bend came a shrill cry.

“Ogres! Everyone go back! Go back!”

----------------------
Its been a bit of a stretch between "crunchy" bits.

Does anybody have questions, or is there a particular bit of crunch you'd like to see?

Also: I need names for those poor dozen girls! Thorn can't keep calling them "this girl" and "that girl"... Although, I admit, the nebulous nature of the "character-that-is-a-dozen-characters" is a lot of fun to write! Suggestions for bits of their backstory are also most welcome.

Hope you're all still enjoying the ride!
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Re: [Campaign Journal/Story Hour]: Thorn's Chronicle

Postby RobJN » Sat Feb 07, 2009 11:03 pm

Thorn's Chonicle continues...

“Durin! Kuric! Over here, and take Silva,” Varis shouted, trying to be heard above the tumult of the girls. “Nobody is going to get eaten!” he yelled. “Stick to the plan, huddle, heads down!”

“But its garbage!”

“It stinks!”

“I think I stepped on a rat!”

Varis and Gilliam joined me where we’d entered the room originally.

“Well, at least they can only come at us one at a time through these corridors.”

Gilliam had moved along the wall, and was heaving at a particularly high mound of rubbish.

“Help me get this into the doorway,” he called.

“That won’t hold them off,” Varis scoffed.

“It won’t,” said Gilliam with a fierce grin. “But the smoke it puts off sure will. Quickly now!”

Between us and a handul of the girls, we’d built up a barricade about waist-height in a matter of minutes.

Gilliam had taken one of the girls cloaks, and wrapped it between two half-rotten wooden stakes. He handed it to the girl.

“Fan,” he told her, then snatched a torch from another girls hand and ignited the far side of the barricade.

A couple of the girls had mimicked Gilliam, finding planks and other long bits of wood to use as makeshift fans. It served a double purpose of keeping the refuse alight and pushing the smoke down and around the corridor.

We were rewarded after several minutes by the sound of gutteral choking and coughing from back the way we’d come. A cheer went up.

Varis got them organized, rotating girls out when their arms tired, having others keep the refuse pile from burning out by heaping it higher. I invoked the runic flames again, hurling them down the corridor when one of the ogres dared its way through the smoke.

But the room was also filling with smoke.

“We can’t stay here for much longer,” Ana said with a cough.

Varis and Gilliam pushed past the still-unconscious Grodeg, each with a torch in one hand, sword in the other.

“We’ll see where this leads. If you hear a whistle, move the girls towards whichever of us is signaling.”

I saw one of the torches round a bend a little ways down the corridor, while the other kept going straight. Varis had just set his ear to a rickety door his torchlight had revealed when a shout and clang of metal on metal echoed from the hallway Gilliam had taken.

Gilliam staggered backwards into view. “Kobolds! This way is no good!” he shouted, then turned his focus back down the side hall, and there came the sounds of battle.

Varis gave up on the stealthy approach, kicking in the door, and flashing the torch about. He didn’t bother whistling, charging up the corridor to reinforce Gilliam.

“Its clear. A chamber. Go!” Then he was around the corner.

We hustled the girls down the hallway as quickly as we could, two other girls helping the dwarves bear Silva upon a makeshift stretcher of cloaks.

The shattered door opened into a roughly square chamber. A statue stood along the right wall, facing a rubble-choked corridor.

Ana immediately looked up at the ceiling. “Oh, Flame preserve me!” she whispered, going as pale as the ash staff upon which she leaned.

Durin rose from where he’d settled Silva, hustling across the room to examine the rubble.

“Its all right, girl. This is not the same stone that makes up this maze of a catacomb.” He picked up a loose chunk of rock, holding it out to her. “See? This is the same stone as that of the fortress above. Why, we must be directly below it. See here, how it —”

“Enough, Brother Mine,” Kuric said. “Let it be enough for her that she knows the room isn’t about to fall in on our heads.”

“Who is this statue of?” one of the girls asked, staring up at the carved figure in long robes.

“My guess would be Gygar,” I said. “He was said to’ve been a great king who ruled here a thousand years ago.”

“Even greater than Halav?”

“Nobody’s that great!”

“I couldn’t tell you if he was greater than Halav. The legends aren’t that specific.”

“Then maybe they just said that for the legend.”

“Yeah! Halav is great ‘cause he defeated the Beastman king and drove them away.”

“Maybe this Gygar made it up and he was really a bad king!”

The girls’ chatter was interrupted by Varis and Gilliam’s return. They each bore many shallow cuts and Varis favored one leg as he walked. They waved Ana away when she tried to examine them, though.

“This is nothing. Just a scratch or two. So, do you want the good news or the bad news?”

“I think we could all do with some good news,” Kuric said.

“We found the way out.” Gilliam didn’t exactly smile as he said it.

“It doesn’t get much better than that,” the dwarf said, making to gather up a corner of Silva’s litter.

“The bad news,” Varis said, “is that the entire tribe of kobolds is between us and the way we got here, originally.”

“Well, the entire tribe, minus the half dozen or so we dispatched,” Gilliam said, sliding to the floor and wiping at a cut on his arm.

“What stops them from coming and capturing us again?” Ana asked.

“Laziness,” Gilliam said with a shrug.

“They seem to think we’re in some sort of dead-end. Either the ogres will come get us, saving them the trouble, or they’ll just wait us out a few days until we’re too weak to resist. Its what I’d do,” Varis said with a shrug.

The two dwarves looked up from the far wall of the room. “Preposterous,” Durin said. “There’s a perfectly good exit right here, provided we can get it open.”

What I’d taken to be some kind of bas relief, depicting several robed men in crowns before what looked like a setting sun, Durin and Kuric both assured us was indeed a doorway. The decorative border to the relief turned out to be the outline of the door. Whats more, the linework along the doorway seemed to be lettering of some kind. It appeared runic, but none of the lines formed letters that I recognized.

“Well open it quickly,” one of the girls said. “We’re getting hungry.”

“I hear they serve up a great fried rat down the hall,” Gilliam said with a wide grin. “Or there is always Bargle’s House of Bread and Water down stairs…”

The girl shot Gilliam a dark look, but didn’t reply.


It was difficult to tell whether it was night, or even day, so it seems silly to say that we made camp for the night. We were all tired, and so most of us got some rest, while others kept watch, who were then relieved by others who couldn’t sleep.

I dozed, off and on, too anxious for kobolds or an ogre to come crashing through the doorway to actually trust myself to sleep.

I drifted awake to the quiet patter of bare feet upon stone, the rustle of cloth upon cloth. I made to adjust my position to ease the kink in my back, but a hand on my arm and Ana’s voice in my ear bade me be still and watch.

One of the girls had found a cache of candles behind the statue, and she had lined the pedestal upon which it stood with several of them, that we might save the torches for the deeper darkness of whatever lay ahead.

The girls slept in small groups, mostly divided up as they had been in their cells. Silva walked among them, kneeling briefly, tugging a cloak up around a shoulder here, brushing a lock of hair away there. With each, and presumably with others before I’d awakened, she kissed her index and middle fingers, then touched them to the girl’s forehead, and murmured something I could not make out. She repeated it with each girl, the same soft cadence.

“What do you make of it?” Ana whispered.

“A prayer? A ritual of some sort? It is not anything I am familiar with from Karameikos or Thyatis. You don’t think it is some sort of spell, do you?”

“No… I have felt nothing from the stone since severing her from that ogre.”

The stone on her right wrist was dark and dull, seeming to almost absorb any of the candlelight that reflected off it. Every now and then, though, there seemed to appear a glimmer, deep in the purple veinwork within the stone.

“I know a good portion of the legends and stories of the Traladaran and Thyatian folk, and none of them make any sort of reference to a magic such as this.”

“Then it is older than Traldar and Thyatis,” Ana said. “It is something they have not seen before, or if they have seen it, it has been forgotten.

“If it is any consolation, it is beyond anything I have studied at the Citadel. It strays dangerously close to evils I have sworn by the Flame to extinguish. And yet…. It does not feel right. Wrong. Oh, I do not know what to make of it. Good or evil, it is both. Or neither. It is an old, old magic. Old and wild.”

“And potentially dangerous,” I said.

“Potentially? It is dangerous. Very much so. When have you ever seen an ogre afraid of anything?”

“Anything smaller than a dragon?” I paused to give it some thought. Nothing came to mind.

“Precisely,” Ana said.
Rob
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Re: [Campaign Journal/Story Hour]: Thorn's Chronicle

Postby RobJN » Mon Feb 09, 2009 12:03 am

Thorn's Chronicle continues...

“It wouldn’t be a problem if I had my tools,” Durin said. “A tap here and there, and I’m sure this door would swing right open.”

Kuric heaved a rumbling sigh. “I have been over this doorway half a dozen times, and I tell you there is no latch. The stonework is sound. No hidden compartments, no counterbalances. If that door is meant to open, then it will take magic.”

“Its nothing a good maul could not take care of,” Durin muttered in a hurt tone.

“Then perhaps your head will suffice,” snapped Kuric.

“Why won’t it open?” asked one of the girls.

“Maybe its the wrong time of year,” said another.

“Maybe its broken. It is old, after all…”

“What if you need the right words to open it?”

“Yeah! Like in the Alaysian story of the boy and the lamp and the cave!”

“See? Gygar’s not that great… he had to copy a story to get an idea about how to guard his treasure!”

“Well how would we even know what to say?” one of the girls asked. “This place is old and everyone who knew things about it is long dead by now.”

“If you want to know about old dead things you ask a druid,” yet another girl said, and a dozen pairs of eyes turned towards me.

“The legends say Gygar was a great and learned king, ruling these lands from great Mistamere…”

“We know that part. Get to the good stuff! Ow!”

“Shush, and let him prattle!”

I smiled as graciously as I could, and tried not to grind my teeth. “He made a study of the heavens, and worked out the calculations for the solstices and equinoxes independently of the Gatekeepers, and also tabulated preliminary findings for the crossings of the various planes. In fact, several tales say that his was one of the first orreries made in the land, and kings from the surrounding city states marveled at its complexity.

“So.. He may very well have locked the door using an alignment of the heavens. The carvings give very little to go by, though. That setting sun could be from any day of the year. And whatever script he used to line this door, it is not Traladaran nor Thyatian in origin.”

A sudden thought struck me.

“Silva?”

She looked up from where she was attempting to teach one of the girls a game involving a grid scratched out upon the flooring, and some arrangement of stones she’d scavenged from the collapsed hallway.

I pointed to the inscription bordering the doorway. “Can you read this?” I don’t know why I bothered to ask, since she didn’t show any sign of understanding what I’d said. Still, apparently, the gesture was enough. She rose to her feet with the grace of a cat, and took the candle from Kuric’s hand.
She ran her fingers over the lines, clearing dust and cobwebs, standing on tip-toe. I took over, clearing away the cobwebs she couldn’t reach along the top of the stone slab, and holding the light up for her so she could see the lines and markings.

Atra,” she read, sliding her right fingers along that side of the door, “Nidrati zazavat raajan.” She pointed as she read the words above, “Udgatayatemi ayana yazastemi ciitan raajan.” Then she traced the words running to the left: “Vadya cetemi pradusya.”

A shudder ran through her as she read the leftmost scripting, and she wiped her hand across her dress as she lifted her fingers from the lettering.
It was only when she finished pronouncing the last word that we noticed how quiet the room had become. Silva blushed as she realized that most of the eyes were upon her. Then she looked at the slab, then back at me.

Pathitaavan,” she said, pointing to the words along the doorway. “Idaniim kim?

“Its your door,” I said to the dwarves. “May as well try it now.”

“Magic doors,” Durin scoffed. “Silliest thing I ever —-” His words trailed off into a startled grunt as the slab swung about its centerpoint with the slightest bit of pressure the dwarf had applied to the stone. He fell through the doorway, a great cloud of dust billowing out from his landing.

We staggered back, coughing and sneezing.

“Well,” wheezed Durin, his voice echoing in the newly exposed chamber, “looks like this isn’t a dead end after all.”
Rob
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Re: [Campaign Journal/Story Hour]: Thorn's Chronicle

Postby RobJN » Mon Feb 09, 2009 1:11 am

Thorn's Chronicle continues...

“It would appear that you spoke a bit too soon,” Ana said, the torch she held aloft illuminating two long rows of low stone sarcophagi. At the limit of the torchlight stood two great pillars, and the room yawned beyond the reach of the wavering light.

An age of dust covered every surface, and was topped again by sheet upon sheet of cobwebs. Varis was going to have to slice a path through the gauzy mess, unless we wanted to come out the far end shrouded head to toes in the stuff.

“Not a sign of disturbance,” Gilliam said, inspecting the carpet of dust on the flooring. “Nothing besides the usual creepy crawlies.” He looked over at the two dwarves. “Do either of you see anything further ahead?”

“Cobwebs,” said Durin.

“More cobwebs,” said his brother. “Wait a moment… movement, above. Something big…”

We all looked up, but could see naught but cobwebs, and the shimmer of dust still settling.

Then there came a cascade of dust, pluming off the webbing at the limit of the torchlight, first a small puff or two, then turning into a cloud of grayish gloom surging towards us. A dry, rasping skittering sound rushed and echoed along the room.

“Block the doorway!” Varis called, “whatever this is, don’t let it through!”

“What if we get locked in?” I asked.

One of the girls nearby swung her cloak off, twisting it into a tight bundle, holding it along a corner of the doorway. “Close it!” she called to us.

Gilliam leaned back against the door, and it swung smoothly along the pivot, jamming against the girl’s cloak, the opening now only a sliver less than a handspan’s width.

Gilliam had just enough time to turn and draw his swords when the cloud of dust consumed us, graying out Ana’s torchlight, the torch to guttering and hissing.

That sound was matched by a hissing and chittering that seemed to come from all sides. The dulled light revealed looming, hulking figures, the most notable features being waist-high rows of beady dark eyes, long, furry forelimbs, mandibles tipped with gleaming fangs.

The spiders moved quickly, and we had a time keeping up with their movements. We would strike, only to find that they’d darted aside, and another one would leap from the webbing. One would fall, and two more would scramble over the husk, fangs exposed, lashing out. We closed to a tight circle, the two dwarves in the center, unarmed save for the torches that we passed to them as the spiders closed.

Several times, I felt snags and pulls at my cloak and would beat back a spider, but fortunately, they did not manage to land any bites which allowed them enough purchase to inject any of their venom. I did get a handful of the stuff as I blocked a bite with my staff, the ichor pulsing from the tips of the fangs as I struggled to keep the creature at bay. Gilliam dispatched it with two slashes of his swords, and the thing shrieked as it fell away, legs twitching.

After several waves, as abruptly as they’d appeared, the remaining spiders vanished, the webbing around us thrumming and shaking off dust as the beasts scuttled away.

We’d not even caught our breath from the skirmish when there came a terrible roar and the sound of splintering wood from the chamber behind us, followed by screams.


Pratiyaa! Pratiyaa! Tvaramana!

We could hear Silva’s voice, filled with the same tone of command that Varis’ had every time we joined battle.

The door had barely swung wide enough to allow passage, and already the first of the girls was scrambling through, pale and wild-eyed. Much as we wanted to rush out into the room to defend the girls, they were streaming through both sides of the doorway.

A sharp cry rang out as one of the last girls caught her foot on the stones Silva had gathered for the game. The girl’s foot skidded to the side, and she fell hard, crying out anew as her hands and elbows hit the stone flooring.

The ogre in the doorway laughed, stooping and reaching for the prone girl.

A rock struck it between the eyes, and the creature yowled, the hand that had been reaching for the girl flying up too late to block another rock, this one bouncing off its forehead.

“Katarin!”

The girl who’d just come through the doorway turned as Silva called her name.

Tasyaa tantrayati!” Silva called, pointing to the girl who was still trying to catch her breath from the fall. She threw another rock as the ogre followed her signal, and it roared, turning its attention back to her.

“Blasted, foolish girl,” breathed Durin, watching from one side of the doorway. “What does she think she’s playing at?”

“How many is that?” asked Varis, looking over his shoulder at the girls huddling on this side of the doorway.

“Eleven,” Ana said. “No — ten, there goes Katarin!”

The girl Silva had called out to dashed from the doorway, and knelt by the other girl’s side, head down, hands moving along her arms.

“Good choice,” I heard Ana murmer. “Either her mother is a Wisdom, or she’s got younger brothers.”

Silva redoubled her attacks with the rocks, peppering the ogre’s face and shoulders. And she was not simply lobbing them at the creature, either — each one left her hand after a sharp turn of her wrist or snap of her elbow, and more that struck drew blood than didn’t.

Katarin had gotten the other girl’s arm up over her shoulder, and was half-carrying, half-dragging the girl towards the doorway.

The ogre saw the movement, taking a step into the room, blocking its face with one arm while it reached suddenly with the other towards the two girls.

Katarin screamed, twisting to shield the girl beneath her.

The girls brave enough to watch what was going on screamed.

Gilliam cursed the loss of his bow and arrows.

Silva charged the ogre with a cry of “Uther! Ekada uta sadaa!
Rob
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Re: [Campaign Journal/Story Hour]: Thorn's Chronicle

Postby RobJN » Wed Feb 11, 2009 1:50 am

Thorn's Chronicle continues...


Varis and Gilliam both nearly leapt over the huddling girls to join Silva's charge.

“We need your swords here if those spiders come back!” Ana told them sharply. “That girl can take care of herself. Remember the stone about her throat.”

Sure enough, as the ogre turned to swat at her, Silva seemed not so much to disappear as... not be wherever it was we looked.

The ogre made several more passes with its great hands, its brow furrowing deeper and deeper with frustration at every grab.

“STAND STILL!” it roared, turning this way and that, looking for the girl.

The other two, in the mean time, had gotten back to their feet, the injured girl limping, leaning heavily on Katarin’s shoulder, favoring one ankle.

We heard a quick pattering of feet, and Varis suddenly staggered back with a grunt. The doorway swung back towards the wall where he’d been standing, settling with a dull, grating thud.

Durin and Kuric both cried out in dismay, pushing at the door to no avail.

Varis, however, wheezed a laugh as Silva’s form wavered into view, bent over her knees, gulping in deep breaths.

The girls cheered, rising from their huddle to hug Silva. She patted a back or arm awkwardly, and more than once looked down at the gem as if it would save her from this onslaught.

Finally, she made her way to where Ana was examining the girl who’d fallen. She and Katarin had their heads together, speaking softly to each other and the girl.

“Brynne, kuzala?” she asked, sitting carefully by the girl’s side, looking anxiously at her ankle, which was growing dark as it swelled. Silva bit her lip. “Samaami,” she said, taking the girl’s hand in hers, and bowing to touch it to her forehead. “Etia rhie yatahami.”

The girl stared at her, wide-eyed, looked around at all of us for help.

“Don’t look at me, I only know ‘hot’ and ‘cold,’” I said.

“Um…” she said. “Its all right. I’ll be fine.”

Silva didn’t move, and didn’t release the girl’s hand.

The girl reached over with her other hand, patting Silva’s shoulder awkwardly, and this finally relaxed Silva’s grip. She sat back, watching as Ana wrapped the Brynne’s ankle with a roll of cloth from her pack, and then bound it between two unused torches.

“Its not pretty, but it will have to suffice,” she said, dusting her robes off as she rose to her feet.

Silva slapped away Katarin and Ana’s hands, extending her own to the girl to help her to her feet. She would not allow any of the other girls to help Brynne, insisting that the girl lean upon her shoulder the rest of the way through the catacombs beneath Mistamere.


I am relieved to be able to relate that the remainder of our journey through the dungeon was uneventful. We made our way through the crypt, finding another door further into the room. While we heard the scuttling and hissing of the spiders above us, they were not inclined to attack so large a group.

We passed through many smaller, seemingly unused chambers after that, one leading through to another. The same age of dust that covered the crypt lined the floors and surfaces of the rooms we moved through. Varis listened carefully at each door, motioning quickly this way or that, depending on whether or not he heard signs of kobolds on the other side.

Ana breathed a prayer of thanks to the Flame when we finally found the stairs up to the fortress ruins. It was difficult to say who ran faster up the flight, her or the girls.

Judging from the light streaming through the gaping holes in the walls of the fortress, it was not even yet midday. Though mid of which day was difficult to say.

Varis was all for setting out immediately for Tarnskeep, but Ana called for a rest and regrouping, drawing the warrior’s attention to the weary stoop to Silva’s shoulders as she helped Brynne to a seat on a stone bench.

Gilliam and I went through the packs, dividing up what little was left of the rations amongst the girls.

When he judged that enough of the fatigue had lifted from the girl, he called for the girls to form up in the two ranks he and Ana had organized them into prior to leaving the cells. Despite some grumbling and dragging of feet, they filed into two lines.

“If he wants us to march, I swear to Petra, I’ll kick him in the shins,” I heard one girl mutter.



The rank and file lasted through the hallway and antechamber. But once Varis put his shoulder against the great ironwood doors, the girls broke into smiles, some running, others skipping towards the opening to full daylight.

By the look on his face, you’d think that Varis was facing a dozen kobolds or goblins as the girls rushed him.

“Wait,” he told them as they approached. “I haven’t—”

But the laughing and cheering drowned him out, and he pressed himself against the door as the girls streamed past. More than one hand brushed his arm, and amidst the cacophony, more than one voice spoke a “Thank you.”

The laughter and merry-making came to an abrupt silence, the sound choked off with squeals and several cries cut off midway.

“Ixion burn those girls, I told them to wait!” Varis shouted, drawing his sword and charging through the doorway.

Gilliam and I followed close behind, edging through the half-open doors, weapons readied.

We nearly crashed into Varis, who’d stopped dead three paces out the doors. He stood, sword lowered, and we surveyed the same scene he did: the courtyard was filled with a line of mounted soldiers, their armor bearing a silver badge emblazoned with an ebon bird of prey. Half had lances lowered, the others aimed crossbows in our general direction.

Another squad of footsoldiers had the girls corralled in a ring of drawn steel, several crossbowmen covering them from a bit further off.

Sitting at the middle of the mounted knights, on a horse the same glossy brown as his hair, was a familiar figure, though garbed now in leathers of red and black rather than roadworn clothes of an itinerant bard. He leaned forward, an elbow against the pommel of his saddle, regarding us with that warm smile that didn’t reach his dark eyes.

“So, about that girl?” Bargle asked. "Here's an arrangement for you: I’ll give you eleven of mine for one of yours. Alive or dead, well…. that just depends on how quick you are in deciding.”
Rob
Thorn's Chronicle: The Thread Index|Thorn's Chronicle Blog
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Re: [Campaign Journal/Story Hour]: Thorn's Chronicle

Postby RobJN » Fri Feb 13, 2009 7:50 pm

Thank you all for your help with the poll, and for the few comments you all left. It was a great help in stirring the ol' pot, so to speak.

So, with no further ado....
Thorn's Chronicle continues...
Last quarter moon of the Leaves’ Turning (on or about Sviftmont 28, 997AC)

I raised my hand, palm outward. “Parley,” I said.

“What are you doing?” Gilliam asked. “There aren’t that many of them. We could—”

Varis closed his hand over Gilliam’s wrist, lowering his sword. “They would just as soon kill us as those girls, to get to Silva. We can’t defend any of them if we’re dead.”

“But—”

“Thorn has the right of it.”

Bargle sat up straight, crossing his arms. “Parley? This is not war. Or a siege.” He laughed. “Besides, that only works between honorable men.” He motioned towards the girls, and several of the boltmen hoisted back the draw on their crossbows.

“This is the barony of Halaran, and thus is under the Grand Duke’s law, not the machinations of the Black Eagle,” I said. “We have most likely been gone longer than the Baron would have liked, and no doubt he has a contingent of men on the way here.”

Bargle turned to one of the men on horseback. “Lucas? Did you encounter anyone on the way here?”

“Some rabble along the road, hardly worth the effort to raise a sword,” said the man with a dismissive shrug.

“Armed? Armored?”

“Yes, but as I said: rabble. Couldn’t have been more than townguardsmen.”

I felt my gut tighten a bit at that.

“See now, we’ll have plenty of time before Old Halaran sends ‘round another batch of guards. Plenty of time for us to be off and away from here, that is. Which means you do not have so much time.”

Bargle pointed at one of the girls. “You. Stand. Count 100. When you finish, another will stand and count.” He turned towards us. “You have until the last girl finishes counting to produce the little witch."

He turned back to the girl. “Why haven’t you started counting yet?”

She blanched, swallowed, then began to count in a weak voice.



“He’s going to what?” Ana asked, rising to her feet and throwing down her staff.

“Monstrous!” grumbled Kuric. He sputtered, then began what could only be a long string of colorful curses in his native tongue.

“Second girl is at 50,” Gilliam said, from his post at the doorway.

Silva was looking from one face to another, her brow furrowed in a blend of worry and frustration. It was obvious she knew something was wrong, but could not grasp what exactly was going on.

She slid to her feet from the bench, making her way across the floor to the doorway.

“Is that such a good idea?” Varis asked, moving to intercept her. She shook his hand off her shoulder, and he stepped back, but followed her as she peeked around one of the doors.

Nieah,” she breathed. “Nieah, nieah, nieah!” each repetition of the word grew stronger.

Varis followed her next glance, which was at the rubble-strewn floor. He caught her wrist as she reached for a stone.

“No!” he said. “Nieah!” Their gazes locked.

“A fourth girl is up,” Gilliam reported.

Silva glanced out the doorway, then back up at Varis. She pushed against his grip again, but he tightened it.

Nieah!” he said.

The look she gave him rivaled the chill of the blizzard earlier in the week. Then in a sudden flurry of movement, she stepped towards him, setting a foot behind one of his boots, pulling his arm awkwardly across his body. She leaned into him, and he let go of her wrist as he tripped backwards over her foot, landing hard flat on his back. Even from halfway across the room, we heard the hard “whoosh” as the fall knocked the breath from him.

She sat on him, kneeling hard on his sword arm, and snatched the long dagger from his belt. Varis barely had the breath to cry out as her knee ground into the soft part of his wrist.

Samaam,” she said, leaping to her feet and dashing past Gilliam.

“Why didn’t you stop her?” Varis wheezed, rolling awkwardly to his hands and knees.

“She had your knife! And I shudder to think what she’d do with it if she can do that barehanded. I’d like to keep all my fingers, thank you,” Gilliam said, following the girl out the door at a respectable distance.

We followed, Ana helping the injured Brynne.


The steady counting of the sixth girl stopped, and all the girls stood, calling to Silva to go back as she stumbled to a halt halfway to them.

Bargle, however, broke into a great, beaming smile, clapping as he dropped to his feet from the saddle.

“Well, hello, little miss,” he said, with a friendly wave, starting towards her.

Silva stared at him, as a cat watches a larger dog.

“Oh, come now. No need for any of that,” he said, still smiling. He held a hand out for the girl, inviting her to take it. “Come along, we’re here to take you back to your father.”

She stepped backwards, keeping the distance between them. She stopped when he did, her gaze still wary. She clutched the knife harder in her left hand.
Bargle beckoned her towards him, making a show of keeping his hands away from the knives at his belt.

“Come along, now,” he said, the smile straining, a bit of an edge slipping into his voice.

Silva shook her head. “Nieah.”

When the bard took a step forward, she held her ground, but dropped into a fighter’s stance, knife pointed towards the man. Gilliam whistled.

“Seems our petite flower has a few thorns,” he said.

“I could have told you that,” Varis wheezed, still massaging his wrist, where an ugly bruise was starting to form.

“Its quite obvious we are at a standstill,” I said. “If you tip the balance any further, there will be bloodshed. Some of it could be yours, from the looks of it.”

The bard turned away from Silva, his hands up in surrender. He looked up at us.

“I am a reasonable man,” he said.

“I’ve heard that line before,” Gilliam muttered. The bard scowled at him.

“It is quite obvious that you haven’t the slightest idea what it is you are dealing with here,” he said. “So, now that I have the girl, you may go.” He waved a hand dismissively. The lances swung up, and the horses nearest the path off the plateau sidestepped out of the way.

“Go on. Run away. Shoo,” he said, making fluttering motions with his fingers. “If all you want to save here is a handful of giggling little girls, then please, please,” he leaned heavily on the word, “take them with you as well while my men and I do what we have to to secure the Duchy and the entirety of the Known World.”

------------------------------
Show of hands as to who believes our buddy Bargle...? ;)
Rob
Thorn's Chronicle: The Thread Index|Thorn's Chronicle Blog
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Re: [Campaign Journal/Story Hour]: Thorn's Chronicle

Postby Chimpman » Fri Feb 13, 2009 10:04 pm

Oh me! Me!! I do!

<looks around at all the chirping crickets>
...uhmm... I mean... no. Not really.
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